Posts Tagged 'David Blunkett'

Questionable Time #58


questionable time 58 david dimbleby margaret thatcher

Good morning Lemmings and welcome back from an Easter break that looked suspiciously like a rebranding of ‘Winter’. Given this grim state of affairs you’d be forgiven for assuming that Question Time would be half-heartedly dragging its way out of hibernation for another round of Yah-Boo-Sucksery but in fact, the opposite seems to have occurred and what we got last night was probably one of the best QT’s I’ve seen in a good long while. Say what you will about the late-PM, even in death she still has the capacity to wind up the citizens of this nation like no-one else. Alright, let’s get cracking.

Well… Someone’s firing on all four cylinders again…

Watching Ken Clarke over the last few years has been an unsettling experience and one that often felt like an exercise in concussion management. Let’s start with the initial blow to the head – the failure of the Tories to secure a majority and the formation of the coalition. For a man who was used to striding around a highly polarised political landscape with the weight of certainty behind him this must have come as a bit of a shock but credit where credit’s due, he weathered it well and showed few outward signs of lasting damage. However – as is often the case with head injuries – the symptoms of such a trauma were simply masked by the excitement of the initial incident and as time went on, I started to become increasingly concerned: Sidelined and stymied, the old boy seemed to be zoning out and if there was one thing that the doctors at A&E were emphatic about it was ‘Don’t let Ken nod off otherwise he may never wake up again!’.

Yet it seems that my worries were misplaced as the Ken we got last night was a million miles away from the vision of resigned defeat that we’ve seen of late. Suddenly taken out of the present and transported back to a time when he actually had shots to call the former Chancellor looked like a different man and one that I’ve still very much got a soft spot for. Lets start with his physical symptoms: Those heavy eyelids, those sloped shoulders and stifled yawns that had so long kept my fingers hovering over the number for NHS Direct had gone, replaced now by wide eyes, jutting jaw and animated limbs. As for his mental health, well that appeared to have been similarly transformed and where we once saw a man who knew he was on his way out, now stood a vision of boisterous vim.

Naturally, this return to form was of course accompanied by the re-emergence of old pathologies such as his endearingly crap attempts to bluster his way out of tight spots by talkingveryveryfast and ber-ber-ber-blurting things out (I’ve always loved the way his face visibly reddens with each ‘ber’) but in many ways this is a good thing: It’s proof of life, an affirmation that there’s still some fire in him and I for one have missed that. Whether he can keep this new-found vigour is a very different matter (I suspect that in a few weeks he’ll revert to his slow decline) but for the time being I’m just happy to see the return of someone who while far from perfect, did at least make politics a genuinely interesting place to be.

And it wasn’t just Ken…

Poor Polly. She really does have a thankless job, even if it’s one of her own making. In a nutshell, Toynbee’s place in the scheme of things is to try and alert us to the boring stuff that no-one really wants to know about but ultimately has a huge bearing on life – the mundane looking yet hugely consequential sub-clause, the penny on this, the percentage off that, these are the thing she has to make sense of and for the most part, she does it very well. The problem is that a life spent poring through the mundane in search of the malicious is a wearying business and quite often it can make her look a little – well – miserable. With this in mind, it came as a rather nice surprise to see her really fired up and making damn sure that the Tories rather starry-eyed version of the Maggie Narrative didn’t go unchallenged whilst also being the only member of the panel to try and root the discussion in the context of the future. So fair play Polly, for once it’s nice to see that frown turned upside down – or at least slightly modified with the Liquify Tool (see Fig. 1)

polly-toynbee-thatcher-gif

Fig. 1

In a similar vein, Ming Campbell – another long-tooth in danger of losing his purpose – also appeared reinvigorated and made himself a nice little niche as The Level Headed One who wasn’t afraid to ruffle a few Yellow Team feathers with his willingness to raise the vexing matter of ‘if she was so bad, why did we keep voting for her?’. The bollocking he gave Charles Moore at the back-end of the show was also rather good fun and wholly judicious to boot.

