Posts Tagged 'Caroline Flint'

Questionable Time #142


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Good morrow lemmings – we’re currently taking all bets on how crap Melanie Phillips is in this edition. Let’s find out, as we dive right into…Questionable Time: in Scientifivision™!

Let’s get ready to r…easonably debate!

Our first question, and it’s a belter: is it right to blame the security services for not stopping them there three sisters and their families from travelling to Syria or ‘owt? At least some bright spark on the production team has decided to allocate the serious questions first this time, instead of leaving five minutes to spare at the end for such matters. Good! Well done, Question Time! You get a freshly-baked cookie.

As a result of the trade-off for sensible debate (as opposed to the usual pointless squawking), things do get a lot more dour and less…well…squawky. David Davis, libertarian Tory extraordinaire and rival of Paddy Ashdown for the title of Squinty-Eyed Champion of the World (does he also have a hat to stuff in his gob?) says that it is right to ask how this tragedy happened but not to slap the blame on anyone willy-nilly. Meanwhile, Alex Salmond is equally sensible, his broad Scottish tones curiously hushed as he asks what the appeal is for vulnerable women to go abroad into a warzone with their children and fight for hatred. Melanie Phillips actually agrees, which is promising, urging the need for a better counter-radicalisation strategy and that the ‘danger’ is part of the appeal for impressionable youth.

Caroline Flint, current Queen of Question Time (appeared the most during the 2010-2015 period – will she retain her crown until 2020?) and Labour deputy leadership contender, says that we don’t hear enough about accounts of the atrocities coming from people who want to get back, and how the situations of adults and children going is markedly different. Other Guy AKA Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, pleads that people in MI5 are not appreciated enough! Stop being mean to them! Melanie goes full student politics by declaring that we purely see the world through a Western, colonialist lens, and Salmond says the Western world is not immune from religious fanaticism – such as that for the SNP! Ayy! …Ah, just kiddin’ youse guys.

Overall, very mature, very sensibly-debated, and even the applause was sombre. Good job everyone.

It’s not to last.

More like Snoreway

Next up: bloodsports time! Would it really be so bad to find ourselves out of Europe, the next question-askerer says…as we are “Great Britain”, after all! Woah, never thought of that one before.

Lionel launches a sick burn in his whispery monotone – we may be Great Britain, but we’re not “Little England”. Then he goes on and on about m-muh roaming charges. M-muh sovreignty, says Melanie in response. Apparently, we put more in than we take out, and shake it all about.

Alex Salmond is then pressed on his solidarity with the people of Norway. This show gets weirder by the minute. No, says Big Al, any relation between this oil-rich solitary nation and a certain other landmass is purely coincidental. Anyway, he goes on, both England and Scotland are members of Europe, and he hopes that he can join forces with other sympathetic parties in Europe to rid his country of the Labour scourge once and for all. Well, that was the gist of what he was saying, at least. Caroline Flint tuts and shakes her head. Oh Alex, you card!

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

David Davis declares that the nasty bullying of Greece due to its falling on its face and getting poked by long pointy German sticks represents a “failure of democracy”…sounding pretty Bennite there, double D! Caroline, on the other hand, goes all-in for a Yes vote (while encouraging m-muh reform) and states that the EU is a great trading partner. Melanie brushes this off and pretty much gives the entire country of America the middle finger while doing so. Oh Melanie, you card!

“Let’s leave the EU for the moment”, says Dimbleby, and everyone laughs. Indeed, why not put a ‘lol’ option on the ballot paper? I’m sure it’d attract a surprising amount of support.

Girls don’t cry

Nexty-wexty: should Tim ‘women are crybabies’ Hunt have fricked off? Melanie, while acknowledging Hunt as “bonkers”, claims that he is a great eccentric and that his magisterial free thinking on the role of women in STEM fields should be encouraged! He’s a trailblazer! Free expression! Love and peace, man!

Caroline pointedly points out that some women might be a little miffed that this behaviour from an already highly regarded and wealthy man should be protected, but then the women in the audience have their say. Their opinions vary due to BBC guidelines but seem reasonable enough either way. Most people seem to agree that while what Hunt said was terrible and should be widely mocked, sacking him was more iffy territory. Then again, apparently he didn’t mean it as a joke and didn’t apologise, so…shruggie. Thank goodness we have Alex Salmond to steer us on the right course, by means of…wibbly-wobblying somewhere in the middle of the argument, something he does very rarely.

Also, David Davis misquotes Voltaire, and damns the ‘Twitter mob’ that has struck terror into his heart. Even though he doesn’t have a Twitter. Okay, D-Dubs.

We wrap up with another well-answered question (damnit, Question Time, you need to be viler!): do we have a responsibility to help immigrants fleeing from Africa? Salmond says 65% are refugees and we have to help them as the government in the 1970s helped refugees fleeing Idi Amin. Also we screwed up most of their countries so, y’know…what goes around comes around!

Lionel and Caroline argue the need for a “moral obligation” to help those in danger of drowning – Melanie argues that while economic migrants should be scrutinised, what we really need to do is hit the PANIC BUTTON on the whole Middle East in general. David Davis shrugs his shoulders and wonders how life would be different if he was Tory Prime Minister right now.

Final, rhetorical question: what are the chances of some chubby guy living to see the conclusion of the Chilcot Inquiry?

The world may never know.

Time for the scores!

Salmond: 7/10

Nor(way, twinned with Scotland)

Davis: 7/10

(Showing mean old Twitterers the) Door

Flint: 7/10

(Didn’t quite) Score

Barber: 5/10

Snore

Phillips: 5/10

Pour(ed a slight amount of fuel on the fire)

The Crowd: 6/10

War (what is it good for)

Next time: the return of Mangaman.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #125


qt 125

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to sunny Stockton-on-Tees, and a silly and suspiciously Scottish specimen of Questionable Time! Not much else to say other than let’s boogie on down.

All I know is everybody hates me

Nicola Sturgeon looks mischievous, Norman Lamb has stolen George Galloway’s hipster glasses, and Duncan Bannatyne is wearing a ridiculous suit, the kind that Michael Heseltine – who is also present and sitting, slumped, akin to a elderly lion caged in a Chinese zoo – would wear in the 80s. Oh, and Caroline Flint is there as well. They’re gearing up to answer our furst kwestion: if everything is apparently hunky dory now, why does everyone still hate the Tories and enjoy egging them as a national pastime?

Nicola gets off to a shocking start as she argues that things aren’t actually hunky dory and strongly hints that everybody should move to Scotland instead. Caroline looks grumpy as Hezza retaliates. Everything, you see, is truly hunky dory after all. A standard Question Time skirmish, one that Hezza – as a veteran, and the first Cabinet minister to appear on the programme all the way back in 1979 – has no doubt batted away boredly many times before, but at least I’m pleased to see that he hasn’t lost any of his magnificent hair, or indeed his eyebrows, which have always appeared to be trying to escape from his face.

Caroline, however, is not dissuaded. She doesn’t think it’s an ‘equal recovery’, and is in fact a ‘race to the bottom’. She looks scared but overall pleased with herself for answering somewhat adequately. Things are calm so far…but that will all change later.

Duncan, meanwhile, has a nice accent. I imagine Nicola would swoon if he actually supported the SNP. As it is, he is merely a traitor. (Or rather, a TRAETAH!!) Oh, yes, and there’s a Liberal Democrat there as well. It’s the Lib Dems who are saving us all! says the Lib Dem. Well, thank goodness for that.

“Norman…” wheedles Caroline in response, like she’s your mum about to ask if you ate the last cookie.

Ten minutes in and surprisingly slowly (I had expected her to attack in the first few seconds), Nicola finally gets to the real issue at hand. Forget the Tories – it’s Labour who are the true enemies. Yeah! Them lot not in office! This is a promising preview of possible coalition talks.

