Posts Tagged 'Douglas Alexander'

Questionable Time #132


qt 132

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to the green, green grass of Questionable Time! I apologise unreservedly for the unsightly delay due to being forced into drudgery at my university library all day, toiling without reward. Still, considering the (mainly) weak panel, I don’t believe I missed much. Things are bound to get more exciting as we approach the day of reckoning, however…and Dimbleby should break out his most outrageous tie to celebrate.

Ed Milibanter

I always mistake Elizabeth/Liz Truss for the author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Lynne Truss, but sadly she is not the author of a popular punctuation guide but rather the author of a book that I have no real desire to read named ‘Britannia Unchained’, which sounds like an X Factor winner’s debut song but isn’t. She begins, in response to a man in the crowd calling on politicians to stop slinging mud at each other, by immediately reiterating Michael Fallon’s criticisms of Ed Miliband being a bit dodgy-like…by slinging some more lovely mud. Comments about ‘stabbing the country in the back’, which definitely have no uncomfortable, sinister undertones to them, are super cool ‘n’ cute, apparently.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Wee Dougie Alexander looks agog, which is at least a step up from his usual expression/tone of voice – that of ‘gormless drone’. He even calls the comments “rubbish” and the Tories “desperate”, his surprise act of monotone passion garnering a round of applause from the audience. Unfortunately this leads to him being equally pressed about Labour mud-slinging (but dude, it was like, at PMQs, which is totes different yeah?).

Tim Stanley, the poshest man alive (of course he is named Tim) is, to his credit, pointing out that the Labour party does not practice primogeniture, possibly unlike the Stanley clan, and it is 99% unlikely that Ed Miliband is not a sleeper agent for the KGB out to kill us all. They said the same slanderous things about Harold Wilson, and look how that turned out! Well, er, he went mad, yes…but only after a while.

Vince Cable, once the country’s lovable, be-fedora’d uncle, but now a sad, tired shell of his former ballroom-dancing self, makes some reasonable points about Trident, but his affable mumblings are interrupted by that of Caroline Lucas, who the Greens are probably really regretting not having at the Leaders’ Debates now. Bristol is one of the places where the Greens are aiming to win another parliamentary seat, so Cazza Luzza goes full throttle on her party’s core pledge of getting rid of Trident and using the money on saving us all from Al Gore’s roving bands of PowerPoints (2006-era jokes! Timely!). Dimbles challenges her on the figures, but by that point Tim has started to go on about ‘submarines of death’, which is much more interesting. He doesn’t even care. I admire that in a man.

Then a beautiful thing happens – in response to people trotting out the old ‘they’re all the same’ line, a girl in the audience appeals for people to stop being such lazy schmucks and Google the party’s policies, dinguses. This will no doubt go over the majority of the electorate’s heads, who are perfectly content to continue playing Angry Birds while whining that politics is all the same. No differences whatsoever! Can’t be bothered with it! Wahhhh! I hope Joey Essex and his election crusade can show us all the light someday. That’s completely sincere, by the way – but we’re getting off topic.

Always use a non-dom

…Or not, according to Hunky Ed the Labour Lothario. Dimbleby interrogates Douglas about Ed Balls’ iffy support for the new Labour policy, to which Alexander responds that – conspiracy shock! – the Tories edited that one video and ya can’t trust nuffink. #staywokesheeple.

Liz snorts that it won’t make any money. Dimbles quotes Ed Miliband saying it’s a moral issue. BUT DEFICIT, replies Liz. Then Dimbleby, out of nowhere, references Caroline saying Vince could make “eating babies” sound palatable. (It was in a Guardian ‘Blind Date’ piece, and to be fair those are always weird).

Oh, no. Here comes Tim, riding in, defending the nondommers. I have begun to notice that he sounds somewhat like George Osborne, which is strange since apparently he was a member of the Labour Party in his youth. I’m going off him now, especially when he shows his immense love for trickle-down economics. A single tear now trickles down my face. Tim has been born into the wrong time period. He needs to be helping Ronald Reagan on his election campaign in 1980, not facing a manically grinning Caroline Lucas in the year of our Lord 2015. Poor Tim. Poor, loaded Tim.

A Blair scare to raise your hair

Next question: should Tony Blair have re’surfaced’, presumably from his coffin. Sinister.

Tim wants a referendum purely because Blair is terrifying. Vince, glowing Liberally, says a referendum would be an awful idea and we should, funnily enough, all listen to Blair because of that one time when he stepped down and Parliament applauded him. A lady in the crowd, who is a criminologist don’tchaknow, thinks it’s ~well dodge~ for Tonezone to come back, being as he is an (alleged, don’t sue me Tony) war criminal.

“Douglas!” exclaims Dimbleby brightly, why don’t you answer that? Douglas stammers but moves on hastily to make an impassioned (well, as impassioned as ol’ Dugs gets) defence of Europe. Innocent until proven guilty, he adds! (I wonder where the Chilcot Inquiry is now? Having a margarita in Barbados, most likely.)

Caroline wants to “CHALLENGE!” (her emphasis, not mine) the others on taking Euroscepticism for the left, flag aloft, presenting herself like a Joan of Arc who fights not with swords but with wind farms. To which the others respond with bickering about a possible referendum. She makes this face, seen below. I imagine it would be a very useful face for internet debates, and so I bequeath it to you all.

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

Why hasn’t there been a referendum already? Lib Dems, innit, says Liz. Nahhhh bro, you nasty, says Vince. Ain’t even bovvered, adds Dougie. I’m paraphrasing here. And then a man in the audience makes a simply stunning comment. Why weren’t the English and Welsh asked their opinions during the Scottish referendum? Because if anyone is really ignored in this Parliament, it’s the English. What? You mean the Scottish referendum should be for the Scots to decide? Pfuh – what a silly idea! Utterly laughable!

