Posts Tagged 'Charles Kennedy'

Questionable Time #128


qt 128

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to Questionable Time, lackadaisical from Leeds! Not much else to say other than we’ll shortly be forming a coalition with Scottish Questionable Time. Look forward to our posts detailing the beauty of Glasgow. After all, they’ll be conveniently bite-sized!

Equip defence +2 shield

We get down to serious business straight away with a question on that most glamourous of topics: defence spending. Lucy Powell hesitantly takes to the stand. She’s Labour’s election campaign head honcho, so generally a behind-the-scenes person, and nice as she may well be you can definitely tell that she’s not entirely comfortable being in the spotlight to begin with. She stiltedly splutters out some stuff about ARE BRAVE BOYS and the whole mess being the fault of that nasty Georgie Porgie in Number 11.

Anna Soubry, on the other hand, comes out punching. Anna – Chortles or Miss Jolly Hockey Sticks 2015 to regular readers – is a QT regular and often seems to be experiencing some kind of perverse glee during her performances on the programme. At least, she did in this one. We’re the same, you and I, she says sternly, taunting Lucy while at the same time fending off occasional snarking from Ian Hislop, who is there to pull faces. Labour would only lead you down one road, she warns, in her fearsome turtleneck: the path of chaos! It’s got dog turds strewn all over it!

Ian finally forms a full sentence, warbling for the panel to stop with ‘the party politicals’. Pfuh, he pfuhs. This is basically the extent of his contributions tonight. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Private Eye and Ian too, but he is admittedly very easy to take the piss out of, looking like a frustrated adult baby who is perplexed by the corruptness of his rattle.

The deep and meaningful questions continue with everyone contemplating the meaning of the word ‘army’. Just what is the army for? What even is an army? We just don’t know. Possibly killing people, I’d wager. Then a sudden, worryingly Australian voice pops up from the abyss. It’s Natalie Bennett, still bruised from her disastrous interview that I don’t even want to think about anymore for more than five seconds for fear of cringing myself inside out again.

Get rid of the nukes! she says, apropos of nothing. Dimbles helpfully grills her on the most important issue at hand here, an old policy of army bases possibly being turned into nature reserves. Everybody laughs, but they could be on to something here. Why don’t we have both? Why not let ARE BRAVE BOYS frolic amidst the begonias while whacking passing deer in the head as combat practice? Meanwhile, visitors can have a picnic and enjoy the scenic sights and imminent threat of death. It’s the perfect plan.

(Meanwhile, holy shit, Charles Kennedy looks tired. Are you okay, Charlie? He must be worried about losing his seat. Poor thing. He’s like an endangered and lovable tapir.)

Gurnalition

Next up: would a Labour-SNP coalition be a betrayal to Eng-er-landers?

Chortles leaps into action – telling us that this would not just be a betrayal, but the end of the world as we know it. She looks disappointed in you, the audience, and Dimbleby himself, like your Nan telling you off for throwing up on the carpet. I must confess I am somewhat scared of Anna, especially after her being alleged to have sworn at Ed Miliband in the House that alleged one time. Allegedly. Please don’t sue me, Anna. Honestly though, she’s like Batman: the hero Westminster deserves, but not the one it needs right now. Who may put poor Lucy in a headlock.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Lucy ain’t here for that nonsense, however, and reiterates that she and her party want a majority.

“Everybody says that,” replies Dimbles. Ian Hislop leans back and gurns. Anna also gurns, and makes strange hand gestures to boot.

Ian is then kind enough to explain the history of that poster to us: the shadow of the disastrous yaoi manga couple David Owen ‘n’ David Steel looms large, and Ian’s possibly going to sue the Tories for nicking his idea. I imagine they didn’t use Nicola Sturgeon, the actual leader of the SNP, in the poster because Alex Salmond reminds voters of Shrek. He wants England to get out of his swamp.

Charlie, who hasn’t said much yet, finally gets to do a long speech. A Labour-SNP coalition, he says confidently, won’t happen because they hate each other. What, the Tories and the Lib Dems don’t? splutters Ian. A minority government may happen, Charles soldiers on, with a pact in place. I immediately think of the Lib-Lab pact of the 1970s. Then again, look how that turned out…

In conclusion: everyone’s getting betrayed! I’m betrayed! You’re betrayed! YAYYYY! Let’s get pizza.

Natalie pitches to ‘bring the railways back into public pants’. At least that’s what it sounded like, I don’t understand Australian. #no1curr #it’stheeconomystupid, hashtags Anna. Lucy looks into the camera in despair as Natalie keeps going, undeterred, slyly hinting that the Greens may support a Labour minority government on a vote-by-vote basis.

This is all too confusing. That’s why one should vote Labour and throw out any need for more confusion, nods Lucy. That’s the whole gist of her argument, to be honest. Aren’t you glad I summarised it for you?

Then a very rude man in a tosser-like suit attacks Natalie and the Greens for being DIRTY HIPPIES. He probably owns a fedora and posts libertarian memes on 4chan. See, ma, I can stereotype too! Meanwhile, according to other equally snitty members of the audience, it sounds like England and Scotland are on the brink of war. I don’t like where this is going. Let’s move on, to…

Somebody needs to tell these kids that there’s no pizza in Islamic State so what’s the point

ISIS! What fun. Thankfully most of the running time has been exhausted by now. The panel engages in a condemnation-off as opinions range from a) it isn’t up to us to baby your kids, or indeed tap their technology (Ian and Charlie), to b) these girls may have been groomed so be careful not to be too alienating (Natalie), to c) middle-of-the-road-ness (Lucy). Charlie asks what the question was again. I think we can all relate to that.

Thankfully, the audience fills us in as the panel are busy scratching their heads. A woman asks why were these girls, and others like them, not feeling involved and engaged as part of British society? Has it failed them? Uh, I’d guess so. Another woman cries that it’s all well and good to have a conversation about this subject but we need to start getting answers. Ian knows the answers: it’s because of the perception of good and evil. Black and white. Pizza and chips.