Then Hezza risks igniting the fury of the ScotNats, as he calls them, by comparing them to Le Pen’s lot in France. Now I must confess that I am somewhat terrified of certain sections of the CyberNat army (not all of them, just the very loud ones with an Irn Bru addiction) and have currently been writing this post with a gun to my head – I mean, talking about how they’re all just marvellous! But even I wouldn’t go that far. Ssh Michael. You’re, what, a million years old now? It’s time for your nap.

Nicola Sturgeon then makes one of the most beautiful expressions ever seen on this programme.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

The Neverending Tory

Next question, since the Tories have apparently taken a beating so far (have they? I thought Hezza was doing okay, considering): why is Miliband so weird and why don’t Ant and Dec like him? Michael doesn’t know who they are. This is incredible. I propose we change the title of this show to ‘Michael Heseltine vs the Modern World’ and get him to comment on every single light entertainer of The Now. He’s a crafty one is old Tarzan, switching between appearing like a doddery, harmless old man, a respected elder statesman, and a completely batshit elderly army general directing his troops into battle despite not wearing any trousers at the time. Later he makes a Fifty Shades of Grey joke and I think in his mind he’s imagining he’s still up at the conference podium circa 1976, soaking up the rapturous applause. I hate him, I’m confused by him, but at the same time, I can’t help but love him.

Anyway, Ed Miliband is amazing and quite frankly I’m astounded we’re not being showered with shit in the street, says Cazza. And that’s the end of that discussion and there will definitely not be 10,000,000,000 more articles about this subject in the months ahead.

I’m still here, Norman Lamb reminds us.

Next up: Russia! Exactly how loud should we scream in terror?

The problem is Trident, concludes Nikki Nack. No it’s not! yells Solid Hezza (Guns of the Patriots edition), suddenly metamorphosing into his 1983-era self. Gonna bash some hippies! Gonna wear a flak jacket! We can’t leave France as the only nuclear power in Europe, he grimaces. After all, they’re bloody useless.

Putin is a bit of an issue, understates Caroline, Mumsying it up. That’s why we need DA NOOKS. Duncan Bananarama agrees and Nicola looks betrayed. Norman Lamby and Beefy nods in assent. It’s twagic, says he, continually leaving absolutely no impression upon anyone.

There’s a lot of figure-swapping, budget deliberations and arguing over where money should be spent – the army? The navy? A nice pair of socks for the homeless? Nicola attempts once more to propose getting rid of Trident but is soon drowned out. How dare you try and fail to get rid of the nooks, comes the reply! After a while she just gives up and makes that face again. You could put it on a billboard and the SNP would win in a landslide (although, er, they seem to be on course to do that anyway…nice one guys! Heh heh! [gun cocking sound in the background])

Next question: should we make young people pull up weeds for pennies?

Duncan is all in favour of having young people ‘help out in the NHS’…for no money…(although he at least points out the plight of dyslexic and other disabled people who don’t have the same opportunities as abled folks) but Flint (For the Unemployed and Underpaid) splurges out on a jobs guarantee. Since she’s so dull this unexpected act of splurging is quite welcome coming from her somehow both impassive-and-nervous-looking face. I’m not totally in favour of the Tories’ approach, says Norman, to limited applause, like he’s not part of the dang government or something. Come and work for Duncan instead, as he’s currently trying to recruit members of the audience.

Nicola says it’s exploitation. She’s really getting fired up now, although as a Scottish person I have come to understand that she must be fired up 100% of the time. Hezza is in favour because one imagines his massive garden does need a bit of weeding. Nicola is now making that face approximately every 30 seconds.

The audience are now arguing amongst itself. Dimbles is not intervening, however. This is great fun.

Glasgow smiles

Lastly, will Scotland be the shadowy figure pulling the strings after the election? Caroline, don’t mess up these potential negotiations! She says that she’d like a majority, thank you very much…but Dimbles is on her case right away. Could she, he asks, work alongside the SNP? VOTE LABOUR, she squeaks.

Nicola, on the other hand, would like to form a gang with the progressives. Maybe just loitering in a corner, glaring and muttering about everybody else. Or drinking and smoking by the bike sheds. Hezza then warns against this threatening crew stealing YOUR dosh, as taxpayers!

“COME OAN!” yells Nicola, as if gearing up to meet Heseltine in the pit. Before a fight can break out, however, Dimbles stops the madness.

“Ohh…” whines the audience. It seems, despite some strong opinions either way, everyone quite enjoyed that.

I know. Baffling.

Time for the scores!

Heseltine: 8/10

Swat(ted questions away like a bored, well-fed leopard)

Flint: 5/10

(A slight) Blot (on her record)

Lamb: 5/10

(I can) Not (remember what he said)

Sturgeon: 8/10

Scot(land forever!)

Bannatyne: 5/10

(You) Ought (to work for him, appaz)

The Crowd: 9/10

Hot to Trot

Next time, despair.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #111


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Good morrow lemmings and it looks like the most wonderful time of the year has come around once more. That’s right – it’s poppy season, and everyone’s got one on their lapel despite it being not even the last week of October. It starts earlier every year, doesn’t it? Soon we’ll be fully emersed in the Poppy Wars, where politicians try to out-poppy each other by pinning bigger and bigger paper flowers to every inch of their bodies in an attempt to be the most sincere.

Anyway, as you may have noticed, the Big Man has come to town. Actually, several big men. Alex Salmond’s admission that he may be getting back into the ring of Westminster politics was headline news, but Len McCluskey was also on hand to metaphorically punch his enemies into the stratosphere. All standard for a Liverpool edition of QT. Let’s do this shizzle.

This is a local panel for local people. There’s nothing for you here

Dimbleby starts us off by addressing a cameraman who’s wandered behind the stage, and then leads on to a question about life sentences.

Alex Salmond isn’t here to talk about this. It’s England’s fault, wotevs. So we move on, knowing that Alex’s time in the sun will come (on this particular edition I mean, since he’s been basically everywhere the past two years – I’ve got Salmond fatigue/Salmondella). Meanwhile in the blue corner is Mark Harper, who is clearly doing this show as a punishment for sinning in a former life. He simply must have got in trouble somewhere along the line – maybe he accidentally kicked Michael Gove’s dog – because no Tory with half a survival instinct would willingly go on a Liverpool Question Time. Five seconds off the starting gun and he already looks like he’s about to pee himself. I mean, for goodness’ sake, he’s the minister for disabled people and he’s being trotted out immediately after ol’ Freudy put his foot in his mouth! But ah, what the hell, that was one whole week ago. Everyone’s got over it now, right? Well apparently so because it doesn’t get brought up once. The cosmic ballet goes on.

His trundling dullness is interrupted by Louise Bours. Life should mean life, she says. Okay, the audience nods along. Nod. Nod. Nod nod nod. N- wait, what the hell did you just say? Bringing back capital punishment? I turn up the volume on iPlayer because things have suddenly got a whole lot livelier. The audience is groaning! Louise is struggling to be heard! Kill a cop, get your head chopped off!

“Is that UKIP policy?” Caroline Flint asks, baffled. Louise responds excellently. UKIP don’t have a policy. And the crowd goes wild! This is great fun.

The next question is even more fun. It’s about Hezza lamenting the state of the North and London trampling all over it. Len McCluskey’s ready for this one. He was born ready. We need regional banks! Regional jobs and growth! There’s money but the dirty Londoners are sitting on it having cocktail parties. The Tories don’t understand because “there are no Tories north of Birmingham”. This gets a predictably ecstatic reaction from the crowd, including some whistles (take it off, Len!) and Mark continues to pee himself. He does his best, pointing out that Len wouldn’t mind if Ed Miliband fell under a bus. Seems like the audience wouldn’t mind either. Mark valiantly rattles off some statistics but what he really needs to do is bring out his owl.

Caroline agrees with Hezza, unlike those mean old Tories – ignore the fact that Tarzan is also a Tory. “Mark is living in fantasy land”, she says, and then a member of the audience echoes her: “you’re living in cloud-cuckoo land!” This is quickly turning into the gang-up-on-Mark Harper show and it’s only about to get worse for him.

