Posts Tagged 'Caroline Lucas'

Questionable Time #132


qt 132

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to the green, green grass of Questionable Time! I apologise unreservedly for the unsightly delay due to being forced into drudgery at my university library all day, toiling without reward. Still, considering the (mainly) weak panel, I don’t believe I missed much. Things are bound to get more exciting as we approach the day of reckoning, however…and Dimbleby should break out his most outrageous tie to celebrate.

Ed Milibanter

I always mistake Elizabeth/Liz Truss for the author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Lynne Truss, but sadly she is not the author of a popular punctuation guide but rather the author of a book that I have no real desire to read named ‘Britannia Unchained’, which sounds like an X Factor winner’s debut song but isn’t. She begins, in response to a man in the crowd calling on politicians to stop slinging mud at each other, by immediately reiterating Michael Fallon’s criticisms of Ed Miliband being a bit dodgy-like…by slinging some more lovely mud. Comments about ‘stabbing the country in the back’, which definitely have no uncomfortable, sinister undertones to them, are super cool ‘n’ cute, apparently.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Wee Dougie Alexander looks agog, which is at least a step up from his usual expression/tone of voice – that of ‘gormless drone’. He even calls the comments “rubbish” and the Tories “desperate”, his surprise act of monotone passion garnering a round of applause from the audience. Unfortunately this leads to him being equally pressed about Labour mud-slinging (but dude, it was like, at PMQs, which is totes different yeah?).

Tim Stanley, the poshest man alive (of course he is named Tim) is, to his credit, pointing out that the Labour party does not practice primogeniture, possibly unlike the Stanley clan, and it is 99% unlikely that Ed Miliband is not a sleeper agent for the KGB out to kill us all. They said the same slanderous things about Harold Wilson, and look how that turned out! Well, er, he went mad, yes…but only after a while.

Vince Cable, once the country’s lovable, be-fedora’d uncle, but now a sad, tired shell of his former ballroom-dancing self, makes some reasonable points about Trident, but his affable mumblings are interrupted by that of Caroline Lucas, who the Greens are probably really regretting not having at the Leaders’ Debates now. Bristol is one of the places where the Greens are aiming to win another parliamentary seat, so Cazza Luzza goes full throttle on her party’s core pledge of getting rid of Trident and using the money on saving us all from Al Gore’s roving bands of PowerPoints (2006-era jokes! Timely!). Dimbles challenges her on the figures, but by that point Tim has started to go on about ‘submarines of death’, which is much more interesting. He doesn’t even care. I admire that in a man.

Then a beautiful thing happens – in response to people trotting out the old ‘they’re all the same’ line, a girl in the audience appeals for people to stop being such lazy schmucks and Google the party’s policies, dinguses. This will no doubt go over the majority of the electorate’s heads, who are perfectly content to continue playing Angry Birds while whining that politics is all the same. No differences whatsoever! Can’t be bothered with it! Wahhhh! I hope Joey Essex and his election crusade can show us all the light someday. That’s completely sincere, by the way – but we’re getting off topic.

Always use a non-dom

…Or not, according to Hunky Ed the Labour Lothario. Dimbleby interrogates Douglas about Ed Balls’ iffy support for the new Labour policy, to which Alexander responds that – conspiracy shock! – the Tories edited that one video and ya can’t trust nuffink. #staywokesheeple.

Liz snorts that it won’t make any money. Dimbles quotes Ed Miliband saying it’s a moral issue. BUT DEFICIT, replies Liz. Then Dimbleby, out of nowhere, references Caroline saying Vince could make “eating babies” sound palatable. (It was in a Guardian ‘Blind Date’ piece, and to be fair those are always weird).

Oh, no. Here comes Tim, riding in, defending the nondommers. I have begun to notice that he sounds somewhat like George Osborne, which is strange since apparently he was a member of the Labour Party in his youth. I’m going off him now, especially when he shows his immense love for trickle-down economics. A single tear now trickles down my face. Tim has been born into the wrong time period. He needs to be helping Ronald Reagan on his election campaign in 1980, not facing a manically grinning Caroline Lucas in the year of our Lord 2015. Poor Tim. Poor, loaded Tim.

A Blair scare to raise your hair

Next question: should Tony Blair have re’surfaced’, presumably from his coffin. Sinister.

Tim wants a referendum purely because Blair is terrifying. Vince, glowing Liberally, says a referendum would be an awful idea and we should, funnily enough, all listen to Blair because of that one time when he stepped down and Parliament applauded him. A lady in the crowd, who is a criminologist don’tchaknow, thinks it’s ~well dodge~ for Tonezone to come back, being as he is an (alleged, don’t sue me Tony) war criminal.

“Douglas!” exclaims Dimbleby brightly, why don’t you answer that? Douglas stammers but moves on hastily to make an impassioned (well, as impassioned as ol’ Dugs gets) defence of Europe. Innocent until proven guilty, he adds! (I wonder where the Chilcot Inquiry is now? Having a margarita in Barbados, most likely.)

Caroline wants to “CHALLENGE!” (her emphasis, not mine) the others on taking Euroscepticism for the left, flag aloft, presenting herself like a Joan of Arc who fights not with swords but with wind farms. To which the others respond with bickering about a possible referendum. She makes this face, seen below. I imagine it would be a very useful face for internet debates, and so I bequeath it to you all.

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

Why hasn’t there been a referendum already? Lib Dems, innit, says Liz. Nahhhh bro, you nasty, says Vince. Ain’t even bovvered, adds Dougie. I’m paraphrasing here. And then a man in the audience makes a simply stunning comment. Why weren’t the English and Welsh asked their opinions during the Scottish referendum? Because if anyone is really ignored in this Parliament, it’s the English. What? You mean the Scottish referendum should be for the Scots to decide? Pfuh – what a silly idea! Utterly laughable!

Liz finally gets a grip on things, and makes a good point about cases of direct democracy such as the #indyref getting people involved and actually debating about a certain topic. The problem is that particular topic drowning out everything else and getting other bad news swept under the rug. There needs to be a balance, although we’re not going to find it here. The melody of Questionable Time plays on…

Last up, why should students trust Labour’s pledge to cut tuition fees? Because they ‘won’t get fooled again’? Vince gets asked first, to much laughter, and says that Labour screwed it up first, so we’re all victims here! Douglas replies that this isn’t true, and that Labour will reduce fees by taxing the aforementioned rich because we don’t want the students on our back like rabid wolverines (any more than they usually are). Tim pooh-poohs this. Whatever happens, he says, we’re all “going to be living in a world of pain”. Except Tim, nice but dim. He’ll be swimming in his money bath.

