Posts Tagged 'Diane Abbott'

Questionable Time #121


qt 121

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to a saucy edition of Questionable Time, now with extra sauce. Apologies for the horrible lateness, but I have a stomach ache (possibly due to ingesting all that sauce) and my motivation for analysing this very D-list edition was not exactly stratospheric. I mean, Dimbleby doesn’t even have an interesting tie on. That’s not a good sign. Let’s trudge on, shall we?

Girls just wanna have fun

Dimbles begins with an unexpected load of feminism, praising Question Time for its increased percentage of female panellists. Good work, QT. This isn’t Mock the Week. Women should have the same right to be equal parts boring and inane just like the boys. Then we go on to a question about Page Three. Ah, society!

Esther McVey goes out of her way (there’s endless limerick potential there) to point out how dated the feature is. There’s a-clamourin’ for a new style of Page Three, you see, filled with pictures of Simone de Beauvoir. At least there is in the fantasy kingdom ruled by myself. Paul Nuttall, Nigel Farage’s right-hand slaphead, looks piteously at the silly wimmins getting in a fuss over nothing and mansplains that there are more important things to be concerned about, e.g. FGM, because apparently feminist activism can only focus on one thing at a time. Diane Abbott, meanwhile, says that she is concerned as a parent about the example it sets, and Amoj Rajan, the Independent guy, plugs the Independent. This is getting off to a good start.

It’s ~*~cool~*~ that feminists came up with a hashtag, warbles Amol, wearing his cool sparkly earring and using words that the older half the audience probably don’t even recognise. Tim Farron, your next Lib Dem leader, says that Page Three was never cool and that everyone hates it, but sadly there’s nothing they can do about it because #jesuisjordan.

Well, that was pointless. Diane ‘n’ Paul predictable argument count: #1.

Ruff ‘n’ tuff choices

Next up, Chicken Cottage. I mean Chilcot. The inquiry. Yeah. I’m not hungry or anything.

There’s a lot of knowing looks about ‘Mr Blair’ and ‘Mr Straw’ which sounds like they’re gangsters in fedoras with machine guns working for Big G Bush or something. I hope those are the exact words of the inquiry whenever it finally gets published. Also, can we please not make the phrase ‘sexed down’ a thing? Thanks.

JUST PUBLISH IT, Amol half-yells to no avail. Diane is in her element, gleefully dissing Tony Blair and his civil servants. Paul too, funnily enough. Maybe they’ve finally made up and are about to kiss.

Oops, wait, the next question is on Ol’ Nige’s comments about the NHS (they just keep on comin’!). So I guess not! His deputy thus sombrely steps up to the pulpit. Apparently, the NHS is too large. Large and in charge. The only solution is to kick it about a bit. I mean – have a mature discussion. Involving UKIP, and large private companies. Large. I just like typing the word large.

Diane is Not In Favour, of course, and says so although in many more words. Dimbleby is constantly trying to get her to shut up, but Diane will not be silenced. Diane ‘n’ Paul predictable argument count: #2.

Apart from that, however, this particular NHS debate is dull. Maybe it’s just the medication talking but I was tuning out – which I usually don’t do when it comes to NHS debates. However, there’s only so many times you can look at Esther McVey’s boring face and boring voice and boring words and hear the words “tough choices” before you start to nod off. Get Jeremy Hunt and Andy Burnham on the programme and have them duke it out, possibly Gladiators-style with big foam spears and obstacle courses. I’d pay good money to see that.

By the way – uh, Tim, social care is in a state because you, um. Cut it. Oopsie.

Snerps

Our final question is on the SNP. There isn’t an SNP representative here. That seems a bit unfair, like when the popular girls in your school get together to giggle about you behind your back. Or is that just me?

Anyway, Nuttall goes the heck in.

“THEY’RE TAKING YOUR TAX!” he bellows, pointing out all the cool stuff they have and all the nasty stuff they don’t have while we, the poor, beleaguered English, suffer in silence with nary a badly-designed modern parliament of our own. This is some top scaremongering. Like the SNP are a race of bloodthisty beetledemons from space.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

I for one welcome our new Scottish overlords, although that is mainly because I am a little terrified of the so-called ‘CyberNats’ massing upon my ass and tearing me a new one. Digitally. A digital new ass.

Thankfully, Tim Farron is here to calm the tensions between the nations. He wuvs Scotland. He will hold it close, to his breast, and never let it go. Never. (Finally: Diane ‘n’ Paul predictable argument count: #3. We did it! We climbed this whole mountain.)

Time for the scores!

McVey: 4/10

Drone(d on)

Abbott: 6/10

(Had a good old) Moan

Nuttall: 6/10

(In the) Zone

Farron: 6/10

(That bird has) Flown

Rajan: 5/10

(I want to eat a) Scone

The Crowd: 7/10

(Had a) Bone (to pick)

Wrexham next time. Hopefully for our panellists, it WRECKS ’em. Dohoho!

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #94


Good morrow lemmings and welcome to the jungle, we got fun and games. And by jungle, I mean Brighton, and by fun and games, I mean staring intently at Roger Helmer’s moustache. What do you mean, that’s not fun? Of course it is, he looks like a retired nineteenth century colonel.

Anyway, Elizabeth here, and since Brighton is my home turf we’ve got an extra-special edition of Questionable Time lined up for you today. That’s right – I was your woman on the inside this week, sneaking around the studio, watching Justine Greening having her face powdered, and walking past Dimbledore himself in a corridor. I was too frightened by his magnificent presence to say anything or even look upon his face, but let me say this: his Dimblelevels are consistent with the professional examples of Dimbling you see on the tellybox.

I wasn’t in the audience, so you won’t be able to see my hideous ugliness for yourself, but with the help of Glorious Webmaster we managed to blag my way in to sit on the side. It was an interesting experience! There’s a warm-up for an hour beforehand, not with the panel, which in this case was a spirited discussion on declining manners in the UK and aren’t young people just awrrful? Then the panel answers a practice question which is not broadcast, which is just as well because Diane Abbott’s microphone failed miserably. However, despite the cheery tone of this preamble, I could already tell that certain members of the audience were spoiling for a fight, and in the end was not disappointed.