“The Labour Party doesn’t have an economic plan!” he squeaks (Mark, please speak up, I can barely hear you). Then he gets thrown into the dumpster by King of the School Alex, who proposes we run over George Osborne instead. More applauding. Gosh, this is a worryingly violent programme.

Louise smooths over her earlier brush with unpopularity by supporting “true localism”, health workers on boards etc, which is nice I guess but then she gets steamrolled by the audience, who appear to be preparing to join Len in storming the government and unleashing the glorious revolution. Len’s on a roll now: he only needs yell the words ‘zero hours’ and a great wave of emotion rolls across the studio drowning all in its wake. Alex suggests Liverpool and Scotland skip off into the sunset together. This is beautiful. I’m having a great time watching this, although I do feel a bit sorry for poor Mark.

I’m never gonna dance again (though Alex Salmond apparently will)

Next question: it’s the election-winning issue, the NHS! Out of nowhere Louise turns into a killer robot. Destroy all managers. Destroy all managers. No, we need health and social care brought together! says Caroline. She’s not letting Dimbleby interrupt her, she’s roundhouse kicking all who stand in her way no matter what the question and/or answer actually is. DESTROY ALL MANAGERS, blasts Louise.

Mark now comes to the crux of the matter. The report vindicates us, he says, and we need a strong economy to achieve a strong NHS. Mark, for a small, shining moment, believes he’s on top of this one, but then he gets pushed in the lockers by Big Alex again. It’s almost sad. Caroline is enjoying watching Owl Man get beaten up. She doesn’t even need to intervene. Just lie back and enjoy the bloodbath.

Len’s leading his troops – let’s get the elite to pay their taxes! Yeah! Just grab ’em in the street and steal their wallets. The audience wolf-whistles their approval and for a moment I’m scared Len really will start taking it all off. Alex and Len then share an intimate moment of mutually gazing at each other. The saxophone solo from Careless Whisper plays sexily in the background. This edition of QT is too much for me. I’m literally dabbing my sweaty forehead right now.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Nite Owl bristles at Len’s accusation that he’s posh. How dare you call me posh. I’ll tell you whose fault it is, it’s Labou- DESTROY ALL MANAGERS! comes the cry from…the audience? Oh.

Then Alex drops the bombshell covered in the opening paragraph. Maybe Liverpool can adopt him? He’s certainly tried to adopt Liverpool.

I could only think of two bold headline thingies

Final question is on Scotland and whether they’ve been given the middle finger or not. Caroline says yes, Mark says no. All pretty standard. What does Alex think? Could he possibly be a little bitter? Surely not! He does, however, come out in favour of Liverpudlian votes for Liverpudlian people, and disses the “three amigos” that make up the world’s worst boyband – Cameron, Clegg and Miliband. All popular with the audience, as is Len’s admission of “positive neutrality”. Louise crests the wave by gleefully continuing Alex’s diss verse. Things have gotten out of hand again. Time for Dimbles to wrap it up.

One thing’s for certain though: this debate ain’t ovah, although I think Mark has finally finished weeing himself.

Time for the scores!

Salmond: 7/10

Here’s (Alex!!)

Harper: 4/10

(Almost broke out in) Tears

Flint: 6/10

(About average level with her) Peers

Bours: 5/10

(Unlike ol’ Nige, not someone you’d want to have a couple of) Beers (with)

McCluskey: 8/10

Fierce (shut up that rhymes)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Exploring new) Frontiers (for the coming revolution)

Next week has that fountain of charisma Tristram Hunt, and hopefully a crowd full of angry teachers.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #99


Good morrow Lemmings and let us relive a comparatively more sombre Question Time experience than the trainwreck (akin to Thomas the Tank Engine, only instead of the trains bearing friendly, non-threatening faces they all feature a giant laughing Farage) that was last week. Still, there were still a number of amusing moments to be had, three-quarters of the show wasn’t devoted to one question, and whenever everything was in danger of lagging one could always entertain oneself by peering at Paddy Ashdown’s scrunchy face. So, without further ado:

I am neither in this programme nor out of it but somewhere in between

When Paddy Ashdown is lost in thought his eyes roll up into his skin like an angry hedgehog. Happily, this fun feature was also present last night. Paddy began, blind as a bat, as he meant to go on. The Lib Dems have saved the economy and everyone is happy and chillaxing. Yes, those ruddy Conservatives may have been involved just a little, but it’s the Lib Dems’ victory really.

Funnily enough nobody made any comment on how this extremely long and meandering speech related to the Gary Barlow question, or when he then repeated the exact same points he previously said when it came to covering the free school meals dealio. Not even Humza Yousaf, who clearly disagreed with everything he said, butted in. Everyone was too entranced by Paddy’s wonderfully waxen face to care.

Paddy seems like he was specifically grown in a laboratory for the role of the serious elder statesman, making respected comments about war crime allegations. He could do the entire show wearing a sparkly party hat and Dimbledore would merely sit there, transfixed, drawn into the endless craggy abyss that is Ashdown’s eyeholes.

Also, he still might be able to suplex you. Fear is the greatest motivator.

Ahh, the Chilcot inquiry, it burns!

Caroline Flint wants tax avoiders rounded up with a net and shot. Or at least that’s the perception you’d get after her most recent QT performance. At one point, Dimbleby interrupted her – you realise, Caroline, you can’t just put all the tax avoiders in a big hole in the ground and leave them there to rot? Caroline couldn’t answer that, but you could almost hear her thinking: why not? What’s the big deal? WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL, DIMBLEBY?

Then she and Esther (or as I nicknamed them, Betty and Veronica) had a bit of a bust-up over free schools. And then she and Tim had a bust-up over free schools. Caroline wants everyone to forget about free schools! Let’s talk about the million billion other schools instead! What’s the big deal? WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL, EVERYONE?

Unfortunately she ran out of steam when it came to the last question and the British public engaged in the only form of national sport that can truly bring them all together as a happy, loving family: Blair-bashing. She turned white as a sheet. It was quite a sight, let me tell you.

“Tim, whatever you’re on, can we all have some?”

I was going to have Esther McVey, as the official Tory Party representative, as one of the main sections for this edition – but you know what? Nah. Nah, nah, nah, nah, because another has stolen her crown. Oh, she put in a decent performance, but was utterly outclassed: whether it came to Scotland or education, a lone shadow stalked through the night, goshing and crikeying until he was blue in the face. And that person’s name is Tim Stanley.

I scoffed as I heard his profession being read out. Blogger. Yes, for a national newspaper, but still. I’m a blogger. I write many interesting pieces about the right way to cook a roast potato (boil ’em first). What did Tim have that I lacked? As it turned out…drugs. Possibly.

Aside from being a grown man named Tim, which is warning enough, even Dimbleby looked on in horror as TStanz engaged in what was possibly the wettest, smelliest incident of brown-nosing I’ve ever seen in my life. Or perhaps it should be termed Gove-nosing? Free schools are so popular! Coventry! You’re getting new free schools! “You’re very very fortunate!”

Coventry reacted in a predictable manner. Later on, the ‘Yes’ campaign gained a zillion more supporters as Tim began to verbally lick and kiss the entire nation of Scotland in a terrifying, quasi-incestuous manner. We’re brothers and we love you. Stay with us. Staaaay.

Fig. 1

Tim was a bit more sensible later on, when he explained that politicians create the context for war crimes to be able to happen in the first place. Whether you agree with that statement or not, at least he managed to say it without the entire audience breaking out into loud groans, which is a significant improvement from what came before.

I’m fairly sure Coventry isn’t in Scotland but don’t tell Humza that

Finally, inexplicable SNP panellist Humza Yousaf got off to a good start by revealing he is a Take That fan to much mockery and merriment. His broad Scottish accent makes his angry damnation of The Evil One (Gary Barlow) ever more entertaining. (Clearly he is Team Robbie.) “THURRTY FIEV MULLION POONDS”, he declared, to the proudly anti-Barlow audience’s glee.