Caroline rubs her hands with glee. She’s only got 10 seconds, but manages to shit-fling at everyone. An impressive result. Liz blurts out that awful ‘they’re all the same’ line in that same amount of time. Douglas shrieks about this being a lie, again, and Cazza shouts “anti-austerity party!” as loud as she can as the proverbial klaxon goes. Then she grins devilishly. She knows what she did.

She knows.

Time for the scores!

Truss: 5/10

(Up for a) Trussle Tussle

Alexander: 6/10

(On the) Plus (side, he was less boring than last time)

Cable: 6/10

(About to get his) Bus (pass)

Lucas: 7/10

(Eager to) Discuss (the merits of disarmament)

Stanley: 6/10

Rus(tled some feathers)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Not in the mood to) Trust

Next time: Piers Morgan. Oh God no.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #112


qt 112

Good morrow lemmings and a very Happy Halloween! We’re in the Wild West this week – Taunton, that is, but I don’t see any cool zombie cowboys roaming around (or even any sheep farmers). Later this evening my house will inevitably get mobbed by screaming children, so let’s enjoy a moment of calm before the storm…or not, because this is Questionable Time, Questionable Time night, and no-one’s gonna save you from the beast about to strike.

I also heard hemp makes great shampoo

The first question is appropriately scary, at least if you’re a politician: drug legalisation! Caroline Lucas has an open goal today, what with Labour imploding in Scotland, faced against a Tory ex-Cabinet minister with an obsession with badgers moving goalposts, some random Lib Dem and some other guy who’s written a series of good children’s books at least. Not to mention the Beeb refusing to put the Greens in the Leaders’ debates because nyeh nyeh pfffthblflfbh. Sadly, none of these points actually come up on the show. She could have raised them herself, of course, but that would just be gauche.

So, the Green mean protesting machine is up to bat, this being one of her specialist subjects (and who knows, it might get her votes from the stoner demographic, if they can manage to lift themselves out of their Dorito nests to get to the polling station). Incredibly, she’s wearing not one but two paper flowers, one being a #swaggy white peace poppy. Whatever your view on the gratuitous use of poppies, surely you must agree that’s a pretty swagalicious flimsy flower thing. Anyway, Caroline wants the personal use of drugs legalised and isn’t a fan of Dave and co sticking their fingers in their ears and screaming “JUST SAY NO! JUST SAY NO!”

Owen Paterson, who wants to position himself as Caroline’s nemesis even though she probably wouldn’t lower herself to that level, rattles off some statistics. Dimbles has already mentioned he was sacked (not reshuffled, sacked – damn Dimbleby, that’s cold) from Cabinet and Owen is extremely eager to play the martyr figure in this edition. If there’s a question about wind farms, it’ll happen. At the moment, though, he’s bombarding the panel with facts and figures until they all die of an overdose.

Now for the appearance of the man with a face like a loaf of bread: Tristram Hunt! Wearing the exact same tie as Owen. Worrying. He’s a shower of charisma as usual: “this is an interesting piece of work”, he drones, and shakes his head at how bad the drug problem in prisons is and rounds up by concluding that Labour saved everything. I think. I’ve already forgotten what he said. ‘Yeah, the poors can’t handle it’, Owen nods along. Tristram and Loaf-face are performing a nice little double act here. Ooh yeah baby, you be the bread…I’ll be the baker.

Then Baroness Kramer interjects that we should be targeting the traffickers and kingpins, which is a sensible if blindingly obvious point. Similarly Anthony Horowitz points out the cost to the state from drug-related offences that could be more easily tackled with better treatment in a different system. Woah, things are getting a little too smart around here! Can’t have that. Time to descend into anarchy again.

Can’t pay, won’t pay

Next question! Should Britain pay up? Nope, we’re broke! Seems like that’s really the case, as there’s a lot of shrieking about how unfair the whole situation and that the poor deprived little UK needs that money to buy jumbo sausage rolls at Greggs. Tristram has the explanation, of course: Dave shouldn’t have thrown all those darn wobblies. Now you’ve broken all the posh china and the EU wants us to pay them back. The ‘No Daves Club’ strikes again. Incidentally, doesn’t Loaf-face sound like the ‘Gap Yah’ guy? It’s not just me, right? Right…? Then he gets pissy with Susan Kramer, as you do. Maybe he’ll chunder all over her.

Owen Paterson isn’t going to take this lying down. He’s already machine-gunned statistics at a terrified audience – time to put his mastery of cliches into action. It’s all Labour’s fault! The mess Labour made! Labour trashed the economy! Even the audience is getting sick of it by this point, groaning out a decisive boo, and they already looked pretty sickly to begin with what with the drug problems and all.

A question arises on ISIS/ISIL/IS/DoYouReallyLikeItIsItIsItWicked, and Owen is already off pointing fingers at ‘alien entities’. I’m not sure what he’s been up to since he left Cabinet, hopefully it’s not like when Robbie Williams took some time off to go hunt UFOs in the desert. Caroline wants to rehabilitate the penitent, and Loafy doesn’t want to glam the sitch up by using the word treason. Then he says something about the Spanish Civil War because Tristram can’t resist an opportunity to be a history nerd.

Suddenly, Anthony Horowitz kicks the door down. Stop them from leaving in the first place, ffs! Dimbleby is shocked that anyone would be so blunt and just…unrambly on this programme. How dare you. Go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done (which also happens to be the current treatment scheme for drug users!)

Down on the wind farm

A question on benefits, and Baroness Kramer concludes that that Calais mayor woman was a right cow. Owen thinks lack of free trade is the problem, like when teachers ban kids from swapping Pokemon cards in the playground. Yeah, says Caroline Lucas, but that’s no reason to ignore immigrants drowning to death. Owen explodes and accuses her of “grotesque” distortion. He uses that word approximately 10,000 times. I am falling asleep. Meanwhile, Loaf-face drones on about whatever. I’ve given up on listening to him, unless as a sleep aid, and I’m already feeling snoozy.

