Posts Tagged 'David Miliband'

Questionable Time #40

questionable time 40 david dimbleby statue of liberty

Good morning Lemmings and just who the devil are these people, swanning around with their fancy accents and elevated levels of dental hygiene? Ah, I see, they appear to be American’s which would sort of make sense seeing as they’re having an election next week. Quite what this has to do with the good people of London I do not know and I must confess that I’m a little upset that the wild rumours of Donald Trump appearing on the show have come to nothing but having said that, both me and my computer are counting our blessings now that we don’t have to cut out Trump’s hair in Photoshop. I mean c’mon, have you seen that thing? That’s a task of such magnitude and absurdity that it may well have driven us both to destruction. Anyway, enough… On with the show.

I can still hear the longing cries of New Labour romantics ringing in my ears…

So here he is, the Miliband You Could Have Won, the Slightly Better Looking Brother who still clearly has the capacity to make Blairites weak at the knees, the King Across the Sea. And how has his self-imposed exile been treating him? Rather well by all accounts. You see, the deal-breaker for me when Miliband D. was on the front line was this look he used to pull when someone caught him out. His face would momentarily harden, brows bearing down into a frown and teeth clenched as if to say ‘Well done buddy, you just made the list’. Granted, he’d stop short of pulling out a note pad marked ‘For Future Smiting’ but you could tell that he was deadly serious about it and did not like being made a monkey of. Luckily for him, it seems that a couple of years of bimbling around the edges of politics have served to mellow him out somewhat and what we saw last night was a man who’s still very potent at getting a message across but doesn’t seem as horribly consumed by the game as he once was.

My only real disappointment – apart from his getting away rather lightly with the matter of why exactly Labour traded principles for mischief on the Europe vote – was that I can’t help thinking Question Time missed a trick this week: They had David Miliband, they had Jerry Springer, all they need to do was wind up Dave about how his brother stitched him up before bringing on Ed at an opportune moment and leaving the two of them to duke it out. Should you have trouble envisaging this scenario then fear no for I have handily mocked it up using phototrickery. Behold Fig. 1.

Fig. 1

Speaking of Jerry Springer…

Fun fact: Back in 1999 I ended up in the audience of The Jerry Springer Show whilst visiting Chicago. It was all about transsexuals who were cheating on each other and although I have to admit that I wasn’t really convinced by the main event (not by the transsexuals you understand… They seemed pretty legit so far as I could tell. It was more the ‘cheating’ bit since they all seemed to get on rather well when they cut for breaks) I was totally sold on Springer himself. He just seemed to balance it all so well, letting you know that it was all bollocks whilst effortlessly signing you up at the same time. That was 13 years ago but I have to say he still comes across very much as he did and although he’s not quite as quick on his feet (not to mention his rather unsettling assertions that he will be dead in 20 years), he too has still very much got it. Alright, so the going was pretty easy for him, what with him being Obama Cheerleader-in-Chief in front of a crowd with a ravenous appetite for the hopey-changey stuff but even when he clearly he’s no idea what he was talking about he’s just got an infectious manner that carries you along with him.

My theory is this: Jerry Springer does well because he makes you feel like he’s letting you in on a secret. Other people do this too – Charles Kennedy is a good example – but Springer adds another layer of finesse to it by making it clear that in letting you to on this secret, he is somehow implicating himself at the same time. That’s a talent and one that works very well with British crowds. It’s almost enough to make you forgive him for being ultimately responsible for The Jeremy Kyle Show.

I got distracted by Kwasi’s voice…

Alright, I’ll level with you… Kwasi Kwarteng is not going to get a fair hearing because I noticed something that totally threw me early on in the show: Kwasi Kwarteng’s voice is exactly the same as Boris Johnson’s would be if you played it back slowly on an old tape deck or if you slipped him half a Valium. Seriously, the tone, the cadence, the accent, it’s all totally identical except that it’s two or three tones lower and a little slower. Well, I’m afraid that the voice thing did for me and whenever he opened his mouth I was unable to focus on anything else, other than the fact that he isn’t a fan of deficits. That said, Kwarteng didn’t appear to do too badly and he seems canny enough to play the I Am But A Lowly Backbencher card to stay out of any real trouble when needs be. That voice though… It’s totally uncanny.

I miss hating early/mid-2000’s Republicans…

It was all so simple back in the day: Bush was mad, everything was wrong and the cast of characters sent out by the US to serve notice on the rest of the world were so ludicrously unlikable that life was relatively easy to fathom. This doesn’t appear to be the case with Colleen Graffy as while I didn’t really agree with anything she said, at least she didn’t back it up with laser-guided munitions and teary-eyed renditions of The Star Spangled Banner. It’s progress I guess… In a way…

I can sleep easy tonight knowing that Shami Chakrabarti hasn’t come to a sticky end…

There was a time when I was having to write about Shami every other week (in fact, I was just waiting for the day when she’d fill the role of all five panelists simultaneously), but it seems those days are long gone. Maybe it’s because everyone’s got their knickers in a twist about the economy, maybe it’s because we’ve conveniently forgot that we’re a nation who are very much still at war where we probably shouldn’t be, whatever, Shami just seemed to recede into the background and I was getting a little worried: Did the Feds finally catch up with her? Was she wrongly detained by a Truancy Officer? I didn’t know and the suspense was killing me. Happily, I can now go to bed unmolested by concerns as it appears that she’s a) still very much alive and b) doing what she always did which is getting very passionate about stuff she cares about. And that’s just fine with me.


Miliband: 7/10

(Appears more) Chilled

Kwarteng: 5/10

Filled (an hour adequately)

Springer: 7/10


Graffy: 5/10

Willed (Romney to win)

Chakrabarti: 6/10

(Hasn’t been) Killed

The Crowd: 6/10

(Would be able to breath underwater if they were) Gilled?