Anna surprisingly calms down and has a go at Nigel Farage (we almost managed a whole show without bringing him up!), but then both she and Ian unleash the wrath of another man in the crowd. “Please don’t nod, Conservative lady, because I’m not agreeing with you,” says he. And thus an internet hero was born. Maybe he’ll also get gifted $10,000 by Ellen DeGeneres like the girl who posted the dress meme.

Finally, JEREMY CLARKSON. But only for five minutes!

“Natalie Bennett, are you a petrolhead?” asks Dimbleby. This was a great use of our time. The most important information to arise, though, was Ian Hislop’s frankly alarming revelation that Clarkson drew blood by hitting him with a pen the last time he was on Question Time and Charles Kennedy was there to confirm it. This means that, yes, Jeremy Clarkson may be a vampire. I didn’t expect it at first but in retrospect everything now makes sense.

Chortles signs us off menacingly.

“No presenter is ever bigger than the show,” she leers, looking at Dimbleby. Ready to unleash her punishment.

Charles Kennedy has ceased to care. So say we all. Well, unless you’re one of the half a million who signed that petition, in which case…#chill.

Time for the scores!

Soubry: 7/10

Mean

Powell: 6/10

Wean(ed off her backroomer-ness)

Kennedy: 7/10

(Vented his) Spleen

Bennett: 6/10

Green (machine)

Hislop: 7/10

(Had a mischievous) Gleam (in his eyes)

The Crowd: 7/10

(Throwing eggs at the) Screen

Next time, probably more gurning.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #113


qt 113

Good morrow lemmings and a wet and windy welcome to this week’s edition of Questionable Time! One hopes the weather hasn’t spoiled your excitement for today’s event! So, without further ado and in the spirit of Bonfire Night, let’s set this place on fire. Flame on!

Behold the non-ginger DAlex

Dimbleby’s got his goldfish tie on this week so the answer to our first question – are we in crisis/a big lump of doggy doo-doo – is clearly yes.

First on the floor is Chazza Kennedy. How dare he get the show off to a great start by being sensible and likable. I won’t stand for this, on this show, my show, where one demands that all panellists be eye-twitching at least and vomit-inducing at most. But Charles ain’t into that. He thinks there’ll be another hung parliament, perhaps wishing it into being by sheer force of will, and tries to mention Nick Clegg as little as he possibly can. Excellent job Charlie. I have a feeling you’ll go far, you young rapscallion.

As Charles is busy being so rational, Dimbleby gets bored almost immediately and we jump straight to Douglas Alexander to ask him why Ed Miliband is so crap. Ed’s been having a tough week and election strategist Douglas is his first line of defence against the critics. However, this is rather spoiled by Wee Dougie being the most boring man in the world. If you were lucky enough to have seen his infamous Powerpoint at the Labour conference this year, you’ll know what I’m talking about. People were rolling in the aisles! Unfortunately, this was due to them all falling asleep at the same time.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Dougboy asserts that Labour is still the best party out there, but Dimbles keeps rattling on about the whole Miliband issue. While Douglas attemps a comeback, Brandon Lewis, Conservative housing and planning minister, is on the scene. #Poppywatch: he’s got possibly the tiniest poppy in existence on his lapel. Careful Brandon, or you’ll get the Sun on your back for being a traitor! He rattles off some Tory achievements and says they’re working very hard in Rochester – I should think so, considering Michael Gove is relentlessly hounding Conservative MPs who don’t pay a visit like an awful Telltale Heart living under your floorboards.

Meanwhile comedian Matt Forde says that the fact that everyone is so moderate nowadays is all thanks to his hero, Tony Blair. Also, people should learn from Farage! I wonder if Nigel considers him part of the liberal comedy conspiracy? Then he does an impression of Ed Miliband and everyone stops for a moment to boggle in amazement and horror.

Oops, and here comes trouble – you see, there’s been a bit of a controversy relating to the lovely UKIP gentlemen in the front row. Turns out that the BBC invited three UKIP Parliamentary candidates into the front of the audience and took multiple contributions from them without mentioning the fact that they were candidates! The internet is in uproar, of course. I’m not sure how often PPCs from other parties are in QT audiences – can anyone verify? I don’t know, it just seems sketchy to me! #butthat’snoneofmybusiness

But really, what’s the difference when you have Melanie Phillips on the panel? Last time I saw her, she disappointed in not being particularly repellent in her views, possibly because she had been asked to tone it down due to shenanigans. And for now, she hasn’t unleashed the beast…yet. But do not fear, my sweets. Some prime-cut ridonkulousness is a-coming…

Finally, when asked about who would be a better Labour leader than Ed, a confused young man in the audience answers with this beautifully dignified reply:

“There’s, er…Chucka Oomanna…?”

The audience softly groans, like someone would when they hear a favourite TV show has been rescheduled for a different timeslot (although not their ultimate favourite, don’t want to get too exciting here). Looks like poor smooth Chuka’s out of the running then. (What about ‘anime eyes’ Andy Burnham? He’s definitely the prettiest and cutest, so he’d win the One Directioner vote. And Yvette Cooper happens to be a woman – they’re in vogue now.) Wow boys and girls, isn’t this exciting?

Kipper Klusters: rich in vitamin D

Now for some immigration talk and Melanie kicks the door down outta nowhere. Multiculturalism?! she rages. No! Not multiculturalism! National identity! We’ve always been Celts! And then Saxons! And then Normans! Damn, look at all that national identity! It’s okay if they’re from similar cultures…but weird ones? Weird to Melanie Phillips, that is? Oh no!

I’ve had enuff of this anti-EU guff! bellows Matt in return, and Brandon bravely fights back by sitting on the fence. Charles takes the always-popular line of dissing Thatcher (well, except in, like, Finchley) and, secondly, that UKIP guy in the audience. Then the rest of the audience also rounds on the front row Kipper Kluster, and chaos ensues. Fight! Fight! Fight!