Sadly he then went quiet for a while, perhaps exhausted by the ferocity of his Robbie-fandom. He interjected to agree that the Tory/Lib Dem fights are faker than Harry Styles’ and Taylor Swift’s relationship, but that was it until the actual question on Scotland (!!) that popped up.

Then he mainly just laughed at David Cameron. Come on Humza, we can all do that. Give us something a bit more POONDing.

Well, that’s about it for this week, but not before leaving you all with the best line of the night, from dear old forgotten Esther herself: “in England we need to know why we’re rubbing up against each other”. Why indeed, Esther. Why indeed.

Incidentally, it’s scores time.

McVey: 5/10

(Missed her) Boat

Flint: 6/10

(Sort of keeping) Afloat

Ashdown: 7/10

(Knows his party line by) Rote

Yousaf: 5/10

(Wants a ‘Yes’) Vote

Stanley: 6/10

(Probably owns a) Moat

The crowd: 5/10

(On teachers they) Dote

The next edition of Questionable Time is the 100th! Wow! Not sure if that actually means anything, but bask in this simply amazing achievement anyway. Bask in it.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #75


questionable time 75 david dimbleby dimblescally

Good morning Energy Prices and welcome to Energy Priceable Time, a sideways look at Energy Price Time and the fascinating debates all the participants have about Energy Prices. The subjects we’ll be covering today include ‘Energy’ and ‘Prices’ but if we’re lucky we might have enough time to really explore what it means to Price Energy and I’m also hoping we can squeeze in a ‘fun’ final question where we all get to ask Vicky Pryce about her Energy. WHAT A FUN WAY TO SPEND OUR DAYS.

 

Alright, I’ve got that off my chest now… Let’s get down to business.

 

I had a little proud last night…

Screaming fishwives”. That’s what my mother texted me at precisely 11pm last night and aside from the numerous issues this statement raises (why did Caroline Flint and Liz Truss marry fish?) the sentiment appears to be valid: There was much fussing and fighting going on between our two lead protagonists that generated much heat but little light. However, my head was somewhere else at that point in the show because I was experiencing a strange sensation: I was starting to feel actually rather proud of Caroline Flint.

 

First of all a little context: I’ve been writing this blog for a few years now and during that time I’ve probably seen more of Caroline Flint than her fish husband has (I’ve just checked and she’s been on 10 times since Questionable Time started). For the bulk of that time we’ve been used to seeing the tooth-and-nail Flint who had a very straight forward approach to QT: Go in fast, go in aggressive and for God’s sake just keep moving. Sometimes this would work but more often than not it would result in pell-mell scuffles where she was going at such a rate of knots that she’d inevitably trip up on her own rhetorical shoelaces and go flying across the studio head first. To her credit though, she’d always dust herself down and be back a few weeks later to repeat the exercise with similar results.

 

Fast forward to last night and what have we got? Well, in many respects this was the same Caroline Flint – combative, quarrelsome and up for a scrap – but something in her demeanour’s changed in that she’s learned how to ride the tempo. For example, the Flint of Yore would have probably started well on the energy prices question but then got carried away by the thrill of the chase and talked herself into a corner. The Flint of Now knew better and gave Truss just enough room (and it really wasn’t much) to do all the corner talking herself.

 

So what’s brought on this change? Aside from the obvious (sheer practice plus the advantage of being a Shadow Energy Secretary who’s stolen a march on the government) I think this may all come down to one man: Grant Shapps. Now I know that sounds odd but cast your mind back about a year and you may remember a very weird period when both Flint and Shapps were always appearing on the likes of QT and The Daily Politics together. At first this seemed like quite a fair fight but after a while Flint clearly gained the upper hand and was regularly running rings around him. Why? Because she finally twigged that if you spend the whole time talking over Grant Shapps, Grant Shapps won’t have the opportunity to do what he does best – come across as a total blagger and self-hoisting petard. It seems that this lesson has now been thoroughly learned by Flint and in a weird way I’m kind of proud of her: We took a long time getting here but got here we did. Well done my Fishy Wife, have a gif of you riding various things to celebrate (see Fig. 1).

 

caroline-flint-riding-things-gif

Fig. 1

In Liz we Truss…

…Actually no we don’t given the torrid time she had last night but it was such a good headline that I felt obliged to go with it. Anyway, Liz… Not such a great performance and one that came across as very rigid as she doggedly tried to march her way through all the many obstacles in her path. In some ways this isn’t surprising as Truss is chiefly driven by ideology – never the most flexible of blueprints – but the rolled eyes and halting delivery didn’t do much to further her ends. I will say this though: She’s tough and I like her name. Truss… I bet she’s great at holding walls together.

 

hey pete, u ok hun? X

Just when I was growing grudgingly fond of Peter Hitchens he has to go and spoil it all by putting in possibly the most melancholic QT performance I can recall. Energy? It’s all a swindle to diddle me out of my dreams of coal-fired autarky. Education? That was abolished in the 60’s. Britain? Get out while you can. What a ray of bloody sunshine.

 

Stop fighting boys!

I’m beginning to dread Owen Jones being on because it’s become increasingly hard to find things to say other than ‘well done’. However, I do have a legitimate bone to pick this week because he started getting all leary with Tim Farron who, as regular readers will know, I have been hopelessly in love since our eyes first met across the QT studio. Come on now Owen, play nicely. Apart from that it was business as usual from these two who were more than happy to baste a sympathetic crowd with the goose fat of social democracy before roasting them in them in the oven of Things The Crowd Want To Hear. Job done, now lets all be friends and go for milkshakes and have a sleepover and make a den in the woods and build a rope swing and…

 

 

Tl;dr

 

Flint: 6/10

(Has) Learned (much)…

 

Truss: 4/10

Churned (her way through)…

 

Farron: 6/10

(Was) Burned (by Jones)…

 

Jones: 6/10

Spurned (Farron)…

 

Hitchens: 4/10

(Clearly) Yearned (to be elsewhere)…

 

The Crowd: 6/10

(Think – just like my Rhyming Dictionary – that) Zurn (is a legitimate word)…

 

Well, I guess it was better than the last couple of weeks but it’s all still a bit doldrummy in QT-Land right now. If only someone would give Godfrey Bloom a ring. Go on QT Production Team, you know it makes sense…

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #69


questionable time 69 david dimbleby getting married

Good morning Lemmings and welcome back from the 2nd Silly Season That Never Was. That’s right, much like last years kyboshing of the pleasingly trivial under a wave of riots we have yet again had to forgo our annual dose of sharks off Cornwall/pets with bus passes/octogenarians skateboarding as August’s news went from ‘Becalmed’ to ‘Totally Mental’ courtesy of one Mr. Assad. So anyway, what better way to pick through the fallout like abandoned newborns, fumbling our way through the thinning light of Autumn than with a spot of Questionable Time? Actually, there’s probably plenty of better ways but since I’ve been off for a couple of months and have forgotten how to write you’ll just have to figure that one out yourselves. Right, let’s get back into the swing of this.

 

Chuka really has to stop thinking…

Regular readers will know that there are two things about Umunna that I bang on about relentlessly: The first is how ridiculously good-looking he is while the second is just a general perplexion as to how this otherwise seemingly perfect package never manages to add up to the sum of its parts. We’ll get back to the first point later but right now I want to focus on what it is that keeps me from getting giddy over Chuka.

 

As things go last night was a particularly choice moment to be the Red Team’s meat puppet as the two big issues of the day – Syria and Royal Mail – both saw them on the right side of public opinion and by quite hefty margins. Add in to this that the whole Royal Mail deal is in his remit then this starts to look like a milk run: Just get as much canvas up the mast as possible and then sit back as the crowd sweep you on to glorious victory. What could be easier? Technically speaking this is exactly what Umunna did and barring a few bothersome squalls thrown up by Greening and Aaranovitch it was mostly plain sailing. However, it didn’t feel like a victory and I suspect there are two reasons for this: Latency and authenticity, both of which are related.

