Posts Tagged 'Chris Bryant'

Questionable Time #141


qt 141

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to a sweltering, summery Questionable Time! We’re predicting light rain showers and intense humidity caused by sudden extreme emissions of hot air. Remember to stay hydrated, and watch out for shifting and sweating in your seats!

Fractional reserve wbanking

As the evening June light bursts into the studio through great glass windows, the entire audience is blinded and unfortunately unable to sit through the rest of the show. Oh well, guess we’ll all have to go home. Bye.

…Or perhaps not. Question one, then: is the Chancellor right to sell off RBS shares at a loss to the taxpayer? Ooh, burn. Sick burn. Ice burn. We’re off to a no-nonsense start, you’d think, but then Chris Bryant, supreme Gingerbonce and chief trollererererer of John Bercow in the House of Commons, as well as a renowned purveyor of entertaining nonsense himself, steps up to the plate. He’s seen a challenge and he’s rising to it in his own special way. He leaps upon this question like an angry weasel, which he also resembles. The Chancellor, he says, should go back to his original position and prepare for government! We have a deficit to be dealing with, remember? Although it looks like, in the aftermath of May 7th, we’ve all temporarily forgotten about that/ceased to care. Hooray!

Matthew Hancock, the blue team representative, obviously disagrees. He has a weird round forehead that doesn’t fit on his chin. Remember Northern Rock, he weedles? Eh? Eight years ago? Under the previous government? The one before the coalition, that is, so not technically the previous government, but whatever? Anyway, this is all for the greater good and will mean that RBS performs better, says he. What about Royal Mail, dude, Chris squeaks, outraged.

Douglas Carswell gets off to a flying start with a withering comeback about ‘fractional reserve banking’. Riveting. I understood less that 7% of what he said. Even Dimbleby needed help with it, and he’s been running this shebang for years. Christina Odone puts it more simply: we need lots of little banks running around like chihuahuas, instead of a few big ones like scary rottweilers. However, much like the dogs themselves, will they merely do the same amount of shit? The Gateshead audience seems to think so, so it’s up to new SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh to play to the crowd. She says it’s a bad time, what with the continuing austerity – also, Gordon Brown sucks, she mentions off-hand. Just throwin’ that out there.

Witness me!

Next up, should 16 and 17-year olds be able to vote in the #euref? (Is that the official hashtag now? See, I’m down with the kids too!)

Douglas says this is all very exciting, and the product of his life’s work (or his work ever since he defected to UKIP), but you know who can’t join in on the excitement? 16-year-olds. You suddenly become fully knowledgeable about politics at age 18 and that’s that. Also, you may be less likely to vote to stay in the EU the older and the more scared of the dirty forrins you get. So, y’know, swings and roundabouts.

Christina is in favour of this proposal, however, because the youngins “see the light”! They are the “agents of change” foretold in the prophecy! Matthias Handycock rebuffs her with a blunt ‘no lol’. Meanwhile, Tamsina says to look at the #indyref, and the huge participation of young, idealistic SNPers, and understand that angry young people can be easily moulded and twisted into an army of fanatics eager to lay down their lives for a cause, much like those albino pricks in Mad Max: Fury Road (out now in all good cinemas!). She also takes aim at Chris, alleging Labour voted against an SNP clause to give the yungins the vote. Chris says this was conveniently attached to an amendment that would block the referendum completely. She denies this charge, with a snippy “I think I know what I tabled”. “Nah,” replies Chris, even snipplier. Majestic debate!

Isn’t this debate great? Matty Handball raves, watching gleefully as Tamsina and Chris snip-snipe at each other. Finally, Bryant signs us off with an ultimatum: the age of consent is 16, and yet voting is out of bounds for these youngsters. You can legally be a parent, but you can also “FLY A GLIDER”, he proclaims, which is, quite obviously, far more important.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Up next, a somewhat related topic: Is DCam using dirty tactics to get his way in the EU referendum? Dougy C beams with pride, imagining himself to be a much less photogenic (or, like, paintogenic) Joan of Arc about to be martyred. At the same time, Chris admits that “I don’t like David Cameron very much”. The majestic debate continues! Christina claims that Cammers is slowly turning into John Major, scared of Eurosceptic ‘bastards’. Indeed, the ‘bastards’ have now gone mainstream. Matt Hackysack has a good reason for not being afraid of them, though – if we leave the EU/encourage UKIP, businessmen would feel too sad to come to the UK! Instead, just wait for DCam to come back from his negotiation. Then all will be well.

What about the EU nationals being excluded from voting, says Tamsina, her outraged tone growing ever more outraged. This never gets a satisfactory answer as we already have to move on. Don’t worry, Dimbleby assures us, we’ll return to this…”week after week”, according to him.