Anyhow, let’s get down to business to defeat the huns/UKIP (delete as appropriate).

Blue Greeny

Justine Greening, through a combination of rigid hair, rigid posture, and a rigid accent, has been making her slow ascent through the Tory ranks, forming a protective barrier around herself akin to an ancient Roman legion’s tortoise formation, only with an inpenetrable layer of face powder instead of shields and pointy sticks. True, her main line of defence is still “the mess Labour made” (a well-used phrase the audience reacted accordingly to last night i.e. a massive groan) but she’s generally a pro at deflecting questions and not being pinned down – she did well on the EU issue, mainly due to nobody overtly attacking her and going for the easy target instead (moustachio). Not looking or acting overtly gremlinish helps as well.

I’m intrigued to see where StealthGreening goes from here. The Tories, as we all know, will be eager to avoid looking like the He-Man Woman-Hating Club again, so I’m expecting her to rise through the ranks ever more quickly, although whether she’ll be quite so lucky when there’s not Roger Helmer sitting beside her is another matter.

Diane Abbott vs the world

It’s hard out there for an Abbott. Up against two Conservatives and a UKIPper, many Labourites would run screaming in the opposite direction, perhaps to safer pastures, such as This Week, The Daily Politics or a pack of angry and aroused hyenas. Not Diane Abbott though. She already knows that she’s destined to be a rebel, an extreme-radical-gnarly-hardcore skateboards-n-shades rebel, so is free to say (almost) whatever she likes to counter her opponents. Sure, she pledged alliance to EMil, but everyone in the studio laughed warmly at the gesture. We understand, Diane. We get it.

Diane proceeded in a predictable fashion, attacking the energy companies as a cartel, predicting the end of the world via the explosive power of a popping housing bubble, polite disapproval of some aspects of Europe without aligning herself to Helmetman von Rogermore…but since this was Brighton, the reaction was mainly positive, and the balance of power was tipped, for once, in her favour.

Well done Diane. You did it. Just.

Rogering the Helmer

I could tell it was about to kick off from the start.

Booking Roger Helmer, ex-Tory embarrassment extraordinaire, for a Brighton show? And then, to make matters worse, posing a question on equal marriage? Whoever’s idea that was, I applaud you, because watching this implosion of ire live was truly a festival of fun. If only popcorn was allowed into the studio! I lost track of the amount of times the word ‘love’ was used, which is great because we all need a little more love in our lives. Especially Roger Helmer. It must be so tiring to be against everything all the time, as the delightful old man in the yellow jumper explained.

Sure, so apparently 20% of British people wouldn’t go to a same-sex marriage. That just means more cake for me! Joke’s on you, Roger!

Fig. 1

(He said some other things too, but at this point is there anyone here who doesn’t know UKIP’s opinions on the EU? No? Okay, moving on.)

Those two guys

Lord Wolfson, in contrast, was a conundrum. At first he seemed to fill the role of the thinking man’s alternative to Roger Helmer – attacking alternative energy sources as inefficient, and stating that the profits of energy companies have been purposely inflated. So far, so standard. Anyone who’s ever entered a Next could have told you that this would happen – they might as well play recordings of Maggie Thatcher speeches through their speakers as you dig through the clothes racks.

He did go a bit off-message in the latter half, though, viciously attacking Help to Buy to the surprise of basically everyone. You could physically see Justine Greening stiffening into an icepick of death. Before Diane Abbott could passionately agree with everything he said, though, we moved on to the gay marriage question, and this wonderful and confusing moment was left behind us, forever. Shame really.

Oh yeah, and Mick Hucknall was there. What is there to say about Mick Hucknall? He’s Mick Hucknall. Apparently he likes/liked New Labour, but mainly he performed the infuriating role of the ‘voice of reason’, diluted slightly due to the fact he’s Mick Hucknall. I hate the voice of reason. I want my Question Times to be as unreasonable as possible. I want Tories and UKIPpers, Labourites and Greens, and whatever poor sadsack Lib Dem they can scrounge up (clearly nobody this week, though Vince Cable will have a valiant go next time) to yell and flounce and argue as loudly and uselessly as possible. I do not want some ordinary person bringing down the tone by calling for ‘moderation’ or whatever. You say the public don’t like shouting and screeching? Well here’s my rebuttal: the public are wrong.

Anyway, I watched them pack up in a state of bemused dazedness. It was a fun experience, but a draining one, and as I caught the train back home I reflected on what I had just been witness to. Was this the democracy I had been promised? A modern town hall meeting, a palace of debate, where the great, good and otherwise are brought to account by the ordinary folk of the land? Is Question Time, in fact, the greatest institution ever created? Or was this all an excuse to poke fun at a man with a silly moustache?

Whatever your view, it’s time for the scores.

Greening: 6/10

Cope(d well)

Abbott: 6/10

Hope (springs eternal)

Helmer: 3/10

Nope

Wolfson: 4/10

(That answer on Help to Buy was pretty) Dope(, yo)

Hucknall: 2/10

(His answers were narrow in) Scope

The Crowd: 8/10

(Not fans of the) Pope

Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to have a little lie down.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #73


questionable-time-73-david-dimbleby-pop-poster

Good morning Lemmings and remember the rash claim I made last time about QT entering some sort of Golden Age? Yeah well I was wrong. Really wrong. Instead it seems that we’re now back to an Off-Beige Age of QT – an extended exercise in mediocrity not dissimilar in both colour and consistency to that of an undercooked Greggs sausage roll and definitely a million miles away from the soaring heights of the past two weeks. Still, you’re here and I’m here so let’s try to make a go of this. To ambivalence and beyond…

Hands up who didn’t do their homework last night?