All three of the above – Ken, Polly and Ming – did well last night because they were finally back on ground they understood, a terrain composed of opposing ideas rather than the swamp of platitudes and managerialism that we’ve spent the last decade or so wallowing in. You saw it in the crowd as well: Not once did we hear the weekly refrain of They’re All As Bad As Each Other. Instead, there was a sense of people knowing which side they were on and making damn sure that their side clapped louder than the other. Seeing how it jazzed up the show so much, I propose that we start offing ex-PM’s at regular intervals, just to keep the mood alive.

What of the other two?

Yeah, not so great. In Blunkett’s case it all goes back to his metamorphosis from Rough Hewn Man of the People to New Labour Uber-Bastard who managed to assimilate all the wrong lessons from both the Old Labour and Thatcher years. It just makes him look compromised beyond credibility as illustrated by his inability to face up to quite how Thatcherite New Labour became, not to mention a rather scary moment when he looked like he was about to end up in deep trouble with feminists. He pulled it back, but is was touch and go.

As for Moore, well he’s an entirely different kettle of fish and quite a mad one at that. Some of this is forgivable – after all, he’s a very sympathetic biographer of Thatcher who’s had to spend every last second of the past week eulogising his idol. Sooner or later, that’s going to skew your sense of reality and towards the end of the show the wheels really started to come off. It started with an alarmist rant about a BBC conspiracy to send Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead to the top of the charts and ended with a truly weird spiel about how she couldn’t be the Wicked Witch of the East as she single-handedly defeated communism. I bet this sort of thing doesn’t happen to John Major’s biographer.

Anything else?

Yes! Special mention to the man who referred to himself as ‘one’ at least three times in the same sentence and then claimed he wasn’t a Tory, the gentleman with the thick German accent who kept his arm raised at a historically provocative angle throughout his answer and the lad who looked like the long-lost twin of That Guy From The Inbetweeners (see Fig. 2). Well done all of you.

inbetweeners question time

Fig. 2

Tl;dr

Clarke: 7.5/10

(Had a) Spring (in his step)

Blunkett: 5/10

(Is the) King (of nothing)

Campbell: 7/10

(Is often referred to as) ‘Ming’

Toynbee: 7/10

(Did her bit for the left) Wing

Moore: 5/10

Cling(s to Thatcher’s memory in an unhealthy sort of way)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Are all avid fans of) Sting?

Well, that was exciting wasn’t it? In all seriousness I found this episode fascinating because while I was never a fan of Thatcher, I do miss the sense that at least people knew what they believed in when she was at large.

Now, before I disappear, a little bit of housekeeping. The Indy and I have gone our separate ways so from now on this will be the only place to get Questionable Time. It is also likely to lead to the following:

Tardier deadlines!

Longerness!

Increasingly absurd photoshops!

More oblique references to mid-90’s Southern Californian punk acts!

A body clock that doesn’t hate me!

Oh you lucky things!

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #43


question time david dimbleby43 pulp

Morning Lemmings and let’s make this quick, a) because this week’s Question Time wasn’t quite up to the high standards set by last week’s pitched battle and b) our Clown Thumbed guitarist is on his way over to help me blow up virtual stuff on my non-virtual computer (which, by the way, now has wheels. I bought a graphics card that was so big it necessitated a wheeled case. That’s well cool).

