Posts Tagged 'Coventry'

Questionable Time #99

Good morrow Lemmings and let us relive a comparatively more sombre Question Time experience than the trainwreck (akin to Thomas the Tank Engine, only instead of the trains bearing friendly, non-threatening faces they all feature a giant laughing Farage) that was last week. Still, there were still a number of amusing moments to be had, three-quarters of the show wasn’t devoted to one question, and whenever everything was in danger of lagging one could always entertain oneself by peering at Paddy Ashdown’s scrunchy face. So, without further ado:

I am neither in this programme nor out of it but somewhere in between

When Paddy Ashdown is lost in thought his eyes roll up into his skin like an angry hedgehog. Happily, this fun feature was also present last night. Paddy began, blind as a bat, as he meant to go on. The Lib Dems have saved the economy and everyone is happy and chillaxing. Yes, those ruddy Conservatives may have been involved just a little, but it’s the Lib Dems’ victory really.

Funnily enough nobody made any comment on how this extremely long and meandering speech related to the Gary Barlow question, or when he then repeated the exact same points he previously said when it came to covering the free school meals dealio. Not even Humza Yousaf, who clearly disagreed with everything he said, butted in. Everyone was too entranced by Paddy’s wonderfully waxen face to care.

Paddy seems like he was specifically grown in a laboratory for the role of the serious elder statesman, making respected comments about war crime allegations. He could do the entire show wearing a sparkly party hat and Dimbledore would merely sit there, transfixed, drawn into the endless craggy abyss that is Ashdown’s eyeholes.

Also, he still might be able to suplex you. Fear is the greatest motivator.

Ahh, the Chilcot inquiry, it burns!

Caroline Flint wants tax avoiders rounded up with a net and shot. Or at least that’s the perception you’d get after her most recent QT performance. At one point, Dimbleby interrupted her – you realise, Caroline, you can’t just put all the tax avoiders in a big hole in the ground and leave them there to rot? Caroline couldn’t answer that, but you could almost hear her thinking: why not? What’s the big deal? WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL, DIMBLEBY?

Then she and Esther (or as I nicknamed them, Betty and Veronica) had a bit of a bust-up over free schools. And then she and Tim had a bust-up over free schools. Caroline wants everyone to forget about free schools! Let’s talk about the million billion other schools instead! What’s the big deal? WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL, EVERYONE?

Unfortunately she ran out of steam when it came to the last question and the British public engaged in the only form of national sport that can truly bring them all together as a happy, loving family: Blair-bashing. She turned white as a sheet. It was quite a sight, let me tell you.

“Tim, whatever you’re on, can we all have some?”

I was going to have Esther McVey, as the official Tory Party representative, as one of the main sections for this edition – but you know what? Nah. Nah, nah, nah, nah, because another has stolen her crown. Oh, she put in a decent performance, but was utterly outclassed: whether it came to Scotland or education, a lone shadow stalked through the night, goshing and crikeying until he was blue in the face. And that person’s name is Tim Stanley.

I scoffed as I heard his profession being read out. Blogger. Yes, for a national newspaper, but still. I’m a blogger. I write many interesting pieces about the right way to cook a roast potato (boil ’em first). What did Tim have that I lacked? As it turned out…drugs. Possibly.

Aside from being a grown man named Tim, which is warning enough, even Dimbleby looked on in horror as TStanz engaged in what was possibly the wettest, smelliest incident of brown-nosing I’ve ever seen in my life. Or perhaps it should be termed Gove-nosing? Free schools are so popular! Coventry! You’re getting new free schools! “You’re very very fortunate!”

Coventry reacted in a predictable manner. Later on, the ‘Yes’ campaign gained a zillion more supporters as Tim began to verbally lick and kiss the entire nation of Scotland in a terrifying, quasi-incestuous manner. We’re brothers and we love you. Stay with us. Staaaay.

Fig. 1

Tim was a bit more sensible later on, when he explained that politicians create the context for war crimes to be able to happen in the first place. Whether you agree with that statement or not, at least he managed to say it without the entire audience breaking out into loud groans, which is a significant improvement from what came before.

I’m fairly sure Coventry isn’t in Scotland but don’t tell Humza that

Finally, inexplicable SNP panellist Humza Yousaf got off to a good start by revealing he is a Take That fan to much mockery and merriment. His broad Scottish accent makes his angry damnation of The Evil One (Gary Barlow) ever more entertaining. (Clearly he is Team Robbie.) “THURRTY FIEV MULLION POONDS”, he declared, to the proudly anti-Barlow audience’s glee.

Sadly he then went quiet for a while, perhaps exhausted by the ferocity of his Robbie-fandom. He interjected to agree that the Tory/Lib Dem fights are faker than Harry Styles’ and Taylor Swift’s relationship, but that was it until the actual question on Scotland (!!) that popped up.