For those of you who aren’t in my living room right now I am now holding my hand up while for those of you who are in my living room, please leave. Anyway, I had a bad case of partial information last night that led to a certain confounding of expectations. Basically, I’ve been aware of the Afriyie story, seen his picture in the paper but somehow never heard him speak. Essentially, my mental arithmetic on him looked like this:

Stridently Anti-EU Tory Backbencher

+

MP for one of the most Tory of Tory seats

+

Looks ever so slightly fey in

a sort of Tim Nice But Dim sort

of way.

+

Involvement in madcap parliamentary longshot

=

A fresh butterfly to be broken on the QT wheel

Well, it turns out that I was off the mark because far from being the wet-behind-the-ears Mogglian Shire puppet I was expecting he actually proved to be the real deal: A genuine up-by-the-bootstraps success story who really isn’t that bad at Question Timing. Sure, some of the ‘Who me?’-ing over his leadership ambitions were a little lame and many of the details were a bit slippery but his overall performance was pretty solid. Beware No. 10, the ‘Afriyie’s mental’ narrative will only hold for so long.

What’s the big hurry?

They were a jostley bunch last night, a bunch that like to jostle and if there’s one thing in life that I can do without its jostlers. Take the crowd for example: They all had the look of school children so desperate to be picked by teacher that they support their raised hands with their remaining arm and contort their faces into a painful looking ‘Pleeeeeeeeeease Sir!’. I dread to think what the queue for the studio was like but I imagine it would have been rich in sharp elbows and poor in mellow vibes. However, it tends to be the panel that the audience take their cues off and within that we find two prime contenders for the title of Biggest Jostler Of Them All: Jo Swinson and Sarah Churchwell.

Of the two, Swinson has the more complex Jostle and is what I would describe as a Vexed Jostler in that she knows the Jostle resides within her, has profited from it in the past (I suspect that her rise involved a great deal of Jostling) but is also aware that the Jostle can become overpowering and eventually hinder your ends. As a result she tends to go into questions with a certain level of restraint: The Jostle’s there but she’s keeping it in check by using pre-cooked openers and a very linear, point-by-point approach. When this works it’s pretty potent – you know, the sort of thing that makes you think ‘this person means business’ – but there’s always a danger of the subject becoming intoxicated by the Jostle. Swinson’s particular vulnerability to over-Jostling comes when she’s challenged and this is where we see all that prior restraint go out of the window. Suddenly everything’s going at a million miles an hour, the linear approach has been ditched in favour of the scattergun and her face does that thing (see. Fig .1).

Jo Swinson .gif

Fig. 1

By contrast, Churchwell is what I would call an Innate Jostler and appears to be much more at ease with her Inner Jostle (a cultural element may be at play here as Americans seem to respect – nay, worship – the Jostle while to be British is to be slightly ashamed of the Jostle that resides within us all). In practice this means that she spends a lot of time delivering ambiguities in the tone of certainties, like in the first question about the price freeze. Now, if you had just come into the room midway through that piece you’d think ‘Bloody hell, that Sarah Churchwell sounds like she knows what she’s on about’ because it was an emphatic delivery aided by unrestrained Jostle. However, if you actually listened to the words you’d find that it was a very long ‘no but maybe but probably but maybe’ – yet it sounded good and that’s because she embraced her Inner Jostle.

So what do you get when you put two Jostlers in the room at the same time? You get words. Loads of bloody words. Some of the words were good – like Churwell’s bit on the education system – but most of them were just random placeholders blurted out at a terrifying rate as the combined volume of Jostle led to a runaway chain reaction. In fact, if you missed last night’s episode then just stare at the above .gif for an hour or so because you’ll end up with the same sensation: Motion sickness and the urgent need to be in a less Jostly environment.

Welcome back to nowhere!

There was a rather touching scene early in the show where Dimbers joshed Dianne Abbott for getting fired but sort of welcomed her back to the wilderness with more than a dash of affection. It was nice. Dianne looked rather touched, Dimbers smiled, the crowd awwed and I felt all warm inside. Later on Dimbers reminded everyone that Abbott sent her kids to private school and did so with more than a dab of glee. It was nice. Dianne looked grumpy, Dimbers crowed, the crowd applauded and I felt my heart returning to its cold and deadened state. Welcome back Dianne!

Matthew Parris was just calling it in last night…

To be fair there wasn’t a great deal for him to get his teeth into but I really was quite overawed by just how blasé he was last night. Schools? What’s the point, I can’t read. Price freezes? Yeah, whatever. Are you in the QT studio or at a cocktail party? The what-now? When’s the food coming? Oh look, olives!

Tl:dr

Swinson: 5/10

(Was doing everything on the) Quick

Afriyie: 6/10

(Isn’t half as) Thick (as I thought he would be)

Abbott: 5/10

(Looked ready to throw a) Brick (at Dimbers)

Churchwell: 5/10

(Would be my) Pick (for fastesttalkingpersoninthewholeworld)

Parris: 5/10

(Could have called in) Sick (but didn’t)

The Crowd: 5/10

(Can’t wait to beat Michael) Crick (about the head with a UKIP brochure)?

Actually, while we’re talking about the crowd there were two audience members of note. The first was the civil servant in the fetching red suit/black shirt/red tie combo who made a very good point that was completely lost on me because I was trying to imagine what it would be like working in the Ministry of Wedding DJ’s. The second was the Adrian Mole-esque youngster who insinuated that his teacher’s were only in it for money. I like to picture him playing it out in his head before the show: The applause, the rapture, Dimbers carrying him aloft on his shoulders as the world rejoices at the birth of a star. Unfortunately, these imagined events did not come to pass and he’ll just have to make do with an uncomfortable silence punctuated by some sarky sounding ‘ooh’s for now. Tough break kid. Welcome to QT.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #53


questionable time 53 david dimbleby horse meat lasagne

Good morning Lemmings and if you like your Question Time with an ecclesiastical twist then you’re in luck as this week finds us huddled amongst the pews of St. Paul’s Cathedral with our heads bowed solemnly, kneeling before the Altar of Dimbers. Not only that, but we’ve also got a bone-fide man of the cloth (Fraser), Methuselah himself (Heseltine) plus a fellow whose world view makes the Old Testament look fresh and edgy (Hitchens). Holy holiness Batman, it’s Questionable Time!

