Posts Tagged 'Andy Burnham'

Questionable Time #143


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Good morrow lemmings and let us continue our weekly trudge through the fetid wastes of what is known as summer Question Time. What with the election hype and fallout, this has been a right marathon season and I for one am crying quietly in a corner. Still, only two more shows to go! Is it silly season yet? Don’t worry – ’round these parts, it’s always silly season.

Mr Manga-orium’s Wonder Emporium

Our first sick burn of the evening hisses into being: how can the Tories justify calling themselves the ‘real party of werkin’ people’ when they’re set to stamp on tax credits? Andy Burnham is called to the stand first, and is on prime indignant form. As predicted, he’s now the frontrunner in the Labour leadership contest – however, if he wins it would be a real loss for Question Time (which is the truly important issue at hand), as I’ve always held a soft spot for Andy’s performances here or in the Shadow Health brief. He is a man fuelled by pure wibbledom – by which I mean, he does seem 100% committed to being outraged at anything the Tories do. He is possibly one of the most outraged people in politics today. When he smiles it looks like he’s holding back his tears. His big, doelike eyes sparkle with righteous rage. His Scouse accent trembles and wavers and he looks like he’s always just about to deck Jeremy Hunt. He is, on all other occasions, an over-emotional manga character come to life.

But not so much today. Today we are introduced to ‘srs bsnss’ leadership material Andy. He is staid. He is solemn. He is a lot more boring. He sombrely states that the Tories don’t have a man date – I mean, a mandate. They’re “frightening” people because of this lack of man date. They ought to get a man date, before it becomes too late. (Hey, I’m a poet and I didn’t know it!)

Meanwhile Amber Rudd, a generally unknown entity (but then again, David Cameron is probably an unknown entity to the majority of the public five years in to his premiership), scribbles down her notes furiously like an angry exam invigilator. She then makes her own pitch, and appears to be the sternest woman I have ever come across, like a less charismatic Theresa May. We’re making work pay, she says, tunelessly. A lady in the crowd who’s never “had a day off in [her] life” is enraged at this droning! Then again, that’s a bit extreme. You mean you’ve never pulled a sickie? Never? Not even a little cheeky one on a Friday?

Suzanne Evans wastes no time going ‘tf’ in, accusing Amber and the blue team of not being “transparent”. You know what’s not transparent? Whatever the hell is going on with UKIP right now. First you’re fired! Then you’re not fired! There’s a power struggle, then there isn’t! It’s the story that’s gripped the world. However, this never gets brought up once during this episode, so Suzanne comes out of the whole shebang rather well, including shoehorning in an appeal to abolish the bedroom tax. Boy, Nigel must be fumin’!

Fraser Nelson of the Speccie says that the tax credit system needs “urgent reform” and it’s overall confusing and silly. Andy glares at him sassily. Then an even sassier presence arrives on the scene. Giles Fraser (yes, it’s Fraser 2! There’s a sitcom in this, shurely?) intervenes to demolish everyone and everything and talks up tax credit as if it were an adorable kitten. Giles 4 Labour Leader?

Then Amber suggests that we all wait for Ozza to clear this mess up ;) ;) ;) ;). Anime Andy is offended again, and she calls him SAH GRAPES. In return, he tells her she’s a dirty Tory liar who needs to get in the sea. Pru, it’s kicking off! Thank goodness it’s time for a change of question…

You can leave your tie on

What would you do about Greece? Sadly, Yanis Varoufakis was not available for this edition, due to the small distraction of being whacked in the head with a baseball bat by Angela Merkel. Giles is here in his stead, and, as Dimbleby rightly points out, is also not wearing a tie! You’re still “glamourous”, says Dimbles. I’m liking this new direction for Question Time. How to Look Good Nerked.

Giles continues his excellent impression of cool tieless Yanis by calling the Troika utter bastards. The other Fraser says that Greece needs its own currency, then we could all go there on holiday! Glad to see that we haven’t lost sight of the real issue here, the need to stuff our faces with kleftiko. Then Giles and, oddly, Suzanne extol the virtues of Tony Benn. I’m not sure how the Big Bennster would react to this, but it does give me an excuse to post this clip again of him nearly causing Roy Jenkins to explode.

Andy, in contrast, has got a tuff job sticking up for a Yes vote. It’s not a “failed experiment”, he says, but he’s suspicious of a right-wing economic plot. The spirit of Benn continues to smile down upon us, puffing his pipe benignly. Then the crowd go absolutely bananas, one man laying the blame at the feet of “one woman”. Gasp…Nicola Sturgeon?! Sadly, no. Fraser sums up by saying that you can’t turn Greeks into Germans. Not even if you force them into Lederhosen.

I’m not even going to mention the audience lady who goes off on one, blubbering that we must be a beacon of light and love and Christian values (take that, Muslims!) and we should bake a cake full of rainbows and smiles and we could all eat it and be happy. I’m not going to mention that. Except I just have. Oops.

Next: WHAT DO ABOUT MIGRANTZ?

The scenes at Calais are “heartbreaking” says Suzanne, with her own attempt at a wibbly voice, but we have to show “tough love” as well. She’s like a mildly disapproving school nurse. A girl in the crowd who looks like Nicola Sturgeon’s Mini-Me pleads for the panel not to target refugees with their laser eyes, and another wayward youth gets into an shouting match about mosquito nets with Ambuh. Please, Lord, let the summer break come soon.

Giles welcomes the new immigrants with open arms, and to be fair I’d rather take Giles as a revolutionary leader over Russell Brand. Put him up against Farage next, maybe? Meanwhile, Andy just about gets away with appealing to the unwashed masses who don’t know their forrin pollysee by jam-packing his speech with super smart (S-M-R-T!) sounding words. ‘Mechanism’…’Schengen Agreement’…’Gateway Agreement’…he’s on a roll here, folks! And that roll isn’t about to stop rolling any time soon. And(y)omination continues as we hit two novelty questions in a row – looks like it really is silly season.

Sugar, oh honey honey

First novelty question: something about…sugar tax? Giles campaigns for fat rights, Andy gets into a debate about what “children’s food” is with Dimbledore, who doesn’t believe it exists (excuse you Dimbleby, you’ll never take my dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets away from me), and apparently Fraser Nelson once called Mangaman the FROSTIES KILLER. This is incredible. That should be his tagline. AB4LEADER: heart of frickin’ murdering Tony the Tiger to death. Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, and here I am: stuck in the middle with food.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Second novelty question: is the last Labour manifesto the best they’ve ever had in their history ever or was it the worst they’ve ever had in their history ever? According to Alan Milburn, who is tragically still pretending he’s relevant in the year of our lord 2015, it was the latter. Fraser, Suzanne and Amber proceed to concern-troll like it’s nobody’s business, Fraser from Cheers especially. Andy Burnham grins widely, but you can so clearly see that deep inside his heart he knows that he’s going to go home that night and murder Milburn to death. First Tony, now Alan, Andy? When will the killing end?!

Finally, Giles shrugs and reveals himself a member of the Milifandom. And with that, we’re blessed with sweet relief.

Time for the scores!

Rudd: 6/10

(Failed to) Wow

Burnham: 8/10

(Nice eye)Brows

Evans: 7/10

(Not a fan of) Frau (Merkel)

Nelson: 7/10

Plow(ed ahead)

Fraser: 8/10

(His little red book will replace) Mao’s

The Crowd: 7/10

And how!

Next time: I begin to hallucinate. Also, did you know that our glorious webmaster – and previous QT-er supreme – has set up a cool new YouTube channel for his project Noobminster? Well, you do now. Go visit it and get educated on all matters political, in a thoroughly amusing fashion. Go on. Click the link. Click it, damnit!

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #131


qt 131

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to another irrelevant edition of Questionable Time! Yes, seems like nobody cares about poor lil’ QT shambling on after the big, flashy Leaders’ debates…but that’s what I’m here for, to look after the muck nobody else wants to clean up. The debates themselves were as predictable as predicted: Cameron looked foreheady, no1curr about Clegg, Nigel Farage and Leanne Wood got into a fight, Nicola Sturgeon cried for FREEEEDOM, Natalie Bennett was Australian, and Ed Miliband did okay I guess, unless you’re reading the Sun or Telegraph, in which case he shat himself on stage.

But we’ll show those popular kids and their popular kicks. Let’s have a debate of our own. Let’s Questionable Time.

Are you sitting comfortably? No neither am I

Michael Gove starts off by dissin’ Ed too, although that technically is his job. He declares that because Ed Miliband is still a geeky dork then mean old Nicola ‘n’ Alex would be able to trample all over him with their big Scottish feet. A snarky beardy man in the audience points out that the Tories didn’t even win overall in 2010 so why should we believe that a prospective Tory government would be any more stable? Gove brushes this off in a Govey way while a Scottish lady also goes in for him and Dimbleby makes strange noises.

At this point, Anime Andy Burnham makes his move. The right-wing media are being proved wrong, he says, and Ed Miliband is actually “a man full of warmth and conviction” who he’d like to snuggle and play Manic Miner with. Not for the first time this night, it sounds like he’s about to burst into tears, which he does a lot. Oh, to be a living, eyelash-fluttering manga character!

A man in audience says they’re all fake except for lovely Nigel who is definitely not an ex-banker from a public school and is a MAN OF THE PEOPLE. Apparently. Peter ‘Jeremy Clarkson is a left-wing BBC conspiracy’ Hitchens agrees, aggressively tongueing Farage’s anus. Meanwhile, Danny Alexander/Brian the snail is back (already? Wasn’t he on only a few weeks ago?) and looking increasingly baggy and fleshy. “You need to have Liberal Democrats in the mix!” he says, like they’re a winning toy/stray rusty nail (delete according to political position) in a box of Coco Pops.

Somehow this all, mainly thanks to Peter, devolves into an argument about the break-up of the UK again. I had to deal with months of QTs about this in the run up to the #indyref, please don’t let me go through this hell again.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, thankfully, interrupts to practically scream UP THE WOMEN! The wimmins in the audience predictably cheer. This is great as I have been eagerly awaiting the feminist takeover of Question Time for some time now. Yasmin continues in this vein, basically shouting G’ARN NIC’LA at every opportunity. I mean, regardless of what you think of her policies, it’s nice to have a woman (Nicola Sturgeon) on the centre political stage who looks so much like a mum on the school run, but could probably punch you out (being Scottish, after all).

