Posts Tagged 'Danny Alexander'

Questionable Time #131


qt 131

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to another irrelevant edition of Questionable Time! Yes, seems like nobody cares about poor lil’ QT shambling on after the big, flashy Leaders’ debates…but that’s what I’m here for, to look after the muck nobody else wants to clean up. The debates themselves were as predictable as predicted: Cameron looked foreheady, no1curr about Clegg, Nigel Farage and Leanne Wood got into a fight, Nicola Sturgeon cried for FREEEEDOM, Natalie Bennett was Australian, and Ed Miliband did okay I guess, unless you’re reading the Sun or Telegraph, in which case he shat himself on stage.

But we’ll show those popular kids and their popular kicks. Let’s have a debate of our own. Let’s Questionable Time.

Are you sitting comfortably? No neither am I

Michael Gove starts off by dissin’ Ed too, although that technically is his job. He declares that because Ed Miliband is still a geeky dork then mean old Nicola ‘n’ Alex would be able to trample all over him with their big Scottish feet. A snarky beardy man in the audience points out that the Tories didn’t even win overall in 2010 so why should we believe that a prospective Tory government would be any more stable? Gove brushes this off in a Govey way while a Scottish lady also goes in for him and Dimbleby makes strange noises.

At this point, Anime Andy Burnham makes his move. The right-wing media are being proved wrong, he says, and Ed Miliband is actually “a man full of warmth and conviction” who he’d like to snuggle and play Manic Miner with. Not for the first time this night, it sounds like he’s about to burst into tears, which he does a lot. Oh, to be a living, eyelash-fluttering manga character!

A man in audience says they’re all fake except for lovely Nigel who is definitely not an ex-banker from a public school and is a MAN OF THE PEOPLE. Apparently. Peter ‘Jeremy Clarkson is a left-wing BBC conspiracy’ Hitchens agrees, aggressively tongueing Farage’s anus. Meanwhile, Danny Alexander/Brian the snail is back (already? Wasn’t he on only a few weeks ago?) and looking increasingly baggy and fleshy. “You need to have Liberal Democrats in the mix!” he says, like they’re a winning toy/stray rusty nail (delete according to political position) in a box of Coco Pops.

Somehow this all, mainly thanks to Peter, devolves into an argument about the break-up of the UK again. I had to deal with months of QTs about this in the run up to the #indyref, please don’t let me go through this hell again.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, thankfully, interrupts to practically scream UP THE WOMEN! The wimmins in the audience predictably cheer. This is great as I have been eagerly awaiting the feminist takeover of Question Time for some time now. Yasmin continues in this vein, basically shouting G’ARN NIC’LA at every opportunity. I mean, regardless of what you think of her policies, it’s nice to have a woman (Nicola Sturgeon) on the centre political stage who looks so much like a mum on the school run, but could probably punch you out (being Scottish, after all).

I’m not sure what’s going on now. Govey Wovey hates the SNP, Yasmin doesn’t, Andy’s making faces, Peter is making exactly one face for the entire duration of the programme (a mix between constipated/vaguely annoyed/braindead), and Danny is calmly staring into the abyss of the Lib Dems losing all their seats in Scotland and most of them in England. Uh…hooray?

Then something incredible happens. The subject of a Tory-UKIP coalition gets brought up, and Michael, squirming uncomfortably in his seat, can’t rule it out. Andy pounces.

The hysteria comes loud and fast. Can’t rule it out! Can’t rule it out! “We’re listening, Michael!” Andy squeals cutely. Gove panics and says something about rainbow coalitions but by this point it’s too late. Andy Burnham has transmogrified into his unstoppably manic alter ego: ANDY BURN ‘EM. And he is possibly the best source of reaction images ever. Goveing Tree, needless to say, is not amused.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

A man in the audience sums everything up with a question on why everything is breaking apart. The answer, of course, is that YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA!

Danny begins to actually answer this point but out of nowhere is interrupted by BURN ‘EM, who passionately starts to cry about collectivism. He just has a lot of feelings. Then even Gove gets #REKT by Hitchens. This isn’t a great night for the Govester! He sniffs, planning Hitchens’ method of death. Don’t worry Mike, you’ve got the entire second half of the show to make up for it…execution-style.

While Peter explains the difference between debt and deficit because, five years later, nobody still knows what they mean, and threatens to destroy both the Labour and Conservative parties in a bloody civil war (what is wrong with this man), there’s an equally absurd kerfuffle over what the hell a ‘formal’ or ‘informal’ agreement actually means. Andy struggles to make his voice heard while Gove tapdances away gleefully, because even though Labour ruled out a coalition with the scary Scots they might still play tag with them in the playground occasionally. Or whatever. This is getting so confusing that Dimbleby is now making the same face as Peter Hitchens. A worrying sign indeed. Let’s move on.