Then he mainly just laughed at David Cameron. Come on Humza, we can all do that. Give us something a bit more POONDing.

Well, that’s about it for this week, but not before leaving you all with the best line of the night, from dear old forgotten Esther herself: “in England we need to know why we’re rubbing up against each other”. Why indeed, Esther. Why indeed.

Incidentally, it’s scores time.

McVey: 5/10

(Missed her) Boat

Flint: 6/10

(Sort of keeping) Afloat

Ashdown: 7/10

(Knows his party line by) Rote

Yousaf: 5/10

(Wants a ‘Yes’) Vote

Stanley: 6/10

(Probably owns a) Moat

The crowd: 5/10

(On teachers they) Dote

The next edition of Questionable Time is the 100th! Wow! Not sure if that actually means anything, but bask in this simply amazing achievement anyway. Bask in it.

Next week Lemmings, next week…


Questionable Time #61

questionable time 61 david dimbleby space marine warhammer 40k

Good morning Lemmings and to all those Games Workshop nerds looking at the above pshop and having kittens because “Dimbleby is wearing Ultramarine livery yet those are CLEARLY Blood Angels behind him” I say a) shut up and b) I have a girlfriend. Socially awkward critics silenced? Good. Let us proceed with all due haste to the matter in hand. To Coventry we go…

Did David Davis have a nervous breakdown about half way through last night’s show?

Despite his politics being waaaaay to the right of mine I have all the time in the world for David Davis and not only because he’s an unrelenting pain in the arse for the Tory High Command. No, what I like about Davis is that he’s a true Lone Wolf who is certain of his ends, uncompromising in his means and still looks like he could kill you with those dark black marbles he calls eyes. Take the question on Europe and the Queen’s Speech for example: This was the one that left Hunt and Swinson all butterfingered and knock-kneed as they tried to transport the fragile china of not-really-wanting-a-referendum through the frenzied bullring of freshly UKIPed public opinion. Davis though? He wants out and doesn’t care how many Blue Willow plates get shattered along the way. As it happens, public opinion seems to be marginally with him on this one at the moment, but it wouldn’t have mattered either way because David Davis doesn’t really care what you or anyone else thinks. David Davis just cares about his Lines In the Sand and who’s crossing them.

What’s really interesting though is when those Lines In The Sand run perpendicular to each other and on this point the rape question was instructive. Here we have a situation where there is no easy solution and someone – whether they be a victim of sexual assault or a wrongly accused party – is going to come out terribly damaged. More importantly from Davis’ point of view, the fate of both of these parties is dependent on one of his most cherished Lines In The Sand – The Fair and Proportionate Rule of Law – and who gets the benefit of the doubt when crossing it. As soon as the question landed Davis screwed his face up into a ball and clutched the bridge of his nose as if stricken by some sort of existential neuralgia. ‘Gah!’ said his face, ‘Get behind me, Satan!.’

Granted, this may have been a reaction to Greer making some very strange noises about how rape victims should be all up in everyone’s grill rather than displaying entirely appropriate human responses to the most awful of traumas (just as the weird, grunt-cum-tortured-howl he let out later was a direct response to Jerry Hayes’ even stranger and slightly disconcerting to-do over rape statistics) but I suspect it was about something more profound: It was about what happens when two absolutes collide in a mind that only has room for one. To his credit, he actually talked a great deal of sense on the subject and did the best out of the bunch in arriving at a reasonable compromise but still, it does show that despite his outward projection of unshakable clarity, even a seasoned purveyor of Incontrovertible Truths such as he can become unstuck by humanity’s tendency towards the ambiguous.

There are two time travellers in Parliament…

One is Jacob Rees-Mogg, the living embodiment of Interbellum Toryism while the other is Tristram Hunt, the present day’s answer to the Genuinely Sincere Yet Too Clever For Its Own Good Fabianism of the 1930’s. It’s all there really – the pained frowning at the injustice of it all, the wordy appeals to do Good Things and the sort of rugged good looks that would look entirely fitting in a Republican trench on an Andalusian hillside – and on the whole, it sort of works. Ok, so he’s a little overeager in some of his exhortations and his scholarly good lookingness makes it difficult to ignore the accusation that he’s been parachuted in but at least there is a genuine sense that he believes in something and at least he’s trying despite the lingering guilt that life may have sent a disproportionately large amount of Good Things his way.

That, and I’d love to watch him and the Mogglet play Risk. Oh, to be a fly on the wall…

Swinson’s turning into a bit of an operator…

The knowing grin that came along with “It wasn’t in the manifesto”? That said it all. No Teather-esque lip chewing, no Hughes-like hand wringing, just an unapologetic acceptance that politics is a messy business in which you play the hand you’re dealt, all delivered with a touch of coyness to soften the edges. Watch this one. She’s going places.

