Posts Tagged 'Caroline Spelman'

Questionable Time #28


questionable time 28 david dimbleby nevermind

Good morning Lemmings and thank your lucky stars I’m writing this at all, tempted as I was to slack it off and park myself in front of the Leveson Inquiry all day. Yeah, I know it’s pretty sad that my idea of a good time is to watch in-depth legal proceedings but it’s the closest thing I have to ‘sport’ in my life. Still, let’s make the best we can of it, put on our Friday best and crank up the Questionable Time. Here’s what we learned:

 

Oldham always sets my teeth on edge.

There are some towns that know what they are about and once-upon-a-time this was the case for Oldham: It was about cotton. Sadly, it turned out that cotton is not the most faithful of suitors and since it upped-sticks for more distant shores Oldham has been left scratching its head about where it fits into the scheme of things – a predicament only made worse by the fact that the town in question is built on a series of demographic fault lines. Some of this is down to physical geography: Oldham finds itself caught between the heave of cosmopolitan Manchester to the west and ho of the provincial Pennines to the east but the main problem comes from the fact it contains two very distinct communities who’ve never quite managed to, well, make a proper go of it with each other. That these two entities have been rubbing uncomfortably up against each other is nothing new but it wasn’t so much of a problem when the cracks could be papered over with a plentiful supply of jobs. However the brutal truth is that there aren’t very many jobs in Oldham nor have there been for a very long time. Given the above, what could be more emotionally charged than a question about race and child abuse? I reached for my tin hat…

 

Thankfully it seems that – despite a few tense moments – cooler heads prevailed and rather than a spittle-flecked punch-up we actually saw quite a searching debate from the crowd last night. Sure, I nearly jumped behind the sofa when I heard the dread phrase ‘I’m not a racist but…’ and the incident with the vicar (note to vicars everywhere: Never use the words ‘lust’ and ‘children’ within 500 miles of each other) looked like it could have gone very sideways, very quickly but by and large things remained mostly civil. That’s a pretty good sign given that only three or four years ago you could guarantee to see at least one person making clear their intention to vote for the BNP. So well done Oldham, it’s still not an entirely comfortable thing to watch you guys trying to hash things out but it’s getting there. Keep it up.

 

I’m not entirely sure what Chris Bryant was up to.

I like Chris Bryant. He’s rhetorically athletic, does a good line in sincerity and frequently looks like he’s up to no good, all of which makes him a solid QT performer and out of all the political panelist he put in the best turn last night. However, there were a couple of flies in the ointment, one being that his balance got jiggered in the home straight when an otherwise innocuous looking member of the audience accused him of looking smug, the other being the weird tension between himself and Lord Oakeshott. Now I’m no political strategist but if I had been Bryant my game plan would have been pretty simple: Oakeshott is clearly not on board with this coalition business and it looks increasingly likely that he’s going to go outright rogue in the foreseeable future. Consequently all I have to do is make it easy for him to plant a knife squarely between the shoulders of government, sit back and enjoy the fireworks. As it happens, Oakeshott didn’t need any external encouragement to start getting busy with the sedition and while he merrily poured scorn on his notional partners in government all that Bryant really needed to do was lay down a bit of suppressing fire to aid him in this endeavour. But he didn’t. In fact, rather than lending him assistance towards their shared end Bryant took it upon himself to have a pop at Oakeshott who then retaliated in kind by bringing up the matter of Labour’s economic record. I don’t know, it may be that they just genuinely don’t like each other or that Labour really are hellbent on the humbling of the Lib Dems but I can’t help thinking that this was a bit of a tactical blunder and one which took the sheen off an otherwise polished performance. Still, at least Bryant can take solace in the fact that he’s escaped being photoshopped this week. He just makes it too easy. There’s no challenge when the source material is this good.

 

And the rest of them?

First off, Mary Beard totally gets how to do the 5th panelist thing and it’s not rocket science as to how she does it. It’s based around two key ingredients: Honesty and sticking to what you know. Granted, the honesty component is contingent on having a reasonable outlook on life (try as might I can’t exactly envisage a clamour for more honesty from David Starkey) but providing it looks like you believe what you’re saying, you’re half way there. However, honesty counts for nothing if the audience ever get wind of the fact that you may be trying to blag something you don’t really know about so it’s imperative that you pick your battles. Mary Beard does all of the above (‘I know nothing about economics but neither do you’) and it works brilliantly, especially when political panelists stray into her pet territory of Roman history (what were you doing Oakeshott?! Had you lost your mind?!). That, and looking like a female wizard doesn’t harm the cause either.