You know what? That was all rather fun, like a little holiday from the usual grind of domestic doom. We should do this again, say in four years time…

Next week Lemmings, next week…


Questionable Time #1

questionable time 1 dimbleby mission accomplishedGood morning Lemmings and welcome back. Welcome back from the non-summer where the world of politics decided to give up any pretence of rationality and instead took it upon itself to run around screaming gibberish with its hair on fire. Obviously, this turn for the surreal bodes well for the new series of Question Time as there’s currently an extensive backlog of barely comprehensible events to get our collective heads’ around, but before we can get stuck into that business we must first deal with a certain maudlin formality: The 9-11 10th anniversary special. Now, if I’m completely honest, I can’t say I’m thrilled with the prospect of writing up last night’s show as a) Question Time is at it’s best when dealing with fresh issues that could go any number of ways rather than the tragic events of yesteryear, b) this topic has already had the most thorough of QT airings over the last decade (seriously, they could have just put Claire Short on and got her to do a 180 on every single question if they wanted a slightly more succinct summary of events) and c) 9-11 isn’t the easiest of subjects to cover on a supposedly ‘funny’ blog. Trust me, it’s not exactly a comedy goldmine and every time you do come up with a good line you have to spend the next half hour going through the endless list of who it may offend. Still, here we are and I don’t make the rules. I just work here, ok?

Right, so first up we have Liam Fox, a man who’ve I’ve been keeping quite a close eye on of late as he seems to have undergone quite a transformation since become Defence Secretary. For example, back before the election you could always count on Fox to bring a certain grimness to proceedings, what with his moribund pallor, dead eyes and generally depressing take on the world (which can be summed up as “We’re all doomed unless we bring back the workhouse, the birch and Teddy Roosevelt”). It wasn’t a particular entertaining schtick, but at least it was consistent and I always felt safe in the knowledge that no matter how good the news was, I could always rely on Fox putting a downer on it. These days though, I’m not so sure. Take for example the results offered by a Google Image search in his name. If I’m not mistaken I think I can actually see a genuine smile pass the lips of Dr Death in any photo that involves uniforms, pieces of military hardware or desert landscapes. Scroll down some more and also take note of how the wearing of a flak jacket seems to enhance his mood by several thousand degrees of magnitude to the point where he actually appears to be ‘happy’ (see Fig. 1). Now, this in itself is hardly news as politicians generally get weak at the knees when given the opportunity to knock about with squaddies, but given his actions of late I think it may run a little deeper with Fox. First there was all that leaking of letter to Cameron where he refused to back substantial cuts in the military and then there was the subsequent leak where he outlined his disdain for International Development spending, probably on the grounds that it was the preserve of cotton picking hippies. On top of this, he’s somehow found the time to describe Afghanistan as a “broken 13th-century country”, wind up the top brass by hinting that there may be too many of them and drop a few thousand bombs on Libya.


Fig. 1

Now, if I’m not mistaken, this is all starting to paint a picture of a man who’s gone completely native and not just in your more traditional “Cher-cher-cher-check out my poppy!” way that most politicians succumb to. No, Fox is going all the way up the river, guzzling industrial quantities of Kool Aid and he fears no man, least of all his own leader (who may pretty soon have to dispatch some Martin Sheen-esque assassin/errand boy in the hope of containing this one man insurrection). So that’s where he’s at and all of the above pretty much encapsulates his approach to last night’s Question Time which largely hinged around his belief that blowing up terrorists is a basically sound idea, Iraq was all a bit ‘meh’ and that if all else fails, big up the troops and ride the wave of obligatory applause. That’s not to say that he’s got a completely tin ear to the chatter of reality as there was the odd mention of un-Fox like words such as ‘negotiation’, but by and large it was fairly straightforward: Terrorists are bad, unless they’ve been blown up. Then they’re not so bad.

So did it work? Well, sort of in that while he may not have had the whole audience behind him, the ones that were were pretty enthusiastic in their approval and that while he clearly has gone a bit loco over the last year and a bit, he did manage to present himself as an actual politician rather than a rogue Special Forces operative who’s fallen out of radio contact. Still, I think I prefer the new Liam to the old one as while I admired the morbid certainty that used to enshroud the Fox of Yore, there’s nothing like the whiff of Dengue Fever and napalm to spice things up a bit.

Ok, moving on and wait a minute, I think I recognise this bloke. Isn’t that the guy who had whole world laid his feet before getting gazumped by his congested sounding brother? That’s right, it’s David Miliband, former Foreign Secretary and Great White Hope of Old New Labour! So yes, Miliband D has finally emerged from wherever he’s spent the last year hiding (and most probably weeping) but to what end we might ask? On the face of it, this appearance could be construed as largely innocuous as he is an entirely appropriate pick for a panel that’s going to debate 9-11+10 (=8?) but the cynical side of me (and that’s totally the side of me that has the most fun) isn’t entirely satisfied with this assessment, particularly given the way he played his hand. Let’s have a look at what he said.

  1. We should never have called the post 9-11 response ‘The War On Terror’.
  2. Hindsight hindsight hindsight.
  3. Torture is bad.
  4. We haven’t exactly played a blinder in Iraq or Afghanistan.
  5. Need to sort the whole Israel/Palestine shebang.
  6. I totally ballsed up when I voted for the Iraq War.

Now most of this is pretty unremarkable, common sense stuff but number 6 stands out as it marks the point where he’s finally ripped the thorn of Iraq out of his side. When questioned in the past about why he voted for the war and his views on the conflict, you could tell that Miliband was acutely aware he must at least look like his trying to defend his decision (and his party’s… let us not forget the Scolding of the Clapping Harman) but he never looked comfortable in doing so. That stance melted into thin air last night and by the end of the show he was in full mea culpa mode, admitting that it had been a mistake to vote for the war and driving the crowd into a frenzy of applause. This is important as while there are many reason as to why Miliband lost out in the Labour leadership contest, the fact that he was a very visible part of the New Labour foreign policy machine and that this put him off-limits to certain sections of the party was a big one. What he did last night can be construed as a concerted (and effective) attempt to detoxify that part of his legacy.

