Posts Tagged 'Caroline Flint'



Questionable Time #4


questionable time 4 david dimblebyGood morning Lemmings and welcome to another instalment of Questionable Time, this week brought to us by the seemingly sunstroked denizens of Liverpool. Now, I realise that our national character leads us to become a little giddy when faced with the prospect of unseasonably clement weather but I wasn’t quite prepared for just how unhinged we can be in the face of elevated temperatures until I watched last night’s show, seething pit of madness that it was. I also can’t help but feel a little sorry for the Labour party who (much like the Lib Dems last week) found their conference thunder stolen by a villain no less mundane than the possibility of driving 10mph faster on the motorway. Seriously Britain, have we not bigger fish to fry? Anyway, I’m sure we’ll come to that a little later on so in the meantime, let’s get this show on the road (at the current speed limit of 70mph).

Right, first victim tonight is Grant Shapps, Housing Secretary and a man whose constant, low-key gesticulation makes him look like he’s forever playing with an invisible Rubik’s Cube (see Fig. 1). Although relatively new to Question Time, Shapps seems to be getting the hang of it rather quickly and actually looks quite comfortable nestled between his mortal enemies/esteemed coalition partners on the panel and this, it would be logical to conclude, can only be a good thing, right? Well, yes and no. On the one hand it means that he doesn’t feel the need like some of the newer intake to stick his oar in to absolutely any two-bit point going (as is the case for many a Question Time rooky) but there’s something else I noticed about him this week that takes the sheen off this otherwise virtuous trait: He’s already getting a taste for applause.

grant-shapps-rubiks-cube

Fig. 1

Now, the very fact that a fresh-faced Tory minister can garner a few claps in Liverpool is an achievement in itself and one that was usually the result of skirmishing with Caroline Flint (who is quite a tough cooky when it comes to Question Timing), but it’s what he does with those claps that bothers me as his primary response to applause seems to be to look a little, well, pleased with himself in a ‘Look Mum, didn’t I do well’ sort of way. I realise that sounds churlish as after all, he earned those claps but he is sailing very close to the Line of Smugness right now and unless he starts to crowbar some humility in there (however faux it may be), he will run the risk of becoming annoying. So how should he respond? Well, there’s a few schools of thought here, ranging from the Warsi-esque Continue To Shout Relentlessly Over The Applause approach to the Look Wild Eyed And Visibly Pissed Off manouevre favoured by the likes of Mehdi Hassan. Personally speaking though, I’m a fan of the Shirley Williams technique: Look Unmoved Yet Regal and Imposing. Granted, this is a tricky one when you look so young that you’d get asked for ID when buying paracetamol but the blueprint is fundamentally sound. It’s worth a punt Grant as while you may well have the right to look tickled pink, too much self-satisfaction can only lead to people wanting you to look punched black and blue. Not a bad performance though.

Right, Red Team next and here comes Caroline Flint, Shadow Communities Minister and someone I feel slightly sorry for on account of the number of search queries I get for the term ‘Caroline Flint naked’. Let me assure you, she’s pretty unique in this respect and I’m not exactly drowning in a sea of ‘Ken Clarke naked’ searches. Ickiness aside, Flint was quite interesting last night as for the first half of the show she looked genuinely at ease and I’m chalking this up to the fact that following Miliband’s conference speech she no longer feels the need to unconditionally defend every aspect of New Labour’s time in office. For example, had this been a year ago she would have been all a-bristle and jumping down the throats of anyone who dared question the merit of the Blair/Brown government’s yet last night she seemed much more mellow and even hinted at that New Labour might have got some stuff wrong (shock horror). This isn’t to say that she wasn’t without edge and she did use pretty much every opportunity to have a go at the Tories, but it wasn’t quite as visceral as it has been in the past.

So, it was all well and good, right? Flint no longer feels haunted by the ghosts of Labour’s past and can stride confidently into the sunlit uplands of Militopia without even breaking a sweat? Erh, no. Going on last night’s performance she’s having real trouble getting her head around exactly what New Old Purple Blue Labour is and it was actually left to Peter Oborne of all people to do the heavy lifting on Miliband’s behalf. And that’s the problem with Flint: She’s very good tactically, tough as nails and capable of sustaining damage that would destroy other panelists. However, when it comes to the strategic picture she’s all at sea and often seems incapable of fully articulating what it actually is that she stands for. Still, she could always go on naked. From what I hear, there’s a market out there for that sort of thing.

Moving on to the Yellow Team we have Tim Farron, President of the Liberal Democrats and a man who last night popped his QT cherry. Now there’s something I instinctively like about Farron in that he’s clearly a born trouble maker who’s making absolutely no effort to disguise the fact he really can’t abide being in coalition. That makes a nice change from the usual earnest hand wringing we’ve seen of late and the fact that he has no problem in nailing some fairly crimson colours to the mast is also refreshing. However, like Shapps, he also suffers from an undercurrent of latent smugness and despite the fact that it should be fairly easy for someone bigging up the virtues of social housing to turn a quick applause buck in Liverpool, the going for him was tougher than it should have been last night. Most of this was down to his unrepentantly pro-European stance but he also threatened to drag the show into the realm of farce at one point when he tried to make a convoluted and not entirely brilliant point about “sheep tagging”. I’ll leave it to your imaginations to figure out how that was interpreted by the audience but needless to say, it didn’t go quite the way he intended. So bad luck there Tim. Next time try bringing up a reference to ‘snow jobs’ or the importance of ‘rowlock safety’. That’s bound to work.

Ok, that’s the politicos done but it is with heavy heart that I introduce the first of tonight’s civilians: Janet Street-Porter, a woman whose sole aim in life is to scream the reason out of any debate. Last night we had the dubious pleasure of her railing variously against Europe, Labour and (of course) men, but it was the crowd’s reaction that vexed me as they heaped applause on her despite the fact that nothing she said made a lick of sense. You see, I’ve been exposed to such repeated and heavy doses of JSP in the past that I can deal with the fact that her vocal chords are only capable of making white noise and that her proposed solution to most problems is to line the male population against a wall and shoot them but what I can’t get my head round is why anyone else would go along with it. It just puts me into a flat spin of anguish and shakes my faith in humanity to its very core. I really hope I’m not alone in thinking this because if I am, then the game is truly up and the end is nigh. Surely I am not the only one who looks upon her works and despairs?

Ughh… Enough on JSP as I can take no more. Happily though, our final panelist is a doozy and one that I was secretly hoping would be on the roster after his wanton display of unreasonableness on Wednesday’s Newsnight. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you Peter Oborne, columnist-of-note and all round mentalist. Never one to shy away from controversy, Oborne lost no time in taking the seemingly innocuous speed limit question and turning it into a call to arms for the repeal of pretty much every law and the dissolution of Europe. But he wasn’t done with Europe yet, not by a long shot and he was soon able to piggyback on the anti-EU comments of an audience member, denouncing the project as “brutal”. The crowd went totally bananas with that comment, applauding him to the rafters and showering him with praise. However, none of them were prepared for what happened next and I’m pretty sure that it was the most comprehensive reversal of fortunes I’ve witnessed in nearly two years of covering Question Time. The first indication that his star was on the wane came when he effortlessly segued from damning Europe to calling Thatcher “a great woman”. As he happened to utter these fateful words in Liverpool it came as no surprise that the mood turned from one of jubilation to that of lynch mob but what was surprising was how little he cared about this turn of events. No, instead of backing off he then went on to describe Thatcher as “compassion itself”, a phrase that can get you sectioned if you’re north of the Severn-Wash line. Predictably, this lead to a torrent of heckles and the most comprehensive booing I’ve seen for some years but did he care? Did he cobblers.