Fresh baked United Kingdom filled to the brim with jammy goodness

Is the country full? Well, Peter says yes – unless we clone Peter Hitchens, in which case things would be different around here. To summarise, immigrants are BRAVE but the EU is EVIL. Danny looks shocked and appalled. Hitchens adds another emotion to his grand arsenal: smug. However, Gove’s spirited defense of immigration seems to put the damper on a possible UKIP coalition, to the extent that Yasmin wants to hug him. Maybe they could form a coalition. Andy joins in and it’s all a big cuddlepile with Hitchens not invited to the party. Aww, this is nice. Even more coalitions!

But it can’t last forever. Andy breaks out of the cuddlepile by extremely subtly reminding us he’s werking-class with a reference to Auf Wiedersehn, Pet, and gets teary about the NHS as per usual. Dimbles sighs and has to intervene once again.

“We’re not talking about the NHS,” says he.

YES WE ARE, cries Andy, an unrepentant repeat offender of the Getting Emotional Brigade. Dimbleby reassures him that they’ve scheduled the NHS discussion for the last five minutes of the programme, but first they have to spend five minutes talking about ISIS, because both of these issues can surely be comprehensively covered in such a sumptuous amount of time.

Maybe if we didn’t spend so much time talking about debates then this wouldn’t have happened

Saudi Arabia suxxx, says Yasmin out of nowhere. And so do religious schools. Gove fights the urge to reply CALM DOWN DEAR and instead says something about spiritual nourishment. Mmmm…nourishment.

The others waffle some waffling crap but the crowd wants to know what they’ll actually do about these horrid scoundrels. Nobody knows as we only have five minutes and time is already up. Best…scheduling…ever. Next question!

Why not all work together on the NHS? Well, unimpressed audience lady, because people have very different plans for the NHS. Some people want to lovingly caress it, others want to hit it with a hammer.

Andy Burnizzle makes this exact argument to the extent that he is probably about to explode. His beautiful eyes are starting to pop out of his handsome skull as he clutches his trembling fist to his heaving breast, reinstating the main, most important point again and again: that he hates Tories. He frickin’ hates Tories. God damn does he hate them. Wait, what was the question again?

The others cycle through their equally predictable soundbites. Danny is moderately moderate and praises Holy Cleggus. Yasmin hates privatisation. Peter thinks the NHS is the only thing Labour hasn’t ruined and that they and the Tories are being squabbling babies about it. Both Andy and Michael then unite to pull a joint face of disgust. COALITION CONFIRMED?

I don’t think impressed woman was impressed, honestly.

Time for the scores!

Gove: 6/10

(Missed an open) Goal

Burnham: 8/10

Troll(in’)

Alexander: 5/10

(For whom the bell) Toll(s)

Alibhai-Brown: 6/10

(Middle of the) Poll

Hitchens: 6/10

(Had a leisurely) Stroll

The Crowd: 6/10

(On a) Roll

Next time: [inaudible screaming]

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #127


qt 127

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to a very deep-fried edition of Questionable Time! Now I don’t know much about Scottish politics, aside from the fact that everybody currently seems terminally pissed off at the Labour Party, like a cat that’s thrown up on the rug. With this flawless understanding of the political climate in hand, let’s dive straight in. What could possibly go wrong?

It’s a piece of cake to debate a pretty cake

“Here we are in Glasgow”, begins Dimbledore with an air of desperate finality. For some godawful reason, we have six people on the panel instead of five. Why this nightmare is happening to me is never adequately explained, so I’m going to guess that it’s a trial run for the election debates (if they ever happen). Judging by this showing, it’s going to be a clusterscrew.

Speaking of the debates, our first question is whether everyone should start making chicken noises whenever David Cameron walks past. The Scottish Conservatives lady does not think so, but she has to be a bit mad (being a Scottish Conservative) so it’s safe to ignore everything she says. I don’t understand how anyone can look at David Cameron weakly wriggling out of a debate with Ed Miliband and not think he’s the biggest scaredy-cat to ever hawk a hairball. The same Ed Miliband who, the media will tell you, cannot eat a bacon sandwich unaided, and yet is too threatening an opponent for Fave Dave to match up to. Poor show David. Poor show. And poor show Ruth, thinking anyone is going to fall for this nonsense. Oh wait…looks like some of them have. Like Toby Young, who is here for some reason instead of down South in the warm. Well, takes all kinds!

In other news, why does Danny Alexander look so weird now? He’s suddenly not ginger, and his eyes are all bulgy! Ever since he gave up his glasses he hasn’t been the same and has been slowly morphing into some kind of frog person, perhaps in anticipation of losing his seat and returning to his previous life of living in a pond. He remains as dull as ever, though, the only man in existence to have both a non-sexy/non-hilarious Scottish accent.

Just put a plate of Eton mess there instead, says Humza Yousaf, and nobody will be able to tell the difference. If you have it next to a tape recorder repeating the phrase ‘long term economic plan’ that really would be eerily similar. But judging by this bite-sized nonsense it won’t be a very good debate anyway, no matter who decides to turn up. Humza and Kezia Dugdale are fighting, Val McDermid is appealing for an energised electorate, and the audience is responding in kind by mainly yodelling. I’m tired out already, but the fun is just beginning.