The other thing that Miliband did last night was to remind us that he’s actually quite good at this politics lark and that in terms of delivery, he’s a tough act to beat. In some ways this is quite surprising as if you really listen to him, he uses a lot of words to say not a great deal (not usually a good sign) and there is something a bit head boyish about him, but the overall effect is mainly positive and makes him sound grown up without being overly stuffy. All of which is in sharp contrast to his brother who hasn’t had the best time of making himself heard and if I was in his shoes right now, I’d be starting to worry. Time’s ticking Ed… You’ve not done a bad job to date but unless those polls start moving upwards soon I wouldn’t put too much stock in the virtues of brotherly love.

Right, given the absence of the Yellow Team (which is a shame as they’re the only mainstream party who can point to a pretty good record on post-9-11 foreign policy calls), we’re going to have to make do with grumpy looking geo-political pundits Richard Perle and Tariq Ali. Now, had this show been filmed five years ago I reckon we could have had a right old to-do on our hands as panelists don’t come much more polar opposite than this pair and back then they were both mouth foamingly crazy. However, it seems the passage of time has somewhat soothed their otherwise febrile mental states and what actually took place last night was less bare knuckle brawl and more Queensbury Rules, much to my disappointment.

Now, in case we’ve forgotten Perle was the ultra-realist neo-con who acted as a cheerleader for the Iraq War and generally took it upon himself to berate the rest of the world for being wusses and not American enough (he also, with the addition of comedy eyebrows, hair and cape, looks like a passable version of Grandpa Munster… See Fig. 2). As expected, he used last night’s show as a venue to claim that the world’s a much better place when it’s being carpeted with US ordinance, but not as emphatically as he would have a few years back. Instead there were hints here and there that he may not have been entirely happy with how Iraq turned out and that some things could have been done better, but generally speaking it was business as usual. In terms of performance, it wasn’t brilliant, what with him reminding us that more people died on 9/11 than 7/7 (as if it was a competition) and a couple of jokes fell flat, but yeah, it could have been worse.

richard perl grandpa munster

In contrast, Ali had a great innings last night and quite probably in spite of himself. I say this because while I generally tend to agree with his point of view, he’s had a habit in the past of annoying me by dint of getting overly agitated and jabby-fingered. However, last night was different and while he did manage to build a reasonable head of steam every now and then, you got the impression that he’s probably quite tired of going through the same arguments for the ten millionth time when it never seems to change anything. That gave his outing a more leavened quality than it’s had in the past and it was all the better for it. Sure, at the start he did get a little hot under the collar with Perle about the WMD issue but it didn’t turn into a full-blown rage fest. Instead, he just carried on hammering away with some pretty well-reasoned arguments and a semi-resigned look on his face, all of which garnered a very respectable haul of applause from the audience. So yes, I thought that was a solid effort and worthy of a good few points. Well done to you, Mr Ali.

All of which leaves us with Bonnie Greer, a person who I am still struggling to find the purpose of and have yet to forgive for her bungling of the BNP episode. That sounds harsh but I think it’s justified on account of the fact that she has a highly recognisable (and highly annoying) Question Time Tic that I like to call ‘Greering for Time’. Allow me to explain: Stage 1 of Greering for Time is that art of covering your lack of a valid answers by embarking on a series of wild goose chases that more than likely contains references to how ‘real’ your life is in order to cover the fact that you don’t know what you’re talking about. A good example of this would be all of last night’s response that started with lines such as “When I was making a film”, “I know people”, “I Iived near Ground Zero” and “I’m from a services family”. Stage 2 of Greering for Time then involves folding some nebulous and ill-defined concept into the spoils of Stage 1 in the hope that if you repeat that concept enough, it might sound like a valid argument. Examples of this would be when she repeated the word “homicide” about a thousand times or her extended rambling about how “You can’t be a muslim”. Finally comes Stage 3 and all you have to do here is wrap up the previous stages with something involving ‘peace’ or ‘the people’ or even better, a mixture of the two (‘peacy people peace’ is ideal) to convey just how compassionate you are. If you follow thoee guidelines it seems that you can totally get away with loads of applause for having said nowt of any import.

Ok, so I’m sounding bitter now but that’s because I really don’t get it. Everything she said last night was at best tenuous and at worst flat-out bollocks, but everyone still lapped it up and she was rewarded handsomely for her dubious efforts. That’s not to say that I think her intentions are bad or that she’s up to no good, it’s just that she’s, well, a bit crap.

Alright, that’s the panel done so let’s have a quick look at the crowd before I take off. Now, the first thing is that I’m going to have to knock a point off their score on account of their falling for the old Greering for Time trick. Sorry, but that’s how it works around here. Other than that they seemed a pretty decent lot who although not electrifying did manage to bring a little oomph to the show and posed some genuinely interesting questions. A special mention goes out to the special lady with special teeth who made the following special statement: “There’s a problem of increasing the problems”. That there line is very special. Also, a mention is warranted for the gentleman who seemed to be sleep talking when he asked his question and took about an hour to remember that it was Iraq and Afghanistan that we had wars with. Nice work there Sir, feel free to return to your slumber.


Fox: 5/10

Colonel Kurtz

Miliband: 7/10

Major Revival

Perle: 4/10

Corporal Punishment

Ali: 7/10

General Competence

Greer: 3/10

Private Grief

The Crowd: 6/10

Innocent Civilians

Ok, we’re done here. I’d like to say that next week’s Question Time will see us on a more familiar footing but I can’t as it’s taking place in Northern Ireland and I never have the faintest idea of who/why/what is going off on those episodes. Given the above, don’t be surprised if I engage in a certain level of Greering for Time in next week’s report. You have been warned.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #24

This shit is bananas....