So that was pretty exciting, but it was also very much in character as we all know that Oborne is a man who goes in for Euro Damning/Thatcher Venerating. What I wasn’t expecting however was his answer to the Miliband speech question. So far as I was concerned, this was going to be a pretty standard exercise in scorn pouring but in actual fact it turned out to be quite the opposite: He loved Miliband’s speech! Well, that pretty much finished me off and by the time the credits were rolling my whole world had been turned upside down. So well done Peter Oborne, you may be pathologically contrary old hack who couldn’t give two hoots about who you offend but by golly are you entertaining. Big marks for you and your complete disregard for social approval.

Alright, so that was the panel and all that’s left is the audience, odd bunch that they were. My first reaction to this lot was one of unmitigated gloom when it turned out that the first question was neither the existential financial crisis nor the seismic shifts currently taking place in the Labour party and was in fact all about the speed limit. Unsurprisingly, that made for the most tepid of debates and I was on verge of writing them off on the basis of that folly. However, they did pull things around and when it came to the meatier issues they did prove to be a vocal – if mercurial – lot. Like Birmingham’s audience last week, they went in for an awful lot of random clapping (so much so that I couldn’t really figure out which of the politicians actually won the day) but at least they had the saving grace of seeming to actually believe in something, even if that something was that they still very much hated Thatcher. They were also rowdy enough to provide the ideal foil for Oborne’s panto villain and to that end, I’m grateful. However, I would like to address the question raised by one lady as to whether you “can be a Eurosceptic and Pro-European?”. The answer to that is ‘no’. Because it would be stupid.

Schapps: 6/10

Good enough

Flint: 6/10

Tough

Farron: 6/10

Up to snuff

JSP: 3/10

Duff

Oborne: 7/10

Gruff

The Crowd: 6/10

Acceptable stuff

And that’s you’re lot. I’m off to continue torturing myself with the Battlefield 3 Beta: There’s a great game in there somewhere but I just wish the damn thing would stop lagging so I could at least have a chance of finding it. Ah, the joys of beta rage…

Next Week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #31


Morning Lemmings. It’s going to be a super short QT Report tonight for two reasons: First off, remember how I said that last week has been completely mental? Well, somehow this week has cranked up the inexplicability by a fairly substantial number of notches. Seriously, I had moments this week where the world just stopped making sense and the only thing to do was either burst into tears or laugh like a maniac. Consequently, I’m conscious of the fact that for my own sanity I need a bit of downtime otherwise I will find myself writing a referral for my own services and talking myself into an inpatient unit. Secondly and in a rather more mundane vein, this week’s show was quite frankly crap and even if I was on top of the world right now, I’d still have trouble making much out of it. With this in mind, let us make haste and surge forth into the bowels of a rather non-episode.

 

The Menu:

Q1: Is yesterday’s riot the beginning of the public fight back against the cuts?

Q2: Are IDS’s welfare reforms an attack on welfare dependency or necessary to stop our culture of worklessness?

Q3: Is George W Bush right to say waterboarding saved UK lives? If so, does the end justify the means?

Q4: In the light of the backbench mutiny, are Labour MP’s right to back Phil Woolas?

Q5: Has the Prime Minister been spineless by putting profits before human rights in China?

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Theresa May, Home Secretary and fashion mentalist.

Prior to the election, I wrote many a scathing report about May and I stand by them as she was truly awful, repeatedly spouting shonky slogans with precious little regard as to whether they were relevant or not. As a result, I was a little surprised to see just how calm she was last night, especially given that oiky students had just smashed up her teams HQ and she’s the one in charge of ensuring that things like that don’t happen. It turns out that I’m not alone in this assessment and others have also noticed that May has so far managed to keep quite a steady hand on the tiller at the Home Office. That’s not to say that this was a brilliant performance, but it was certainly a world away from her previous form and she managed to look like she’s actually quite comfortable in power. I’ve also noticed that she has taken to wearing a top that looks like a space suit of late (see Fig. 1) and for reasons unknown, this pleases me. So well done Theresa, I believe you are at Junction 2 of the Road to Redemption, headed south but with a moderate prospect of congestion in the near future.

Ground Control to Home Secretary...

Fig. 1

An above personal par 6/10

 

In The Red Corner: Caroline Flint, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Shadow Minister for Fruitiness.

You’d be surprised how much traffic I get from the search term ‘Caroline Flint hot’. Clearly, there is many a man (and possibly many a woman) who hold a torch for Ol’ Snaggletooth and I think it’s only right that she now gets to bear the moniker Shadow Minister for Fruitiness. Anyhoo, aside from such implied innuendo I must also concede that Flint did quite well last night, especially in comparison to her pre-election form. Back then, while it was always clear that she’s a very able player, her performance was usually slightly marred by an innate crotchetiness and a rush to the offensive. Now that she’s in opposition, Snaggers seems to have mellowed somewhat and appears much more able to play the long game of giving the government enough rope to hang themselves. I think some of this is slightly incidental and down to the fact that Labour don’t really have a coherent policy base at present, but a lot of it is also down to her exercising a little more restraint of late. Sure, she’ll still get a little all up in your grill when anyone has the temerity to mention Labour’s record, but there was also a smidgen of contrition when she did admit that they could have done better on benefit reform in Q2. So not bad Snaggers… You’ve come a long way and it would be nice if you and May could hook up for coffee on the Road to Redemption Services. I believe it’s just off Junction 4.

 

A pleasingly mellow 6/10

 

In The Man Of The World Corner: Sherard Cowper-Coles, possibly ex-diplomat and ‘extended leave’ taker.

Diplomats can usually be divided into two categories: Your Fererro Rocher good times ambassadors (see Fig. 2) and your hard-bitten Graham Greene style shadowy instruments of nefarious statecraft. The reason why I find Cowper-Coles so interesting is that he manages to straddle both of these worlds with considerable aplomb. Take for example his name and the fact that he is referred in Bridget Jones’ Diary: The Edge of Reason (not that I’ve read it. Honest): Both of these are clearly points towards the Fererro Conjecture. But, if we take a closer look, we can also see that his postings (Afghanistan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan amongst others) and some of the things he said in memos that were leaked both paint a picture of someone who is very much a sharp end sort of guy and has probably seen/done things that belong in a netherworld that few of us will ever be able to comprehend. All of this makes Sherard a very interesting man and also as it turns out, quite the QT panellist.

...you are really spoiling us

Fig. 2

Of particular enjoyment last night was his ever so diplomatic chiding of the LibDems in Q1 and his sparring with Douglas Murray on the matter of waterboarding. What made it so interesting though was how understated it all was. There was no ‘on his high horse’ showboating or overuse of the ‘expert’ card, just a quiet yet assured performance that left you in absolutely no doubt that this guy really knows what he’s talking about and should be listened to. That’s a hard act to pull off, but he made it look easy, landing significant punches on other panelists whilst appearing to be totally non-threatening. So Sherard Cowper-Coles, I may disapprove of your name (as it makes keep flicking over to Firefox to make sure I’ve spelt it right), but I very much approve of your style. Have yourself an extra Rocher for your efforts.

 

A iron fisted yet velvet gloved 8/10

 

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Clive James, TV bod of yore and notable bald man.