This is what happens when you remind Scottish people of the magic of voting

What will the result of the SNP pwning j00 n00bs be? The floor is open for screaming and crying. Kezia, the Scottish Labour deputy leader (what a job!), bravely climbs into the shame pit first. Kezia says it’s good news for DCam, but would rather not think about what it means for Labour. Meanwhile, Ruth Davidson tries not to seem smug.

Humza, akin to an angry and unstoppable robot, gleefully tears into anyone and everyone and disses Trident to great cheers from his posse. In response, Kezia huffs angrily about the SNP’s tax policies, but she is too boring to strike a fatal blow! Humza has her cornered before triumphantly making a mighty gaffe. “We’ll look at an issue-by-issue basis of working with the Tories – I mean the Labour Party!” he squawks. Yet more mass yodelling in the studio follows, as Dimbleby tries in vain to calm everyone down. But it is no use. This is merely the first step on the audience’s pub crawl tonight. Danny tries to intervene in his monotone voice, before being smacked down by a frustrated Dimbles, who reminds him that he probably won’t even have a seat after the election, so nyah nyah. Also he looks like Brian the snail. Double nyah nyah.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

After the right-wingers nod sagely amongst themselves about the break up of the union and the coming heat death of the universe, Val makes a point about dragging Labour to the left somehow. We don’t know how. By not voting for them, maybe? Yeah, that’ll work! Nevertheless, I think Kezia (and Jim Murphy, by extension) could morph into Tony Benn right then and there and Scotland would still act like a wronged wife whose husband has forgotten their anniversary, as evidenced by the audience grumbling at everything she says. Though she isn’t helping by being so terribly uninteresting. Still, as the old saying goes: you made your bed, now you’ve got to lie in it. And it’s got itchy crumbs everywhere so, like, eww.

Toby Young isn’t being horrible enough, this displeases me

Next up, do we need stronger laws to prevent hate screeching/preaching on university campuses?

This question actually gets a pretty reasonable response from the panel. I beamed in pride, watching over them like an attentive mother hen. It’s so nice when people are advocating freedom of speech but not apologising for war crimes! It’s so great when even Toby Young surprises you! Indeed, banning these jackasses could just make them seem like a delicious cake, a cake that you are not allowed to eat. We need to have an open conversation about how shit they are, and how bad the cake tastes.

Incidentally, Dimbles mentions a spat between David Cameron and Grant Shapps – when pressed, Brian the snail says nothing about this important issue. I was disappointed. This is clearly what the people most want to hear.

Next: why is Scutlernd missing its targets? Well, it’s not a political issue says Ruth Davidson. Convenient! Suddenly, Kezia is squealin’ and reminds us that Labour is the bestest. And has a cool mansion tax. Dimbleby interrupts again (seriously, man? This is, what, the sixth time?), asking “how much will you raise in Glasgow?” Burn! As if Glasgow is so impossibly awful that OF COURSE one couldn’t raise any money with a MANSION tax, har har har! The audience hates Labour so much, however, that they’re willing to put up with David Dimbleby dissing their own city for a cheap laugh.

After a skirmish where Humza derides ‘creeping privatisation’ in the NHS while ignoring SNP flirting with Weightwatchers (which sounds like a much funnier story than it really is), and Toby claiming that Labour’s mansion tax must be magic while doing his best Paul Daniels impression (‘how much will it raise? Not a lot!’), Val, detached, wraps everything up the way only she knows how, presumably. This country has its own ‘historic health problems’, says she. The spectre of deep-fried Mars Bars looms large.

This gets the biggest applause of the night. I’ve given up trying to understand this edition.

I’ve given up in general, actually.

Time for the scores!

Davidson: 6/10

(Had her lines rehearsed down to a) Tee

Dugdale: 4/10

Plea(ded)

Yousaf: 5/10

FREEEEEEEE(dom)

Alexander: 4/10

(Crawling gooily up a) Tree

Young: 6/10

(Did not go on a killing) Spree

McDermid: 6/10

Gee, (what’s a left-winger to do?)

The Crowd: 9/10

(Will) Knee (you in the groin)

Next time, Ian Hislop gurning.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #93


questionable time 93 no cow

Good morning Lemmings and apologies for the lateness – I had both stuff and things to attend to that have now rendered the line ‘Good morning Lemmings’ somewhat redundant but hey-ho: You’re here, I’m here, let’s do some words.

Ladies and gentlemen, The Andy Burnham Show!

Here he is, caked to the eyeballs in make-up (seriously, his face looked like a you could quarry foundation from it) and fluttering those enormous fronds that double as eyelashes – it’s Andy Burnham! That’s right, local-lad-come-good and all round grandstander Andy B was in the house last night and boy did he know which buttons Warrington wanted pushing. And what buttons might they be? Well, how about the one labelled ‘The Raw Deal The North Gets’? You like that one Warrington? Good, because he’s mashing it like he was about to set some sort of record on Track and Field. How about the one marked ‘It’s Probably All Thatcher’s Fault’? Does that baste your chicken? Well I hope so because he’s spamming away on that one like a man possessed before effortlessly seguing into a sustained hammering of the switch labelled ‘Look Outraged Whenever Danny Alexander Opens His Mouth’. Woooooo! Everyone go nuts!