Morning Lemmings. Aaaaaaaaaaaand we’re back. Yes, that’s right, after six gloriously non political weeks, the inexorable death machine that is Question Time has stuttered back into life, ready to grind our feeble minds into nowt but carbon and broken dreams. Now, those of you who’ve hung around this corner of the internet in the past may well remember that I issued a series of threats at the end of the last series that hinted at LCCPQTMR getting something of a revamp. As it happens, these threats have turned out to be of the ‘hollow’ variety and as is abundantly clear, nothing has changed. I’d like to think I have some sort of valid excuse for this behaviour, but the brutal truth is that I’ve spent most of the last 6 weeks playing Silent Hunter 4. Silent Hunter 4 is a submarine simulator. I am not proud of this fact. Still, on the plus side, should someone ever invent a time machine, grant me access to a submarine and subtly change the laws of hydrodynamics, I’d have the war in the Pacific over and done with in a couple of weeks, saving millions of lives in the process and possibly changing history for the better. So maybe the last 6 weeks of sinking Japanese tonnage hasn’t been in vain.

Enough of this and back to the matter in hand: Ok, so this is the first in the new series and imagine my delight at the prospect of a Labour leadership special. I say ‘delight’, but the word I’m actual looking for is ‘nonplussedness’ given that so far, the Labour leadership contest has been stultifyingly dull, despite the media’s best attempts to wish some sort of ‘Kain and Able’ narrative into existence. So with this in mind, let us make ready for another journey into the depths of the political abyss (no submarine pun intended).

The Menu

Q1: Do you agree with Tony Blair that you lost the election because you abandoned New Labour?

Q2: Do you agree with The Economist that if Ed Miliband swings to the left, he’ll win the leadership but lose the election?

Q3: Given Labour’s relationship with the unions, will strikes damage the party’s image?

Q4: Is Ed Miliband’s and Ed Balls’ opposition to the Iraq war sincere or a cynical ploy?

Q5: Big Brother has just ended. Who would the candidates evict from the leadership contest?

In The Red Corner: David Miliband, Shadow Foreign Secretary, apple of Hilary’s eye and professional banana handler.

David Miliband has a nasty habit of falling through the gaping cognitive chasms in my mind. On the face of it, this guy should be a shoo-in for the leadership given that he’s clearly quite brainy, has had plenty of experience on the frontbenches and has the backing of some rather impressive names from across the party. However, there are a number of flies in the ointment, namely some fairly nefarious ‘warz and torturez’ business that occurred on his watch as Foreign Sec, a ringing (and badly coded) endorsement from Tony Blair and lets face it, standing as the continuity candidate when your party has taken a right thumping at the polls may not be as great an asset as it’s cracked up to be. On top of this, there is something about him which winds me up a little: Every time he speaks, it’s like he’s delivering a massive set piece. Lets say he’s down at the newsagents, looking to buy a packet of fags. Chances are he would tip his head forward slightly in that ‘Warning! Solemnity approaching!’ type manner and then start by slowly acknowledging the newsagent’s “heartfelt and steadfast” commitment to the business of disseminating periodicals before launching into dramatic pause laden and sincere appeal for a packet of Amber Leaf. In some ways, I can see that this is an inevitable byproduct of rising up the ladder under Blair’s patronage, but the bitter truth is that Blair was better at it. Much better at it (providing you ignore the ‘hand of history’ and other related cases of hyperbole).

Another problem for him as well is that much of his campaign is built upon the notion that he is the ‘unity’ candidate. That in itself is not a bad thing, but when it comes to an arena like Question Time where the only currency that counts is the blood spilt and misery inflicted upon one’s foes, it has the unfortunate effect of painting you into a corner. After all, you can’t really claim to be all about ‘the team’ while at the same time bad mouthing some of its most prominent members who happen to be sitting next to you. As a result, his early efforts in Q’s 1 and 2 hinged heavily around avoiding taking any other panellists to task and instead stressing the ‘it’s time to move on’ line, sprinkled with a dusting of “I’m progressive” (which is somewhat of a debased coinage these days as bloody everyone’s at it) and attempts to shift the focus back onto the Tories. Danger loomed in Q3 as he skitted around whether he would back strikes but relief presented itself in the form of a firefighter with a specific beef. This proved to be a handy getaway vehicle and by the time Q4 rolled up, he had effectively short-ciruited the issue and got to look very earnest/concerned along the way (I noted some head-tipping-forward action, the tell tale ‘Serious Miliband is serious’ manoeuvre). Sticking with the hedged bets/non-aggression plan, he spotted the not-so-well concealed ‘have a go at your brother’ ambush in Q4 and instead picked up some nice claps for his line about “building peace” but then followed it up with more forward-head-tipping and a reminder that because we were still in Afghanistan, we’d need someone who knows about this kind of thing. The thing is, the way he said it sounded like a threat and it carried a slightly sinister undercurrent. Finally, he once again avoided directly attacking anyone in Q5 by jumping on the back of some schmaltzy ‘brotherly love’ footwork that Ed Miliband pulled, but nearly ballsed it up by trying to turn it into a joke about Diane Abbott.

I can’t say I envied his position tonight. Being the establishment candidate with quite a bit of baggage, he had the most to lose and although his refusal to play the Question Time game and start calling people names was annoying, I have to confess that I would have done the same in his position. In this respect he did a pretty good job and there’s no doubt that he’s a shrewd and gifted politician. However, there’s still something missing for me and I think that’s probably to do with the fact that he can’t quite get across what he believes in, other than the obvious non sequiturs and he’s been around long enough for some of his schtick to look slightly hackneyed. Forward-head-tipping, David… It has a shelf life.

A non-damaging but non-victorious 5/10

Also In The Red Corner: Ed Miliband, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and fratricidal stalking horse.

Poor old Ed. Rumour has it that some of the nastier boys in the Labour camp keep calling him ‘Forrest Gump’ on account of his physical resemblance to the man in question. So shocked was I by this playground behaviour that I went to all the trouble of photoshopping him into a poster of the eponymous movie, just to prove that he doesn’t… even if he does (see Fig. 1).

