Posts Tagged 'Chuka Umunna'

Questionable Time #145


qt 145

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to the last Questionable Time of the season. It’s time to kick off our dancin’ heels and take a lounge in the hammock, perhaps while enjoying three jugfuls of Pimms and watching UK athletes fail at tennis, football, and indeed every other sport in existence. Alternatively, it’s time to make jokes about Anna Soubry. Again. It’s this blog’s preferred mode of entertainment. Let’s hustle!

We are the 43%

We start with the news that Question Time has had 43% female panellists this season, its highest ever percentage! Yay! I, for one, am all in favour of women being allowed to make fools of themselves just as much as the men. Equality to be an embarrassment! On a surely unrelated note, Anna Soubry was actually drafted in as a replacement for Ken Clarke in this episode, thus lifting the total even higher. I doubt, however, that he would have given quite such a scrappy performance as dear old Chortles, because…well…we’ll talk more about her later.

First up! “Is the Chancellor’s living wage pledge as good as it sounds, given tax credit cuts will make people worse off?” Chuka Umunna has been given an open goal and somehow still manages to saunter away from it because it might get his shoe muddy. I like some things in the Budget, he says, but if you’re below 25 you’re screwed. DCam broke his promises at the Leaders’ Debate and is a disgrace. Despite cheers (unusually loud due to the weird echoey hall they’re in) and using the snoutpuncher of a word ‘disgrace’, he still approaches every subject as if he has yellow rubber cleaning gloves on. Chuk-a-Cheese very rarely raises his voice about anything, even the impending doom of the youth of the country. Anna Soubry, on the other hand…

Chortles blurfles her jowls. Dave didn’t break no promise, man! she flubbers. He’s getting the deficit down, which is, of course, “the right thing to do”. How would you “balance the books” to “live within our means”, eh, Chuka? Faced with a barrage of three cliches in a row, Chuka looks concerned and hunky. They both get clapped again, and the ear-splitting echoes of the lost art of political debate resound off the dusty walls forever.

Louise Bours of UKIP is all about the social mobility. Without tax credits she couldn’t have fed her children or got through university, so that’s out of the question. What should we cut, then? Ah, yes…it’s all so simple in retrospect. The bloody international aid budget! This gets a mixed response, but either camp is a loud one due to this frickin’ frackin’ un-soundproofed hall.

Tommy Sheppard, an SNP new bug, looks like a skunk who’s been given an electric shock. He says it’s profoundly crap that the Tories are trying to rebrand themselves the new “workers’ party”. They don’t even own any flat caps that could give them awful hat hair, like he so obviously is victim to. Dimbles then cuts in to ask Rachel Johnson, “as the only non-politician on this panel”…yep, she’s really unconnected, isn’t she? Can’t think where I’ve seen her face before…but anyway. Gorgeous George (not Galloway, Osborne – the new one) had to cut something, she pleads! So he threw a dart at a board and came up with tax credits. Anna looks strangely outraged for some reason, as if Rachel daring to be not 100% supportive is a crime against humanity/Toryism (to Anna, there is no difference) and even now is planning a coup with her blustery brother to unseat the blessed Cammerz.

“We have to support our economy!” Chortles interrupts. Rachel looks genuinely confused. Please, Anna – she’s on your side. Maybe you should take after Dave himself and chillax a little.

You could…not cut those taxes for millionaires, says Tommy innocently, like a small toddler encountering a cruel and unforgiving world, as I admire his bushy, permanently-worried eyebrows.

Then a man says something about maintenance grants but we’re all distracted by his colourful hat. He gets into an altercation with Chuka, though, which is just embarrassing for all involved.

Greece joins the 1p Club

Next, the exact same question but not asked by rainbow hat guy: “is the scrapping of maintenance grants the death knell of social mobility for this generation in the UK?” Well, as a young’un under 25 myself, I’m currently enjoying a particularly terrified shit. Don’t know about you, fair reader. You’re probably older than me, in which case I hate you.

Louise says yes. There are too many university places, meaning lots of loans. The solution to this is to ban ‘David Beckham studies’ (does this exist?) and that nurses shouldn’t go to university. RUBBISH says Anna, loudly and proudly. Told you she was in prime fightin’ mode tonight. Chuka merely smirks and nods, clearly enjoying himself.

Rachel meeps that children won’t go because of the piles of debt. Anna brushes her off and says her figures are wrong. Chuka disagrees, saying what Labour would do if they were in government, which is kind of irrelevant. These poor shmoes, or rather mini-shmoes, can’t pay off their debt, and the taxpayers will end up saddled with it, says he. This all sounds awful, says our Scottish representative – good thing I’m in Scotland. Louise and Anna get into a fight again. I am already tiring of this and Dimbleby looks like he wants to go on holiday. Let’s move on.