I think I’ve finally forgiven Michael Heseltine…

It’s funny the things that stay with you: My parents spilt up when I was 7 and did so at a time when the then Tory government made it their business to pour scorn upon single-parent families. Being 7 years old, I really didn’t care too much for politics but the memory – that these guys were having a go at my mum when we weren’t exactly having the best of times – has never left me and from that day on all Tories were all the same in my book: Mean, nasty and certainly not the type you’d want to swap stickers or Spokey-Dokeys with.

So how does Heseltine figure in all this? Well, simply by virtue of being one of the more recognisable figures from that period he just sort of became a de facto hate figure in my mind, the living embodiment of a government neither cared nor understood those it governed. Gradually though, I’ve begun to mellow and I’m now beginning to think maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t all that bad.

Part of this reappraisal is down to the fact that I can now look back on that period with a bit of distance and much to my surprise, Heseltine actually comes out of it looking relatively OK-ish. True, he – like everyone else in the Thatcher/Major administrations – has plenty of Greed (and Privatising Everything) is Good blood on their hands but what marks him apart was that he had his ear to the ground when it came to the plight of the ordinary. He’s the one who can take the most credit for doing away with the Poll Tax and on matter such as immigration (as demonstrated last night), he was well ahead of the Tory curve. But that’s half the story: The rest is more to do with what the passage of time has done to Heseltine himself.

If you cast your mind back to his political heyday, Heseltine was quite a dangerous looking character, both in his physicality (that ‘Now just you wait a moment!’ posturing, those semi-crazed eyes) and his behaviour (thrashing the Mace about springs about to mind). Now though? Now that nervous energy seems to have been replaced with an acceptance that he’s off the front line for good and with that comes the realisation that he doesn’t have to chance it any more. That’s important because despite the displays of supreme self-confidence, there’s a very strong thread that runs through Heseltine’s back story: He’s always had to sing for his dinner and with that comes the inevitable air of mania that permeated his public persona.

In terms of last night though, this new-found calm meant that instead of coming across as a bull-in-a-china-shop with something to prove, he now seems comfortable with his place in the world and is no longer driven by the desperation of ambition. That’s nice, because the last time he was on he just looked a little lost and out of it – like the world had moved on without telling him – but in this episode he was back on his game and even managed to generate a convincing head of steam when he and Hitchens had a to-do over whether soldiers are stupid (see Fig. 1). On top that, the moment when his mobile went off was genuinely endearing: There’s just something about a bashful looking old man with an inappropriately activated iPhone that makes my heart melt.

heseltine-angry-gif

Fig. 1

Oh Hitchens, you’re so hard to score…

The case for the prosecution: Peter Hitchens is either a misguided blowhard who boils the world down into a hard-to-shift crust of absolutes on the saucepan of life or a Level 99 Meta-Troll who thrives on self-generated controversy and has taken on all the characteristics of a philosophical retrovirus.

The case for the defence: That delivery! It’s so deadpan! ‘We’re all going to hell in a hand cart. It’s your fault. Now if you’ll excuse me I have less trivial things to pursue’. To pull that off you either need to have an insane tolerance to criticism or be a Level 100 Meta-Troll who has taken the Gentle Art of Making Enemies beyond the sublime.

My jury: Is wondering whether we can just give him mid-range marks based on a reason that was not presented in court and has no facts or evidence to support it either from the prosecution or the defence.

Hello stranger…

I’m glad Diane Abbott and I had a break. I’ve got nothing against her but there was a time when she was on so regularly that I worried she was going to have to list the QT studio as a second home. Anyway, she’s returned and is peddling the same wares that she was before, mainly by blending the familiar with the righteous. By and large it works and despite the fact she overplay her hand a little toward the end, I’ll still happily lap it up…. Even if that means listening to her name drop her constituency like 10 zillion times.

Nice try Vince…

I usually give Cable a hard time for his Knowing Look – that little glint in his eye that says ‘Just you wait until I’m in charge, then we’ll show them!’. It’s a viable QT play in the short-term but Vince has rinsed this little tactical flannel so hard I now need to see some substance. Initially, I thought he’d found some in his point-blank dismissal of IDS’s Child Benefit proposals but when he went on to insist that missing the target for the 4G auction was actually a textbook rendition of Keynesian economics, I pretty much gave up. Back to the drawing board Vince…

I think I’ve found my kryptonite…

God I love a wonky clergyman! Despite being a contented agnostic, there’s something about an outspoken and left leaning vicar that just slays me. Rowan Williams? Boss. John Sentamu? Yo-diggity. The latest addition to the canon? Giles Fraser.

Tl;dr

Heseltine: 7/10

(Not as) Mad (as he used to be)

Abbott: 6/10

(Not) Bad

Cable: 5/10

Had (at least stopped with the Knowing Looks)

Hitchens: 6/10

(Is an odd) Lad

Fraser: 7/10

(Is fair) Rad

The Crowd: 8/10

Gad(zooks)?

Well.. That was an envigorating little samalamadingdong wasn’t it? Good crowd, opulent surroundings and a heavyweight panel, all of which conspired to make the most satisfying show of the run so far. A special mention goes out to the Case Worker who made a lovely, rolling crescendo of a point that was backed up with some pretty thorough homework. If you’re reading Mr. Case Worker, tap me up… There’s some Questionable Time stickers with your name on them just waiting for an address.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #26


questionable time 26 david dimbleby wonderbra

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to a somewhat more straight-forward instalment of Questionable Time than last week’s rather narcissistic little jaunt. Yes that’s right, I’m back in the cheap seats and in some ways I’m glad: Thrilling as last week was I’m just not sure that I was built to sustain the levels of excitement/terror that come with being a part of the audience. Anyway, here we are and there’s a lot to get through so let’s crack on. Here’s what we learned:

The news is back and this time it means business.