 

Let’s start with the latency: This refers to that near-imperceptible pause that Chuka always does before launching into a set piece. It’s so short as to be barely noticeable but once you’ve clocked it it’s impossible to ignore and it ended up really bothering me last night. Why? Because it was particularly prevalent when he was trying to play the Indignant Card. Take for example Greening’s rather low blow about his house and family. Now, if you really wanted to be properly indignant about that you’d probably just tell her to shut up but Chuka went for the high ground instead and why not? After all, that’s where the big claps are. The problem is with that nano-pause: It’s like a little click that tells you that his mental filter is going like the clappers, desperately trying to prune out anything that may sound off message and that pretty much sinks the whole indignation play because to be indignant is to be so angry that you simply aren’t capable of keeping a lid on it.

 

All of which leads us to the second problem: Authenticity. You can look the part, have the right back story and say the right words but unless those words truly feel like they’re coming from the gut people simply won’t believe it. Umunna has all the above but he’s still so utterly ruled by his head that what should be a three-piece suite is little more than a very good-looking sofa and a couple of armchairs.

 

And what of his good looks? Well, I ran a little pshop experiment earlier this week to see if I could make him ugly. Annoyingly, he remains vaguely beautiful throughout (see Fig. 1).

chuka-umunna-ugly-gif

Fig. 1

 

One of these days Greening is going to snap…

If it wasn’t hard enough being a fairly ordinary person who went to an ordinary school and had an ordinary job before joining a party that abhors ordinary people Justine Greening also has to contend with being somewhat accident prone (see Dimbers’ malevolent jibe about missing the vote) and this combined pressure is beginning to tell. You can see it in the way she sits – rigid and not too far away from the brace-for-impact position – as well as that hint of annoyance that she only just manages to keep in check. Give it time Lemmings. It may not be tomorrow, it may not be next week but at some point in the not too distant future I can see Greening just totally losing it and flipping out. Hopefully Chuka will be around to pick up some pointers on how to be authentically indignant.

 

Two out of three remaining panelists couldn’t give less of a toss…

In further contrast to Umunna’s overly-stroked chin we now come to a couple of people who seem to have crossed some mid-life Rubicon and are now revelling in their off-the-hookness. The first is Caroline Lucas who since jacking in the role as Green Party leader has been having a gay old time getting arrested and breaking parliamentary dress code while the second is David Aaranovitch – a man seemingly hellbent on refuting everything his younger self stood for in a fug of grumpy crotchetiness. Anyway, this whole devil-may-care outlook works for the pair of them and what we ended up with was a lively and well argued debate on the Syrian question that reminded me that QT does occasionally do what it says it says on the tin. No such luck though for Colleen Graffy– an important sounding person who sounds like she’s got important sounding things to do – as I’m pretty sure that everyone mentally tuned her out as the words “former so-and-so for the Bush administration” were uttered. There are some things you just don’t want on your CV.

 

Tl;dr

 

Umunna: 5/10

Thinky

 

Greening: 5/10

Blinky

 

Lucas: 8/10

Pinky

 

Aaronovitch: 7/10

Brinky

 

LondGraffy: 4/10

Sinky

 

The Crowd: 5/10

Stinky?

 

Well, that’s that: A passable warm-up momentarily enhanced by a man with a gothic mansion of a hairdo bellowing “A RECOVERY FOR WHOM?!?!”. For whom indeed sir… Anyway, it’s nice to be back and should you fancy a go yourself Questionable Time is currently on the lookout for guest writers. However, if thankless toil is not your cup of tea then feel free to busy yourself by looking at pretty pictures of misheard lyrics or buying one of these magnificent creations. Hey, a boy’s got to eat ok?

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #59


questionable time 59 david dimbleby a clockwork orange

Good morning Lemmings and what’s that I can see out of my window? A thin and clingy drizzle? A non-specific yet probably unsatisfactory ambient temperature? A sky the colour of dishwater? Hurrah, Spring must finally be here! In other good news, I am also delighted to say that after 12 days of full spectrum Thatcher saturation, this will probably be the last dose of collective fawning/damning-to-hell-and-back of the late-PM’s memory that you will have to endure for the foreseeable future – barring of course the remote but not entirely implausible scenario where she rises from the grave and returns to visit great terror upon this realm. I can’t rule it, but I think we’re safe for the moment. Right, off we go to Aldershot.

 

Sarah Teather appears to be trapped in a hellish netherworld…

It was never going to be easy for the more socially democratic members of the Yellow Team to sit comfortably in the passenger seat of power while the Blue Team were running all the red lights but some have coped with it better than others. Take for example Vince Cable: So far as I can tell he’s adapted to this new reality by flipping a coin every morning and letting the outcome decide whether he’s going to be anti or pro-coalition on that particular day. It’s not the most elegant solution but it appears to work for him. Then of course there’s Tim Farron, a man who just flat-out decided that the 2010 election never happened and decided to carry on being an opposition MP just for the hell of it. Again, it’s a rather unconventional approach but it’s one that’s enabled him to live with himself nevertheless. But what of Sarah? Well there’s a tragedy unfolding before our very eyes.

 

Unceremoniously reshuffled out of government when it became clear that her heart really wasn’t in this whole coalition business, she’s since been fidgeting uncomfortably on the backbenches, occasionally breaking cover to pop off a few rounds of Dear Sir, Imagine My Concern but mostly just looking really ill at ease. Last night’s question on the benefit cap is instructive on this front: Here she made some really valid points about how this measure will probably cost more than it saves and rightly called it out as a cheap political trick, yet it was delivered with such a pained expression of nebulous concern that it got steamrolled by the Flint/Platell Queen Bee-off and all we were left with was a chewed lip and furrowed brow. Similarly, when asked by Dimbers about whether she really was a supporter of the coalition, the answer was so ‘maybe, kinda, possibly’ that it just sort of petered out and gave the impression that she genuinely doesn’t know one way or the other.

 

This is problematic because as bone-headed as it may be, we have trouble with uncertainty and despite our frequent howls for a more nuanced and thoughtful version of politics, deep down all we really want is a good punch-up. Right now, Teather’s just too conflicted for a proper ruck and until she makes her mind up about which side (if any) she’s on, she will continue to be drowned out by louder voices. So Sarah, you have a very simple choice to make: Either get in that tent and start pissing out or make for the exit and be ready to piss in. What you can’t do though is hover around the fly screen with your legs crossed because eventually you’ll wet yourself.

 

Hello Strange Stranger…

Imagined being tucked into bed by Michael Howard. There you are with your jimmy jams on and teeth all brushed but something is bothering you.

 

Uncle Mike,” you say “is it right that people who are on benefits can earn more than those in work? I just asked Auntie Sarah about it and it made her terribly sad”

 

Weeeeeeell,” says Uncle Mike with his kindly-if-a-little-unsettling smile and rigourously eee-nun-ceee-ated sill-eee-buls “your Auntie Sally is riiiight. No-one waaaaants to cuuuut ben-eee-fiiiiiits. That’s the last thing in the wuuuuuuuurld we want to happen.”

‘Oh good’ you think as your eyelids grow heavy with every stretched vowel ‘Uncle Mike thinks everything’s going to be alright’

 

Buuuuuut, we’re in HOCK and everyone must paaaaay or the wuuuuuurld will end! Sleep well Tiny Ribs!”

 

See what I’m getting at here? When it comes to Michael Howard it always starts with ‘there’s nothing to worry about’ and ends up with a bloody great monster under the bed. Having said that, I’d probably take Michael Howard tucking me into bed over him being my dentist any day of the week (see Fig. 1).

 

michael-howard-marathon-man-gif

Fig. 1

Of Flint and Rhys-Jones…

Not much to say really. Flint, as ever, went into it all guns blazing and seemed to come out on top but as always it was by the skin of her teeth thing as she was in regular danger of tumbling over her own words. As for Griff, well he made good use of talking very loudly and playing the Hey, I’m Just A Comedian card when things got tricky, a winning yet slightly unfair tactic employed by every fifth panelist since the dawn of time. On the whole though there’s nothing to get too steamed about so let’s leave it at that. Move along now, nothing to see here.

