Posts Tagged 'Baroness Warsi'

Questionable Time #50


questionable time 50 david dimbleby what the fuck

Good morning Lemmings and I imagine you have some questions about the above Photoshop. Why – for example – is David Dimbleby shirtless? Well let me tell you, I have it on good authority that this is his usual off-screen attire and a common sight around Dimble Towers. What about the burning church? And the kitten in his hand – what’s the deal with that? Ah, that’s because the kitten set the church ablaze and Dimbers is merely conveying the perpetrator to the appropriate authorities. And the shark? Err, the shark’s… Lost?

Alright… I confess. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on in this picture but sometimes a man just needs to fire up his computer and place tenuously related visual elements against an apocalyptic background. If that is a crime then hang me. Anyway, enough of this, here’s your precious Questionable Time.

Delingpole let me down…

Another week, another lingering sense of opportunities lost as a Great On Paper panelist turns out to be Not So Great On My Telly. Now, I’d better qualify ‘Great On Paper’ as I don’t want to give the impression that the things he writes on paper are that great (they’re all just a bit ‘Hey guys, it’s not just my politics that are crazy. I’m ZANY as well’), but in terms of QT potential, this guy is solid gold. Does he have a clutch of suitably outlandish views that could animate some of the audience’s more febrile elements? Why yes he does. An ability and willingness to wind up people just for the sake of it? Roger that. How about an unshakeable belief in the veracity of his own claims and a tendency towards self promotion? That’s a big 10-4, good buddy. This, combined with the fact the fact that he managed to enrage most of Twitter with some very ill-advised comments just hours before the show bade well in my book. There would be blood and I intended to submerge myself in it.

Yet here I am, a scant hour after the event, clean, unsullied and conspicuously undrenched in blood. How the hell did this happen? Well, in all honesty it’s not entirely Delingpole’s fault as his naturally adversary, Zoe Williams, didn’t really clock in until the final question, but the fact of the matter is that he was really nervous. And how do I know this? Because as loath that I am to admit it, Delingpole and I share some similarities: We’re both tall, we’re both skinny and our anxiety is kinetic. This means that if we’re bricking it not only do our eyes start darting but our limbs start fidgeting and because of our gangly frames, this tells get amplified in a cartoonish sort of way. That’s not how I knew he was nervous though. No, the real give away was that he tries to hide anxiety in exactly the same way that I do – by conscientiously attempting to locks his frame and spit out responses as fast as humanly possible in the hope that no-one will notice.

So it was that despite the promise of unrestrained provocation I left last night’s episode feeling a little cheated. Sure, he touched base on some of his more out-there ideas (“Fracking, yah…”) but every time you thought he was going to get properly busy with the crazy, his body seized up while his mouth just wibbled. I don’t know, maybe his earlier Twitter balls-up put the jibblies on him but I must say that I’m a little disappointed. On paper, Delingpole has all the form to be a properly off-his-mash 5th panelist – almost like some sort of Reverso-Galloway – but what we got last night was just an overly twitchy blow-hard who was too distracted by his own jitters to foster any real conflict. And what does that deserve? It deserve a gif of a semi-naked James Delingpole as a wind turbine (see Fig. 1)

james-delingpole-wind-turbine-gif

Fig. 1

I never thought I’d say it but I feel a little sorry for Warsi….

You could say many things about the pre-reshuffle Warsi – overly headstrong, a little rash, prone to overplaying her hand – but at least she paid dividends in the entertainment sector and lent the show an air of unpredictability. The post-reshuffle Warsi though? Meh, I’m not so sure. She just seems a little muted, a little timid, a little too afraid of her own mouth to embark on those wild little hidings-to-nothing that made her so fun to watch in the past. Mind you, I have to admit that despite her rather transparent habit of hiding behind a garbled narrative (‘Rather than actually answer a question on Mali, why don’t I just blurt out a rough chronology of events AT A MILLION MILES AN HOUR?’), she didn’t stick her foot in it once last night and I guess that has to be worth something. I believe five points is the going rate.

A quiet reminder from Alan Johnson…

…I’m still here. I’ve held one of the big offices of state, I’m strangely untainted by New Labour’s less glorious episodes and I’ve still got that potent mix of humble origins and endearing self-deprecation. Just sayin’ Mr Milband, just sayin’…

And of the others?

As I said earlier, Zoe Williams didn’t really hit her stride until the end of the show but I think she can be forgiven in this respect as it was an odd clutch of questions in areas that she doesn’t particularly hold a candle for. However, when it did get on to her turf (Nick Clegg sending his kids to private school in this case) she came up with the goods and lo, the crowd did clap. Talking of clapping, the biggest winner on that front last night was Dom Joly who niftily maneuvered himself into the yawning gap left by a nonplussed Williams and a freaking out Delingpole. While I was disappointed that none of the claps were the direct result of either swan dives or oversized mobile phones, I can’t really argue with the people of Lancaster. Well, I could but bitter experience has shown that picking fights with entire municipalities rarely ends my way.