Fig 1

So yes, Ed is the younger brother of David and of late, he’s been making quite a stir by looking like a serious contender for the position of leader and in some ways, it’s easy to see why. As I mentioned above, the elder Miliband doesn’t quite have the knack for looking naturally at ease (especially when he takes what should be straightforward sentences and turns them into the Gettysburg Address), but Ed has it in spades. Not only that, but Ed has a talent for sounding genuinely sincere and although he was nominally Brown’s man, he has escaped a severe tar brushing by staying out of departments where he could properly bugger things up and by being elected after the Iraq War vote. On top of this, Ed seems to have something that Labour has lacked for a very long time and that is ideas (or at least ideas that weren’t cribbed from the front page of yesterdays Daily Mail). His brother may have the Westminster smarts, but Ed’s got the ‘belief’ thing going on and not in the crazy ‘I TOTALLY believe in myself’ way that Blair had. Before I get too carried away though, it would be prudent to mention that he does have a few downsides, first and foremost being that never holding a job where he could really bugger things up doesn’t naturally stand you in good stead as a leader. Another flipside to one of his advantages (being elected after the Iraq vote) is that for every time he can say “I wouldn’t have voted for war” someone else can also say equally believably say “Liar!”. Oh, and he’s got that strange, hepatic tint to his skin tone that John Redwood has. Maybe they’ve been sharing needles.

In actual fact though, his performance was pretty similar to his brother’s and most of Q’s 1 and 2 were spent doing the whole ‘draw a line under New Labour/unity’ pitch, although he did occasionally lapse into listing all the things he stood for at times when that wasn’t really relevant. However, he did venture out a little further than David did on Q3 and stated that he would back “cautious action” from the unions before realising that might have sounded dangerously like an actual opinion and retreated to talk of getting everyone “round the table”. Further opinions stuck their head above the parapet in Q4 when he called for a foreign policy more independent of America, but he managed to somehow bluster his way out of condemning his brother’s stance on Iraq by saying he wasn’t a “direct decision maker” at the time. That’s a technically correct if slightly dubious assertion and unfortunately for him, Abbott got wind of this and bought him crashing back down to earth to considerable applause. Finally, he played a blinder on Q5 by telling us how much he loved his brother and managed to lap up the assorted ‘Ahhhhhhhhhhhs’ without looking like too much of a twat.

Stood next to his brother, he did come across as more human and in some ways, more convincing. However, I still got the sense that many of his punches were pulled and dammit, this is Question Time! If I want to see a display of congenial tiptoeing, I can always watch the Antiques Roadshow for at least 23 hours a day on the Yesterday channel. No! I want blood! BLOOD! Still, not a bad turn by Miliband The Younger.

A semi convincing 6/10

In The Now Somewhat Overcrowded Red Corner, Ed Balls, Shadow Secretary of State for Education and repeat political death-cheater.

“Ha!” thought I on hearing the news that Ed Balls was standing for the Labour leadership. “Poor man! All these years locked in the Treasury Asylum with Gordon Brown have finally got to him! He’s gone native! Plumb loco!”. And on the face of it, who could blame me as at that point Balls was the dictionary definition of ‘damaged goods’. If something had gone wrong, Balls could usually be spotted fleeing the scene of the crime with a great big ‘I dun it’ sign stuck to his back and would then dig himself even further into the mire by fibbing about it in the most ineffectual manner. Then things started getting slightly weird. While the other candidates (excluding Abbott) went in for a prolonged bout of hand wringing and collective self flagellation, Balls seemed to remember that they were in fact in opposition and that the crew on the other side of the Commons were having a gay old time turning the country on it’s head. Faced with this scenario, Balls did what he does best and resorted to political violence, first by beating Gove to a bloody pulp in the Commons before turning his ire on Osborne and raining down such contempt on him that even Boris Johnson was forced to concede that he may be right. “Hmmm,” thought I, “maybe the madness was only transient in nature”. And do you know what? I think it was.

This shocking lack of madness began to manifest itself in Q1 where after the perfunctory ‘learn lessons’ spiel, he dived headlong into some Tory bashing and singled out Ed Pickles for special treatment. Not content with that, he then had a go at Mandelson in Q2 while mixing in some crowd pleasing ‘I’m for the little guy’ stuff . “This is more like it!” I thought, “Some action at last!”. Q3 saw him get further into his stride by kicking Osborne about over the economy, although quoting Keynes twice in as many minutes was slightly overwrought and not actually answering the question confirmed that there was indeed quite a bit of the Old Balls left in him. Not enough as it turned out though, to derail him on Q4 when he asked about whether he would have voted for the Iraq war. Now, the Old Balls would have tried to bullshit this one, but the New Balls actually came clean, said he would of but that he would have been wrong and we needed to apologise. I nearly choked on my beer. Finally, he tried a slightly rubbish Diary Room analogy on Q5 but did follow that up with taking the piss out of George Galloway, just to make sure we all knew that he hadn’t gone soft.

I have to say, I was totally blindsided by Balls tonight. After watching his recent turns in Parliament, I thought he was probably using the leadership contest as a way to land a cushy job with whoever wins. After tonight though, I think he does actually believe he can do this. Of course, that’s not going to happen, as was made abundantly clear by the audience who took great pleasure in pantoesque hissing whenever he over stepped the mark, but I have to come clean and say that I actually enjoyed watching him tonight, despite the familiar odour of bullshit that sometimes wafted from his direction. With this in mind, maybe it’s time for me to get my head checked.

A very out of character 7/10

Red Corner? Yeah, Red Corner Again: Andy Burnham, Shadow Secretary for Health and Thunderbird impersonator.

Ok, I’ll keep this brief because I’ve wibbled on enough. Andy Burnham is one of those guys who’s name you know, you just about recognise but never really register. That’s not to say he’s especially unlikable, it’s just that he never does anything that memorable and he looks like he works in a Job Centre Plus on Merseyside. However, one thing he is good at is appearing on telly and he put this to good use tonight. He got off to a shaky start by saying he respected Tony Blair because he was tough on crime but at least he was pretty honest throughout, even going as far to remind the rest of the panel that Labour would have made cuts as well. He was generally quite well received by the crowd and it’s fair to say that he seems pretty competent, even if he is of a wing of the party that’s probably had it’s day. I’d like to say that he’s got a fighting chance in this contest, but unfortunately, I can’t and that’s mainly down his Forgetability Factor. Try as I might, this man just won’t stay in my brain and even writing this now, I’m struggling to think of anything that notable that he did on the show. Still, there was no shame in how he did and I think he’s probably in line for a pretty good job, whoever wins. Now, what was I talking about again?