I really don’t know what to make of this, just in the same way that I’ve never really known what to make of Clive James. One problem I have with him is that I’ve never quite understood what it is he does. I remember that he used to be on TV on a Sunday night in some ‘slightly more highbrow than Chris Tarrent’ context, but I’ve never been able to understand why as the shows never seemed to hang together properly. Anyhoo, this was a pretty ropey performance and it also resulted in two excruciating tumbleweed moments where the audience generated a deafening silence after points that I think he intended to be funny. It was also really hard to see what his angle was as on the one hand he seemed to be playing everything for laughs (he did get the odd chuckle here and there) but yet he could suddenly flip into quite snappy and very scathing criticism (usually of Labour) in the blink of an eye. That sort of left me feeling off kilter and as a result, I could never get behind him and almost ended up feeling sorry for him which is not something I want to do when I’m watching Question Time. Love or hate, mockery or acclaim, that’s the currency I like to spend on QT and as a result, I have to award him low marks. So sorry about that Clive, but do take heart in the fact that I didn’t mark you down for baldness.

 

A rather sad 3/10

 

In The Off His Tits Corner: Douglas Murray, Neo-Con headbanger and man with a permanently raised right eyebrow.

Usually, I’m fully behind Douglas Murray appearing on QT as he’s one of my favourite baddies, embodying both way-out-there extreme views and a ‘shut up, YOU ARE WRONG’ attitude. All of this usually makes for some ace fights, some suggestion to nuke a foreign nation and some stern rebukes, all of which are fun to watch. However, there was one vital ingredient missing last night and that was a suitable sparring partner who could give as good as they got and even though Cowper-Coles wiped the floor with him, it was done in such a low-key manner that we missed out on any real fireworks. As for the other panelists both Flint and May are too familiar with how QT works and have learnt to Never Feed The Troll while Clive James was so seemingly strung out that he couldn’t rise to the challenge. And that’s a shame because shorn of his talent for generating strife, all that Murray is left with is a clutch of unpalatable views and that doesn’t exactly make for good telly. So bad luck Douglas, but fingers crossed that next time you get a more appropriate adversary. Personally speaking, I’ve got my fingers crossed that it will be Gorgeous George Galloway or maybe the Ghost of Marx. Now that would be good telly.

 

A disappointingly neutered 3/10

 

The Crowd: London.

Ok London, just what in the hell is going on here? Sure, the panel’s chemistry wasn’t exactly brilliant, but at least try to make a fist of it and only a few isolated boos for Murray is just not cutting it in my book. There were a few good moments here and there and I thought it was pretty interesting that no-one was buying the tabloid Anarchy On the Streets line when it came to the student protest, but by and large, the crowd seemed to be largely mute and with the exception of a bearded guy who managed to make a point about China into a point about the Middle East, no one really seemed to get hot under the collar at all. That, frankly, is a bit of a poor show in a week when people have been taking to the streets and as a result, you are going to get low marks. You could have turned it around if you had heeded my advice from the past few weeks and inserted a bow tie wearer or two into the audience but no, you thought you were cleverer than that. Well, I’ve got news for you London, you’re not and here’s you prize for not being clever.

 

A largely rubbish 3/10

 

Well, that brings us to the end and I apologise for the brevity, but let’s face it, it was a bit of a clanger. Still, if you’ve made it this far then I am indebted to you and by way of reward I give to you another picture of Beefy. Revel in it’s majesty.

One Nation, Under Beef...

Next week, Lemmings.

 

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #25


Morning Lemmings and oh boy am I in trouble. You see, for years I have struggled with an addiction and not a glamorous one either: I am a Civilization addict. The course of my affliction has been a near textbook case in Civ abuse, starting at the tender age of 17 when I had my first encounter with the notorious gateway drug that is Civ 2. While I was still able to function like a relatively normal human being during this period (at least to the untrained eye), I was constantly being tested by newer and more potent strains of the narcotic with the introduction of Civ 3 in 2001 and Civ 4 in 2006, each of which drew me deeper and deeper into the clutches of dependency. Seriously, I can’t begin to describe the toll it has extracted from me, all those late nights squinting at computer generated maps and whispering over and over again “Just one more turn… Just one more!”. But it never was just one more turn and today you find me staring headlong into the abyss of such depth that Christ himself would wince at it’s very mention. You see Lemmings, today is the day that Civ 5 is released in the UK. Today is the day that I and millions of others will someday come to call The End.

So it is with a greatly distracted mind that I bring you today’s Question Time report as for the past week my computer screen has looked like this (click on the picture to make it BIGGUR):

The Last Temptation of Ribs

Curses!

That’s right, I preordered that bad boy and have had to deal with the pain of knowing that all the data I need to take my addiction to new heights has been sitting on my hard drive, just waiting to be decrypted by it’s makers. Not only that, but I’ve had to put up with Americans on the internet rubbing my face in it by high fiving and cracking wise as it was released there 2 days ago. Today though, my desktop looks like this:

GIMME GIMME GIMME!

Verily!

“Ready to play”. “READY TO PLAY”. Words can not describe the anguish I’m going through in order not to just slack off this week’s QT Report and instead just start playing Civ 5 for 72 hours straight. Hell, I’ve even taken half the day off work, just so I can bash this out in record time and then slip into the soothing embrace of my one, my only, my true friend, Civilization. This, Lemmings, is my gift to you. You’d better bloody appreciate it.

The Menu

Q1: Can the government really have a Business Secretary who believes that capitalism kills competition?

Q2: Can the LibDems survive as a political party when the coalition is over?

Q3: How does the government propose to regain control of the streets with the cuts coming?

Q4: Should the 9000 public sector workers who take home more pay than the Prime Minister be the first to be cut?

Q5: Secularisation in the UK bothers the Pope. Should it bother politicians?

In The Yellow Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and currently Tortured Soul.

Another week, another chapter in the Passion of St. Vince. Anointed directly by God in the wake of Das Kredit Krunch, the last three years have been something of a roller coaster for Cable as he’s lurched uncomfortably between Unimpeachable Voice of Reason to Begrudging Patsy For Tory Cuts, sometimes in the space of only a few days. The last time Vince was on Question Time was a pretty traumatic spectacle to watch as he made the best fist he could of putting on a brave face and pretending that he was well into this coalition business. Unfortunately, the end result was to paint a portrait of a man who was deeply uneasy with the way things had panned out and who couldn’t convince himself, let alone anyone else that this wouldn’t all end in anything but grazed knees and tears before bedtime. However, politics is moving at quite the rate of knots these days and last week saw him careening back to the Voice of Reason end of the spectrum again as he showered the LibDem party conference in a veritable orgy of choir preaching banker baiting and the right wing press lost no time in getting it’s knickers in twist about this sudden outburst of Bolshevism (see Fig. 1). Admittedly, it’s not that hard to get the Torygraph et al all lathered into a fury of McCarthyism these days as even implying that governments may have to spend money on stuff or that perhaps the private sector isn’t entirely populated by altruistic Good Samaritans is enough to get you branded as a Stinking Pinko, but that’s the way it is and thus was the backdrop to Vince’s appearance tonight.