I’m not sure what’s going on now. Govey Wovey hates the SNP, Yasmin doesn’t, Andy’s making faces, Peter is making exactly one face for the entire duration of the programme (a mix between constipated/vaguely annoyed/braindead), and Danny is calmly staring into the abyss of the Lib Dems losing all their seats in Scotland and most of them in England. Uh…hooray?

Then something incredible happens. The subject of a Tory-UKIP coalition gets brought up, and Michael, squirming uncomfortably in his seat, can’t rule it out. Andy pounces.

The hysteria comes loud and fast. Can’t rule it out! Can’t rule it out! “We’re listening, Michael!” Andy squeals cutely. Gove panics and says something about rainbow coalitions but by this point it’s too late. Andy Burnham has transmogrified into his unstoppably manic alter ego: ANDY BURN ‘EM. And he is possibly the best source of reaction images ever. Goveing Tree, needless to say, is not amused.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

A man in the audience sums everything up with a question on why everything is breaking apart. The answer, of course, is that YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA!

Danny begins to actually answer this point but out of nowhere is interrupted by BURN ‘EM, who passionately starts to cry about collectivism. He just has a lot of feelings. Then even Gove gets #REKT by Hitchens. This isn’t a great night for the Govester! He sniffs, planning Hitchens’ method of death. Don’t worry Mike, you’ve got the entire second half of the show to make up for it…execution-style.

While Peter explains the difference between debt and deficit because, five years later, nobody still knows what they mean, and threatens to destroy both the Labour and Conservative parties in a bloody civil war (what is wrong with this man), there’s an equally absurd kerfuffle over what the hell a ‘formal’ or ‘informal’ agreement actually means. Andy struggles to make his voice heard while Gove tapdances away gleefully, because even though Labour ruled out a coalition with the scary Scots they might still play tag with them in the playground occasionally. Or whatever. This is getting so confusing that Dimbleby is now making the same face as Peter Hitchens. A worrying sign indeed. Let’s move on.

Fresh baked United Kingdom filled to the brim with jammy goodness

Is the country full? Well, Peter says yes – unless we clone Peter Hitchens, in which case things would be different around here. To summarise, immigrants are BRAVE but the EU is EVIL. Danny looks shocked and appalled. Hitchens adds another emotion to his grand arsenal: smug. However, Gove’s spirited defense of immigration seems to put the damper on a possible UKIP coalition, to the extent that Yasmin wants to hug him. Maybe they could form a coalition. Andy joins in and it’s all a big cuddlepile with Hitchens not invited to the party. Aww, this is nice. Even more coalitions!

But it can’t last forever. Andy breaks out of the cuddlepile by extremely subtly reminding us he’s werking-class with a reference to Auf Wiedersehn, Pet, and gets teary about the NHS as per usual. Dimbles sighs and has to intervene once again.

“We’re not talking about the NHS,” says he.

YES WE ARE, cries Andy, an unrepentant repeat offender of the Getting Emotional Brigade. Dimbleby reassures him that they’ve scheduled the NHS discussion for the last five minutes of the programme, but first they have to spend five minutes talking about ISIS, because both of these issues can surely be comprehensively covered in such a sumptuous amount of time.

Maybe if we didn’t spend so much time talking about debates then this wouldn’t have happened

Saudi Arabia suxxx, says Yasmin out of nowhere. And so do religious schools. Gove fights the urge to reply CALM DOWN DEAR and instead says something about spiritual nourishment. Mmmm…nourishment.

The others waffle some waffling crap but the crowd wants to know what they’ll actually do about these horrid scoundrels. Nobody knows as we only have five minutes and time is already up. Best…scheduling…ever. Next question!

Why not all work together on the NHS? Well, unimpressed audience lady, because people have very different plans for the NHS. Some people want to lovingly caress it, others want to hit it with a hammer.

Andy Burnizzle makes this exact argument to the extent that he is probably about to explode. His beautiful eyes are starting to pop out of his handsome skull as he clutches his trembling fist to his heaving breast, reinstating the main, most important point again and again: that he hates Tories. He frickin’ hates Tories. God damn does he hate them. Wait, what was the question again?

The others cycle through their equally predictable soundbites. Danny is moderately moderate and praises Holy Cleggus. Yasmin hates privatisation. Peter thinks the NHS is the only thing Labour hasn’t ruined and that they and the Tories are being squabbling babies about it. Both Andy and Michael then unite to pull a joint face of disgust. COALITION CONFIRMED?

I don’t think impressed woman was impressed, honestly.

Time for the scores!

Gove: 6/10

(Missed an open) Goal

Burnham: 8/10

Troll(in’)

Alexander: 5/10

(For whom the bell) Toll(s)

Alibhai-Brown: 6/10

(Middle of the) Poll

Hitchens: 6/10

(Had a leisurely) Stroll

The Crowd: 6/10

(On a) Roll

Next time: [inaudible screaming]

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #115


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Good morrow lemmings and today we’re in Boiminghem! But nobody will care by Friday because of the inevitable new UKIP MP tomorrow and the fact that a member of the shadow cabinet has resigned over a freakin’ tweet. We live in interesting times, my friends!

“UKIP more like POOKIP” – Nigel Farage’s liberal comedy conspiracy

We begin with a question about UKIP, I guess, except that it flies all over the place and by the end people are crying. I was crying. In fact I’m crying right now.

Putting Ken Clarke on QT this week was a stroke of genius, I must admit. Well done whatever person from Toryville thought that up. If you had picked some snicker-worthy IDS figure, for example, or Michael Gove (don’t worry! He’s next week!) then the Tories might as well have put their hands up and conceded the match to Yasmin and Andy, or to Douglas Carswell exchanging knowing looks with moustachioed men in the audience. As it happens Ken Clarke has an inherently sensible aura, and most people tend to like him at least a little. He’s Ye Olde Mastre. He’s been around the block a few times. He’s seen young turks come and go, and isn’t the least bit impressed by any of them.

Meanwhile, as slouchy Ken’s polar opposite, Andy Burnham runs on nothing more than unfiltered earnestness. He’s either smiling benignly or pouting at someone (in this case, generally Douglas). Last time he was on the panel he got an extremely easy ride because he was on his home turf, but this time he had to wibble and grin and emote until he practically exploded to get through the programme unscathed. He just about managed it, due to his sheer sincere outrage at anything and everything. He even swore! Andy will not be stopped. It doesn’t even matter what question he’s asked, he’ll answer with WHATEVER HE DAMN WELL LIKES. Which is mainly the NHS. Or Everton football club, but sadly that didn’t come up.

Also, I’m not just saying this because I think he’s cute. Don’t look at me like that! I’m not biased. (I am incredibly biased.) (Seriously.) (My mum heard who was on QT and immediately exclaimed “oh it’s your boyfriend!”. I am just that biased.)

And yes, he still looks like an anime character. Cue the pictorial evidence.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Anyway. Douglas Carswell waxes lyrical about the virtues of the Australian immigration system, but Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is baying for his blood. Maybe it’s due to her sitting next to him, but she would just not stop biting his leg like an enraged pitbull throughout the entire programme. When asked about Reckless’ repatriation rumble – no need to worry about it, Douglas, I suspect quite a few of your voters chirpily cheered his comments – he cited tiredness as an excuse, and then said something #sorandomlol about Europe. Ken, even now, slowly shakes his head, like a disappointed owl.

Our last panellist, Dia Chakrathingy, from the Taxpayers’ Alliance, is another UKIP representative apparently. She speaks at approximately 10,000 words per minute and constantly employs a mock-confused little girl voice. In fact, her tone of voice is probably the most annoying thing I’ve ever heard on television. It’s not even her opinions – but the way that she tuts and tilts her head and chatters on and on and fricklin’ fracklin’ ON and oh look my skull just cracked open. Look what you’ve done, Dia. Look at this mess. It’s all over the carpet.

“MASS DEFECTIONS,” interjects Douglas. Dimbleby sighs. It can’t get any worse than this.

Apparently it can

What do failed reality stars have to say about taxation? Well, Yasmin ain’t having any of that, whatever it is, and derides the Klass Kwestion for coming from a “pretty” millionaire. Dia is disgusted! Diasgusted, in fact! How dare you be so patronising, Yasmin, she says, patronisingly.

She’s not done yet. Then she rounds on Man-Candy Andy. I feel sorry for you, she patronises. You’d be a good leader. Better than Miliband. Pity you’re out here, she almost-flirts, answering questions on Ed’s blustery blunders, when you could be back at my place…hot stuff…with those pretty eyes of yours…

Andy looks embarrassed and afraid.

However, things aren’t even halfway done yet and Mangaman wants to talk about the NHS. During his answer about the mansion tax, he gets into a scuffle with the chair himself – something very rarely done! – and it goes a lil somethin’ like this:

I WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE NHS bellows Andy.
But…Andy, stop…that’s not the question…says Dimbles, head in his hands.
YES IT IS says Andy, ripping open his suit to reveal his I LUV NHS t-shirt which he wears at all times.

The audience are getting heated. They round on Dia McMean Girls. YOU KNOW THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING AND THE VALUE OF NUFFINK, they cry. Regina George/Dia is appalled, and tilts her head a little more to the right. It’s going to fall off if you don’t watch out, Dia.

What’s the deal with NHS food

When there’s an actual question about the NHS, Burnham explodes.

“After you,” smirks Carswell, knowing that this means Anime Andy has less time to think.

“Oh boy! The NHS sure is great,” sighs Andy wistfully, or words to that effect, swatting away pesky doctors and people at meetings who allege that he said the exact opposite of what he says every minute of every day, even at home, even while asleep, where he constantly chants “compulsory tendering must die” while his wife no doubt cries herself to sleepybobos every night. He finally understands what that one woman was trying to say later in the programme, and everyone laughs at him, and the Seinfeld bassline plays in the background. Or inside my tortured mind, anyway.

Douglas has got him now! UKIP has the plan. They also have the Man with the Plan, Nigel Farage, who will lead us to a glorious new revolution.