One of my biggest beefs with being in the audience of Question Time last week was that it occurred on a week when pretty much nothing of any import happened and the news appeared to have beached itself on the Sandbank of Uneventfuness. Sure, there was the whole Abu Qatada vs. the Gregorian Calendar affair and the preliminary stages of the Omnishambles, but lets face it, a couple of soggy sky rockets does not a fireworks display make. This week however stands apart from its immediate ancestor in that wherever you turn something spectacular is happening and from whatever angle you view it one can only conclude that all of these spectacular things are spectacularly bad for the coalition government, particularly the Tories. Here’s the jist of it:

      1. The economy has basically given up and called it a day.
      2. The Murdoch clan have put on their own production of Gotterdammerung and invited the entire world to attend.
      3. Having a name that lends itself to accidental profanities is now the least of the Culture Secretary’s worries.
      4. Nadine Dories.

Clearly this wasn’t going to be a week laden with promise for the Blue Team but as is the way of the world, someone was going to have to cop for it. And just who would that lucky soul be? Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together for Minister of State at the Department of Work and Pensions, the Rt Honourable Chris Grayling MP! Whoop-whoop!

Now I actually think that Grayling did quite well last night and the reason he did quite well was that he was totally unremarkable: No heroics, no soaring oratory, no impassioned call to arms, just plain old ‘unremarkable’ and in my book that’s quite alright. Why? Well because despite outward appearances the very last thing you need in a situation like this is a hero. Heroes are great when you need that last bit of umph to really carry the fight to your enemies or to stage a decisive counter attack but they are not cut out for situations where there is simply no prospect of a win’ No, what you need at times like that is someone who can simply endure, hack off a pound of their own flesh and present it to the assembled mob with silent ambivalence. Granted, there’s not much glory to be had in being a human punch bag and Grayling did end up resembling a washing-up sponge that’s seen better days but at least he left things in a state that wasn’t that much worse than they were an hour before. In the grand scheme of things I’d be happy with that outcome.

The other person who had the most to lose last night was Simon Hughes and I must say that I wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of him being on. It’s not that I don’t like the man (in fact I’d go so far as to say that I have somewhat of a soft spot for him) it’s just that there’s only so much lip-biting, hand-wringing and self-flagellation I can witness before I start feeling sad. And that’s what Hughes has been like over the last couple of years, a tortured soul who rationally knows that he’s committing mad acts in response to a mad world but somehow can’t convince his soul that this is the case. Happily though, he seemed much more at peace last night and actually appeared to be a proper human being as opposed to a totemic whipping boy for the Lib Dems’ collective self-loathing. The way in which this manifested was that he was much better at picking his fights and managed to suppress the urge to dive on grenades that were clearly intended for the Tories, something which has been a problem in the past. Instead he stuck to the things he knew and cared about – like housing – whilst also making quiet overtures to the Red Team (“It wasn’t all Labours fault”), all of which was a refreshing change to being the principal apologiser for his party’s self-harming tendencies. I guess the big question is ‘does this mean that he thinks that coalition is toast?’, the answer to which only he knows but it’s certainly nice to seem him looking a little less spiritually broken.

The people with the most to gain didn’t gain that much.

By rights this should have been an episode in which both Diane Abbott and Polly Toynbee cleared up – what with all the fruit hanging so low – but somehow it didn’t quite turn out like that. I guess the main reason for this is that Romford voted very strongly for the Tories in 2010 (they had a clear 26.5% lead over Labour) so there’s clearly some loyalty there but it’s also down to the fact that while the Left’s critique of the current government is pretty robust, its alternative solution just doesn’t hang together as well as it should. Apart from that it was business as usual for these guys, what with Toynbee talking ever-so-seriously about ever-so-serious things and Abbott doing that ‘Dear Sir, imagine my concern’ face that she is wont to do. Both got some solid applause but neither really managed to find that killer angle of attack without exposing their own flanks. Had this been up t’North or a few miles to the west then things could have turned out very differently but as it stands they emerged much like their counterparts: In no better nor worse a situation than they started.

So no revelations there, but hang on, aren’t we missing something here? Damn straight we are! Nigel, Nigel, where for art thou Nigel?

Nigel Farage is still my favourite prat.

Yes! After what seems like an eternity (it’s actually only been five months) he’s back and if the papers are to be believed, he should have been soaring like an eagle last night. And soar he did as he socked it to the government for being a bunch of “college kids” and eulogised sole-traders as “heroes of the nation”. The crowd roared their approval as he seemed to levitate out of the studio. Fly Nigel, fly! Go on son, slip these earthly shackles! And upwards he went, propelling himself by cackling at the IMF loan, high into the night sky from where he rained down thunderbolts on Jeremy Hunt. But wait! What’s this? He seems to be stalling! What’s that he just said? ‘Immigration’? No Nigel, no! His rate of climb slows and then suddenly reverses. Oh god, he’s saying he’s spoken to “several people” and what they’ve told him is that it’s just too ruddy easy for Jonny Ruddy Foreigner to get a ruddy council house in this sceptred isle. Missiles are unleashed from the crowd and one from a housing worker who appears to know what he’s talking about scores a direct hit. BOOM! He’s falling now, falling fast! The crowd look on aghast as certain death looms and then CRACK! His fall is broken by a freak question about teen sex! Battered and bruised, he picks himself and limps off to lick his wounds. Nigel, you flew too high. You tried to touch the sun only to be dashed to earth like the mortal you are. Bad luck. You’re still my favourite prat though. Here’s a little something I made for you (see Fig. 1).

nigel farage hope poster absurdity

Fig. 1

Vince Cable still has a fan.

And not just any old fan but a super-fan by the looks of it. So well done Mr. Yellow T-Shirt And Suit Jacket, well done for being supremely unfashionable in every sense of the word! A cheer for Mr Yellow T-Shirt and Suit Jacket!