 

The same can’t really be said for Caroline Spelman who is unfortunately hobbled by her innate jauntiness (her picture on the pre-election Tory website is a masterclass in jaunt. See Fig. 1). Now I don’t have a problem with jaunt per se (in fact I’d go so far as to declare myself a fan of jaunt) but Spelman’s jaunt is a weird form of jaunt. It’s more muted than regular jaunt and seems to be a cover for the fact that she’s actually not sure of what to do in any given situation – like the chairperson of a village fête trying to explain away the rain. Still, at least she actually appeared to be awake unlike Peter Oborne who spent the first half of the show doing that scrunched-up eyes thing and taking us round the houses as he slowly spluttered into life. The word ‘Europe’ seemed to jolt him violently back into consciousness later on but his whole performance had this sort of juddering quality to it that I found to be quite unsettling. Oh, and the bit where Dimbers accused Spelman of being racist after she made fun of his tie? Yeah, that was nice.

caroline-spelman-projected-expectations-gif

Fig. 1

 

Tl;dr

Spelman: 4/10

(Likes the word) ‘Thrift’

 

Bryant: 6/10

(Looked a) Gift (horse in the mouth)

 

Oakeshott: 5/10

(Seemed rather) Miffed

 

Oborne: 5/10

Adrift

 

Beard: 7/10

Swift(ly carried the day)

 

The Crowd: 7/10

(Did much to up)Lift (me).

 

Aaaaaaaaand that’s that. As is intermittently customary here’s a quick reminder that you can follow Questionable Time on both Twitter and Facebook should ever feel inclined to do so. Now if you’ll excuse me I really must get down to some Levesoning. I know, I know… How can one man lead a life so packed with action and adventure? Well somehow he does.

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

 

PS: Bonus photoshop! I made a card for Clintons (see Fig. 2)!

clintons cards sorry you've gone into administration

Fig. 2

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Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #34


Morning Lemmings. So then, the traditional title picture and title itself all seem to indicate that things are back to normal at this end, right? Wrong! No Lemmings, I’m afraid to say that I’ll be messing with the format yet again, mainly in the interests of keeping these reports a little shorter and thus emancipating me from 6 hours chained to a keyboard every Friday night. As a result, those of you with strong OCD tendencies may find themselves all at sea but my advice would be to view this as a form of treatment: We’re pushing the boundaries, breaking new ground, feeling the fear and doing it anyway…this is our Brave New World. Anyway, if this sudden wrenching away of the familiar leaves you feeling out-of-sorts, please feel free to let me know but if you couldn’t give a toss (and I strongly suspect that 99.9% of you don’t) then sit back and prepare thyself for what turned out to be quite the epic Question Time last night. Welcome, Lemmings, to Burnley.

Perhaps the best way to describe last night’s Question Time is to look at it as some fraught tale of maritime woe. Imagine if you will a dingy, probably named ‘Coalition’, adrift in the ocean and occupied by the now very guilty conscience of the Liberal Democrats, Simon Hughes and the ever fishy (what with all the expenses, nannies and whatnot) Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman. Life on the Coalition isn’t that fun. Neither of them really wanted to sign up for this trip, the dingy appears to have sprung a few leaks of late and there is no disguising the fact that Hughes and Spelman clearly can’t stand each other. Nevertheless, here they are and for the most part, they at least try to make a pretence of some united front, even if that means extended bouts of lying to themselves.

But wait a second…what’s this? Two triangular fins, poking above the water and moving erratically? Clearly they were shark fins and if I’m not mistaken, they belonged to the well-known man eaters that are Gorgeous George Galloway and Malcolm Tucker Alastair Campbell! Sensing that some first class flesh tearing and access to carrion action could be in the offing, a flock of seagulls began to gather whilst another boat containing Clever Footballer (purely on account of appearing on Countdown… the bar’s pretty low, OK?) Clarke Carlisle approached from a safe distance.

I nearly went with "FUCKCHOPS"

Fig. 1

Oi! You guys down there!” squawked the gulls, “What do you think about Alan Johnson resigning and Ballsy getting the job?”

We bloody love it!” growled the sharks in unison. “Balls is just as sharky as us and he’s going to duff Osborne up good and proper! Go sharks! Go sharks! Go sharks!” Sensing that things probably aren’t too rosy when the killers of the deep circling your boat start chanting “Go sharks!”, Spelman did her best to look imposing and immediately launched into the now well-past-it’s-sell-by deficit/’living beyond means’ spiel, but failed to convince anyone that she wasn’t heading for a sticky fate in a matter of moments. Hughes however, knew that this was a doomed venture and instead tried to placate the sharks (by paying “tribute to Alan Johnson in passing”… He’s resigned Simon, he’s not dead) before bopping the marauders on the nose with a well delivered ‘Balls = Brown’ jab, much to the amusement of the seagulls.