Luckily, Douglas Alexander puts us all to sleep before someone can get hurt.

The next question is on the clusterfuck of an abuse inquiry that probably should have started by now. A big neon sign flashing ‘TREAD CAREFULLY’ practically lights up above the panel’s heads. Thankfully, all there is to report is some respectful discussion about appointing the right chair, and the nature of the establishment, but then…Melanie Phillips steps up in her own very special way. This inquiry is nonsense, apparently, because all sorts of terrible things happen all the time and nothing gets done about it. Then she points out that sexualisation of children is a societal problem – true, true – but then.

But then.

Sex education is apparently causing a ‘paedophile society’. That is literally what she said. Let it settle in. Let it marinate.

Yes, teaching kids about where babies come from and to respect their boyfriends and girlfriends – unforgivable! It caused Savile! No, hundreds of Saviles, dancing in a line! Well hand me a cigar and call me Jim’ll. The panel snorts in derision as they very well should.

Now let’s all listen to Charles Kennedy instead. I’m not even a Lib Dem or anything but…luv u Charlie 5eva (that means I luv him more than 4eva). Kiss kiss.

I apologise for Questionable Time’s institutional anti-North bias

Final question: should there be an elected assembly for the North East? I’m swiftly losing the will to live, so let’s make this quick. Sorry, Northern-types.

The crowd, who have already been extremely rowdy tonight, use this opportunity to hector with all their might. Melanie thinks this will all end in tears. Don’t we know it. Douglas drones on about how George Osborne needs to sod off. Don’t we know it. Charles Kennedy mentions Mags Thatcher for a third time this edition. Don’t we…know it?

In the end, nothing of any value is said and we all go home crying and snotty. I guess Melanie Phillips was right after all.

Time for the scores!

Kennedy: 9/10

Reign(s over QT like a pudgy ginger king)

Alexander: 5/10

(Did not have much to) Gain

Lewis: 5/10

Plain Jane

Phillips: 4/10

Bane (of one’s life)

Forde: 5/10

Pain(ful impressions aside…)

The Crowd: 7/10

Again, again!

Next time: WELSHYYYYyyyyYYYYyyyy

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #89


questionable time 89 david dimbleby boy wine

Good morning Lemmings and stop sniggering at the above picture because sniggering is not welcome this week. No, thanks to the inclusion of not only a celebrated author but also a philosopher QT has gone all highbrow on us and as a result there is to be no silliness today, no petty gibes and definitely no laughing at audience members trying to make jokes about bankers and biscuits. Alright, who am I kidding? QT can be as highbrow as it wants but my brows are feeling decidedly low-to-middling today so snicker away to your heart’s content at what turned out to be a much less sophisticated affair than its creators most likely anticipated. On we go…

I’m reassessing my reassessment of Philip Hammond…

I’ve been pretty mean to Philip Hammond in the past, what with all the .gifs and pshops about him being the greyest looking man in Christendom but over the last few weeks I’ve had a trademark change of heart and promised myself I’d give him a fair go this week. Why? Well, two reasons really:

  1. I was genuinely impressed with how much punishment he soaked up when Newsnight (which still can’t seem to work out whether it’s an august beacon of deep thought or the T-4 of current affairs) put him in front of a very well-heeled Thames Valley lynch mob.
  1. I recently discovered that he used to be a goth and I have a soft spot for goths, mainly because they are such a constant in life. Empires may come and go, nations may rise and fall but the one thing you can count on is that there will always be goths walking (well, shuffling) amongst us and they will look exactly the same as goths have always looked – sullen, dejected and slightly pink around the mouth from all the snakebite and black. Staying power – that’s what I respect about the goth.

So yes, ‘Let’s give Philip a fair bash’ was my mission statement this week and initially it was looking good – right up until the point he got Liz Kendall confused with Rachel Reeves. That didn’t go down too well (particularly when the Blue Team are getting it in the neck for their lack of female MP’s) but it wasn’t fatal and should have only been a temporary setback – that is until he did it again. Suddenly you could see something primal light up the eyes of Kendall, Kennedy and Dimbers – like hyena’s who’ve just heard the cry of a wounded antelope – and what should have been a display of steady-handedness quickly descended into an ignominious rout as they cracked wise, poked fun and even fashioned name badges out of the materials to hand. Were they perhaps a little too brutal with him? Maybe, but this is QT and as George W. Bush once pointed out “Fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again”… Or something along those lines.

Anyway, the point is that I gave Hammond a fair crack and he buggered it up so we’re back to the business as usual: Here’s a picture of the intensive makeup process they used to colourise his face prior to filming (see Fig. 1).

philip hammond make up grey

Fig. 1

Liz Kendall – Goth Slayer

It was an impressive scalp for Liz last night and a deserved one too – Hammond may well have bought his own petard along but it was Kendall who did the bulk of the hoisting and she did so with glee. The other thing that really struck me about Kendal (other than her waving her arms about like she’s in that scene from Minority Report) was that she sounded like she might actually have a song in her heart – you know, like Labour MP’s used to before 13 years of government turned them all into dead-eyed middle-managers. Granted, that song might have sounded a little jarring if she’d been properly put on the spot about the Red Team’s benefits policy but as Hammond had incapacitated himself she got the run of the mill and did so with a breathlessness that just about stayed on the right side of the Enthused – Annoying Line. Well done Rachel!

Greenham Common called – they want their novelist back…

While Kendall may have briefly reminded me of the hopey-changey days of 1997, Jeanette Winterson went one better and managed to embody an entire decade simply by existing. Yup, the 80’s were back in town and appeared to be having a thoroughly good time of it all by damning privatisations, cocking a snook at the toffs (“David Cameron has never been hungry in his life!”) and invoking the spirit of James Lovelock. Did we learn anything we didn’t already know? Not really, but it was rather good fun to hear those bouncy just-north-of-Manchester vowels get slung about with genuine conviction and I’m never averse to a trip down memory lane. Now if you’ll excuse me I have a copy of Exodus to reacquaint myself with.