Greer provides further proof of the Primacy-Recency Effect…

It’s a very straight-forward theory: When presented with a list of things to remember you’re most likely to recall the items at the beginning and the end rather than the stuff in the middle, all of which must be very comforting for Germaine Greer as the old ratbag’s a right bugger for losing her way mid-show.

It all started promisingly with a nice little spiel about UKIP but it quickly got lost as she did a round-the-houses crawl of all things Commonwealth before a circuitous trip down Etymology Lane and the aforementioned weirdness of rape victims being totally cool with staring down the perpetrators. Luckily though, she reeled it back in with some rather good stuff about the burden of proof and once again our inbuilt tendency to forget the middle had her coming out of it all looking rather good. Germaine, you owe the vagaries of cognition a big one.

Now here’s a photo of a back-in-the-day Greer draping herself sensuously around what may or not be David Davis (see Fig. 1)

germaine greer david davis norks

Fig. 1

Jerry Hayes: For and against.


Nice turn of phrase (“Spittoon for angst” anybody?)

Nervous energy

Flailing arms


Totally batshit rant about the Lord Chancellor that I didn’t understand but looked fun


Shameless self-promotion

Nervous energy

Flailing arms

Highly dubious interpretations of rape figures and willingness to pick a fight about them


I have no idea.


Davis: 7/10


Hunt: 6/10

(Might have) Starred (in Land and Freedom)

Swinson: 6/10

(Plays a tight game of political) Card(s)

Greer: 5/10

(Is not quite as) Avant-Garde (as she used to be)

Hayes: 4/10

(You’re) Barred!

The Crowd: 6/10

(Clearly thought Jean-Luc) Picard (was clearly the best Captain in the Star Trek canon)

In the words of Atlanta rap duo Tag-Team, “Whoomp! There it is”: A straightforward affair where a man with a beard got overly animated and Tristram Hunt described Nigel Farage as “attractive”. Now, I know some of you were a little bummed that I missed Starkey last week so by way of recompense, here’s a link to a piece I did for Culture Kicks about QT. It’s good so give it a read. Culture, innit blud…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #33

Morning Lemmings and gentle Jesus am I cold. Basically, my heating went on the fritz two weeks ago and despite pleading/shouting/going absolutely mental with the lettings agency, it is still knackered. As a result, my fridge is now like a crap oven that keeps my food a few degrees above room temperature, the gas hob is now my central heating and I think I can hear wolves in the garden. In short, it sucks.


Despite this though I soldier on, braving frostbite and hypothermia to bring you your weekly dose of post-Question Time nonsense. All I can say is that it’s a good bloody job I started growing my beard out in August this year. Onwards…


The Menu

Q1: Did the BBC Panorama special wreck England’s World Cup chances?

Q2: Does the possibility of the LibDems abstaining make up for their broken pledge on fees?

Q3: Is it fair that we have educational apartheid with Welsh and Scottish students paying less than English ones?

Q4: Do you agree with Hilary Clinton that Wikileaks is a threat to the United States?

Q5: Given that it was forecast, why has snow bought us to a stop?

Q6: Is it better to be a child of Thatcher or the son of Brown?

Q7: Figures released today show that MP’s claimed £3.1 million in expenses. Is this a step in the right direction?

In The Yellow Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and all-round whipping boy.

Remember how I said last week that Ken Clarke is the kid in the playground who inexplicably doesn’t get bullied? Well, Danny Alexander is the kid who very explicably does. Part of this is due to circumstance as poor old Danny is the unfortunate LibDem who has to carry the can for the cuts (see Fig.1) but the other side of it is that he has a face who’s default position is Imminent Foreboding and more advanced settings include Impending Doom, Anticipated Calamity and Outright Fear. Given that Westminster is pretty much a giant playground, these are not good facial settings to possess and I have visions of MP’s of all strains forming an orderly queue outside his office with the intention of stealing his football sticker/giving him a wedgy/calling him a “ginger rodent”. Basically, the guy is a walking ‘Kick Me’ sign, none of which bodes well for a Question Time appearance on a week when students who voted LibDem are going absolutely ape shit about tuition fees. Tough break Danny, tough break.

Cough up, Ginger!