Then something weird happened: Just as it seemed that it was only a matter of time before the good ship Coalition would be condemned to a toothy death, another onlooker (called David Starkey no less) chirped in with a question about the Iraq Inquiry and all hell broke loose. Suddenly, the sharks lost interest in mauling the Coalition and instead squared up to each other, much to the visible relief

of both Hughes and Spelman. The first to lunge was Gorgeous George who lost no time in popping open a bottle of Vintage Dastardly Rhetoric from which he poured references to “establishment stooges” and “war crimes” before climaxing with a shower of likening Tucker Campbell to “Goebbels” and “Lord Haw Haw”. This drove Tucker Campbell into a frenzied semantic defence (and a hairy moment where narrowly avoided confirming that he should stand trial if the Inquiry found him to be a big fat liar) whilst Spelman and Hughes looked on with bewildered delight. Surely these sharks are drunk! Also notable at this point was Clarke Carlisle’s first intervention (that wasn’t based on purely sports based analogies) which involved a rather impassioned tract about his cousin being in the forces and how those in power should be “held responsible”. The seagulls loved that and heartily brayed their approval before throwing him completely off-balance with a question about the NHS (“I’m not familiar with the complete mechanics”).

Sadly for Hughes and Spelman, the respite did not last and by the time the NHS question got round to Tucker Campbell, both he and Gorgeous George swiftly sobered up, dusted themselves down (if you can ‘dust yourself down’ underwater) and returned to original object of their blood lust. First up was Tucker Campbell with accusations of “broken promises” and the seagulls all bundled in, dive-bombing the coalition in formation whilst Galloway harried their flanks and got Lansley’s name wrong (“Stuart” Lansley?). Presented with this renewed onslaught Spelman did the political equivalent of clicking her heels three times whilst repeating the phrase ‘there’s no place like home’ by claiming she was delivering a “message of hope”. No-one bought it and the beasting continued. Even more interesting was Hughes who was clearly aware of how much trouble he was in and began flat-out pleading with his assailants: “I’m not a Tory!” he wailed to which Tucker Campbell replied “you’re getting there…”. Ouch.

By now, the once pristine dingy was rapidly being reduced to matchwood but worse was to come when one of the seagulls chipped in with a question about youth unemployment, driving his brethren into a maelstrom of murderous intent. Tucker Campbell got the ball rolling by shifting the argument in the direction of EMA’s but to be honest, the sharks were pretty much surplus to requirement as the gulls descended to peck out the eyes of Spelman (who was just whittering bollocks at this point) and Hughes (who finally gave up pretending that he was in any way on board with most of this and was consequently spared quite the hammering Spelman took). Broken, battered and listing heavily, the dingy managed to limp onto the final question about Oldham, but it was clear that they had only just escaped with their lives. Moments later, the gulls dispersed, the sharks got bored and went to look for something else to bite whilst Carlisle weighed anchor and pootled off into the sunset leaving Spelman and Hughes to ponder just how much fun the next four years of bailing/arguing over the freshwater/watching each other pee/mutual loathing would be. A cautionary tale if ever I heard one but a ripping yarn nevertheless.

TL;DR

Spelman: 3/10

I try very hard to be impartial, but something about her just stinks. Lucky to leave the studio alive.

Malcolm Tucker Alastair Campbell: 6/10

Yes, he’s an unrepentant ball of belligerence with a book to plug and possibly a war criminal too, but you have to admire just quite how proficient he is in the Dark Arts.

Hughes: 5/10

A valiant and spirited effort, but it’s actually rather disturbing to watch a man rend his soul apart on live television.

Gorgeous George: 7/10

Pompous and self-serving rabble-rouser that he is, it has to be said that he still represents Question Time Value For Money on a par with Farage.

Clarke Carlisle: 6/10

Actually quite good, despite the nervous start, occasional manglings of his own arguments and inherent sportiness. Kind of makes me feel a little guilty for doing a sarky pshop of him (see Fig.1).

The Crowd: 9/10

A well deserved whopper of a score for the most awesome crowd I’ve seen in ages. Reet Northern, reet pissed off and reet keen to get amongst it. Burnley: Walk tall this week… you’ve bloody well-earned it.

So that’s that. If this slightly different format has left you pining for the old/enthralled by the prospect of a brighter future, feel free to let me know. Oh, and just before I go, remember how I said ages ago that Ed Balls is probably the world’s least effective liar? Well, I think I might have just found the most compelling piece of evidence to date…

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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