Such bouffant! Much luxury!

For a softly spoken man, Roger Scruton doesn’t half clang a lot – like when he managed to go from floodplains to just-shy-of-eugenics in three easy sentences. CLANG! It wasn’t just that point either – plenty more was to follow when he managed to chastise an entire generation for taking Media Studies (CLANG!), made out that £50k’s worth of debt is a trifling matter (CLANG!) and slagged off pretty much every voter in the country, several dozen of whom were sat right in front of him (CLANG!).

Truth be told, I don’t know what to make of Scruton other than he lives in a different world to the rest of us but seems completely oblivious to this fact. I will say though: I rather like his surname. ‘Scruton’ – it sounds like it’s inches away from being a swear word.

Charlie’s still in the game…

I was getting worried about Charles Kennedy as he’s been really mardy on his recent QT outings, almost as if he doesn’t know what to do with himself now that the Yellow Team have all grown up and left home. Last night was different though: Gone was the fidgety and slightly grumpy Charlie of shows past and in was the avuncular fireside chat Charlie who would only stray briefly into politics before gently wrapping us up in the warm blanket of chummy anecdotes and good-natured waggery. Oh Charlie, it’s good to have you back…

Tl;dr

Hammond: 3/10

(Did) Poke (his own eyes out)

Kendall: 7/10

(Should be) Stoke(d with herself)

Kennedy: 6/10

(Appears to have) Awoke(n from a deep and troubled sleep)

Winterson: 6/10

(Doesn’t like how many) Bloke(s are in parliament)

Scruton: 3/10

(Doesn’t seem to know much about regular) Folk

The Crowd: 6/10

(Think that James Knox) Polk (is history’s most underrated President)

And there we are – a rather pleasing affair that revolved heavily around the ostracisation of an ex-Goth and the ramblings of a talking hairpiece. It’ll do for me. Right, I’m off to hide in the basement as the sky appears to have turned blue and I’m not quite sure how to deal with that any more.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #62


questionable time 62 david dimbleby by sardine tin

Good morning Lemmings and hold on to your hats because something really rather strange occurred on QT last night: There was actually a reasoned and thoughtful debate. Thankfully, this outbreak of high-minded civility was only a brief and temporary blip but I have to admit that it scared me for a second – I mean c’mon, what happens if this becomes a habit? What if future panelists decide that actually listening to each other and soberly weighing up the merits of an issue is the way forward? It would be the end of me and the end of Questionable Time Lemmings, that’s what would happen. Anyway, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here… Back we go to the scene of last night’s crime.

Phillip Hammond is cannier than he looks…

‘Really?’ is what your probably thinking right now. ‘Hammond? That monochrome guy who’s about as exciting as an international summit on the standardisation of photocopier toner? Canny? Have you lost your mind?’ to which I say ‘Yes!’ and then ‘No!’ when I realise that I’ve inadvertently admitted to losing my mind. Anyway, to get to the heart of this rash claim we need a little context and in this case it’s pretty clear – whoever the Blue Team put up last night was going to have a tough time explaining away their latest bout of Europe inspired collective self-harming, especially when their chosen representative has been playing a little fast and loose with the party line of late. Now, the standard Tory approach to situations like this usually involve a certain measure of defiant chest-beating and some good honest mouth foaming but Hammond just isn’t cut out for that sort of thing and played a different game instead: He paper-shuffled his way out.

It’s a pretty simple tactic really – when faced with awkward questions that have no easy answers simply respond like you were delivering the results of an office stationary audit and people will soon forget what you’re talking about. Given that I really don’t have a clue what he said about the Tory’s Euro woes last night, it’s fair to say that this approach worked marvellously and while it was by no means a victory (particularly when accused of being ‘powerless’ by an audience member), it certainly stopped matters becoming any worse for the Blue Team.

And what of the rest of his performance? Well, the gay marriage question didn’t work out too well for him (particularly when ambushed by Bryant) but again, just the unseasoned blandness of his delivery stopped him coming across as an out-and-out bigot and more like a man in a huff with a world that keeps changing without his permission. It’s also worth pointing out that his take on the Syria question (that it’s a very messy and complicated thing that we really need to think about) was music to my ears after a decade of overly bellicose Defence Secretaries and really deserved a clap. But that’s the downside of paper-shuffling: It may well shield you from harm, but it does little good in earning you credit.

Right, that’s him done. Enjoy this visual explanation of why Phillip Hammond is the least Defence Sec looking Defence Sec of all time (see Fig. 1).

defence-secretaries-looking-hard-gif

Fig.1

Bryant played a blinder…

It’s rare that I give out no-strings praise but this is one of those moments as Bryant finally found his balance last night. That opening broadside on reasons to stay in Europe? Great. Really well put and impassioned but without that missionary zeal that can sometimes make him look a little unhinged. Similarly on Syria: Here he blended justified outrage with hard-headed realism and got it just right.

However, his real triumph was on the gay marriage question and it’s here we encountered that Rare Moment of Genuine Debate that I mentioned earlier. It came in the wake of his pre-emptive strike on Hammond and involved a member of the audience who had genuine reservations about the proposed legislation. Now, this is one of those situations where Bryant can overplay his hand and really go to town on people but this time he didn’t – instead he actually listened to the man and treated his concerns with respect and dignity. The audience member – to his eternal credit – reciprocated in kind and what we were left with was a genuine We Can Work This Out moment that left me feeling embarrassingly optimistic. Factor into that the way he looked genuinely comfortable in his own skin (plus the nice little anecdotes about his time in the clergy) and we have a clear winner on our hands.

Now get out of here Chris, before I start welling up and looking like a cotton-picking hippy.