Was Greece right to “show two fingers to the EU”? Louise larfs and calls the EU (more like pee-yoo, amirite?)…Wonga. (If you listen closely, you can hear Stella Creasy screaming in horror in the distance.) What episode of Deal or No Deal are we on now? adds Rachel helpfully, which only succeeds in conjuring up horrifying images of Angela Merkel as Noel Edmonds.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

In any case, the EU has not “covered itself in glory” re: Greece, says Tommy, and has alienated its lefty supporters. Chuka counters this with the aural equivalent of a wibbly-wobbly hand gesture, but we all know he would (smoothy, suavely) tear his hair out if he had any. Anna classily compares Greece to Labour’s OVERSPENDING OMG. Referring to Chuka’s calls for restraint, she smirks that he’s “talking like a Tory”. He offers no concrete comeback for me to go on in response to this, so the jury is still out on whether he thinks this is a good thing or a bad thing.

Louise wants to go on, but we have to move ever forward like the march of time itself. Dimbles says she’ll still be able to say everything she likes “regardless of the question”. Ooh, bitch, you did not!

The real reason Chuka dropped out of the Labour leadership contest was because he didn’t want to take part in the ceremonial cage fight at the end

“Who, if anyone, can lead the Labour Party to success in 2020?” Cue much concern-trolling for Chuka’s chances. I was sad when he withdrew so soon, wibbles Rachel. Chop Socky Chuka offers a small smile in response, but it’s okay – he already knows he’s smokin’ hot. Then things get weird, with Rachel refusing to comment on Tory leadership plans…despite bringing it up in the first place. And mentioning Boris’ name in the first place. Okay, Rachel. You do you.

Meanwhile, the Blairite honking continues. Tommy steps up, at this point, to be the SNP voice of reason/smug superiority (delete according to political position). The Labour Party needs conviction, he convicts. Chuka rises to the challenge and ends with a pitch for his future leadership bid. Louise guffaws once again and says she’d like to see Chuka in a working men’s club. Can yer imagine it?!?!?!?! Anna smugly smugs that Labour is doomed because of the lefties in silly hats infiltrating it. Liz Kendall will save us, says Chuka. She won’t win, smugs Anna smugly, and also snugly, because everyone is starting to fall asleep at this point. Oh well.

Time for the scores!

Soubry: 6/10

Fighty

Umunna: 6/10

(Used a deft) Sleight-y (of hand)

Sheppard: 7/10

(Nicola Sturgeon is) Aphrodite

Bours: 5/10

(Luvs dat) Blighty

Johnson: 5/10

Flighty

The Crowd: 7/10

Lord Almighty!

Next time: we’ll be back in September, in WEMBLAYYYY. Mark it in your diaries! …You know, if you’re a sad person.

Next series Lemmings, next series…

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Questionable Time #129


qt 129

Good morrow lemmings and I hope you all enjoyed the beautiful solar eclipse earlier today. I didn’t, because a cloud was in the way. A cloud over my heart named Question Time, featuring Dia Chakravarty. So let’s plunge straight in, while I cry, and cry, and cry, and cry, and cry, and cry.

Can’t budge it

Damn, this hall is ugly. At least Chuka ‘Ooh, mama’ Umunna is there to lift our spirits and possibly pose for a shirtless calender. I don’t know what Shirley Williams is wearing though, it looks like a five-year-old’s pretty pink princess dress.

The first question is – duh – on Ye Budgete. Do we or do we not feel better off? Sajid gets us off to a flying start by saying…yes. Yes we do. The slow-cooked economic ham is twerking. We need to stick to the ham. Or words to that effect. However, Chuka slowly explains, as slow as wading through molasses, that the government’s triumphant dancing over their employment figures doesn’t mean jack as zero-hours contracts are undermining the very meaning of twerk. I mean work. I’m going to get that wrong all day now.

A shrieky warble pierces through the air as the entire audience holds its breath in overwhelming fear. Or at least that’s what I did. Yes, Dia Chakrathingy from the Taxpayers’ Alliance is back, and so is her infamous giggly yelp. She, of course, has the answer to all our ills. The cost of living crisis, she meeps, is due to – you’ll never guess – high taxes! Give us more tax cuts, you lazy crap-for-craps! If only those big ol’ meanieheads in Westminster would listen and not get their ears clogged up with blood from listening to my voice for longer than five seconds!

The others look blankly on, contemplating the mysteries of the universe.

Dimbleby turns to Shirley and asks her about the embarrassing spectacle that was Danny Alexander holding aloft a bright yellow lunchbox the other day to prove that he too can play with the big boys and their Budgets. Shirley, perhaps sensing that this was an inherently hilarious occurrence, deftly changes the subject to subtly imply Dia is an idiot. When you’ve been in politics as long as she has, you can get away with that sort of stuff, among other things such as flouncing out of the Labour Party.