Oh Lord, save us.

Pants for the memories

Next, some quickfire questions. ‘Northern Powerhouse’: yay or nay?

For once, Chris ‘n’ Tamsina agree on something (side note, I keep misspelling her name as Tasmina, as if she comes from Tasmania, one would imagine). The North-East has been shortchanged! Luckily for Tazza, she’s in Scotland so she doesn’t have to worry about that shit. Matt Hanky-Panky repeats the the words ‘Northern Powerhouse’ approximately twenty more times until my ears start to bleed. Douglas, however, advises us to “follow the money” – putting on his shifty shades and looking smug. The North is saved.

Second: why are we becoming a surveillance state just like 1984 OMG!!!! #makesuthink. Possibly because y’all elected only eight Lib Dem MPs? That’s…you know, kind of their thing (maybe their only thing). The main parties on the panel squabble just as you’d expect them to, with a little addition of ~Ron Paul Revolution~ Libertarianism from Douglas, until Chris elects to remind us all of that whole phonehacking dealio that happened a while back, and how he felt so heavily violated by its intrusion into his life. Unfortunately, this just dredges up the memory of that infamous photo of him in his pants and nothing else into our expectant brainholes. I don’t want to post it, though…that would be an invasion of privacy, after all.

Finally, the traditional heavy-as-hell question in the last woefully inadequate few minutes. How do we stop ISIS fascism?

Christina says that young people aren’t being convinced by our own down-with-the-kids narrative. Well, do they have pizza in the so-called ‘Islamic State’? I seriously doubt it. #makesuthink. “A liberal democratic way of life is the best way of life possible,” says Douglas Carswell, summing things up. Well, yes, except possibly if you’re a Liberal Democrat. Tamsina says something about the Angel Gabriel, messenger of God (you mean Nicola Sturgeon?). Matt In The Hat urges us to show disaffected youths a ‘better way’, through the medium of his Cameron-alike forehead. And lastly, Chris splurts out some mouthwords as well. Although I wasn’t paying attention, because I was still too terrified by the memory of his pants to write anything down about it.

Time for the scores!

Hancock: 5/10

(Brows were) Knit(ted)

Bryant: 6/10

Pit(bull on the panel)

Ahmed-Sheikh: 6/10

Wit(ness her!)

Carswell: 6/10

(Comfortably sat…uh, I mean) Sit

Odone: 6/10

(Does not want to) Omit (youngsters from the referendum)

The Crowd: 6/10

(True) Grit

Next time: High Wycombe! My nan used to live there. Er…not much else to say about it, to be honest.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #124


qt 124

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to Questionable Time, coming to you from a pretty grand venue in Norwich! It certainly made me ooh and aah, probably ten times more than the panel itself did. Without further adURGH, let’s get started.

Tax solo

We’ve got a mangy lot in the ring tonight. Representing the yellows, Mr Davey is wearing a little Earth pin to show that he’s actually Captain Planet. In the red corner, we have professional Blunt Hunter Chris Bryant. Then there are two right-wing women with varying degrees of rightyness, and Armando Iannucci, who already looks fed up with everything.

The first questions reveals exactly why. Is ‘vanilla’ tax avoidance acceptable as ‘everyone does it’? Ooh, kinky. I suppose you could call it Fifty Shades of Fink. Or Finky Shades of Grey. Whatever, I’m not getting paid for this. In any case, Armando has a go at ‘dodgy’ business practices and gets a big old clap, quelle surprise. This is hardly an unemotional issue for the general public, or genpub as I don’t like to call them.

Sarah Wollaston immediately steals my joke about Fifty Shades that ten million people on Twitter have no doubt made already to tiresome results. You see, she doesn’t like aggressive tax avoidance. As opposed to gentle tax avoidance that pets kittens and picks wildflowers. Meanwhile, Eddy Davez is also fed up! Close the loopholes, says he! And if you don’t, I’ll do it meself. Thank goodness for that one brave Lib Dem in the Treasury fighting against the system. They had to go deep into the system to do it, but by golly, thanks to them there’s been absolutely no tax avoidance scandals since! …Er, apart from this one. And the other one. And the other one…

Chris, internet troll in chief, shrugs that there’s one rule for the rich and another for everybody else. Suzanne, surprisingly, agrees. UKIP would investigate tax avoidance like a bunch of Sherlock Go Homes. For UKIP, of course, is as clean as a whistle.