One last quick question on blackouts! Are we facing a three-day week? Probably not, says Caroline, because luckily we have…guess what…wind farms! Owen snorts in derision. Pshh, the Climate Change Act. Who needs it. Caroline is indignant and plants her flag firmly on the table. Unlike nuclear, which, as you will all know if you have seen The Simpsons, is the cause of mutated three-eyed fish, you can store wind and solar – but Owen shoots back with an enraged roar. We generated so much energy that we had to turn the wind farms off! he bellows, sending Caroline flying. …Wait, hang on, you’re saying it was so effective, that we had to stop it? I thought we needed ninety thousand new wind farms, Owen! Ninety! Thousand! New! Wind! Farms! Maybe the Jolly Green Giant has had the last laugh after all.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

While Horowitz shrugs noncommittally, Loaf-face leaves us with a lovely, droning anecdote of the Stoke-on-Trent ceramics industry and Dimbleby winds up the programme pretty hastily after that. Thank you, Dimbles. For all our sakes, thank you.

Time for the scores!

Hunt: 5/10

Yeasty

Lucas: 6/10

(Would rather be back in the South) East(y)

Paterson: 6/10

Beastly

Kramer: 5/10

(The Lib Dems’ poll ratings have) Decreased(y)

Horowitz: 7/10

Last but not least(y)

Nobody knows who’s on next time. It is a mystery.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #98


questionable time 98 david dimbleby rambo

Good morning Lemmings and if you’re feeling a little shell-shocked by the box of frogs that was last night’s show then stop crying because we only have ourselves to blame. Oh sure, we all thought we were being so clever, inviting Farage on week after week so we could all smugly mock his rubbery face and outlandish views. We thought we were doing it ‘for the lulz’ but now? Now he’s looking like he might actually win an electoral contest and it’s all our fault: We’re the ones who created this monster. We’re the ones who thought everyone else was in on the joke and we’re the ones who’ll be crying into our quinoa the day after the European elections. So answer me this Lemmings, where are your lulz now? WHERE ARE YOUR LULZ NOW?!?!

Anyway…

I love the smell of mania on a Thursday night…

So, Nige is back after his 5 month QT exile and if first impressions are anything to go by then he’s all hopped up to the nines on either a) green room booze, b) unshakeable self-belief or c) a mixture the two. Why do I say this? Well, the shouting was a bit of a giveaway (“They never tamed me!”) but most of all it was just how relentless he was in making the point that I Am None Of The Above (And I Am Most Definitely Not Grant Shapps). Got a problem? Well these guys won’t help you (particularly Grant Shapps). They don’t care, they don’t understand, they CAN’T understand because they’re not like you and me. Sure, they’ll try to paint me as part of the establishment, but you know better. You’ve seen me with my fag and my pint. You know I’m a chancer. You know that I’m probably not that competent but you don’t care. Why? Because you’re sick of being by fobbed off by these guys. Go on, give me a vote and I’ll tell them to naff off.

It’s not the most sophisticated message but it’s effective and very tricky to counter (as evidenced by the rest of the panel’s inability to decisively knobble him). The problem is that sometimes it works too well and last night might just have been one of those occasions. Allow me to explain:

Nigel Farage’s greatest gift is The Knowing Wink that he appends to every interaction – that look on his face that says ‘I know! I can’t believe I’m getting away with it either!’ (see Fig. 1). That’s the thing that we can relate to in Farage, the inner-blagger in all of us that cackles heartily when we’re given too much change or accidentally jump a queue. The problem last night was that The Knowing Wink was being subtly overpowered by The Prospect of Success: You could just see it on his face – he’d caught a whiff of his own hype and quite liked the smell. That gave his delivery this certainty and – dare I say it – a tinge of mania that made it all just a little scary.

Nigel Farage Ladbrokes

Fig. 1

This is a problem because Farage’s entire pitch (and thus by extension UKIP’s) has been that he’s just like us despite the fact that he patently isn’t and the thing that makes that pitch work is The Knowing Wink. Lose that and what have you got? Well, funny you should mention that because the bit on Grant Shapps is about to start.

How not to blag…

Ha! I’ve waited a long time to say this – Grant Shapps is now officially a busted flush and the proof of it is in just how thoroughly trounced he was by Farage last night. Seriously, it was embarrassing at times, watching him try to referendum his way out of the corner the Tories have painted themselves in to but no-one was buying it. And why weren’t they buying it? Because Shapps’ brand of blagging is an entirely different strain to Farage’s and an ugly one at that.

The main problem Shapps has is that his face just seems to constantly militate against sincerity and always ends up coming to a rest in a smug little pout – not a good look at the best of times but doubly so when you’re being taken to the cleaners by the closest thing politics has to Alan Partridge. However, the real kicker is how that look reflects on us, the blaggee. It says ‘I’m taking you for a ride because I’m better than you. Because I hold you in contempt.’. You don’t get that with Farage (who quite frankly seems delighted that anyone’s paying attention to him at all) and when you stack it up next to Shapps’ list of past offences, it becomes clear that it’s going to take more than just cheap beer and bingo to sort it all out.

It’s all coming up Umunna…

A good innings from Chuka last night and one that was aided greatly by both AstraZenica and Nigeria being on the agenda. However, it wasn’t all luck as the Europe question could have gone just as badly for the Red Team as it did the Blue Team had Chuka not been so on the ball when it came to denying Farage the space to make mischief. It’s also personally heartening because I can end up getting quite cross with Umunna for over thinking things and getting hobbled by hesitancy. Not last night though so pointy-points for the Ridiculously Good Looking man in the Red Corner.

Shirley’s bid to outlive Questionable Time…

I can just see me in 40 years time looking at this crap netbook of mine and wondering just what the hell I’m going to say about Shirley Williams after her 10,000 QT appearance. Seriously, she was knocking on a bit when I started doing this but now she’s properly old and still shows no signs of slowing down apart from isolated senior moments (the “country of Asia” anyone?). But still, I won’t complain when that day comes because despite over familiarity, there is an enduring appeal to watching a very forthright woman tell everyone off in turn before conjuring up some anecdote about the mid-20th century. Consistency: There’s a lot to be said for it.