Liz finally gets a grip on things, and makes a good point about cases of direct democracy such as the #indyref getting people involved and actually debating about a certain topic. The problem is that particular topic drowning out everything else and getting other bad news swept under the rug. There needs to be a balance, although we’re not going to find it here. The melody of Questionable Time plays on…

Last up, why should students trust Labour’s pledge to cut tuition fees? Because they ‘won’t get fooled again’? Vince gets asked first, to much laughter, and says that Labour screwed it up first, so we’re all victims here! Douglas replies that this isn’t true, and that Labour will reduce fees by taxing the aforementioned rich because we don’t want the students on our back like rabid wolverines (any more than they usually are). Tim pooh-poohs this. Whatever happens, he says, we’re all “going to be living in a world of pain”. Except Tim, nice but dim. He’ll be swimming in his money bath.

Caroline rubs her hands with glee. She’s only got 10 seconds, but manages to shit-fling at everyone. An impressive result. Liz blurts out that awful ‘they’re all the same’ line in that same amount of time. Douglas shrieks about this being a lie, again, and Cazza shouts “anti-austerity party!” as loud as she can as the proverbial klaxon goes. Then she grins devilishly. She knows what she did.

She knows.

Time for the scores!

Truss: 5/10

(Up for a) Trussle Tussle

Alexander: 6/10

(On the) Plus (side, he was less boring than last time)

Cable: 6/10

(About to get his) Bus (pass)

Lucas: 7/10

(Eager to) Discuss (the merits of disarmament)

Stanley: 6/10

Rus(tled some feathers)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Not in the mood to) Trust

Next time: Piers Morgan. Oh God no.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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…

Questionable Time #113


qt 113

Good morrow lemmings and a wet and windy welcome to this week’s edition of Questionable Time! One hopes the weather hasn’t spoiled your excitement for today’s event! So, without further ado and in the spirit of Bonfire Night, let’s set this place on fire. Flame on!

Behold the non-ginger DAlex

Dimbleby’s got his goldfish tie on this week so the answer to our first question – are we in crisis/a big lump of doggy doo-doo – is clearly yes.

First on the floor is Chazza Kennedy. How dare he get the show off to a great start by being sensible and likable. I won’t stand for this, on this show, my show, where one demands that all panellists be eye-twitching at least and vomit-inducing at most. But Charles ain’t into that. He thinks there’ll be another hung parliament, perhaps wishing it into being by sheer force of will, and tries to mention Nick Clegg as little as he possibly can. Excellent job Charlie. I have a feeling you’ll go far, you young rapscallion.

As Charles is busy being so rational, Dimbleby gets bored almost immediately and we jump straight to Douglas Alexander to ask him why Ed Miliband is so crap. Ed’s been having a tough week and election strategist Douglas is his first line of defence against the critics. However, this is rather spoiled by Wee Dougie being the most boring man in the world. If you were lucky enough to have seen his infamous Powerpoint at the Labour conference this year, you’ll know what I’m talking about. People were rolling in the aisles! Unfortunately, this was due to them all falling asleep at the same time.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Dougboy asserts that Labour is still the best party out there, but Dimbles keeps rattling on about the whole Miliband issue. While Douglas attemps a comeback, Brandon Lewis, Conservative housing and planning minister, is on the scene. #Poppywatch: he’s got possibly the tiniest poppy in existence on his lapel. Careful Brandon, or you’ll get the Sun on your back for being a traitor! He rattles off some Tory achievements and says they’re working very hard in Rochester – I should think so, considering Michael Gove is relentlessly hounding Conservative MPs who don’t pay a visit like an awful Telltale Heart living under your floorboards.

Meanwhile comedian Matt Forde says that the fact that everyone is so moderate nowadays is all thanks to his hero, Tony Blair. Also, people should learn from Farage! I wonder if Nigel considers him part of the liberal comedy conspiracy? Then he does an impression of Ed Miliband and everyone stops for a moment to boggle in amazement and horror.

Oops, and here comes trouble – you see, there’s been a bit of a controversy relating to the lovely UKIP gentlemen in the front row. Turns out that the BBC invited three UKIP Parliamentary candidates into the front of the audience and took multiple contributions from them without mentioning the fact that they were candidates! The internet is in uproar, of course. I’m not sure how often PPCs from other parties are in QT audiences – can anyone verify? I don’t know, it just seems sketchy to me! #butthat’snoneofmybusiness

But really, what’s the difference when you have Melanie Phillips on the panel? Last time I saw her, she disappointed in not being particularly repellent in her views, possibly because she had been asked to tone it down due to shenanigans. And for now, she hasn’t unleashed the beast…yet. But do not fear, my sweets. Some prime-cut ridonkulousness is a-coming…

Finally, when asked about who would be a better Labour leader than Ed, a confused young man in the audience answers with this beautifully dignified reply:

“There’s, er…Chucka Oomanna…?”

The audience softly groans, like someone would when they hear a favourite TV show has been rescheduled for a different timeslot (although not their ultimate favourite, don’t want to get too exciting here). Looks like poor smooth Chuka’s out of the running then. (What about ‘anime eyes’ Andy Burnham? He’s definitely the prettiest and cutest, so he’d win the One Directioner vote. And Yvette Cooper happens to be a woman – they’re in vogue now.) Wow boys and girls, isn’t this exciting?