What’s up with that video then, says Dimbles. You know the one I mean. Yasmin is now so baffled that her baffle-ometer has reached 100% and she launches into another pummelfight directed at Douglas’ face. She’s baffled about what he and UKIP have and haven’t changed their minds on! But Douglas remains serene. All he needs to do is lie back, think of England and wait for the MPs to flood in. They can change their minds a hundred times and it wouldn’t matter. He’s surrounded by a circle of members, all throbbing and alert to ejaculate their worthy opinions on to an eager-faced public.

Ken Clarke remembers to wake himself up to verbally slap every panellist round the chops (take that Dougie! Take that Andii-chan!) praising Blair as he does so. Honestly, Ken has more in common with a lot of Labour politicians than most of his own party these days. They should skip off together and form a hot sexy new party. Or join the Lib Dems – haha, only kidding, they do have some sense.

Then it’s the final countdown, or rather question, and everybody joins together in peace and harmony to rightly condemn a nasty, nasty man. Hooray! Even Dia is on-side! Well done everyone, we got there in the end.

“I’m a dad :3,” Andy reminds us with his emoji-like face.

Time for the scores!

Clarke: 7/10

(Speaks) Sense

Burnham: 7/10

(Was) Incensed (About Every Conceivable Subject)

Carswell: 6/10

(Wants to fix up the) Fence (the fence meaning ARE BORDERS)

Alibhai-Brown: 8/10

(Get thee) Hence(, Carswell!)

Chakravarty: 5/10

(Did not want to spend her) Pence

The Crowd: 6/10

Tense

GOVE NEXT WEEK and smooth buttery Chuka and weird Norman and…Jo Brand? I leak enthusiasm.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #93


questionable time 93 no cow

Good morning Lemmings and apologies for the lateness – I had both stuff and things to attend to that have now rendered the line ‘Good morning Lemmings’ somewhat redundant but hey-ho: You’re here, I’m here, let’s do some words.

Ladies and gentlemen, The Andy Burnham Show!

Here he is, caked to the eyeballs in make-up (seriously, his face looked like a you could quarry foundation from it) and fluttering those enormous fronds that double as eyelashes – it’s Andy Burnham! That’s right, local-lad-come-good and all round grandstander Andy B was in the house last night and boy did he know which buttons Warrington wanted pushing. And what buttons might they be? Well, how about the one labelled ‘The Raw Deal The North Gets’? You like that one Warrington? Good, because he’s mashing it like he was about to set some sort of record on Track and Field. How about the one marked ‘It’s Probably All Thatcher’s Fault’? Does that baste your chicken? Well I hope so because he’s spamming away on that one like a man possessed before effortlessly seguing into a sustained hammering of the switch labelled ‘Look Outraged Whenever Danny Alexander Opens His Mouth’. Woooooo! Everyone go nuts!

So yes, as the above suggests the Shadow Health Secretary relentlessly levered his home advantage last night and for the most part (barring an impromptu Paxo-ing from a particularly single-minded audience member) he got away with it – largely because he is quite the accomplished showman who can switch between pit-pony and show-pony with ease but also because you’d have to be the biggest klutz in the land not to romp home in the week when the Tories read the last rites to satire with that bingo poster of theirs. However, it’s not Burnham’s ability that worries me, it’s his ambition: You can just see it written all over him (not to mention the fact he’s already made a run for the Labour leadership) and I suspect that the reason he wears so much make-up is to stop it oozing out of his face and all down his shirt. He’s got to be careful with that because ambition is one of those funny traits that instantly sets off alarm bells in our minds and it also – as our amateur Paxo nearly exposed – leaves one very vulnerable to overplaying your hand in the quest for approval. That, and no-one wants make-up all over their shirt. It’s not a good look.

Dominic Raab may have accidentally solved economic libertarians’ presentation problem…

Economic libertarians have many problems – such as how exactly do you sell an ideology based on enriching the few to the many or just the daily struggle of trying to stay in tenuous contact with reality when you’re all hopped up to the eyeballs on Randian twaddle – but the one you come across most on QT is a presentational problem: They all sound too bloody certain. Take Jill Kirby for example – she’s pretty sure that the North is poor because of those goddamn pinko peaceniks and their tree hugging taxes (not to mention those damn CRB checks singlehandedly destroying the teaching profession) so lets just get rid and everything will be hunky-dory ok? Granted, it doesn’t help that these little nuggets of batshit are served with a side of words like “unremunerative” or a mispronunciation of “rhetoric” (“Reht-oar-ric”) but the main problem here is one of overconfidence combined with oversimplification. This is where Dominic Raab comes in because while he was coming out with a lot stuff that’s lifted straight from the Libertarian Playbook, the delivery wasn’t the usual bish-bash-bosh, here-let-me-amputate-that-for-you tour de certainty you expect from his ilk. No, Raab’s delivery was more cautious and considered – almost halting at times – while there was the occasional acknowledgement that the world isn’t an entirely straight forward place. Now, I’m not familiar enough with Raab to know if he’s always like this or whether the QT nerves cooled his jets a little but the effect was tremendous: I actually bothered to listen. True, I didn’t agree with any of the stuff I listened to but at least he got a foot in the door. So well done Dominic, long may that feeling of nauseous terror continue to serve you well.

The Danny List

Aside from the shocking absence of glasses – and the corresponding abundance of bulging eyes – this was pretty standard Danny Alexander fare… Standard enough to be standardised in the form of a standardised list as it happens. Observe:

  1. Repeated use of the phrase “the mess we were left” – Check
  2. Constant look of nebulous dread – Check
  3. Lacklustre audience response to lacklustre joke (“No deal!”) – Check
  4. Moment of abject horror when it all goes wrong (food banks in Germany) – Check
  5. Endless parade of monotone policy ‘achievements’ to act as filler – Check
  6. Photoshop of him as some raunchy male model (see Fig.1) – Check check check!

All’s well here then…

danny aleaxander fit sailor

Fig. 1

…And Val?

Can’t complain, truth be told. Alright, so there was one sticky moment right at the start when I thought she was going to go down the ‘all politicians are untrustworthy’ road (a road I’m so familiar with that I’m long past contempt) but it actually transpired that she didn’t like politicians blaming each other and that’s alright in my book. Also, a bonus point for saying she quite liked the budget with regards to her own finances whilst simultaneously slating its effect on others. The lack of a faux hair shirt was refreshing to say the least.

Tl;dr

Alexander: 4/10

Same (as always)

Burnham: 6/10

(Had more slap on than a panto) Dame

Raab: 6/10

Overcame (my deafness to libertarians)

Kirby: 4/10

(All a bit) Lame

McDermid: 6/10

(Writes books about people who like to) Maim

The Crowd: 5/10

(Find) Haim (to be somewhat over-hyped by the music press)

Right, all done, that’s your lot, nowt to see here. Elizabeth’s running things next week for Brighton is her turf and she is much better placed to judge the implications of tax breaks for moustache pomade, subsidies for dreamcatchers and the best type of blue nylon rope to make a dog lead out of. Oh Brighton, you are such silly.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #45


questionable time 45 david dimbley spectrum loading screen

Good morning Lemmings and rejoice, for we have a good episode on our hands – so good in fact that I’ll accept it as a partially apology for Liverpool’s behaviour of late. And what behaviour would that be? Well, a) they foisted The X-Factor’s Christopher Maloney upon us and b) if my suspicions are correct they then engineered a rolling-foist by voting to keep him in the show every week hence. Seriously Liverpool, you’ve made your point. You’ve had your pound of flesh. Now please, can we stop this madness? Anyway, enough of this and let’s do some Question Timing…

Burnham and Maude were a great pairing…

I was a bit nonplussed when I heard that Francis Maude was going to be on as he’s one of those figures who, despite being around forever, just seems to flit in and out of the picture, never staying still long enough for me to really pin him down. Similarly, Burnham drew a vague ‘meh’ from me as while he’s a very proficient QT-er who does a good line in the whole ‘local lad come good’ trade, he’s so constantly on-message that I can never really see past the bluster (or – for that matter – those shimmering, dazzling eyelashes of his). ‘Fair to middling’ was the best I hoped for. As it happens, these two turned out to be an inspired choice and what we got was a battle of wits that to’d and fro’d satisfyingly throughout the evening.

The key to it is that both protagonists are very ambitious but in different ways. Maude, with his hawk-like features and buzzard-esque stoop has the look of a man who Knows Too Much (although not, it should be remembered, about the safe storage of fuel) while Burnham is a classic Set Piecer, the sort who really hammers rhetorical points mercilessly whilst always making sure he ends with a crescendo. Both men can smell the other’s ambition and both men can’t help but be vexed by it.

To start with, the Set Piecer strategy seemed to be a nose ahead and despite putting up a pretty decent fight, Maude spent both the health and economy questions fighting a rearguard action with only limited success. However, he regained his balance in the Leveson question and did so just at the point that Burnham began to falter. It went like this: Maude got the first shot and did a pretty reasonable Next Stop Zimbabwe take on press freedom that garnered a fair few claps. Burnham though, well he fluffed his opening and had to resort to stealing Tim Farron’s answer almost word-for-word. As it turns out, the Set Piecer in him managed to blag it and parity was restored although not for very long. What happened next though was genius. Out of nowhere, Maude suddenly turned to Burnham and sincerely thanked him for his part in uncovering the truth about the Hillsborough tragedy. Well, that move was nothing short of inspired and not only did it earn him a metric tonne of applause, it also left Burnham with nowhere to go. The Well Timed Compliment: It’s the napalm of QT.