If claps translated in to votes…

Then surely Caroline Lucas would be Queen. Alas, it appears that this not the case and despite a) a very solid performance and b) dressing up as a Christmas present I’m not predicting a Green landslide any time soon. In fact it’s almost like we’ve friendzoned the Greens, telling them how much we love their progressive policies but never actually taking them to the ball. That must be a pretty galling thing to deal with, particularly when they see us getting out of the limo with that weird kid from UKIP. Stay strong Caroline, there’s plenty more fish in the sea.

Tl;dr

Farage: 6/10

High (as a kite)

Shapps: 3/10

(The end is) Nigh

Umunna: 7/10

Aye

Williams: 6/10

(Still surprisingly) Spry

Lucas: 7/10

(Must wonder) Why (the Greens get such a raw electoral deal)

The Crowd: 7/10

(Were pretty) Fly

Well, there you go – a messy affair in which Farage nearly overdosed on himself and Shirley Williams finally took on the form of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. That’ll do for me.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #14


questionable time 14 david dimbleby

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tl;dr

Warsi: 5/10

Learning

Twigg: 6/10

Earning (his dinner last night)

Lucas: 6/10

Turning (out to be pretty good)

Greer: 6/10

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

Moore: 7/10

Concerning(ly good)

The Crowd: 6/10

Gurning (from exposure to weapons grade tartan)

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

stephen-twigg-caroline-lucas-fishing-sandwich

Fig. 1

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #40


question time david dimbleby chris bryant 40

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

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

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

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

ming campbell simon huges throwing nick clegg

Fig. 1

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

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

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

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

Tl;dr

Warsi: Improved

6/10

Hughes: Approved

7/10

Bryant: Removed

5/10

Lucas: Unmoved

6/10

MacKenzie: Screwed

4/10

The Crowd: Booed

7/10

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



Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #28


Morning Lemmings and praise be: I finally feel better. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for my telly which has been afflicted by a nasty SCART (the most hateful connector ever devised by evil scientists) related disorder and consequently, everything I watch is now washed in an eery green hue, as if I’m peering through the sides of a dirty fishtank (I’ve rejigged this week’s title picture to try to convey just how unsettling this effect is). SCART related prattle aside, this week’s Question Time is somewhat of a biggy, what with all the Comprehensive Spending Review business going on and considering it was taking place in Middlesbrough (which I will from here on in refer to as MBro as I don’t like typing ‘Middlesbrough’… It makes me say ‘Middlesbruff’ in my head and that just sounds silly), I was expecting fireworks. Was this the case? Well, let’s just see.

The Menu

Q1: How can the government talk of fairness with cuts that’ll devastate the poor, the unemployed and the disabled?

Q2: Will the cuts push Mbro over the edge?

Q3: Britain used to rule the waves. Why are we now dependent on our NATO allies?

Q4: How come the banks are getting away with it when everyone else suffers?
In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Phillip Hammond, Secretary of State for Transport and multimillionaire.
Man, does Phillip Hammond look washed out. Seriously, I feel about 60 years old every time I look at him, what with that grey suit, that dishwater tint that hangs on him and those sad-looking, downward slanting eyelids. Not only that, but the way he presents himself is equally as soul sapping as he appears to be running a pretty hefty charisma deficit and seems to approach politics in a rather mundane, by-the-numbers sort of way. Obviously, there must be something going for Hammond as he’s managed to climb pretty high up the ranks of the Conservative party and has amassed quite the private fortune along the way. But whatever ‘that’ is, it’s a mystery to me and I was quite surprised to see him on tonight, given that there was a fair chance it could turn into a bloodbath. Then I thought about the alternatives: Lansley? His department’s had some good news which would give him a veneer of protection, but that timeshare spiv look that he’s got is too much of a liability given the circumstances. Gove? Again, good news for his department, but he’s a true believer and true believers can sound quite mad, which isn’t exactly great at a time like this. IDS? He’s a pretty good performer these days, but circumstances rule him out, what with benefits taking such a big hit. May? Nah, she’s a QT liability and 20% cuts to the police force are hardly going to endear her to the public. And Clarke? Ha! Not a chance! He’s way too capable of independent thought. So with all that in mind, maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to send Hammond on. After all, at least his department had some good news and while he’s hardly going to inspire the general public and put a song in their hearts, at least he’s dull enough to not cock anything up too majorly. So yes, I’m chalking him up as a counter intuitive canny pick.

Performance wise though, it was a really odd bag and one that can be largely summed as ‘Blame Labour’. Now, no one in their right mind would contest the fact that Labour did some pretty piss poor things in their time and it’s part of the game that any new government blames those that went before them. However, when it becomes the cornerstone of your narrative it starts to lose potency and very rapidly at that. This was clearly the case last night as every question Hammond answered on the night was loaded with huge quantities of ‘Blame Labour’ and at first, it worked, garnering some reasonable applause in the early stages. However, by Q2 it had started to sound like a mantra and there was even an outburst of booing when he wheeled it out again in Q3, making him look like a bit of a prat along the way. That said, he did have a few other tricks up his sleeve, notably his hammering of the ‘Fairness’ line in Q1 (describing the cuts as “the opposite of wicked”), but again, this didn’t hit the mark and felt much more like a regurgitation of spoon fed platitudes than any sort of heartfelt plea for understanding. Later attempts to highlight the positives of the North East’s economy in Q2 ended with mixed results as he got some crowdlove for mentioning Nissan, but this gain was later reversed when he said that Sunderland was growing strongly and everyone laughed at him (something which also happened in Q4 when he said in his ‘cross’ voice that the government were going to force the banks to sign the code of conduct). However, the real kicker for the night was when an enterprising member of the audience bought up the small subject of the Dispatches report that said he’d been a bit cheeky with his tax arrangements. Dismissing this as “unfounded inuendo”, he was then forced by Dimbers to admit that he had transferred shares to his wife. Jeering ensued and his dignity was the first casualty of the night.

Now, on paper, that looks terrible, but I have to admit that it could have been much, much worse. Yes, there was nothing to really commend his performance, but he did stick in there and there was some support for the Tory viewpoint, despite the fact that they’ve just announced cuts that sound even worse than the ones that originally gutted the North East in the first place. So, although I’m giving him a fairly crap mark for being generally nondescript and lacklustre, I’m also going to chuck one more on purely for the fact that anyone clapped him at all. Given the circumstance, that has to be worth something.