Tl;dr

Warsi: 5/10

(Appears) Hush (ed)

Johnson: 6/10

(Is the subject of a minor political) Crush (for me)

Delingpole: 4/10

(Was in an awful) Rush

Joly: 6/10

(Got dealt a straight) Flush

Williams: 6/10

Brush(ed off the cobwebs at the end of the show)

The Crowd: 5/10

(Fear) Thrush?


Well, would you look at that… Questionable Time #50… Surely some cause for celebration, no? Alas, owing to a troubled history of naming conventions this is technically Questionable Time #98 so the Cava will just have to stay in its tamper-proof enclosure for now. In two weeks time though we’re talking Cava AND crisps! Don’t stop me now Lemmings…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #25


Good morning Lemmings and welcome to a very non-standard Questionable Time. Non-standard why? Well, I usually have a pretty set process for covering QT that involves settling down on the sofa at half-10 with a note pad in the hope of garnering enough material to cobble together something vaguely informative for the next day. This week though I have no such notes. And why don’t I have any notes? Well dear Lemmings, I have no notes because this time I was physically there. Yup, Operation-Blag-My-Way-Into-The Audience actually came good. Here’s what I learned:

The prospect of being on Question Time can seriously mess with your week.

Seeing how Operation-Blag-My-Way-Into-The-Audience has fallen flat on its face many-a-time in the past I decided to ditch the usual approach of going through the official channels and took it upon myself (with some able aiding and abetting from my brother) to get in touch with the production team itself. After a slightly nerve-wracking conversation with a producer I managed to secure a ticket and for a split second there I experienced the thrill of triumph. ‘Yes!’ thought I, ‘My hour has come! I’ve bloody won!’. However, that intoxicating whiff of victory was quickly dispelled as a new and ominous truth began to make itself known. ‘Oh Jesus, that means I’ve got to ask something’. That’s when things started going sideways.

The Question Time application process works like this: You apply and if you’re lucky enough to get through you will receive an invitation which states that you have to email the production team a question tout suite. The problem in this case was that despite being something of a news junkie, I could not think of a single issue in the last two weeks that has aroused even the faintest flicker of interest in me. I mean seriously, it was as if the news had simply decided not to bother turning up to work and editors across the nation were reduced to covering the sinking of the Titanic for the ten billionth time. Anyway, this complete and utter dearth of workable material combined with the fact that two years of covering QT has made me a little irrational about appearing on the show led me to get my knickers in a right old twist. I had to find something – anything – in the news that week (and the producers are quite insistent that your question must relate to an event that’s very fresh) that I had even a smidgen of an opinion on in order to have a shot at a question… Yet for the life of me I couldn’t find one.

So it was that my week was pretty much one of being glued to my phone and praying that the Spanish economy would collapse in the most spectacular of fashions, taking with it the entire Eurozone and plunging the world into a dark new epoch of chaos and woe. As it happens, that didn’t quite to come to pass and nor did my efforts to feign interest in the Abu Qatada (Qatada-Shmada!) case bear much fruit. I was stuck and for some reason being stuck really steamed my bean. Eventually Thursday arrived and I dejectedly handed in a question relating to something that happened three weeks ago. Defeat had been cruelly snatched from the jaws of victory. Loudribs had been vanquished by the news cycle. Irrelevance had become me. Or had it?

If the Question Time team had been manning the Titanic, the evacuation would have been slick as you like.

The upside of flunking the question test was that for the first time all day I stopped feeling nervous and could actually enjoy watching how an episode is put together. In many ways it’s like a well-heeled version of Gladiators as a room full of self-evidently confident and opinionated people are expertly herded through a logistical obstacle course. First there’s the security check, then the brief lull as everyone arrives before you have a warm up with Dimbers (who in real life comes across very much like an Uncle Bulgaria who’s developed a taste for brandy) and are corralled into the studio. Anthropologists would have a field day at that point as the spectacle of a mass of overly polite people all trying to scramble their way to the front of the line is truly something to behold. Yet somehow it all works and it’s to the production team’s credit that the whole process seems so effortless. That however is just a taster as the really bizarre bit is about to happen: The dummy panel.

In order to get the sound, lighting and cameras all sorted out they ask for members of the audience to volunteer to sit on the panel and to have a debate with the crowd. You thought politicians were odd on the show? Yeah, well audience members can out-odd them by a considerable margin, particularly if they have views on the fringes of the political spectrum as one gentlemen did. Another guy who wasn’t on the panel but put in his two-penneth worth anyway provoked some very sharp intakes of breath as he opined on “the gays” and “the things they get up to in the bedroom”. Anyhoo, that rather surreal turn of events went on for quite some time before a producer arrived and read out the names of the people who would be asking the questions. At that point my new-found aura of serenity evaporated in the blink of eye.

‘Oh shit. They just called my name’.

I’d love to tell you what actually happened on the show but I was too busy clutching a piece of paper in a sweaty death grip to take any notice.

Once your name is called out you have to stand up for a minute so that the cameras can find you and then you are taken backstage for the briefest of briefings. The long and short of it is thus: The very first question will not be filmed but will serve to warm up the panel and the audience. After that it will go straight into recording and when Dimbers calls your name you read out your question in a prompt manner whilst preparing for him to come back to you at the end of the topic.