So yes, as the above suggests the Shadow Health Secretary relentlessly levered his home advantage last night and for the most part (barring an impromptu Paxo-ing from a particularly single-minded audience member) he got away with it – largely because he is quite the accomplished showman who can switch between pit-pony and show-pony with ease but also because you’d have to be the biggest klutz in the land not to romp home in the week when the Tories read the last rites to satire with that bingo poster of theirs. However, it’s not Burnham’s ability that worries me, it’s his ambition: You can just see it written all over him (not to mention the fact he’s already made a run for the Labour leadership) and I suspect that the reason he wears so much make-up is to stop it oozing out of his face and all down his shirt. He’s got to be careful with that because ambition is one of those funny traits that instantly sets off alarm bells in our minds and it also – as our amateur Paxo nearly exposed – leaves one very vulnerable to overplaying your hand in the quest for approval. That, and no-one wants make-up all over their shirt. It’s not a good look.

Dominic Raab may have accidentally solved economic libertarians’ presentation problem…

Economic libertarians have many problems – such as how exactly do you sell an ideology based on enriching the few to the many or just the daily struggle of trying to stay in tenuous contact with reality when you’re all hopped up to the eyeballs on Randian twaddle – but the one you come across most on QT is a presentational problem: They all sound too bloody certain. Take Jill Kirby for example – she’s pretty sure that the North is poor because of those goddamn pinko peaceniks and their tree hugging taxes (not to mention those damn CRB checks singlehandedly destroying the teaching profession) so lets just get rid and everything will be hunky-dory ok? Granted, it doesn’t help that these little nuggets of batshit are served with a side of words like “unremunerative” or a mispronunciation of “rhetoric” (“Reht-oar-ric”) but the main problem here is one of overconfidence combined with oversimplification. This is where Dominic Raab comes in because while he was coming out with a lot stuff that’s lifted straight from the Libertarian Playbook, the delivery wasn’t the usual bish-bash-bosh, here-let-me-amputate-that-for-you tour de certainty you expect from his ilk. No, Raab’s delivery was more cautious and considered – almost halting at times – while there was the occasional acknowledgement that the world isn’t an entirely straight forward place. Now, I’m not familiar enough with Raab to know if he’s always like this or whether the QT nerves cooled his jets a little but the effect was tremendous: I actually bothered to listen. True, I didn’t agree with any of the stuff I listened to but at least he got a foot in the door. So well done Dominic, long may that feeling of nauseous terror continue to serve you well.

The Danny List

Aside from the shocking absence of glasses – and the corresponding abundance of bulging eyes – this was pretty standard Danny Alexander fare… Standard enough to be standardised in the form of a standardised list as it happens. Observe:

  1. Repeated use of the phrase “the mess we were left” – Check
  2. Constant look of nebulous dread – Check
  3. Lacklustre audience response to lacklustre joke (“No deal!”) – Check
  4. Moment of abject horror when it all goes wrong (food banks in Germany) – Check
  5. Endless parade of monotone policy ‘achievements’ to act as filler – Check
  6. Photoshop of him as some raunchy male model (see Fig.1) – Check check check!

All’s well here then…

danny aleaxander fit sailor

Fig. 1

…And Val?

Can’t complain, truth be told. Alright, so there was one sticky moment right at the start when I thought she was going to go down the ‘all politicians are untrustworthy’ road (a road I’m so familiar with that I’m long past contempt) but it actually transpired that she didn’t like politicians blaming each other and that’s alright in my book. Also, a bonus point for saying she quite liked the budget with regards to her own finances whilst simultaneously slating its effect on others. The lack of a faux hair shirt was refreshing to say the least.

Tl;dr

Alexander: 4/10

Same (as always)

Burnham: 6/10

(Had more slap on than a panto) Dame

Raab: 6/10

Overcame (my deafness to libertarians)

Kirby: 4/10

(All a bit) Lame

McDermid: 6/10

(Writes books about people who like to) Maim

The Crowd: 5/10

(Find) Haim (to be somewhat over-hyped by the music press)

Right, all done, that’s your lot, nowt to see here. Elizabeth’s running things next week for Brighton is her turf and she is much better placed to judge the implications of tax breaks for moustache pomade, subsidies for dreamcatchers and the best type of blue nylon rope to make a dog lead out of. Oh Brighton, you are such silly.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #81


questionable-time-81-david-dimbleby-drag-gif

Good morning Lemmings and how are we feeling this morning? Tired? Bleary eyed? Morally conflicted by being annoyed that QT was delayed and then realising that this annoyance was a direct result of Nelson Mandela’s death and that you must be A Very Bad Person for thinking such thoughts? Yes, I am familiar with this jarring emotional repertoire. Anyway, it’s going to be a mini-Questionable Time today as I struggled to stay awake last night and cannot claim to have taken the whole thing in. With this in mind let us power through with the greatest of haste.