Will Self, he of the artful navel gaze, agrees with Chuka on this one. Regarding the cuts to come, you ain’t seen nothing yet, he concludes, especially those to public services. Rumblings from the crowd follow and one angry lady rants about how nobody mentions the poor anymore, instead choosing to focus on that most insufferable and inferred middle-classish of archetypes: the ‘hardworking family’. But you don’t understand, continues Sajid, if hardworking families are happy then the poor must also be happy! It makes perfect sense!

Chuka smoothly slides over this topic like an ice skater, going for Shirley instead with ruthless abandon but she strikes back. This is like a (improbably attractive) teenager fighting with an old lady (about the NHS). Speaking of the NHS, David Dimbleby’s got a bad cough, hasn’t he? Maybe he needs to go and sit in A&E for eight hours too.

Sajid leaps to Shirley’s defence by yelling that Labour suck and have a bad record so don’t bully Nice Mrs Williams! Dia interrupts and squawks about cutting stuff like child benefit. Or perhaps not? I get so confused by this woman, she talks so fast and oft-nonsensically that it’s difficult to keep up with what her train of thought actually is. In fact I think her train of thought has derailed and hit a tree.

So you DON’T want to abolish child benefit?, asks Chuka. Dia replies that no, silly-billy, she actually wants to means-test it! Duhhhh!
“But it’s already means-tested,” he mutters, baffled, as if talking to a child who has shit themselves and is unwarrantably proud about it. Also, his face while listening to Dia LaBeouf rabbit on is possibly one of the top ten funniest things in the world.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Then there’s some nonsense about Wikipedia entries. A man in the crowd makes a jibe about how much Sajid earns, and Will is chuckling to himself like an trim, academic Santa Claus. It’s okay though. All is not lost. After all…Sajid has a snappy comeback ready.

“Don’t believe everything you read on Wikipedia,” he says, “Yours is longer than mine.”

Proving that one never really grows up, the entire crowd erupts in hoots. Sajid blushes like a ten year old girl.

“That didn’t come out right,” says he.
“Don’t make it worse,” says Dimbles, losing the will to live.

Look at this beautiful bunch of bastards

The next question succeeds in calming everyone down, due to being about a particularly unfunny event: the horrible attacks in Tunisia. Nothing like an unforgivable act of terror to make a Question Time panel suddenly feel sheepish about themselves for acting like six year olds.

Chuka claims that we should make sure people coming back from terroristin’ who may have done terrible actions should be subject to the rule of law. Will agrees again, but unavoidably goes off an a tangent about imperialism as is his wont. Shh now everybody, the white dude has to talk about Islamophobia! Meanwhile, Chuka is coming across well this episode, better than he did last time, sensible but finally getting a grip on his unnatural smoothness. Both he and Sajid are clearly angling for their respective party leaderships in the future, or at the least some higher-ranked positions.

At least Dia is always there to bring us back down to Earth as painfully as possible.

I THINK, JUST WHY, she screeches, giving her mature insight into the Middle Eastern conflict. LOOK AT THIS BEAUTIFUL PANEL, she continues, out of nowhere. Sajid nudges Shirley while grinning, obviously pleased the good-looking youngish lady on the panel just called him a fittie.

(To be fair to Dia, she did at least have a good point about not giving terrorists celebrity status. As a proud and graceful Media Studies student, this analysis pleases me. Good job Dia. You get One Point.)

Hice are nice

Next up, controlling rent prices.

We need more houses! begins Dia, starting us off once again I know not why. Everyone nods sagely. Let’s build on the green belt! she continues. The nods stop faster than a crane game at a funfair.

“We don’t build on the green belt, that’s why it’s called the green belt,” says Dimbleby, as if to the same excited child that Chuka previously had to deal with.

Then a member of the audience reminds us what the question really was since everyone seems to have gone off topic again. Sajid thinks a rent cap would make things worse, quelle horreur. He and Chuka have a cat fight before Will Self finally throws down the gauntlet, in his distinctive sarky monotonous voice, by pointing out that it’s highly unlikely that rent controls will be introduced when so many MPs make money off being big greedy renty poopyheads.

Ooooh, goes the crowd. Way to lay down the law, Selfy Stick.

Last question, to massive and predictable applause – why can’t MPs be more truthful? Well, to sum up:

Will Self feels sorry for the poor powerless bastards, Shirley Williams tells us a bedtime story, Dia smiles blandly and chooses not to be cynical, and Chuka and Sajid make up and hug. And kiss. And possibly more. All of this to be continued in my 1000 page forthcoming fanfiction.

Time for the scores!