Fig. 2

Actually, I have to say that he did much better than I was expecting and even managed to garner a few laughs with a joke about Scotland beating England in Q1, but this clement weather didn’t last long as he found himself in much choppier conditions on Q’s 2 and 3. Obviously, he was going to be Jonny On The Spot with regards to anything fees related and as soon as Q2 landed you could see his face creeping back into its default position as he desperately tried to square the circle of why he thought fees are ace but might not vote for them. Sure enough, the familiar orderly queue formed up with Sergeant first in line to call the whole shebang “pathetic” and an audience member hovered behind him, getting ready to deploy his “Shame on you, shame on you for turning blue” chant. I was personally heartened by this turn of events as I’d very much like to see more chanting in QT but for Danny it was the precursor to a facial lapse into Impending Doom territory as a last-ditch attempt to rescue the situation and cast the policy as “progressive” ended up producing some fairly ugly noises from the audience. He seemed to fair a slightly better in Q3 (in that no one poked his eye out with a pitchfork) but he also made the fatal error of personally pissing me off by invoking a very dodgy vignette that has being doing the rounds in Westminster of late. Excuse me while I digress for a second (and advanced apologise for the heavy use of Caps Lock you are about to witness):

During Q3 Alexander used the example of the graduate who gets a job as a care work and earns £20k a year. When I graduate, I also became a care worker and was paid the princely some of £10k a year for working in what was one of the most literally shitty and distressing jobs you can possibly imagine. 8 years later, I still work in the field, am considered to be pretty good at what I do and have advanced through the ranks to earn a, you guessed it, £20k a year, despite an unblemished record and having gained post-graduate qualifications (through work) in this time. I realise that the £10k figure is rather old but I can assure you that the starting salary for anyone in my line of work, degree or no degree, is very much around the minimum wage. So tell me Danny (and Miliband… he also mentioned the 20k Care Worker earlier this week), TELL ME WHO THIS MYTHICAL 20K CARE WORKER IS, BECAUSE I’D LOVE KNOW SO I COULD FIND OUT HOW IN GODS NAME S/HE ACHIEVED SUCH A THING. Westminster, stop with this folly and at least give us the basic courtesy of acknowledging that you pay the people who pick up the pieces in society appalling. Fair warning given, rant over.

Right, back on track. The rest of Alexander’s performance was pretty subdued and his brief flurry of applause for bashing Gordon Brown in Q6 was perfectly offset by a failed joke about the Highlands being unable to deal with sunshine or somesuch twaddle in Q5. Now, if this had been anyone other than Danny Alexander, I’d probably be inclined to dish out some fairly poor marks because it was hardly a blazing turn. But considering that he’s probably one of the most vulnerable politicians in the whole country right now, I won’t and all things considered, I have to say I’m quietly impressed. Sure, Nadine Dorries played the role of unabashed villain with considerable vim, soaking up a fair but of hate along the way but still, he managed to leave the studio without someone Tipexing ‘DICKHEAD’ on his satchel and that is actually quite an achievement. So well done Danny, you get an above average mark and a fleeting taste of dignity.

An expectation defying 6/10

In The Red Corner: Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London and self confessed reptile nut.

Ok, first off, what the hell is Ken Livingstone doing in Coventry? I know Labour are all at sea at the moment, but seriously, a former Mayor of London is the best you can do? To shame. Anyhoo, the Newt King is back and there really isn’t that much to say because it was an entirely predictable display in Livingstoneism: 50% populist rhetoric, 30% semi-valid points and 20% lingering smugness. That’s not say I’m completely anti-Ken as I do quite enjoy the way he pops up from time-to-time with the sole intention of annoying someone or throwing a spanner into whatever works look like they may need a spanner throwing into but I just found it quite hard to pick out the relevance of him being on the show last night. Rather than going into detail, let’s see how the various elements of Livingstoneism were doled out last night.

Populist Rhetoric:

His ‘Tories “pulling up the ladder”’ line (although that was also semi-valid).

A pop at MSP’s and AM’s for bossing the English around.

“Ordinary people” paying for the recession (also semi-valid, but delivered rhetorically and in a populist fashion)


His ‘the Beeb could have waited a couple of days’ point.

Pointing out that the Olympics managed to are fairly uncorrupt so it’s not unimaginable that FIFA couldn’t be sorted out.

Lingering Smugness:

Repeated inferences that he pretty much won the Olympic bid single-handedly

Now, if I’m not mistakes, those responses seem to mirror the above stated proportions of Livingstoneism pretty faithful and I hereby declare my Theory of The Constitutional Proportion and Functional Units of Livingstoneism to be absolutely watertight. Goddamn I’m good. Next!

Ken, innit? 5/10

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue Yellow Corner: Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid Bedfordshire and self confessed blog fibber.