So then Mr. Farron, we meet again…

Following some extensive skullduggery, I was lucky enough to find myself in the crowd for the Leeds edition of Question Time that ran earlier this year. It was a pretty good show – one in which I thought that George Galloway was actually going to lamp David Aaronovitch – but the real revelation was Tim Farron. It boiled down to this: I automatically assume that politicians are up to something sketchy until they can prove otherwise yet the moment that Farron caught my eye, I remember thinking ‘Oh my god, I implicitly trust this guy’. True, I was high as a kite on adrenaline after asking a question and the self-inflicted dehydration didn’t help (I was terrified of needing a wee) but there was just something about Farron that overruled my default cynicism. I rapidly developed an alarming political crush, a crush that’s now so out of control that I find myself making gifs of an idealised chance encounter between myself and Mr. Farron (see. Fig. 1). It is also a crush that remains undimmed by last night’s episode.

tim-farron-loudribs-gif

Fig. 1

Tim Farron’s secret – other than his projectile trustworthiness – is that he appears to live in a world where 2010 never happened. That whole coalition business? Nah, you dreamed it. Never happened. The Lib Dems are still in opposition, the Tories are still caddish yahoos and Social Democracy is still very much on the Yellow Team’s agenda. Sure, he made the odd token defence of Blue Team/Yellow Team collaboration but they were never more than routine patrols conducted without vigour and by the end of the show I was happily set adrift on memory bliss. Ah, the pre-2010 world… A place where the Lib Dems stopped short of breaking their knuckles when wringing their hands…

The Welsh appear to have quietly annexed Liverpool…

Alright, I’m a little confused here. Why exactly was Leanne Wood on last night? Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a dig at Wood herself as I happen to rate her quite highly, partly because I like her viewpoint but mainly on account of her delivery: It’s just so nonchalant. Honestly, there could be someone running at her full-tilt, whilst brandishing an axe and she’d just quietly reel off a list of reasons why they shouldn’t until they eventually stopped dead in their tracks, perplexed by this barrage of dry reason. No, the reason I ask is that we were in Swansea last week and if you ask me, that sounds like a pretty appropriate venue for the leader of the Welsh nationalists. Liverpool though? Not so much… Unless of course we’ve somehow hoodwinked the Welsh into taking Maloney off our hands in which case I whole heartedly endorse this impromptu rearranging of borders.

Lionel Barber is an odd fish…

Hmm… Don’t know what to make of this one. On the one hand, he didn’t say anything massively stupid but the way his speech halts in the middle of every sentence is a little disconcerting as was his bungled joke at the start of the Leveson question (it was memorable only for the uncomfortable parade of tumbleweed that followed). No, there’s something about this guy that doesn’t add up and I found watching him to be like using an elderly relative’s computer: On paper, it should be a great machine but a combination of rashly installed toolbars, screaming demands from paid-for anti-virus software and the fact that the toolbar is now inexplicably at the top of the desktop just make it all a little fraught. I reckon we start with defragging but progress to a full format if that doesn’t get us anywhere.

Tl;dr

Maude: 6.5/10

Just (about beat Burnham)

Burnham: 6/ 10

(Needs a slight) Adjust(ment)

Farron: 7/10

(Is a picture of) Trust(worthiness)

Wood: 6/10

(Is very) Robust

Barber: 5/10

Must (stop for a few seconds on the middle of every sentence)

The Crowd: 6/10

(Displayed much) Gust(o)

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #32


questionable time 32 david dimbleby michael jackson bad

Good morning Lemmings and many thanks for your patience… As predicted, last week never happened as I was far too busy watching NOFX on the Thursday night and then subsequently far too busy trying to stop the room from spinning wildly out of control on the Friday, hence no Questionable Time. Still, here we are now (minus a certain amount of dignity) so let’s see what we can make out of last night’s choppy little number. Go!

We need to talk about Andy Burnham…

Seriously, we do because while he always seems to do quite well I tend to come away from his appearances feeling like I’ve somehow been hoodwinked. This isn’t a new thing – I’ve always had some lingering suspicions about Burnham – but I think last night was the first time that I caught a glimpse of what it is about him that makes me have to check that my wallet hasn’t been pinched: It’s because he’s a Strong Finisher.

Strong Finishing in Question Time works like this: Upon receipt of a question you do not hesitate and immediately start to answer in a robust manner with the first thing that pops into your head. Now, that thing in your head might very well be wrong so constantly monitor the audience for signs of approval/disapproval and if things start to look dicey quickly segue into the next thing that pops into your head and see if that does any better. The key here is speed and vigour: If you pause or falter for even a nanosecond people will then know you’re up to something so it’s vital that you just plough on through and shimmy so quickly that your flip-flopping doesn’t have time to register in the minds of the audience. Eventually, you will stumble on a line that works and at that point you simply open up the throttle and romp to victory safe in the knowledge that if the finish is strong enough, no-one will remember the bit at the start where you were talking twaddle.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Well maybe on paper but in practice it’s a good deal trickier and not everyone gets it right. Warsi’s a good example: There are times when she uses the above tactics to great effect but all too often she’s stymied by a tin ear for the audience. This can result in her picking entirely the wrong point to hammer and her Strong Finish becomes a Cataclysmic Finish, much to her detriment and the wider world’s amusement. Burnham though? Well he’s bloody good at it, good to the point where it makes me a little queasy. Take for example the question about the BMA strike. Labour are in a right pickle over this and can end up contorting themselves into all manner of uncomfortable stances, just as Burnham did in his initial response (it was one of those ‘I totally condemn you for striking but well done for striking’ type answers). However, what sets him apart is how he then seamlessly reframed the entire question into one about NHS cuts and did so without breaking his stride. That bit at the start when he sounded like he was arguing with an imagined doppelgänger? Forgotten. The overwhelming impression one’s left with? Here’s a man who knows what he’s talking about.

So yes, it’s all very much too-clever-by-half and I’d like to take this opportunity to declare that I’m officially ‘On To’ Andy Burnham but there’s also one last thing I’d like to bring up about the Shadow Health Secretary: His eyelashes. My mum noticed a while back that Burnham is rather well endowed in the eyelash department and upon closer inspection I can confirm that he has both majestic and lustrous ocular trimmings. In fact, they’re so impressive that I think he’s missing a trick by not trying to accentuate them further and I’ve even gone so far as to put together a mock-up of what a little tarting up could do for him (see Fig. 1). Seriously Andy, go for it.

andyburnham-eyelashes-gif

Fig. 1

I find the West Midlands strangely endearing…

If you watch enough QT you start becoming very familiar with the way different audiences react under the studio lights. For example, shows in Liverpool always leave me feeling like I’ve just watched the inhabitants of a belligerent city-state convene a protest march against its geopolitical patron while episodes in Yorkshire are largely dominated by people telling us how bloody wonderful everything about Yorkshire is. The point is that there’s usually a sense of otherness (except in the case of London which simply refuses to acknowledge that anything exists beyond the M25), a sense that this particular locale’s problems are unique or that their virtues are unusually conspicuous. You don’t see that in the West Midlands as the audiences tend to look comfortable in their own skin yet also seem to be completely without guile. Yup, we’re from the Black Country. Yup, it’s not the most glamorous corner of the earth and yup, we may look a little hard done by but that’s perfectly ok with us. You know what? I really quite like that.

Oh, and before we move away from the audience, kudos to the angry young man who told Gove that he “worked damn hard for his GCSE’s” and that Education Secretary can “sit them for [him]”. I spoke to The Man this morning and he said that he got it totally stuck to him last night. Well done there Angry Young Man.

And the rest of ’em?

Well Ken Clarke certainly looked little more awake and alert than last time and didn’t do a bad job of soaking up the ire while Len McClusky cemented himself as Most Palatable Union leader simply by not looking as smug as Mark Serwotka or as violent as Bob Crowe. Disappointing to see Ruth Lea being largely calm and level-headed last night as I do love it when she gets a bit scatty on the free market catnip. Alas, she kept things largely within the realms of the reasonable last night so there’s no fun to be had there I’m afraid. And finally there’s Julie White, a lady of unknown providence who tends to say “you know?” when she clearly doesn’t know. Having said that, she was the least annoying entrepreneur we’ve had on for years and should I ever need to bore through large quantities of concrete with a diamond headed drill, she’ll be the first to know.

Tl;dr

Burnham: Sneaky

6/10

Clarke: (Doesn’t seem bothered by who got) Leaky (with the GCSE thing)

6/10

McCluskey: (Is less) Creepy (than some of his colleagues)

5/10

Lea: (Disappointingly un-)Freaky

5/10

White: (Looked a little) Peeky (at the start)

5/10

The Crowd: (Like to wear) Dashiki(s)?

6/10

Hmmm… Adequate marks for an adequate show, no more, no less. To be honest, I’m rather hoping that the news straightens itself out in the coming weeks as it’s been a little disjointed of late and that hasn’t made for great QT-ing. Still, we’re off to sunny Luton next week and who can tell what delights await us other than a hard-to-get-to airport and simmering racial tensions? Come back next week to find out.

Next week Lemmings, next week….

Questionable Time #5


questionable time 5 david dimbleby top hatGood morning Lemmings and welcome to what is likely to be a highly problematic instalment of Questionable Time, problematic because the show itself didn’t really turn out the way I envisaged. You see, I usually get a day or so’s warning as to who is going to be on the panel and that is usually just enough time to throw a few thoughts together before watching the show but not enough to have any real idea of how the cards the will fall. This week however, I had the luxury/curse of knowing exactly who was going to be on for an entire week and as the panel was full of repeat offenders I had more than enough time to elaborately wargame the entire scenario in my head at length. In theory, this should be quite helpful as it gives me time to rustle up a few set pieces prior to the show being broadcast, but this week I went too far: I’d pretty much written the entire report before the show had even gone on air. Thanks to this rather rash move on my part I am now faced with a glaring mismatch between the expectation and the reality, something that has led me to go about this write-up in a slightly different manner from the norm. Regardez vous…

Baroness Warsi

The Expectation

Say what you will about Warsi (for there is much to say) but at least you’ve got a pretty good idea of what she’s going to do and this usually involves cutting the most aggressive of stances before completely overplaying her hand and somehow trapping herself in a self-inflicted headlock (I’m not entirely sure how you perform a headlock on yourself but if anyone were able to perform such a physics defying feat it would be Warsi). In a standard outing, this tends to involve a trademarked rendition of her ‘pulled up by the bootstraps’ autobiography and a frantic assault on anyone who happens to be in the immediate vicinity followed by a complete mangling of the facts and a hasty retreat in the face of an audience who’ve suddenly turned hostile. Now, in the context of this week’s news, this seemed like an invitation to tragedy as the message emanating from the Tory party conference (aside from entirely avoidable blunders) has been largely one of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, but Warsi doesn’t really do ‘calm’ and in the pre-arranged version of events that I had in my head I could see her outdoing Theresa May on the gaffe front, possibly by claiming that the courts allow immigrants to stay if they have a Tesco Club Card. Heckles would follow, Warsi would carry on digging and by the end of it, I’d be sitting pretty and rather pleased with my new-found powers of precognition.