Let the right Charlie in…

I like Good Charlie. He’s the ex-Lib Dem leader who’s essentially given up on top-level politics and is happy to mooch about as an avuncular/jovial talking head. I like Good Charlie because I get the sense that Charlie likes Good Charlie and that makes hanging out with Good Charlie feel like a glass of warm milk and a good thumb suck. I don’t – on the other hand – like Bad Charlie. He’s the ex-Lib Dem leader who’s pissed off that he’s no longer playing top-level politics and is resigned to skulk about as a disinterested/embittered talking head. I don’t like Bad Charlie because I get the sense that Charlie doesn’t like Bad Charlie and that makes hanging out with Bad Charlie feel like a can of lukewarm Skol and a good eye poke.

Luckily we got Good Charlie last night.

Gillian Tett didn’t let me down…

There are two books that are worth reading about the Global Financial Crisis. One is John Lanchester’s Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay a wonderfully entertaining, ‘Explain Like I’m 5’ take on economics while the other is Gillian Tett’s Fool’s Golda masterful piece of forensic inquiry that really gets to the heart of how things got so badly buggered up. Anyway, I bring this up because if you liked Tett’s approach on QT last night – a picture of clarity and concision on the things she knows about whilst appropriately glib on those that concern her less – then you’ll get on well with the book. Furthermore, she’s also an anthropologist which are hands down my favourite sort of ologists. Take that, dendrochronologists!

Do you like bread? And circuses?

Because if you do, you’ll just love Peter Bazelgette, former head of Endemol and Emperor of the Lowest Common Denominator. Now, part of me really wants to give him a hard time as he was totally and utterly shameless in going for the low hanging fruit last night (‘Do you guys love breathing? Then I love breathing!’) but I’m going to let him off because a) this episode has got me weirdly loved-up and b) he’s very good at what he does and I love breathing too.

Tl;dr

Hammond: 5/10

(Cunningly) Bland

Bryant: 8/10

(Did a) Grand (job)

Kennedy: 6/10

(Looks pleased that he’s in) Demand

Tett: 7/10

(Had it all in) Hand

Bazelgette: 6/10

Rammed (us full of hopey-changey stuff)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Favour the use of the South African) Rand (should the Pound ever fail)

Whoa whoa whoa! Two ‘8’s and nothing below a ‘5’? Damn you Ipswich and your mellow vibes! Hmm… I’d better rectify this situation by playing Tropico 4 and engineering the most brutal and repressive of dictatorships possible… That’ll help me get my ire back. Anyway, that’s all for this week and it’ll be a fortnight until the next Questionable Time. My excuse this time round is that I don’t do the Northern Ireland episodes because I have no idea what’s going on and would most likely make a pig’s ear of them. Considering how much fun it was getting shouted at by angry Scottish Nationalists when I said that I didn’t really care/know a great deal about Scottish politics, it’s an excuse I’m sticking to. In the meantime, feel free to enjoy this little gem of vintage QT parody, brought to my attention by the esteemed @connordiver.

In a fortnight Lemmings, in a fortnight…

Questionable Time #43


questionable time 43 david dimbleby andy warhol

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to a very heavyweight line-up for this week’s Questionable Time. That’s right, after shilly-shallying about with the likes of Munt and MacLennan in last week’s episode we’re now back in the major leagues again. You want the Shadow Home Secretary? Done! How about Britain’s foremost Angry Young Man? Bang! Here’s Owen Jones! Maybe a former party leader? Shutuppayourface, here’s two! A suitably grand sounding venue? I see your generic location name and raise you a goddamn palace! And of course there’s Deborah Meaden. Oh.

Anyway, sky-high expectations aside, bitter experience has shown that a solid panel does not necessarily a good show make. Could this robust sounding blueprint for QT heaven deliver on its promise? Well let’s just see about that…

I think I’m one step closer to cracking the riddle of IDS…

There are a great many things that vex me about IDS but one has been particularly bothering me of late: How did he ever survive as a junior officer in the Scots Guards? I ask this because the Scots Guards and IDS just seem like two things that should never really go together. Here you have – on the one hand – a man whose face is always contorted somewhere between self-doubt, uncertainty and a very terrible appreciation of his own awkwardness whilst on the other we have not just an infantry regiment, but one of the stuffiest and ritualistic outfits in an organisation that prides itself on engineering situations that freak out the socially awkward. It just struck me as very odd and I often wondered how 1st Lt. Duncan Smith – with that face of his so visibly playing out some horrible conflict within his soul – could convince a bunch of hard-bitten enlisted men of why they should listen to him, let alone follow his orders.

Well dear Lemmings, now we know. He’s a classic Long Fuse/Big Bomb and last night was the perfect illustration of this. To begin with, he actually had quite a good ride, doing his best to escape unscathed on female bishops and the EU whilst actually coming across as quite thoughtful at points. However, there was something niggling him and that something was Owen Jones, what with all his voting prisoners and disestablished churches. ‘Troublemaker!’ said IDS’s face, but he managed to bite his lip and generally keep a lid on his growing sense of unease. Then the question about the proposed benefits cap came up and everything went mental.

In the general scheme of thing’s, IDS first response, a semi-rousing ‘It Just Isn’t Fair’, wasn’t bad but he was comprehensively out-roused by Jones’ crushing ‘You’re Damn Right It Just Isn’t Fair’ counter punch. Throw into that some sustained heckling that made Dimbers very cross and you could see it all getting just a bit too much for him. “HOLD ON YOU!” he bellowed, his face now a picture indignant certainty… and then it ended. Time’s up.

So yes, we didn’t get to see the full explosion (oh for another five minutes) but the early indicators were pretty telling. And that is how I reckon IDS survived in the Scots Guards: He’d take the ‘Kick Me’ signs, the backchat and name calling up to a point, but when that point was reached, boy did everybody know about it.