No, declares Chris, it is Labour that is as clean as a whistle! No, it is the Lib Dems, says Davey, via a disgruntled face scrunch! Armando is scribbling away, noting down sadly-not-too-ridiculous-to-be-true ideas for his next biting, fighting satire.

He admittedly has a lot to work with. Highlights include UKIP’s deputy leader professing not to know the details of an anti-tax avoidance bill that the party’s MEPs voted against en masse, Ed Davey basically admitting that everybody is terrible, dodgy, and united in terridodge, to much bafflement from Dimbus Dimbledore, Chris Bryant bellowing about Andy Coulson like he’s the big kid that kicked his legs in the sandpit, Sarah rolling her eyes to the skies and muttering about no good dirty Labourites in them hills, and an audience that for some reason doesn’t appear to trust any of them. Gee, I wonder why?

Deploy the ABBA

Next question: we need to talk about Russia.

Mr Davey argues that we are indeed being tuff on Russia, which I can’t really take seriously coming from him due to his face looking like a concerned potato. As a Libby Dibby, by the end of his answer he obviously turns it into a butt-licking for the EU. This, of course, rankles Suzanne from UKIP, who prefers to butt-lick NATO. Then she starts going on about impending war for some reason. I do not trust this woman with the nuclear button.

Suzanne is on a roll. “The EU has expansionist ambitions as well!” announces she, to much mirth. Ah yes, Suzanne! The EU is merely a cover for the New World Order, well, according to that strange website you once looked at anyway!

“I don’t see Ukraine as being part of Europe,” she continues.
“Shocking!” gasps a greatly offended Mr Potato Head, pointing and gawping like a sightseer seeing the Hindenburg explode above their heads.

Chris moves on. He posits that Putin admires strong people…like, for example, not a certain British Prime Minister he could mention. Although he does admire former Eurovision winners such as ABBA, so perhaps we should send Lordi on a peace mission.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

There’s then a big argument about sanctions (what are sanctions? We just don’t know,) with Sarah interjecting helpfully to tell us that Putin is a ‘bully’. I hadn’t thought of that new and revelatory argument before. Well done.

This is put cheerfully to bed by a man in the audience. To sum up: Putin don’t curr about sanctions, and everything is doomed. Hooray!

On the road you must be brave and tireless, on the road you can listen to the wireless

I once had a pink Barbie bus. I made it run over my Barbies. This is also presumably what Harriet Harman wants to do to certain sections of the press.

Suzanne, as an ex-tomboy, isn’t a fun of #pinkbus. Admittedly it does come off looking like a choice drawn up by a bunch of clueless male Oxbridge graduates, but then she goes too far and asks “What has the Labour party ever done for women?” and I think Chris’ head nearly explodes. He’s still smiling, but only in the manner of a deranged chimp who’s about to claw another chimp’s face off. He does this via an intense debate about the colour of his tie. Okay, and some good figures about gender equality – but that really is a fetching tie, isn’t it?

Somehow the topic wavers off course to become about young people’s interest in politics. Mr Davey goes off on a long spiel, conveniently forgetting to mention tuition fees before getting REKT by a young person who does just that. Everyone begins to squabble over trying to ‘seduce a young person’ by talking to them afterwards…ooh no, not in this political climate, guys!

Finally, briefly, deeply…no. Just no. We’re not going to start charging for A&E. Any politician worth their salt knows that even if they might privately support doing so, to even whisper it out loud is a career death wish. And by the way, audience guy, what’s so ‘trivial’ about self-inflicted injuries? I fart in your general direction.

“We’ve been talking for an hour,” says Dimbles, in a fit of despair, as Chris bickers with everyone and Suzanne attempts to be Maggie Thatcher. We’re done here. (That woman in the audience will probably attempt a quick getaway before all those panellists rush up to talk to her. Run, girl, run!)

Time for the scores!

Davey: 5/10

(Stopped to) Think

Wollaston: 6/10

(With a nod and a) Wink

Bryant: 6/10

(Tickled) pink

Evans: 5/10

(Slightly off) Sync

Iannucci: 7/10

(Not a fan of) Fink

The Crowd: 6/10

(Needs a) Drink

Next time, a Sturgeon versus a Lion.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #103


questionable time 103 david dimbleby back tattoo

Good morning Lemmings – actually no, it’s not ‘good morning Lemmings’ at all and more like ‘Bah. Must we do this Lemmings?’ because for some reason last night’s very ill-tempered episode has left me in a thoroughly unpleasant mood. With this in mind, we’re going to dispense with the usual even-handedness, line the panelists up against a wall and make a series of rash decisions as to who’s to blame for the cloud of animosity that’s currently hovering over me. Ready? Let’s do this.

Was it Iain Duncan Smith’s insistence on ruining a perfectly good pshop?