A dingy 4/10

In The Red Corner: John Denham, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Iraq War resigner of note.
Whilst I was doing my prefunctory google of tonight’s panelists, it occurred to me that John Denham is something of a conundrum. On the one hand, he’s been about for ages, sitting in government (and heading up some pretty hefty departments) since 1997 and he’s also been a regular face on our TV’s. Yet for the life of me, I can’t remember a single thing that he has said or done and I even needed reminding about his resignation over the war (which is the sort of thing I would remember). So what’s going on here? Is he a forgettable person? Well no, not really. He speaks well, looks comfortable in his own skin and smiles rather a lot, although not in a disingenuous sort of way. Does he have a history of buggering things up? Not really. Sure, he was a member of a government that ended up being wildly unpopular, but his credentials are pretty clean, doubly so as he at least he had the gumption to resign over the Iraq. So what is it? Well, it might just be that he’s a congenital klutz. It’s not his fault, it’s just that whatever he does and no matter how hard he tries, it just ends up not working quite as expected.

This tendency was apparent right from the start last as he attempted quiet a deft little maneuver in Q1. Faced with Hammond’s ‘Blame Labour’ line of attack, he didn’t go straight for denial and tried to reframe the argument around the fact that things would be an awful lot worse if Labour hadn’t borrowed money. The execution seemed fine, but somehow a sneaky little line from Hammond about Labour borrowing before the crisis derailed it and he was suddenly on the defensive again, flailing about quite badly until he managed to cobble together a half-hearted stab about growth being downgraded. That seemed to knock his confidence and he then took a backseat for most of the show, although he did land a good Forgemasters related punch in Q2 and also came across as quite genuine in Q4 when he admitted Labour hadn’t exactly been angels.

In many ways, Denham represents the flip side to Hammond’s performance in that he should have done really quite well tonight, but only just about managed to hold it together. Like last week’s Red Team outing, some of this is down to Labour not really knowing where they are right now, but I also can’t help thinking that Denham is in some way cursed. In theory, he’s got all the attributes that were required to make last night an easy win, but yet he didn’t and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. Highly puzzling.

A strangely lacking 5/10
In The Green Corner: Caroline Lucas MP, leader of the Green party and Link (of Zelda fame) lookalike (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Poor old Caroline. The Greens have spent an eternity trying to get someone into parliament and were no doubt hoping to play on their novelty value to advance their agenda as best they could. Unfortunately for them though, they didn’t reckon on a coalition government sending the novelty ratings into outer space and as a consequence, the Greens are now even more of a sideshow than they were in the first place. Bad luck there Caroline, bad luck. However, she did get to cash in some of her hard-earned democratically elected chips tonight as the LibDems are nowhere to be seen. Whether this was by their design, I do not know, but they must be breathing a collective sigh of relief as I can hardly envisage an eager queue of yellow tied volunteers, champing at the bit to be bollocked by the general public.

Anyhoo, back to Lucas. As always, it was a very straight forward but largely good performance that I’m not going to dwell on too much as she’s already had plenty said of her in previous Match Reports. By and large, it was pretty textbook ‘to the left of [insert party here]’ stuff that was well received and harvested much applause. The one thing I did notice that was slightly different from usual was that she was really going at a rate of knots last night, reeling off huge lists of the potential harm in the cuts and even going so fast that her voice got squeaky at one point. Still, it was fairly assured sounding stuff and out of all the party political opponents, she clearly won. So good marks for you Caroline and I’ll see you the next time the LibDems can’t be bothered/aren’t allowed to show up.

The standard 6/10
In The Khaki Corner: General Sir Richard Dannatt, former Chief of the General Staff and meddlesome soldier.
I think it’s fair to say that as a breed, generals are pretty odd. Some of this I put down the fact that they spend most of their time devising ways to kill people, whilst the rest is probably due to having to spend your life in fancy dress, hardly something that promotes sanity. But yes, in the main they are an odd bunch. However, there is an even odder breed and those are political generals. Some countries absolutely beam off them, like America for example. They’ve had their Washingtons, their Grants, Eisenhowers and may someday have a Petraeus, but on the whole, we’ve spurned them as being simply too odd and even a little bit dangerous. Dannatt however, appears not to have received the memo stating these facts and last year, he made all sorts of noises about becoming a Tory advisor (with an eye towards a peerage and a seat in the cabinet) only to discover that Brown was going to everything in his power to stop this. And stop it he did, but Dannatt, although somewhat out on a limb, is still about and is pretty much the go-to guy for the media should they ever wish to indulge in some defence related mudraking… or Question Time appearances just after the Strategic Defence Review.

In actual fact, Dannatt turned out to be a bit of a damp squib, fudging his response to Q3 into an exercise in fence-sitting, whilst his response to all the other questions seemed well-meaning, but with a hint of unspoken paternalism that stopped people from getting behind him. And that’s the problem with political generals: They only really get anywhere if they win something big. As it stands, we’re as about as far away from a ‘win’ in Afghanistan as we ever were and trying to paint Iraq as any sort of victory is just self evidently wrong, so I’m afraid your out of luck on that front, General Sir Richard Dannett. I’d stick to the fancy dress and killing people if I was you.

A very middling 5/10

In The Brainy/Independent Corner: Polly Toynbee, Head Girl of the left leaning commentariat and bete noir of the right leaning commentariat.
Oh Polly, Polly, Polly… Back in 2007, everything was looking so good for you. Blair (who you warned us was up to no good) finally got the boot, your man Brown (who you told us was up to some very good things) got in and we could all look towards a gilded future of flying cars and Post Neo Classical Endogenous Growth Theory. Unfortunately, things started going very sideways, very quickly after that as it turned out that Brown wasn’t quite the political whizz you made him out to be and before long, you too were calling for his head on a plate. The unfortunate effect of this was that all that credibility you built up over the years started to ebb and it wasn’t long before you yourself were considered to be politically damaged goods. Sure, you never really had any fans on the right but after ‘Brown FTW!/Brown Sucks!’ saga, the left also began to turn on you and things started looking a little dicey.