I’d love to shower Owen Jones with praise but jealousy prevents it…

If only I hadn’t spent the best part of my twenties looking like “a homeless wizard”, trying to drive ice cream vans into pedestrians on Grand Theft Auto and being sick in nightclub toilets then maybe, just maybe, I could have been some sort of proto-Owen Jones. Except that I didn’t and given that being Owen Jones seems to involve a level of passion, relevance and good-lookingness that I’d have great difficulty in summoning I guess I’ll just have to settle for what I’ve got. I’d totally beat him at any computer game though. Name your platform Owen, you will not win.

Yvette doesn’t ride for free today…

I usually go easy on Yvette, mainly because she has a lot to put up with. As Labour’s Appropriate Adult, she’s the one who gets dragged out to straighten out whatever unholy mess they’ve found themselves in and you can tell by that faint whiff of exacerbation she always carries that it’s got to her over time. However, she got so rattle by the matter of why Labour voted for the EU budget cut that she started talking really fast and getting a little over-eager with the maxim ‘the best form of defence is offence’, none of which peels my spuds. That, and I’m getting really fed up with Labour panelist trying to shoehorn ‘The Squeezed Middle’ and ‘One Nation’ into every damn sentence. Having said that ‘The One Middle’ or ‘Squeezed Nation’ would make perfectly serviceable boy bad names.

Chat Show Charlie may just be losing his magic…

I have a dream. It’s a bit of a weird dream but bear with me. I’d love to lie on my sofa, with my head in Charles Kennedy’s lap as he tenderly stroked my hair and told me that everything was going to be alright. Thanks to the terrifying power of Photoshop, that disturbing dream is now an even more disturbing reality, but enough of these things (see Fig. 1). Anyway, it’s that wonderful Soda-Stream of a voice he’s got, that voice that gurgles away all the bad in the world. Unfortunately, I am beginning to notice that while his voice is undeniably soothing, it is increasingly saying less and less whilst doing so in quite a round-the-houses manner. So c’mon Charlie, I know it’s hard adjusting to a world where the Yellow Team can’t look themselves in the mirror but that’s the way it is and dulcet tones alone won’t sustain me any more.

charles kennedy loudribs head in lap sofa

Fig. 1

I shouldn’t have been rude about Deborah Meaden in the first paragraph…

Ok, I confess. I thought that Meadan was going to be your standard I’m An Entrepeneur And There’s Nothing That Can’t Be Solved With A Tax Cut but she was actually really good and, shock horror, balanced. Granted, our views differ but at least she has views that aren’t exclusively dictated by a fear of red tape and NI contributions. Deborah, you have my apologies.

Tl;dr

IDS: 5/10

Ticking (like a bomb)

Cooper: 5/10

Picking (one too many fights for my liking)

Kennedy: 5/10

(Is welcome to stroke my hair but I draw the line at) Licking

Jones: 8/10

(Gave everyone a right good) Kicking

Meaden: 7/10

(Has been) Tricking (me into thinking she’d be rubbish when she was actually great)

The Crowd: 7/10

(Weren’t) Dicking (around)?

Well, there you have it: A slow start that gradually built into a head of total chaos. And that’s just fine with me…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #31


questionable time 31 davidi dimbleby kilt

Good morning Lemmings and seriously, do we really have to do this? Do we really have to voluntarily relive what was probably the dullest episode of Question Time I can recall? I guess we do. If you didn’t catch it last night then well done to you, you’re ahead of the game but if you did then I guess that reading this may at least have some cathartic value. We can treat it like a support group for those embittered by the fact that they lost an entire hour of their life last night. Anyway, here we go… *sigh*…

Inverness appears to be some sort of Reverso Logan’s Run…

I did most of my growing up in a very sleepy seaside town so large concentrations of the elderly hold no mystery for me. However even I have to admit that the sheer volume of oldsters on display last night was a frightening spectacle to behold, so thick was the floor with those in their autumn years. Quite how a town gets into a state where everyone under the age of 30 has either fled or been forcibly removed is a mystery – as are the logistics of how you’d run such a settlement (who delivers the papers? How do they cope with such high levels of unemployment in the educational sector? Do they even bother putting up ‘No Ball Games’ signs?) – but the very fact that this clear perversion of demographics can exist at all is enough to give me the jibblies. Not only that, but the studio looked very warm last night and I suspect that a day of heavy rain may have induced the wearing of extra layers amongst the crowd, something that did little to counter the clammy atmosphere of mothballs and torpor. In short, this was never really going to be a riot of a show.

It’s a sad day when Melanie Phillips is the only thing keeping you awake.

Panel wise, this could have been an ok episode as Charles Kennedy (when he’s not ‘missing his plane’) is usually pretty solid and Alan Cumming had the potential to bring something different to the table. However, as neither of these guys really got into their stride until right near the end of the show (Kennedy appeared to spend the first half trying vainly to wake up whilst Cumming got hobbled by questions of nationality and tax status) so the floor was left wide open for Melanie Phillips to extrapolate wildly on how seemingly innocuous developments will inevitably lead to a dystopian and apocalyptic future. Maybe think about not giving rich pensioners free money? Sure, BUT DON’T COME CRYING TO ME WHEN YOU SEE THAT THE ENTIRE WELFARE STATE HAS BEEN DESTROYED. Thrupence on petrol? Oh, no big deal UNTIL THE PINKO HIPPIES IN GOVERNMENT START PUTTING WIND FARMS IN YOUR BRAIN. Spice this up with some choice phrases like “incentive for mass fatherlessness”, liberal (or anti-liberal, I’m not quite sure which) use of words like “bogus” and you start to get the picture.

Now on any given Thursday I would probably pour scorn on absurd antics such as these but I’m giving Melanie a free pass this week as she was literally the only thing keeping me in the realms of consciousness last night. Yeah I know, semi-endorsing Melanie Phillips feels like a weird and dangerous thing to do so to balance things out here’s a pshop of her in a Bin Laden outfit (see Fig. 1). Questionable Time: It’s all about the balance.

melanie phillips osama bin laden

Fig. 1

Ok, so Lord Forsyth was semi-interesting…

Is it just me or was Lord Forsyth being positively seditious towards the government last night? The reason I have to ask is because although I’m sure that the content of his speech was pretty treasonable his tone was so hushed and gentle that it sounded more like a lullaby than a sustained attack on the likes of Cameron and Osborne. A similar thing happened when he and Phillips got stuck into a joint rant on the Euro: I got the impression from what he was saying that he was genuinely angry yet the most his demeanour could muster was the look of being vaguely ticked off. Odd, in a semi-interesting sort of way.