Danny Alexander – I’m beginning to find the Alexander Process rather endearing and to the uninitiated it looks like this:

  1. Danny sits there looking like he’d rather be anywhere else on earth than the QT studio and grimly awaits the torrent of ill will that’s about to come his way.
  2. Whilst waiting for the sky to fall in, Danny does something right – like crack a joke that doesn’t fall flat on its face – and suddenly looks like he might actually grow to enjoy the experience of this whole ‘politics’ thing.
  3. Flushed with confidence, he then tries to do something else right – like cracking another joke – only to find that the crowd have fallen out of love with him again and the torrent of ill will has merely been delayed.
  4. A look of resigned defeat takes hold of his face and the cycle begins again.

Poor Danny. Still, if it’s any consolation I had so much fun pshopping him as a hunky male model last time that I’ve decided this is now his ‘thing’ and he will be male modellified in all future encounters (see Fig. 1).

 danny alexander fit again

Fig. 1

Rachel Reeves: I’m still having trouble working out where the very serious and diligent looking politician ends and the actual person begins. Don’t get me wrong, she’s pretty good at not putting her foot in it and you do get the sense that she does – at least in some very abstract sort of way – care, but none of this can quite cover up the fact that her performances are just a little, well, dull. My prescription? Show us a bit of human frailty. Get something wrong. Make an outrageous statement every now and then. Yes I know this runs counter to every fibre of your being but it’s going to be damn tricky shaking off the ‘Boring-Snoring‘ charge if you continue to display all the warmth of an Excel spreadsheet.

David Davis: Last night saw one of those very rare moments where David Davis is largely in agreement with his own party and manages to confine the use of that I’ve Killed Before look to scaring the bejesus out of the opposition. It also scares the bejesus out of me but in a very good way.

Mary Beard: I like Mary. She’s a good egg with a massive brain who’s more than capable of fighting her own corner yet her past performances have always had this faint tinge of caution to them – like she’s thinking really hard about how to answer a question without unduly upsetting anyone. Thankfully this wasn’t the case last night and what we saw was a great piece of Question Timing that struck the balance between comprehension and conviction just right. Everything flowed naturally, you got the sense that she was talking from the heart and there was no hint of some internal governor trying to restrain her delivery. In short, she was bloody brilliant.

Nick Ferrari: My initial plan was to go town on Ferrari for being the sort of lowest-common denominator blowhard that really grinds my gears but I had a change of heart half way through. Why? Well for one, he made for a really good sparring partner with Mary Beard and it was this pairing that made the show, but more importantly he absolutely melted my heart with the way he gushed effusively about Tom Daley coming out. I really hadn’t expected that but it looked 100% genuine and made me feel all warm inside (although that might have been down to the extra tinny I consumed in an effort to stay awake). So no monstering for Mr Ferrari today, just a doffed cap and an uncharacteristically high mark.

Tl;dr

Alexander: 5/10

Not

Reeves: 4/10

Enough

Davis: 6/10

Sleep

Beard: 8/10

To

Ferrari: 6/10

Make

The Crowd: 6/10

Rhymes

And thus is the tragedy of this show: It was great – aside from the rather wooden efforts of Reeves and Alexander, people had proper debates where they not only got beyond the superficial but also, shock horror, appeared to be listening to each other – yet I’d wager that only a handful of people managed to stay up long enough to watch it. Oh great, see what I’ve just done there? I’ve made myself feel like A Very Bad Person again.

Right, that’s me done. Sorry for calling it in this week but I really am rather knackered and I suspect that there won’t exactly be a queue of expectant Lemmings waiting at the door today. Anyway, see you next time for the last pre-Crimbo episode and should you be in the market for left-field Xmas presents then may I point you in the direction of this rather lovely Catch-22 t-shirt I made…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #68


questionable time 68 david dimbleby monkey

Good morning Lemmings and just why exactly are you all wearing your ties around your heads, setting off fire extinguishers, smoking conspicuously and generally running wild in the corridors? Ah, I see… It’s the end of term – that last hurrah before QT goes into it’s reverso-hibernation – and consequently I see little point in trying to hold your attention for more than 10 minutes. With this in mind (and seeing as you’ve been so good all year), let’s dispense with all the earnest chin-stroking, let our hair down and play a little game called ‘Which One of Last Night’s Panelists Would I Most Like to Be My GP?’. Yeah yeah yeah, so you all wanted to play Mouse Trap but you can’t because a) we’ve lost half the pieces, b) Mr Gove won’t let us buy any new ones and c) the idea of Mouse Trap is always much more fun than the stuttering and largely inoperative reality of Mouse Trap. GP’s it is then.

 

Let’s start with obvious choice…

It’s a no-brainer really: You’re ill, you’re in the QT studio, who do you turn to? Well quite clearly it would be Dr Sarah Woolaston, the only actual medic on the panel and one who exudes a general air of competence. So anyway, you get to the back of the set, Doctor Woolaston performs a thorough examination and declares that it’s nothing to worry about and that everything will be fine. Except that you’re not feeling fine. Something is troubling you and you can’t quite put your finger on it.