Prior to the show I came up with this (see Fig. 1)…

iain duncan smith dog cone

Fig. 1

…And pretty pleased I was with myself too because it was going to be so easy to fold into the write up: All it would require would be one question about how the Universal Credit programme has gone so spectacularly awry that it’s now been reclassified as a ‘new project’ and that would be it – IDS would put on that face that’s supposed to look ‘appropriately concerned’ but actually comes off as ‘pleading desperately’, Hislop would have a field day and I’d be able to segue into the pshop with a killer line about how the only way you could make him look any more hapless is by sticking one of those dog cones on his head. In fact, so confident was I that this would come to pass that I even had a tweet of the pshop all ready to go during the show, just waiting for his inevitable downfall so that I could press the button and then bask in the satisfaction of all-too-easy victory. But the button was never pressed.

And why was the button never pressed? It was never pressed because a) aside from a few reflex jabs from Bryant and Yaqoob, matters relating to the DWP never really came up and b) he emerged from the rolling to-do with Yaqoob (more on that later) looking rather good. True, there were moments where his trademark brand of Trying To Look Very Cross Indeed But Not Quite Getting It Right (“Do me a favour Salma…”) had the potential to go sideways but so busy was the intemperate traffic between the combatants that it never developed into anything truly cringeworthy.

So here I am with a useless pshop, an unslaked thirst for ministerial blood and an embarrassingly abundant clutch of marks for the man in question. Iain Duncan Smith, I find you partially guilty for buggering up my QT experience and hereby sentence you to read your own novel.

Right, who’s next in the dock?

Was it Salma’s fault or was she stitched up?

So Salma ended up in hot water with the rest of the panel last night but I can’t quite fathom whether she was unjustly martyred or the victim of a kerfuffle of her own design. And why can’t I tell? Because I’ve not got a clue what’s going on with this whole Trojan Horse business – not the merest inkling other than it made for an entertaining intra-cabinet spat and that it just won’t get off the bloody news (however it’s worth pointing out that the arrival of Big Brother has once again lead me to surrender custody of the telly to the Frau Ribs so I haven’t had Newsnight to spoon feed me any ready-made opinions).

Anyway, it went like this: Salma slightly overplayed her hand on the Iraq question – a forgivable offence since she’s the leader of a party that came into being because of the war – and then went on to defend the schools in the Trojan Horse affair. Now I don’t know if she was right or wrong on this matter as it’s a story that just makes my eyes glaze over but the reaction from the rest of the panel was pretty full on and it wasn’t long before I started to get the feeling that they were ganging up on her. That’s rarely a good look but then again, she was having to defend her point so doggedly that I got the feeling they might actually be on to something.

I dunno, it might six-of-one and half-a-dozen-of-the-other but the real problem was that it went on for what seemed like hours and the temperature got so heated that it killed the third question dead in its tracks. Anyone want to talk about British values? No? Shall we just keep shouting at Salma instead? Ok then! Basically, it felt like I was being forced to watch a very long running and involved soap opera that I’d never seen before and to have an opinion on it. For better or worse, right or wrong, I lay the blame for this at Salma’s door and hereby sentence her to a candle lit dinner with George Galloway. Ooph… Rough justice.

Was it Tessa Munt’s… very… very… slow… delivery?

Initially, yes – it was definitely her…very… very… slow (and rather matronly)… delivery that had me all out of a kilter but I ended up warming to her, mainly because she seems pretty genuine and in it for the right reasons. Granted, ‘genuine’ and ‘the right reasons’ tend not to make for the most electrifying QT performances (for that you want ‘mendacious’ and ‘entirely the wrong reasons’) but I feel that they mitigated some of the grief caused by her rather ponderous vocal stylings. Community Service for you, Munt. 60 hours of coming up with rhyming scores for me and we’ll call it quits.

Was it Ian Hislop’s particularly irksome mood?

I’m usually a big fan of Hislop on QT but last night he just seemed a little bored and difficult, like he couldn’t really be bothered to play the game. However there are a few things that can be said in his defence, the first being he did make life a little awkward for the rest of the panel and secondly, Private Eye are the only national publication who bother to send out very nice rejection letters – a courtesy that counts for a lot in my book. I think an informal caution is all that’s required here.

Was it Chris Bryant’s fault for simply being Chris Bryant?

Yes! Probably! I don’t know! He was just as rabid as everyone else but I’ve got a soft spot for him so his sentence will be suspended. Stay out of trouble Chris and I won’t have to repost that photo of you in your pants.

Tl;dr

IDS: 5/10

Bah!

Bryant: 5/10

Rah!