 

And the award for Most Ludicrous Statement of the Series goes to…

 

I’m proud that the Daily Mail takes this very seriously… To report the facts”

Amanda Platell, 2013

So yes, Amanda Platell made the above statement to a hearty chorus of hysterical laughter and then proceeded to double down on this strategy by calling everyone ‘darlin” and picking a fight with a doctor. Well done Amanda, you’ve got this QT thing down pat.

 

Tl;dr

 

Howard: 5/10

Eerie

 

Flint: 6/10

Sneery

 

Teather: 5/10

Weary

 

Platell: 4/10

Bleary

 

Rhys-Jones: 5/10

Cheery

 

The Crowd: 5/10

(Live within the constraints of General Relativity) Theory?

 

And that’s that: A generally watchable affair spiced up by a brief division into the absurd courtesy of Ms. Platell. Right, I’m off to Sheffield to watch Propagandhi and get dangerously stoked.

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #48


questionable time 48 davidi dimbleby camoflage

Good morning Lemmings and come, let us huddle for warmth in this most spiteful of winters. I know, I know, everything sucks right now – we’re knee-deep in the January Blues, everyone’s skint and it’s snowing hippos – but at least we can take solace in the fact no matter how apocalyptic the weather is, the Thursday night spectacle of ire, bile and absurdity remains resolutely unaffected. So come Lemmings, let us gather the survivors, let us construct a makeshift shelter from the charred remains of this week’s episode and let us hope for the best.

I’m a little gutted that Nigel Farage is finally growing up…

Oh Nigel, how far we have come, you and I… When I first laid eyes on you I have to admit that I wasn’t impressed. I don’t remember the exact circumstances but the chances are that you had been conjuring up wild stories of how the EU had made spherical bricks mandatory or maybe laying out some vision of a perfect society based entirely on gammon and Rotarians. Whatever. All I knew was that most of the things you said were vaguely populist and definitely bonkers, neither of which particularly buttered my parsnips. However, all that was before I started writing Questionable Time and once I was actually forced to watch you week in, week out, I began to see things differently. That’s when I discovered The Magic of Nigel Farage.

It hinges on this: For three solid years, you could predict with unerring accuracy how Nigel Farage would fare on QT. Initially, he would look nervous and shifty – like he knew he was gate crashing the party and it was only a matter of time before the host cottoned on – but this state of affairs would only last so long. By midway you’d see this look coming over his face, a look that said ‘You know what? Bollocks to this. I’m going for it’ and then suddenly, the game would change. Caution? To the wind! Reason? To hell with it! I’m going to make some faintly ludicrous statements and there’s nothing you can do about it! That wasn’t the magic though. The magic was that wonderful moment where the crowd would start clapping and you could hear his brain scream ‘OMG! I’M ACTUALLY GETTING AWAY WITH THIS!’.

However, that’s still not quite the full story as there was a third component to any given Farage outing and that was The Tragic Coda. It’s pretty simple really: After getting all hopped up on the dizzying scent of approval, he’d always overplay his hand and that rush of applause that had sustained him would trickle off to one solitary and quite, quite mad member of the audience clapping very, very loudly. This is the moment when you could see it kick in, the fatal realisation that ‘Oh god, I’ve totally buggered this up!’. To me, that was the icing on the cake as every episode had this wonderfully self-contained story arc that played out with the regularity of clockwork: Nigel the Underdog followed by Nigel the Victorious followed by Nigel the Defeated.

These days though? I dunno, something’s changed. For one, UKIP are actually making hay so there is the faint worry in the back of my head that he might come good on his gammon based society but more importantly, he seems aware of when he’s over-egging the pudding now. Ok, so that bit when he and an audience member got over excited about the French not taking part on the Falklands War could have qualified as a ‘Bollocks to it’ moment, but it occurred right at the end of the show and left no space left for the full Tragic Coda. Well dammit Nigel, I need that Tragic Coda. That was the bond that kept us together but it appears that you have turned your back on our arrangement and become infatuated with the grubby trappings of electoral viability. My heart? It is broken.

On any given night Flint vs. Shapps should be a good draw…

…Except that it wasn’t and to be honest, this was a pretty shonky episode that even Dimbers’ rather fetching frog tie couldn’t save. Alright, so the news is in the New Year’s doldrums and the only real going concern – Cameron’s Europe speech – got spiked by hostages in Algeria but I was expecting a little more from Shapps and Flint, a pair who positively ooze that Step-Siblings Who Don’t Get On vibe. Alas, on this occasion it was wet playtimes all round as Flint defaulted to her ‘MUST. DEFEND. EVERYTHING. NEW. LABOUR. EVER. DID.’ position whilst Shapps gave us the usual runaround of having an answer for everything whilst somehow addressing nothing (‘Hey guys… This is all really important and stuff, but stuff I’ve stuffed should stuff it right back into stuff). Shapps by a nose, but without honours.

At least Mary Beard gave it a fair crack…

So she’s all a bit ‘Who’s got the keys to the Volvo!?’/’I don’t suppose you could you tape me the latest Ladysmith Black Mambazo LP?’/’No, I’m sure the farmer’s market is this way!’ but in the final reckoning, Mary Beard was last night’s saving grace. Someone needed to keep the new and worryingly stable Farage in check, someone needed to respond to questions with a modicum of thought and someone needed to tell us whether horse meat is actually up to snuff. That person was Mary Beard. Well done. Have some points.

I have no idea who Roland Rudd is…

The funny thing about PR people is how little you can find out about them. So far as I can gather, Roland Rudd’s one of those figures who repeatedly crops up in the background (he’s reputedly one of the ‘Four Wise Men’ who Tony Blair consulted on his way out), apparently pulls loads of strings and then disappears to do whatever shadowy PR people do. Am I any the wiser after watching last night’s episode? Am I hell. All I can really tell you is that he has very good posture and that his attempt to crack a joke about the purity of burgers got him nowhere. Oh well… You can lead a horse to water…

TL;DR

Shapps: (Likes to talk about) Stuff

5/10

Flint: (Was a little) Duff

5/10

Farage: (Managed to rein in the excess) Guff

6/10

Beard: (Took the evening by the) Scruff (of the neck)

7/10

Rudd: (Doesn’t do off the) Cuff (jokes very well)

5/10

The Crowd: (Were in the) Buff?

4/10

So bah! A stinker of an episode! Truly, January is the cruelest of months. Anyway, to take the edge off it, here’s a something I prepared for the old Nigel, the Nigel I knew and loved (see Fig. 1).

nigel farage needs you kitchener poster

Fig. 1

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #37


questionable time 37 david dimbleby grant shapps caroline flint zephaniah hair plus flag

Good morning Lemmings and welcome back to this, Our Hour of Reckoning. Should you have been lucky enough to remain unmolested by the collective gnashing of Blue Team teeth that was the Conservative Party Conference, let me bring you up to speed: It’s sink-or-swim, dog-eat-dog, kill-or-be-killed out there and if we’re not careful Johnny Bloody Foreigner is going to end up eating our lunch, breakfast and dinner. Happily though, you needn’t fear because Messrs. Cameron and Osborne have let it be known (via a rather charming Bad Cop With A Heart/Bad Cop routine) that they’ve got this all under control. It’s about striving and it’s about jolly well ensuring that the feckless poor stop getting paid for this silly breeding business. Most of all though, it’s about doing exactly the same thing that hasn’t worked for the last two years but doing it with a bit more gusto. As plans go, that sounds pretty watertight to me.

Anyway, how did the good people of Birmingham respond to this invitation to tragedy?