 

Are you sure Doc? Are you sure that I’m not going to keel over and die?”

 

Yes” she replies soothingly “You’ve just watched too much QT this year and there’s been a build up of current affairs pathogens that your body is now dealing with. Give it a day and you’ll be as right as rain”.

 

Yet I’m still feeling uneasy. Why? Because her face is telling a different story to the words coming out of her mouth. We saw it last night, like when she was extolling the virtues of open primaries. According to the words she was saying, these are great things that are a cause for joy yet her face was set in this near-frown/semi-smile of ambient concern that told a completely different story. In fact it didn’t matter what the subject was, that face just wouldn’t shift from its default position of nebulous worry and that lent an otherwise pretty solid performance an air of uncertainty that didn’t sit well with me.

 

So despite her immaculate credentials and refreshingly calm manner I’m going to pass on the offer of medical aid from Sarah. It’s not that I doubt her skills, it’s just that no matter how many times my ears hear the words ‘You’re going to be fine’, my eyes end up concluding that I’ll be dead by sundown. Next!

 

What about the highest ranking panelist, Danny Alexander?

Let’s start with the good news: Danny Alexander no longer looks like a harried junior doctor who doesn’t know his fib from his tib and has settled quite comfortably into the role of Ward Manager that was thrust so violently upon him. And the bad news? His bedside manner is pretty ropey – just really flat and distracted by mental visions of a million graphs plunging downwards – not to mention that he has a really obvious tell: He starts talking really quickly when delivering bad news (like when Hodge was roughing him up on the state of the NHS). So beware: If Dr Danny mumbles a diagnosis at you, you’re probably in the clear. However, if he says something like ‘Everythingsabsolutelyfineyouhavenothingtoworryabout’ I’d get ringing 999.

 

(On a tenuously related note, I’ve noticed that Alexander gets a raw deal on google images and that every other photo appears to be a comparison between himself and Beaker. Consequently I have taken steps to reverse this trend. See Fig. 1).

 

danny alexander fit

Fig. 1

Talking of bedside manner…

This is the bit that Margaret Hodge has got nailed. No five-minute appointments, no being fobbed off with 20mg of Citalopram and a ‘there there dear’, you’re in for a proper 20 minute consultation in which tears will flow and Kleenex will be offered. The problem however is that I’m not entirely convinced about how up to date her clinical skills are and there’s always the chance of a misdiagnosis like when she chalked up an immigration problem to a lack of ID cards. Still, she’s probably the sort of doctor who’d turn up to a patients funeral and that get points in my book… Even if she was an indirect cause of death.

 

Douglas Murray is fond of rather drastic interventions…

So here I am backstage again and Dr Murray has taken the time to stop by.

 

What’s the problem then?” he states.

 

It’s my hand,” says you “it’s a bit stiff”.

 

Right, get my saw. That needs amputating.”

 

Actually, I’m being a little unfair here because like Danny Alexander, Douglas Murray has changed dramatically over the last couple of years and is much more mellow than he was when he was screaming for this or that to be bombed off the face of the earth. That’s not to say that he’s completely lost his taste for the extreme (performance related pay for MP’s anyone?) but I have to admit that he was actually pretty good last night and never once in danger of doing a Full Blown Mel. I’d still keep my eye on that saw though…

 

I’m troubled by Dr Robinson’s intentions…

He’s a kindly soul is Dr Robinson and much like Hodge, I can’t fault him when it comes to the basics of the doctor/patient dynamic. However, I am concerned that a) his prescribed treatments would most likely involve leeches or trepanning and b) he’d actual quite like for me to cark it so he could bury me behind the surgery and then dig me up again in front of a film crew. Speaking of which, I really should ring the doctors to get my paranoia looked at.

 

Tl;dr

 

Woolaston: 6/10

(Has a worried looking) Face

 

Alexander: 5/10

(Has finally learned to) Embrace (his role)

 

Hodge: 6/10

(Is) Ace (when she’s hounding tax dodgers)

 

Murray: 6/10

(Is not the head) Case (he used to be)

 

Robinson: 6/10

(Is always welcome round my) Place (providing he doesn’t dig it up).

 

The Crowd: 5/10

(All wore undergarments of) Lace?

 

And that’s that for another two months. As is customary at the end of the QT year I’d like to say a big thanks to all those who’ve helped out in one way or another (you know who you are) and also to you guys for reading. God willing, Questionable Time will be back in September but should you find yourself at a loose end before then please go and check out my new site – misheardlyricsillustrated.com. It’s pretty simple really: I mishear lyrics and then I illustrate them. Anyway, it’s very silly in a fun sort of way so check it out and pass it on to anyone you think might get a kick out of it.