Actually, I think that this turn of events is a bit of a shame as I do have time for Toynbee. She does genuinely care about fairness and while she’s been sort of bracketed as the left’s version of Melanie Phillips (albeit with a little more going on upstairs), I don’t think that’s entirely justified, as was in evidence last night. Take Q1: Here, she tried to get the point across that these cuts will be very damaging for Mbro but got ambushed by Dimbers asking whether it was Labours fault. When she said that this “wasn’t entirely true” the crowd turned on her and she started looking rattled, aware that she is seen as a cheerleader for the party and that this is not a good thing. This is where she’s different from the big name right-wing commentators because they would have ploughed on regardless, oblivious to the notion that they could be wrong. Toynbee sort of attempted that, but you could see doubt and hesitation in her, as if she knew and was bothered by the fact that people didn’t believe her. Would this happen to Phillips? Fuck no! Phillips would have barely broken a sweat and would be right back at the audience, shouting at them until they were too shell-shocked to offer any resistance and would then move on to call for someone (probably in the public sector) to be tarred and feathered. Toynbee though, is more vulnerable than that.

That’s not to say that she didn’t have good moments and points were made that the crowd liked, but when they were they took a long time to get going and any moves in the right direction always appeared slightly fraught and wobbly. As I said before, I think this is shame because there’s a lot to like in Toynbee’s views and I think she does what she does for the right reasons. But something is just not quite right with her at the moment. I don’t know if it’s that she feels genuinely haunted by her relationship with New Labour or that she’s just sick of always getting it in the neck, but yes, it’s an odd thing to witness. Then again, she has probably been exposed to quite toxic levels of Peter Mandelson back in the day and that really can’t be good for you.

A troubled 5/10
In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: George Pascoe Watson: Former Murdoch man and ex of Kate Burley.
I don’t know much about Pascoe-Watson except for the fact that it’s nearly impossible to say his name without sounding really posh. Try it: “Hellooooooooo…. my name is George Pascooooooooooe-Watson”. See? Posh. You can, if you try quite hard and throw in a few words here and there, jiggle it over to an almost Westcountry type lilt (“A’right moi luver, George Pasco-Whaaaatson ‘ere!”) but it’s a bit of a stretch and there’s far more mileage to be had in ridiculing the rich. Anyhoo, George Pascoe-Watson. I don’t really know much about the guy except that he used to be political editor of The Sun and seems to hold News International approved views on most things in life. Consequently, most answers were along the lines of ‘private good/public bad ‘ and ‘stuff that could potentially hurt sun readers is bad’, but he did manage to sneak a little fib into Q1 by saying that our national debt was just basically paying foreigners (when actually 80% of it is held by British people and institutions). In terms of audience response, he did OK, getting a fair old portion of the crowd behind him, but you know what? I just got the feeling that I didn’t like him that much. In my mind’s eye, I can see us sitting next to each other on a plane, heavily engaged in an undeclared but very real battle for the armrest. Neither of us would back down, nor we utter a single word. Instead, we’d just sit there, quietly fuming under a tidal wave of rage that was building in us both. For 23 hours. We’re flying to Australia for some reason. I’ll shut up now.

A forgettable 5/10

The Crowd: MBro

As expected, this was a lively episode, but not for the reasons I had anticipated. I was pretty sure that given it’s location and scale of the cuts, there would have been a very heavy anti coalition feeling in the air. However, it wasn’t that clear-cut and if I had to sum up this episode in a word, it would be ‘messy’. Yes, arguments from the left did seem to go down a better than the ones from the right, but not by the margin I had predicted and no one got a free ride on the night. There was also a sense that Labour have an uphill battle in getting people to forgive the mistakes of the last 13 years and that the Tories are succeeding in framing the debate around Labour’s ‘deficit denial’ (a clever bit of politics and one that Ed Miliband really needs an effective counter to). However, the coalition also have a big problem with the plan for growth and if this episode was anything to go by, people are less than convinced that private sector is going to ride to the rescue and rather frightened by the seeming absence of a Plan B.

As for the crowd themselves, they were very vocal and there was some genuine anger in the room, especially from some guy with a side parting who looked like he’d spent the last 24 hours winding himself up so that he could be super angry on the show. Audience Member of the Week however, goes to the gentleman with the bow tie. I haven’t got a clue what he said as I was too busy writing down ‘OMG! GUY WITH BOW TIE!!!!!!!’ but he was a welcome addition to the show and I hope very much that others will emulate this look on future episodes. I like seeing guys with bow ties. I always think they’re either going to perform a magic trick, cure cancer or bring me something really nice to eat, all of which I approve of. More of this, plz.

A fractious 7/10

Ok, that’s you’re lot. Please feel free to get back to fearing for your jobs. Good times!

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #20


Ye Gads!

Morning Lemmings and rejoice! Summer has finally started looking like summer ought to after what seems to be decades, we are still tentatively in the World Cup and Civ 5 is set for release in October. Enjoy that rejoicing? Good, because that’s all the rejoicing you’re going to get to from here to eternity according to our new masters. Remember that state you loved so much? Gone. Kaput. Can’t afford it any more. And that pesky VAT that you didn’t love? Well, it’s now gone meta and is all up in your face, raining on your parade. So kiss goodbye to all you hold dear and beckon forth that last remaining vestige of days gone by. Welcome, once more, to Question Time.

The Menu:

Q1. Is it right to describe the budget as ‘fair’ with the increase in VAT and whatnot?

Q2. If the cuts are ratified, is it the beginning of the end for the LibDems?

Q3. Will we have to work until 70 to protect someone else’s gold plated pension?

Q4. Is Obama’s ego dictating ISAF military policy?

Q5. In a week of cuts, do you think Free Schools are a wise use of funds?

In The Yellow Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and performer of epic U-turns.

The Heresy of St. Vince


And so it was that in the year of our Lord 2007, a great calamity befell the earth and the gold lenders rained hellfire upon the heads of men. Through the fire and smoke emerged a man of great wisdom and humility who said unto the people “Behold! Your market! It is knackered!”. His name (for it is the name of a man) was St. Vince of Cable (seeeth Figeth. 1eth) and although without power, he had the ears of the people.