Munt: 6/10

Fah!

Yaqoob: 5/10

Wah!

Hislop: 5/10

Yah!

The Crowd: 5/10

Pah!

So that was that then: An ultra-scrappy episode where the panel got very hot under the collar about things I don’t understand and – in what was undoubtedly the highlight of the show – Dimbers got attacked by a fly. Pffft… Says it all really…

Right, thanks to the footy I’m done for two weeks but should you have money burning a hole in your pocket then please feel free to go and buy this Grand Theft: New Labourt-shirt I designed (and then – in the interests of fairness and all that – go and buy the Grand Theft: Coalition one as well).

gta-new-labour-final-tagged

In a fortnight Lemmings, in a fortnight…

Questionable Time #88



Good morrow Lemmings, and a wet and windy welcome to this week’s edition of Questionable Time! I’m Elizabeth, the robot they programmed to stand in for the mighty webmaster. This week, in honour of Valentine’s Day, we’re in Scunthorpe, the most romantic place on Earth. Let’s get to it.

Damn, Green!

I always mix up Damian Green with Chris Grayling for some reason. Don’t ask me why, I just do. So considering the low impact Green has had on me thus far I went into this edition expecting very little, and by and large Green rose to the challenge as adequately as possible. He wasn’t appalling, just confused.

Confusion was the main theme of this week’s Question Time. What is this mysterious sky water? Who is to blame for it? And most importantly, does Scotland really exist? Or have we been greasily lied to all this time?

Dimbles, at least, knew the answer to the second question. ‘Mr Pickle,’ said Dimbledore accusingly, expecting Damian Green to cover for the hitherto-undiscovered new Mr Man’s interventions earlier in the week. Damian Green tried and failed. ‘Er, um, er,’ he said, confidently. Green seems befuddled by Mr Pickle, like he seems befuddled by most things. To be fair to him, when the (wet, angry) audience is throwing out suggestions such as building a massive wall around the country to keep out the water, the Vikings, and the roving bands of man-eating giants, it’s hard not to be befuddled.

Later on, he got more into his stride, uniting with Chris Bryant to disagree with Janice Atkinson on as many points as feasibly possible, including making a fairly reasonable argument for renewable energy and more long-term plans to stop sogginess in its tracks. Ahh, cross-party unity, don’tchajustluvit?!!!??!!!

Bryant is Tryant my patience

I was excited when I heard Chris Bryant was going to be on this week, even though up until the last minute the website displayed Alan Johnson’s name instead (who I found on This Week afterwards, cuddling up to Michael Portillo in the midst of Flappy Bird-centered VTs, which seems much preferable to Scunthorpe). But after viewing some of Bryant’s brilliantly realised tactics in the House of Commons, a strategy one can only describe as ‘annoy everyone then tweet about it’, I was looking forward to a devilish QT performance.

Sadly the questions didn’t deliver, and he had to look somber as someone mentioned the death of thousands of innocent chickens, and one dog. I henceforth dedicate this edition of Questionable Time to this dog. RIP Rover, may you never have to experience Scunthorpe again.

Anyway, Bryant was practically bursting to become all combative. He finally got his chance at the end, when the subject of Europe was raised: should we go the way of the Swiss and give the EU the double deuce? The very thought offended Chris to his core. He looked as though he’d just stepped on that dead dog. He was adamant that it was emotions that would decide the outcome of the Scottish referendum earlier on, and now his emotions were bubbling up to the surface, ready to burst the flood barriers of his heart.

How “pathetic”, he cries, that you would so cruelly insult fair Europe! How dare you, you scoundrel! Take that back or I shall challenge you to a duel. We shouldn’t snub the EU, he said – and at this point I was delighted to note a little wobble in his voice – we should “seize hold of our membership”! Yes! Seize hold of it! Seize it and kiss it! And smooch it! And ravish it! And [For more steamy Valentine’s Day Eurolovin’, please enter your PIN now.]

Winston pain

Considering all this excess water, you know what we need? A plumber. Perhaps…a mustachioed plumber. Yes, Mario would be perfect in this situation. But since Nintendo is being stingy and hogging him to themselves, we’ll have to make do with his looky-likey instead – Robert Winston.

Fig. 1

Mario here was killin’ it this time around. No-one really fought with him or had a bad word to say about him, because he seems like such a nice bloke – a kindly uncle foreboding horrible prophecies of doom. Climate change was the order of the day and according to the gentle, reassuring tones of Lord Winston, we’re all going to a watery grave unless somebody gets off their bottom and steps it up. His suggestion of Westminster being flooded to motivate the politicians prompted a cheerful shot of enthusiastic crowd members applauding. This week’s lively, annoyed audience appeared to mainly be on his side, but then again everyone did. Even Janice Atkinson sometimes, who attempted to channel the spirit of Lord Lawson to have a go at the clusters of wind farms springing up everywhere, unstoppable, destroying everything in their path.