Tl;dr

Grayling: 5/10

Soaked (it up)

Abbott: 5/10

Poked (at Grayling)

Hughes: 6/10

(Seems pretty) Stoked

Toynbee: 6/10

Provoked (a few claps)

Farage: 6/10

Joked (about this and that)

The Crowd: 7/10

(Should have been) Revoked (since I wasn’t in it).

So there we go: A pretty solid episode where everyone except Farage ended up pretty much where they had started. Now, if you’ll excuse me I must get back to my busy schedule of not being recognised on the street and my phone not ringing off the hook. Ah, the perils of QT fame…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #2


questionable time 2 david dimbleby guinessGood morning Lemmings and rejoice for a new record has been set! That’s right, I managed to fully comprehend around 68.2% of last night’s show which is by far and away the most clarity I have ever achieved with an episode from Northern Ireland (I usually manage 20 or so percent). So yes this bodes well, as to be honest I didn’t really have the highest hopes for last night’s show and was fully prepared to give it only a cursory write-up. However, as things panned out, it turned out to be a bit of a good ‘un (if a little weird in places) and I certainly learnt a thing or two about our Northern Irish brethren, but more on that later.

Right then, kicking off with the Blue Team we have Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and unknown QT quantity, this being his first time on the show. I have a suspicion as to why he’s never been on before and that’s because he’s been in deep hibernation in a cupboard somewhere in Tory HQ since the mid-90’s. As is clearly evident, the primary effect of having spent nearly two decades in such a deep sleep is that his speech has suffered to the point where sentences move at the rate of a treacle glacier and his words have all the brilliance a of stuttering fluorescent tube, but on top of that he also seems uniquely ill-equipped to deal with the rough-and-tumble world of Question Time. This is odd for if his suspiciously fawning Wikipedia entry is to be believed, this guy has been widely held up to be some sort of paragon of media savviness by a right-wing press that’s developed something of a crush on him, but as to why this is the case I have absolutely no idea.

Let’s start off by quickly recounting how thoroughly he ballsed up the pensions question: First off, he went straight into ‘chuck some deficit numbers about’ mode but did it at such a staggeringly slow pace that it seemed as if he was reading out a list of random phone numbers. Then, when confronted by a disgruntled and articulate audience member who was having his public sector pension cut he lurched into possibly the worst rendition of ‘We Are All In This Together’ that I have ever seen. Now for a start, this is potentially the most ludicrous and self-evidently absurd political slogan since ‘The End of Boom and Bust’ and the fact that it was delivered with all the verve of a soggy tissue didn’t help matters much either. But the more fundamental point is this: What, in all that’s holy, could possibly possess a man to deploy such a line when the reforms to MP’s pensions indicate that we clearly are Not All In This Together? He deserved every boo he got.

So that was probably the nadir of Paterson’s performance but he did come close to running a repeat of it when he refused to take a clear line on Catholic priests getting married. Now, I do have a little sympathy here as no one likes getting involved with the internal arguments of someone else’s faith but when you’re Northern Ireland Secretary it does pay to at least form some sort of opinion on the matter. Ok, so I did like his line about Libya not being a “rinky-dinky Scandinavian democracy”, even if I’m not entirely sure what the ‘rinky-dinky’ part means, but by and large he was super weird and not in a good way. I think it’s probably for the best that someone coaxes him back into a hay packed cardboard box, seals the lid and lets him hibernate for another ten years or so.

Red Team next and oh my gosh/what a surprise, we have Diane Abbott, an MP who might soon have to register the Question Time studio as her second home. Given that I’ve pretty much said all there is to say about Abbott in previous outings I shall keep this short and just say that it wasn’t her best performance. The only issue she really got stuck into was the pension question but that soon went sideways as she got cornered on whether she thought Ed Miliband was right to condemn strikes and her attempts to wriggle out of it looked somewhat shifty. She also go a little lost on the Libya question (lost to the point where Dimbers had to confess that he didn’t “have the slightest clue” what she was saying) and like Paterson, she too ducked on the celibacy question. All-in-all a bit sub-prime. Never mind, I’m sure she can make up for it next week. And the week after that. And the week after that.

Moving on and we come to Nigel Dodds, Deputy Leader of the DUP and a man I know precious little about, other than that he has a distinctly weird mouth (very wide and underbitey… see Fig. 1). What I could glean from last night’s show was that his outlook seems fairly Unionist as he hates the EU and likes to use the word ‘scripture’ a lot but he doesn’t seem to be at the hyper-mad end of the DUP and can put a sentence together without showering everyone with hate infused saliva a la the lovely Dr Paisley. That’s not to say he doesn’t appear to have a taste for Unionist red meat, it’s just that the bar that marks the point of insanity is set quite high in the world of the DUP. In short, it could have been worse.

nigel-dodds gif

Fig. 1

Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson, a women who’s giving Owen Paterson a run for his money in the race to become Weirdest Panelist of The Week. Like Paterson, Anderson also has a very odd line in verbal communication and one that is largely characterised by talking like a ventriloquist. Weirder still, she seems to have different modes when it comes to answering questions. The first is where she looks so disinterested and bored that she can barely bring herself to move her jaw while the second is where she starts talking really slowly and decides to upset people in detail. This first occurred when she had the world’s slowest rant about the Catholic Church but it really got into gear when she plunged into a right to-do with Nigel Dodds about the peace process. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what it was all about as it seemed very Northern Irelandy, but what I could make out was her winding people up at an excruciatingly slow pace. Predictably, it all ended in tears as Dimbers finally moved to shut her but it was quite the spectacle to behold and aroused much ire from the crowd. So yes, Anderson was fully weird and I’m struggling to find any redeeming qualities other than that she’s got a very jaunty fringe. It’s something I guess.

Right, time for our final panelist of the night, investment fund manager Nicola Horlick. Now, I had never heard of her so I gave her name a quick google and was annoyed to find that she’s been described as ‘Superwoman’ on account of her being able to juggle a very large family with making stacks of money (so that she can then go and lose a whole chunk of it Bernie Madoff). My annoyance was largely due to the fact that I really can’t abide the super-busy and the knack they have for making me feel like a slothful wretch, but I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by how normal she was. Sure, I might not have agreed with her on all the issues but she did deliver her answers in a refreshingly straight forward manner and never got preachy, all of which leads me to conclude that she’s probably a Reasonably Nice Person. In an episode such as this, that’s not bad going.

