Posts Tagged 'Chris Grayling'

Questionable Time #100


questionable time 100 david dimbleby photoshop montage

Good morning Lemmings and no, your eyes do not deceive you – Questionable Time is 100 posts old today and yes, you should all be very excited about this. What? What’s that? Why should you be excited? Well I don’t bloody know – I’m 100 now and easily confused so unless you’re the dispatch rider with my telegram from the Queen I’ll be asking you to take your leave now thank you very much indeed.

(Incidentally, due to arbitrary changes in naming schemes, this isn’t the 100th post at all. No, it’s actually the 149thor the 151st if you’re being particularly thorough. Either way though, Questionable Time is now officially old).

Anyway, to celebrate this ‘exciting’ turn of events, QT has got all giddy with excitement and sent us not 5 but 6 flesh bags to play with which works out as 20% extra ire to vent. Best get on with it then…

The sum of Tristram Hunt’s parts…

Cast your eyes on Tristram Hunt and what goes through your head? Well, if your answer is something along the lines of ‘A jaw line that says ‘rugged’,a pre-politics profession that says ‘bookish’, a voice that says ‘plumby’ and a constituency that says ‘authentic, grinding poverty” then not only are we on the same page but we’re probably both experiencing that weird sensation of witnessing something that shouldn’t really be. That sounds harsh – particularly as we often consider some of these traits to be positive things when dealt with in isolation – but when we take them as a combined whole they make this odd melange that just doesn’t quite cut it and leaves him in this strange netherworld of unconnected dots and verses that never quite make it to the chorus.

Take for example his response to the question about whether the UK is inherently racist: Here’s where he pitches his voice down to just shy of ‘solemn’, dons the look of a man wracked with concern, and gravely intones that maybe the Red Team took their eye off the ball when it comes to the worries of the great unwashed before swiftly concluding that it’ll all be ok in the end because Labour understand the cost of living – providing it doesn’t have to go into specifics about the price of milk, bread or any other essential component of this whole ‘living’ business. On paper, this is a perfectly reasonable play which, if deployed properly, should naturally segue into a soaring crescendo of Labour being the best placed party to right these wrongs but with Hunt it never quite does: Instead it just sort of judders along, never quite finding biting point as the listener tries to match the incongruous vision of this clearly clever and privileged man trying to ‘engage’ with people who might as well have grown up in a completely different universe.

The sad thing is that we caught a fleeting glimpse of the authentic Tristram this week. This was Historian Tristram who when asked about the comparisons between Hitler and Putin suddenly became enthused, animated and coherent. It was a good answer as well, robustly delivered and neatly tying up his specialist interest with a sly pop at The Daily Mail – a confluence of factors that made him (for a brief moment at least) a thing that was supposed to be. The problem is that these moments are not only so few and far between, they also tend to be sandwiched between those awkward encounters like the race question or the bluster he hid behind when Labour’s education policy was put under the spotlight. Oh Tristram, if only there were such a thing as a Minister for History…

…And the winner of this year’s Panelist I’d Never Thought I’d Like But Actually Have A Lot Of Time For is…

…Ladies and gentlemen, the Rt Hon. Jeremy Browne MP! Woop woop! So yes, Jeremy Browne is in the house and for one I am delighted because:

A: He’s the polar opposite of Tristram Hunt who knows what he is (a veritable trouser press of a man who is probably insufferably enthusiastic during any event that involves the words ‘Team Building’) and gives not a hoot if you don’t care for his ways.

B: The whole panda thing makes him ridiculously easy to photoshop.

And C: I think he got a really raw deal when he was thrown under a bus for the whole ‘Go Home’ debacle.