In conclusion: we’re all screwed, basically, but Winston put it in such a nice way that nobody really minded. Also he made a joke about Bitcoins and that’s worth the license fee alone.

The wimminz

I feel kind of bad for lumping the others together, but whatever, they didn’t speak as much. I’m pleased that neither one of them were as blamey-shamey as I thought they’d be, with Cristina Odone making a surprisingly well thought-out point about otherisation, but then she had to go and ruin it by yelling about the smoking ban. At first it seemed the usual nanny-state argument, but an unfortunate turn of phrase made her position transmogrificate into ‘I don’t like laws that tell me not to harm my children! I have every right to harm my children!’ Could have played that one better, Crissy-mate.

As for Atkins Diet, she got into a heated argument about immigration with an audience member, scoffed at Brussels and nearly made Chris Bryant flip a table at her head, was the only person to disagree with Saint Super Mario and wore a weird snakey necklace that frightened me every time I looked at it. So a standard UKIP performance really.

(In the interests of equality, I will also comment on a man’s fashion choice here so I’m not just picking on Janice: cor, what was that pretty daisy tie Dimbles was wearing? Trying to remind us of Spring? Of terra firma? Of something that’s not water?)

Time for the scores!

Green: 5/10

Drippy

Bryant: 4/10 (7/10 for the voice wobble)

Blippy

Atkinson: 4/10

Snippy

Odone: 5/10

Trippy

Winston: 8/10

Quippy

The Crowd: 7/10

Zippy

I will leave you with one final point: hey, wouldn’t ‘Dredge’ be a great name for a band? Have that one on me.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #76


questionable time 76 david dimbleby pumpkin

Good morning Lemmings and let’s start with some joyous news: Energy prices were not the first question of last night’s show and despite their subsequent appearance in Question #3 I think we’re probably out of the woods when it comes to Energy Prices Time. The bad news however is that HS2 got the #1 spot and that worries me because a) it’s just as dull an issue as energy prices and b) we’re probably going to have at least 20 years of this as the project lurches from one inevitable delay to the next. So here’s a small request to all future QT audiences: Pace yourselves as you’ve got another couple of decades of this to come and we wouldn’t want to have all our HS2 ‘fun’ at once now would we? Anyway…

I had a killer opening line for Jeremy Browne all figured out…

Who’s this jolly trouser press of a man?” was how I thought I was going to start this week’s section on Jeremy Browne and very pleased I was with myself for it is a good line that adequately conveys what Jeremy Brown usually looks like when he’s on QT – you know, all very upright and formal yet with a splash of affable bumbling, much like a meerkat at an award ceremony. Unfortunately, that line’s not going to work any more as it appears that poor old Jeremy Brown has yet to recover from the rather rude surprise of being sacked for no good reason – other than to make space for one of Parliament’s odder-balls – and as such he no longer resembles a jolly trouser press (I toyed with ‘deflated trouser press’ but that really doesn’t work because it implies the existence of an inflatable trouser press and that in turn sounds like the sort of thing you send the YTS kid out for after they’ve failed to secure the tartan paint or bucket of pixels you originally requested). I’m chalking this up as another black mark against the Deputy PM’s name… Thanks for ruining an otherwise great opener Cleggers!

So yes, this was Jeremy’s first outing since being unceremoniously heave-hoed off the front benches and you know what? I felt really, genuinely sorry for him. You could see it in the listlessness, the downcast face and the lack of wobble in an otherwise pleasingly wobbly head. Sure, he answered questions that were asked of him and did his best to look like his heart hadn’t broken into a thousand tiny pieces but you could tell that he was only there in order not to let the side down (whichever side that may be). Basically, he resembled a man who’s had the crap kicked out of him in a very random assault and that lingering sense of bewilderment just struck me as terribly sad.

However, there is one ray of sunshine in this otherwise bleak picture: No matter how roughly he is treated, now matter how raw his deal, Jeremy Browne can always take solace in one thing – he still has his panda… And I still have my panda cutout (see Fig. 1).

jeremy brown panda homeless

Fig. 1

I do so love a happy ending.