Now this is a strange specimen we have right here and one that defies the usual process of categorisation as on the one hand, she looks very Notting Hill Hugs And Cuddles New Tory whilst her history and record hint far more at On Your Bike And Hard Work Never Did Me Any Harm Old Tory. On the Notting Hill front, she ticks the boxes by dint of looking fairly approachable, having founded her own start-up at one point and generally engaging in non-Old School activities such as blogging (even if 70% of it is “fiction”). However, a brief look at her track record soon puts paid to any notions of The New Politics and what we find is a Hardcore Tory in Fair Trade clothing. Consider the following: Heavy campaigning for limiting abortion, feathers spat over all women shortlists, expenses jiggery-pokery and some fairly hardline attitudes towards benefit claiments. However, the real kicker in the Old School hypothesis is that she’s a member of the Cornerstone Group, a Tory faction dedicated to all things hardcore (their motto is Faith, Flag and Family). So yes, ignore the outward appearance as what we have here is a Proper Tory, red in tooth and claw.

In practice, this lead to a fairly scrappy affair with a whole-loada-nothin on Q1, much talk of being “proud” of the coalition in Q2 and some very ropey evasion at the start of Q3. However, it was in Q4 where her true colours began to shine through when she had an almighty go at students for not valuing education, not taking “proper courses” and generally being a burden on taxpayers. Thusly did the booing begin. The other thing that caught my attention were her rather frightening paeans to Thatcher, one of which was inexplicably crowbarred into the Wikileaks question. However, the real doozy was when she used Q6 as a platform to do the ‘my mum lived in a council estate’ routine which climaxed with the immortal line “I am truly a daughter of Thatcher and immensely proud of it!”. Dammit Nadine! Have you not talked to anyone normal since 1990?! You might as well have called yourself a Sister of Mugabe for all the good it would do you. So yeah, she deserved her boos on that one.

So that was her and I’m left with the lingering sense of someone who is trouble, full stop. Admittedly, she did a show a bit of conviction which is nice to see once in a while but if I was Andy Coulson, I’d have a full-time minder following Dorries 24/7 with strict orders to chloroform her should there be any risk of her speaking her mind. Actually, if I was Andy Coulson, I’d probably be better off making contingency plans for a hasty trip to a country that we don’t have an extradition treaty with, but that’s a different matter all together.

A ticking bomb of a 4/10

In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Christopher Meyer, former Ambassador to the United States and post career tell-tale.

A few weeks back, I mentioned how diplomats tend to fall into the either the Fererro Rocher category or the hard-bitten, Graham Greene type bracket. Well, I’m afraid to say that I’m about to knacker my own theory as Christopher Meyer doesn’t seem to fit either, largely because he comes across as so emphatic. This is largely down to his delivery as some of the things he says are fairly nuanced, but the way in which he says them always makes them sound like cast-iron opinions and that’s not necessarily something you want in a diplomat. The other thing with Meyer is that he is definitely on the ‘Ho-ho’ side of the ‘Ha-ha/Ho-ho’ argument. I realise that the last sentence doesn’t make a lick of sense, so allow me to expand: When I’m taking notes for this and someone says something genuinely funny, I tend to mark a little ‘Ha-ha’ next to whatever they said. However, whenever Meyer came out with anything that drew a chuckle, I couldn’t quite bring myself to write a ‘Ha-ha’ as it just didn’t seem to fit. No, a ‘ha-ha’ is an involuntary thing. You ‘ha’ because you can’t help it. A ‘ho’ by contrast is something you do because you think you should or because social etiquette demands it. His “in all good bookstores” and his epic “you’re not dancing now” remark to John Sergeant probably were ‘ha-ha’ moments, but the rest of his quips (and there were many) all seemed just a little too prefabricated and pointed to be anything other ‘ho-ho’s’. Content wise, it was decent enough and his point about collective responsibility in Q2 was well received, but you always got the feeling that he probably put far too much effort into playing the Realpolitik Diplomat Extraordinaire act, especially when he started casting some very shady aspersions about Russia and FIFA in Q1. So yes, he wasn’t bad but I like my diplomats to be, well, a bit more diplomatic and I also don’t like it when a theory I up made about diplomats is rendered obsolete two weeks later. Points off for making me look stupid!

A heavy footed 5/10


In The ‘I’m The Funny One’/Just Like You Corner: John Sergeant, ex-Beeb political correspondent and Strictly stick-in-the-mud.

I hate Strictly. I hate Strictly because it’s about dancing and I hate dancing with a passion as it serves no purpose other than to make me feel intensely embarrassed if I ever find myself in a situation that might require me to engage in the act of dancing. Ever wondered why guitar based genres of rock are so popular with white males who have little coordination? Well, here’s your answer: It’s because dancing is bollocks. That should naturally lead me to have an instant disdain for John Sergeant but it doesn’t because a) I have fond memories of growing up and marvelling at how a man with a face like his could ever a appear on TV, b) I hear he upset a lot of people on Strictly by dint of being a crap dancer and c) I like to think that him and Dimbers may one day share a tender waltz together (see Fig. 2).