So that’s the panel done, now it’s time for what was probably the most interesting component of this week’s show, the audience. The first thing that struck me about this lot was just how bloody earnest they were and how they went after the big points rather than the ‘let’s just have a pop at politicians’ shenanigans that we usually see. When these guys got the bit between their teeth (as they did with the pensions and celibacy questions) they were dogged and passionate, something that we have not seen much of late. On top of that, I was also surprised to discover that everyone in Derry works in the public sector, people in Northern Ireland seem to care deeply about something called ‘religion’ and that they don’t seem to appreciate politicians who talk very slowly. Audience Members of Note this week include the woman who was really, really pissed off with the Catholic Church (using phrases such as “heinous desperation” and “catch yourself on” in close proximity of each other is always a point scorer with me) and the drunk looking guy who demanded that the world’s debt slate be wiped clean… It’s good to have a dream.

Tl;dr:

Paterson: Weird

3/10

Abbott: Sketchy

4/10

Dodds: Not as weird as he could have been

5/10

Anderson: Weird and sketchy

2/10

Horlick: Neither weird nor sketchy

6/10

The Audience: Hardcore

7/10

Ok, there we go, that’s your lot. Well done Derry, you almost managed to make me believe I had the faintest idea about what’s going on in Northern Ireland and that takes some doing. Well done also to my band’s bassist, Beefy, who I’ve just discovered has gone and broken his finger by trapping it in a van door. Considering that the last time we had to cancel a gig was when our guitarist caught his thumb in a taxi door, I hereby decree that all members of Achtung Everybody may only travel in doorless vehicles. It’s for our own good.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #41


question time david dimbleby magrite 41

Morning Lemmings and praise be, I managed to stay conscious throughout last night’s Question Time, a titanic feat made easier only by the absence of Danny Alexander and his voice. So bully for me, bully for you and bully for everyone. In short, bully all round.  Right, let’s get on with this.

 

Ok, so the first (repeat) offenders in my sights tonight take the shapely form of Boris Johnson and Diane Abbott, both of whom are very much personality based politicians (although cut form very different cloth) and both of whom, I suspect, are sitting on the horns of a dilemma right now. In the case of Boris, it’s very much to do with the fact that he’s been slightly wildernessed by events and that his naturally ambitious streak is having to rub up against the cruel mistress of reality. If we cast our minds back to a few years ago, you literally couldn’t switch on the telly without being assaulted by some sort of Borisness and despite the occasional gaffe, this worked very much in his favour as he had carved a very comfortable little niche for himself as The Nation’s Favourite Posh Idiot. Sure, technically he was a shadow minister, but by having fostered a cult of personality based largely around buffoonery and bluster, he was given a very generous portion of latitude with which to clown about and cement his position as the only Tory who people could actually begin to relate to (I use the term ‘relate’ in a very loose sense, like in the way we instinctively relate to people who accidentally wet themselves in public or walk around with spinach stuck between their teeth for days on end). However, Boris is a man who never seems content with his current position and beneath all the red-faced boyish caperings, it was clear that he was desperately searching for a bigger fish to fry and that ultimately, the biggest fish would always be the leadership of the Tory party. Unfortunately for Boris, these ambitions were very much put on ice thanks to the ascendance of David Cameron and never being one to play second fiddle, he instead focused on becoming Mayor of London, something that he inexplicably managed to achieve.

 

On the face of it, this should have been a triumph and for a good two years, he was the only Tory in the country who actually wielded any power. However, this seemingly benign turn of events also contained some nasty, jagged reefs just beneath the surface and as time went on, it became clear that this probably wasn’t the cushy number he had hoped it to be. Sure, having some real power is nice and all, but it becomes increasingly difficult to arse about on Have I Got New For You when you’ve got to wake up in the morning and run one of the largest cities in the world and the brand of endearing klutzery that you peddled prior to being in office is no longer the Get Out Of Jail Free Card it once was. “Never mind though” thought Boris, “it’s only a matter of time before the right-wing of the party get fed up with Cameron’s Bodenocracy and as soon as he appears to falter, there I will be, ready and waiting to seize the reigns of power”. On the face of it, that was a pretty good plan but unfortunately, the right wing insurgency hasn’t seemed to have materialised, Cameron is proving to be much more resilient than many gave him credit for and Boris is still knee-deep in being Mayor and having to appear like he isn’t a total disaster. Worsts.

 

The upshot of all this is that Boris is now rather boxed in when it comes to shows like Question Time. In the past, he could happily play things for laughs, do that whole ‘look at me, using long words and getting in flap’ thing and still go home knowing that one day, the time would be right for him to go for the leadership. Now, he has to temper all the idiosyncracies with a measure of sensibility and present a picture of someone who might actually be capable of getting dressed in the morning, let alone be charge of the capital. That’s not to say that he didn’t have the odd flourish here and there on last night’s show and there were times when he made the odd funny, but I can’t help thinking that he just seems a little frustrated and lost at the moment. It’s also personally galling as I spent a fair bit of time making this pshop of him last night (see Fig. 1) in the certainty that he was going to drop a clanger when it came to the inevitable protest question, but he didn’t really go beyond the standard ‘oiks are bad’ line, much to my chagrin. So come on Boris, let’s just drop the façade. Yes, you were infuriating when you were knee-deep in your ‘Blimey, I think my flies are undone’ phase but I prefer outrage to muted ambivalence so buck up your ideas and stop being so damn…. so damn… not weird! Enough said.

boris johnson riot bike

Fig. 1

 