However, I must admit that it was a fair to middling performance last night where he never quite hit his stride and I suspect I know why: He got rid of his beard. To those who may not have spotted it, Browne spent much of this year with not only a beard attached to his face, but a majestic one that dominated everything within a 100 ft radius. Seriously, (and I say this as a bearded man) it was a thing of utter beauty that made him look like a Special Forces operator who’d just rolled in from the hills of the Hindu Kush with a clutch of sexy superficial wounds and a haunted look that says “I’ve seen things no man should see” (see Fig. 1). Alas, he now appears to be sans beard and as a result we’re back to plain old Vanilla Browne – not the worst thing in the world but certainly not a patch on Jeremy ‘Instrument of State Sanctioned Murder’ Browne. I really got on with that guy.

jeremy browne panda special forces beard

Fig. 1

Grayling and the love/hate of the game…

Hmmmm… A quiet one from the Justice Minister last night but one that was not without its own story to tell. Basically, the key to Grayling is not what he says – that’s usually your standard boilerplate ‘the mess Labour made’ stuff – but the way he reacts to things. For example, whenever an opponent is getting it in the neck you can always hear this little laugh come from Grayling and it’s not a nice laugh. No, instead it’s one of those ‘Fade away, jerk!’ laughs that you get when you ask a bus driver if they have enough change for a tenner and on top of that it’s usually packaged with a subtle sneer.

And thus is the problem with Grayling: Satisfaction for him comes not from the furthering of The Plan (whatever that may be) but from the game itself and, more precisely, the smiting of one’s enemies. Now, as a political tool this is certainly a handy disposition to cultivate but, in the wider battle of winning hearts and minds? Nah, it just reminds people of that look that Kevin McCloud of Grand Designs fame pulls when the amateur developers tell him that they’re project managing themselves and funding the job on their credit card. Schadenfreude: It’s a double edged-sword.

And the rest?

Time is short and so is this paragraph.

Allsop – Likes saying “ought to” a lot, talks about the property market in a very ’round the houses’ sort of way, conflates fertility with housing status.

Hamilton – Real life panto villain who represents the truly terrifying nexus of UKIP, bent Tories and bow ties.

Monroe – The only logical outcome of putting both Lily Allen and Owen Jones into the Large Hadron Collider, pressing the big red button and hoping for the best.

Tl;dr

Hunt: 5/10

(A right old) Jumble (of a man)

Browne: 5/10

(Not much to) Grumble (about)

Grayling: 4/10

(Would laugh long and hard if he saw you) Tumble (down some stairs)

Allsop: 6/10

Bumbles (amiably about in a twee sort of way)

Hamilton: 5/10

(Does the sinister) Mumble (quite well)

Monroe: 6/10

(Reputedly makes good) Crumble

The Crowd: 6/10

(Made for a perfectly serviceable) Fumble (in the dark).

Gah, I can never get my head around these six-for-the-price-of-five episodes but then again, I am 100 so just getting to the end of this piece without major incident is an achievement in itself. Right, that’s me done and next week we return to bog standard, non-celebratory Questionable Time, hopefully with the more traditional compliment of five panelist. Until then, that’s your lot and GET OFF MY LAWN YOU BLOODY WHIPPERSNAPPERS!

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #42


Good morning Lemmings and welcome to Corby, a town that I recently discovered has absolutely nothing to do with trouser presses but does harbour an enormous amount of Scottish people. Who knew? Anyway, the other big thing about Corby is that it’s a classic bellweather constituency that happens to be holding a Mensch induced by-election. Now, conventional QT wisdom would suggest that this would make for a solid show, one riven with partisan bile and political rowdyism but somehow that just didn’t happen last night. Here’s why.

Chris Grayling was surprisingly tolerable…

He’s been an irksome thing of late has Grayling. It’s not the fact that he does the whole puff-chested, ‘Tuff On Crims’ thing – I expect that from Tory Justice Ministers who aren’t Ken Clarke – it’s because he seems to enjoy it so much and that gives him quite an unpleasant edge. However, I’ve got to say that he really didn’t wind me up that much last night and that’s mainly because the questions were a bit duff. With the exception of the obligatory Who Will Win The By-Election question (in which he put in a reasonable effort at damage control), the rest of them concerned matters where there isn’t a huge gulf between the parties. Sure, minor blows were traded on matters pertaining to paedophiles, Abu Hamza and Israel but there was no great set-piece where he had the opportunity to really wind me up. That’s a problem because I need a baddy in my QT line-up just like I need Ride of the Valkyries as my alarm clock tone: It’s not that I particularly like either Wagner or waking up, it’s that at least the combination of the two give the otherwise mundane an air of drama. Grayling was my best shot for a baddy last night and on that front he failed. However, I suppose I can take solace in the fact that he appeared a little slippery when questioned about why he didn’t frequent Starbucks. “I don’t like coffee” came the just-too-quick response. Slippery. Like his head. His big, baked bean of a head (see Fig. 1).