Kipper Klusters: rich in vitamin D

Now for some immigration talk and Melanie kicks the door down outta nowhere. Multiculturalism?! she rages. No! Not multiculturalism! National identity! We’ve always been Celts! And then Saxons! And then Normans! Damn, look at all that national identity! It’s okay if they’re from similar cultures…but weird ones? Weird to Melanie Phillips, that is? Oh no!

I’ve had enuff of this anti-EU guff! bellows Matt in return, and Brandon bravely fights back by sitting on the fence. Charles takes the always-popular line of dissing Thatcher (well, except in, like, Finchley) and, secondly, that UKIP guy in the audience. Then the rest of the audience also rounds on the front row Kipper Kluster, and chaos ensues. Fight! Fight! Fight!

Luckily, Douglas Alexander puts us all to sleep before someone can get hurt.

The next question is on the clusterfuck of an abuse inquiry that probably should have started by now. A big neon sign flashing ‘TREAD CAREFULLY’ practically lights up above the panel’s heads. Thankfully, all there is to report is some respectful discussion about appointing the right chair, and the nature of the establishment, but then…Melanie Phillips steps up in her own very special way. This inquiry is nonsense, apparently, because all sorts of terrible things happen all the time and nothing gets done about it. Then she points out that sexualisation of children is a societal problem – true, true – but then.

But then.

Sex education is apparently causing a ‘paedophile society’. That is literally what she said. Let it settle in. Let it marinate.

Yes, teaching kids about where babies come from and to respect their boyfriends and girlfriends – unforgivable! It caused Savile! No, hundreds of Saviles, dancing in a line! Well hand me a cigar and call me Jim’ll. The panel snorts in derision as they very well should.

Now let’s all listen to Charles Kennedy instead. I’m not even a Lib Dem or anything but…luv u Charlie 5eva (that means I luv him more than 4eva). Kiss kiss.

I apologise for Questionable Time’s institutional anti-North bias

Final question: should there be an elected assembly for the North East? I’m swiftly losing the will to live, so let’s make this quick. Sorry, Northern-types.

The crowd, who have already been extremely rowdy tonight, use this opportunity to hector with all their might. Melanie thinks this will all end in tears. Don’t we know it. Douglas drones on about how George Osborne needs to sod off. Don’t we know it. Charles Kennedy mentions Mags Thatcher for a third time this edition. Don’t we…know it?

In the end, nothing of any value is said and we all go home crying and snotty. I guess Melanie Phillips was right after all.

Time for the scores!

Kennedy: 9/10

Reign(s over QT like a pudgy ginger king)

Alexander: 5/10

(Did not have much to) Gain

Lewis: 5/10

Plain Jane

Phillips: 4/10

Bane (of one’s life)

Forde: 5/10

Pain(ful impressions aside…)

The Crowd: 7/10

Again, again!

Next time: WELSHYYYYyyyyYYYYyyyy

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #92


questionable time 92 david dimbleby ramones

Good morning Lemmings and RUN FOR YOUR LIVES, THERE’S A BLOODY PIGEON ON THE LOOSE! Scary stuff indeed but you’ll be pleased to know that not even this impromptu intervention from Mother Nature could stop the behemoth that is QT. No, rather than run the risk of incurring Nick Hewer’s best You Have Disappointed Me So Now I Shall Suck A Lemon face, the pigeon wisely went to ground (most likely in Susan Kramer’s hair) and disaster was narrowly averted. Phew! Mopped brows all round then! Anyway, the following also happened. Observe if you will…

I should like Douglas Alexander but…

At face value there’s much to like about Douglas Alexander: There’s that lovely soft accent, the weeness of his form, those innocent little eyes and the fact that he always looks so very, very clean (which – incidentally – is a trait shared by Jeremy Hunt, possibly the cleanest looking MP in the land). All these things combined with a political career largely free from scandal make him the sort of fellow that it’s very hard to militate any ill-will against, yet if I’m being completely honest I do harbour a certain something against Wee Dougie and it’s taken me an awfully long time to figure out why that is. It’s all about control.

Let’s start with an example: There was a moment in the first question where Susan Kramer said something about the economy being on the mend and you could almost hear the switch tripping in his brain – the switch labelled This Is Something I should Appear To Be Angry About. Anyway, ‘clunk’ goes the switch and out comes this little spiel about how she should be ashamed of herself and that this is no time to be performing “a lap of honour”. ‘Fair play’ you may say as the point itself was not without validity but the way in which he suddenly turned on the indignation made me do a double take because it didn’t sit right. Why? Well because it wasn’t really indignation as indignation is something that issues from the heart, not the head and it can’t be turned on and off at will. This though – this was different: It was a measured, controlled and unfeeling response that had clearly been prefabricated earlier on and was ready for deployment from the get-go. The same goes for when he tried to ambush Zahawi with the small matter of his dealings with private health companies: It was delivered as an unexpected ‘Gotcha!’, an incidental opportunity that he’d just stumbled upon but you could tell that it was anything but that and more likely a part of a very rigid game plan he’d had from the start.

So what’s the big deal here? Am I saying that politicians shouldn’t think before they speak? That having a game plan is somehow duplicitous? Well no – of course they’re going to have a game plan. Everyone has a game plan on QT – that’s just the way it is and thinking is generally a positive thing when it comes to running the country. However, what does rustle my jammies is the way that Dougie can’t quite bring himself to let go and just run with real, unconfined indignation rather than constantly trying to keep it within the strict parameters of what he thinks a politician should look like. It speaks of a man who has somehow got fallibility confused with failing, whose approach to risk is one of aversion and that’s a shame because we actually rather like fallibility – primarily because it’s a confirmation of humanity. Just ask Boris… or Ken… or Nige… or Gorgeous George (etc, etc, etc)…

I shouldn’t like Zahawi, but…

And why shouldn’t I like Zahawi? Let us count the ways.