How indeed…

Grant Shapps is either very, very brave or just flat-out mad…

Oh happy day! Happy, happy day! In the three years I’ve been covering Question Time, one panelist has repeatedly stymied my attempts to draw a bead on him. You see, on paper Grant Shapps’ appearances have always been pretty solid. He does that whole bright-eyed and bushy-tailed thing that Nick Clegg used to before life had its way with him and not once can I recall him committing any screaming errors. However, there was always something niggling at me about Shapps, a nagging doubt telling me that he had something nasty in the woodshed that he’d rather not show us. Well now we know what’s been stowed away at the bottom of his garden and it’s not pretty: Grant Shapps has been making several names for himself through some – how shall I put it? – very iffy sounding business ventures. You can find a good run down of what’s come to light so far here but the short version is that Shapps has been engaged in some legal-yet-dicey sounding practices that don’t exactly have the invigorating whiff of propriety about them.

Now, should a veil of suspicion ever envelope my life, I’m guessing I’d probably hole up for a while, issue a few statements about how the allegations were pure claptrap and wait for things to blow over, but oh no… Not old Shappsy. No, he’s got a better idea: Why not put myself in front of a braying mob comprised of worked-up Brummies and political enemies? Yup, that sounds like a winner.

Luckily for Schappso the whole Michael Green line of attack was a bit of a busted flush as it didn’t get its own question and ended up being shoehorned in by Dimbers towards the back-end of the show. Naturally, it wasn’t an edifying spectacle, watching him try to laugh it all off whilst everyone else formed an orderly queue to have a pop, but it could have been worse. Much, much worse. This, however, is not to say that last night was in any sense a victory because it wasn’t. Far from it in fact. No, what happened was that the threat of the Michael Green question emerging was enough to put the zap on Shapps and what we got was an hour of the muted twitchiness that haunts a man who knows his fate all too well.

So what is to be done about it? Well, I’m no expert but if I was the Shappsarino, maybe I’d start thinking about knocking this whole ‘politician’ thing on the head. Ok, so for a while you looked like something new and shiny but that’s the problem with shiny new things: They tarnish easily. Don’t worry though… If it all goes completely pear-shaped we can tap up this guy I’ve heard about. He can turn $200 into $20,000. Michael Green, I think his name was…

I was genuinely looking forward to Caroline Flint being on…

Here she is, Ol’ Flinty McFlinterson, a panelist who has grown on me quite considerably over the years. Now I’ve been pretty hard on Flinters in the past, mainly based on the fact that she had a habit of getting into avoidable scraps that had a tendency to go very sideways very quickly, but what has always endeared her to me is that no matter how badly Ol’ Flinty got mauled, she’d always dust herself off, spit out a few broken teeth and then carry on as if she had nary a scratch on her. The other reason I was looking forward to her appearance was how self-evidently stoked she’s been to have first dibs on beasting Shapps – stoked to the point that she’d taken to winding him up on Twitter earlier in the week. ‘My,’ I thought, ‘how well this bodes’.

Alas, as mentioned earlier, the whole Shapps Shenanigans went off half cocked (partly because Flint had been so obviously dying to stick the boot in that she fluffed her lines) but the rest of her performance was solid. Ok, so she overplayed her hand a couple of times near the start and the Sword of Damocles hanging over Shapps’ made it a slightly uneven playing field but the message – that the Tories don’t care – was direct, effective and well received. On top of that, her bit on abortion was great and was also the moment when she finally found her pace. That’s the big tell with Flint, the pace. When she’s anxious or blagging the tempo goes up, but at that moment last night she was 100% on the level. And ‘on the level’ gets points…

I’m never sure which Simon Hughes we’ll be getting…

So come on then, which Simon Hughes is it this week? The self-loathing, long dark night of the soul Simon Hughes who can’t square the circle of trading principles for power, or the bloodied-but-unbowed, from my cold dead hands Simon Hughes who doggedly defends the foxhole of Social Democracy to the last round? Happily, it was mostly the latter, what with him getting all hot under the collar about Housing Benefit and having the odd to-do with Shapps , but there was still this sense that the last two years have really taken their toll. Don’t get me wrong, the resolve is clearly still there and he looked much better than some of his recent outings (there have been times when I’ve thought of ringing the Samaritans on his behalf) but I can’t help thinking that deep down, he’s flagging. Of all the Lib Dems, he’s had one of the most ideologically wrenching experiences with the coalition and bit-by-bit, it’s chipping away at him.

Still, he’s in better shape than I expected and that’s good because I’m really rather fond of Simon Hughes. Yeah, I know, he’s got the air of a man who’s out to atone for some unspecified thing that probably wasn’t his fault but I think he probably is a genuinely decent guy who’s in politics for the right reasons. And it’s not very often that I get to say that…

Lovely Benjamin is lovely…

I usually have a go at Benjamin Zephaniah because he’s always just so close to getting it right but never quite makes it. On the face of it, it’s all there: He’s a very gentle yet eloquent guy who knows about people and can convince them to listen to him. However, the problem in the past has always been that he’s rubbish at homework. So many times I’ve sat here going “Come on son! Get in there!” as he hits the nail on the head at the start of a question only to see him stall halfway through when he realises he hasn’t got much to follow-up with. We got a little bit of that tonight and there were instances where he was clearly playing for time, but by and large it was pretty good. I will say this though: His hair is a total nightmare to cut out in Photoshop.

I’m still very ‘meh’ about Cristina Odone…

Here’s the thing: I don’t actively dislike Cristina Odone. We have different views but at least she thinks them through. No, my problem With Cristina Odone is that I wouldn’t like to be stuck in a lift with her. Why? Because she just has this look she sometimes pulls that says very clearly ”This was your fault”. I can see it all so vividly now… Me and Cristina in the lift. A sudden jolt. It stops. Then… That look…

This was your fault”.

Nah. Sorry Cristina, but it just puts the jibblies up me. No shame in your QT performance though.

The Crowd.

Well, I gotta say that this wasn’t what I was expecting. I dunno, maybe I was all strung out on Shappsenfreude and got too greedy but I was hoping for a right bloodbath. That’s not to say it was bad because it wasn’t. The panel was mostly strong, the crowd were vocal and if I were the Tories, I would be more than a little concerned. However, the entirely-appropriate-yet-grimly-consensual nature of the first question sort of nixed the fight in everyone and that critical mass of anger/mischief that was needed to turn this into a great show was never really achieved. Still, kudos to the girl who was wearing half a dead peacock on each ear lobe. At least she tried…

Tl;dr

Shapps: 4/10

Cowed

Flint: 8/10

(Has reason to be) Proud

Hughes: 6/10

Ploughed (relentlessly on)

Zephaniah: 7/10

(Is) Allowed (around my house whenever he wants)

Odone: 5/10

(Can, at times, be) Loud

The Crowd: 6/10

(Live – on average – 61.4 miles away from) Stroud

So there you go… A nice, even spread of points for a fairly evenly spread show. Now I know what your thinking – ‘Where’s the other goddamn pshop?’. Well, I had a lovely (if slightly creepy) .gif of Tim Farron all set up and ready to go but as you may have noticed, he didn’t end up being on. However, what I do have is this rather saucy pin-up of Dimbers that should just fill the gap (see Fig. 1) and was rather fun to make. I don’t know why but there’s always a certain thrill to applying make-up to an old man’s face.

dimbleby pinup

Fig. 1

Right, it’s 3am, one of my eyes has decided that it no longer wants to remain open and the cats are demanding the sofa back. Time for me to go…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #21


questionable time 21 david dimbleby john lennon yoko ono

Good morning Lemmings and before we get under way I would just like to take a minute to relate a rather bizarre story that unfolded exactly a week ago today. Having just literally pressed the ‘Post’ button on last week’s Questionable Time I got a knock on the door and found myself confronted by two smartly turned out representatives of the local Labour party. Sensing an opportunity for some gentle mischief I then spent the next five minutes explaining how my ‘Never Vote For An Incumbent’ rule leaves them with an outside chance that I might put a tick in their box at the next election but they had better not count on it because I have a long memory and still can’t quite forgive New Labour for this, that and the other. Rightly sensing that much tastier and lower hanging fruit may lie further down the street (it turns out bearded men in dirty tracky bottoms aren’t the core demographic they are after), they politely took their leave and moved on to pastures afresh. So far, so ‘meh’. Anyhoo, off I went to the kitchen to crack on with the washing up and as I was gazing listlessly out of the window when I caught sight of a small figure moving purposefully down the street. Then something started stuttering in my brain. “Hmmmmm….” I thought as I ran the hot water “why is this seemingly innocuous scene giving me the jibblies? Is the Matrix glitching again?”. Squinting a little as I tried to seek out the cause of this weird sensation I was suddenly deafened by the sound of a thousand pennies dropping. “That’s not…. It can’t be…Wait… No… IS THAT RACHEL BLOODY REEVES?!?!”