At that point you are returned to your seat, the panel arrive and things get under way. It is also the point at which your whole world becomes exclusively focused on the printout of your question.

‘Oh crap oh crap oh crap is the Bradford Spring an unseasonable OH MY GOD WHAT ARE THESE WORDS I DON’T EVEN!’

Yeah, that’s sort of what was going through my head and for all I know they could have been debating whether fish have the right to get married for the first 15 minutes. Happily though the words did manage to leave my mouth in reasonably good order when my name was called but that was by no means the end of my silent meltdown. Oh no, then you have another desperate 10 minutes of trying to figure out just what in the hell you’re going to say next. As it happens, Dimbers never did come back to me, the danger passed and I spent the next 40 minutes feeling like my jammies had been rustled in the most profound way – which led to another weird phenomenon…

It matters who you are sitting next to.

My immediate neighbour on the night was a very jaunty and engaging guy named Jonathan who had an absolutely infectious enthusiasm for what was occurring in front of us. Given my somewhat shell-shocked state and the fact that I was no longer capable of independent thought I found myself becoming nothing less than a human extension of Jonathan’s will. If he clapped, I clapped. If he grinned and nodded, I grinned and nodded. Whatever he said, I agreed with wholeheartedly. Luckily for me, Jonathan doesn’t appear to be a howling mad extremist and to the best of my knowledge I didn’t give my involuntary endorsement to bringing back the birch/sending Qatada to the Moon/replacing the Cabinet with a Facebook group.

If you think being on the show is weird watching it back an hour later AND following the #bbcqt feed will blow your head clean off.

So I survived the show and then scurried home in a somewhat agitated, hungry and dehydrated state (the dehydration was my fault. Fear of needing a wee in the middle of the show had led me to forgo fluids for a frankly ludicrous period of time). Given how late the recording had gone on I literally got through the door just as it was about to start and never really got a second to collect my thoughts. So there we were, myself and my better half, the show starts and there I am! My phone starts making all sorts of noises as friends start texting. Then I ask my question and the camera cuts back to me for a response shot and all I can think is ‘JESUS CHRIST WHY DO I KEEP LICKING MY LIPS SO MUCH? I LOOK LIKE A TONGUE PERVERT!’. Then my phone goes absolutely mental and I check Twitter to see what’s going on. People, it turns out, have opinions about my beard and quite diverse opinions at that. And then I realise what I’m doing: I’m sitting in my front room, watching me an hour ago whilst simultaneously watching what a bunch of strangers think about my beard. It was at that point that my brain gave in and conceded that I had in fact become stuck in the Matrix.

And the show itself?

It was bloody good. Tim Farron is now totally my favourite person in the whole wide world, the venom between Galloway and Aaronovitch was both very real and very visceral, Warsi wasn’t bad and I am now forced to admit that yes, I do have a weird and slightly uncomfortable crush on the Labour Party’s Appropriate Adult, Yvette Cooper (I think it’s her long neck. See Fig. 1). In some ways it was a shame that I was too distracted to really pick up on any of the real substance but if you were in the market for political theatre last night, you got it in spades.

yvette-cooper-david-dimbleby-long-neck-gif

So there you go, that’s how my little adventure into the real-life world of Question Time went and I must say that it was a pretty grand experience. No scores this week as my head’s just a little too mangled to spend half an hour searching an online rhyming dictionary but rest assured that no-one would have scored below 6, such was the calibre of the panel. Anyway, thanks for reading and normal service will resume next week.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #14


questionable time 14 david dimbleby

Good morning Lemmings and brace thyselves for I have a confession to make: I think I might be developing a strange affinity with Baroness Warsi. Now, before you all run away in horror (I can hear a thousand laptops clacking shut in my head right now) allow me to explain: This isn’t an affinity based on any sort of shared worldview or spiritual kinship. Instead, it’s entirely circumstantial and stems from the fact that the very first Question Time I ever covered also happened to be Warsi’s first outing on Grown Up QT (she had previously been on the panel for the 2007 schools edition) and as a result we have a shared history. It’s like starting a new job on the same day as someone else. You may well dislike them intensely but for better or worse, your fates are somehow bound up together and whatever latent animosity you may feel for the person in question is always tempered by the memories of that first day.

So yes, Warsi and I have a shared QT career and as a result I’ve had the dubious honour of watching her technique develop over the years. In the early days this worked heavily in my favour as the Baroness always came with a cast iron guarantee that she would say something stupid and provide me with plenty of material to poke fun at. Most of the time this would involve a scenario where she’d open with a point that the crowd seemed to agree with before utterly overplaying her hand and painting herself into a usually hilarious corner (‘doing a Warsi’ as it came to be known). However, judging by last night’s performance, this isn’t so much of a problem any more… Ok, so she did get tangled in the rigging of the Royal Yacht question and also managed to cancel out her own argument when she got cajoled into admitting that a weak opposition is bad for democracy, but we’re not talking about the Black Hawk Down-esque scenes that regularly accompanied her earlier appearances. In short, she’s finally learned to rein it in a bit.