      1. He was a former aide to Jeffrey Archer.
      2. He’s been less than squeaky clean when it comes to expenses.
      3. He’s at the economically nuttier end of the Tory party.
      4. His approach to most debates is similar to a bull’s approach to china shopping.
      5. He looks like an angry/disappointed potato (see Fig. 1) and his head is a geometric paradox (consistently ovoid from the front and yet a perfect square from the side).
      6. Nadhim Zahawi angry potato

        Fig. 1

nadhim zahawi impossible head

Fig. 2

It’s also fair to say that this performance was so-so, what with his crap joke about Bob Crow falling flat on its face (probably because he planned on eulogising him but got cold feet when Hewer sucked on an almighty lemon about people who didn’t like Bob Crow eulogising Bob Crow) and his flappery about tax avoidance when he himself has been known to use various schemes that ‘help the wealthy minimise and avoid taxes’. However, I can’t help but like him for precisely the reasons that I struggle with Dougie: For better or worse, Zahawi is unabashedly human and comfortably out of control. He screws stuff up, let’s his mouth run away with itself and goes an endearing shade of red when he knows he’s in hot water but at least you are left in no doubt that he genuinely means what he says. True, quite a lot of what he says is totally bonkers but I’d take genuine madness over contrived sanity any day of the week.

‘Tis that time of year!

…For Susan Kramer to be taken out of hibernation and paraded in front of the nation on QT again! Hooray/hoorah indeed! And how did Question Time’s resident tortoise emerge into the crisp light of spring this year? Well, the same as she always does – by talking at the same volume as a tour guide in a service station (not quite shouting but near as dammit) and constantly looking at some unspecified point on the ceiling of the studio. Well done Susan, we’ll see you again in the autumn for the now traditional Bedding Her Down for Winter episode.

All hail Hewer, Long Faced Champion of the Universe…

I’m shorter on space than I hoped so I’ll keep this brief: Steepled fingers, elongated vowels combined with laconic understatement (“Yeeeeeeeeees… Bob Crow. My word”), that weird confluence of ultra-capitalism and social conscience that marked the heyday of New Labour, ungladly suffered fools and a damn good eye for the Russians. God I love Hewer.

Oakeshott and the perils of Telling It Like It Is…

There’s a certain art to Telling It Like It Is and the cardinal rule is not to look so bloody pleased with yourself when doing so. Alas, this point seems lost on Oakeshott who may well have been on to something when she posited that the NHS was essentially bankrupt but the point was lost behind the self-satisfaction of being the first to deliver the bad news (it was sort of like turning up to your burning homestead and being greeted by a grinning fireman). In short, good diagnostic abilities but poor bedside manner.

Tl;dr

Kramer: 6/10

(Talks rather) Loud

Alexander: 5/10

(Should be) Allowed (to get stuff wrong)

Zahawi: 6/10

Ploughed (his way through)

Hewer: 8/10

(Had me on) Cloud (9)

Oakeshott: 4/10

(Is a little too) Proud (to be the bearer of bad news)

The Crowd: 6/10

(Rhyme with all the above).

…So that’s what you get when you cram a bunch of people into a hall with an errant pigeon. It’ll do for me. Right, I’m done and will be back next week, albeit a little later in the day than usual as I have stuff and things to attend to – like desperately wishing The Apprentice was back on the telly.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #71


questionable time 71 david dimbleby agatha christie

Good morning Lemmings and boy am I in a good mood today. Why? Because an old friend who I feared had disappeared from the face of the earth came crashing back into my life on Tuesday, a friend that I last recall seeing sometime around May 2010. That’s right Lemmings, Politics is back! Now, that may sound odd as many of the things we associate with Politics – you know, grown men and women jeering at each other, all the ‘he said/she said/you’re not playing with my toys’ sort of thing – have remained but that wasn’t actually Politics: That was just the political classes going through the motions while Politics quietly switched off its mobile and left a voicemail greeting along the lines of ‘Sorry I’m not available to provide you with distinct and tangible alternatives to the current state of affairs at the moment but you never know, give it a few years and I might be able to sort something out on the front.’. All of that changed on Tuesday when the Red Team finally snapped out of its torpor and actually started talking about those long forgotten things known as ‘policies’. Lemmings, I could have wept with joy.

Anyway, what does this sudden return of my missing companion mean for Question Time? It means a right belter of an episode. Observe.

Finally, the Red Team has a tune to make the Blue Team dance to…

…And oh how Gove danced, pressing Wee Dougie to his chest in a passionate embrace as they whirled and pirouetted across the floor. This came as somewhat of a surprise as I initially thought Gove was going for a ‘damning with faint praise’ line of attack (the chief means a politician has of appearing unrattled when they are in fact very much rattled) but the praise wasn’t that faint at all and extended way beyond energy policy. Miliband? Nice bloke, heart’s in the right place, just a shame that his party is still a well of Brownian Bile. McBride? Terrible business but Wee Dougie’s clean as a whistle. Kenya? We’re on the same page. Granted, he did land some forceful punches here and there (the holding of the blank sheet of paper and claiming it was Labour’s education policy was a nice touch) but the tone was very much one of ‘call off the dogs’.