Fig. 1

Ok, so as expected the first question on this weeks show was all about St. Vince’s speech and his first stab at it wasn’t a bad one as he tempered some of it’s more contentious parts by doffing his cap to “good business”, but still found a little room to scold the banks for buggering everything up. People liked that, there were claps and for a brief moment, it looked like he got away with it. That was, of course, until everyone except John Redwood (who clearly wasn’t in the mood to help a brother out) all piled in to the tune of ‘yeah, we know you hate the banks and that, but what are you going to do about I?’. ‘This and that’ was the jist of his reply, but unfortunately for him, there was nothing concrete enough there to shut everyone up and he got quite badly mauled as he did his best to extricate himself. Q2 didn’t provide much relief either as he tried to poo-poo all the polls that said the LibDems are heading for electoral oblivion and he was forced to wheel out the ‘look how grown up we are, working with Tories/we’re still an independent party’ line, none of which was greeted by anything other than stony silence from the audience (apart from the guy who somewhat bizarrely suggested that St. Vince would probably join the BNP in the near future). Aware that this probably wasn’t his night, he wisely stayed in the long grass on Q3, venturing out only to mutter something about it being Labour’s fault and the obligatory bigging up of decentralisation which managed to keep him out of any major trouble and it looked like he might have a chance to regroup. Unfortunately, the respite was only temporary as although he started well on Q4, throwing Will Hutton’s name about with wild abandon and having a quiet dig at the private sector for being even more absurd with salaries, the rally was short-lived and he was bought crashing down to earth by Dimbers invoking the spectre of Phillip Green. Damn you, Phillip Green!. Finally, there was Q5, and to be honest, it was a bit of a non-question that simply required a little ‘it’s not politicians’ role to get into religion’ and that was that.

So what to make of all this? Personally, I found it harder to watch than his last appearance because he looked more aware that he was being played this time round. It must be heartbreaking for him. He’s the reason a good many people voted for the LibDems and there must have been a few days when he dared to believe that he could actually be in a position to affect some real changes. Then the reality of coalition began to bite and St. Vince had to watch as he was quietly shuffled away from any positions of real power and into the Give Him Enough Rope To Hang Himself position of Business Secretary while his plans were quietly neutered. Sure, he carried on, hoping that because he was too big to be outside the tent (pissing in), there might still be a chance to get something of worth out of it all and he even managed to get his conference speech cleared by the big boys (who still need him patch the holes on the good ship Coalition’s port side). However, he must know that they were simply giving him a thumb to suck, that they gave into it too easily for it not to be a stitch up and that at some point in the not too distant future he will look upon what is being done in his name and conclude that none of this is worth it any more. I hope it doesn’t come to that because I like Vince and I think that (most) of his ideas are on the money, but I can’t escape the whiff Inevitable Tragedy I get every time I see him on TV. So Vince, if you’ve got any miracles kicking about, now is the time to use them, otherwise you’ll end up as a martyr, not a saint.

A darkly foreboding 4/10

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: John Redwood, MP for Wokingham and right wing Vulcan.

Whilst on my usual trawl through Google Images for pshop fodder, I couldn’t help notice an uncanny photographic similarity between John Redwood and Alan Partridge. It’s not about their appearances as Redwood looks like a jaundiced Space Cad while Partridge just looks a little stupid, but the poses they pull and the scenes they set all seem to have a suspiciously high level of correlation. Take the photo I posted of Redwood the last time he was on: Now, imagine that his female companion has an Eastern European accent (“It is an alien judge, Alan!”) and that the room isn’t in a house, but in a static caravan instead. See what I’m getting at? Then I stumbled on this little beauty (see Fig. 2).

LYNNNNNNNNNNN!

Fig. 2

It’s a clear as day. John redwood is Alan Partridge’s Evil Twin. Ok, so they’re not identical twins and it is fair to say that there are plenty of differences between them. For one, Alan Partridge is a stupid and insensitive prat while Redwood isn’t stupid and clearly, their lives have taken very courses. Also, Redwood has a streak of determination in him that Partridge has always lacked, but you have to admit that the turtleneck sweaters, the pints of Directors that both almost certainly claim to enjoy and their fondness for right-wing views do point to some sort of common heritage. It’s a theory, but you know…. Just saying…

OK, so how did Redwood do? Well, to be brief (because the Civ pangs are growing in intensity and duration), it was pretty much standard Redwood and characterised by lots of gritted teeth and invitations to read between the lines. Basically, John Redwood knows what he believes in and he believes it well. Unfortunately, for him, these beliefs do not appear to be the beliefs that coalition would like to be known for and as a result, he has to make a pretence of not being the kind of guy who would privatise the air we breath at the drop of a hat. And is he good at pretending? In a word, ‘no’.

Take Q1, for example. Clearly, the party line is ‘Vince has his views and although we may disagree slightly, we will be best friends forever’. Redwood certainly managed the ‘different views’ bit admirably, reeling off a list of all the things capitalism had provided for Vince (it was very extensive), but didn’t do so well on the BFF part by simply writing Cable’s speech off as the LibDems being a bit flouncy. This was pretty much the theme for the rest of the evening which mainly composed of blaming Labour for everything, less than convincing endorsements of the benefits of coalition politics and unconditional love for all things private sector. He also got into numerous scraps with Mehdi Hassan and got to rattle off another big list in Q3 when he speculated on the causes of crime, but by and large it was pretty standard stuff. That’s not to say I didn’t like him being on because at least he’s not afraid to get stuck in and have a good scrap, but I could have told you what his response to every question would have been well in advance of his answer and it’s fair to say that the crowd weren’t exactly enamoured with him. Still, it could have been worse. At least he didn’t put the Potato Famine down to the Irish being “fussy eaters”.

An Inner City Sumo of a 5/10

In Red Corner: Caroline Flint, MP for Don Valley and regular QT flak taker.

Snaggletooth again? She gets about does Old Snaggers, but I must admit that she is improving over time. During her period in government, Flint’s QT appearances were usually characterised by an insane capacity to blithely soak up punishment and a tendency to rely overly on aggressive counter attacks. However, she seemed much mellower tonight and, perhaps almost unbelievably, admitted that Labour had got stuff wrong in the past. That’s a big watershed for Flint who would have usually gone fully nutso on anyone who even implied that Labour were anything other than sainted bringers of greater things, but yes, tonight she did actually come clean and say that there was stuff they got wrong. That’s not to say she hasn’t completely lost some of her more jagged edges and she did overplay her hand towards the end of Q3, but by and large it was quite a well-rounded performance, even if there still is something about her that I still find to be a little serrated.

A pleasingly gentler 6/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Mehdi Hassan, Senior Editor for the New Statesman and full lefty.

Right, come on, I can’t take much more of this. Four damn years I’ve waited for this game and there’s still two panelists to go. Let’s make this snappy. Mehdi Hassan is, as the above suggests, a journalist who’s pretty left-wing and I’m pretty sure that this is only his second QT outing. First time round was generally good, but he’s got a tendency to get a little overexcited and throw away some valuable points by falling on the wrong side of the passionate/nutter line. Tonight was also a competent display where he got a lot of mileage out of holding Cable’s feet to the fire but he managed to combine that with not letting Labour get away scot-free, had some ace punch ups with Redwood (in which he emerged the victor) and largely managed to keep the crowd on his side (I think her netted the most applause overall). There were a few times where he looked in danger of going too far and getting stuck out on a limb, but luckily, he managed to keep these tendencies mostly in check. The interesting thing for me was watching him and Hislop eye each other up somewhat nervously. Both knew that they were largely on the same side, but there was an unspoken element of uneasiness between them that nearly bubbled over at times. Oh, and he started his answers to both Q’s1 and 2 with the word “Intriguing”. Intriguing.