Something sketchy this way comes…

Here’s a question I tend to ask myself when observing a QT n00b on their first outing: Would you lend this person a tenner? In the case of George Osborne’s ex-Chief-of-Staff Matthew Hancock I’d say ‘no’ and here’s why. First off, he looked shifty. Now I’m aware that this is his initial QT sortie and I do give a dispensation for first time nerves but his shiftiness appeared more congenital than circumstantial. However, the thing that really gave me the screaming jibblies was the way he kept juxtaposing faux sincerity with actual sincerity. Take the Unite question: Here he started by trying to convince us that he’s a strong supporter of the unions but you got the feeling that he had to physically push those words out of his mouth because let’s face it, close allies of George Osborne are not exactly famed for their love of labour movements. Still, you often have to say things you don’t actually mean on QT so I’d be willing to let that slip if he hadn’t  followed it up with a line about what utter monsters Unite are and delivered with the most forthright conviction – that just made the initial porky look all the porkier. The same happened on the energy question – ‘I really like green energy BUT THESE WINDMILLS ARE MADNESS!’ was the jist of it and the implication was exactly the same: ‘I’ve been told I should appear to like green energy YET IT ACTUALLY ME MAKES WANT TO PUNCH HIPPIES’.

And that, dear Lemmings, is why I won’t be lending Matthew Hancock a tenner.

Episodes of QT you want Chris Bryant on vs. Episodes of QT you don’t want Chris Bryant on…

Episodes you want Chris Bryant on…

The ones where the main topic is something he likes getting his knickers in twist about conducted in front of a combative panel and an audience riven by factionalism.

Episodes you don’t want Chris Bryant on…

The ones with so-so topics, a panel who looked blitzed from the train ride to Cornwall and a crowd who politely clap every point whilst behaving in a reasonable fashion.

Things that make the bad episodes marginally better…

Watching the expression on his face when Paris Lees said that Ed Miliband “has real oak in his penis”. ‘Shocked delight’ is the best I can come up with.

And the other two?

I’ve got to say that despite working for the wretched Mail, I thought Harriet Sergeant was actually rather good last night and the only panelist to be consistently on the ball throughout. We may differ in view-point but at least she’s got the gumption to go out and see what life is like on the other side of the fence. As for Paris Lees, well it was a jerky start with her repeated ‘nationalise all the things’ responses but she found her feet with the probation question and followed it up with an oaken-penissed flourish on press regulation. That’ll do for me Paris…

Tl;dr

Hancock: 4/10

(Wears a) Cloak (of shiftiness)…

Brown: 5/10

(Looks like a) Broke(n man)…

Bryant: 5/10

(Isn’t the sort of) Bloke (you want on a low-intensity episodes)…

Sergeant: 7/10

Woke (me up when I was in danger of dropping off)…

Lees: 6/10

Oak (and penises)

The Crowd: 5/10

(Nearly) Choke(d when they heard about Ed’s oaky penis)

Well, I can’t say that I was overly enthused by it all last night but at least I got to bust out the panda again… That’s got to count for something, right? Anyway, I’m off but before I go here are two very shameless plugs:

  1. What happens when you cut Morrissey’s brain in half.
  2. A rather nsfw t-shirt I designed that’s just gone on sale. I feel like I should be saying “I’m not proud of this” but in actual fact I’m really rather proud of it.

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 #44


questionable time 44 david dimbleby ASCII dot matrix capped

Good morning Lemmings and if – like me – you’re feeling a little over-inquiried after being exposed to dangerous levels of Leveson then I have some bad news: You’re about to get yet another hefty dose. That’s right, Question Time has taken it upon itself to get a little giddy with all things pressy and regulatory so you will find no respite, no safe harbour and no refuge from the tireless onslaught of quasi-judicial developments here. I will, however, try to make the whole experience as painless as possible. I am nothing if not merciful.

I never thought I’d see the day when Charlotte Church would say ‘statutory underpinning’, let alone say it three times in under a minute…

First off, where the hell has this phrase appeared from? It sounds like the sort of thing Kevin McCloud of Grand Designs fame gleefully warns people five minutes after it’s gone catastrophically wrong (“Oh, I see you decided to do the statutory underpinning yourself. Yes, it’s a bugger isn’t it? Have fun clearing the rubble! Tra-la-la!”) and right now everyone is banging on about it so much that I keep thinking I should get a survey done just in case. Anyway, as the heading suggests, Charlotte Church is deeply into statutory underpinning and I must confess that she actually made a pretty good go of getting me into it as last night progressed. Now, some of this is down to me feeling a little guilty for indulging in some pre-QT snobbery – in my defence I had only just learned of Church’s efforts to rebrand herself as a ‘serious’ indie artist – but mainly it was because she made a very good case for the prosecution during the Leveson section of the show whilst knowing when to fold on questions that weren’t quite as relevant later on.