chris grayling baked bean

Fig. 1

I almost ended up making Harriet Harman a cup of tea…

There are some constants in this world like cycle of life and death, the turning of the seasons and automatically flicking over the channel whenever you hear The One Show theme. Harriet Harman appearing on QT is one of those constants and it’s now so routine that when I went to the fridge for another beer I caught myself saying “Can I get you anything Harriet?” out loud. So yes, this was another problem as every time she started talking I just sort of phased out and nodded along politely, like you do when a friend tells you a long and involved story that you’ve heard a million times before. It’s not that it’s a bad story, nor can I find particular fault with her recounting of it, but seriously Harriet, we need to spice things up a little. How about going on I’m a Celeb? At least it’d give Dimbers another excuse to talk about “eating testicles”.

I didn’t feel fully Faraged by the end of play…

Here he is, my forbidden fruit, my furtive fumble in the dark, my sordid little crush. Yes, Nigel’s back for those who are not aware, I have all the time in the world for the UKIP leader. It’s not his politics – I find them to be little more than drunken scrawlings on the political toilet wall – it’s the fact that he seems never more than two steps away from slipping on a banana skin that he himself just dropped. With this in mind, I can’t help feeling a little short-changed by last night’s show. Fair enough, he did come across as quite potty when he started yelling “THAT’S HOW IT WORKS” as he desperately tried to frame Europe as the source of all tax avoidance but he could have gone so much further. In fact, my dream scenario was that he’d get so giddy about UKIP’s frighteningly good prospects in the Corby by-election that he’d prematurely call the whole deal an outright win for the Red, White and Blue Team before spending the next couple of years living down endless VT footage of him erroneously bellowing ‘IT STARTED HERE, IN CORBY!’. Alas, it was not to be and while he was quite mad, he could have been madder. Dammit UKIP, you’ve really got to stop with all this We Might Actually End Up Being Something Resembling An Actual Political Party business. It’s getting scary.

Tessa Munt has a way to go…

I usually give out good marks for talking slowly as it makes a nice change from the usual frenetic babbling whilst also fostering a feeling of solidity and trustworthiness. Unfortunately, Tessa Munt took the whole slow talking thing just a little too far and found herself deep within Playing For Time territory. The paedophile question was particularly instructive in this instance: She embarked on what looked like a nice little warm-up about how she’d been talking to some lad about something or other and there was a moment where she could have segued seamlessly into an actual point… Except she didn’t. Instead, she just kept going and going, eventually ending up exploring all the permutations of how children and adults could do violence to one another. The feeling I was left with was ‘you don’t really have a point, do you?’. Still, great name. Munt. Muuuuuuuuunt.

Moray MacLennan could use a hobby…

What’s with all the 5th panelists they trawl on from the world of business, finance and, in this case, advertising? They all seem so consumed by the game they’re in that I want to grab them by the lapels and yell “WHY NOT JUST STAY IN AND WATCH CRAP TV ONCE IN A WHILE?!?!” Alright, MacLennan does have a sick note in this department as the subjects of the corporate tax question happened to be his clients (Google and Amazon) but still, when he started going about ‘value crystalising’ and ‘the customer experience’ I honestly thought he was going to whip out a PowerPoint presentation and talk us through some focus group findings. Except that he’s the sort of jagged looking advertising guy who wouldn’t use Power Point. He’d use whatever the Apple version is. iDon’tTheseGraphsLookEdgy or something.

Tl;dr

Grayling: 5/10

(Looks a little like a baked) Bean

Harman: 5/10

(Has been on Question Time since I was about) Seventeen

Munt: 3/10

(Could use a little) Caffeine

Farage: 6/10

(Should never be allowed near) Gasoline

MacLennan: 4/10

(Probably talks about work in the) Canteen

The Crowd: 6/10

(Regress towards the) Mean?

 

So damn and blast, this episode felt like a missed trick. It had a baddy, it had a wildcard and the crowd were certainly willing but somehow all these things just failed to come together. That, and I’m still reeling from the trouser press revelation.