So credit where credit’s due, this is an improvement but let’s not get too carried away for like Alan Greenspan I have found a flaw: She’s now started getting really personal. The main recipients of this new and frankly frightening tactic took the form of Stephen Twigg and Caroline Lucas, both of whom were treated to sustained assaults that usually started with Warsi invoking their name and following it up some form of ‘you of all people’ accusation. Now, when deployed sparingly this can be a fruitful avenue of attack but the important word in that sentence is ‘sparingly’ and it’s a word that appears to be largely lost on Warsi. Instead it became her go-to method and that just left her looking a little petty. True, ‘petty’ is preferable to ‘wildly out of control’, but it still took the sheen off an otherwise improved performance. So keep trying my little coincidental fellow traveller for the road is long. With many a winding turn. That leads us to where – oh enough already.

Moving swiftly on (as dwelling on my feelings towards Warsi is starting to feel a little weird) I think it’s fair to say that both Lucas and Twigg put in pretty solid performances last night but performances that were not without their blemishes. In Lucas’ case it appears that the Falklands was her downfall as she had a real problem with trying to shoehorn the circle of self-determination into the square of pacifism. However, I’m inclined towards leniency as she did put in the hours when it came to questions about the economy and she punches above her weight for a one-person-party. As for Twigg, well he proved to be pretty nimble but not nimble enough to outsmart the ‘what the hell are Labour for’ question. In fairness to him though I don’t think even Houdini could have escaped from that one as right now no-one knows what Labour is for, least of all their frontbench politicians. Apart from that though I can’t find much to quibble about as it was a generally proficient performance.

Next up are the civilians and I must say I was pleasantly surprised by Germaine Greer and Charles Moore, both of whom confounded my expectations. In the case of Greer I suspect that this is because she seemed to be in a very good mood last night and kept the finger wagging/scowling to a minimum. Ok, so she did try her usual trick of forcibly wrenching questions from their contextual habitat so that she could bang on about something only tenuously related but it wasn’t laden with the matronly hurumphing that she can be guilty of. And as for Moore? Well although he completely lost me towards the end with his love of all things regal I must say that he was a picture of fairness when it came to the Labour question and his outburst of mischief when he fingered Chris Huhne as the yacht leaker was pretty entertaining. It also reminded me that he wrote this article last year. If you have the time, give it a look because it knocked me sideways to hear an ex-editor of both The Telegraph and The Spectator talk so much sense.

Finally, we have the crowd and – much like the panel – I can’t find many sticks to beat them with as they displayed a level of buoyant vocality that served this episode very well. Oh wait, I’ve just remembered that I do have one crowd beating stick up my sleeve and that’s the tartan jacket worn by the Royalist lady. Man, that thing was so overpoweringly tartan that I hardly slept last night, wracked as I was by visions of intersecting black and red lines every time I shut my eyes. Post-Tartan Stress Disorder, it’s serious business.

Tl;dr

Warsi: 5/10

Learning

Twigg: 6/10

Earning (his dinner last night)

Lucas: 6/10

Turning (out to be pretty good)

Greer: 6/10

Churning (out her usual stuff, but in a very reasonable manner)

Moore: 7/10

Concerning(ly good)

The Crowd: 6/10

Gurning (from exposure to weapons grade tartan)

Oh and by the way, just before I go some of you may be wondering why you haven’t come across a tenuously funny/topical photoshops yet. Well, I’ll be straight with you, some weeks the photoshopping is a breeze and sometimes it’s a nightmare, mainly on account of the panel. For example, should Nigel Farage or Chris Bryant be on then you know it’s going to be a doddle as the internet is teeming with ridiculous photos of them. This lot however are not so forthcoming. Ok, so there are plenty of back-in-the-day shots of Greer looking counter-saucy but any resulting manipulation would just look bitter and all the good ideas I had involving the Royal Yacht were soon put off-limits by the Costa Concordia disaster. However, I am a martyr to my cause and I did manage to cobble something together. The problem is that it’s just so ridiculous that it didn’t really fit in anywhere so I’ve decided to bury it right at the bottom. Lemmings and Gentlemen, I give to you Stephen Twigg getting his sandwich stolen by a fishing rod wielding Caroline Lucas (see Fig. 1). I just work here, ok?

stephen-twigg-caroline-lucas-fishing-sandwich

Fig. 1

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #40


question time david dimbleby chris bryant 40

Morning Lemmings and urgh… I have been laid low by an ill-tempered bug. Seeing as I’ve been rendered stupid by a combination of daytime telly and the effort of keeping everything inside me inside me, I’m going to keep this short which is a bit of a shame as it was a great episode last night.

Anyhoo, first surprise of the evening for me was the discovery that I may have grown slightly fond of Baroness Warsi. While many may say that this is just an outward manifestation of my current sickness, I’m inclined to disagree and cite this in my defence: Warsi and I go back a long way. When I first started writing these reports over a year ago, Cameron was at the height of his ‘down wiv da kids’ phase and as a result, Warsi was wheeled out on a seemingly endless basis in an effort to bring some much-needed ‘we’re not all total bastards’ tarting up to the Tory brand. In this endeavour she roundly failed but in the process gave me plenty to make fun of at a time when I was only just getting the hang of writing these reports, something for which I am eternally grateful. Since then, Warsi seems to have been somewhat sidelined, emerging every six months or so to say something of not much consequence so I was interested to see how she would perform tonight and I must confess that I was quite pleasantly surprised.