A solid 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Ian Hislop, Editor of Private Eye and libel magnet.

I think it must be quite hard being Hislop as there must an overwhelming temptation to never agree with anyone about anything. Part of this comes with the territory as Private Eye’s job is to hold the powerful to scrutiny, no matter who they are, but I think there might also just be a naturally contrary streak in him and that he really rather enjoys being a thorn in any given side. True to form, Hislop managed to have a go at a wide range of targets including Vince for being all mouth and no trousers, Labour for being too cozy with the banks, the police for playing politics and every man, woman and child in the land for saying that they wanted the third party in power but then hating them when they finally got in. All of these were valid points and were well made, but there was always a lingering danger of him coming across as Anti-Everything, purely for the fun of it (like when he said “no one would care” if the LibDems disappeared). That would be a shame as generally speaking, he does know what he’s talking about and we need people like Hislop in the world, but if everyone thinks your simply taking the piss then they stop listening. So, Ian Hislop, your mission for next time is to agree with somebody about something, just to prove you can. And to stop your head wobbling so much. It makes me lose my train of thought.

A recalcitrant but worthy 6/10

The Crowd: Liverpool

So, we’re back in the North for the first ‘proper’ QT of the series and very northern it was too. The general feeling from the crowd was one of open suspicion (occasionally veering into open hostility) towards the coalition and a very real fear of what the cuts were going to bring. This is not to say that Labour were the apple of the audience’s eye either, but I think the Red Corner was probably the safest place to be on this episode. I must say that I quite enjoyed this instalment as I felt robbed by last week’s placid-yet-confusing Labour leadership show and although no one went properly nuts, there was enough friction in the air to keep me interested. Audience members of note this week include a guy with a thin face but a wide head who made me think the aspect ratio on my telly had broken and a beponytailed Scouser in a suit who went in for some impassioned wailing about the Lisbon Treaty that included the word ‘birthright’. There’s always one.

A steady 6/10

Omg! It’s done! I’m free! Free! Ok Lemmings, I’m outta here. I hope to be back next week, but there is quite a high chance that I may overdose on Civ and end up in a permanently psychotic state, shouting at the cats for not building the Three Gorges Dam damn quickly enough and telling the postman to declare war on Bismark. Addiction is an ugly thing Lemmings, an ugly thing.

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #16


Let us pray...Morning Lemmings. As you may or may not have noticed, there is still a gaping void where the oft-mooted ‘Awards Ceremony’ should be, largely on account of me being back at work and the highly clement weather. Speaking of the weather, I’m going to try and keep it short tonight as I’m presently semi-naked, sweating bullets and wanting very much to have nothing to do. That, and I’ve noticed that not many people go searching out for Question Time dorkery when the sun’s out. Well done everyone, you have lives. Anyhoo, back to the task in hand.

So, last week was the first outing for the ConDemocrat chimera and sweaty confusion was the name of the game. Will this trend last? There’s only one way to find out. En garde!

The Menu

Q1: Was Nick Clegg right to defend Pakistani terrorists under the Human Rights Act?

Q2: Clegg and Cameron seem happier with each other than their own parties’. Have they betrayed their core vote?

Q3: Will Liam Byrne’s ‘there’s no money left’ letter be New Labour’s epitaph?

Q4: How can the country move forward when the Equalities Minister is anti gay adoption and against transsexuals from changing gender?

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Theresa May, Home Secretary, Minster for Women and Equalities and out-of-the-fucking-blue minister of state.

*sigh* May’s back. Actually, everyone on this episode is a repeat offender when it comes to LCCPQTMR, but I was especially deflated to see her return, given how life drainingly crap her last outing was. Furthermore, listening to her being introduced as “the Home Secretary” caused my brain to suddenly crash as I’ve still not got my head around the complete wtf?!?-ness of her appointment and I spent the first five minutes wrestling with a spiritual Blue Screen Of Death. If you didn’t catch her last appearance, it was like listening to a scratched spoken word CD of Tory election soundbites (“Change!”, “We’re All In This Together!”, “Brokun Britun!”, Shut Up!) that had been set on infinite repeat and piped directly into your brain. Even more concerning was the fact that her first big public outing (her speech to the Police Federation) was exactly the same, an endless roll call of squawked crapitudes that rolled on into eternity. So no, I didn’t have high hopes for her on this show.

Anyhoo, this episode started on a sticky wicket with Q1 so lots of flapping about and trying to look even-handed ensued, but largely failed to convince anyone. Commissions and reviews were promised, uncashable cheques were signed and the first evidence of the Crapitude CD being updated for this brave new world of consensual politics emerged: “5 Years of Stable Government!” Ha! After having so successfully put the ‘lack’ into ‘lustre’ with Q1, Q2 took a turn for the worse as the CD skipped back to some pre-election tracks (including such classics hits as “Deficit!”, “Strong and Stable Government!” and a new entry for “The Tory’s are for Freedom, Fairness and Responsibility!” That one even got some mild heckles) while Q3 contained basically nothing of note. However, Q4 was the real doozy and as soon as it was uttered, she was pretty much doomed. It did, briefly look like she might be able to squirm out of it when she muttered some ‘it was a long time ago and things have changed’ guff but that was before it all went south in a welter of incoherent ramblings (including a weird reference to “careers advice” as a panacea for all our equality woes). So that was pretty shit.

I’m really struggling with May as I go out of my way to try and find some redeeming features for the unwitting subjects of these reports, but I simply can’t find them her. Try as I might, every time she’s on I’m left with the impression of some self important local dignitary who’s trying to impart some arbitrary advice to a stationary rabble whilst on the back of a horse that won’t behave and keeps wandering off. It doesn’t matter what they’ve got to say, it’s just too distracting to listen as they wind in and out of earshot and writhe in the saddle, desperately trying to stay facing the crowd. That’s fine when you’re just another body on the opposition benches, but it actually starts to get frightening when you get some real power and the ability to mess about with people’s lives. So expect the entire Police Force to be in kitten heels by this time next week.

A habitually superficial 3/10

In The Yellow Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Menzies Campbell, MP for North East Fife and high mileage elder statesman.

Poor Old Ming, it’s not been his decade. Not only was he rather callously deposed from his position as LibDem leader (largely on the grounds of being a bit old and a bit knackered), but now the Libs finally do have a taste of the power action, Poor Old Ming is nowhere to be seen on the frontbenches and is instead sent out for repeated Question Time floggings. There’s gratitude for you. Anyhoo, Ming’s Question Time form is well documented and as I’m pushed for time, I’m not going to go into the nitty gritty and instead confirm that it was a pretty standard affair for him: Good on open water with a gentle breeze but not exactly the most stable of vessels when things start to get choppy. Actually, tonight he did a little better than usual, picking up some much deserved plaudits for his stand on the Human Rights Act in Q1 and indulging in some ‘read between the lines’ Tory baiting in Q2 so he’ll get an extra point or two for that. There’s also a question that occurred to me when watching him that warrants further examination: Is Ming a Big Beast?