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #26


questionable time 26 david dimbleby wonderbra

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to a somewhat more straight-forward instalment of Questionable Time than last week’s rather narcissistic little jaunt. Yes that’s right, I’m back in the cheap seats and in some ways I’m glad: Thrilling as last week was I’m just not sure that I was built to sustain the levels of excitement/terror that come with being a part of the audience. Anyway, here we are and there’s a lot to get through so let’s crack on. Here’s what we learned:

The news is back and this time it means business.

One of my biggest beefs with being in the audience of Question Time last week was that it occurred on a week when pretty much nothing of any import happened and the news appeared to have beached itself on the Sandbank of Uneventfuness. Sure, there was the whole Abu Qatada vs. the Gregorian Calendar affair and the preliminary stages of the Omnishambles, but lets face it, a couple of soggy sky rockets does not a fireworks display make. This week however stands apart from its immediate ancestor in that wherever you turn something spectacular is happening and from whatever angle you view it one can only conclude that all of these spectacular things are spectacularly bad for the coalition government, particularly the Tories. Here’s the jist of it:

      1. The economy has basically given up and called it a day.
      2. The Murdoch clan have put on their own production of Gotterdammerung and invited the entire world to attend.
      3. Having a name that lends itself to accidental profanities is now the least of the Culture Secretary’s worries.
      4. Nadine Dories.

Clearly this wasn’t going to be a week laden with promise for the Blue Team but as is the way of the world, someone was going to have to cop for it. And just who would that lucky soul be? Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together for Minister of State at the Department of Work and Pensions, the Rt Honourable Chris Grayling MP! Whoop-whoop!

Now I actually think that Grayling did quite well last night and the reason he did quite well was that he was totally unremarkable: No heroics, no soaring oratory, no impassioned call to arms, just plain old ‘unremarkable’ and in my book that’s quite alright. Why? Well because despite outward appearances the very last thing you need in a situation like this is a hero. Heroes are great when you need that last bit of umph to really carry the fight to your enemies or to stage a decisive counter attack but they are not cut out for situations where there is simply no prospect of a win’ No, what you need at times like that is someone who can simply endure, hack off a pound of their own flesh and present it to the assembled mob with silent ambivalence. Granted, there’s not much glory to be had in being a human punch bag and Grayling did end up resembling a washing-up sponge that’s seen better days but at least he left things in a state that wasn’t that much worse than they were an hour before. In the grand scheme of things I’d be happy with that outcome.

The other person who had the most to lose last night was Simon Hughes and I must say that I wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of him being on. It’s not that I don’t like the man (in fact I’d go so far as to say that I have somewhat of a soft spot for him) it’s just that there’s only so much lip-biting, hand-wringing and self-flagellation I can witness before I start feeling sad. And that’s what Hughes has been like over the last couple of years, a tortured soul who rationally knows that he’s committing mad acts in response to a mad world but somehow can’t convince his soul that this is the case. Happily though, he seemed much more at peace last night and actually appeared to be a proper human being as opposed to a totemic whipping boy for the Lib Dems’ collective self-loathing. The way in which this manifested was that he was much better at picking his fights and managed to suppress the urge to dive on grenades that were clearly intended for the Tories, something which has been a problem in the past. Instead he stuck to the things he knew and cared about – like housing – whilst also making quiet overtures to the Red Team (“It wasn’t all Labours fault”), all of which was a refreshing change to being the principal apologiser for his party’s self-harming tendencies. I guess the big question is ‘does this mean that he thinks that coalition is toast?’, the answer to which only he knows but it’s certainly nice to seem him looking a little less spiritually broken.

The people with the most to gain didn’t gain that much.

By rights this should have been an episode in which both Diane Abbott and Polly Toynbee cleared up – what with all the fruit hanging so low – but somehow it didn’t quite turn out like that. I guess the main reason for this is that Romford voted very strongly for the Tories in 2010 (they had a clear 26.5% lead over Labour) so there’s clearly some loyalty there but it’s also down to the fact that while the Left’s critique of the current government is pretty robust, its alternative solution just doesn’t hang together as well as it should. Apart from that it was business as usual for these guys, what with Toynbee talking ever-so-seriously about ever-so-serious things and Abbott doing that ‘Dear Sir, imagine my concern’ face that she is wont to do. Both got some solid applause but neither really managed to find that killer angle of attack without exposing their own flanks. Had this been up t’North or a few miles to the west then things could have turned out very differently but as it stands they emerged much like their counterparts: In no better nor worse a situation than they started.