Javid: 6/10

(Will die another) Day

Umunna: 8/10

(Did surprisingly) Okay

Williams: 5/10

(Not much to) Say

Chakravarty: 5/10

(Easy) Prey

Self: 6/10

#Slayyyy

The Crowd: 7/10

(Hear them) Bray

Next time: Jim Murphy faces his public. Uh…good luck with that.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #116


qt 116
Good morrow lemmings and welcome to sunny Romford-in-London! We’ve got a veritable cavalcade of weirdos on the panel today. Don’t just stand there, let’s get to it, strike a pose, there’s nothing to it.

“You gotta work bitch” – acclaimed scholar Britney Spears

Oh boy, oh boy, I wonder what new and interesting topics Question Time will cover this week? Plebgate? Ferguson protests? More Twitter storms that aren’t Thornberry-centric? No! It’s 25 uninterrupted minutes on immigration, because nobody’s talking about it and it’s a conversation we need to have, apparently! Nigel Farage’s ghostlike grimace floats over the panel, his laughter cascading off the walls and echoing into their very eardrums.

Chuka, you’re up. I am constantly baffled by this man. Once hailed as the great hope of the Red Team, everyone seems to have backed away from him slightly due to the fact that they’re a bit weirded out by the extent of his smooth, succulent silkiness. Chuka may well be the smoothest man who has ever lived. With his crisp dark grey suit, neatly preserved dark grey spotted tie, and World AIDS Day ribbon perfectly clasped on his lapel, he’s immaculately groomed and never puts a foot wrong, or indeed a word wrong – thus raising questions if he was actually bred in a lab somewhere, or created in Peter Mandelson’s sinister Machine for easy programming.

Anyway, Umunna Droid Version 2.0 talks nicey-nicely about higher education and doesn’t cause too much of a fuss. Tolerance! Respect! Fair play! Handsome Chuka will save us all, especially from rival leadership candidates Anime Andy and Pixie Yvette. Meanwhile, Michael Gove prissily clasps his hands together and peers over his glasses – perhaps seeking to unnerve Chuka, but you can’t unnerve a man who runs on pure undiluted smoothgroove.

Michael launches into his first attack. Immigrants come here because our economy is booming, which is good, but we need to control our borders anyway. Chuka raises a neatly crafted eyebrow. Suddenly he’s unceremoniously pushed offstage by Jo Brand, who asserts that certain areas of the press encourage scaremongering, looking pointedly at Amanda Platell, the Mail woman. Amanda isn’t taking that lying down, though – you gotta werk ‘ard, and don’t expect a meal ticket!! she declares, which only succeeds in making me feel hungry.

Our last panellist, Norman Baker, has a weird voice. He came to my university last week and got heckled by free education protestors. You’d think students would agree with him, though, considering he’s all pro-drug and pro-aliens and pro-David Duchovny. However, today, he’s disappointingly unweird. Boooo.

Well, things haven’t been too bad so far. Nobody’s shouted or screamed or cried, so maybe there is hope for QT after all –

The war of Tristram’s ear

I spoke too soon. We’ve all been drafted into the Class War without noticing. Oh, the humanity!

While a Daily Mail journalist criticising the ‘metropolitan elite’ is a bit of a larf, what was even more shocking in this episode was the behaviour of Michael Gove. Actually giving old loaf face the benefit of the doubt? Agreeing with some aspects of Labour policy? Quietly and unobnoxiously setting out his beliefs? Reader, I was shocked. Gove must know that he has the public image of a pile of dog vomit, so maybe he’s appeared on QT in order to tackle it. Bless our new Saint Gove, for he will lead is into a free school future of fun and frolics.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Hilariously, Jo Brand’s not havin’ any of that. Screw lovingly serenading public/private/whatever you wanna call them schools, THREATEN THEM UNTIL THEY CRY. Smooth Chuka tries to calm things down by hoping that one day state schools can be good enough that private schools are redundant =^w^= (that’s my attempt at a cute cat face). He doesn’t ask how, but maybe Jo Brand can be sent into battle to win this war.

Everything is awesome! Gove practically sings, echoing The Lego Movie. Dimbleby asks why he lost the support of teachers, then. Gove shrugs.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯, he says.

White vann diagram

There’s a big kerfuffle (although not too big, nobody here is swivel-eyed enough to start shrieking) about benefits and are they HIGHER or LOWER, ladies and gents? Everyone agrees that Something Must Be Done, or Has Been Done, but Does it Go Far Enough or should we Keep a Safety Net or just Drive This Bastard Off a Cliff. Then the next couple of questions are very quick, so I’ll just cover them in brief:

Facebook! Jo Brand and Amanda Platell have a passive-aggression-off! Should the website give a shit? Norman says this may be problematic! Gove and Umunna cry, no, YOU’RE problematic! Facebook continues to not give a shit.