 

Right, that’s your lot. Have a great summer and I’ll see you back here in September…

 

In a couple months Lemmings, in a couple of months…

Questionable Time #35


questionable time 35 david dimbleby battlefield 3

Good morning Lemmings and welcome the hell back from what has been one of the strangest ‘summers’ I can remember. Strange how? Strange because we actually ended up winning things, a turn of events that struck me as deeply, deeply unpatriotic. Do not fear though for normal service has resumed. Wall-to-wall rain? Check. An economy that wants quietly taking out the back and shooting? Check. A political landscape where policies are actually announced through the medium of satire? Check, check, check. God, I love the smell of collective failure in the morning. So then Lemmings, what better way is there to celebrate this return to comfortable malaise than with a spot of Questionable Timing? None that I can think of. Go!

Danny Alexander may well be the Most Tragic Figure in the Most Tragic Party of a Tragic Coalition…

I got home early from work the other day, flicked on News 24 to kill time before Pointless and found myself watching Danny Alexander’s Q&A at the Lib Dem conference. I wasn’t really paying attention to what he was saying but what I did pick up was just how relaxed he looked. Usually, Alexander has this weird meerkat-on-sentry-duty gait about him and you can see him twitch at the slightest sound, just waiting for that inevitable moment when someone will have a go at him. Not last week though. Instead, he actually seemed comfortable in his own skin, reclining in his seat as the party faithful softballed some tepid criticism his way. It was nice – in a weird sort of way – as while I don’t have much love for the things he’s done, it just seems a little too easy to pick on the YTS kid who’s inexplicably been left in charge of the petty cash tin. Unfortunately for Danny the respite was short-lived. Fighting Season is here once more, the vultures are circling and if that haunted look in his eyes is anything to go by, he is more than aware that his number will come up repeatedly.

So it was that he spent the first half of the show wedged firmly between a rock and a hard place, desperately trying to fend off blows from the left whilst also ominously aware that Jacob Rees-Mogg had zero intention of keeping the right flank secure. “Oh Christ,” I could hear him think, “here we go again. Another year of getting my dinner money stolen. Another year of ‘kick-me’ signs stuck to my back”. So far, so tragic, right? Well yes and no because what happened next I actually found to be rather heartening. It was on the ‘plebs’ question: He started with the standard line that wasn’t it all such a rotten business but well done Mr Mitchell for apologising. Then, out of nowhere, he turned on Harriet Harman, bringing up the matter of her ‘ginger rodent’ comments, yet doing it with quite a bit of dignity. And that, dear Lemmings, is why Danny Alexander may be the Most Tragic Figure in the Most Tragic Party of a Tragic Coalition, but probably isn’t. On paper, it’s all there… We might well have asked Central Casting to supply us with a Treasury Minister from their Vulnerable and Easily Ridiculed Nerd portfolio. Yet somehow, he endures and can occasionally – like last night – surprise us with his capacity to carry the fight in the other direction. That, and Nick Clegg really is putting in a stellar performance in his quest to win the title of Most Tragic Figure in the Most Tragic Party of a Tragic Coalition. Now, that’s a contest I can really get behind.

I had a faint dread Harriet Harman being on…

I’ve got nothing particularly against Harriet Harman. Yes, she was an integral part of the toxic stew that New Labour eventually became but she was one of the more minor poisons and the fact that she winds up the Daily Mail so effectively means she must be doing something right. No, the reason for my faint dread was that she’s been on so many times before and I’ve never really managed to get a proper handle on her. I’ve already done the whole Minister of Nothing In Particular thing and the fact that I once had to spend several hundred words trying to make serviceable riff about her posture should be evidence enough that the well was becoming increasingly dry. So yes, I wasn’t looking forward to her being on. However, I am delighted to announce that about half way through the show something came to me that should just bail me out of this situation. Harriet Harman: She’s Labour’s supply teacher.

When I was at school, supply teachers could be broken into three distinct categories. First, there were the Damaged Goods. These were the ones who maybe couldn’t cut it in a permanent position or who had possibly been so thoroughly beasted by successive generations of savage little creatures that they now exhibited all the primary symptoms of Educational PTSD. I liked those ones, or to be more precise, I liked the hour of anarchy that their lessons inevitably descended into. Harriet Harman is not one of those supply teachers.

The second category is the Not A Toss Givers. These guys (and they usually were guys) tended to be towards the end of their careers and were simply wearily biding their time until their pensions kicked in. I remember one bloke who you used to cover for geography who would throw out some text books before putting headphones on and listening to the cricket for the entire lesson. I was as ambivalent towards the Not A Toss Givers, just as they were to us. We didn’t want to be there, they didn’t want to be there but we had all reached a mutual and silent accord that a truce would prevail throughout. Again, Harriet Harman is not one of these supply teachers.

No Harriet Harman belongs to the last group, the Steady Awayers. These were the teachers who still possessed a vague measure of competence, willingness and gumption yet were far enough removed from the long-term consequences of their actions that they would let the little things ride. Again, it was an unwritten contract: We won’t give you a hard time and will jump through most of the hoops providing you do the same. Essentially, they are the Good Step-Parents of the educational sector.