A year ago, the Warsi Field Manual dictated that all questions should be dealt with by throwing caution to the wind and recklessly charging at them with limbs a-flailing and teeth a-gnashing. The upshot of this inspired strategy usually turned out to be Warsi starting very strongly before completely overplaying her hand and then drowning in a ditch she herself had dug. This time however, she managed to keep herself in check and actually manage to avoid a number of ambushes that were laid for her by both Dimbers and Bryant. Granted, she still hasn’t shaken that tendency to talk down to everyone when she’s wearing her ‘serious’ face and she still does the Power Point thing where she very slowly makes a list of all the reasons why she’s right, but she did manage to sound like someone who had spent slightly longer than a nanosecond thinking about what she was going to say and in terms of improvement, it was a massive leap forward. So yes, well done Warsi… It’s not like I fancy you or anything but you are growing on me.

Not content with experiencing just one revelation, I was also quite pleased to see the return of Simon Hughes as an actual human being as opposed to the wraith-like representation of the collective guilt felt by the left wing of the Lib Dems he’s portrayed of late. Clearly unable to carry on making excuses for the Orange Book brigade, Hughes dispensed with the hand wringing and lip biting and actually (shock horror) started talking like a man who might start acting on his principles rather than just trying to smother them to death with the pillow of coalition. Nuclear power? Nein danke. NHS reform? Do not want. Midsommer Murders? STFU. All of which was nice to see but perhaps his moment of glory last night was when he put across the best case I’ve heard yet for intervention in Libya. Coming from a man who was at the heart of the anti-war movement, that’s tricky terrain to navigate but he did it and that’s quite impressive. As his reward, I’ve posted a small piece of wish fulfillment that he may appreciate: A picture of him goading Ming into throwing Nick Clegg off something very high (see Fig.1). Enjoy Simon, enjoy.

ming campbell simon huges throwing nick clegg

Fig. 1

Moving on to the Labour end of things we have Chris Bryant, a man who is worth watching (if only to see who he upsets next). Sadly though, it was not to be his night, partly because the coalition players put on a rare display of competence and partly because Labour’s lack of policy left him looking somewhat naked (not that he cares… he’s God’s gift to lazy satirical photoshoppers, what with the abundance of semi-in-the-nip pictures of him available) when ever he was asked what his party would do. Oh, and the comment about having people you don’t like over to dinner with regards to Libya? It may well be true, but it’s probably best not to bring it up when the aforementioned dinner guest is getting stuck into a bit of massacring. Just sayin’ Chris, just sayin’…

Fourth on last nights panel we have Green-in-Chief Caroline Lucas who managed to make plenty of hay from the whole Japan fallout (probably not the best choice of words from me there). However, she couldn’t really sustain that momentum and by the time it got to the Libya debate she was starting to look a little unsure of herself and seemed slightly troubled that she couldn’t rely on Hughes to bolster her case. Still, Lucas did regain some ground on the NHS question and as ever, she managed to get a green argument across without conjuring up images of didgeridoos and dogs with leads made out of blue nylon rope. Or the Levellers. Man, I hate the Levellers…

Finally there’s Kelvin MacKenzie, walking foghorn and general affront to humanity. Surprisingly enough, he ended up being quite the crowd favourite and raked in much applause by simply getting very, very angry about everything. Personally, I still think he’s a bit of a shit and his sudden transformation into Cheerleader General for the nuclear industry (“fantastically green!”, “fantastically safe!”, “nuclear or nothing!”) was a little hard to swallow (just as his random shouting of the words “Wooton Bassett!” was a little unsettling) but the crowd appear to have spoken. Oh well, every dog has his day I suppose…

So that was the panel and quite an interesting bunch they were to. For me I guess the thing that made this show was that it’s the first time I’ve seen the coalition behave as they should: As two separate entities, bound uneasily together by cruel circumstance but still very much in possession of their own agendas. That’s nice to see after months of witnessing the coalition’s Lib Dem super ego being Shanghaied into doing the bidding of the Tory led id and it made it feel like Westminster politics may finally be regaining some of its definition again. Of course, none of this was possible without a willing crowd to play along and save for their MacKenzie worship, Eastbourne did a good job. Of particular note was the kindly looking doctor of advancing years who piped up at the end and used Lansley’s proposed reforms to beat Warsi about the chops. That was nice, doubly so as he looked entirely non-threatening and benign. Also of note was the guy wearing a green shirt and beret. Now I know Eastbourne is a little bit of a time warp but seriously? A beret? ’68 has come and gone, man… Let it go.

