Posts Tagged 'Billy Bragg'

Questionable Time #96


questionable time 96 david dimbleby blade runner

Good morning Lemmings and thank your lucky stars that I’m not going to do what I thought I was going to do today. And what did I think I was going to do? Well, having just finished James Ellroy’s LA Quartet I was toying with the idea of penning a Questionable Time Noire but have hastily reconsidered given the pure weight of political incorrect invectives that’s required to pull it off (not to mention the prospect of an angry Twitter mob arriving in my Notifications tab as soon as I refer to Harriet Harman as ‘some broad’). Nope, just plain old Questionable Time today so get those lucky stars thanked and let’s be on our way… Shitbirds…

Sooooo… The new Culture Secretary…

Has a fascinating head. Unorthodox in shape, lustrous in sheen, it looks like the sort of bonce that if poked would give a little before springing back to its original form with a satisfying ‘Boing!’. Looks can be deceiving though because underneath that pleasing smile and placid eyes lies quite the QT ruffian who should only be trifled with cautiously. We’ll leave aside the matter of the expenses questions for now as a) it’s just as dull as it was five years ago and b) he had no other option than to play dumb given how he’s just slipped into a politically dead woman’s shoes. No, let’s go straight to the next (and far more interesting question) about the London housing bubble for it is here we begin to see another Sajid emerge – a steely, hardboiled Sajid with a bandolier full of economic data and a shoulder holster packed with animus for those who cried ‘Bubble!’ (which at this point is roughly 98% of people with half a brain). All of a sudden that serene and unassuming visage dissolved into something much more bellicose and hostile: ‘A bubble you say? Well try THESE NUMBERS ON FOR SIZE!”. In fact, so robust was his defence of a position that is self-evidently indefencible that I nearly ended up going along with it until he spoilt it all with the now customary It’s All Labour’s Fault manoeuvre.

This though was only a taster of just how unboingy his head is as his real party piece came later on with the question about tuition fees and the fact that they’re probably never going to get paid. After some perfunctory sparring with Harman, Sajid did the unthinkable: He craned his neck to the left, casually scanned Dimbers’ notes and then called codswallop on them. Now, that may not seem like a big deal but considering how most panelists treat Dimbers (like an angry and wrathful deity who must be venerated lest he bring down great terror upon their homesteads) it is, doubly so given just how nonchalantly he pulled it off – almost as if to say ‘Yeah that’s right, I’m violating the inviolable Dimblesphere. What are you going to do about it’. And what did they do about it? Nothing, because they were all too busy cowering under the desk and bracing for the swarm of locusts that inevitably follow a Dimbers scorned.

So yes, as performances go this was pretty impressive – for a Treasury Minister in Osborne’s Forbidden Palace of Divine Pain and Economic Punishment that is. However, that’s not his job any more. Now he’s the Culture Secretary and I’m pretty sure that his particular skill set may not translate so well to the more touchy-feely, wavy-gravy world of the arts. Still, what’s done is done and I for one will be seeking to placate our new Cultural Overlord which is why the next Questionable Time will be presented in Excel form.

Harman, Harman everywhere…

…But not a drop to – wait that makes no sense. No, I think what I was trying to get at is that Harriet Harman is now so ubiquitously ubiquitous that I no longer have any feelings – either good or bad – towards her: She’s just always there, like lampposts and unread emails. With this in mind I was half tempted to just copy and paste one of the millions of write-ups from her previous outings and see if anyone noticed but eventually thought better of it. No, instead I shall try to sum up her performance in a line:

Good at having cake. Also good at eating cake.

Job’s a good ‘un.

Kirsty Williams and the Perils of Doing Things Right…

I felt a little sorry for Williams last night, mainly because she was trying so hard to do QT right and that nearly always leads to people getting QT wrong. The big mistake here is to take the general public at its word because we say an awful lot of things we don’t mean – like that we want politicians who propose solutions and appear relatively normal. This was the approach that Kirsty went for, dutifully listing policies and appealing to our sense of the ordinary but it just didn’t quite cut it because her answers didn’t leave any space for us to get a sense of what she’s all about: Sure we got the gist of what she’d do, but not who she is. So how can she straighten this out? Well if the opinion polls are anything to go by it’s to get a silly haircut, a clutch of outlandish views and never be photographed without a fag or a pint.

Sorrell and Bragg: A buddy movie that’s just waiting to happen…

It’s no secret that I have trouble with Billy Bragg (or to be more precise I have trouble with folk music and purveyors of folk music who are unconditionally doted on by every colleague who’s over the age of 40 and owns a pair of Dr. Martins – which given I work in mental health is all of them) so it is once again somewhat galling to confess that yes, he was very good last night. However, the real revelation was how well he and Martin Sorrell got on together – they just kept giving each other these knowing nods and unspoken glances that said ‘You’re alright you are’. Granted, it helped that they were strangely in agreement for most of the show but still, the spectacle of Man of the People/Salt of the Erf Bragg and Bottom-Liner/Champion of Capitalism Sorrell’s little bromance gave the show a nice little subplot. Whether this means that Bragg will be the new face Nestle remains to be seen but in the meantime, here’s the now traditional pshop of Billy Bragg Hanging Out With People He Doesn’t Like (see Fig. 1).

https://spreadhead.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/billy-bragg-cheney-blair.png

Fig. 1

Questionable Time: It’s nothing if not petty.

Tl;dr

Javid: 6/10

Tough

Harman: 5/10

Stuff

Williams: 5/10

Duff

Sorrell: 6/10

Gruff

Bragg: 7/10

Scruff

The Crowd: 6/10

(Live roughly 21 mile east of) Slough

Yeah yeah yeah, ‘Slough’ doesn’t rhyme with ‘tough’ BUT THEY LOOK THE SAME OK?

Right, that’s me done for Easter so enjoy the Dimblebreak and I’ll see you in May when QT will be in Leeds and I will undoubtedly be trying to infiltrate proceedings for Leeds is my turf. In the meantime, please feel free to acquire this rather lovely Questionable Time t-shirt.

In a few weeks Lemmings, in a few weeks…

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…


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