Ok, so this show didn’t exactly have the most exciting panel in the world but it did kind of make up for it by having a crowd who had a very clear agenda, but more on that later. To kick off though let’s start with the main event which is in this case was Vince Cable, a man who presently seems to be in the grips of a fairly substantial identity crisis and appears to have several separate media incarnations that manifest at random. Sometimes it’s Troublemaking Agit-Vince who appears to be inches away from jacking it all in and going out in a ball of flames while at other times we get Nervous Breakdown Cable who seems to be vying with Simon Hughes for the Samaritan’s Most Frequent Caller of the Year award. As it happens, we got Glutton For Punishment Vince who basically spent the first twenty minutes getting an utterly relentless pummeling from anyone who cared to have a go. He tried all the routine maneuvers such as the “save the country from economic disaster” and “Labour spendthrifts” plays but there were no takers and by the looks of it, he didn’t really care. In fact although I wouldn’t go as far as to say he was actually enjoying the experience, he did seem strangely inured to the pain, as if his nervous system had simply called it a day and redefined constant agony as the norm. Luckily for him, the crowd either realised that actively ragging on someone for such a sustained period is actually quite knackering or got frustrated by the fact that he wasn’t breaking down in tears and he managed to sneak off to the Hidey-Hole of Irrellevance to lay low for the rest of the show. My theory is that either the Business Secretary has somehow managed to temporarily amputate his soul from his body in order to survive or that he’s addicted to some pretty heavy-duty pain killers. I’m no doctor but take your pick…

Next up we have David Blunkett, local boy come good/bad (depending on your opinion) and someone who is rarely flavour of the month with me. I’m like this with all ex-New Labour Home Secretaries because there was something about that post at that particular point in time that just seemed to turn its incumbents into utter, utter divs. Even Alan Johnson (who I’ve always had a soft spot for) couldn’t manage to do his stint without engaging in some very suspect chest puffing and ‘check out my guns’ swinging-dickery, although his efforts were not a patch on those of the likes of Smith and Straw. Neither did Blunkett’s post-governmental career do much to commend him to me as he managed to segue himself into one of the least likable for-profit-yet-doing-state-work chimeras that were spawned in the wake of New Labour. So yes, I’m not a fan. Having said that, I must say that he didn’t do too badly last night and I was largely without rage for most of the show. Some of this is down to circumstance, like being with a friendly crowd on home turf and enjoying a fairly benevolent political backdrop but yeah, it was mostly a fairly mundane and straight-forward affair.

Oh no wait! I tell a lie… There was something that really ticked me off and that was when he reached new heights of hyperbole by claiming that the internet was a hotbed of “mad, free-for-all Libertarianism that will bring society to its knees”. Now, I totally agree that Mad, Free-For-All Libertarians are two-a-penny on the internet but the whole “bringing society to its knees bit?” A little shrill, methinks. Oh, and before I forget, there is one thing I like about Blunkett (or more accurately, liked): Back in the mists of time, before his beard had turned grey, Blunkett appeared to have a fully reversible head (see Fig. 1)

blunket reversable head

Fig. 1

See?! Look at that bad boy! You can flip it a full 180 degrees and he still looks the same!

Right, next we have a bona-fide Question Time n00b, Anna Soubry. Now, this may well have been her first time on QT but it all honesty, it definitely wasn’t a n00bish performance and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a fair bit more of her. The first thing I noticed is that she’s pretty tough, but not that “I’LL SHOW YOU HOW TOUGH I AM BY JUMPING DOWN YOUR THROAT” tough that the likes of Warsi are wont to indulge in. No, Soubry seems more clued up and opted for a fairly measured yet resolute line while still managing to get the odd dig in at Labour from time to time. Understandably (considering she was in Sheffield at a time when the Tories are slaughtering Northern Holy Cows on an industrial scale), it didn’t all go her way and she came off for the worse in a scrap with Blunkett on the NHS (as well as rightly being told off by Dimbers for going straight into Blame Labour mode right for the get go) but it could have been a lot worse. I have also discovered that she’s got some pretty interesting views for a Tory so yes, she shall be added to my Watch With Interest List.