Back to Harriet: Harman is a Steady Awayer because while she always seems to be filling in (Caretaker Leader, Deputy Leader, Go-To Talking Head in Generic Crisis Situations), she’s still very much permanent, a bit like a price tag you forget to remove. The thing about long-term consequences, that’s also there as well. As I mentioned before, Harman was part of the New Labour pantheon when they were up to no good and was in Cabinet for some of their more cockeyed calls, yet the mud doesn’t stick to her in the way it does to others as she never seemed to be in the posts that actually mattered.

So that’s why Harriet Harman is like a supply teacher but the more important question is ‘how did she do?’. Not bad, all said. Her relentless pressing of the inequality line was effective whilst the pantomime cringes she deployed during Gingergate were enough to contain any serious damage. And for someone who remains so bloody hard to pin down, that’s not bad going.

I was totally ready to go to town on Jacob Rees-Mogg, but…

I was so stoked when they announced Moggingtons was going to be on. I mean c’mon, just look at the guy. How low can fruit hang? The weird thing is though that I just can’t seem to build a decent head of steam up about him. Why? Because I’m not sure that he’s actually real. No, what I think is going on is that a rift has opened up in the space-time continuum between the present day and the early thirties through which Jacob Rees-Mogg has fallen. How else can you explain the appearance of a relatively young man who looks like he turned up to the studio in a Junkers Ju52 after having just ticked off the League of Nations for being a bunch of cry-baby do-gooders?

Not only that, but I find it hard to get personal about him because he’s more of a symbol than a sentient entity: He’s the human incarnation of the Tory party’s immense capacity to propagate eternal stasis. So with these two factors so readily present I just can’t bring myself to do a proper hatchet job on him as it would be like accusing the rain of being overly wet. He is right on one thing though: The universal assumption that he may be the sort of guy to use the word ‘pleb’ does have something to do with his “vooooooooice”.

Kirsters and Coogers walk a fine line.

Here’s a first: An official Questionable Time retraction. Earlier in the week I got a little giddy that Kirstie Allsopp was on because I’ve had a pretty darn good photoshop of her kicking about for ages and I took to Twitter to make my delight known. Within said tweet (see Fig. 1) was a fallacious assumption that Kirstie’s non-appearance when she was slated to be on was because she cancelled. As you can see, this was clearly not the case so egg and bacon all over my face. Please call Phil Spencer and tell him not to break my legs.

kirsty allsopp tweet

Fig. 1

Anyhoo, red-faced grovellings aside I’m still very much split on Allsopp as she skirts dangerously on the border between the sororal and the matronly. You see, I like it when she does the outspoken thing and starts shouting “bollocks” on live television and she clearly believes in what she’s saying. However, I think she’s just a little too removed from the lives of most people to really have a trustworthy compass and this means she often sounds like she’s casually telling off vast swathes of the population when she probably only means to gently chide them. Still, not a bad run and her call to ‘kick the banks’ (“Kick ’em hard!”) had a wonderfully jaunty-yet-threatening ring to it. Now here’s that photoshop (see Fig. 2).

kirsty allsopp tennents super

Fig. 2

On to Steve Coogan and again, I’m terribly conflicted because it’s all or nothing with him. Remember when he was on the phone hacking episode earlier this year? He was so evidently pissed off that he forgot himself and was absolutely great as a consequence. This time though, not as great. Shorn of an issue to really get his teeth into you could really see him wrestling with that self-awareness and self-doubt that constantly stalks him. What’s even more of a pity is that the stuff he was on about was good. I really liked the fact that he made an issue of how he should pay more tax and he was right to probe some of the more uncomfortable aspects of the Rochdale case but he could never quite seem to generate the confidence to really run with those ideas. Overall, I find that pretty heartbreaking as I’ve got huge amounts of respect for Coogan as a comedian and there is great potential for him to excel on QT. All it needs is for him to have a little more faith in what he’s saying. Or to come in character as Alan Partridge. Steve, please come in character as Alan Partridge.

Brighton confuses me…

The Frau Ribs and I had a brief break in Brighton over the summer and – much like the time before – I came away suffering from cognitive dissonance. You see, I love the idea of Brighton. I love the idea of a city by the sea full of great record and book shops and I love the idea of a place being so wilfully contrary. The problem is that I don’t understand the logistics of Brighton. How can an economy be sustained by neo-twee cup cake boutiques and bespoke yurt manufactories alone? Why does the population need so many spurious sounding therapists? How? Why? These riddles remain unresolved. Anyhoo, how did they do? Pretty good, in a scatty sort of way. For example, there was great level headedness from one young lady on how cutting resources makes social workers’ jobs much more difficult followed by pure bat-shit insanity from the gentleman who shrieked “LIFE NOT 4 YEARS!”. That pretty much nails my definition of ‘scatty’.

Tl;dr

Alexander: 5/10

Twitchy

Harman: 6/10

Switchy

Rees-Mogg: 5/10

Richy

Allsopp: 6/10

Kitschy

Coogan: 5/10

Glitchy

The Crowd: 6/10

Itchy?

So there we have it, first blood in what is likely to be a violent and brutish parliamentary season. Man, it’s good to be back.

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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