A wantonly ordinary 5/10

Oh Come On QT, This Is Ridiculous… ALSO In The Red Corner: Diane Abbott, career backbencher and (if certain sections of the media are to be believed) living incarnation of Karl Marx (see Fig. 2).

Fig. 2

It would totally suck if you pissed off Diane Abbott. She’s got that way of telling people off that isn’t unreasonable, but makes you feel so very guilty, like a child sent to confess to the elderly owners of the cornershop that they’ve stolen some penny sweets. She was also by far the most fun panellist tonight, given that she really couldn’t give two hoots about winning and hasn’t got any of the baggage that they have. Straight off the bat, she made no bones about pouring scorn on Tony Blair in Q1, damned the Iraq war to hell and back throughout and also said that she would back union action. Having the leeway that the other candidates lacked, she also managed to put Ed Miliband back in his place on some Iraq chicanery and made a belting point about how “International Law” should be the guiding principle for Labour on foreign policy. Naturally, the crowd lapped it up and she was by far the biggest recipient of applause, which raises the question “why couldn’t she be leader?”. Well, I think the truth is that she doesn’t want to and I don’t blame her. She’s got a great little niche right now, acting as the conscience of the party but in a way that isn’t overly pious and anyway, how could she get her fix of weekly Portillo flirting if she was in the top job? Some things in life are just far too important to give up.

An essentially irrelevant but largely enjoyable 7/10

The Crowd: London

Ok, so this wasn’t wasn’t your ordinary crowd, what with it being 50% Labour supporters and neither was it an ordinary Question Time. Shorn of a clear enemy and with the need to not piss anyone off too much, most of the panellist found themselves in a weird twilight where their regular forms of attack and political weapons couldn’t be used. As a result, it had this disjointed, scrappy feel to it (at first I thought I was a bit rusty from the break as I had trouble keeping up with the note taking, but it soon became clear that this was a messy affair by its very nature) and as I mentioned before, there wasn’t half enough punch ups for my liking. The same applied to the crowd and although Ed Balls played the villain quite well, I think they were also quite shocked by just how good he was that night. In terms of who won, I really couldn’t call it. Everyone got a slice of the applause action and everyone got slightly busted at some point or other. Audience members of note this time include an actor who braved the wrath of Dimbers to get all a bit passionate/flouncy about the film council and a besuited thirtysomething who’s head was so perfectly cubic that you could eat your dinner off the top of it (providing you don’t mind hair in your dinner).

An odd but enjoyable 6/10

Ok, that’s your lot. Next week Question Time is back to the regular format, so fingers crossed that it’s an utter shitstorm that quenches my thirst for violence. By the way, you can follow LCCPMQTR on twitter ( or on facebook, but I warn you now, I am a rubbish tweeter and if you want to check out people much better at it than me, have a peek at and These guys have got the whole QT/Twitter thing nailed.

Now, about that Japanese shipping….

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #11

Woking, yeah?

Is that a gang sign he's pulling?

Wtf Question Time?! Wednesday?! I haven’t yet got my head round the carnage caused by the bank holiday jiggering my week and now you go and throw another spanner in the works? It’s as if the International Date Line has somehow achieved sentience, given the mid-Pacific the old heave-ho and is currently pacing around West Yorkshire, confusing my fragile grip of the days of the week. Colour me unimpressed. Anyhoo, Wednesday or no Wednesday it’s still Question Time, brought to you this week by the good god-fearing folk of Woking. Brace thyself for some dormitory town action…

In The Red Corner: David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, erstwhile will-he-won’t-he Labour leadership maybe and apple of Hilary Clinton’s eye.

He’s a strange beast, David Miliband. His rather speedy trajectory through the ranks of the Labour party has been remarkable, but it also belies his fundamental weakness: He’s a purely political animal. Formally a think tank policy wonk, he worked his way from parliamentary researcher to Tony Blair’s inner circle, then onto parliament and then to some of the highest offices of state. Not bad for a 44 year old. The problem is that while this has made him an incredibly difficult and determined political adversary to anyone foolish enough to stand in his way, a life led in the political bubble means that he doesn’t quite have that knack for the common touch, unlike his brother who does seem to be a genuinely nice bloke. He also looks alarmingly like a teddy bear, what with that happy little fuzz of hair that sits atop his head (see above), although this seems to have gone down very well with Hilary Clinton. Eww. He got off to a rough start on this episode and faced an uphill struggle with the ‘Is Gordon Brown more qualified than business when it comes to the NI raise?’ question. Nevertheless, he went straight into ‘not one step back’ mode, pulled his ‘intense’ look and tried to make it all about the Tories (they’re “coming after your public services!”). That didn’t go down well and some moderate heckling developed (as well as some feisty little tiffs with Dimbleby and Daley), although another lunge at the Tories did bear some nearly ripe fruit. Further audience intervention aimed squarely at Big Gordy (to the effect that he was “economically illiterate”) soon followed, but again he kept driving at the same point, oblivious to the political shrapnel flying all over the place and scornful of any notion of retreat. At this point it’s tempting to say “Well done Mr Minister of Teddy Affairs. You stick to your guns sir! Hail fellow and well met!”, but it just didn’t seem to work. Sure, he looked cool as a cucumber, despite the apparent mauling, but it left you with the impression that this guy just doesn’t work on the same wavelength as everyone else and maybe in not such a great way. Question 2 was a much easier affair (‘is Chris Grayling and his gay B and B comments a sign that the Tories haven’t changed?’), so much so that he even had a set piece lined up for it. Again, looking very serious and intense, he took his time laying up his “Camera on. Camera off.” manoeuvre before a hearty bout of ‘same old Tories’ and ‘thin end of the wedge’-ing. That got a healthy response, but let’s face it, scoring points against gum flapping Tory with Victorian values is hardly rocket science. The third question caught him strangely off balance (‘what’s the point in voting Labour if they’ll have a new leader in a couple of years?’) and Dimbers took a personal interest in tightening the screws by reminding him of his own leadership ambitions. This did cause him to wobble but credit where credit’s due, he did do a deft little recovery with his “Lord Mandelson works in mysterious ways” gag before attempting a fighting withdrawal with ample use of words like “judgement “, “values” and “commitment”. It sort of worked, but his subsequent ‘I’m totally behind Gordon’ bluster didn’t look so great. The audience got in on the act later, slapping him about for some of his off camera comments about Brown and they did manage to draw some blood. However, being who he is, Miliband didn’t seem to notice the bleeding and looked totally unmoved. The next question (‘would the LibDems get in bed with a party who promised PR’) was less dicey, but he still took some flak for Labour’s piss poor record on all of their promised reforms and he had to resort to using the intense look directly against the audience which is always a risky strategy. Finally, with the end nearly in sight, he had a stab at the ‘Is Gordon Brown’s middle class act essential to politics these days?’ with another preplanned response (a Bevin quote about ‘it’s not where your from, it’s where your going’) before going straight back on the offensive and lashing out at inheritance tax. That confused the bejesus out of the audience who clapped and booed in equal measure. And so ended a rather belligerent appearance.