The Reality

Ok, so I wasn’t a million miles from the truth on this one but still, it was more muted than my pre-show machinations would have led me to believe. For example, she did start pretty aggressively on the Catgate question and went through her usual Immi-Crims motions before retreating under a hail of boos following an ill-timed Blame Labour play, but she wasn’t quite as frothy as she has been in the past. Granted, she did managed to get herself entangled in a trap of her own design when she strenuously tried to blag her way out of the Fat Tax question (which went something like this: Tax isn’t the solution > Got to change behaviour > Don’t know if we can do that > I had a burger once! > Big up Dewsbury Market! > Two full bags of shopping! > Costs less than a burger! > ??????) but I’ve seen her flail about in far more entertaining ways and I felt a little cheated when she wasn’t chased out of the studio by pitchfork wielding audience members. In short, the version in my head was way more fun.

Andy Burnham

The Expectation

I must confess that I didn’t have the clearest idea of what Burnham was going to get up to tonight as I find him to be a very difficult man to pin down. On the one hand he’s a slick operator who’s good on telly, can summon up some semi-convincing righteous indignation and generally has a knack for not putting his foot in it. However, there is also something about him that I find a little unsettling in that I have real problems in figuring out his intentions. Some of this is down to the fact that he’s quite deft at seguing between bosses without breaking much of a sweat but I think the real problem is that Burnham’s got his foot in quite a few ideological camps (in that he can sound very Old Labour on some issues while also being incredibly New Labour on others) and that makes it very hard to ascertain exactly what it is he believes in. Consequently, I reckoned that we were on for a polished display, but one that left you not quite fully satisfied that you had actually seen the real Andy Burnham.

The Reality

And lo, so it came to pass… Yes, this was pretty straight forward, off-the-shelf Burnham with some fairly impressive offensive play on the economy question, some nice Dear Sir, Imagine My Surprise indignation on Catgate and a dollop of fairly successful hedge betting when it came to Europe. But still, it niggled me. It niggled me because I wasn’t sure if I was being spun a line or if he really meant all of this stuff and that just leaves me feeling a little out-of-sorts, even if I can’t quite pin down what sorts-I’m-out-of. Still, top marks to clever old me for seeing into the future with such skill and deftness. Loudribs: 10/10

Charles Kennedy

The Expectation

How hard can it be to figure out what Charles Kennedy is going to do? After all, he’s been about for ages and during that time he’s taken on (in my head at least) all the virtues of a kindly uncle who your mother doesn’t entirely trust but you adore, largely on account of all the sly tenners he slips you with a knowing wink. Given the above, I was pretty sure that this would be a by-the-numbers exercise in Kennedyism: An overt display of believable humanity (nothing makes you appear more human than the knowledge of a life coloured by vice) that would probably feel akin to being tucked into bed with a glass of warm milk (that may or may not contain a thimble’s worth of whisky). Job’s a good ‘un right?

The Reality

Well, the job’s partially a good ‘un in that everything was delivered in that gentle way that makes his voice seem like auditory Calpol but what I wasn’t prepared for was just how mutinous Kennedy has become. Sure, he’s been muttering about how he’s really not taken with the coalition for some time now but watching him last night was like rewinding the clock by a good two years. The Tory stance on the Human Rights Act? “Nonsense”. Who’s right on the economy? “Ed Balls”. Who would he have preferred to go in coalition with? “Labour”. Sedition I say! So yes, that caught me slightly unawares but I also found it to be quite comforting as it took me back to a time when there were certain constants in politics and just keeping up with the news wasn’t the nausea inducing white-knuckle ride that it’s become of late. So Mr Kennedy, continue to be a “dispassionate voice from the backbenches” because I rather like it. And keep slipping me those tenners. I like that as well.

Billy Bragg

The Expectation

I hate Billy Bragg. I hate him in many ways but mainly because people assume that I should love him. I’m a bit of a lefty, right? I play guitar, right? So I should love Billy Bragg, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong! No, I have problems with Bragg, some of which are philosophical, others of which are more visceral. On the political/philosophical front I just find him to be like some sort of ideological Maginot Line that Thatcherism’s panzers’ outflanked 30 years ago. Since then they’ve been living it up in Paris while Bragg continues to grimly face east, pouring fire into an empty field that the enemy has long since vacated, seemingly unaware the Third Republic is now but a footnote in history. In a way I should admire such stubbornness but the futility of it all renders that impossible. The miners’ strike is over Billy and no amount of Woody Guthrie covers will ever bring it back. So there’s that but I suspect the biggest problem is that there’s something about the man himself I can’t abide and that’s his mirthlessness. Now I know he’s highly devoted to his cause and feels a certain weight of responsibility upon his shoulders but for Christ sake man, lighten up now and then, ok?

So yes, that’s how I was approaching Mr Bragg’s appearance and in my head I had it all figured out (to the point where I’d put together a photoshop of him duetting with Donald Rumsfeld in the hope it may annoy him. See Fig. 1). However….

bill bragg donald rumsfeld duet

Fig.1

The Reality

He really wasn’t bad. His arguments were pretty well-reasoned, there was even the odd attempt at humour and the crowd genuinely seemed to like him (as well as the bizarre spectacle of Warsi claiming that she had a “huge amount of time for [his] campaigns’”. Pull the other one, m’lady). So there we go, Eggs Benedict all over my face. However, instead of taking back all my spiteful words I am instead going to chalk this up as an aberration as to do otherwise would be to imply that I am somehow wrong. And that’s just plain old not going to happen.

Jane Moore

The Expectation

Here’s another one that I totally thought I had pegged and well I may as the last time she was on she was absolutely abhorrent. With this in mind I was utterly convinced that last night’s show would turn into a flat-out hecklefest as she plumbed the depths of knee jerk tabloidism and dragged the already tarnished name of The Sun into an even deeper circle of hell. But…

The Reality

She wasn’t that bad either! Ok, so her grasp on economics isn’t exactly the firmest (Quantitative Easing is something to do with a “computer button” dontchaknow?) and of course there was the familiar mashing of the terms of ‘immigrant’ and ‘criminal’ into a stick to beat people with but it was quite restrained by her standards and I don’t think I was ever driven to physically shout at the telly as I usually do when she’s on. This is not to say that I’m the newest member of the Jane Moore Fan Club but as potential train wrecks go, it could have been much, much worse.

The Crowd:

The Expectation

That they would be… crowdy?

The Reality

Yes, they were crowdy so hooray for me. Apart from that, they weren’t the most electrifying bunch but I’m inclined to forgive them this as it’s been such a weird conference season that it’s hard to know what to think about politics at the moment. Still, a mention is deserved for the lady who described herself to be a “scarlet woman” whilst looking about as scarlety womany as Anne Widdecombe and also for the girl who suggested that the government should get the hell out of lives and not impose fat taxes whilst simultaneously demanding that the nation be subjected to a “compulsory exercise regime”. That’s an… interesting…. position you’ve got right there.

Tl:dr

Everybody gets 5. Except Kennedy who gets 6 on account of my fondness for him and Moore who gets a 4 on account of my lack of fondness for her.

So there we have it: An odd and less than thrilling show that never managed to live up the expectations I had created for it. Still, at least I won’t have that problem next week as it’s pretty hard to engineer a mental scenario that only contains Andrew Lansley (who at this point is the only confirmed panelist). I suppose I could have him in solitary confinement. Actually, that’s not a bad idea… At least the NHS would thank me.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #42


question-time-david-dimbleby-paddy-ashdown-yasmin-alibhai-brown-andy-burnham-beardsGood morning Lemmings and welcome the hell back. Before we get stuck in, let me take this opportunity to offer my sincere apologies for the recent lack of Post Question Time activity. After unilaterally declaring Easter and buggering off on tour it never quite crossed my mind that Question Time itself might take a couple of weeks off so sorry for the absence but rest assured that regular service has now resumed.

Anyhoo, it’s a good job that I’m all refreshed as it was a feverish episode last night that at times seemed more akin to a middle class version of the Jeremy Kyle Show and was all the better for it. Basically, it can be summed up as a game of two halves, both of which featured large doses of Paddy Ashdown and also contained within it one of the most dramatic reversals of fortune I have seen on Question Time to date. It started like this: After a small bout of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown sounding very concerned (she always sounds very concerned. It’s her thing) about the legality of Bin Laden’s killing, Douglas Murray nonchalantly stepped forth and instantly polarised the crowd by declaring in a very gleeful way that he was “elated” by the death of Bin Laden and that Yasmin should really just STFU. That on its own is a pretty bold statement, but when coupled with the fact that he looked like he’d only just sobered up from a week-long ‘Bin Laden’s Dead’ pub crawl (what do you wear to a ‘Bin Laden’s Dead’ pub crawl? A Bin Laden costume? Special Forces garb? Black tie? I have no idea what would be appropriate), it becomes positively incendiary and stunned Alibhai-Brown into some very concerned sounding “goodness me”-ing. This however, was just the beginning as waiting in the wings was Paddy Ashdown and not just any old Paddy Ashdown but Hard Bitten Ex-Instrument of Foreign Policy With Blood On His Hands Paddy Ashdown.

How old are you Douglas?” he asked, “because YOU SEEM TO YOUNG TO DECIDE ON AN EXECUTION!”.

ZING! The crowd loved that, but he didn’t stop to soak up the applause. Oh no, he had yet even more of the beat down to deploy and deploy it he did by striking a 1000 yard gaze (which is very impressive for a man who doesn’t actually have any eyes) and following it up with this little gem:

I have seen people killed. Some of them my friends, some of them my enemies… I cannot rejoice in the killing of anyone.”

BOOM! He might as well have just screamed “YOU DON’T KNOW CUZ YOU WEREN’T THERE, MAN!” at Murray and the crowd went totally bonkers (to be fair to Paddy, he really doesn’t pull the whole ‘I’ve killed men with my bare hands’ thing out of the bag often enough. Hell, if it was me I think I’d finish just about every sentence with “and by the way, did I ever tell you that killed a man with my bare hands?”. More tea Mr Loudribs? “Yes please and by the way, did I ever tell you that killed a man with my bare hands?” You see what I’m getting at.)