On the face of it, he must be as he ticks all the right boxes. For one, he’s old, which is not a prerequisite for Big Beastery (take Mandelson, for example), but something that certainly helps and he’s also held the top job in his party (again, not a compulsory qualification, but one that lends extra credibility). On top of that, he’s a pretty good orator on certain matters and he’s got an interesting enough background (what with all his Olympian claims to fame and whatnot). However, I cannot in good conscience declare Ming to be a Big Beast and here’s why: He’s just so damnably innocent. Look at this way, Big Beasts come in many different shapes and sizes. At one end of the spectrum you’ve got your Tory Rogues whose very mention impart the sensation of brandy-on-stomach-lining (such as the late, great Alan Clarke) while at the other end you’ve got your Principled Firebrand types like Shirley Williams and (had he lived long enough) Robin Cook. In between, there are all sorts of randoms such as your Jazz And Good Times Ken Clarke types, your Balls Out Nutter Michael Heseltine types and your Craggy Faced Killer types such as Ashdown and Davis. The one common strand that links these disparate groups is they all seem to have the measure of humanity, viewing it as a creaking edifice of tangled imperfection that require either spirited leadership or damning to hell and back to stop the whole thing from crashing to the ground. Ming doesn’t have this and seems to be genuinely shocked when confronted with man’s inhumanity to man, aghast that people could be anything other than altruistic Good Samaritans, hell bent on all just getting along. In many ways, his wide eyed school boy enthusiasm for his fellow man is both refreshing and commendable, but it can also be a weakness and it certainly keeps him out of the hallowed ranks of the Big Beast’s for now. Maybe if kicked a puppy on live TV or spent an afternoon writing hate mail to the Pope, people would get a bit more on board with him, but until then he will stay as Poor Old Ming. Poor Old Ming.

A cut above the baseline 6/10

In The Red Corner: Caroline Flint, MP for Don Valley and female window dressing (her words, not mine).

Ol’ Snaggletooth’s back! Hooray for Snaggletooth! Actually, I thought she was quite interesting to watch tonight as being in opposition seems to suit her quite well. Back when she had to go out and defend the government, she reminded me a lot of the Red Army prior to Stalingrad: She was always fighting hopeless battles that she could never win, but through sheer dogged resistance and a remarkable capacity to sustain punishment, she would survive just long enough to trade territory for time and keep the sinking ship afloat. Now, she’s much more reminiscent of the Wehrmacht circa 1943-44: Although bruised and strategically on the retreat, she’s still a force to be reckoned with that is skilled at fighting withdrawals and ferocious local counter attacks. Don’t pity me, pity my better half.

The above was reflected throughout the episode, but especially in Q1 when she got to fool around with some gleeful knife twisting at the expense of the ConDemocrats and also in some rather deft little retreats on Q3 that managed to avert a potentially disastrous bout of Labour bashing from turning really sour. Towards the end, she even managed to pick up some praise from Shami Chakrabarti and that, my friends, is no mean feat. Sure, the crowd didn’t go wild for her, but she’s never been a favourite with the audience, what with being so jagged around the edges (although her “grubby speed dating” line went down very well with them) and Labour are very much in the background at the moment so I’d say that it was a pretty good performance. However, there is a caveat to all this and it’s a big one: She has Warsi Syndrome (the propensity to overplay one’s hand after initial success). It’s not a terminal case and she looks treatable, but there were times in the evening (such as when she went too far with the Labour Rollcall of Past Triumphs in Q3) when earlier gains were gravely jeopardised by reckless lunges and this slightly tarnished what was otherwise a pretty good innings.

A definite signs of improvement of a 6/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Shami Chakrabarti, tiny Liberty boss and perennial QT crowdpleaser.

Another week, another Shami and as always, it’s what we’ve come to expect: A pretty impassioned (although sometimes bordering on ‘overwrought’) knockabout that everyone liked and clapped along to. As you’d probably expect, Q1 was fertile ground to get hot under the collar about Liberty type stuff so she hit the ground running and then remained fairly combative throughout, bloodying noses here, there and everywhere. The thing is though, I get a little bored of watching Shami win all the time. That’s not to say I don’t think she’s good to watch or that what she does isn’t important (the world could use a few more Shami Chakrabarti’s), it’s just it all seems a little unfair, like when a sport gets totally dominated by a single player or team for years on end. For example, when exactly are Liberty going to be in a position where it has to deliver bad news (“Erh, sorry, but we just accidentally ended up lobbying parliament for a network of secret torture camps and now they’ve gone and passed a bloody bill to that effect! Our bad!”)? Never, that’s when! And asking people to go along with having more freedom is hardly rocket science is it? It’s like saying “who likes having a good nights sleep?!” and getting a bag of sweets every time someone says “yay!”. However. I do concede that in terms of applause, she was clearly on top and who the hell I’m to bugger about with peoples right to bash their hands together? No one, that’s who.

An inevitable 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Douglas Murray, intense young man and rightwing nutjob.

True, dat...

Fig. 1

Are you obviously scarily brainy? Do you stare at things with such focused ferocity that the objects themselves turn to dust? Do you think the state should be no bigger than a cornershop? Do you consider laser guided bombs to be the solution to most problems? Did you write this book (see Fig.1)? And do you really not like terrorists? If you answered ‘yes’ to all of these questions, you are Douglas Murray and if that is the case, I’d advise you to stop reading this now. Actually, I never end up being that nasty to Murray because even though he is quite, quite mad, he does make for ace telly and I’m a fan of ace telly.

As always, it was suitably rabid stuff from Murray tonight, damning all those pot smoking, peacenik, coalition types who refused to blast the terrorists into outer space or some other crazily draconian measure. “Any society that wanted to survive would not do this” he seemed to say through the foam that had formed in the corners of his mouth before damning Britain for being “a retirement home for would-be jihadis.”. Subtle as ever then. He did get some applause on stuff in Q2 (although it was usually a few people applauding very, very loudly. Comes with the territory) and there was even an outburst of reasonableness in Q4 when he had a pop at the Tories for their record on homophobia. Generally though, it was wild eyed and batty enough to hold my attention and that’s a good thing. One thing I did notice tonight though was that I felt differently about what he is than I had on his previous appearances and I think this has something to do with the death of New Labour.

Even towards the end of their tenure, when neoconservatism was totally discredited and had pretty much died in the US, I still got the feeling that this guy was somehow relevant and that in itself made him seem a little scary to me. It wasn’t that Labour were neocons or anything like that, but the views that Murray espouses belonged to the bit of history that occurred on their watch. Now they’ve gone, I can mentally bookend that period and put Murray on the shelf next to MySpace, Ali G and “the end of boom and bust”. As a result, I now feel a bit sorry for Murray when I see him, as if he were a member of the Flat Earth Society or one of those people who get angry about fluoride in water. So I’m afraid your time has passed Douglas and I, for one, will greatly miss your trademark brand of lunatic interventionism. Godspeed Dougie, Godspeed.

A newly obsolete 6/10

The Crowd: Richmond Park.

So things seem to have settled down this week. People are still a little confused, but that freefall, ‘stop the world, I want to get off’ sensation that permeated last week’s show has certainly been cranked down a notch or so. We’re still in a position where the lines of defence and attack are only just being drawn and no-one’s quite sure how things are going to pan out, but you get the sense that initial shock of the hung parliament is giving way to the reality of a coalition government. In terms of the this show, it was a pretty scrappy affair and no-one (excluding Shami) seemed to have an overall advantage. As for the crowd, they were pretty noisy, but you got the feeling people aren’t quite sure to how to react to this new government, straddling, as it does, two very different camps . As a result, I felt that this was quite a fragmented episode where no single section of the audience could build a sufficient head of steam to deliver a knockout blow to another. Instead, it was an uncoordinated scuffle where no one quite knew what side of the line they should be standing on and ran about screaming instead. In a word, ‘odd’.