The thing that gets me about Miliband is that although it’s clear that he is bloody clever, very quick on his feet and properly knows his stuff, that does not translate into someone you’d want in charge. Sure, the Terminator-esque ‘hell or high water approach’ may work very well when employed against political opponents and scare the shit out of anyone who may have a beef with him, but to most people it just looks like he’s a bit of a weirdo with an obsession for pain, combat knives and air pistols. That, combined with the teddy bear look, is just far to much for my brain to take in.

A Blitzkrieg in a civilian area 4/10

In The Blue Corner: Theresa May, Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, token ‘stylish’ Tory.

It’s May’s second appearance on the old LCCPQTMR and I have to say that she didn’t do too well the last time (a paltry 3/10). So, was that just a bad day? Was I being overly unkind? Is there life in the old girl yet? Unfortunately, it seems to be a categorical ‘no’ on all three and if anything, I was being generous in my write up last time. The trouble with May is that she seems utterly devoid of independent thought and totally reliant on whatever line has been fed to her by Tory HQ beforehand (the same accusation can be levelled at Miliband, but you get the feeling that he created the party line in the first place so at least it’s original material). I say ‘fed’, but I think ‘pumped’ is a more appropriate term, as if they hook her up to a machine like the ones they use to milk cows, just reversed and fixed to her mouth. Once the nozzle is firmly in place, a high pressure stream of soundbites, platitudes and buzzwords are forced in, filling the vacuous caverns of her head with precious substance. This process isn’t particularly unusual and all political parties have people who need a thorough pumping before being let lose on the public, but May has one other fatal weakness that was all too evident on this episode of Question Time. The valve that she uses to release all this political slurry has only two settings: Full Blast or Not A Cocking Drop. Take the first question about NI for example. The Tories have had the initiative on this issue all week and the crowd seemed to be onside so it was a simple case of turning on the tap and drenching everyone in a torrent of party approved blabber. And so it was as she switched the valve to Full Blast and poured forth some “jobs tax”, “cut waste” and “kill recovery” (a line that keeps switching sides between Labour and the Tories with alarming regularity at present). Job done, the valve was switched back to Not A Cocking Drop and some audience love duly came her way. So it’s in the bag, right? Wrong. Despite Miliband taking it fully in the chops from the audience, Ming came to his aid and started to lay into George Osborne, much to the approval of the crowd. Maybe at this point it would be prudent to change tack, try a different angle or head for higher ground, no? Wrong again. Faced with a swiftly developing threat, she switched the valve back to Full Blast and out came a load of ‘threaten jobs, jobs, threaten, jobs jobs threaten jobs economy, jobs…..threaten’. Unconvinced, the audience decided that any lead she had was probably an aberration and took it upon themselves to have a pop at politicians in general instead. A brief glimmer of independent thought stuttered to life when she tried a ‘Labour will only save one pound in a hundred’ gambit, but the meagre glow was swiftly extinguished when it turned out that no one gave a shit. So that was pretty ropey. Question 2 (Grayling’s off message rascality) was a much more dangerous affair, but her tactics were the same as ever and she kicked off with a spurt of ‘we believe in the law’, ‘we love gays’ and bizarrely enough ‘we love the NHS’ hokum. Clearly, no one was buying this and Dimbers started to tinker about, stirring things up. Again, on went the valve and out came a load of ‘we believe in the law’. After that, it turned into a bit of a free for all, but not once did she offer a convincing defence, other than ‘we’re nice now’ and ‘we believe in the law’. Basically, it was a bit of a rout. Question 3 (‘will Gordy go after election?’) should have been a cake walk, but she wazzed away the opportunity with a slew of unconvincing ‘change’ stuff (although there was some minor applause for that) while the response to the constitutional reform question was entirely forgettable. Finally, as she limped towards the finish, she opened the valve for the last time on the middle class issue, but it seemed that she had exhausted all the good, high pressure stuff earlier on and all that was left was the vapour from the last question’s ‘change’ platitude. And with that she was wheeled back to the depot where she would be refilled and primed, fresh for whatever the next day may bring.

Ok, that all sounds really unkind as she didn’t receive the same sort of roughing up that Miliband did, but the point is that this should have been a walk over. The Tories have had a good week, the audience seemed largely sympathetic (except on the Grayling matter) and there was real potential to wipe the floor with the opposition. Instead, what we got was a whole bunch of boil-in-the-bag semi-opinions served with a glass of flat diet cola (not the real stuff, own brand) and that’s just not bloody good enough. I know that her whole footwear saga has helped bridge the gap between the two Tory tribes of Maillites and Telegraphios (spicy enough for the Mail! Not too brash for the Telegraph!) but seriously, is that a price worth paying for guaranteed mediocrity? I think not.

Again, a vapid 3/10

In The Yellow Corner: Menzies Campbell, MP for North East Fife, former Olympian and victim of Long Knives.

Oh Ming, what became of thee? Back in 2003, when parliament took complete leave of its senses and dashed headlong into the Iraq fiasco, Ming was the voice of reason. His opposition to the war was resolute, forthright and simply oozed gravitas, making him a natural figurehead for those like myself who had a really bad feeling about the whole clusterfuck (and there were millions of us). Thus it was that when he came to replace Chat Show Charlie as leader, I was quietly confident that he would bring some much needed oak and copper cladding to the otherwise balsa and string LibDem Ship of the Line. Oh how wrong I was. Teased mercilessly by all and sundry before being forced out to pasture, Ming’s stint at the helm will pass into history as a footnote that the LibDems would rather forget, like when Ashdown was caught shagging his secretary. That’s not to say that I don’t think he’s a wise, honourable and decent sort of guy, it’s just that he seems to be from another age and almost looks like a helpless innocent amongst the rough and tumble of the Westminster Ghetto. Having said that, he got off to a pretty good start on this episode with the NI question, natural offering prayers to St. Vince, calling shenanigans on efficiency savings and vilifying Osborne. As St. Vince is eternally benign, heaven opened and applause did poureth forth. Question 2 (Gayling…sic) also saw him on good form as he rightly pointed out that this isn’t the first time Grayling’s buggered things up, pointed out the Waffen SS venerating European company the Tories are keeping and capped it all off with a splendid “still the nasty party”. The crowd got right behind that and stayed with him as came back for a few further swipes at May. All good stuff. The next question (will Brown stay on?) saw him go a bit flatter, just giving a matter-of-fact ‘I know him and he won’t’ response while the PR issue had him skitting about, trying to say very little in a lot of words. Finally, he rounded the show off on the ‘middle class’ question with some pretty vintage LibDem ‘we want a tolerant society’, which was fairly warmly received and that was that.

Out of all the party political panellists, it’s safe to say that Ming was the winner and when he gets in his stride, he’s great. The problems arise when he’s not in his stride and he just looks a little lost and confused, as if someone’s has just told him that the popular beat combo, ‘The Beatles,’ have just split up. Stick with what you know Ming and you’ll be fine.

A mature 6/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Simon Schama, wobbly historian and dictionary swallower.

Seriously Question Time, before you put this guy on again please display a warning that watching him will likely cause motion sickness, disorientation and nausea. He simply can’t sit still, jerks about like a marionette being operated by a detoxing alcoholic and his joints are like those of an Action Man: Fully articulated and capable of traversing a full 360 degrees, head included. If that wasn’t enough, the stuff that comes out of his mouth takes an equally circuitous route, full of flowery, impressive sounding words but somehow skinny on the substance. Having said that, there is something oddly compelling about this otherwise incongruous combination and while most of the stuff he said can either be filed under ‘I’ for ‘Incomprehensible’ or ‘O’ for ‘Of No Great  Import’, you end up convincing yourself that because it all sounds so bloody wordy, it must be true and of great relevance. To illustrate, here are the notes I took for the NI Question, verbatim.

SS – la de dah

don’t know how I’ll vote

la de dah

[doodle of wobbly stickman to remind me that he looked like a bourgeois Thunderbird]

Labours are deficit hawks

Tories are Keynesians

[picture of upward arrow to indicate applause]

That first ‘la de dah’ bit went on for bloody ages and didn’t seem to make a lick of sense, but watching it was strangely captivating. The conclusion, on the face of it (having been completely baffled by the explanation) also seems fairly mad but like the audience, I was clapping in my head and I have no idea why. He was a little more rooted in reality for the Grayling question, busting out an epic phrase in the form of “homophobic hyenas” while the ‘will Gordy stay’ matter had him wetting his pants about how great democracy is. I was dying for a wee myself at the end of Question 4, so I only caught the last bit of his stint but he was back on ultra-elaborate form for the final act, merrily taking us through the backwoods of Gladstone, Sociology 101 and normality before leaving us with this: “leave circumstances of pedigree and swap it for political philosophy”. That sentence only just makes sense and the audience had to pause, perhaps to gather their senses after this whistlestop tour of goddamn everywhere before finally bursting into applause after concluding that it sounded clever, so it must be clever. Did I learn anything from Schama that night? Not really. Did I feel brainier afterwards? Yes! Yes I did! And I’ll never know why! Damn you, Schama!

A doesn’t-stand-to-reason 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Janet Daley, Telegraph columnist and scary haired lady.

I’m not familiar with Janet Daley and the only thing I can really say with any certainty is that her hair is absolutely mental (see Fig. 1), something which came as quite a shock as I thought the Telegraph only permitted bowler hats and tiaras.



I haven’t got an enormous amount to say about her because she didn’t really make much of an impression on me, despite being quite combative at points and taking the fight to Miliband at regular intervals. That’s not to say it was a bad performance and her “economical illiterate” accusation that she aimed at Brown went down like a storm with the audience who then recycled it three times hence, it’s just that it wasn’t stellar. Maybe when I’m less distracted by trying to decipher just what the hell Schama is talking about I’ll be able to give her a fairer go, but for now she’ll just have top live with moderate marks.

A neither here nor there 5/10

The Crowd: Woking

I’ve only ever been through Woking on the train to Portsmouth but the very brief impressions I have of it are generally in the ‘leafy’ category. Given where it is, I was pretty sure that this would be a firmly Tory crowd and this seemed to be confirmed during the first question. However, it went downhill pretty quickly for the Conservatives after that and I must say I was pleasantly surprised by how much anger there was towards Chris Grayling and his being a totally div. As an audience they were a pretty vocal lot and as has become near compulsory of late, pretty pissed off with politicians in general. Can’t say that I noticed any real stand-out members, but in general they were a fairly solid crowd and made for a not bad episode. A sound effort, Woking.

A steady away 7/10

And that brings us to the end. Sorry it’s a day late, but as I said earlier this whole Wednesday thing (combined with a thorough Schamaring) has got my head swimming. Down is up, up is down, rivers flowing backwards, etc, etc. See you next week when I’ve rotated back to reality.

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March 2023

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