And just who exactly are these people?

A funny thing happens to me when I watch Johann Lamont: Her lips move, a sound comes out that is in a language I am fluent in yet I hear nothing. Well that’s not quite right, I do hear something – a little like the noise of a fridge humming into life – but nothing that I can convey any meaning from. This isn’t an accent thing either, it’s just that the part of my brain that deals with processing language just seems to shut down whenever I lay eyes on her. As a result I have absolutely no idea what she said last night but judging from the lack of enthusiasm from the crowd I don’t think I missed much. And as for Alex Neil, the first thing to say is that he isn’t Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon. I don’t know what happened last night – maybe they double-booked their annual leave or something – but I suppose it’s nice to occasionally have a Scottish episode that doesn’t involve Caledonia’s answer to The Carpenters. Apart form that all I can really tell you is that a) Alex Neil is very satisfied with being Scottish and b) is even more satisfied that a Scottish man like himself should get to go on the telly. Oh God, I can’t do this anymore…

Tl;dr

Forsyth: Zzz…

5/10

Kennedy: Zzzzz…

5/10

Lamont: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

3/10

Neil: Zzzzzzzzz…

4/10

Cumming: Zzzz…

5/10

Phillips: !!!!!!!!!!

6/10

The Crowd: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

3/10

There. I’ve done all I can. Well done if you made it this far, now let us agree to never speak of this episode again. Still, I guess it was an appropriate end to a week of ‘celebrations’ that looked more like a humanitarian disaster. Say what you will about the British but we sure now how to stand about in the rain looking uncomfortable and vaguely nonplussed. Oh and in a final twist of the knife I’m afraid I won’t be around next week as I’m off to see NOFX and intend to get so messed up that even watching QT on iPlayer is going to be out of the question. Professionalism: I has it.

In a fortnight Lemmings, in a fortnight…

Questionable Time #5


questionable time 5 david dimbleby top hatGood morning Lemmings and welcome to what is likely to be a highly problematic instalment of Questionable Time, problematic because the show itself didn’t really turn out the way I envisaged. You see, I usually get a day or so’s warning as to who is going to be on the panel and that is usually just enough time to throw a few thoughts together before watching the show but not enough to have any real idea of how the cards the will fall. This week however, I had the luxury/curse of knowing exactly who was going to be on for an entire week and as the panel was full of repeat offenders I had more than enough time to elaborately wargame the entire scenario in my head at length. In theory, this should be quite helpful as it gives me time to rustle up a few set pieces prior to the show being broadcast, but this week I went too far: I’d pretty much written the entire report before the show had even gone on air. Thanks to this rather rash move on my part I am now faced with a glaring mismatch between the expectation and the reality, something that has led me to go about this write-up in a slightly different manner from the norm. Regardez vous…

Baroness Warsi

The Expectation

Say what you will about Warsi (for there is much to say) but at least you’ve got a pretty good idea of what she’s going to do and this usually involves cutting the most aggressive of stances before completely overplaying her hand and somehow trapping herself in a self-inflicted headlock (I’m not entirely sure how you perform a headlock on yourself but if anyone were able to perform such a physics defying feat it would be Warsi). In a standard outing, this tends to involve a trademarked rendition of her ‘pulled up by the bootstraps’ autobiography and a frantic assault on anyone who happens to be in the immediate vicinity followed by a complete mangling of the facts and a hasty retreat in the face of an audience who’ve suddenly turned hostile. Now, in the context of this week’s news, this seemed like an invitation to tragedy as the message emanating from the Tory party conference (aside from entirely avoidable blunders) has been largely one of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, but Warsi doesn’t really do ‘calm’ and in the pre-arranged version of events that I had in my head I could see her outdoing Theresa May on the gaffe front, possibly by claiming that the courts allow immigrants to stay if they have a Tesco Club Card. Heckles would follow, Warsi would carry on digging and by the end of it, I’d be sitting pretty and rather pleased with my new-found powers of precognition.

The Reality

Ok, so I wasn’t a million miles from the truth on this one but still, it was more muted than my pre-show machinations would have led me to believe. For example, she did start pretty aggressively on the Catgate question and went through her usual Immi-Crims motions before retreating under a hail of boos following an ill-timed Blame Labour play, but she wasn’t quite as frothy as she has been in the past. Granted, she did managed to get herself entangled in a trap of her own design when she strenuously tried to blag her way out of the Fat Tax question (which went something like this: Tax isn’t the solution > Got to change behaviour > Don’t know if we can do that > I had a burger once! > Big up Dewsbury Market! > Two full bags of shopping! > Costs less than a burger! > ??????) but I’ve seen her flail about in far more entertaining ways and I felt a little cheated when she wasn’t chased out of the studio by pitchfork wielding audience members. In short, the version in my head was way more fun.

Andy Burnham

The Expectation

I must confess that I didn’t have the clearest idea of what Burnham was going to get up to tonight as I find him to be a very difficult man to pin down. On the one hand he’s a slick operator who’s good on telly, can summon up some semi-convincing righteous indignation and generally has a knack for not putting his foot in it. However, there is also something about him that I find a little unsettling in that I have real problems in figuring out his intentions. Some of this is down to the fact that he’s quite deft at seguing between bosses without breaking much of a sweat but I think the real problem is that Burnham’s got his foot in quite a few ideological camps (in that he can sound very Old Labour on some issues while also being incredibly New Labour on others) and that makes it very hard to ascertain exactly what it is he believes in. Consequently, I reckoned that we were on for a polished display, but one that left you not quite fully satisfied that you had actually seen the real Andy Burnham.