Only one audience member of note tonight and that was an Australian woman who looked quite a lot like Kath from Kath and Kim although it might have just been her accent. I’m not good with faces.

A neither here nor there 5/10

Ok, that’s your lot. It’s half 10, I’m still roasting and I’ve still got to bugger about with the internet and all that. So much for doing nothing, See you next time.

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #7


Hubba hubba!

It's a good look, Dimbers. you should go with it...

Morning Lemmings and welcome once more to the weekly QT round up, bought to you this week by the Wimmin of Dewsbury. That’s right pilgrims, Wimmin. I, for one , welcome our new beskirted overloads, but how did they fare in this week’s instalment of topical earbending? Only one to find out…. Onwards, to Dewsbury!

In The Red Corner: Caroline Flint, Labour MP for Don Valley, founder member of Blair’s Babes and political bullet magnet.

Caroline Flint seems to forever be on borrowed time. Every time she crops up, a memory stirs of some not-too-long-ago brouhaha involving Old Snaggletooth (as I affectionately refer to her), but I still decide to give her the benefit of the doubt until a new brouhaha ensues and the cycle rolls over again, repeating into infinity and beyond our limited lifespans. The most prominent example was her seemingly principled resignation over being used as “female window dressing” by Broon. “Fair play to you, O Snaggletooth” thought I, “Sisters doin’ it for themselves, yeah?”. I thought she came out looking pretty good from that but then she promptly managed to piss all the good press up the wall with her borderline saucy photoshoot for The Observer where she looked exactly like ‘female window dressing’. And so it goes on. Tonight was pretty much a case in point on this front. She got off to a good start on the first question (which was about whether Jon Venables’ as yet undisclosed offences should be made public) by deftly stradling the line between ‘Think of the Mother!’ and ‘Think of Justice!’, managed to sound pretty sensible and looked satisfied as the audience lapped it up. Further crowd love followed when she dismissed the whole Brokun Britun kerfuffle as nonsense and worrisome thoughts about her previous transgressions began to fade. But things were about to get pretty ugly pretty quickly. Dimbleby, who must have felt like a pimp on the night (what with hundreds of Wimmin arrayed obediently before him) used the second question (on bastard ‘spenses. Please, people of Britain, please let this issue die. It bores me to tears) as the launch pad for a cheeky ambush, bringing up some of her own sins on the matter. Flint squirmed about for a while, babbling on about a “washing machine” for some reason, before pulling out of the dive by saying that expenses were necessary to stop parliament being full of “millionaires and geeks”. That seemed to stop the bleeding but worse was to come with the question on whether Broon had used his trip to The Stan as a distraction from his appearance at Chilcot. This was clearly going to be trouble as an audience member who had a son in the forces managed to get her two-peneth worth in, bemoaning the fact that she had just had to shell out for her sons webbing. Snaggers flapped about for a while on this one, blaming “the terrain”, telling her to see her MP and saying that armies have a “tradition of swapping kit”, but the audience was not convinced and a quiet, rolling chunter began to build as she spoke. Sensing an opportunity to stir things up, Kelvin MacKenzie weighed in with a fairly lurid denunciation of Broon as a “compulsive liar” with “no truth in his soul”. The audience liked this and poured further petrol on the fire when a woman claimed that British troops were “not killed by the Taliban” but “killed by their equipment” (I have to say that this is patently bullshit as the kit may be bad, but it really doesn’t go around blowing up or shooting at our troops and the Taliban are pretty serious about this whole ‘killing our guys’ business. Or maybe I’m just being pedantic). Despite the complete fiction of this statement, the assembled gaggle of Wimmin went completely nuts for it, working themselves into quite the frothy state. Further assaults followed, this time from the direction of Monty Don and Snaggers was left completely over a barrel, pleading with the audience to “think of the dead” (they were. That was the point), but her entreaties were met with silence. Big, female, silence. Harsh. At this point, I would have called it a day, hid under the table or tried to fashion a makeshift foxhole on the studio floor but there was more bad news to follow as Dimbers nonchalantly twisted the knife with a crafty little one-two. First off he asked whether Flint thought Broon was liar. Predictable denials followed, only to be blown out of the water as Dimbers read out an extensive list of Snagger’s quotes to the contrary. She attempted a half hearted defence, but is was too late and a ripple of heckles swept the crowd. Ouch. By rights, it should have been all over at this point with Flint slumping limply in her chair, emitting barely audible grunts as her brain processed the thrashing she had just taken, but it wasn’t and after a not bad stab at the ASB question, she actually picked up some ok applause on the women’s shortlist one. And I think this is why I keep giving her a second chance. On the face of it, she’s not a brilliant politician. Wherever she goes, she leaves an inevitable wake of gaffes and as a minister, she was pretty mediocre. But what she has got going for her is an incredible toughness. The sort of sustained and overwhelming drubbing she took on the show is enough to make your average panellist buckle and send them running to the cover of one word answers, but not Old Snaggletooth. In the middle of the show, she took an epic trouncing yet she carried on going, toughed it out and even managed to salvage a bit of credibility at the end. And that’s quite cool in my book.

A last-ditch but valiant 5/10

In The Blue Corner: Justine Greening, Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government, owner of an exceptionally wide mouth (see above).

I had absolutely no idea who Justine Greening was before tonight and feared we’d be presented with another of this weird, faceless breed of Tory young pups who have so far failed to make an impression on me. However, I have to say that she did pretty well, getting a lot of love from the audience and coming across as the most confident of the three party panellists. I think that this is partly a consequence of her pulling off being Northern far better than most Tories do. If you think about it, the Conservatives only really have three Northern faces that get any attention these days: William Hague, Ed Pickles and Baroness Warsi. Hague has never looked too comfortable in his Northern skin as it made him look like a bit of an oddity amongst his peers. I suspect that he probably received quite a bit of ribbing from The Old Boys for his Rotherham roots and as a result, he always seemed very conscious of it and perhaps a little ashamed. Pickles looks far more at ease with his heritage, but his problem is that while he tries to play the Salt Of The Earth Northerner card, it doesn’t quite work. Instead, he comes across as a provincial shopkeeper who resents selling stuff to the tourists who keep his business afloat and to anyone who isn’t ‘his kind of person’. It’s all a little bit self important and twatty. The final contender, Baroness Warsi, simply doesn’t register on the scale because her Northern-ness is completely eclipsed by her Asian-Toriness, something which is so novel that it completely overpowers the fact that she’s from West Yorkshire (and her Pulled Up By The Bootstraps schtick does grate a little). Justine Greening, by contrast, has managed to hit the nail on the head by coming across as slightly novel (for a Tory), yet unpretentious and down to earth. On the show she did pretty well considering Dewsbury isn’t natural Tory territory. The Venables case brought out some fairly standard “risk to the public” stuff, but there was an appetite for it and it went down well. MP’s pay also went pretty smoothly, but she hit the big time on Afghanistan by having a go at Broon for the lack of equipment and generally going with the will of the crowd. With the wind behind her, she continued to rack up some easy points on Askew/ASB (if in doubt, blame ‘paperwork’) and topped it all off with the big, pink love-in that was the shortlists question. OK, so it was pretty easy to look confident and in control after Snaggers had been kicked all over the place, but she didn’t bollocks anything up and clocked a few wins in any area that isn’t really her turf. So well done Justine Greening, you have escaped the curse of the Faceless Tory Noobs.

A well handled and confident 7/10

In the Yellow Corner: Jo Swinson, Lib Dem Foreign Affairs Spokesperson and sickeningly young MP.