So yes, from that point on, the tone was set. This was going to be a fight to the death affair and one in which only the strong would survive. Sensing that things were getting pretty hairy, Philip Hammond and Andy Burnham quickly went to ground and ventured out only to big up the Arab Spring while Armando Iannucci correctly guessed that comic intervention probably wasn’t called for at this point and found a foxhole of his own to cower in. By now the whole show had swung to focus exclusively on the running battle between Ashdown and Murray and what a battle it was. For his part, Ashdown would start every sentence with some reference to his days as a shadowy bringer of death (“I’ve been interrogated/fighting terrorism most of my life”) and finish it with a reference to “the rule of law”. This certainly proved to be a very potent weapon and one which the crowd loved, but lets not forget who he was up against: Douglas Murray, The Mentalist Bastard In Town.

It’s easy (and often entirely appropriate) to bash Murray given that he has fashioned an entire career from simply blabbing the most intensely crazy brand of ultra right-wing interventionism, but the man does deserve some credit for being utterly, utterly fearless. Sure, Paddy may well have had the monopoly on harrowing war stories but as powerful as they are, they are still given a run for their money by Murray’s insane capacity to soak up punishment and carry on as if nothing had happened. So it went that for every haymaker that Ashdown landed, Murray simply got straight back up, dusted himself off and then went on to say something even more potty than the last thing that left his mouth (“Killing terrorists is a good way to keep us safe” springs to mind). Neither would it be fair to say that he was without support from the crowd because he also had some fairly vocal cheerleaders, a few of whom also decide to get stuck into the ruck themselves (a special mention is warranted for the guy who objected very strongly to Paddy Ashdown referring to Bin Laden as a ‘man’. He was a special type of crazy, that guy). Anyway, whilst these two slugged it out and the other male panelists did their best not to soil themselves in the heat of combat we were also treated to the spectacle of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wandering in an out of the Danger Zone like a hippy who had inadvertently stumbled into a riot police convention. In a way, I feel slightly sorry for her because she did make some valid points but in the face of such sustained firepower, it was pretty much impossible for her to stand her ground without being beaten to a bloody pulp. Sorry Yasmin, but this ain’t the Wright Stuff (which, by the way, is totally the best thing about sick days).

So that was the first half: An almighty clash of arms in which the crowd decreed Ashdown the winner while Murray never seems to have received this message and just carried on regardless. Emboldened by this triumph in the face of insanity, Ashdown thought himself to be in the perfect position to drive his offensive home and marched on to the sound of gunfire (which actually turned out to be a question about the coalition) with his back ramrod straight. Little did he know of the calamity that was to befall him and what appeared to be the Wide Open Plains of Imminent Victory actually turned out be the Hellish Quagmire of Crushing Defeat, but for the most unexpected of reasons: Andy Burnham. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s unexpected because I think Andy Burnham’s a crap politician. He’s not, but by the same token I wouldn’t exactly describe him as the world’s greatest orator AND he’s never killed anyone before. However, he is quite canny and while the whole Ashdown/Murray bunfight was going on, he had the nouce to find a place of relative safety and keep his powder dry for a fight he was more suited to. His opportunity came with the ‘will Clegg be blamed for the AV defeat’ question. After being given the first bite of the cherry by Dimbers, he moved into a more offensive disposition and warmed up with a hearty round of Lib Dem baiting that made much use of the word “betrayal”. At this point he was joined by Iannucchi who had been also waiting for more benign circumstances to prevail and lost no time in unleashing Teh Funneh along with a further side dish of “betrayal”. Sensing that this new alliance could quite possibly harbour the seeds of his destruction Ashdown attempted to defuse the situation with a light-hearted appeal to talk about torture some more, but the crowd didn’t bite. Worse still, those audience members who had only minutes earlier been cheering him as if he were the Second Coming now started to hurumph and appear positively restive. Faced with a heckler calling him a “sell-out”, Ashdown retreated to the only place coalition members seem to know when the going gets tough: The Bunker of Blame Labour. That really didn’t work and Burnham was right back in there, giving him what-for with regards the NHS, fees and anything else he could find to be semi-convincingly outraged about. A kerfuffle ensued but this time the action was very much one-sided as Ashdown kept tripping up as he tried to retreat and mangled his account of the coalition negotiations. The result was pretty ugly and despite a fairly spirited (if misguided) attempt at a last stand it all ended up with the hero of the Bin Laden question becoming the Bin Laden of the coalition question. Oh London, how fickle you are.

So that was that: Paddy Ashdown was Icarus, Murray was mental, Alibhai-Brown pained yet impotent, Iannucci had his moments and Burnham was a bolt from the blue. But wait! Aren’t we forgetting someone? Oh yes, there was Philip Hammond as well. You may be wondering how we’ve got so far with his name barely being mentioned but in actual fact, the explanation is pretty straight forward: The man is so intrinsically dull that he could well have been replaced with a stack of Readers Digests and no one would have noticed. Take for example this picture (see Fig. 1).

philip hammond grey

Fig. 1

Here we have Philip Hammond in front of Monet’s Venice Twilight. As we can see, the power of Hammond’s congenital greyness is actually leaching the colour out of the painting and rendering the area immediately around him devoid of hue (although interestingly, his tie appears impervious to this effect. I hear it was crafted from materials as yet unknown to science). Such is the power of his all-pervading insipidness that it actually has the power to cancel out excitement. Sure, he has a reputation as a steady pair of hands but in this episode he appeared like a supply teacher who had given up trying to actually teach anything years ago and instead just reads out loud from a textbook as the class run amuck and set fire to each others hair. Even when he was being quite spitefully needled by Dimbers (who had props in the form of posters Hammond had given the OK to) I still found it hard to muster any emotion beyond pure ambivalence and if I hadn’t spent a fair bit of time knocking up that photoshop on Thursday, I doubt I’d have anything to say about him at all. I never thought I’d say this but thank god for Douglas Murray.

Tl; dr

Hammond: 100% Grey

3/10

Ashdown: 50% Man of the Hour, 50% Whipping Boy.

6/10

Burnham: 25% Shirker, 25% Politician Trying to Sound Convincingly Angry, 50% Smiter of Ashdown.

7/10

Iannucci: 50% Sidelined, 50% Funny.

6/10

Alibhai-Brown: 33% Bleeding Heart Peacenik Commie, 33% “Dear Sir, Imagine My Concern”, 33% First Casualty of War.

5/10

Murray: 110% Sectionable.

7/10

The Crowd: 25% Andy McNabb Wannabes, 25% Well Rounded Individuals, 1000% Not Fans of the Lib Dems.

8/10

So there you go… An absolute belter of an episode that satisfied some deep-seated lust for blood that has haunted me for years. Now, as is customary from time-to-time, here’s a quick reminder that you can follow these reports on Facebook and Twitter and if you’re into these reports, do us a favour and pass ’em on to people who might like them. Oh, and just in case anyone was remotely interested in how the tour went, let me tell you that it was bloody ruddy great… until our other guitarist trapped his thumb in a taxi door and we had to cancel half the dates. Here’s the thumb in question:

'That' thumb...

I hate that thumb.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #36


Question Time 36 Dimbleby Burnham Beards

Morning Lemmings and apologies in advance for the inevitable typos that are going to occur. My excuse is solid: My living room has been over-run by cackling harridans who are intending to watch Eclipse, which I believe is part of the Twilight Trilogy of Toss. Now, I’ve had my share of pain and discomfort in life. I’ve survived dengue fever, been held hostage and once sat through an entire episode of Hollyoaks (true story!), but I have to draw the line somewhere and right now, that somewhere happens to be anywhere even remotely related to Twilight. As a result, I have gone into self-imposed exile in the bedroom and am using my netbook to write this week’s Question Time Report… my netbook who’s keyboard was obviously designed for the hands of a tiny infant. Consequently, I’m expecting typos to flourish with wild abandon and make no apologies for this turn of events. If you were in my shoes, you’d do exactly the same. Right, on to the show.

 

Ok, so first up on last night’s show we had Damian Green, Minister of State for Immigration and the sole representative of the coalition present. Now, I’ve got a little bit of a soft spot for Green as he comes across as quite affable, doesn’t tend to say things that are too crazy and generally seems like an alright kind of guy. Like most of the panel, he spent most of the Egypt question conducting a grand exercise in fence-sitting (‘I just LOVE freedom and all that but let’s not get too carried away now’) and mostly pulled it off, hedging his bets without looking like he was downright evading the question. So far, so good. However, it all started going a bit pear-shaped when the matter of the coalition selling off all our forests came up. Clearly, this is a half-baked policy that will get itself a damned good u-turning in the weeks ahead, but since it’s not yet been through that rather undignified process he had little option but to defend the indefensible. Unfortunately for Green, I don’t think Christ himself could have assuaged the crowd’s lust for blood and he was battered about from all sides, mangling his words as he desperately tried to cling to whatever gossamer thin lifeline his lackies had provided him with prior to the show. It didn’t work and he ended up looking thoroughly bruised by the encounter. The following question on Lord Carlisle’s terror quotes provided a brief respite and he went straight back into fence-sitting mode with an extended version of the ‘it’s complicated’ defense, but by-and-large got away with it. However, this reprieve was short-lived and before long, he was back on the ropes, this time trying to explain the unexplainable in the form of the Big Society. Unfortunately, no one bought this and he finished the show looking thoroughly roughed up. All of the above sounds pretty bad, but I’m inclined to cut him a bit of slack as he was in the unenviable position of trying to make some of the most ill-conceived policies in modern history sound like they weren’t entirely made of crazy. Although he might not have achieved this end, he at least managed to not look like a complete prat and that’s no small feat, given the context.

 

Next in line we have Andy Burnham, Shadow Secretary of State for Health. Now, before we get stuck into his performance, there’s been something I’ve been meaning to mention for quite some time: Burnham should grow a beard. Every time I see him on TV, he’s got this amazing 5 o’clock shadow that points towards the potential for some truly regal facial growth. I’ve even gone to the trouble of mocking up how he may appear by adding my own beard to his face (and Dimbers’) in this weeks title picture, a process that left me feeling a little weird, but there you go. As you can see, it clearly suits him and it is my opinion that if he had gone into the Labour leadership contest sporting a full, grizzly facial mane he would now be Leader of the Opposition.