So what’s going on here? It’s tempting to explain this away with the obvious answer that the Tories, concerned by how much Labour’s new-found backbone in the face of corporate interests is resonating with the public, are preparing the ground to steal (or at least knock off a passable replica) of the Red Team’s energy policy while they still can but this is Gove we’re dealing with: Like him or loath him, there’s no getting away from the fact that he’s a very canny and ambitious operator. No, I suspect this runs deeper than a single policy and relates to the Blue Team’s longer term strategy of boxing Labour into the centre ground with the threat of painting Miliband as ‘Red Ed’. So far this has worked a treat as it’s kept the debate squarely on terms that the Tories dictate and hampered Labour’s freedom of movement but Miliband’s speech on Tuesday represented a huge bluff call on Labour’s part and one that appears to have paid off: ‘Red Ed’ – it seems – is surprisingly popular with the public. Now Gove’s cluey enough to spot a busted flush when he sees one and I’d venture that his performance last night was an attempt to cushion the blow until they can come up with an effective counter and on that front he did rather well. After all, it’s very difficult to look like a genuine alternative to the status quo when Michael Gove is agreeing with the bulk of what you’re saying.

(A Minor Aside: Ever notice how much a young Michael Gove looks like Velma from Scooby Doo? No? Then see Fig .1)

yound michael gove velma scooby doo

Fig. 1

And what did Wee Dougie make of all this unexpected romancing? Well it’s very hard to tell as he only has three facial expressions – Slightly Ticked Off when he’s really fuming, Mildly Tickled when he’s exploding with joy and Vaguely Dahhhhhhh for every other occasion – so we’ll just have to chalk this up as another mystery in the vast unknowable that is the Inside of Douglas Alexander’s Head.

Something sarky this way comes…

Transfixed as I was by Gove whisking Dougie off his feet I couldn’t help but notice another presence in the dance hall – a sneering, menacing presence that should really have been wearing a black leather jacket and playing with a flick-knife. Yup, that’s right, Will Self was on again and as is usually the case he managed to make some of the best points of the show in absolutely the worst way possible. That to my mind is a great shame because it’s rare you get someone who’s so clearly intelligent and outspoken on QT, yet every damn time he’s on he just throws it away by crossing the invisible boundary between Satisfyingly Sarcastic and Oozing Moral Superiority before he’s even finished his first sentence. It breaks my heart Lemmings, it really does. Having said that though, the little panto tiff between him and Gove was pretty entertaining and lead me to spend most of the night thinking about who’d win if they did actually “take it outside”. My money’s on Self… By a whisker.

And what of the rest?

It’s nice to see that The Daily Express has finally stopped pretending that there’s even an iota of impartiality left to fight its way through the wall-to-wall coverage of Diana/Maddy/Seemingly Innocuous Things That Will Kill You by having a Chief Political Correspondent who’s going to run as a UKIP candidate… We’re through the looking-glass here Lemmings. Anyway, how did he do? Well, on the plus side he managed – unlike his recently de-whipped colleague – to not to call any female audience members slags, beat Michael Crick around the head or to write off an entire continent as ‘Bongo-Bongo Land’ . That just left him with the usual Kipper message of a plague on all your houses (a win-win for an Express writer as he could then knock out at least a hundred front pages about the threat to house prices from plagues) but he hasn’t quite got that cartoony aspect to him that make UKIP so fun on QT. Maybe that’ll come through when he packs in the day job. As for Louise Cooper, well she seems game for a laugh, engaging enough and her bit on the price freeze was good. It’s just a shame that she slipped into caps-lock mode with that MY FAMILY ARE VERY IMPORTANT TO ME blather at the end. Oh well, hey-ho…

Tl;dr

Gove: 6/10

(Is clearly up to some)Thing

Alexander: 6/10

(Had a lovely little) Fling (with Gove)

O’Flynn: 5/10

(Employed the standard array of UKIP) Sling(s and arrows)

Self: 5/10

(Is long and thin… Much like) String

Cooper: 5/10

(Did seem to) Wing (it a bit at the end)

The Crowd: 5/10

(Are all fans of seminal early-90’s novelty act The Sultan’s of) Ping (FC)

Now, don’t be fooled by those lacklustre scores because this was a great a show: Meaty, dense and pacey (not to mention the fact that my two favourite stereotypes – a man in an elaborate bow tie and an angry vicar – were also represented). So yes, it appears that not only is my old friend Politics is back, but so too is Question Time. God I’ve missed you guys…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #64


questionable time 64 david dimbleby toreador bullfighter

Good morning Lemmings and you all owe me a big one. Remember how I said I was going on holiday in search of this mysterious ‘Sun’ business? Well I found it, hacked off a small chunk and successfully smuggled it back through Leeds-Bradford Airport at great personal risk because that’s the sort of selfless guy I am. It’s in the sky right now and I have to say I’m rather taken by it. Anyway, if you can take your squinting eyes off it for a second, here’s what happened on last night’s Question Time...

 

I had high hopes for Margot James…

Given the rolling hullabaloo that is the Tory party’s attitude towards gay marriage it’s probably not the easiest job being the Blue Team’s first openly lesbian MP, let alone one that’s also against an EU referendum and has the ability to come across as a vaguely normal person. As it happens, Margot James is all these things and very bloody good at them she is too, what with her bopping a series of less-than-touchy-feely True Blue noses on the Commons’ floor in the past few months. So, she’s got QT-Pro-In-The-Making written all over her, right? Well, not quite.

 

James’ first problem is a common one for QT n00bs and mainly relates to how far you throw your punches. For some it’s a case of over-extending yourself too early, lunging at your opponent with an elaborate spiel only to find that you’re now totally overexposed and taking kidney punches from four separate directions – think Warsi a few years back or Dories when she’s been at the catnip and you’re on the money. However, this isn’t the case for James and if anything, she suffers from the polar opposite of this syndrome: She’s not throwing them far enough. Take for example the first question on Labour’s new welfare duds. Here’s an open goal with oodles of potential for mischief yet Margot let it slip by with only a cursory jab at her opponent that may well have stung but certainly didn’t result in any real damage. It was the same with the bulk of her other responses too: Short range, compact little affairs that while conforming to the spirit of our weekly political Fight Club failed to show off any real taste for blood.