White van man! QT almost completely missed this shitstorm from last week. Jo recounts a beautiful tale of pulling some sexist white ven men’s windscreen wipers off and has a go at Dimbleby. Jo’s practically aiming to become prime minister! Mr Smoothie looks uncomfortable and metropolitan. Daily Mail woman says something about UKIP representing the workers – and Ocado, which makes me even hungrier. Overall, I think people just need to understand that some white ven men are perfectly nice people, and some are complete dickheads. No need to lump ’em all together like lumpy custard.

Finally, Norman says we need less career politicians, and presumably more conspiracy theorists. With that, let’s stop this nonsense.

Time for the scores!

Gove: 7/10

(Tried to) Restore (his reputation)

Umunna: 6/10

Wore (nice clothes)

Baker: 4/10

(A surprising) Bore

Platell: 5/10

(Warns against class) War

Brand: 7/10

(Unleashed a great) Roar

The Crowd: 6/10

(Found it a) Chore

Next week has obligatory Shirley Williams. Uh…yay?

Also, a plug 4 u: Ye Olde Webmaster, the former Glorious Leader of this blog, has a new t-shirt out! It’s cool and fresh and funky and I urge you to buy it, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #98


questionable time 98 david dimbleby rambo

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

Anyway…

I love the smell of mania on a Thursday night…

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

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

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

Nigel Farage Ladbrokes

Fig. 1

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

How not to blag…

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

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

It’s all coming up Umunna…

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

Shirley’s bid to outlive Questionable Time…

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

If claps translated in to votes…

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

Tl;dr

Farage: 6/10

High (as a kite)

Shapps: 3/10

(The end is) Nigh

Umunna: 7/10

Aye

Williams: 6/10

(Still surprisingly) Spry

Lucas: 7/10

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

The Crowd: 7/10

(Were pretty) Fly

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

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #83


questionable time 83 david dimbleby toes

Good morning Lemmings and assuming you and your homestead haven’t fallen victim to the Great Sogginess (it used to be called ‘Christmas’), welcome back to Questionable Time. So, where are we? What’s going on? Who are these people? Why is that bald man waving a credit card around and when did Lewisham became the QT equivalent of a squat party? Well, I’d be lying if I said I knew but let’s just pretend that I do and indulge in some wild speculation.

Letdown #1: It makes me sad when Nad isn’t that mad…

…Because there’s so much potential there that it just seems like a crying shame when she makes it through an hour without saying something completely beyond the pale. It’s also especially galling in this instance as her opening (complete with grumpy chunterings about how she had to go first) was so off the Blue Team’s message that she looked like a shoe-in for a meltdown. Proposed Tory plans for the welfare state? Codswallop and balderdash! The mansion tax? Bloody good idea! Whose side are you actually on Nad? I have no idea! Perhaps aware that this wasn’t the best way to curry favour with her colleagues she then tried to make up for it by appending the phrase “Vote Conservative!” to the back-end of every sentence she uttered in the immigration question but her new-found enthusiasm sounded a little odd next to content that might as well have been lifted straight from UKIP manifesto (and by ‘manifesto’ I actually mean a colouring book where the only available colour is white).

So that bade well right? She was on the Mel-P trajectory and all that was really needed was a final push in order to truly unleash the crazy. The problem was that the final push never came and in truth, it never does on QT because despite all the headlines and bluster Nadine is essentially quite normal. “Normal?” you say “The woman who ate sheep’s testicles in the jungle and wrote an official looking blog that later turned out to be “70% fiction”? This is normal now?”. Well, alright the testicles thing was pretty weird but if you look at her background she really is just a regular person with a clutch of fairly normal right-wing values who grew up in common-garden circumstances and held down a standard issue job. What makes her look odd is the company she keeps – the Blue Team don’t do ‘normal’ in the literal sense of the word so she always ends up looking like the oddest clam on the beach when in fact it’s actually the other way round.

Anyway, all this is by-the-by as the end result is still the same: Rather than going off the handle, Dorries sort of held it together in a somewhat tetchy fashion and made it to the end without incensing everyone in a ten-mile radius. Two miles maybe, but the full ten? Disappointingly, no.

Letdown #2: Norm is also normal.

So it turns out that Norman Baker – the Lib Dem’s conspiracy theorist in chief who inexplicably landed in the Home Office after poor old Jeremy Brown and his panda were told to vacate the premises for no good reason whatsoever – is in a band. My initial reaction to this discovery was along the lines of ‘please say it’s some widdly-widdly Rush-like space noodling outfit’ but again my hopes have been dashed. No, after spending an afternoon where I effectively doubled The Reform Club’s Youtube views it’s my sad duty to report that far from belonging to some avant-garde exercise in sounds that only dolphins can hear, Norm’s band are instead the sort of pub rock ensemble that requires the audience to wear waistcoats, make a fuss about real ale and trade anecdotes about how they once saw Van Morrision arguing with a bus stop (see Fig. 1).

norman baker geddy lee

Fig. 1

I bring this up because like Dorries, Baker should – what with his clutch of niche causes and nose for the untoward – be a QT star, yet his performance was so quietly mundane that you often struggled to remember that he was actually there. I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on him as his whole appointment to the Home Office does smack of an exercise in giving him enough rope to hang himself with but really Norm, a little more weird wouldn’t go amiss.