Anyhoo, back to the show. Much like Green, Burnham chose to tackle the thorny issues of both Egypt and domestic terrorism by firmly planting himself on the middle of the fence but didn’t do it quite so well, largely because Green seems capable of looking quite comfortable whilst precariously perched while Burnham keeps having to shift his weight by babbling quite a lot in order to avoid crashing to earth. This manifested in his claims to LOVE freedom (Green got away with only LOVING freedom… just caps, no bold type) and it gave the impression that he was playing for time. However, he did find his stride later on with the forests question (despite getting caught out on Labour’s own record of forest sales) and especially in the Big Society car-crash where he got very Liverpool about things and looked like that might actually have some genuine anger building in him. Given the mood of the audience, this was received with open arms and it is tempting to say that he emerged the political victor. However, I am inclined to knock a point off as it was essentially like shooting fish in barrel whilst Green’s task was on a par with President Ahmadinejad trying to appear all nonchalant and groovy with everything at a Pride march. Not bad though.

Moving on, we have the Terrible Twins, Claire Short and Melanie Phillips, effectively cancelling each other out on all matters Egypt and terrorism (Claire Short sees your “Londonistan” and raises you a “don’t get rid of freedom to protect freedom”!). Now, both of these two have the potential to be annoying, but I must say that neither really wound me up. Granted, the bar is very low for Phillips as I’ve built up a rather worrying tolerance for her absolutely batshit crazy views and bulging eyed method of delivery, but by her own standards, she wasn’t as bad as she could have been. Ok, so by any other measure, that’s still pretty bad and it was uncomfortable enough for me to run this weeks topical pshop (see Fig.1) without feeling guilty, but it could have been worse and lets face it, watching her dig the knife into the nearest Tory present when it came to forests and Big Society was bloody good fun.

Melanie Phillips Fuckwit Opinions

Fig. 1

 

Similarly, Claire Short’s performances over the last 6 years or so have always seemed a little tainted by her record of ‘will she, won’t she’ resignations and her own awareness of this, but she was on pretty good form last night and started to look like she’s comfortable in her own skin again. Furthermore, at least the pair of them actually had a bloody opinion on the Egypt situation which is more than can be said for the rest of the panel. For that, they are rewarded with points.

Our final meat puppet from last night comes in the shape of economics bod Noreena Hertz, and I must say that I’m slightly at a lose as to what to make of her. On the matters of Egypt/terrorism, Hertz chose to join the big fence sit with Green and Burnham, but did so in an odd way, forcefully planting herself right in the middle and almost telling people off who ventured forth with an opinion. Even weirder was when she managed to big up the Internet in one sentence (it’s single-handedly liberating Egypt, dontchaknow?) whilst bigging it down only moments later (cyberterrorism will single handedly de-liberate the UK, dontchaknow?) all the while maintaining an air of peevish annoyance. So far, so not-so-great but things get even stranger when you look at her response to forests/Big Society questions. She was on fire, getting well stuck in to Damian Green and whipping the audience into to a right old frenzy of excitement! Seriously, I find it hard to recall a member of the panel being so well received. That in itself should warrant high marks but I find that I just can’t award them and I think I’ve figured out why: She reminds me of Gillian McKeith. Part of that is down to her somewhat washed out, could-do-with-a-pub-lunch look but I think it’s more to do with the way she just seems really pissed off with everyone for not taking everything she says ultra-seriously. It’s a shame because she came out with some really good stuff and the crowd obviously agreed with her, but there was just something that stopped me getting on board the Hertzwagon. Mind you, at least she didn’t examine the contents of anyone’s shit.

Finally, we have the Workington crowd who, as mentioned above, went frankly mental at times. However, the show itself was weird and I think that’s mainly to do with the fact that it was dominated by the Egypt question. Obviously, that had to be the first question as it’s a truly monumental event that deserves our full attention, but in terms of it’s Question Timeability, it’s an odd one as no one in the room could really do anything about it and as the situation is so fluid right now, nobody really had a clue what’s going on. As a result, the first half hour was a stilted affair that didn’t really go anywhere and a similar scenario unfolded with the terrorism issue. However, in contrast to these rather odd sections the questions that addressed coalition policies drew such a level of excitement/ire that I thought the assembled rabble may well take up arms against their Southern Overlords, jump on the next train to London and raze Tory HQ to the ground. Seriously, they were like people possessed (especially the oldish looking guy who like dressed like a twenty-something hipster) and if the coalition are in the market for bad omens, they need look no further than this episode.

So yes, this was quite an odd experience and one that wasn’t too different from sitting in a room with faulty fluorescent tube that spends half of its time stutter and flickering before finally bursting into blinding, retina burning light. In a word, ‘unhinged’.

TL; DR

Green: 6/10

A lucky non-escape

Burnham: 6/10

Should grow a beard

Phillips: 4/10

Annoying, but could have been worse

Short: 6/10

A timely return to form

Hertz: 4/10

Stay off the mung beans

Ok, that’s me done. I’m going to skulk off to the bath and try avoid going downstairs, lest I be asphyxiated by a fug of oestrogen and age-inappropriate crushes.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #24


This shit is bananas....

Morning Lemmings. Aaaaaaaaaaaand we’re back. Yes, that’s right, after six gloriously non political weeks, the inexorable death machine that is Question Time has stuttered back into life, ready to grind our feeble minds into nowt but carbon and broken dreams. Now, those of you who’ve hung around this corner of the internet in the past may well remember that I issued a series of threats at the end of the last series that hinted at LCCPQTMR getting something of a revamp. As it happens, these threats have turned out to be of the ‘hollow’ variety and as is abundantly clear, nothing has changed. I’d like to think I have some sort of valid excuse for this behaviour, but the brutal truth is that I’ve spent most of the last 6 weeks playing Silent Hunter 4. Silent Hunter 4 is a submarine simulator. I am not proud of this fact. Still, on the plus side, should someone ever invent a time machine, grant me access to a submarine and subtly change the laws of hydrodynamics, I’d have the war in the Pacific over and done with in a couple of weeks, saving millions of lives in the process and possibly changing history for the better. So maybe the last 6 weeks of sinking Japanese tonnage hasn’t been in vain.

Enough of this and back to the matter in hand: Ok, so this is the first in the new series and imagine my delight at the prospect of a Labour leadership special. I say ‘delight’, but the word I’m actual looking for is ‘nonplussedness’ given that so far, the Labour leadership contest has been stultifyingly dull, despite the media’s best attempts to wish some sort of ‘Kain and Able’ narrative into existence. So with this in mind, let us make ready for another journey into the depths of the political abyss (no submarine pun intended).

The Menu

Q1: Do you agree with Tony Blair that you lost the election because you abandoned New Labour?

Q2: Do you agree with The Economist that if Ed Miliband swings to the left, he’ll win the leadership but lose the election?

Q3: Given Labour’s relationship with the unions, will strikes damage the party’s image?

Q4: Is Ed Miliband’s and Ed Balls’ opposition to the Iraq war sincere or a cynical ploy?

Q5: Big Brother has just ended. Who would the candidates evict from the leadership contest?

In The Red Corner: David Miliband, Shadow Foreign Secretary, apple of Hilary’s eye and professional banana handler.

David Miliband has a nasty habit of falling through the gaping cognitive chasms in my mind. On the face of it, this guy should be a shoo-in for the leadership given that he’s clearly quite brainy, has had plenty of experience on the frontbenches and has the backing of some rather impressive names from across the party. However, there are a number of flies in the ointment, namely some fairly nefarious ‘warz and torturez’ business that occurred on his watch as Foreign Sec, a ringing (and badly coded) endorsement from Tony Blair and lets face it, standing as the continuity candidate when your party has taken a right thumping at the polls may not be as great an asset as it’s cracked up to be. On top of this, there is something about him which winds me up a little: Every time he speaks, it’s like he’s delivering a massive set piece. Lets say he’s down at the newsagents, looking to buy a packet of fags. Chances are he would tip his head forward slightly in that ‘Warning! Solemnity approaching!’ type manner and then start by slowly acknowledging the newsagent’s “heartfelt and steadfast” commitment to the business of disseminating periodicals before launching into dramatic pause laden and sincere appeal for a packet of Amber Leaf. In some ways, I can see that this is an inevitable byproduct of rising up the ladder under Blair’s patronage, but the bitter truth is that Blair was better at it. Much better at it (providing you ignore the ‘hand of history’ and other related cases of hyperbole).

Another problem for him as well is that much of his campaign is built upon the notion that he is the ‘unity’ candidate. That in itself is not a bad thing, but when it comes to an arena like Question Time where the only currency that counts is the blood spilt and misery inflicted upon one’s foes, it has the unfortunate effect of painting you into a corner. After all, you can’t really claim to be all about ‘the team’ while at the same time bad mouthing some of its most prominent members who happen to be sitting next to you. As a result, his early efforts in Q’s 1 and 2 hinged heavily around avoiding taking any other panellists to task and instead stressing the ‘it’s time to move on’ line, sprinkled with a dusting of “I’m progressive” (which is somewhat of a debased coinage these days as bloody everyone’s at it) and attempts to shift the focus back onto the Tories. Danger loomed in Q3 as he skitted around whether he would back strikes but relief presented itself in the form of a firefighter with a specific beef. This proved to be a handy getaway vehicle and by the time Q4 rolled up, he had effectively short-ciruited the issue and got to look very earnest/concerned along the way (I noted some head-tipping-forward action, the tell tale ‘Serious Miliband is serious’ manoeuvre). Sticking with the hedged bets/non-aggression plan, he spotted the not-so-well concealed ‘have a go at your brother’ ambush in Q4 and instead picked up some nice claps for his line about “building peace” but then followed it up with more forward-head-tipping and a reminder that because we were still in Afghanistan, we’d need someone who knows about this kind of thing. The thing is, the way he said it sounded like a threat and it carried a slightly sinister undercurrent. Finally, he once again avoided directly attacking anyone in Q5 by jumping on the back of some schmaltzy ‘brotherly love’ footwork that Ed Miliband pulled, but nearly ballsed it up by trying to turn it into a joke about Diane Abbott.