 

However, I will give her this – she dealt with the ambush on lobbying rather well for a first timer. Some of this is purely circumstantial as Yaqoob inadvertently threw her a lifeline by blathering over the top of the really dangerous moment but I was heartened to see a well-timed deployment of the Knowing Smile. This came after the failure of her Dear Sir, Imagine My Concern escape plan and sort of amounted to an unspoken Fair Play Guv, Banged To Right’s. Granted, it’s not the best way to lead your life but it did the trick of disarming the crowd and moving matters along before they got really fraught.

 

So a mixed bag then. On the one hand James has already proven that she’s able enough to avoid going fully-n00b but there’s definitely room for improvement – like checking the Register of Members Interests for your own culpability before appearing on a Lobbygate-heavy edition of Question Time.

 

I’ve finally figured out what Douglas Alexander’s superpower is…

…It’s Acoustic Camouflage, a deft little trick where the timbre of your voice is just so dry that the listener is baffled to the point where the content is indecipherable. It happened throughout last night’s show and is so effective that I don’t actually have a clue as to what he said about anything (which is just as well since the same also applies to Labour’s new stance on benefits) nor did I find myself caring much either way.

 

On top of this, Wee Dougie also has a supplementary power which I call Emotional Muting – a sort of internal dampening mechanism that makes it really hard to discern what he’s actually getting at. For example, he had numerous to-do’s with Margot James where the way his lips were flapping and the few words that registered said ‘this guy is angry’ yet the overall impression was of a slightly fidgety man who was trying to work out whether he set Holby City to record or not. Sure, neither of these powers are up with flight or ESP, but they’re certainly useful if you’re in the market for making people slightly perplexed and nonplussed.

 

Yaqoob showed us how this QT lark is done…

Remember when the Respect Party resembled something slightly more nuanced than a ramshackle vehicle for conveying George Galloway’s supersized ego into everyone’s faces? No? Well I do and that was largely down to Salma Yaqoob, the party’s Adult-in-Chief before she got so hacked off with Galloway that she threw herself out of the passenger seat and set up a makeshift camp on the hard shoulder. Anyway, it’s Respect’s loss as last night she proved just how good she can be: Measured, passionate and in it for the right reasons whilst never straying into the territory of shrill. So top marks then? ‘Fraid not as the waffling over James’ Oh Bugger moment applied a portion of fly to an otherwise immaculate ointment but seeing as no-one’s ever got top marks on Questionable Time I wouldn’t complain.

 

Lord Oakeshott: He does exactly the opposite of what it says on the tin…

What the tin says: A Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords who represents the interests of a party in government.

 

What he actually is: Some guy who hates the House of Lords, hates the government and probably hates his party as well.

 

Love it, love it, love it.

 

And A. N. Wilson?

I’ll level with you, I thought this guy was going to be a train wreck but in actual fact he was pretty good fun. Ok, so all the banging on about ‘Debt this, debt that’ was a little predictable but he was clearly having a blast and the way his sentences were constantly in danger of ending with a phrase like ‘Whoopsie-daisy!’ was all rather jovial. I just wish he’d worn his Hogwarts/Accelerated Decrepitude get-up to really seal the deal (see Fig. 1).

 

an wilson question time

Fig. 1

Tl;dr

 

James: 5/10

(Has a way to) Go

 

Alexander: 5/10

(Exactly what he said I do not) Know

 

Yaqoob: 8/10

(Is my new) Beau

 

Oakeshott: 7/10

(Will) Kowtow (to no man)

 

Wilson: 6/10

(Probably lives in something that looks like a) Chateau

 

The Crowd: 7/10

(Like eating Play) Doh

 

Speaking of the crowd, they were a colourful bunch weren’t they? Now, before you all get on your high horses and accuse me of casting aspersions about cross dressers who aren’t very good at cross dressing I’d just like to say a) he really wasn’t very good at cross dressing and b) I was more shocked by the lad with the Skrillex haircut/facial piercings who went to all the effort of putting on a suit. The overall look was a little… disjointed.

 

Right, that’s me. Enjoy the Sun that I’ve so generously provided.

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #36


questionable time 36 david dimbleby street fighter 2

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to Questionable Time’s which will from now on be having a bit of a timeshare with Indy Voices. That’s right, after years of lurking menacingly in the darkened recesses at the very bottom of the internet, Indy Voices has finally seen the light/taken leave of its senses and unleashed this Thing That Should Not Be on the wider world. I see big things coming of this, Lemmings…. I see a nation, one nation of average, regular Joes who attended comprehensive schools and had perfectly normal childhoods’ discussing Dialectical Materialism with their parents, all marching forward to a brighter future. One Nation, Lemmings, One Nation Under Questionable Time.

Anyway, delusions of grandeur aside, I suppose I’d better explain what this is all about. Basically, every week The Independent will be running a somewhat edited version of Questionable Time on their website. Most of the content will be the same but there will probably be a bit more of it here and maybe some bonus content from time-to-time. So, if you like your Questionable Time to be shorter and sweeter, head to Indy Voices, but if you want the warts and all version, stick around here. Or do both. In fact, definitely do both.