Paul Nuttall and Lewisham: A match made somewhere other than Heaven.

UKIP seemed to be on to a winner during the last run of QT: Put the frighteningly sane Dianne James on whenever it’s a southern based marginal, Nuttall for anything north of Stafford that’s near a motorway and Farage for all other occasions. It was working because Nuttall’s brand of ‘ordinary bloke saying what we’re all thinking’ works really well in those towns which would never in a million years vote Tory yet have also fallen spectacuarly out of love with the Red Team (your Blackburns, Darwins and Stokes). But the same trick doesn’t work when you transpose it to screamingly Right On and cosmopolitan Lewisham. No, you just end up looking like that weird guy who a friend brought to your birthday party and then promptly abandoned when he started shouting about Romanians. Hard luck Paul, back up the M6 you go…

Where’s this Chuka been all my life?

Another week, another chance for me to wheel out my standard charge sheet against Chuka Umunna – mainly that everything he says comes across as stilted, over-rehearsed and lacking any real fire – except that I’m not going to this week. Instead I’m going to give the him a gold star for acting like an actual human being with his response to the Mark Duggan question. It was great – thoughtful, considered and most of all genuine. True, this was his episode to throw away given just how bloody tribal the Lewisham crowd are and there were periods where he lapsed back into his default position of regurgitating the latest policy brief but I’m going let that slide if only because it was nice to see that he is capable of displaying tangible emotions rather than his regular schtick of rhetorical box ticking.

And the winner of Best Newcomer 2014 goes to…

…Susie Boniface, aka the Fleet Street Fox. Alright, so it’s not exactly a crowded field when it comes to dishing out that award but her factual ducks were presented in a tidy row, the delivery was firm without being self-righteous and she really did make Paul Nuttall look like a bit of a tit. Winner winner chicken dinner!

Tl;dr

Baker: (Sub)dued

4/10

Dorries: (Less) booed (than expected)

4/10

Umunna: (Judged the) Mood (just right)

7/10

Nuttall: (Is) Screwed (south of the Potteries)

4/10

Boniface: (Is clearly a) Shrewd (cookie)

8/10

The Crowd: (Spend most of their time in the) Nude?

5/10

And so our story ends but not before I have a slight dig at the crowd for giving the Biased BBC brigade enough ammunition to keep them in bitter sounding blog posts for the next year. Oh well. Can’t have it all I guess. Right, I’m off to quietly weep about how few people want to buy t-shirts in January. Seriously guys, buy t-shirts… They’ll be the only dry clothes you get until at least August.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #69


questionable time 69 david dimbleby getting married

Good morning Lemmings and welcome back from the 2nd Silly Season That Never Was. That’s right, much like last years kyboshing of the pleasingly trivial under a wave of riots we have yet again had to forgo our annual dose of sharks off Cornwall/pets with bus passes/octogenarians skateboarding as August’s news went from ‘Becalmed’ to ‘Totally Mental’ courtesy of one Mr. Assad. So anyway, what better way to pick through the fallout like abandoned newborns, fumbling our way through the thinning light of Autumn than with a spot of Questionable Time? Actually, there’s probably plenty of better ways but since I’ve been off for a couple of months and have forgotten how to write you’ll just have to figure that one out yourselves. Right, let’s get back into the swing of this.

 

Chuka really has to stop thinking…

Regular readers will know that there are two things about Umunna that I bang on about relentlessly: The first is how ridiculously good-looking he is while the second is just a general perplexion as to how this otherwise seemingly perfect package never manages to add up to the sum of its parts. We’ll get back to the first point later but right now I want to focus on what it is that keeps me from getting giddy over Chuka.

 

As things go last night was a particularly choice moment to be the Red Team’s meat puppet as the two big issues of the day – Syria and Royal Mail – both saw them on the right side of public opinion and by quite hefty margins. Add in to this that the whole Royal Mail deal is in his remit then this starts to look like a milk run: Just get as much canvas up the mast as possible and then sit back as the crowd sweep you on to glorious victory. What could be easier? Technically speaking this is exactly what Umunna did and barring a few bothersome squalls thrown up by Greening and Aaranovitch it was mostly plain sailing. However, it didn’t feel like a victory and I suspect there are two reasons for this: Latency and authenticity, both of which are related.