Tl;dr

Warsi: Improved

6/10

Hughes: Approved

7/10

Bryant: Removed

5/10

Lucas: Unmoved

6/10

MacKenzie: Screwed

4/10

The Crowd: Booed

7/10

Right, that’s enough… I’m crawling back under the duvet to continue whimpering pathetically. All those in the market for stoicism, I suggest you go the hell some place else. Next week Lemmings, next week…



Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #9


Sweet 9% Lord...

Thanks to the paucity of amusing images of this week's panellist I've had to fall back on crude caricatures of regional stereotypes.

Morning Lemmings and welcome to another trudge through this week’s topical blabberfest. And a trudge it is this week, given that it was one of the more lacklustre outings. With that in mind, steel thyself and summon all your mental fortitude for this weeks QT Post Match Report, brought to you by the denizens of Glasgow.

In The Red Corner: Liam Byrne, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and noted demander of scheduelled cuppuccinos.

I have to admit that Liam Byrne freaks me out a little. His rise up the ranks of the Labour party has been way too quick for someone who appears to be running a sizable charisma deficit (elected in 2004, under-secretery in 2005, full blown minister in 2006, in the cabinet by 2008… either he has some remarkable hidden talent or he knows where a lot of bodies are buried) and in terms of public persona, he’s incredably hard to draw a bead on. I saw him on Newsnight the day before this episode of Question Time and was struck by just how thoroughly he strips all the emotion out of everything he utters. That’s not to say he isn’t totally unflappable because he does display a few tells when he’s under pressure (like speeding his speech up and sometimes dropping his ‘t’s) and although he’s not quite as dull as Des Browne (a man who is forcefully boring), there’s something going on that I can’t put my finger on. I don’t like things that elude my fingers being put upon them. He also looks a little like a cross between William Hague and a baked bean, but that’s by-the-by. Tonight’s little jaunt with Liam was pretty much a textbook case of general ‘staying on-message’-ness, kicking off with the obligatory budget question (‘has Darling “shot Labour in the foot” with his red box). Byrne’s response was straight down the party line (as one would expect from a Treasury minister), emphasising their pop at the rich and warning of mad-slasher-Tory-antics. Some complex little skirmish involving numbers and such like broke out between himself and Dimbleby, but nothing of great import occured. That’s ok I guess. It was a boring budget (although not a bad one, all things considered) and it’s pretty rare that anyone from a ruling party picks up any QT love on the back of them. The second question, (‘can Gordy survive until the election with all the strikes loomin’), elicited a rare stumble when he said Gordon Brown will survive “until the next election” and then got jumped on by Dimbleby. After some quick backtracking, he was right back to the script, packaging up the strikes as a matter between companies and unions but Dimbleby knew he’d rattled him and got stuck in with some mischevious Bob Crowe quotes. Sensing that the plan was in grave danger of going awry, Byrne muttered a few platitudes and withdrew under the smokescreen of a non-point from some audience member. Lucky escape. Question 3 (“Is Lobbygate indicative of the dying days of the last conservative government”) saw the plan back on track (in theory, at least) as he spoke of his “sheer fury” at the matter whilst looking very un-furious as well as cramming in another outing for that well worn “the best disinfectant is sunlight” line (which the audience fell for and rewarded him with some nice little claps). Dimbers goarded him a little by poking around the Mandelson/Adonis angle but Byrne was not to be drawn and retreated in good order. He got a little more proactive later on when he went for in some “public have a right to know” action, but that swiftly devolved into a confusing little skuffle between himself and Warsi about some inquiry that lasted 20 minutes. I wasn’t really sure what was going on (and neither were the audience, judging by their lack of response) but it looked like Warsi sort of won. Don’t quote me on that though. The next question (is the SNP exclusion from the leaders debates “an afront to democracy”?) had him making the pretty reasonable point that until they fielded a candidate in every constituency, it wouldn’t really be fair if they did, but after that he sloped back to his bunker and looked on as everyone else duked it out. The final question (is the expulsion of Israeli diplomats enough of a response to “an act of terror”) had the potential to get messy but it was one of those last minute affairs and he was saved by the bell after some “strong relations with Israel”/”need for trust” hedge betting.

Again, I find myself a little non-plused by Byrne. On the one hand, the stuff that comes out of his mouth is all pretty safe, largely reasonable and wholly uncontroversial, but that general lack of human spark/frailty make him seem a little odd and disconnected, as if the wheel is turning but the hamster isdead. I don’t know, maybe I’ll warm to him in time but for that happen, he really needs to give me something of character to hold onto. So that’s your job for next time Liam, grow a little soul.

A disconcertingly detatched 4/10

In The Blue Corner: Baroness Warsi, Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion and Social Action, Undeserved Target for Extremist Eggs.