. To Manchester we go…

A Personal Appeal to Ken Clarke…

Hello Ken… Can I call you Ken? It’s just that you’ve been in my life so long that I feel we can dispense with the formalities. Not only that, but I also feel a strange kinship towards you that has, over the years, developed to the point of a political crush. You see I was born in 1979 and my life to the age of 17 was dominated by a backdrop of wall-to-wall Conservatives, most of whom I had a very bad feeling about. You though, you were different. For example, while most of your peers were happy to carry on speeding into the night after running down some innocent bystander in that rolling political hit-and-run that were the Thatcher/Major years, you were the one who would stop, check that the hapless victim was still breathing and maybe call an ambulance from your newfangled car phone. Sure, you too would most likely flee the scene before the authorities turned up (“Sorry old boy, no hard feelings but I must be getting on”) but it was the thought that mattered. And so it was that I breathed a sigh of relief upon your appointment as Justice Secretary. At least someone on the Blue Team might be able to rein in the wilder excess of their peers.

But look Ken, look what’s happened! They’ve replaced you with a guy who looks like an angry baked bean and cast you into that weird netherworld populated by a shadowy people know as The Ministers Without Portfolios (or as I like to call them, Ministers For Staring Into The Middle Distance). Sure, they’ve made the obligatory noises about how you’ll be a roving “wise head” but let’s not kid ourselves, they’ve done a number on you and you know it.

And how do I know that you know it? Well, first off there’s the fact that you spent a lot of time sticking up for the process of tendering but couldn’t quite bring yourself to mount a steadfast defence of your colleagues. Then there was that little jibe about Tory “modernisers” that you managed to stop before it went too far, but it was there nevertheless. Finally, that little ambush that Dimbers set up at the end about your ‘responsibilities’?  You happily walked into that of your own free will. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it: They chucked you under a bus and no amount of talking very loudly will cover for the fact that it eats you up.

So what now, Ken? What is to be done? Well, common sense would suggest that you have two options available: A) Spend the next three years simply going through the motions as Minister For Staring Into The Middle Distance before resigning your seat in 2015 to accept the inevitable ticket to the Lords or B), tell ’em to get knotted and spend the next three years hurrumphing from backbenches before ascending to the upper house. Option B certainly sounds like it could be quite fun but I think I might have just stumbled on an Option C: Defect to the Lib Dems.

Think about it, Ken. You’re not a million miles away from them and given that you’d be the only person in the world actually seeking to join the Yellow Team, they’d give you anything you wanted. Sick of that yellow dove logo? Bang! It’s a purple basking shark. Unimpressed by The Land being the party’s de-facto anthem? Boom! It’s Mingus Ah Um! Not only that, but can you imagine the leaving do the Tory party would throw for you? I can and I’ve done my best to mock it up (see Fig. 1). Go on Ken, you know it makes sense.

ken clarke leaving do snake george osborne

Douglas Alexander should have employed The Reverse Pixies theory of politics…

Ah, Wee Dougie, nice to see you still wedged awkwardly between Steadily Dependable and Bordering on Dull. Unfortunately for you, tonight you ended up with the bulk of your body mass edging towards the Bordering on Dull side and that’s because you didn’t employ The Reverse Pixies method. Allow me to explain: The Pixies were always noted for structuring their songs in a certain way that is often referred to as Loud – Quiet – Loud. It’s dead simple really – you start your song off all guns blazing, crank down the ferocity to a whisper in the mid section and then finish it off with a hell-for-leather, balls-out assault. This formula works brilliantly for seminal early nineties alt-rock bands and also for some politicians (Farage sometimes pulls it off, although it’s usually Loud -Loud -Loud. Even when it is Loud – Quiet – Loud it’s because he hasn’t got a clue what he’s talking about in the middle bit). However, you are not that sort of politician but fear not because the Reverse Pixie (Quiet – Loud – Quiet) can be equally as potent.

I’ve seen you do it before on QT, lulling the crowd into a false sense of security with that measured, almost soothing tone of yours before shocking them back to reality with a sudden outburst in the middle of a spiel. Then, once the message has been delivered by means of verbal sledgehammer, you tuck them back in with some of that Scottish low-talking of yours. Unfortunately, you didn’t manage to pull off the Reverse Pixie tonight and what we actually got was Quiet – Quiet – Quiet, a method that only really appeals to fans of hellishly twee acoustic singer-songwriters and trust me Dougie, you don’t want their votes.

Just what exactly does Susan Kramer get up to when she’s not on Question Time?

Now this has been bothering me for a while: What exactly does Susan ‘Hair Like Cosmo Kramer From Seinfeld’ Kramer do? Well, a cursory glance at the internet suggests that she’s now a Baroness after losing her seat in 2010 (did you know that? I sure didn’t) but there it pretty much ends. No, the only thing that Susan Kramer actually does is appear on Question Time around once per year and this leads me to suspect the following: Baroness Kramer is the QT production team’s version of Blue Peter’s George the Tortoise (although with a slightly lopsided hibernation cycle). Once a year, they carefully remove a straw filled box that’s kept in the airing cupboard and gently coax her back to life with leaves of lettuce. Then, once the show is complete they gently lower her back into the container, check that the air holes are unobstructed and stow her away safely until another year dawns. It’s the only logical explanation.

Be that as it may, I must confess, this was a pretty good year for George Kramer, the Question Time Tortoise. Ok, so it wasn’t the toughest competition, what with Ken halfway checked-out and Dougie unable to crank the volume but fair to play to her, she did get the most claps. I also like the fact she really had it in for Willie Walsh, something that leads me to suspect that she spends most of her hibernation dreaming about being delayed at airports.