Fig. 2

Aside from that, it’s also hard to dislike John Sergeant as he has a wonderfully benign manner which can be deployed as a highly effective cover for some absolutely blistering attacks such as he previously mentioned stab at Alexander in Q2. However, he walks a fine line as he can sometimes be a little naughty and abuse these powers, not in downright nasty way, but enough to conjure up a whiff of malevolence. I’m struggling to find a concrete example from the show last night, but I did get the feeling that he was fighting the urge to really lay into another panelist whilst projecting the image of a kindly soul who probably spends his weekends taking orphans on steam train rides. Oh, and a rather liked the somewhat bewildering vision of a Terminatoresque scenario he came out with in Q4 and involved humanity being enslaved by computers. He also somehow managed to work Lady Gaga into one that as well. Don’t ask me how, I just work here.


A largely affable 6/10


The Crowd: Coventry

Good crowd, this lot. There was plenty of cheers, plenty of boos, a nice audience member quip about whether the Tories were giving the LibDems slack or enough rope to hang themselves and of course, a chanting solo! That sure as hell ticks a lot of my boxes. Politically, it was a little odd as Labour weren’t exactly represented but the overall tone was that the students are winning. Sure, the counter argument did find some support, but the crowd seemed very much behind the anti-fees brigade and the subject provoked the fiercest responses.


Unfortunately, the standard of audience member’s names falls short of last week’s giddy highs (the best I can do you is Zoe Organ… Interesting, but no Mark Power) and yet again no bow ties. However, this should take away from a busy (seven questions) and somewhat boisterous episode despite no real stellar performances from the panel. Nice work Coventry. Continue apace.


A noisy 7/10


Right, cobblers to this for a game of soldiers, I’m bloody freezing and the monitor needs de-icing again. If you don’t see a post up by next weekend, send out a search party out for me.


Next week, Lemmings.

Loudrib’s Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #2

Leotards ftw

10 - Print "Lickspittle", 20 - Goto 10

Morning Lemmings. It’s been a week and I’ve received no booze so I can only assume that this charade must continue. You bought it on yourselves. Right, let’s get this thing under way.

The Line Up

In the Red Corner: Lord Falconer, erstwhile Lord Chancellor and noted chum of Tony Blair.

I don’t like Lord Falconer. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I have an instinctive dislike to lawyers and people who have been Tony Blair’s flatmate. The problem is that he’s a hard target to hit by dint of being a really good lawyer and this was on full display tonight. Kicking off with the expenses question, he deftly tacked straight down the middle, acknowledged people’s anger and softly imparted some eminently sensible stuff. Mild applause ensued, no one went mental and the world carried on. That’s not bad going considering the country think about the expenses issue in the same way they think about genocide and I must say I was mildly miffed at the way he got off the hook. However, I was heartened by the next question, the “was the cabinet mislead about the war?” one. Now surely, he’s going to get absolutely decimated on this one, right?. He’s one of Blair’s most prominent cheerleaders, is utterly unrepentant about the war and is sitting in between Claire Short and George Galloway. Surely, there’ll be blood, right? Well no (or at least not as much as I hoped) and here’s how he did it. He started by saying Robin Cook had loads of information to knock the government with, so we must have been open or honest as otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to have a pop at us. When he said that, I struggled to make sense of it, but he said it in such away that it sounded right. That’s a talent he’s got there and a bloody dangerous talent at that. Luckily, Dimbleby started getting mischievous and pointed out that Falconer and Blair are bessies and there were stories of him pinning Lord Goldsmith to a wall. Falconer, who must have seen this coming retreated into a “It wasn’t me guv, we was all in it together” defence and somehow managed to escape un-booed. However, the respite was brief as Claire Short charged on in, calling shenanigans on the whole shebang and was reward with robust applause. Undaunted by this turn of events, Falconer refuted all allegations of ‘Charlie and Tony, up the tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G’ and then went on the offensive by saying (in a mildly threatening manner) that all MP’s knew the score and that they should STFU. To cap it all off, he crowned his late rally with a very lawyerly statement: “It was a decision, not dishonesty”. I wouldn’t be surprised if Blair gets that scrawled on his headstone. The argument reignited a few minutes later when the crowd got their tuppence worth and accused him of arm twisting to which he did some courtroom acrobatics by saying that because some MP’s voted against the war, it’s all legit and kosher. The crowd didn’t buy this, but I must admit I was disappointed that he got away with it so lightly. There seems to be something fundamentally wrong about that. The rest of his performance was much blander but no less plastered in legalese, chuntering about privacy on John Terry and not criminalising people for assisted suicide (which, to be fair, did garner a moderate ripple of applause). A lucky escape in a show that could have been a complete trainwreck for him.