 

Let’s start with the latency: This refers to that near-imperceptible pause that Chuka always does before launching into a set piece. It’s so short as to be barely noticeable but once you’ve clocked it it’s impossible to ignore and it ended up really bothering me last night. Why? Because it was particularly prevalent when he was trying to play the Indignant Card. Take for example Greening’s rather low blow about his house and family. Now, if you really wanted to be properly indignant about that you’d probably just tell her to shut up but Chuka went for the high ground instead and why not? After all, that’s where the big claps are. The problem is with that nano-pause: It’s like a little click that tells you that his mental filter is going like the clappers, desperately trying to prune out anything that may sound off message and that pretty much sinks the whole indignation play because to be indignant is to be so angry that you simply aren’t capable of keeping a lid on it.

 

All of which leads us to the second problem: Authenticity. You can look the part, have the right back story and say the right words but unless those words truly feel like they’re coming from the gut people simply won’t believe it. Umunna has all the above but he’s still so utterly ruled by his head that what should be a three-piece suite is little more than a very good-looking sofa and a couple of armchairs.

 

And what of his good looks? Well, I ran a little pshop experiment earlier this week to see if I could make him ugly. Annoyingly, he remains vaguely beautiful throughout (see Fig. 1).

chuka-umunna-ugly-gif

Fig. 1

 

One of these days Greening is going to snap…

If it wasn’t hard enough being a fairly ordinary person who went to an ordinary school and had an ordinary job before joining a party that abhors ordinary people Justine Greening also has to contend with being somewhat accident prone (see Dimbers’ malevolent jibe about missing the vote) and this combined pressure is beginning to tell. You can see it in the way she sits – rigid and not too far away from the brace-for-impact position – as well as that hint of annoyance that she only just manages to keep in check. Give it time Lemmings. It may not be tomorrow, it may not be next week but at some point in the not too distant future I can see Greening just totally losing it and flipping out. Hopefully Chuka will be around to pick up some pointers on how to be authentically indignant.

 

Two out of three remaining panelists couldn’t give less of a toss…

In further contrast to Umunna’s overly-stroked chin we now come to a couple of people who seem to have crossed some mid-life Rubicon and are now revelling in their off-the-hookness. The first is Caroline Lucas who since jacking in the role as Green Party leader has been having a gay old time getting arrested and breaking parliamentary dress code while the second is David Aaranovitch – a man seemingly hellbent on refuting everything his younger self stood for in a fug of grumpy crotchetiness. Anyway, this whole devil-may-care outlook works for the pair of them and what we ended up with was a lively and well argued debate on the Syrian question that reminded me that QT does occasionally do what it says it says on the tin. No such luck though for Colleen Graffy– an important sounding person who sounds like she’s got important sounding things to do – as I’m pretty sure that everyone mentally tuned her out as the words “former so-and-so for the Bush administration” were uttered. There are some things you just don’t want on your CV.

 

Tl;dr

 

Umunna: 5/10

Thinky

 

Greening: 5/10

Blinky

 

Lucas: 8/10

Pinky

 

Aaronovitch: 7/10

Brinky

 

LondGraffy: 4/10

Sinky

 

The Crowd: 5/10

Stinky?

 

Well, that’s that: A passable warm-up momentarily enhanced by a man with a gothic mansion of a hairdo bellowing “A RECOVERY FOR WHOM?!?!”. For whom indeed sir… Anyway, it’s nice to be back and should you fancy a go yourself Questionable Time is currently on the lookout for guest writers. However, if thankless toil is not your cup of tea then feel free to busy yourself by looking at pretty pictures of misheard lyrics or buying one of these magnificent creations. Hey, a boy’s got to eat ok?

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #56


questionable time 56 david dimbleby 80's lcd game

Good morning Lemmings and let us summon our last ounce of gumption for we are nearly there: One more show after this and then QT‘s Winter Term is over. However, before we get all giddy with dreams of double-digit temperatures and gambolling lambs I’m afraid to say that The Cruellest Month (“Oh, you liked that hour of sunshine did you? How about I follow it up WITH SOME HORIZONTAL SNOW?!”) is not yet done with us and the grizzly business of last night’s episode still requires dissection. So tuck in those thermals and double up on those socks Lemmings – we’re going in.

What’s wrong with this picture?

He’s young. He’s ridiculously good-looking. He can dance on stage to the theme from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air with Will Smith (see Fig. 1) without looking like a total prat yet something – something just isn’t quite right. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem as you can usually count on something being not quite right with politicians, but in the case of Umunna I find it particularly galling because at this moment in time, I’m desperately looking for someone to believe in and – on paper at least – that someone should be Chuka.

chuka umunna fresh prince francis maude

Fig. 1

So where’s he falling down? At first I though that it might be a bad case of Professional Politicianism but having poked around a bit I’m not convinced: His back story – while not exactly the Bog Standard Bloke yarn that we all seem to crave right now – is different and interesting enough to set him apart from the pack  while that residual veneer of cool puts him in a different category to your more common garden apparatchiks. No, what’s killing the feeling for me is that he still hasn’t learnt when to let go.