Figeth. 1eth

“You’re banks. Give them unto me and I will make a heaven on earth!” said St Vince and the people cheered, for it was good.

“You’re taxes. Let me spendeth them on infrastructure and createth jobs!” said He, and this too was good… So good that even Jerramiah of Paxman could not harsheth his buzz.

And lo, it was that he laid out his vision in the Gospel of St Vince and the people cheered for in this Gospel they saw their salvation.

Yet dark forces were at play and in 2010AD he madeth a pact with his sworn enemies, The Toryites of Homecountia. The people, confused by this cruel twist of fate tugged at their forelocks and cried to the skies for they did not know the nature of the Chimera before them. Maddened and harried by Boy George of Osbonia’s Plague of Cuts, they knelt before St. Vince and beseeched him to temper Osbonia’s fury.

“Verily, I hath” said St Vince unto the huddled masses, but convinced they were not.
“I would protecteth you more so, but I have a terror over the plight of the Grecians and the Spaniards” spake St. Vince, but still, the people doubted his word and thusly did they turneth on him and ripeth up their membership scrolls for the Liberals of Democratia.

To be thusly continued…

So that was fun, but within lies a serious point: Does Vince Cable actually believe what he’s saying these days? He’s certainly struggled to look like he’s totally signed up to Osborne’s Brave New World and in recent media appearances, he’s been wearing this slightly guilty/hangdog expression like a puppy who’s just shat in your bed and is aware that this is a very bad thing to do. However, after this episode, I’m not so sure.

Q1 pretty much set the tone of the evening and after a by-the-numbers roughing up from Balls, St. Vince responded with a by-the-numbers defence (‘we are protecting everyone/Labour left everything in a bloody mess’). This earned mild applause, but not half as much as when Balls got very personal about his rather dramatic change of economic heart and forced Cable into a now weary “firestorm running through Southern Europe” defence. Pretty much everyone bundled in after that and in terms of audience response, he very much found himself on the wrong side of the fence. However, he did appear to look quite steadfast in his convictions and I got the sense that he either does genuinely believes this stuff, or that Osborne had a sniper watching him. Much the same followed in Q2 as he gingerly picked his way through the minefield that is Simon Hughes’ recent comments and then unfurled the banner of “national emergency” once more. But again, it failed to find much warmth from the crowd and he seemed to cut a lonely figure (although that Brent guy… more on him later… seemed to have his back). Q3 saw him scolding Balls’ “wilfully misleading answers” quite effectively, but it wasn’t long before he started muddling about and resorting to talk of ‘proposals’ and ‘consultations’ with regards to pensions, none of which was carried off that convincingly. However, there was a reversal of fortunes in Q4 as he cunningly sidestepped the issue by choosing to invoke the “illegal” Iraq war instead of Afghan war and did so with a very gruff looking face. That went down a treat and for a brief moment, he bathed in the fuzzy warmth of audience acclaim. However, it was not to last and he trailed off on Q5 by asking “what’s wrong with pushy middle class parents?” and then looked a little blank when nobody bothered dignifying that with an answer. All in all, a rather fraught affair.

Going back to the original point, is Vince being straight with us when he says he really has had a change of heart? Well, I have to say that I really don’t know. He certainly doesn’t look particularly comfortable in his new role as Bearer Of Shit News, but he seems less knackered and a little more resolute in his delivery than he was a few weeks back. Whether this is a byproduct of a genuine Damascene Conversion, or a fairly impressive turn of ‘needs must’ deception I honestly couldn’t tell you, but considering both outcomes are pretty bad news, I can’t say it fills me with hope. Watch this space for further developments in the Parable of St. Vince.

An unholy 4/10


In The Red Corner: Ed Balls, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Labour leadership contender and electoral hemlock.
Ah Balls, still ploughing relentlessly on, eh? From his previous outings, we’ve already established that he’s pretty rubbish at telling convincing porkies, but now he’s in opposition (and thus might not have to lie with such regularity) has anything changed? In a word, ‘no’ and if this episode is anything to go by, he’s just as clumsy as he ever was, much like a burglar who dresses in black and white stripes, carries a bag that says ‘Swag’ and leaves signed photos of himself along with all his pertinent details at the scene of every crime he commits. Now I don’t mean to say that he’s stupid, as everything he did on the show was pretty much Politics 101 and if I was in his shoes, I’d be pressing the same buttons, but the way in which he does it is just so overt and blatant that it totally lacks finesse.

Take Q1: This pretty much added up to ‘divide and rule’ with a special focus on St. Vince and his new found belief system. This is the angle that any opposition MP worth their salts would take (after all, the Libs are the weak link in the coalition chain), but a more sophisticated operator would have at least indulged in a spot of Damning With Faint Praise. Not Balls, oh no. Instead, he just went for the sledgehammer approach and might as well have just started shouting “YOU’RE GOIN HOME IN FACKING AMBULANCE” at Cable. Q2 wasn’t quite as brutal and he did show some nouse in bringing up the Orange Book divide within the Libs without getting too rabid while Q3 failed to provoke any major scuffles. Later on, there was nearly an outbreak of nuance as he started off quite even handedly on the Afghan issue, but luckily for fans of Schoolyard Politics, he traded any intellectual high ground he might of gained for a grubby little swipe at Liam Fox. Finally, with the end in sight, he got very hot under the collar about Free Schools, called the Libs “stooges” and then completely overreached in his final sentence by calling the scheme “unfair, uncosted and deeply… deeply… erh”. That’s right Ed, you wanted to say ‘unfair’ again, but realised at the last minute that you’d already said it. n00b!!!111!

So yes, that was Balls and it was all pretty standard, given his past form: Thoroughly pugnacious and belligerent. However, I will give him this: He does have remarkable tenacity. Despite being one the most tainted politician in Britain and one who’s associated only with the bad bits of New Labour, he still seems to believe that he can pull it all back and finally get his hands on the leadership. Clearly, this is not going to happen, but I have to admire his either remarkable capacity for absorbing punishment and complete disconnection from reality.