Baroness Warsi has been on my radar for quite a while now and I’ve been somewhat critical of her tendency to over extend herself on Question Time in the past. It usually goes like this: She starts off with some fairly solid stuff, gets in some early successes and then wazzes it all up the wall with some ill-conceived all-out offensive. However, I do like her tenacity and even if she does make some pretty junior errors, she takes her licks well. So, how’s she doing? True to form, she got off to an ok start with the budget question even if the material was a bit a dull (constantly chanting “deficit” does not a strategy make). Considering she’s a Tory and Question Time was in probably the most un-Tory place in the world, ‘ok’ is good enough. However, she soon started to overplay her hand when she produced this really contrived little laugh when Byrne was whittering on about cuts. It wasn’t that her point wasn’t valid, it was the way she had to almost shit this laugh out. It just sounded over the top and a little cynical. Question 2 (the rampant communism apparently sweeping the nation) was a similar affair as she started with an OK-ish joke about Gordy visiting the Queen before wrapping it all up very quickly with “the country’s unravelling!”. Again, not brilliant, but then again, no-one threw any cans of OPT at her so I’m happy to call that a draw. What did it for her this time was that when Liam Byrne said the Tories were “salivating” at cuts (a word he used twice in the space of five minutes. Probably a glitch in the matrix) she let out this theatrical moan that this was “really unfair!”. Again, the point may have been valid, but she said it such a way that made me instantly lose any sympathy. So far, so Warsi. However, things did begin to pick up on the Lobbygate question when she had a fairly good rant about the horror of it all and called for an inquiry. That was warmly received by the audience and she got a happy little shower of applause. That was followed by the inconclusive and confusing scrap with Byrne, but credit where credit’s due, she earned some hard claps there. The leader’s debates matter was more sedate as she went through the obligatory “Scotland is important” motions but made it clear that Salmond will “never be PM of the UK” (which is entirely true) while the Israel question brought forth nothing of any relevance. So here we are again with Warsi getting some things quite impressively right while horribly misjudging some others. However, I do think she’s improving and given enough practice, she could become a pretty formidable front-of-house type. I don’t think that she’ll necessarily make a brilliant minister, but she’s certainly interesting to watch. And that’s worth a bob or two.

A work-in-progress 6/10

In The Yellow Corner: Julia Goldsworthy, MP for Falmouth and Camborne, tireless Facebook campaigner for Cornish network recognition

Julia Goldsworthy should, by rights, be an ideal Question Time panellist. She’s young, not unattractive and bright, but there’s something that just isn’t quite working for her. I first started noticing it when she went on the scorn-inducing First Time Voters Question Time. That should have been the ideal vehicle for her, but somehow she didn’t manage to make as much hay as I expected her to. After this episode of QT I’m pretty sure I know what it is: It’s the not-quite-convincing urgency in all of her responses. All through the show, she seemed to be hellbent on crowbarring her way into every question before it was her turn and while I’m quite the fan of proactive strategies on Question Time, this tack just simply didn’t work. Rather than coming across as genuinely concerned (which I think she probably was), she ended up looking a little desperate and contrived. Take the first question, for instance. She started with a fairly straight forward ‘government think people are idiots’ line and then hurriedly pulled cutting Trident out of the bag (a wise move as Faslane is only down the road and Glasgow has never been too keen on being nuked… wimps). The problem was that she looked in such a manic rush to get the missile on the table that the point got lost and she ended up being cut off by Dimbers. Not to let this get in the way, she tried again, but the audience remained unswayed, even when she upped her bet to Eurofighter. If that wasn’t bad enough, Salmond was up next, took a leisurely stroll about the place, stole her Trident point and was then saturated in applause. Harsh. Stinging from this episode, she tried to barge in at the end of the question with a blurted “Vince Cable!” (“Matt Damon!”) but again, was met with silence. She did win some favour from the audience later with some good stuff on Lobbygate and the leader’s debates, but throughout most of the show she looked twitchy and preoccupied. That’s a shame because most of the things she said were pretty good and she does seem to be in politics for the right reasons. However, she really needs to take some deep breaths and calm-the-fuck-down because it doesn’t matter what you say, if it seems like you’re pinging off the walls at Mach 3 while you’re saying it, people simply won’t take it in. I hope she can get to grips with this because she’s got a lot of potential and it’s a shame to see it squandered. So how about it Julia? Some herbal tea, bit of Massive Attack on the ipod ? The world could be your lobster.

A fatally flawed but not irretrievable 4/10

In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, SNP Leader and Scourge of the Union

I don’t know what it is about Alex Salmond, but something about him reminds me of Silvio Berlusconi. It’s not the scandal/lothario/verging on dictator angle that sets me off (in fact, Salmond seems relatively free of anything too untoward, minus the odd lunch expenses jiggery-pokery), but there’s something there, albeit something muted (like Berlusconi after drinking three bottles of cough medicine or overdoing the tamazepam). I think it’s probably something to do with way he often tries to portray himself as quietly confident, but instead sometimes comes over as cocksure and smug. He also bears a remarkable resemblance to Churchill, the eponymous insurance company mascot (see Fig. 1), although that could be a blessing in disguise as Churchill is a very lovable corporate mascot.

No no no.....

Fig. 1

Tonight, he started out with the wind on his back, brazenly stealing Goldsworthy’s Trident point on the budget question and then tacking on all manner of unpopular schemes to cut, such as ID cards. That went down very well and he seemed to have control of the commanding heights at this point, but failed to consolidate his position with a long and largely irrelevant ‘blah’ on the strikes issue (my notes from the night actually read as “blah” and I remember him talking for quite some time on that one). Luckily, this appeared to only be a temporary snag and he soon had the audience back on side with a thorough damning of lobbying in all it’s form before threatening to run nationwide with Plaid on the leader’s debates saga (everyone knew it was a rhetorical point, but at least it was a bit of a laugh) and labelled the whole affair as a stitch-up. Good times all round. He was also the only panellist to really break cover on the Israel question, suggesting that the government action was nothing more than a “gesture” and was thusly well received by the masses.