Take a look at the second question for example, the question that, by rights, he should have skinned the most cats on. This was the one about growth and thanks to Maude choosing to dig in rather go on the offensive, he had an open field. In QT terms this is a doozy as while you’ll always have the Previous Labour Government Flank to worry about, the weak point in the Blue Team’s lines (the We’ve Totally Stacked The Economy Gap) is so wide open that all it requires is a little umph and it’s all gravy. Yet ‘umph’ was nowhere to be found and what we actually saw was the horrifying spectacle of a politician trying to talk in a rational manner to an electorate he believed to be rational creatures: A big mistake and while I sympathise with his inclination to reason, it won’t do him much good in the long run because we’re not in the market for trifling matters such as ‘facts’ and ‘evidence’. What we want is jabbing fingers, cocks that are sure and jibs that are cut. We want blood that we can spread on the bread that you so kindly provided along with the circus.

Alas, blood we did not get and instead of charging hell-for-leather at the Tory trenches he got thrown totally off-balance by Leanne Wood’s assertion that Darling would have cut more than Thatcher. A QT-pro would have rightly seen this for what it is – an interdiction tactic to stall an offensive – and powered on regardless but instead Ummuna went into a defensive posture and fell back on technicalities. Well, that was it I’m afraid. I zoned out and what could have been a textbook rendition of a QT Blitzkrieg Done Right ended up bogged down in the Quagmire of Factuality.

So there’s a lesson to be learned here – stop thinking so much and just go for those cheap shots. Yeah, I know, it feels disingenuous and there’s little dignity in it but that’s the game you’re in. Just disengage your brain, stop thinking like an actual person and march towards the sound of gunfire. The rest will sort itself out.

I’m developing a grudging respect for Maude…

…Because he’s a wily old bugger who knows how to play the game. Now, I realise that’s a fairly ludicrous statement to make about a man who single-handedly managed to instigate a highly flammable round of panic buying  but when you look at it from a purely tactical level, he’s a steady pair of hands. In essence, Maude’s strength is that he knows when he’s in a losing fight and isn’t afraid to seek more favourable terrain when the odds are clearly stacked against him, even if that means ceding territory. Again, it’s the growth question that really brought this out and his response was one of darting eyes, a thin skirmish line of accusations and a whole lot of backing away slowly. None of that sounds particularly gallant or glorious and that’s because it wasn’t: The Tories are in a bind when it comes to the economy and no amount of chest thumping is going to change that. However, what he did achieve was to stop a tactical retreat turning into a rout and by the end of the show he felt secure enough to venture into No-Mans Land and seize a few prisoners. Considering my usual aversion to Big Vision Tories, that’s not bad going.

Leanne Wood is really rather fun…

…Fun in the same way it is to watch the playground misfit unsettle their more popular peers just by existing. In my day this was achieved via the means of West German army jackets (that’s right kids, WEST Germany… Now get off my lawn!), Clipper lighters on shoelace necklaces, lurking, and band t-shirts with swear words that showed through your school shirt. Wood, however, takes a more robust approach and spent most of the show picking fights in a wonderfully deadpan manner whilst stopping only to shoot the odd mucky look now and then. Are my horizons broadened by this wanton display of stick-in-muddery? Not really. Was it entertaining to watch? Why yes, I believe it was.

And the other two?

Props to Paphitis, he had a great show. It’s really easy for the Entrepreneur Panelist to drown themselves in a puddle of laissez-faire sermons but he kept it mostly grounded whilst applying just the right level of Couldn’t Give A Toss. As for QT noob Kirsty Williams, well her bright eyes and bushy tail were a forgivable incumbrance but she does show a certain level of resilience. A little more breaking on the Wheel of Dimbleby and she may be in with a shot.

Tl:dr

Umunna: 4/10

:-/

Maude: 6/10

:-I

Wood: 6/10

_

Paphitis: 7/10

:-)

Williams: 5/10

:-p

The Crowd: 6/10

=^_^= ?

Hmmm… Rather a lot of military history analogies worked their way into this write-up which is odd as I’ve been making a conscious effort to not spend all my time reading hefty tomes about men-of-yore killing each other. I thought I’d ease myself into a gentler world of literature with a biography of LBJ but it turns out that he’s more intense and frightening than most of the wars I’ve read about. At least I tried…

Next Week Lemmings, next week…

P.S. Next week could be interesting… Just sayin’…


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