The Reality

And lo, so it came to pass… Yes, this was pretty straight forward, off-the-shelf Burnham with some fairly impressive offensive play on the economy question, some nice Dear Sir, Imagine My Surprise indignation on Catgate and a dollop of fairly successful hedge betting when it came to Europe. But still, it niggled me. It niggled me because I wasn’t sure if I was being spun a line or if he really meant all of this stuff and that just leaves me feeling a little out-of-sorts, even if I can’t quite pin down what sorts-I’m-out-of. Still, top marks to clever old me for seeing into the future with such skill and deftness. Loudribs: 10/10

Charles Kennedy

The Expectation

How hard can it be to figure out what Charles Kennedy is going to do? After all, he’s been about for ages and during that time he’s taken on (in my head at least) all the virtues of a kindly uncle who your mother doesn’t entirely trust but you adore, largely on account of all the sly tenners he slips you with a knowing wink. Given the above, I was pretty sure that this would be a by-the-numbers exercise in Kennedyism: An overt display of believable humanity (nothing makes you appear more human than the knowledge of a life coloured by vice) that would probably feel akin to being tucked into bed with a glass of warm milk (that may or may not contain a thimble’s worth of whisky). Job’s a good ‘un right?

The Reality

Well, the job’s partially a good ‘un in that everything was delivered in that gentle way that makes his voice seem like auditory Calpol but what I wasn’t prepared for was just how mutinous Kennedy has become. Sure, he’s been muttering about how he’s really not taken with the coalition for some time now but watching him last night was like rewinding the clock by a good two years. The Tory stance on the Human Rights Act? “Nonsense”. Who’s right on the economy? “Ed Balls”. Who would he have preferred to go in coalition with? “Labour”. Sedition I say! So yes, that caught me slightly unawares but I also found it to be quite comforting as it took me back to a time when there were certain constants in politics and just keeping up with the news wasn’t the nausea inducing white-knuckle ride that it’s become of late. So Mr Kennedy, continue to be a “dispassionate voice from the backbenches” because I rather like it. And keep slipping me those tenners. I like that as well.

Billy Bragg

The Expectation

I hate Billy Bragg. I hate him in many ways but mainly because people assume that I should love him. I’m a bit of a lefty, right? I play guitar, right? So I should love Billy Bragg, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong! No, I have problems with Bragg, some of which are philosophical, others of which are more visceral. On the political/philosophical front I just find him to be like some sort of ideological Maginot Line that Thatcherism’s panzers’ outflanked 30 years ago. Since then they’ve been living it up in Paris while Bragg continues to grimly face east, pouring fire into an empty field that the enemy has long since vacated, seemingly unaware the Third Republic is now but a footnote in history. In a way I should admire such stubbornness but the futility of it all renders that impossible. The miners’ strike is over Billy and no amount of Woody Guthrie covers will ever bring it back. So there’s that but I suspect the biggest problem is that there’s something about the man himself I can’t abide and that’s his mirthlessness. Now I know he’s highly devoted to his cause and feels a certain weight of responsibility upon his shoulders but for Christ sake man, lighten up now and then, ok?

So yes, that’s how I was approaching Mr Bragg’s appearance and in my head I had it all figured out (to the point where I’d put together a photoshop of him duetting with Donald Rumsfeld in the hope it may annoy him. See Fig. 1). However….

bill bragg donald rumsfeld duet

Fig.1

The Reality

He really wasn’t bad. His arguments were pretty well-reasoned, there was even the odd attempt at humour and the crowd genuinely seemed to like him (as well as the bizarre spectacle of Warsi claiming that she had a “huge amount of time for [his] campaigns’”. Pull the other one, m’lady). So there we go, Eggs Benedict all over my face. However, instead of taking back all my spiteful words I am instead going to chalk this up as an aberration as to do otherwise would be to imply that I am somehow wrong. And that’s just plain old not going to happen.

Jane Moore

The Expectation

Here’s another one that I totally thought I had pegged and well I may as the last time she was on she was absolutely abhorrent. With this in mind I was utterly convinced that last night’s show would turn into a flat-out hecklefest as she plumbed the depths of knee jerk tabloidism and dragged the already tarnished name of The Sun into an even deeper circle of hell. But…

The Reality

She wasn’t that bad either! Ok, so her grasp on economics isn’t exactly the firmest (Quantitative Easing is something to do with a “computer button” dontchaknow?) and of course there was the familiar mashing of the terms of ‘immigrant’ and ‘criminal’ into a stick to beat people with but it was quite restrained by her standards and I don’t think I was ever driven to physically shout at the telly as I usually do when she’s on. This is not to say that I’m the newest member of the Jane Moore Fan Club but as potential train wrecks go, it could have been much, much worse.

The Crowd:

The Expectation

That they would be… crowdy?

The Reality

Yes, they were crowdy so hooray for me. Apart from that, they weren’t the most electrifying bunch but I’m inclined to forgive them this as it’s been such a weird conference season that it’s hard to know what to think about politics at the moment. Still, a mention is deserved for the lady who described herself to be a “scarlet woman” whilst looking about as scarlety womany as Anne Widdecombe and also for the girl who suggested that the government should get the hell out of lives and not impose fat taxes whilst simultaneously demanding that the nation be subjected to a “compulsory exercise regime”. That’s an… interesting…. position you’ve got right there.

Tl:dr

Everybody gets 5. Except Kennedy who gets 6 on account of my fondness for him and Moore who gets a 4 on account of my lack of fondness for her.

So there we have it: An odd and less than thrilling show that never managed to live up the expectations I had created for it. Still, at least I won’t have that problem next week as it’s pretty hard to engineer a mental scenario that only contains Andrew Lansley (who at this point is the only confirmed panelist). I suppose I could have him in solitary confinement. Actually, that’s not a bad idea… At least the NHS would thank me.

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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