So no revelations there, but hang on, aren’t we missing something here? Damn straight we are! Nigel, Nigel, where for art thou Nigel?

Nigel Farage is still my favourite prat.

Yes! After what seems like an eternity (it’s actually only been five months) he’s back and if the papers are to be believed, he should have been soaring like an eagle last night. And soar he did as he socked it to the government for being a bunch of “college kids” and eulogised sole-traders as “heroes of the nation”. The crowd roared their approval as he seemed to levitate out of the studio. Fly Nigel, fly! Go on son, slip these earthly shackles! And upwards he went, propelling himself by cackling at the IMF loan, high into the night sky from where he rained down thunderbolts on Jeremy Hunt. But wait! What’s this? He seems to be stalling! What’s that he just said? ‘Immigration’? No Nigel, no! His rate of climb slows and then suddenly reverses. Oh god, he’s saying he’s spoken to “several people” and what they’ve told him is that it’s just too ruddy easy for Jonny Ruddy Foreigner to get a ruddy council house in this sceptred isle. Missiles are unleashed from the crowd and one from a housing worker who appears to know what he’s talking about scores a direct hit. BOOM! He’s falling now, falling fast! The crowd look on aghast as certain death looms and then CRACK! His fall is broken by a freak question about teen sex! Battered and bruised, he picks himself and limps off to lick his wounds. Nigel, you flew too high. You tried to touch the sun only to be dashed to earth like the mortal you are. Bad luck. You’re still my favourite prat though. Here’s a little something I made for you (see Fig. 1).

nigel farage hope poster absurdity

Fig. 1

Vince Cable still has a fan.

And not just any old fan but a super-fan by the looks of it. So well done Mr. Yellow T-Shirt And Suit Jacket, well done for being supremely unfashionable in every sense of the word! A cheer for Mr Yellow T-Shirt and Suit Jacket!

Tl;dr

Grayling: 5/10

Soaked (it up)

Abbott: 5/10

Poked (at Grayling)

Hughes: 6/10

(Seems pretty) Stoked

Toynbee: 6/10

Provoked (a few claps)

Farage: 6/10

Joked (about this and that)

The Crowd: 7/10

(Should have been) Revoked (since I wasn’t in it).

So there we go: A pretty solid episode where everyone except Farage ended up pretty much where they had started. Now, if you’ll excuse me I must get back to my busy schedule of not being recognised on the street and my phone not ringing off the hook. Ah, the perils of QT fame…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #49


question time 49 summerMorning Lemmings and stop crying! I know it’s the last show of the series and all that but let’s face it, it ended with a hell of a bang. Admittedly, this has more to do with the fact that this week’s news has been hurtling forward at the speed of light than anything inherently Question Timey, but nevertheless, it was a belter.

Now usually I tend to do this in the order that the panelists were introduced but I’m making an exception this week and kicking off with Hugh Grant, mainly because he pretty much owned this show and cemented himself beyond doubt in the ‘more than just a pretty face’ category. Personally, I’ve always been a bit up and down with Hugh but in the last few years, he’s really grown on me. Here’s why:

  1. Bitter Moon

This is probably one of the worst films ever made and even by Polanski’s usual standards it’s beyond weird. I’d explain the premise if I understood it but I don’t and all I can really tell you is that involves Hugh Grant being berated by a wheelchair bound Peter Coyote while Kristin Scott-Thomas lezzes it up with Polanski’s real-life girlfriend. Sounds rubbish, right? Well yes, it is, but sublimely rubbish.

  1. Mickey Blue Eyes

If Bitter Moon is crapness done right then Mickey Blue Eyes is mediocrity taken to perfection. It’s a formulaic and wholly unsurprising flick which rests heavily on Grant playing the same role that he does in every damn film but you know what? I love it. Unashamedly, wholeheartedly and unreservedly love it.