A relentlessly average 5/10

In The Green Corner: Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavillion Leader of the Green Party and elfin soy champion.
So, it’s Caroline Lucas’ Major Label Début! No longer slumming it in the 4th panellist position, she’s now a fully paid up member of the political classes and thusly entitled a stab in Seat #3. Now, I know that I tend to hammer the music analogies rather frequently, but you’ll have to forgive me this time because a) it was just too hard to resist, b) coming up with different analogies every week is bloody hard work and c) I still think my New Labour/Weezer rant is the best damn thing I’ve ever written. Anyhoo, it’s her first time as a proper MP and with that comes risks. Will she be able to hold onto her indie cred and keep things subterranean enough to hold on to her fan base (a la Jawbreaker’s Dear You), or will the demands of mass marketing dilute her sound and lead to accusations of selling out (a la Against Me’s New Wave)?

Well, the first track in her new EP started promisingly enough with fierce attacks on both Labour and the Coalition (plus use of “a plague on both your houses”. I love that phrase) and an attack on the bankers to wrap it off (which is the political equivalent of a key change). A good opener and well received by all. However, as is often the case with new musical directions, tracks 2 through 4 didn’t really hit the spot and sounded distinctly like fillers. There was a bit of an uptick when she got in a fight with Brent Whatshisface, but generally speaking, it was pretty mediocre. Luckily, she had managed to save a little something for the last track, which had a great “it will further segregate the system” chorus, but I have to say that the verse could have been better. Still, not bad for what could have been a very tricky record.

So yes, Caroline did ok and when she did get in her stride, it was easy to get behind her. Next time though, a slightly more consistent record would be nice.

A Less Than Jake of a 6/10

In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Peter Hitchens, Mail columnist and general purpose sourpuss.

Peter Hitchens is a paeleoconservative and I bloody love the word ‘paeleoconservative’. Go on, say it out loud… ‘pay-lee-o-con-serv-ativ’. See how it positively slides off your tongue? That’s some good linguistic shit you’ve right got there. Aside from liking the word, I’ve also got a bit of a softspot for paeleoconservatives and this largely boils down to the fact that you can be completely sure where you are with them. Unlike neoconservatives (or ‘neos’ of any ilk…liberal, fascist, Marxist, whatever. All ‘neos’ tend to be dangerous nutters), paeleoconservatives wear their intentions on their sleeve, see the world in slightly more complex terms and are pretty forthright when it comes to being angry about pretty much everything. In a nutshell, their beliefs can be summed up thusly: If it’s new, it’s probably bad while if it’s old, it’s probably good. That’s somewhat of a simplification, but you get the gist.

So anyway, Hitchens is a paeleoconservative and as a result, he hated everything everybody else stood for and didn’t try to disguise this in anyway, shape or form. Right from the get-go, he laid into all the parties and mourned the fact there wasn’t an “exaggeration contest in the Olympics” because we’d win. Very drole Peter, very drole. Q’s 2 and 3 contained little of note, but he got very irate in Q4, frothing about the fact that neither Monty nor the Duke of Wellington knocked about with the dirty cotton hippies who write for Rolling Stone. Hot on the heels of this was some assorted humbuggery about the war in general, a bizarre little tangent about opium poppies in Oxfordshire and general ‘pull your socks up’ type rantings, all of which was very well received. Finally, he got to bash the “pushy middle class” and big-up grammar schools in Q5 and that was that… everyone got a telling off.

The slightly more tribal part of me always wants to mark Hitchens down, mainly because I rarely agree with a word he says. However, what separates him from the slightly more turgid contributors to The Mail is that he’s not shrill with it. Yes, he’s a grumpy, misanthropic dark cloud who hasn’t got a good thing to say about anything, but there seems to be a fatalistic acceptance in him that this is because people are shit and that you can’t really change them. The important bit in that sentence is the ‘change’ bit, because it means that people like Hitchens tend not to do anything too apocalyptic or completely batshit crazy, unlike their ‘neo’ brethren who are fully signed up to apocalyptic batshit (check out John Gray’s brilliant Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia if this sort of stuff sounds up your street It will twist your mind inside out). He’s also got a pretty good way with words, even if all the words are doom laden harbingers of woe and misery. For that, he gets a decent mark.

A hell in a handcart 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Brent Hoberman, joint founder of lastminute.com and WhoTheFuckExactly.AreYou?

So this is Brent… Brent Hoberman to be precise and you know what? I don’t like him. Let’s start with the obvious: He’s called Brent. In my book, ‘Brent’ equates to one of three things: Some place in Essex, crude oil or geese and since I’m not a particular fan of any of these entities, that’s already a black mark against him. Apparently, Brent warrants a QT appearance because not only did he co-found lastminute.com with Martha Lane Fox (MLF, dontchaknow?), he also advises the Tory party on business type things. Now I know that you can end up in Seat #5 on the ropiest of pretexts, but for the above? Srsly? It’s not like he invented the bloody internet or anything. Finally, I don’t like him because he was rubbish. Pretty much every answer he gave during the show can be summed up as ‘Aren’t the Coalition a wonderful bunch?’ and ‘Isn’t the free market just so chuffing great?’. Fine. We get it. You’re one of these shiny New Tory types who knock about in Notting Hill and wax lyrical about how ‘totally amazing’ Glasto was but come on, get some more opinions man (other than “people love working when they’re older!”)! Enough. I’m getting annoyed just writing about him.

A failed start up of a 2/10

The Crowd: Canary Wharf

Yes! The game’s back on! After a fairly mixed bag of episodes where people were agreeing with each other far too much, the Budget has propelled Question Time back to it’s natural habitat: The dark, satanic jungle that’s red and tooth and claw. As always with the Canary Wharf audience, they were an odd, rootless bunch, but they were also pretty vocal and the weight of opinion seemed to just about fall on the ‘this Budget was unfair’ side of the line. That’s not to say it was all one-way traffic and the Coalition did find some friends in their ranks, but by and large, the mood was largely anti. Audience members of note include a guy with a beard who did some lovely chin stroking, the woman who set Brent straight by pointing out that most people really don’t want to work when they’re old and a goggle eyed Sting lookalike who rightly pointed out how weird it is to see St. Vince tacking to the right of Hitchens. Good show Canary Wharf, good show.

A return to form of a 7/10

Ok. I’m done. I hear it will be sunny this weekend. Enjoy it before it’s subjected to 25% cuts.


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 109 other followers

April 2017
M T W T F S S
« Oct    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

RSS Feed


%d bloggers like this: