Posts Tagged 'David Starkey'

Questionable Time #120


qt 120
Good morrow lemmings and…you know what, I’m not even going to try this time. We know what’s coming. We know the drill. We know what’s been squawked and squealed about on Twitter, Facebook, Buzzfeed, all the dank fetid corners of the internet. It is merely my job to further poke the weeping scab of depravity until it oozes more putrid, pestilent pus and gets the nice rug all dirty. That’s right…it must be a David Starkey edition of Question Time.

Ahmed, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes

The first question is on free speech, and thus everyone gears up to do some free-speechifyin’. Mehdi Hasan begins by solemnly pointing out the true meaning of Islam and seamlessly leads in to a string of fart jokes. Incredible. There should be more discussions about farting on Question Time, instead of the verbal farts that are usually uncontrollably spilled from panellists’ mouths.

Unfortunately David Starkey then jumps in, and Dimbles has to intervene to prevent a punch-up from starting. Alright then, what does Starkey apparently have an urgent need to say? Let’s at least give him a chance, shall we? Okay, I’m not a big fan of using the term ‘primitive’, but then he seems to have calmed down…talks about how feeling strongly about something doesn’t necessarily protect you from criticism…okay David, nothing’s gone tits-up so f- OH HE’S JUST BLOWN IT! You can literally feel the ‘I’m sorry, WHAT did he say?’ ripple through the studio as he refers to Mehdi by the name…Ahmed. Because, like, all brown people are named Ahmed. Ahmed A. Ahmed of Ahmedson, Ahmedland. Listening in, Anna Soubry vibrates her muzzle back and forth like a soggy basset hound.

Yes, that perennial Questionable Time favourite, Chortles – aka the Conservative Anna Soubry MP – so named for her jolly hockey sticks manner (she was gurning before the questions even began!) has jumped into the fray. She barely gets five words in before David Starkey interrupts her again. “Isn’t that free speech? Allowing somebody else to have a point of view?” she quibbles, but Starkey is undeterred. He’s on a roll now, and will interrupt as many women as possible throughout his reign of terror. #jesuisahmed, goes the joke that by now everyone else has already made.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Douglas ‘interesting’ Alexander hasn’t talked yet, thankfully, because he always puts me straight to slZzZzZz. He too disses Starkey in the most monotone mumble he can muster. Meanwhile, Baroness Sal Brinton (who I’ve never heard of up to this point), wearing a cool Liberal Democrat phoenix glittery brooch, recites that Voltaire quote which approximately one million people on the internet who know absolutely nothing else about Voltaire have already slapped across a Twitter status. What a groundbreaking discussion. Let’s move on.

Snoopers’ poopers

Here we have the obligatory Lib Dem civil liberties blubbering, because this is an important issue to them! You know, despite the whole support for the Lobbying Act and secret courts thing. There’s a warning against the tracking of web browsing history, which I can sympathise with as you probably don’t want to look at mine. A million sweaty nerds would probably turn out in protest against this prospective law, if they can manage to tear themselves away from their tentacle hentai.

Chortles isn’t chortling any more. One is sadly reminded that she’s a Tory after all, despite her ‘having time’ for the Lib Dem coffee-making drones in the government. Douglas says that this is an issue that is “far, far too serious” to be discussed on Question Time. Oh, sorry, he means bickered over in the coalition. But the first one is clearly what he really means.

Mehdi points out that our much-lauded right to ‘freedom of expression’ is actually being kicked in the bum. How does the state accessing ‘your most private emails’ help anyway, says he? Ooh, ‘most private emails’…tell me more, Mehdi. At the same time, Starkey says that “essential human goodness” is bull. Mehdi points out that is true due to the mere existence of David Starkey. This is turning into ‘laugh at Starkey’ show and it’s brilliant. If one can ignore the racism, sexism and general arseholery going on, then the entire experience becomes hilariously ridiculous. Hasan and Starkey sniping at each other will never cease to amuse. At least it won’t to me, but I am easily amused.

The next question is on the claim a judge made that a 16-year-old girl ‘groomed’ a 44-year-old man into having an affair with her. This is obviously a serious subject, and rightly most of the panellists condemn the judge’s remarks. Indeed, as pointed out, Anna and Douglas even used to be lawyers, so they do have experience of this kind of thing, maybe we should listen to th- NOPE DAVID STARKEY WANTS TO PLAY. He is as offensive as you can imagine. Can I use my freedom of speech to tell him to shut up and stop claiming that the girl seduced a pathetic dude who should have known better?

It’s about the abuse of power, Anna Soubry explains, as if to a particularly dense child.
“SHUT UP”, yells Starkey (really!). Soubry looks genuinely shocked that anyone could be such a bellend. As he blathers on about ‘sexually mature’ 13-year-olds, Soubry groans and moans in possibly physical pain. “Oh no…” she mumbles, “ohhhh noooo.”

Same here, Chortles. Same here.

Daffy deficit

Finally, next up is…the deficit. A dull and generic discussion compared to the exciting scenes that came before. Douglas is predictably soporific. “Thirteen years!” says Anna. I’m so bored of these endless back-and-forths that I can’t wait for the slightly different generic arguments that will come about after the election, whatever the result may be. Just think of the new, exciting buzzwords and catchphrases! Endless possibilities!

“We’ve got to start choosing,” says Starkey. I choose a world without David Starkey. Will that save us money?

We end with Chortles calling Mehdi a naughty boy, which I must confess I was slightly freaked out by.

Time for the scores!

Soubry: 7/10

(Will probably get a) Promotion

Alexander: 4/10

(Showed no) Emotion

Brinton: 5/10

(Going through the) Motions

Hasan: 7/10

(My) potions (are too strong for you, traveller)

Starkey: 3/10, 10/10 for sheer hilarity

Caused a (commotion)

The Crowd: 6/10

(Do the) Locomotion

Next time, Paul ‘get some nuts’ Nuttall. Who’s been hankering after ol’ Nige’s job, apparently. Bow down to your future king.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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Questionable Time #87


questionable time 87 david dimbleby manga anime dimble san

Good morning Lemmings and isn’t it just typical – you spend all series waiting for a screamingly self-obsessed bag of contradictions to turn up and then two come along at once. It’s just not bloody fair is it? Anyway, we should really get cracking as there was plenty going on last night as you might expect given the presence of the Gallowstarkey so let’s not shilly-shally about: To the first paragraph Lemmings…

 

For a horrible moment I thought Galloway might be losing his teeth…

I usually love opening shots in which George Galloway’s involved, particularly of late when he’s been going through his Bond villain phase – you know, with that collarless Scaramanga suit and the mad, mad staring eyes. Alas, it appears that he’s now stopped striking that pose, donned a pair of Meedja Glasses and is going for a much more restrained get-up, all of which robs that opening shot of its melodrama and me of a good chuckle with which to get the party started. It wasn’t just the way he looked either – there was something really odd about the way he was putting words together at the start of the show: His tone was subdued – a little timid even – yet the vocabulary was (as always) straight out of the Moscow Trials, all of which added up to a very weird presentation where statements designed to be screamed at the top of your lungs (like “REACTIONARY TOSH!”) sorted of squeaked their way out and lent his usual line of hyperbole a strange air of mundanity. At first I though this might be a case of ‘once bitten, twice shy’ since the last time he opined about rape he ended up in all sorts of hot water but this was clearly not the case given that he once again tried to go down the ‘husbands don’t have to ask for sex verbally’ route and was rewarded with a very awkward silence followed by a swift Moving On from Dimbers.

 

In fact, it took two full questions for George to hit his stride and in the meantime we had to watch the odd spectacle of him winding himself up. This happened on the public vs. private schools question when Starkey had just finished flouncing about on a hobby house called ‘You People’.

 

I am absolutely furious” declared Galloway, except that he didn’t sound furious at all – mildly ticked off maybe, but certainly not ‘furious’ – so he gave it another go.

 

“I am absolutely furious!”.

 

Hmm, better but still not feeling it.

 

“THE RIGHT TO A FREE EDUUUUUUUUUCATION!!!!!!”

 

And that was it, the crowd cheered and he was off – off to spend the rest of the show bellowing about “TORY CONTEMPT!” whilst simultaneously stroking Matthew Hancock’s arm and gently patronising him to within an inch of his life. It’s odd though: This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed that Galloway needs a whole lot of runway to take off and I’m beginning to suspect that underneath all the bravado is actually quite a nervous man who needs to hear the audience cheer (or to see a fight he knows he can win) before he can shake the self-doubt off his back. There, I did it. I managed to get the words ‘Galloway’ and ‘self-doubt’ into the same sentence. Questionable Time’s slow descent into absurdism is now complete.

 

While George was winding himself up, Starkey was boiling himself down…

…Into a thick, viscous ooze of something really unpleasant. Of course, this shouldn’t really come as any surprise given his past form but last night really was a turning point: It signalled that he’s ended any pretence of being a Serious Talking Head and has instead bet the farm on becoming The Thinking Idiot’s Katie Hopkins. I mean seriously, everything he said last night was intentionally designed to wind up the maximum amount of people in the shortest possible time and on that front he did exceptionally well – for example, that line about the “the large female paw, hanging on one pan of the [Scale’s of Justice]”? That was Live Action Trolling at it’s very finest and he does deserve at least a little credit for the skill involved. However, it’s the way he gets personal that just makes the whole thing seem so bloody obnoxious – like when he started imitating an audience member and threw his pen across the table in a fit of faux indignity. It looked like a stroppy teenager doing a sarky impression of their parents after having been grounded and it was quite frankly wanky (as was the whole “Large, fat, red man” rant about ‘Bill’ Crow).

 

But – and here’s the rub – I have to admit that on a very nefarious level, it works. It’s like the Sidebar of Shame on the Daily Mail site: I may huff and puff and furrow my brow when ever it’s mentioned but you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll happily click away at it when no-one’s looking. Hey, wait a second, when did I suddenly become part of the problem? Damn you Starkey! You’ve even managed to pit me against myself!

 

And the others?

Alright, time is short so I’ll be brief. I’d totally forgotten who Matthew Hancock was until I remembered that he’s the plumby voiced Minister for Skills and Enterprise who is so hopelessly out of his depth on QT that I always end up feeling sorry for him. In his defence, it can’t be easy to keep all together when Galloway’s doing his best Hans Fritzl impression in your direction but still, looking like you’re not going to have a panic attack really is a basic level requirement for any QT panelist and it’s not one I’m convinced he’s met.

 

As for Jowell, well it’s a game of two halves here: On the one hand it was heartening to see her repeatedly call shenanigans on Starkey but it wasn’t the most assured performance and that spiel where she managed to cram just about every New-Labourism into one irritating package (‘Diversity!’, ‘Citizens!’, ‘Responsibility!’ Gah!) served only to remind me how stale the whole project got.

 

And finally there’s QT first timer Alison Wolf who somehow managed to glide above the whole grubby affair with an air of confident dignity and an absolutely splendid posture. I can’t say I entirely agree with everything she said but she has surfeit of poise and that must be worth a mark or two.

 

Tl;dr

 

Hancock: 4/10

(Looked) Pale (and clammy)

 

Jowell: 5/10

(Seems to quite like “the large female paw” on the) Scale(s of Justice)

 

Galloway: 6/10

(Had much to) Rail (against)

 

Starkey: 2/10

(Was a cautionary) Tale (for all aspiring trolls)

 

Wolf: 7/10

(Did) Avail (us with some much-needed serenity)

 

The Crowd: 6/10

(Would be well within their rights if they chose to) Assail (Starkey after the show).

 

So that’s that and hard luck to anyone who – like me – thought the pairing of Starkey and Galloway might turn into some quirky-yet-heartwarming premise for a buddy movie. In fact, so convinced was I of this outcome that I even went to the trouble of producing promotional materials for it (see Fig. 1).

 

george galloway and david starkey thelma and louise

Fig. 1

Right, I’m off to fully develop this cold I have brewing and I will be back in a fortnight as Elizabeth will be driving seat next week. Lucky girl, she gets to experience all the thrills and spills that Scunthorpe has to offer. In the meantime, please feel free to exchange money for this rather lovely t-shirt of Tony Benn…

 

Elizabeth next week Lemmings, Elizabeth next week…

Questionable Time #20


questionable time 20 david dimbleby mona lisa

Good morning Lemmings oh God, this is going to be a little trickier than I anticipated. You see, the problem I’ve got is that is that I spent my whole week lulling myself into a false sense of security for the following reasons:

      1. Dewsbury is just down the road from me, I’ve covered it before and was pretty confident that things would pan out in a certain way.
      2. Whilst I didn’t (despite strenuous efforts) manage to get on the show myself, I did manage to insert a spy into the audience in the form of the redoubtable @smokethiscity. After a week of intensive QT coaching and espionage training I deployed my little Manchurian Candidate to Dewsbury with a clutch of pre-prepared questions and a communication device (see Fig. 1). Advantage Loudribs.
      3. Thanks to my new-found knack for subterfuge I also gained valuable prior knowledge with regards to the composition of the panel. Given that they were all repeat offenders whose foibles are well documented I was now supremely confident that I had the drop on this week’s episode.

Fig. 1

So yes, I had it all figured out. Starkey would be insufferable, Clarke would flounder but everyone would be very kind to him whilst the politicians would provide me with the regular meat and potatoes I need to make a decent Questionable Time. For once I was holding all the cards and I’ve spent most of this week looking forward to a nice, easy Friday write-up that would call for very little effort on my part. So why am I sitting here right now feeling like my brain’s about to explode? Here’s why:

1. Bloody Starkey

I think I can be forgiven for simply assuming that David Starkey was going to be a breeze to write-up this week given that the man’s a vortex of absurdity who seems to grab every opportunity to get a little repellent and theatrical with both hands. In fact, I could pretty much get away with giving him a good kicking in today’s Questionable Time as he did spend a disproportionate amount of time accusing audience members of “insolence”, having a go at the French for being smelly ingrates and being told (very firmly no less) to shut up by Dimbers, all of which is exactly the sort of dickish behaviour we’ve come to expect from him. The problem is that even though I would very much like to stick the boot in (not only would it be easy, it would also be incredibly fun), I just can’t bring myself to because in actual fact, he came out with some good stuff last night. HEY, WHERE ARE YOU ALL GOING?! COME BACK! I KNOW IT SOUNDS CRAZY BUT HEAR ME OUT!

Ok, still with me? Good. Let’s start with the NHS question. Now, as Starkey rightly pointed out, we as a nation get a little bit crazy with the Cheeze Whizz whenever the topic of health is bought up and in no area is this tendency more pronounced than that of GP’s, Unimpeachable Bastions of Moral Integrity that they are. Here’s the thing though, I used to work in primary care and while I can confirm that the vast majority of GP’s are Hard Working Pillars of the Community there is also a minority that are, for want of a better word, Money-Grubbing Bastards. It’s not a nice thing to say but it’s true and there are many practices out there that use every possible trick in the book to squeeze as much as they can out of the NHS for their own personal enrichment. Given that suggesting such a thing in public is only slightly less socially-acceptable than telling children that Santa’s dead, it takes a certain amount of guts to shine a light on this issue and Starkey deserves some credit for that.

Similarly, he also had some worthy stuff to say on the segregation question, particularly when it comes to the thorny issue of what do we do when the rights of two minorities collide (which in this case was the right of the gay community to be gay and the ‘right’ of a small section of the Islamic community to hate people being gay). Now, this is an area that most people shy away from because not only is it loaded with emotion, it is also savagely complicated and littered with squares that can’t be circled without some very hard and very painful soul-searching. Yet again though, Starkey had the chops to bring it up.

So here I am in a quandary: On the one hand I simply can’t get past the fact that watching Starkey is like watching an enormous trifle made of bile and that all the histrionics (“he thinks he’s Moses!”) do nothing to lessen that perception. However, I have to admit that unappealing as it is, that trifle does – in places – actually taste quite good and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s even a hint of nutritional value in it. Ah, bugger it. I can’t keep this of level cognitive maturity up… Here’s a puerile photoshop of a very fruity looking David Starkey circa-some-time-in-the-mid-’80’s (see Fig. 2). There, that feels better.

david-starkey-1980s-sailors-gif

Fig. 2

2. Clarke Carlisle absolutely blew me away.

Ok, I confess. I spent the first part of this episode being an absolute snob towards Clarke Carlisle. “Awwwwwww…” I thought out loud, “Look at the little footballer fluffing his careful rehearsed lines and looking totally out of his depth. Bless.”. So yes, again I was lulled into the notion that he’d be a doddle to write-up as he was performing exactly how one would expect a footballer on QT to perform. Then the segregation question landed and I was forced to instantly STFU for from this unassuming figure gushed a torrent of utter brilliance. Seriously, his response to that question hit so many nails on the head and did so with such obvious passion that I was completely taken aback. I can’t even remember exactly it was that he said but the way he said it put an instant song in my heart and for the first time in God knows how long I actually felt myself actively rooting for a panelist. So I’m sorry Clarke Carlisle. I’m sorry for being snobby and doubting you and I’m also sorry for that time when I inadvertently made your name a high-ranking result for the search term ‘pissflaps’. BFF’s?

3. The other panelists mattered not a jot.

So with all this Clarkey-Starkey business going on, I guess it’s fair to ask how our three political panelists did and if I’m being honest, there’s not a great deal to tell. Part of this was that because it was a very evenly split crowd so no-one really got the upper hand at any point, but it’s also because it was a very middle-weight panel in which the combatants were quite evenly matched. Sure, John Redwood was (as always) a little weird, Rachel Reeves a little over-briefed and Jo Swinson a little unbalanced by some torn loyalties but no-one really buggered anything up and nor could they really make their voices heard over Starkey’s shrill rhetorical antics. As a result I’m awarding all the politicos an arbitrary ‘5’. There’s no shame in it guys… Mediocrity is under-rated.

TL;DR

Redwood: 5/10

Largely fine.

Reeves: 5/10

I can’t whine.

Swinson: 5/10

Pretty benign

Starkey: 6/10

Bit of a swine

Carlisle: 8/10

Did shine

The Crowd: 7/10

Contained a spy (who dropped me a line).

So there you go, despite all my efforts to play puppet master and have myself an easy Friday my efforts have been in vain. Clearly myself and @smokethiscity aren’t CIA material. On a rather more sombre note, I’d just like to take this opportunity to say a fond farewell to Bob Franklin, a regular commenter on Questionable Time who sadly passed away last month. I always greatly valued his support, opinion and kind words and my thoughts are with Di, Toby and Rupert.

Next time Bob, next time…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #26


Awww crap.....

Good morning Lemmings and just what, may I ask, is that fishy odour, wafting it’s way from the Blue Corner this evening? Why, it’s hyperactive Tory foghorn Baroness Warsi’s non-appearance! That’s right Lemmings, after making some rather lurid allegations of electoral fraud in the New Statesman, way after the deadline had passed when anything could be done about it, Warsi is nowhere to be seen on this episode. According to BBC Look North, my local news and official mouthpiece of Yorkshire Nationalism, Warsi was unable to attend tonight on account of being “sick”. Hmmmmm, not wanting to sound like cynic or anything, but that does sound rather convenient, given her proven track record of biting off more than she can chew on Question Time. But hey, what do I know?

Right, enough of this green inkery and off to Manchester with us before I start fashioning elaborate headwear out of tin foil.

The Menu

Q1: Is Labour now in the pocket of the unions since they backed Ed Miliband?

Q2: Is Ed Miliband the Labour equivalent of IDS?

Q3: Does David Miliband’s decision not to return to front bench politics undermine his brother’s leadership?

Q4: Does the IMF’s approval of Osborne’s plan mean that Ed Miliband has lost the economic argument?

Q5: Should the UK and France share their nuclear deterrent?

In The Yellow Bit Of The Blue Yellow Corner: Simon Hughes, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats and potential troublemaker of note.
“Ah ha!” thought I. “This will be fun! Another left leaning Lib Dem who’s going to do a crap job at hiding his disdain for all things coalition and thus paint himself into multiple corners!”. Given that Vince Cable looked like a man with toothache trying to eat a gravel sandwich as he wearily tried to pretend he was deeply enamoured with The New Politics last week, I was pretty much sure that Hughes would make a complete botch of this, particularly as he’s been appointed de facto Head Boy of the Lib Dem Awkward Squad. In fact, I positively needed him to bugger this up because he’s quite hard to poke fun at. Ok, so he’s a bit wooly and ‘Right On, yeah?’ in a very Lib Dem sort of way, but this is somewhat offset by the fact that he’s very sincere and genuinely seems to care about stuff that matter. All of this is very good news for politics, but incredibly bad news if you write a blog about Question Time that has to include a certain compulsory level of ‘funny’. Even photoshopping in some ridicule is pretty hard with him and the best I could do was to merely caption this shot of him punching a pensioner in the chest whilst smiling in a caddish fashion (see Fig. 1).

Pow!

Fig. 1

Ok, so I did airbrush out the pensioner’s hand that he happened to be holding at the time, but even so, he’s a hard man to mock. With this backdrop, the crux of my plan was to hope that Hughes would do the same thing that Cable did: Try to pretend he was a convert to the new orthodoxy whilst sounding completely unconvincing and thus come across like a devil sick of sin and provide me with a whole bunch of stuff to take the piss out of. Unfortunately for me, Hughes didn’t and in fact sounded like a proper, pre-election LibDem who barely noticed that his party was in government with the Tories. There were a few exceptions here and there, such as when he got all IMF happy in Q4 and rattled off numbers whilst invoking ‘interest payments’ (and throwing an odd little reference to when he couldn’t get cash out of an ATM), but never did the word ‘Greece’ pass his lips. In fact, the vast bulk of his answer sounded like he properly meant them, such as actually admitting that he quite liked the unions in Q1 and his fairly level-headed assessment of Ed Miliband’s problems in Q2 (“He’s not new. He’s part of the old government”. Fair play). Some of his more familiar “Diversity FTW!” posturings where on display in Q3 where he relished the opportunity to list all the un-PC things he was against, but it was in Q5 where he decisively hammered his Lib Dem colours to the mast. Rather than engage in the de rigueur coalition talk of ‘compromise’ and such, he went straight in for the kill, damning Trident for being dependent on American support and urging the country to lobby against it. After swimming in a sea of fudged boundaries and fuzzy borders since the coalition came about, this was like music to my ears: Politics I understand.

In pure performance terms, Hughes was neither here nor there on this episode. It was generally good, decent stuff but nothing that earth shattering and if the context was different, I’d probably chuck him some fairly average marks. However, it was impossible for me to watch Hughes without inevitably comparing him to Cable the week before and in this respect, it was a triumph. So well done Baldy, you’ve proved there still is such a thing as the Liberal Democrat party.

A welcome return of old certainties: 7/10
In The Red Corner: Dianne Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and eternal backbencher.
OK, I admit it, I’m all Abbotted out. Appearing twice in the space of seven shows was bad enough, but three times in the space of nine is just too much, especially after five solid months of exposure after the leadership contest. I realise that it would have been pretty hard for Labour to decide who to send on, given that they haven’t got a clue who’s in any given job right now, but come on, it would have at least been more entertaining if they’d sent David Miliband on, even if only to weep uncontrollably and tell people off for clapping throughout the show. So here we are today and the well is dry. My stockpile of funny is depleted and google images yields little of use. You’ve beaten me Dianne, beaten me to a bloody pulp by dint of your repeat QT offending. You win, I lose, let’s make this quick.

On the whole, it was textbook Abbott with plenty of New Labour condemning and Tory scolding frontal assaults, all wrapped in the maternity dress of casual informality. Her support for Ed Miliband sounded genuine throughout, her bouts of slapping Starkey went down well and it’s fair to say that the crowd were generally on board with her for most of her responses. All of which is pretty much exactly what happened when she was on two weeks ago (apart from the Ed Miliband bit. That would have been really stupid) and to be honest, I can’t quite muster the energy to go over the same old ground again.

So that’s it, Abbott. No offence to you, but I think we need to stop seeing each other for a while, hang out with other people, that sort of thing. In the meantime, I suggest that you get some photos of yourself pulling silly faces circulated around the web as there’s only so many times I can face-switch you with Marx.

A very familiar 6/10

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Grant Shapps, Minister of State for Housing and Local Government, QT Lamb to the Slaughter and JustWhoInTheHellExactly?
OK, so Warsi couldn’t attend, but seriously, who is this guy? Visually speaking, he seems like some genetic experiment that went horribly wrong as mad scientists tried to splice the DNA of Clegg, Cameron and Blair whilst tweaking his facially genes so that the only expression his face is capable of rendering is an intensely annoying smirk. OK, so maybe that’s a little a harsh and a trawl through his Wikipedia page does show that he might not be such as bad guy as he spent Christmas Eve 2008 sleeping rough in order to highlight the plight of homeless (something I have yet to see from any of his genetic donors) and he is the cousin of the sainted Mick Jones. But this is Question Time so past good deeds count for nothing while performance on the night counts for everything. So what of his performance? Well, the words ‘depth’, ‘his’ and ‘out of’ are the first ones that spring to mind and it has been quite some time since I’ve observed such a cruel hazing on the show. Observe, if you will.

Q1 started inauspiciously enough as he tried some preliminary skirmishing on the union front, but he quickly ended up in a sticky situation as he said that Ed Miliband would totally swing to the left. “What?” said Dimbers and Cox in commanding unison, knocking him right off-balance and he retreated in a babble of wibbled guff. Q2 contained little worth repeating while Q3 saw him squirming again as he proudly affirmed his Jewishness before getting into a right old tangle when Dimbers enquired whether he practices on not. Unsure as to what the best sounding answer would be, he flapped about before changing the subject and then excitedly claiming that he had “backed Ed Miliband’s campaign”. Whatever works for you, Grant. Coming into the finishing stretch, he made up for Simon Hughes’ unforgivable failure to mention Greece when the deficit issue arose and he lost little time in doing exactly that in Q4 before finally blathering something about the coalition agreement in Q5. In a word, ‘n00bish’.

Alright, so it was the guy’s first time on and he had been called in at short notice, so I do have some sympathy for his plight, but the enduring image I am left with of his performance is of Cox and Abbott shoving his head down a toilet and demanding him to surrender his dinner money. Grant, you need to wise up. Question Time is a rough school and unless you want to spend the rest of your days walking around with ‘Kick Me’ signs stuck to your back, I’d start seriously thinking about learning how to kick people in the knackers.

A decidedly Year 7 3/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Brian Cox, perenial movie bad guy and avowed Labour supporter.
My first reaction to seeing Brian Cox on tonight’s show was one of “Fuck! FUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!”. It’s not that I’ve got anything against the guy, it’s just that when I did the photoshops for this episode it was Wednesday evening and I was expecting Brian Cox, particle physics heart-throb and ex-keyboard player of D:Ream to be on instead. As a result, this week’s title picture looks somewhat bizarre as I didn’t have time to take that Brian Cox out and had to slap the other one in at very short notice. I can only work with what I’ve got, OK? Anyhoo, if I had known it was the actor Brian Cox, I wouldn’t have had any strong opinions either way as all I know about him is that he’s a bit of a thesp who tends to play Nasty Brits in Hollywood films. That though, was before I saw the magical chemistry between him and Starkey and by ‘magical chemistry’, I’m not talking about the ‘love at first sight’ kind. I’m talking about the ‘Uranium 235’ kind.

Take Q2, for example. After a fairly rabid outpouring from Starkey about Ed Miliband, Cox was right up in his grill, calling him “corrupt” and telling him that his “sense of theatre is ridiculous”. The crowd loved that and despite numerous counters from Starkey, he emerged the victor. He also gave him a clip round the ear hole in Q4, reminding him that it wasn’t “the 50’s any more” before having a final nuke related to-do on Q5. So that was all good fun, knockabout stuff, although it has to be said that both of them looked genuinely pissed off with each other. The rest of Cox’s input was pretty good as well, leaning heavily to the left, but done with enough gravitas to not sound overly zealous. I did get a little annoyed when he sounded a little too high and mighty on one poverty related line, but yeah, by and large, it was good stuff.

So well done Brian, good job there. Now to arrange a five way between him, Starkey, Farage, Douglas Murray and Vorderman. A man can dream.

A pleasingly anti-Starkey 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: David Starkey, flambouent Tudorphile and avowed Tory supporter.
Hooray! Starkey’s back! Part shrieking Grande Dame, part petulant teenager, Starkey is simultaneously one of the most irritating people on earth and one of the most entertaining, the balance of which depends heavily on the company he’s keeping at the time. Noted for disagreeing with anything that doesn’t smack of full-blown autocracy/return to the Days of Empire, Starkey really needs someone else on the show to be able to stand up to him, otherwise he just looks like a nutter shouting at the sky for being too fat or accusing the moon of stealing his newspaper. Luckily for all involved, Brian Cox filled this role amply well and made a whole stack of hay by calling bullshit on Queen Starkey’s (see Fig. 2) many and varied accusations, a few of which I have listed below.

quees

Queen Starkey

Fig. 2

The Miliband/Kinnock Axis of Evil will be the “kiss of death” for Labour. “I adore it” proclaims Queen Starkey.

Ed Miliband is guilty of “fratricide”, New Labour are like “Richard III murdering his nephews” and Brian Cox is “naive”.

The unions will inflict “profound strife” on us all and Miliband has already shown “astonishing personal brutality”.

Cuts should be “fast and ruthless” and he really doesn’t like Ed Balls (he even told off the audience for clapping him as he still had more bile to pour on him).

The French are self-centred, selfish bastards who shouldn’t be trusted.

So there we go. Another restrained show of reason and subtlety from the ever moderate Professor Starkey. And I wouldn’t have it any other way as although he may be completely off his tits, it is a deeply engrossing display of high camp, spat dummies and frothy outbursts. Neither was he without support and he did manage to coin in quite a bit of applause on Q4, much though this quietly worries me. I guess the bottom line is that you know where you are with Starkey. He comes in a tin that says “Caution: Product contains dangerous levels of absurdity” and providing you’re in the right company, that can be kind of fun.

A blathering, incoherent 7/10

The Crowd: Manchester

I was totally into this episode. Politically speaking it was no great shakes, but in terms of pantomime action, especially at the Cox/Starkey end of the spectrum, it was delightfully unhinged. The crowd also did well, mucking in and adding to a fairly raucous atmosphere where it was hard to pick out who was cheering for what. Furthermore, there were quite a few audience members who stood out, including a very young man in a waist coat and bow tie (which captivated me so much that I didn’t hear what he said), a fully decked out member of the clergy and a girl with the loudest voice in the world. However, Audience Member of Note goes to the poser of the first question, purely on account of his name: Roman Fox Hunter. Here it is again in bold. Roman Fox Hunter. That’s made my week.

A giddy 8/10

Right. All done. Good show. Just enough time to squeeze in a few turns of Civ 5? There’s always enough time to squeeze in a few turns of Civ 5. Laters, Lemmings.

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #8


Margaret Beckett walks into a bar...

Morning Lemmings and welcome once again to the weekly trawl through the bowels of televised public opinion. I make it sound so glamorous. Anyhoo, it was a funny old show this week, one of those one with a panel that looks great on paper but doesn’t quite cut it when confronted with the horror of reality. Enough of this. Let us proceed into the aforementioned bowels.

In The Red Corner: Margaret Beckett, MP for Derby South and equine looking lady.

Margaret Beckett is the archetypal survivor. Over the last 26 years she’s been in and out of parliament, on the front benches, on the back benches and even became caretaker leader of the Labour Party after John Smith’s death. That’s not bad going for someone who looks strikingly like a Windsor in the (supposed) party of the working classes. However, this rather eventful career has not been without its downsides, the most apparent of which is that she looks absolutely knackered. I don’t mean that in a mean spirited, catty sort of way (I’ve already got that base covered by taking the piss out of her exceptionally long face), it’s just that she strikes me as someone who’s had decades worth of rocks thrown at her and is now so battered that the pain no longer registers.  Somewhere along the line, the internal justification for putting herself through all this seems to have been lost and whatever motivated her to carry on going has been buried under an accumulation of scars and bruises that will not heal. She started out ok with the Unite/strike question (which I’m chalking up a non-issue that the Tories are desperately trying to inflate in order to cover the can of worms that is Ashcroft), getting into a few scraps with ever-beligerent Starkey but generally muddling through. The second question was a different kettle fish though (did Big Gordy get his sums wrong or was he lying about spending?) and looked ominous for her as (for the second week in a row) a parent of a soldier got in on the action before it was her turn to answer. Considering that parents of serving soldiers are the Question Time equivalent of atomic weaponry, there wasn’t a great deal she could do except waffle about stuff that no-one was particularly interested in while the audience embarked on a rising chunter. This in turns led to accusations from the crowd that she thought they were “stupid” and a sudden outburst of arm flapping rage from Starkey (who was promptly told off by Dimbers). Faced with a complete no-win situation, she did her best at damage limitation by deploying a lot of “concerned”, “I understand” and “it’s complicated”, but it was all too late. Dems the breaks, kid. Question 3 (was the Children’s Commissioner right to talking about raising the age of criminal responsibility?) wasn’t quite as cataclysmic, but it was hardly a victory either as she tried to support the principle but damn the opinion. This largely resulted in waffle and tumbleweeds ensued. Things picked up slightly for her in Question 4 (is the reduction in unemployment vindication for the government’s policies?) as she spotted the trap (if you say it is a vindication then you open yourself up for attack from all sorts of angles), exercised restraint by simply calling it “good news” and then got in a quick swipe at the Tories. The audience seemed content with this and she was given a fair few claps for her efforts. However, it started to look shaky later on as an unemployed audience member pulled her up and she had a brief scuffle with Lansley while the final question (is the Lib Dems new porn director candidate a good thing?) only allowed her to fire off a brief sentence about the “private grief” she felt over the matter. So that was her. It was a bruising encounter, not a disaster but still a million miles away from a triumph. What was most upsetting was how resigned she seemed to the hammering she took. I always have a certain level of admiration for people on QT who take their licks, but there didn’t seem to be any dignity in it and she appeared to be simply going through some over-familiar and rather unpleasant motions. Margaret my dear, I think it could be time for a very long caravan holiday.

A tired and despondent 3/10

In The Blue Corner: Andrew Lansley MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health and regular controversy magnet.

Andrew Lansley has a strange capacity for never effectively lodging in my memory, despite the fact that he’s been in parliament since 1997, on the front benches since 2004 and regular gets caught out for saying some pretty stupid things. With this in mind, I made a conscious decision to pay attention to him this time round, hoping that something about would finally stick in my febrile brain. As it happens, something has stuck and that is just how damn angular and jagged he is. I don’t mean that in any particular physical sense (although he is somewhat pointy in his features) but it certainly shows in the way he carries himself. On this episode, you could always see him in the background, looking predatory and waiting for someone to a mistake so that he could pounce on them and give them bally-what-for. His face seems to have two modes: That scrunched up, listening hard for any sign of weakness look or his suddenly alert ‘I’ve just heard the calls of a wounded antelope and the intoxicating whiff of the blood of the feeble’ pre-assault look. I’m sure that amongst his peers, this peace-through-superior-firepower posturing is a positive attribute and marks him out as the sort of man you wouldn’t want to tangle with, but it doesn’t go down so well with the public, especially if you happen to be Shadow Secretary of State for Health (while the parties may want their health ministers to be fairly tasty in a fight, the public tend to like them a little softer around the edges. A good example is the difference that those working in the NHS felt after Hewitt was replaced by Johnson. I was one of those people and although policy didn’t change dramatically, we didn’t feel so picked on. That counts for a lot). On this episode, he kicked off by aggressively milking what little he could from the less than fertile Unite issue. That line didn’t seem to produce any real gains for him and by the end of it he was on the backfoot, getting ribbed by Dimbers for not knowing who Pinocchio was. Question 2 (The ‘Stan) should have provided much easier pickings, but he didn’t manage to press home the advantage and got mired down in the regular ‘kit for the boys’ Tory line that seems to be rapidly losing its potency while the Children’s Commissioners number bought forth a somewhat predictable outpouring of ‘kids should know right from wrong’ and a delicate confrontation with a very reasonable sounding women in the audience. He did get a few loud but solitary claps when he accused Labour of having it in for small businesses on the economy question and I must say that he sounded surprisingly reasonably on the final, blurted LibDem/porno matter (“It takes all sorts to make a world so it must take all sorts to make a parliament”. I quite liked that), but mass appreciation was certainly not on the cards. So all-in-all it wasn’t a great performance. I do accept that it was a tough brief as Starkey had all the ground on the right and the freedom to really exploit it, but I think his technique also has something to do with it. Looking like you’re constantly about to pounce on whoever’s talking at the time and then start feasting on their still-warm-body may be a beneficial attribute in the gladiatorial rough-and-tumble of Westminster, but when employed in front of the public it makes you look like a bit of a dick who’s spoiling for a fight.

An overly keen (and not in the enthusiastic sense) 4/10

In The Yellow Corner: Charles Kennedy, MP for Skye, Ross and Lochaber, former Lib Dem leader and self confessed lush.

Yay! Chatshow Charlie’s back! I’ve always had a massive soft spot for Charles Kennedy (which only grew when he came out as a committed booze hound) and he will always represent one of the big ‘what ifs?’ of modern British politics. Like many other regulars on the show, Kennedy has built a modus operandi that has served him very well in the past. It goes like this: Upon receiving a question, either a) dissipate any heat with some light humour (which he excels at) or b) soften up the audience with some folksy charm, usually involving namedropping some regular people or with an earthy anecdote that relates to how he’s ‘just like you’. After that, it’s a simple matter of gently ramping the pressure on the opposition with softly spoken but reasonable sounding criticism before finally delivering the knockout punch with understated passion and a hint of only-just-submerged anger. As a game plan goes, it’s right up there with Ken Clarke’s ‘damning with faint praise’ manoeuvre or Shirley William’s ‘righteous but harnessed indignation’ ploy. However, the plan has a couple of weaknesses. In the first instance, it needs a willing audience to conspire with and bounce off. Secondly, he needs to be deeply invested in the point he’s trying to make, otherwise the killer blow (the ‘understated passion’ component) comes out all limp and cockeyed. The plan swung into action straight from the get-go as he reigned in the tempo, told of how he’s chummy with many BA cabin crews (and managed to get a joke in about his carbon footprint), highlighted their plight and then socked it to the Tories and Labour for electioneering on the issue. Unfortunately, the crowd didn’t go for it and the initiative passed to Caroline Lucas. He had a little more success on the ‘did Brown tell porkies about the defence budget?’ question as he quite cleverly managed to turn it in to matter of the Lib Dems bringing up the issue in the first place, which was pretty well received, but again, he didn’t quite manage to sink his teeth in. In a similar vein, he managed to convert the Children’s Commissioner debate into a love letter to the Scottish legal system but it didn’t really work, probably because he wasn’t in Scotland. He did get to have some fun on the economics question when Starkey accused David Blanchflower of being “eccentric” and thus set himself for a hearty dose of pot/kettle pisstaking from Kennedy. The audience may not have been massively impressed with it, but I quite liked it and I think Dimbleby (who looks like he’s thoroughly sick of constantly having to babysit Starkey) did as well. Even on the porn question, he wasn’t at his best and although though it was a potential joke factory he only managed to cultivate a few polite titters. As I said before, Kennedy is at his best when he builds some audience momentum and he’s talking about something he genuinely feels strongly about. On this episode the crowd simple weren’t in the mood to go along with his usual game and he seems to have lost the fire in his belly (no vodka related pun intended) he showed back in 2005. He still came out looking like a perfectly reasonable and nice bloke but it was a real shame that the old magic I usual associate with him just wasn’t there. So come on Charlie, buck up your ideas matey, because the Lib Dems desperately need someone with more charisma than a cup of service station tea and there’s only so many seats you win on the back of Vince Cable being generally right.

A sadly underplayed 5/10

In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Caroline Lucas, Leader of the Green Party and most definitely called ‘Caroline’, not ‘Carol’.

Lock up your baby seal furs and CO2 collection because here come the Greens! Actually, that’s a little unfair of me because one thing that Caroline Lucas is good at is not coming across as a dirty cotton picking hippy or a Croc wearing guilt monger. In fact, she regularly does very well on Question Time and is a central plank in the pompously named Loudrib’s 1st Law of Question Time Dynamics (there is yet to be a 2nd law. Give me time though). Unfortunately for the Greens, the above named law refers to the inverse relationship between applause and votes and while she’s been very popular with past audiences, this rarely translates into support that you can take to the bank. Nevertheless, she’s a very competent panellist who performs a deft balancing act between offering idealistic visions of how things could be without spilling over into pie-in-the-sky fantasies about a world where cars are made of hemp and run on petiole oil. She’s also not afraid to stand up for herself, as was wonderfully illustrated by her numerous “it’s Caroline, not Carol” spats with Starkey. Right from the off, she got straight to the heart of the Unite issue by calling bullshit on the Tories for their Ashcroft monkeyshine and making it clear that no only did she support the right to strike, she also had (shock horror) “socialist” principals. One bucket load of claps please. The Afghan question garnered some reasonable applause as well as she declared the whole messy business as “not right” and had various entertaining tête-a-tetes with that night’s Queen of the Ball, David Starkey. The age of responsibility issue was slightly more fraught and although she did make some good points, the audience weren’t as vocal in their support for what they thought might be a controversial opinion (even though it wasn’t that controversial) and similarly her call to scrap Trident and ID cards didn’t get as much love as I was expecting. The final micro question looked in danger of becoming a mini-lecture on the evils of porn, but she luckily ran out of time before really alienating anyone and thus managed to round off the show without any major mishaps. Given that the crowd were quite a mardy bunch that night, that’s pretty good going.

A solid and well deserved 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: David Starkey: Insistent historian and panto villain.

The Land of Oz's Historian in Chief

The David Starkey Story: When Flounce and Crazy Right Wing Opinions Collide

As regular readers may or may not have figured out by now, it is not uncommon for me to end up avidly endorsing panellists who I completely disagree with and David Starkey is pretty much the embodiment of this tendency of mine. On the one hand, he’s like a cross between a petulant child genius who’s bored with teacher and a full blown drama queen who does a cracking trade in over-reaction and intemperate finger pointing mixed with high camp. Taken in isolation, these tendencies are pretty wearisome, but when put in the context of an episode that was in danger of becoming a rather dull stalemate they provide some much needed action that kept me from drifting off in a drunken haze. Clearly, David Starkey is a pretty right wing sort of guy which should have been pretty good news for Andrew Lansley. Unfortunately for the Pointy One though, Starkey is far from sold on the Cameron brand of conservatism so no one was getting a free ride on tonight’s show. As has now become standard with blabbermouth panellists, I won’t go into the near endless details of everything he prattled on about as I want to get this out before next weeks show, but here are some snippets.

Britain is doomed to “national bankruptcy”, “desolation” and blighted by “rampant trade unionism”. Really?

‘Carol’ Lucas is “a Socialist with green paint”, something she happily admitted to.

Gordon Brown “Preened and pranced” around Afghanistan, for which he should be forced to “kneel down and apologise”. I like that mental image.

25% (?!?) of British youth are “wild, feral children” so lets sack the Children’s Commissioner.

Ill-advisedly called David Blachflower eccentric whilst spending most of the episode contorted in various eccentric and angry poses.;

Said that Dimbers “envy’s porn workers”

Amongst all this, he found the time to butt in on nearly everything and get red around the face with everyone. The stuff coming out of his mouth was largely bollocks but he’s a good showman so the crowd lapped it up and according to my notes, he was easily the biggest recipient of applause. Given that he agrees with absolutely no-one other than himself, I began to wonder what kind of world David Starkey would be happy with. From what I can gather from his previous appearances, it would be a Georgian era utopia where the worthy would traverse the skies in huge, Union Jack emblazoned blimps, throwing pennies from aloft to the huddled masses of wretched poor. Our collective will would be enforced by the laser rifle totting ranks of The Very Royal And Splendid British Army, all clad in dapper red jackets while those of ill repute and lefties would be deported to Her Majesties Moon Colonies to dig up Moon Cheese in the Mines of Correction and better themselves through the merits of hard labour. Or at least that is what I like to believe. So yeah, what he had to say was of little nutritional value but was bloody tasty.

An oh-so-wrong but somehow right 7/10

The Crowd: Wythenshaw

As I’ve said throughout this instalment, this was quite an odd crowd. None of them had any time for the politicians and were more than happy to take anyone to task about more or less anything they uttered. In terms of viewing, that’s not great as it means that no one gets any real momentum behind them and the whole thing becomes a series of inconclusive altercations without any defining narrative. However, I think that this audience were very reflective of what’s going on right now in that no single party is really in the clear. Labour have just about stopped bleeding all over the place, the Lib Dems are still stuck around the 20% mark and although the Tories seem to have the advantage, they haven’t quite got the oomph to finish the job. In many ways, we’re now entering the Western Front period of the election where the opposing sides simply can’t break the deadlock and end up fighting over wanky little things at huge cost to themselves and their opponents. From that point of view, they did their job so although it wasn’t great telly, it was good politics. I’ve half a mind to knock off some points on account of the guy who had his beard in a mini-ponytail (something I really can’t abide) or the bloke with a strange shaped head, Elvis T-shirt and braces, but now that I’m nearly finished writing this and can go and have a beer I feel overcome with a sense of mercy and forgiveness. For that, Wythenshaw, I leave you these points….

A slightly dull but quite instructive 6/10

So there we go. More again next week…providing I haven’t been disembowelled by a roving pack of savage, feral children. They account for 1 in 4 of the blighter’s, dontchaknow?


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