On the face of it, it was a strong performance (he is a good showman) and there are a lot of areas where I find myself agreeing with Alex Salmond. However, and for the life of me I can’t think why, there’s just something about him that I simply don’t trust. I’m happily prepared to accept that it’s probably one of those random instances of someone rubbing you up the wrong way for absolutely no reason, but no matter how objective I try to think about it, I simply can’t shake it. Maybe it’s because any thought I have about Scottish independence inevitably leads to a mental image of Buckfast swilling hordes of pale Highlanders laying siege to Newcastle and deep frying our young. That’s not rational, I know, but we all have our demons.

A sturdy 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP Group and stern looking money bloke.

Ok, ok, so this guy’s a million miles away from either ‘funny’ or ‘just like you’ (unless you happen to be an All Powerful High Priest of Capitalism, in which case I take it all back) but I don’t want to mess with the format. It’s taken me 9 weeks to get the bastard thing standardised and I’ll be damned if the capricious vagaries of the Question Time production team are going to get the better of me on this one. The fightback starts here. Anyhoo, just who in the hell is Martin Sorrell? Well, it turns out that he somehow made a massive advertising conglomerate out of a company that made wire shopping baskets and is the guy who came up with the Conservative’s “Labour Isn’t Working” slogan of yesteryear (something that prompted much blowing of one’s own trumpet later on in the show). I’m never quite sure why they invite the heads of massive corporations and companies on QT because most of the time, they play the neutrality card to hell and back so they don’t have to say anything that could have a possibly negative impact on sales (Sir Stuart Rose, I’m looking at you). To these guys, politics is a sideshow, a necessary evil that takes away from the much more important job of making piles of money. Only if politicians have the temerity to start seriously messing about and getting in the way of this will they start to get involved and then god help any poor soul who gets in the way, but as this is an election year which is looking increasingly difficult to call there was precious little chance of anything substantial passing his lips. And so it was. He did some numbers stuff about the budget, made it abundantly clear he was ‘apolitical’ and then damned all politicians for thinking people were “imbecilic”. The crowd were into that, but he really didn’t give anything away other than a general disdain for politics. Naturally, on the strikes question he poured scorn on the unions so no surprises there, but something interesting did occur on the Lobbygate issue. Before he had a chance to speak, Dimbleby mentioned that Sorrell himself had a hand in the lobbying industry. This led to the somewhat bizarre outburst of ‘hooray for me’ for the ‘Labour Doesn’t Work’ campaign (which seemingly came from nowhere) and some sly little moves to throw Dimbers off the scent. This mainly involved invoking Blair’s South Korean oil interests in the hope that the crowd would pick on this as the big issue rather than the lobbying industry as a whole. The crowd started to take the bait but Dimbleby was one step ahead and started reading out some ominous sounding bumph from a lobbyist promo brochure which led to some squirming from Sorrell and a lively little offensive from Salmond. At this point, the crowd turned on him and he ended up looking worse for wear when he tried to get off the hook by saying the Ashcroft affair was even worse. Two wrongs don’t make a right, Sir Martin. Sensing that things might have gone south in a big way, he spent the rest of the show skulking in the shadows, although he came close to an opinion on Israel when he rejected the notion that it was a “terrorist state”, but saying little else. I don’t know, I guess that in some ways, having proper business types on Question Time makes for good anthropology, but they’re so damn cagey that it rarely makes for incendiary telly and with the exception of the Lobbygate moment, this was pretty much the case here.

A cards-too-close-to-chest 4/10

The Crowd: Glasgow

Alright, alright, so yet again I have fallen into the trap of pernicious national and regional stereotypes. Here was me, expecting a harsh sounding, braying mob of angry Glaswegians when what we actually got was quite a mild bunch who (with the exception of the Lobbygate and Israel question) remained mostly unenthused by all that occurred. I guess they got behind Alex Salmond a bit, but I’m putting this down to the newly created Loudribs 2nd Law of Question Time Dynamics which is that all regional parties get a +3 saving throw on their own turf. If you don’t know what a saving throw is, look it up. And then try and guess how many friends I had as a teenager. There was one guy who caught my eye though, a nervous but very wise sounding man who made a great comparison between the industrial disputes of the Winter of Discontent and the present unrest. Apart from that, nothing really leapt out at me and I must say I feel a little short changed. Come on Glasgow, you are all in possession of one of the most easily weaponised accents in the world and you have no idea how much it scares English people. Use it or lose it Glasgow, the choice is yours.

A highly mediocre 5/10

And with that, I am done. My dreams will now be haunted by the special unit of Glaswegians who will be sent to hunt me down for giving out bad marks, pending the inevitable invasion. Roll on Stevenage.


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