There’s a lot to like about Jo Swinson. She does a good line in well reasoned argument as well as being a consistent and vocal critic of the war(s). Tonight, she was on pretty good form, sounding very grounded yet principled,when it came Venables/Askew cases (particularly her “difference between…public interest and of interest to the public” piece) as well as getting in on the collective hug that was the shortlist question. The audience responded well and it’s fair to say that she looked like someone who you’d want in Parliament. My only beef is how she handled the Afghanistan question. From the Lib Dems point of view, this is an open flank on both parties that should be worked relentlessly and without mercy as not only has the issue been festering for an epic 8 years, but it is also one of those fault lines where public opinion is markedly and stubbonly in opposition to both Labour’s and the Tory’s. This should be her natural territory as she has both credibility and form on the issue and no-one else has a satisfying answer when it comes to the big question of just why the hell are we in Afghanistan. When it came to her turn to answer the question she started well by asking why soldiers aren’t paid more (big applause) and then promptly ran out of steam. All she needed to do was to point to the massive elephant in the room, call bullshit on her parliamentary colleagues and then retire to a safe distance as they both took one in the chops. But she didn’t and as a result, Greening was given a free ride and held the initiative for the rest of the show. As I said before, the rest of it was all good stuff that worked, but she lacked the killer instinct to deliver the decisive blow and walk out the victor. So let this be a warning Swinson, I like you, you’ve got lots to offer, but QT requires some ruthlessness that I’m yet to see. Be a bastard and I’ll give you more points.

A could-have-been-a-contender 6/10

In the Independent/Brainy One Corner: Kelvin MacKenzie, ex-Sun editor and full time bigmouth.

You know that there’re just some things that you’re never going to like? Well for me, Kelvin MacKenzie is one of them. Just like being sold insurance by Iggy Pop or watching Josh and his Supergroup Based Around The Concept Of Free Texts Being The Key Ingredient To Instant Stardom (come on Josh, I’ve been in a band for 6 years that fuck all people have heard of and I get shit loads of free texts) he just sets my nerves on edge and there’s nothing I can do about it. Fortunately (or maybe disappointingly) he wasn’t quite cranked to the odious nines on this episode, although his opening gambit on the Venables case was a truly squalid affair. Kicking off with a good long rant about how he’s “hostile to” a whole heap of things to do with criminals, he lunged down the ‘lock ’em up for all eternity’ line and was met with both stony silence and audience accusations of the Sun being very much a part of the problem. That prompted an ill advised pop at the Beeb which was laughed out of town and kicked off a spat of nasty little scraps with most of the panel. I think at this point he realised that you can’t get away with the ‘I know I’m right and to hell with you pinko commie bastards’ act with an all female audience (it only just works on a mixed one). Consequently, he reigned things in a bit and even picked up the odd clap here and there. I know I’ve said in the past that I try and keep these reports as neutral as possible, but I’m afraid that no matter what he does (other than renounce everything he has ever stood for), he’s always going to get shit marks from me. It’s just they won’t be AS shit this week.

A grudgingly restrained 4/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Monty Don, Gardener Bloke and Possessor of Inscrutable Features.

I’m on board with Monty. He seems well intentioned enough, has this far-away look about him that adds a certain layer of mystery and has something that gardeners are not usually noted for: Opinions. I hear he’s also quite a hit with Wimmin in general, so tonight was a pretty easy gig, what with the massive abundance of Wimminz and all. On the show, his approach can be mainly characterised as ‘ponderous’ with the occasional spark of fire. Starting off with the Venables case he got some good claps in with a very solemn “people are not born evil” and some anti-lynch mob posturings as well getting in a few jabs at MacKenzie. He went on to stumble a bit on the dreaded ‘spenses by saying MP’s should be paid 100k a year (I think the audience were in the market for seven quid an hour, tops), but soon recovered and made the point that Swinson failed to make on Afghanistan (and also got a bit disingenuous with his maths. The Afghan war has been going on twice as long as World War 2? No, Monty, it hasn’t). An endorsement of “clip round the ear” discipline was warmly received by the assorted Wimmiz on the Askew question while a pop at Harriet Harman and a call for an all women parliament (which earned him a ripple of flirty giggles from many Wimminz Of A Certain Age) sealed the deal for him at the end. I don’t want to get carried away here because it doesn’t take a genius to do well as the 5th panellist (all you have to do is mirror the audience, throw in the odd gag, don’t piss off anyone too much and the day is yours) but there’s not much to dislike about him and the ponderousness works well for him. It makes him like a tortoise. A sexy tortoise.

An in-no-hurry 7/10

The Crowd: The Wimminz of Dewsbury

Ok, I have to admit that I was expecting a different kettle of fish tonight, mainly out of some rather unfair prejudices I harbour about Dewsbury. I live in Leeds and (as the handy diagram below shows) if there’s something tabloidy and nefarious going on in West Yorkshire, it’s quite often in Dewsbury.

Diagram Alert!

A geeky friend of mine has already pointed out that my boxes are in the wrong configuration. Spreadhead does respond to poindexters.

I know, I know, that’s a massive generalisation but the Matthews case, the stirrings of the BNP and other such untowardness haven’t exactly done the place many favours so I was basically expecting a hard faced, very white and angry lynch mob to rock up from some of the nastier estates and basically shoot down any MP’s who had the temerity to turn up. As it it turned out, the audience was primarily composed of of middle aged women who work in the public sector (The Backbone of West Yorkshire! You remember that ‘trickle down’ thing that you promised us from London? You know, all those vast sums earned by the City which would somehow end up in our pockets? Well, they never arrived so I guess you’ll just have to keep giving us public sector jobs to keep t’North afloat) and I must say that they made for a pretty interesting crowd. Unlike most of the mixed audience shows, this mob came across as a lot less tribal. With the exception of Flint and MacKenzie (who were eventually forgiven), they seemed willing to listen to the panellists without sinking into default positions and everyone was given a fair shot. It also seemed to be less about specifics and much more about tone. For instance, Ashcroft didn’t come up once, despite it being plastered everywhere and I think that’s probably because they didn’t care about the buts-and-bolts ‘whodunnit’ aspect of things and were much more concerned with the broader implication of the effect of money on politics (hence the MP’s pay question). They were also very vocal in their support/disdain for various viewpoints. When I watch the show, I take notes and I draw arrows of differing sizes and thickness so I can see how much applause each point got. With these guys, they started loud (so big thick lines then) and then just kept getting louder and louder (completely fucking up my system… I ended up gouging holes in my pad trying to keep up with the volume). I actually think it would have been better if there were male panellists from the parties involved as if Kelvin MacKenzie is anything to go by, it must be pretty bloody frightening being held to account by that many women and I could see that some hilarity would ensue. Nevertheless, it was a pretty bracing affair and even if the whole ‘equipment, not the Taliban killing our boys’ thing wound me up a little, the rest of it was a refreshing break from the usual state of affairs. Stand-out members of the night include a woman with very loud off camera jewellery and a surprise appearance from Claire Young from The Apprentice. Considering she was always noted for wanting to have the last word on The Apprentice, there was a strange yet nice symmetry to her having the actual last word on QT. But yes, I digress. Wimmin of Dewsbury, you did good in my book.

A refreshing, if at times scatty 7/10

So that’s that then. A first in the form of a three way draw between Monty, Greening and the Wimminz. All male audience next time plz. See you next week, yeah?


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