The votes are in: A shifty 5/10, awarded for proficiency in the dark arts alone.

In the Blue Corner: Theresa May, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Minister of State for Shoes.

I have a feeling that Theresa May is the Tories go-to MP for potentially ominous situations. It’s not that she’s a great debater or rhetorical wizard, in fact it’s for quite the opposite reason: She’s so on-the-fence about everything that you forget she’s talking. Whenever confronted with pretty much any issue, she goes down the “well it’s a bit of this, a bit of that” line followed by a brief affirmation that she does like Tory type things like “stable families are important, you know?”. In short, she’s good at hiding in the long grass. Given that it’s not been the best week for the Tories (minor poll wobbles, backtracking and the dreaded ‘spenses) and that they know they’re vulnerable on Iraq (the “we voted on what we knew” line can only hold so long) she was a pretty clever choice and wasted no time in diluting issues with half hearted platitudes. On expenses she bemoaned what a horrid business it all is and something really must be done about it, dodged the Iraq issue entirely by saying something like she ‘wasn’t in the cabinet so I couldn’t possibly comment, you know?’ and confessed to not give two hoots about John Terry. She did nearly get as far as an opinion with assisted suicide by saying she liked Terry Pratchett but what about all the poor vulnerable people playing mind tennis in MRI scanners, but nothing of any substance really passed her lips. In that respect it was mission accomplished, a no-score draw for Tory HQ but from the viewers point of view it was like browsing the internet on dial up: Only just-adequate and very much annoying.

The Numbers in the Boxes: A weak handshake of a performance…3/10

In the Yellow Corner (wait a second, there is no Yellow!. Great, a week in and the format’s already shot to pieces. Cheers, Auntie): Claire Short, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood, Overly Trusting Dissenter in Chief.

I always have trouble making my mind up on Claire Short. On the one hand, her ‘will-she-won’t-she’ act in 2003 wound me up, but when I see her on TV, I end up quite liking her. Her evidence at the Iraq Inquiry was belting and stopped the whole thing looking like a complete waste of time, but her past still vexes me. Clearly it also still vexes her. On the show, she muddled around the expenses issue, not quite making sense and generally seeming unenthused by the whole issue. However, that changed when Iraq come up and she was soon in back her stride, lambasting Blair, pointing the finger at Falconer and generally bemoaning the sorry mess that had transpired. Despite mounting a pretty robust offensive, she didn’t seem to have the same level of anger that she’s displayed in the past and if anything, her whole discourse was tinged with melancholy and regret. This was particularly apparent when an audience member asked her why she hadn’t resigned and she seemed to crumple a little. She explained how Blair had promised her this and that and how she believed him but she looked like someone who knew she’s been played. While she came came across as very genuine, she also looked a little haunted and I couldn’t help feeling a little sad about that. She was also clearly pissed off with Falconer and did mange to rough him up some, but she didn’t quite have it in her to press home the advantage and really take him apart. Later, she briefly flickered back to life by having a jab at the press for the John Terry question and delivered a quite firm “grow up” to all and sundry on the assisted suicide issue but I was left feeling like there was still some unfinished business and that justice hadn’t been done. However, there was some dignity in it.

What it all adds up to: A slightly unsettling 7/10

In the Independent/Brainy Corner: George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Champion of the Oppressed, Scourge of Tyrants.

Yay! Gorgeous George is back in the house! Ok, Ok, I know he’s a one trick pony blowhard who’s never too far from from something a little fishy, but I like the guy. He called the war right, tried to do something about it, has bought the word ‘lickspittle’ back to popular parlance and is exceedingly good value for money. Oh, and his evidence at Senate Committee was showmanship of the highest order. Anyhoo, I had high hopes for George. Iraq was bound to come up and Falconer amply filled the role of baddy/whipping boy. However, first he had to trundle through the expenses question during which he went off on one about some phone bill of his that sounded dubious but swiftly concluded that he was still awesome and that we should halve the number of MP’s. So far, so so. But then came Iraq and he kicked off by bad mouthing Falconer for his Blairlust, calling the Chilcot Inquiry “a bunch of establishment flunkies” and giving props to Claire Short. Following a small Phillips shaped interlude, George was back, berating Falconer once more, blaming the war for enabling terrorism to start “spreading like topsy” and asking why we hadn’t bombed North Korea. “Great!” I thought, “He’s winding up a full on frontal assault involving the use of arcane and cool sounding words!”. But I was wrong. He managed to make one more brief point in which he confused the old ‘for/against war’ divide and then shut up. No rousing demagoguery, no naming of “popinjays” and no calls to arms. Colour me highly disappointed. He got a few points later with the football crowd by defending John Terry as a player but quickly lost them by siding with Melanie Phillips on assisted suicide, over-flogging the ‘thin end of the wedge’ angle and muttering dire warnings of the “panel of Dr. Death’s”. Come on George, one-trick pony’s are only fun when they’re doing their trick. Do you trick George! Do your trick!