However, the real kicker came about halfway through when an innocuous looking lady of advancing years decided to scold Chris Bryant for being “a young man with little experience”. ‘Hello,’ I thought ‘we’ve got a live one here’. She went on to explain that while it was terrible that people like the Dowler’s had been caught up in all phone hacking skullduggery, celebs pretty much had it coming. Church, to her credit, very politely interjected with a heartfelt story about the appalling treatment her mother had suffered at the hands of the News of the World and I thought that would be the end of it. Sadly, it was not and the seemingly sweet old lady shot back with this corker: “Stronger people would have weathered that storm better”. Charlotte, you get an extra mark for not physically showing her the door.

Patrick McLoughlin was a busted flush…

I had high hopes for this guy. I mean c’mon, how often do you get a panelist who’s not only an ex-member of the NUM but a Tory frontbencher as well? That’s like a member of Slayer jacking in the thrash metal to lay down some mortgage rock with Keane. Anyway, I thought that this fish-out-of-water background would be a rich seam to mine but alas, we never got beyond the spectacle of him not really knowing what was going on. It all hinged on 3.15pm and Cameron’s ‘crossing the Rubicon’ comments, a matter that McLoughlin appeared uniquely ill-equipped to deal with. First came evasion and then bluster, a development that was not lost on the ever-predatory Chris Bryant who swiftly moved in to badger him to death. That was it. He was done by half time and we have yet to see the man behind all the flapping. Maybe next time Patrick… Maybe…

Neil Wallis looked a damn sight better than he did the night before…

I caught Newsnight on Wednesday and was presented with a picture of what can only be described as a broken man. There was Wallis, slumped and knackered, awaiting the inevitability of his fate while Paxo circled lazily, toying with him before gorging on what remained of his blackened soul. Yet fast-forward 24 hours and what have we got? A surprisingly chipper Neil Wallis who would very much like us to know that the press have this all under control. Yup, all that phone hacking and whatnot, it was a bit sketchy but hey, at least we’re not MP’s so don’t you go worrying your sweet bippy. Nice try Neil, nice try… Now here’s a photo of him getting thoroughly Churched (see Fig. 1).

neil wallis charlotte church

I still love watching Chris Bryant…

Should I ever become unfeasibly rich, I would very much like to hire Chris Bryant for a year before purchasing several hundred square miles of tropical rainforest and releasing him in it with nothing more than a pair of Y-fronts. That sounds like the sort of treatment you’d reserve for your worst enemy but in this case you couldn’t be further from the truth. Why? Because there’s something about Bryant that makes me believe he’d thrive in a Darwinian battle of annihilation and that he’d soon come to treat his year in my pay as a liberation of sorts. Maybe it’s the way that those eyes are constantly scanning for weakness, maybe it’s the way he relentlessly chases every point, maybe it’s the way he views other panelists as if they were prey to be hunted, I’m not sure. Whatever it is though, it’s very compelling and adds that much-needed whiff of instinctual brutality to the QT mix, all of which scores points in my book.

Jenko is Intentionally Difficult…

There are two types of people in this world, the Unintentionally Difficult and the Intentionally Difficult. The Unintentionally Difficult are the ones who slowly suck all the colour out of the world with their flaky-yet-plausible excuses, aversions to things you like and passive-aggressive fence-sitting. Basically, they’re jerks who gum up the wheels of life with a mixture of good intentions and fear of conflict. Simon Jenkins though, well he’s cut from a different cloth and it’s an Intentionally Difficult cloth. Now, that sounds like a bad thing and sometimes it is – like when David Starkey picks a meaningless fight just so he can perform a panto swoon followed by a sustained bout of faux indignation – but in the case of Jenkins it’s not. And why would that be? Because he’s so assured of the veracity of whatever difficult viewpoint he’s taking that you just kind of have to accept it and carry on. Sure, you can argue with him, you can try to point out the flaws in his argument but you won’t win because Simon Jenkins cares not for your trifling concerns. No, all Jenko cares about is not agreeing wholeheartedly with anyone and that’s actually not such a bad thing. Say what you will about the Intentionally Difficult, at least they add a slug of vodka to the lemonade of life.

Tl:dr

Church: 7/10

Yay

McLouglin: 4/10

Neigh

Wallis: 4/10

(Should really go) Away (for a while)

Bryant: 6/10

(Did) Prey (remorseless on McLoughlin)

Jenkins: 6/10

(Couldn’t give a monkey’s as to what you’ve got to) Say

The Crowd: 5/10

(Are heavily invested in the) Nikkei?

So, a pretty even spread of marks for a fairly evenly spread episode. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go and check on my statutory underpinning.

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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