Ok, so that’s the politco’s done with, time for the civilians. First up we have James o’Brien, a presenter with LBC radio who I know absolutely nothing about but found to be alright. I’m totally guessing here, but he seems to be one of those middle-brow, daytime/telly radio types who’s opinions are just at the margins of what that particular genre allow (which is no further to the left than a Back-in-the-Day Social Democrat and no further to the right than Marshal Petain) a la Matthew Wright and Nick Ferarri and if last night was anything to go by, he’s quite good at it. O’Brien had some nice turns here and there, such as a hefty broadside on the coalition at the start (“Osborne will take the credit and the LibDems will take the blame”) and the bit where he got the whole audience to denounce Andrew Lansley en masse but it must be said that it wasn’t all plain sailing and at one point he became the victim of a genius little audience ambush. This occurred just after he’d given David Laws the all-clear and a crowd member manage to sneak in this question: “What if he was a Housing Benefit claimant?”. For a split second you could see the voltage in his brain spike to dangerous levels as he tried to grapple with just how in the hell he was going to deal this Monster Question before some automated safety system kicked in and tripped the circuit breakers: “Brilliant question!” he said (with some humility), but you could tell that it totally floored him for a moment. But yeah, not bad.

Finally, we have Max Mosely, a man who has been quietly growing on me for a while. To be honest, I wasn’t that familiar with him prior to the whole Jackboots Unt Kallfraus Ja? affair but what’s really struck me since then is how he somehow has this air of unimpeachable dignity, despite having his whiplashed and leather-thonged bum plastered all over the papers. Say what you will about his private habits but that is quite a trick to pull. However, I can’t really say he was great last night, partly because I just don’t find the whole Super Injunction issue that interesting (I like the gossip bit… That’s pretty good. But the legal in’s and out’s? Sorry, that just doesn’t light my fag) but also because he didn’t really seem with it, particularly when he inadvertently referred to homosexuality as a “problem”. I think (and hope) that was a genuine mistake but it was a costly one and I think it knocked his confidence a bit. Never mind Max, just carry on doing that dignity thing. You’re good at the dignity thing.

So that’s the panelists and in honesty they weren’t exactly all fireworks and ice cream. However, there was one interesting thing about the show and that was the audience, all of whom were absolutely hellbent on braying seven bells out of the LibDems. Now, that’s not exactly unusual behaviour on Question Time these days but what set this lot apart was just how visceral they were about it. Seriously, for the first twenty minutes it was all one way traffic with the crowd only pausing briefly to occasionally harangue a passing Tory whilst spending every other available second sticking the boot into the Yellow Team. “So what?” you may say and on the face of it ‘so what indeed’: Sheffield’s a thoroughly Red city (barring Clegg’s Sheffield Halham which is partly rural and has a fairly insane concentration of wealthy people in it) where the Miners Strike is still the defining political event of many people’s lives and voting Labour is just ‘what you do’. Well it matters because this was the sort of place the LibDems could have been contenders in and had already made some serious inroads. Granted, it was a narrow brand of LibDemmery that was on offer in these parts (the Chat Show Charlie, left-of-Labour brand) and the party was always going to have trouble reconciling this with the Orange Book brand of liberalism they were peddling in the south, but it was doable and large numbers of people were voting for them. What made this show important was that it slammed the door on that alternate reality and confirmed that the LibDems are pretty much dead to Sheffield. Sure, that could change in time but I think it’ll probably take a generation for the party to be taken seriously in the Metropolitan North again and that if the near future is anywhere near as bad as it’s shaping up to be, they may never be forgiven. If I was Clegg, I’d start thinking about tapping up Cable for some of that co-codamol.

Cable: Numb

4/10

Blunkett: Umm

5/10

Soubry: Rum

6/10

o’Brien: Some

6/10

Mosely: (whipped) Bum

5/10

The Crowd: Scrum

7/10

So there we go… Another day, another ritualised slaughter of junior coalition partners. Enough already, I’m off to blow virtual stuff up and maybe wheel my computer around the living room. Can you wheel your computer around the living room? Didn’t think so.

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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