In the cold light of day: A left-wanting 6/10

Melanie Phillips hair is a weird swimming cap.

Fig. 1

In the Funny/I’m Just Like You Corner: Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail Columnist, Poster girl For The Hyperventilating Middle England Crowd.

Oh Question Time, with this helping of moral panic on legs, you are really spoiling us. Say what you will about Melanie Phillips (such as the fact that her hair looks like those weird old floral swimming caps that my gran used to wear…see Fig. 1) she also presents that most sought after value for money that Galloway does, but from completely the opposite end of the spectrum. True to form she got off to a racing start by decrying the whole “flipping business” as “disgusting” and wailing about “trust” as if none of us had ever stolen a biro from work. It was an easy point, duly rewarded with satisfactory clapping. However, she soon found herself on the other side of the fence when it came to Iraq, wearily invoking the spectre of 9-11 for the n-th time and reminding us that Saddam really was a cad. As is usually the case when trying to defend the indefensible, she was met with stony silence from the crowd and a brief outburst from George Galloway. So no surprises there then. Even fewer surprises emerged moments later when she got the first crack at Terrygate and launched into a sweaty rant about “This John Terry character” being “a mass public debaucher” who has been photographed “urinating into beer glasses”. Persisting down the ‘someone think of the children!’ line she wound it up by calling the England captain a “creep” and the obligatory call to “throw him out!”. Well done. Have an applause biscuit. However, the plan became a little unstuck when Falconer and Short had a few digs at the Daily Mail for being as much a part of anti-privacy brigade as anyone else and was forced to stage a ‘but they’re all at!’ defence and trying to make out that this was somehow in “the public interest”. The crowd must have got bored at this point and no more applause biscuits were offered. Unbowed by the waning mood, she saved her biggest guns for last and cranked the Sodom and Gomorrah-o-tron to max by rechristening ‘right to die’ to ‘right to kill’, hypothesisinging that we’ll be killing the mentally ill next and speculating at the emergence of shadowy “Death Panels”. She even managed to get the last word of the show in and warned in that ‘if only you knew what I knew’ way she has that if we decriminalised assisted suicide, we would be hurtling towards a “brutalised society”. Job done then. All-in-all, it was a fairly sedate performance by her standards, particularly considering the company she was keeping that night and I was disappointed that there wasn’t a single cry for someone to hung or tarred and feathered.

When all is said and done: An ambivalent 5/10

The Crowd: Coventry

I’ve only ever been to Coventry once. I was getting a lift with a friend of mine from Manchester to London and she wanted to stop off there to call in on someone she knew. The experience was most noteworthy for the trip itself as my friend has a form of narcolepsy where she falls asleep when bored. As the M6 is not noted for being a thrill ride we were forced to listen to the soundtrack of West Side Story at full blast whilst singing along lest she fall asleep and send us careening under the wheels of a death lorry. It was an odd four hours. The other only point of interest during that trip was that we stopped at a ‘Balti Pub’ in Coventry for lunch and were both thrilled by the possibilities that such an establish could potentially offer. Think about, a curry house that’s a pub, what’s not to like? As it was, the Balti Pub turned out to be crap, being a weird chimera of uninspiring pub and tepid curry house that ticked neither box with sufficient gusto to have either been exciting or worth the two and a half hours of Broadway-show-meets-plot-line-for-weird-low-budget-thriller terror we had just been through. I bring this up because the Balti Pub was this show. When I looked on the Qtime website on Thursday morning I was thrilled. The line up and the events of the past week seemed to conspire to make for an epic dust up and I was certain that it would be a complete hecklefest. As it turned out, it was just borderline OK. No-one totally lost their shit, most of the questions were mundane, softball affairs and the audience just didn’t seem to be able to get itself going. Even the known volatility of the panellists seemed to be cancelled out by the sloppy fug that seemed to shroud the place and what should have been an A plus barney slowly decomposed into a D minus wet play time. Sorry Coventry, I know it’s not the greatest lot in life being a city that’s only famous for being bombed and ugly, but your Balti Pub Qtime just didn’t cut the mustard.

As the clouds gather: A fully skimmed 4/10

Ok, so that’s it. Claire Short gets the Queen of Coventry crown while the rest of ’em should seriously think about bucking their ideas up. The beer offer still stands although I’m now lowering the bar to offers of cigarettes as well as it turns out that this is bloody hard work. Check back next week for more post-QTime banter.

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June 2023

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