  1. His sting in the New Statesman.

This piece totally blindsided me and if you haven’t read it, check it out. The long and short of it is that Grant blagged a pap (who had previously papped him) into spilling the beans about all sorts of nefarious goings on whilst he happened to be wearing a wire. Not only was it fairly entertaining but it was also a great piece of journalism. From that day on, Grant’s stock has been rising on the Loudribs Exchange (LR

So that’s where I was with him prior to the show and I’m happy to report that the upward tick on his share price graph is not merely an aberration and is in fact part of a sustained rally. This has been largely achieved by melding what he’s very good at (i.e. being a bit charming in a floppy sort of way) with actually knowing a thing or two about his pet subject and not being afraid to point fingers. In essence, he’s done a Lumley.

In terms of how this came across on the show, let’s just say that it’s a foolhardy politician who tries to go toe-to-toe with Grant as not only does he know the terrain inside out (he seemed more clued up than either Alexander or Grayling on the details) but he also does anger in quite an intriguing way. I say this because we’re so used to him being the ‘don’t mind me’ and ‘I’m so terribly sorry I’m so damnably befuddled’ chap when he’s in films that to see him accuse Cameron of being “Murdoch’s little helper” is like being viciously savaged by something you believed to be harmless and benign. On top of this, he didn’t seem to be picking sides last night and he poured near equal amounts of scorn on both the Tories and Labour whilst rattling both their closets so that the crowd could dance to sound of jangling skeletons, all of which was refreshingly even-handed. His bitter little scrap with Gaunt was also something to behold (especially when he did the old switcheroo and asked whether Murdoch had the right to tell people what to read) and again, it showed a very steely side to him that took me unawares. Ok, so the guy knows naff all about train manufacturing but I’m inclined to forgive him that. I was also a little disappointed that he wasn’t wearing his mugshot placard from back when he was arrested, but I’d handily mocked up such a scenario the day before (see Fig. 1) and then felt massively guilty when John Gaunt bought it up and got rightly shot down for being “cheap and pathetic”. But yes, Grant played the match of his life last night and I think this performance will be remembered for quite a while hence.

 

hugh grant question time

Fig. 1

Facing this rather formidable prospect for the Blue Team last night was Chris Grayling, a man who it’s very hard to find anything to say about. Some of this is because he looks scarily bland, almost as if he has an inflatable head that someone has simply drawn his features on to, but also because I suspect he really is quite a dull guy. However, this apparent lack of anythingness might have actually been an asset last night as his brief was bloody difficult (‘look angry yet promise nothing’) and while he didn’t exactly make matters better for the government, at least he didn’t make them that much worse. What he did do however was to look just a little lost and actually quite out of his depth. You could see the odd moment when he felt brave and tried to have a pop at Alexander but there was no fire in him and he probably could have been replaced by an actual inflatable man, like the autopilot from Airplane! In short, I’ve seen better.

Now, remember a few weeks back when I got sidetracked and started blathering on about a book about the US Civil War that I’m reading? Well here it comes again! I bring this up because the Civil War was basically led on the Union side by two different types of general. On the one hand were the dapper West Pointers of old who did things ‘the proper way’, looked terrific, were held in much fondness by their men but were absolutely crippled by caution (your McClellan’s and Burside’s). These guys seemed to be largely competent and decent people who played by the rules but as soon as anything unexpected happened (which it invariably did), they all went completely to pot. Now the other set of General’s were much more fun. These were the guys like Sherman, Grant and Sheridan who had no interest in ‘the proper’ way’ of doing things, looked a mess but were extremely effective and utterly, utterly ruthless. Naturally, this meant that they did things that look very questionable in hindsight and they bought to the war a special kind of ugliness but by god did they get things done.

I bring this up now because what Labour really needed last night was a Sheridan. As I mentioned earlier, the rate of knots that the news has been steaming along at is absolutely phenomenal and so far, Miliband has been making a decent fist of it (I caught PMQ’s this week and you can see that Cameron knows he’s in trouble. As soon as that temper starts poking it’s head out, you know you’ve pressed the right buttons). However, ‘a decent fist’ is only a start and what is actually required right now is someone who will sweep in on their flanks, break their lines and then relentlessly harry them all the way back to Richmond. Right now, the prime candidates for this role appear to be Bryant, Watson and, bizarrely enough, Prescott, all of whom have really got the bit between their teeth. Unfortunately for Labour, what they got was Douglas Alexander and his instincts are certainly not of the ‘relentlessly harrying’ type. No, I’m afraid to say it but Wee Dougie is one of those who makes an excellent general in peacetime but when put into a fluid situation like the one we have now, he simply goes rigid.