I can’t say I envied his position tonight. Being the establishment candidate with quite a bit of baggage, he had the most to lose and although his refusal to play the Question Time game and start calling people names was annoying, I have to confess that I would have done the same in his position. In this respect he did a pretty good job and there’s no doubt that he’s a shrewd and gifted politician. However, there’s still something missing for me and I think that’s probably to do with the fact that he can’t quite get across what he believes in, other than the obvious non sequiturs and he’s been around long enough for some of his schtick to look slightly hackneyed. Forward-head-tipping, David… It has a shelf life.

A non-damaging but non-victorious 5/10


Also In The Red Corner: Ed Miliband, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and fratricidal stalking horse.

Poor old Ed. Rumour has it that some of the nastier boys in the Labour camp keep calling him ‘Forrest Gump’ on account of his physical resemblance to the man in question. So shocked was I by this playground behaviour that I went to all the trouble of photoshopping him into a poster of the eponymous movie, just to prove that he doesn’t… even if he does (see Fig. 1).

Fig 1

So yes, Ed is the younger brother of David and of late, he’s been making quite a stir by looking like a serious contender for the position of leader and in some ways, it’s easy to see why. As I mentioned above, the elder Miliband doesn’t quite have the knack for looking naturally at ease (especially when he takes what should be straightforward sentences and turns them into the Gettysburg Address), but Ed has it in spades. Not only that, but Ed has a talent for sounding genuinely sincere and although he was nominally Brown’s man, he has escaped a severe tar brushing by staying out of departments where he could properly bugger things up and by being elected after the Iraq War vote. On top of this, Ed seems to have something that Labour has lacked for a very long time and that is ideas (or at least ideas that weren’t cribbed from the front page of yesterdays Daily Mail). His brother may have the Westminster smarts, but Ed’s got the ‘belief’ thing going on and not in the crazy ‘I TOTALLY believe in myself’ way that Blair had. Before I get too carried away though, it would be prudent to mention that he does have a few downsides, first and foremost being that never holding a job where he could really bugger things up doesn’t naturally stand you in good stead as a leader. Another flipside to one of his advantages (being elected after the Iraq vote) is that for every time he can say “I wouldn’t have voted for war” someone else can also say equally believably say “Liar!”. Oh, and he’s got that strange, hepatic tint to his skin tone that John Redwood has. Maybe they’ve been sharing needles.

In actual fact though, his performance was pretty similar to his brother’s and most of Q’s 1 and 2 were spent doing the whole ‘draw a line under New Labour/unity’ pitch, although he did occasionally lapse into listing all the things he stood for at times when that wasn’t really relevant. However, he did venture out a little further than David did on Q3 and stated that he would back “cautious action” from the unions before realising that might have sounded dangerously like an actual opinion and retreated to talk of getting everyone “round the table”. Further opinions stuck their head above the parapet in Q4 when he called for a foreign policy more independent of America, but he managed to somehow bluster his way out of condemning his brother’s stance on Iraq by saying he wasn’t a “direct decision maker” at the time. That’s a technically correct if slightly dubious assertion and unfortunately for him, Abbott got wind of this and bought him crashing back down to earth to considerable applause. Finally, he played a blinder on Q5 by telling us how much he loved his brother and managed to lap up the assorted ‘Ahhhhhhhhhhhs’ without looking like too much of a twat.

Stood next to his brother, he did come across as more human and in some ways, more convincing. However, I still got the sense that many of his punches were pulled and dammit, this is Question Time! If I want to see a display of congenial tiptoeing, I can always watch the Antiques Roadshow for at least 23 hours a day on the Yesterday channel. No! I want blood! BLOOD! Still, not a bad turn by Miliband The Younger.

A semi convincing 6/10

In The Now Somewhat Overcrowded Red Corner, Ed Balls, Shadow Secretary of State for Education and repeat political death-cheater.

“Ha!” thought I on hearing the news that Ed Balls was standing for the Labour leadership. “Poor man! All these years locked in the Treasury Asylum with Gordon Brown have finally got to him! He’s gone native! Plumb loco!”. And on the face of it, who could blame me as at that point Balls was the dictionary definition of ‘damaged goods’. If something had gone wrong, Balls could usually be spotted fleeing the scene of the crime with a great big ‘I dun it’ sign stuck to his back and would then dig himself even further into the mire by fibbing about it in the most ineffectual manner. Then things started getting slightly weird. While the other candidates (excluding Abbott) went in for a prolonged bout of hand wringing and collective self flagellation, Balls seemed to remember that they were in fact in opposition and that the crew on the other side of the Commons were having a gay old time turning the country on it’s head. Faced with this scenario, Balls did what he does best and resorted to political violence, first by beating Gove to a bloody pulp in the Commons before turning his ire on Osborne and raining down such contempt on him that even Boris Johnson was forced to concede that he may be right. “Hmmm,” thought I, “maybe the madness was only transient in nature”. And do you know what? I think it was.

This shocking lack of madness began to manifest itself in Q1 where after the perfunctory ‘learn lessons’ spiel, he dived headlong into some Tory bashing and singled out Ed Pickles for special treatment. Not content with that, he then had a go at Mandelson in Q2 while mixing in some crowd pleasing ‘I’m for the little guy’ stuff . “This is more like it!” I thought, “Some action at last!”. Q3 saw him get further into his stride by kicking Osborne about over the economy, although quoting Keynes twice in as many minutes was slightly overwrought and not actually answering the question confirmed that there was indeed quite a bit of the Old Balls left in him. Not enough as it turned out though, to derail him on Q4 when he asked about whether he would have voted for the Iraq war. Now, the Old Balls would have tried to bullshit this one, but the New Balls actually came clean, said he would of but that he would have been wrong and we needed to apologise. I nearly choked on my beer. Finally, he tried a slightly rubbish Diary Room analogy on Q5 but did follow that up with taking the piss out of George Galloway, just to make sure we all knew that he hadn’t gone soft.

I have to say, I was totally blindsided by Balls tonight. After watching his recent turns in Parliament, I thought he was probably using the leadership contest as a way to land a cushy job with whoever wins. After tonight though, I think he does actually believe he can do this. Of course, that’s not going to happen, as was made abundantly clear by the audience who took great pleasure in pantoesque hissing whenever he over stepped the mark, but I have to come clean and say that I actually enjoyed watching him tonight, despite the familiar odour of bullshit that sometimes wafted from his direction. With this in mind, maybe it’s time for me to get my head checked.

A very out of character 7/10

Red Corner? Yeah, Red Corner Again: Andy Burnham, Shadow Secretary for Health and Thunderbird impersonator.

Ok, I’ll keep this brief because I’ve wibbled on enough. Andy Burnham is one of those guys who’s name you know, you just about recognise but never really register. That’s not to say he’s especially unlikable, it’s just that he never does anything that memorable and he looks like he works in a Job Centre Plus on Merseyside. However, one thing he is good at is appearing on telly and he put this to good use tonight. He got off to a shaky start by saying he respected Tony Blair because he was tough on crime but at least he was pretty honest throughout, even going as far to remind the rest of the panel that Labour would have made cuts as well. He was generally quite well received by the crowd and it’s fair to say that he seems pretty competent, even if he is of a wing of the party that’s probably had it’s day. I’d like to say that he’s got a fighting chance in this contest, but unfortunately, I can’t and that’s mainly down his Forgetability Factor. Try as I might, this man just won’t stay in my brain and even writing this now, I’m struggling to think of anything that notable that he did on the show. Still, there was no shame in how he did and I think he’s probably in line for a pretty good job, whoever wins. Now, what was I talking about again?

A wantonly ordinary 5/10

Oh Come On QT, This Is Ridiculous… ALSO In The Red Corner: Diane Abbott, career backbencher and (if certain sections of the media are to be believed) living incarnation of Karl Marx (see Fig. 2).

Fig. 2

It would totally suck if you pissed off Diane Abbott. She’s got that way of telling people off that isn’t unreasonable, but makes you feel so very guilty, like a child sent to confess to the elderly owners of the cornershop that they’ve stolen some penny sweets. She was also by far the most fun panellist tonight, given that she really couldn’t give two hoots about winning and hasn’t got any of the baggage that they have. Straight off the bat, she made no bones about pouring scorn on Tony Blair in Q1, damned the Iraq war to hell and back throughout and also said that she would back union action. Having the leeway that the other candidates lacked, she also managed to put Ed Miliband back in his place on some Iraq chicanery and made a belting point about how “International Law” should be the guiding principle for Labour on foreign policy. Naturally, the crowd lapped it up and she was by far the biggest recipient of applause, which raises the question “why couldn’t she be leader?”. Well, I think the truth is that she doesn’t want to and I don’t blame her. She’s got a great little niche right now, acting as the conscience of the party but in a way that isn’t overly pious and anyway, how could she get her fix of weekly Portillo flirting if she was in the top job? Some things in life are just far too important to give up.

An essentially irrelevant but largely enjoyable 7/10

The Crowd: London

Ok, so this wasn’t wasn’t your ordinary crowd, what with it being 50% Labour supporters and neither was it an ordinary Question Time. Shorn of a clear enemy and with the need to not piss anyone off too much, most of the panellist found themselves in a weird twilight where their regular forms of attack and political weapons couldn’t be used. As a result, it had this disjointed, scrappy feel to it (at first I thought I was a bit rusty from the break as I had trouble keeping up with the note taking, but it soon became clear that this was a messy affair by its very nature) and as I mentioned before, there wasn’t half enough punch ups for my liking. The same applied to the crowd and although Ed Balls played the villain quite well, I think they were also quite shocked by just how good he was that night. In terms of who won, I really couldn’t call it. Everyone got a slice of the applause action and everyone got slightly busted at some point or other. Audience members of note this time include an actor who braved the wrath of Dimbers to get all a bit passionate/flouncy about the film council and a besuited thirtysomething who’s head was so perfectly cubic that you could eat your dinner off the top of it (providing you don’t mind hair in your dinner).

An odd but enjoyable 6/10

Ok, that’s your lot. Next week Question Time is back to the regular format, so fingers crossed that it’s an utter shitstorm that quenches my thirst for violence. By the way, you can follow LCCPMQTR on twitter (www.twitter.com/loudribs) or on facebook, but I warn you now, I am a rubbish tweeter and if you want to check out people much better at it than me, have a peek at www.twitter.com/markinreading and www.twitter.com/dimblebot. These guys have got the whole QT/Twitter thing nailed.

Now, about that Japanese shipping….


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