So, on to Diane who is also in a not dissimilar pickle having hewed her public persona out of the quarry non-conformism, an exercise that is pretty easy from the backbenches but much tougher when you’re having to at least make a semblance of toeing the party line. In actual fact, I think she came off worse than Boris did because she seems so unused to speaking anything other than what’s on her mind. At points, it seemed the two of them were engaged in a contest of who could apply the word ‘vindictive’ the most times to the other’s policies, but despite a late rally on the EMA question, Boris emerged the victor. Also, when it came to the questions about the protest march and Libya, it was pretty clear that she was really having to reign herself in and not just march headlong into a protracted rant about where Labour went wrong, a situation that lent an air of uncertainty to her performance. Not all of this is Diane’s fault as Labour itself is still grappling with the thorny issue of what they actually stand for and just what in the hell to make of the Blair/Brown legacy, but I very much got the impression that she was pulling her punches last night. For someone who made their name by having principles that went beyond the straight jacket of party politics, that’s not a good look, even if it is a look that inevitably comes with the territory. My advice Dianne? Just jack it in now. You were very effective at playing the role of conscience to the Labour party and I miss you trying to grapple with The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name between you and Portillo on the This Week sofa. In fact, I’ll pay you to go back on This Week because if I see Jacqui Smith on there one more time, I don’t know what I might do. Seriously, I could become capable of some horrible, horrible things if I have to go through that again. So, please Dianne, for the sake of the nation.

Up next we have Sarah Teather, a woman so geometrically round (not fat, just round) that she appears to be constructed from a set of interlocking circles (see Fig. 2) and is enduring a similar fate to that of Baroness Warsi; the post-election shunt to the political broom cupboard. Prior to last May’s WTF-ery one could be forgiven for thinking that Teather was the only Liberal Democrat in existence thanks to her seemingly endless appearances on shows like Question Time, but since then she’s been notable only by her absence. I’m wondering if some of this is actually of her own volition because she spent most of last night looking like a naughty school child in the middle of receiving the mother of all bollockings (much like Cable in the earlier post-election chapters of The Passion St. Vince) and given her generally hangdog demeanour, it was pretty clear that she wasn’t enjoying herself. Part of me thinks this is shame because when she was in heavy rotation, she was bloody good, harrying both Labour and the Tory’s in equal measure whenever the opportunity presented itself and you could occasionally see some of the residue of her past glory on last night’s show, like when she came out fighting about the proposed replacement for EMA. However, another part of me thinks that actually, this is a necessary part of the process: Watching people like Teather go from being some of the most persuasive proponents of genuinely progressive policies to playing the gimp in Osborne’s S&M Dungeon has been painful for me to watch and I can at least take a little comfort in the fact that these people still have a conscience left to punish themselves with. In that sense, we really are All In This Together.

sarah-teather-circles-gif

Fig. 2

OK, I’ve waffled about the first three quite a bit so let’s make it brief for Victim’s #4 and #5. First up is TUC bod Mark Serwotka who did a decent job at not being Bob Crow. Yes, some of it sounded a bit pious and soapboxy, but at least I didn’t have to hide under the covers through the fear that he might physically smash his way out of the TV screen and then punch me repeatedly for not going on the march (I am sorry Bob. I was at home playing Battlefield: Vietnam. I think that makes it even worse, doesn’t it?). But yes, he did pretty well and there was fairly broad (but by no means unanimous) support for the union position last night. I must say though, he does have a really weird accent, almost like it’s half Welsh and half Yorkshire. In purely geographic terms, that would place him somewhere around Congleton which is fortuitous because I happen to love the word ‘Congleton’. Try it. ‘Congleton’. ‘Congllllllllllleton’. Ace isn’t it?

Finally we have Clive Anderson and I must say that I was left a little confused by his performance (I think he was as well). I think it stems from the fact that his brain clearly works at a million miles an hour but isn’t very good at discriminating between the Relevant and the Only Just Sort Of Relevant, as was evidenced in most of last night’s responses. He’d always start by attempting to address the question but then keep jumping onto minor tangents as they popped into his head. As these tangents multiplied, he’d get further and further from the original point and would eventually end up in a position that was only very tenuously related to the topic in hand. The stuff itself all seemed to sound OK and he’s clearly not an idiot, but all the mental hop-scotch made him appear a little like a labrador chasing a plastic bag and I just ended up a little nonplussed by it all. The other thing I noticed is that he’d make a very good mascot. His face has a very mascot-like quality to it. If the showbiz work ever dries up Clive, give me a bell. You’d look great on my mantlepiece.

Final lap now. This is usually where I fob the crowd off with a few muttered platitudes and then leg it on to the scores so that I can get on with my Friday night, but not tonight Lemmings. In fact, I’m actually going to give the crowd a bit of a fairer do in this report because there was a marvellous little scene near the end that warrants a little extra attention. It started when the girl who asked the EMA question, Gladys, got offered a second bite of the apple by Dimbers. Pitching her tone just right (she sounded thoughtful but concerned), Gladys explained how EMA had really helped her and that she and her mates had used the money to buy sensible, education type things. Well done there Gladys, nicely put, have some claps. Then, out of nowhere came this proper foghorn of a woman in a red top who a gave it a bit of the old “I had a part-time job when I was a student”. BOOM! Half the crowd went mad for that and it looked like the Foghorn had delivered a match winning blow. But what’s this? It’s Gladys and she’s right back in there with a “So did I”! ZING! The other half of the crowd go mad as Gladys goes on to explain how she couldn’t have afforded books without EMA, unaware that she’s just exposed a flank for the Foghorn to exploit: “Go to the Library then” intones the Foghorn and the crowd now rips itself in two, half cheering, half booing. “But the libraries are all being closed!” says Gladys and KABLAMO! It’s all over. Bloody great. More of that please. And the rest of the crowd? Yeah…. whatever.

Tl:dr

Boris: Muted

6/10

Abbott: Uprooted

5/10

Teather: Refuted

5/10

Serwotka: Suited

6/10

Anderson: Rerouted

5/10

Gladys: Undisputed

9/10

So there you go, a LCCPQTMR first: A score to an individual crowd member. Truly, we are breaking new ground. Right, I’m done here and am going to get about the business of having a Friday night. Next week Lemmings, next week…


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