Last night, that tendency manifested in his wanton overuse of the line “judicial inquiry” and had I counted the amount of times he uttered those words, I would have probably run out of fingers. Now don’t get me wrong, I also think that a judicial inquiry is what needs to happen and he was right to hammer the Tories on that one but there’s so much more he could have done. Granted, his room for maneuver was constricted by New Labour’s own shenanagising with Murdoch (as aptly and repeatedly pointed out by Grant) but if you can build up enough forward momentum, that issue should start to fade a little. Ultimately in a political sense, this is very dangerous for Cameron. It doesn’t matter what way you slice it, he’s been knocking about with some very bad people and all those who suspected that he kept some pretty shady company now have all the ammunition they will ever need. As to why Alexander couldn’t find the grit to really pursue that line I don’t know but it’s a great shame that he didn’t and what could have been a Battle of Atlanta turned into a Battle of Antietam: A bloody, grinding affair that squandered what had otherwise been great odds in his favour.

Ok, history lesson over and on to Shirley Williams, a woman who appeared to be positively enjoying the whole experience last night, simply by dint of doing what she does best: Telling people off. Most of her ire was directed in the vicinity of Murdoch (and she was the only politico to come out as avowedly anti-News International) but he wasn’t the only one to get a thundering denunciation by any account. Oh no, there was Grayling getting it in the neck about BskyB, Grant being chided for something or other, Dimber’s for playing favourites with the boys and a poor member of the audience who got a minor tongue lashing for putting his hand up. Now usually I hate the teller-offers in this world but for reasons unknown, I don’t mind it with Williams. Partly I think this is down to her voice which is very well suited to rollickings and partly because she wears the head mistress cape so well, but also I think I may just have a soft spot for angry old people. Let’s face it, they’ve earned the right and I fully intend to become an absolute volcano of rage when I hit 70. So nice one Shirley, jobs a good ‘un.

Right, final panelist now and let’s not spend too much time on it as this week we have been blighted by John Gaunt, ex-Sun journo and all round pillock. In the interests of fairness I should point out that he did receive some fairly decent chunks of applause and he was far from uncritical of the News of the World but then again Hitler probably could have raised a clap or two by slagging off Murdoch on last night’s show. No, what really gets my goat about Gaunt is a) the way each sentence starts at around 70 dB and ends at an ear-splitting 150 dB and b) he reminds me of one of those novelty keyrings that play different and largely annoying little soundbites. Can’t be bothered to think of an answer? Just press the button named ‘Blame Europe’. Get caught out thinking you’re in London when you’re actually a Basingstoke? Just press the button marked ‘Annoying Squealy Laugh Followed By Rubbish Joke’. Worried that Hugh Grant might be hogging the limelight? Just press the button marked ‘Keep It In Your Trousers’. I think you get the picture and don’t need me to elaborate further on how much of a div he is. Div.

So there we have the panel, what of the crowd? Well, in actual fact it’s quite hard to draw a bead on them as the show was utterly dwarfed by its context and other than them being wholly game for a spot of Murdoch bashing, they all just seemed to coalesce into one great big angry mob. I make that sound like a bad thing but it’s not. Everything that has gone on in the past week completely justifies angry-mob-like-activity and I think this was pretty accurate depiction of the national mood. Then again I could be wrong. They could have been driven to such levels of torment by the tie Dimbers was wearing. He does know that Global Hypercolor ceased to be ‘in’ several decades ago, right?

Tl;dr

Grant: Hit

8/10

Grayling: Not in the least bit

4/10

Alexander: Doesn’t quite get it

5/10

Williams: True grit

7/10

Gaunt: Tit

3/10

The Crowd: Tightly knit

7/10

So there we have it, a right old clangerlang to end the series with. As is only right, I’d like to thank all those who’ve had to put up with how cranky I get on a Friday night, especially my partner Hannah. Thanks as well to those who keep coming back to read this week after week. The traffic on this blog isn’t exactly massive, but knowing that it hits a chord with some people is good enough for me. As is traditional at the end of the series, I will now make some rash promises about how this blog may move to its own dedicated site although this time I don’t fully intend to disappoint. I only semi intend to. Thanks for reading and enjoy your summers.

September Lemmings, September…


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