Within seconds my mind had gone into complete meltdown: “But… But you were only on my telly a few hours ago and I’ve just spent the whole day writing about you! I must have gone too far. I must have blogged too hard and am now hallucinating about members of the Shadow Cabinet stalking me. Oh my God, this is how it starts! This is how people end up inside Secure Units!” At this point I stopped making conscious decisions and felt the hand of compulsion grab me firmly by the scruff of the neck. Out I went, out into the street and before any of my usual social circuit breakers could kick in there I was, barefoot and hollering “RACHEL REEVES I JUST GAVE YOU FIVE OUT OF TEN!”. The figure stopped in her tracks and turned to face the source of all the commotion. “Bloody hell, that is Rachel Reeves! And bloody hell, she’s coming over here!”

As to what happened next, well that will probably never be known as I was no longer even slightly in command of my faculties but I do remember her saying “Five out of ten?” to which I responded with “Something something Questionable Time! Something something you were just on my telly and now you’re on the internet! Something something something!”. To her credit, she took it in her stride and allowed me to babble on (although I do remember a big neon light saying “SHE’S BLAGGING” pinging on in my fevered brain as she neither confirmed nor denied that she had any idea as to what ‘Questionable Time’ may be) before slowly withdrawing and making good her escape. And there I stood, bemused, dishevelled and not even remotely interested in doing the washing up any more. I gathered myself just enough to put together a garbled tweet and minutes later my phone pings to tell me that Rachel Reeves is now following me on Twitter. Was that the whiff of burning plastic I could smell emanating from cranium? I think it might have been.

Anyway, I’m bringing this up for three reasons:

  1. It’s was really, really weird and I feel compelled to share the weirdness.
  2. I would very much like to take this opportunity to tell all future panelists of Question Time that they best not be getting any ideas and trying this out for themselves. It is not ok to go swanning passed my house on the day that I’m straining every inch of my brain to poke fun at them. It’s not right and there are probably laws against it. Rachel Reeves I can forgive: She’s my local MP and as a consequence she has a hall pass but the rest of you guys? No. It’s not on.
  3. Recounting this tale has eaten up a good 700 words and that’s just dandy in my book because I was having real trouble making anything out of this episode.

And why would that be? Well, I guess part of it is because I had entirely the wrong attitude when it came to last night’s show. I was looking for a damn good hating and both Eric Pickles and Will Self have very good track records in stoking my hate levels (Pickles for frequently being on the wrong side of the folksy/condescending line and spectacularly buggering up my life since he’s been in government, Self for saying a great many things that I completely agree with but saying them in a way that makes me feel nauseous and wretched). Add into that a generic Mail columnist in the form of Janice Atkinson (or is it Janice Atkinson-Small? The internet stands in defiance to Dimber’s assertion of the former) and we’re on for a right old session of heartburn and high blood pressure, right? Wrong!

In the case of Pickles I thought I was onto a winner as he spent the first question looking pissed off and constipated whilst saying approximately nothing at very great length. However, that trend was not to last and by the second question he found himself largely on the right side of the folksy/condescending line, even if it was at times through gritted teeth. Add into this some rather disarming outbursts of humour tinged with barely submerged contempt for his peers (I did really like it when he started scrawling out Atkinson’s notes) plus a remarkably reasonable stance on gay marriage then it becomes clear that this wasn’t going to be the day that I could absolutely let rip on him. It is still however the day that I can post a photoshop I made of Eric Pickles as a pickle (see Fig. 1). No one rides for free around here.

eric pickles dill gherkin

Fig. 1

As for Self, well he really wasn’t as obnoxious as he usually is and I have to say that the points he made on both Afghanistan and the railways were very, very good. Ok, his pulling of the ‘Ooooooooooh!’ face in response to something Atkinson said did grind my gears a little but in the general scheme of things he did well. So that just leaves Atkinson on my Hate Bench and given her day job, I was pretty sure that she would whip me up into a frothy lather of spittle and bile. As it turns out, she couldn’t and I put this down to the fact that I never really had a clue what she was talking about. It wasn’t so much the content as the jarring and completely arbitrary pauses that seemingly came out of nowhere, not to mention her halting ramblings about a “leaky pipeline” and female MPs. In short, she just left me bewildered.

Hmmmm… So not a lot of hate to be had here and given that our next two panelists are none other than Caroline Flint and Will Young, it swiftly became clear that my Thursday night was going to end up becalmed and adrift in serenity. Now, I know that some of you are going to wonder why I’m making Caroline Flint out to be some sort of beacon of tranquillity as she can be both combative and irksome so allow me to explain: Ever since Questionable Time has been going, Flint has been on more than any other panelist and thus I have had several years in which to watch her go from an overly aggressive diamond-in-the-rough into actually quite an accomplished performer who could well see her status upgraded to Steady Pair of Hands. Ok, so much like Reeves last week she suffered from Labours belated recognition that they now need to be really hammering slogans home (Ol’ Snagletooth never actually said ‘the squeezed middle’ but she might as well have done given how many platitudes along the same line she came out with) but on the whole, her performance was solid. And for me that’s nice because such prolonged exposure to Flint has left me feeling quite fraternal towards her and it’s pleasant to see her continue on the trajectory of incremental improvement. I realise that this hardly makes for an objective account of her performance but that, I’m afraid, is just the way it is.

All the above leaves us with Young and let’s face it, there’s no way he’s walking out of here without some really good marks. As to why he deserves such plaudits, well part of it is to do with the way he gets points across (he’s thoughtful and reasoned while assertive when he needs to be) and partly because the role of 5th panelist fits him like a glove. Usually when a figure from the realm of celebrity is shoehorned on to the show they come with a health warning: ‘This person will probably have an opinion on one specific and personally dear issue but will be useless for the rest of the show’. Not so with Will Young because he actually had well thought out opinions on everything (including the habitually toxic question of Afghanistan) and delivered these opinions in such a soothing-yet-confident manner that I just couldn’t help but get right behind him. Oh, and the stuff he came out with on gay marriage? Top flight Question Timing.

So, where does all this leave me, hankering as I was for a right old evening of venom? Well part of me is a little a disappointed as it was just one of those nights where I really fancied getting hot under the collar but I must confess that it was a generally high quality episode made even higher by the presence of an audience member in a bow tie and dinner jacketish sort of affair. I’m still a sucker for innately posh gentlemen in a dapper get-up and as always, Surrey didn’t fail me. It must be down to all those £2 million homes that are full of grannies.

Tl;dr

Pickles: 5/10

Weigh(s a lot)

Flint: 6/10

(Has a certain) Cachet

Self: 6/10

(Is looking quite) Grey

Young: 8/10

(Is quite clearly) Gay

Atkinson: 3/10

(Is) Away (please leave a message and she’ll get………………. Right back to you)

The Crowd: 6/10

Way-hey!

Oaky-doaky, there we go(ky). I’m off to do the washing up and try to quell this feeling of apprehension that I’m about to see Eric Pickles barreling down my street. Have you people got nothing better to do than harass bloggers of minor significance? Have you not got homes to go to? Do I have to involve the authorities? Question Time panelists: There’s just no trusting them.

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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