Talking of Willie Walsh…

Now here’s a guy I’m having trouble pinning down. On the upside, he’s more interesting than most of the business types they have in the dummy seat. Usually it’s all ‘blah blah CUT TAXES blah blah RED TAPE!’ but Willie Walsh seems to have a little more depth than that. However, that depth is offset by that weird, locked-down presentation where everything is delivered in such a controlled manner that you can’t help but wonder what’s really going on underneath. It’s not a deal breaker and his performance wasn’t bad but it does lend the whole thing an air of oddness that it probably could do without.

Now, while we’re on about business types being on the panel, I have a small suggestion to make. Can we please get Michael O’Leary of Ryanair fame on one day? Yes, I know he’s a bit of pillock and yes, he’ll try to turn the whole show into an hour-long Ryan Air commercial but seriously, it would be fun. That man is nothing if not value for money.

This whole Questionable Time on Indy Voices thing could come to a very abrupt end…

Huh… Well this is awkward… As long time readers of Questionable Time may know, I am not a fan of Janet Street-Porter’s QT outings, which is slightly tricky as she appears to be an Editor-at-Large for The Independent. Still, what’s the point in having barely constructed bridges if you can’t douse them in petrol and set them ablaze? Absolutely none, that’s what.

Alas, I have to confess that I actually wasn’t that wound up by JSP last night. Ok, so I’ve still got some sort of congenital vulnerability to her voice (it totally rustles my jimmies and makes me feel like I’m eating sand) but in her defence she didn’t blame absolutely everything on men and that sudden disclosure of the hairdresser incident really took me (and everyone else) aback. So yes, for once I’m going to go easy on JSP and you’ll just have to trust me when I say that The Independent is the best publication on earth… Sorry, I meant to say “that my neutrality has been in no way compromised by recent developments”.

Manchester still vexes me…

Once upon a time I was a student in Manchester and I can sum up my time there as thus: 50% ridiculous, world-class partying and 50% pure, abject terror. Now don’t get me wrong, the partying bit was great, but the terror? The terror I could have done without. So it is that I’m always slightly twitchy whenever I watch Manchester shows. It’s the vowel intonation (“stick yore head in a freezor, sound like yore from Manchestor”). It just sets me on edge.

Despite the above, I must confess that this was one of the more benign Manchester outings. Ok, so the show itself was mostly scrappy. The West Coast to-do was a bit of train wreck, the Miliband question failed to generate enough steam while the Savile thing only had one logical response (‘This thing is not a good thing’). However, the strong showing of support for not arming the police and the repudiation of the gallows were both rather heart warming and by-and-large, the crowd didn’t frighten  me.  Whilst we’re on the crowd, special mentions are mandatory for the guy whose glasses were so far down his nose that they flat-out confounded physics and also to the Classic Metalhead who made the rather good joke about Ed Miliband’s “Adrian Mole voice”. Should I ever be in Jilly’s Rock World, I will buy you a snakebite and black.

So not bad from a city that not only gave me a degree but also more Crime Reference Numbers than you can shake a stick at, superficial facial scarring and a compo cheque for £2200.

Tl;dr

Clarke: 5/10

Thwarted

Alexander: 5/10

(Should have) Resorted (to the Reverse Pixie Method)

Kramer: 6/10

Reported (that she didn’t like planes being late)

Walsh: 5/10

(Has) Transported (a great many people to far away locations on his aeroplanes)

Street-Porter: 5/10

Purported (to know a great many unsavoury things in the world of light entertainment)

The Crowd: 5/10

Assorted?

Alright, it’s insanely early in the morning, I’m starting to see things and with the benefit of hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have written this whilst listening to the new Godspeed You! Black Emperor album on repeat. That’s not to say it’s a not a great record – for it is – it’s just that at times it’s the sonic equivalent of staring at a strobe light after having dropped a metric ton of acid.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #24


questionable time 24 david dimbleby nelson

Good morning Lemmings (or should I say ‘Ahoy there Sea Lemmings’) and welcome to a city that should hold a very dear place in your hearts, purely because it is the place of my birth. That’s right, you owe Portsmouth a big one because without it, what would you be doing right now? Well I’ll tell you one thing for sure, you wouldn’t be sitting here getting a hefty dose of post-Question Time nonsense and in all likelihood you’d actually be engaged in some sort panic buying, be it petrol, stamps or Steak Bakes. So three cheers for Pompey, that majestic beacon of brutalist architecture and warlike things that was kind enough to bring me into the world. Speaking of which, let’s also hear it for the very early onset of Silly Season this year as this has been the most ludicrously fun week in politics I can remember for some time and that’s even before we take into account Gorgeous George’s stunning little coup in the North. I heard him refer to it as the ‘the Bradford Spring’ this morning. Dammit George, you may be a self-aggrandising, cat-imitating, cranky-despot-in-the-making but boy are you value for money. Anyway, I digress… On to some Questionable Timing. Here’s what we learned last night:

1. Labour really need to get their act together, tout suite…

As I just mentioned, this week has been one of those magical moments in politics where absurdity reigns supreme and seeing how the Tories appear to be main purveyors of preposterousness, the chief beneficiaries of this febrile atmosphere should be none other than the Labour party, right? Well judging by last night’s show, maybe not. Why? Well, I’d hazard a guess at the following:

  • Douglas Alexander was not the man for the job last night.

I’ve got nothing against Wee Dougie. He seems a nice (if somewhat bland) little chap who appears vaguely competent and tends to play things on the duller side of inoffensive. That’s all perfectly acceptable in my book as I have an innate respect for the mediocre and I also appreciate that as a defensive player, he can be rather canny. However, what Alexander is not is a balls-out, pedal-to-the-metal political hooligan and what was the one thing Labour needed last night? A balls-out, pedal-to-the-metal political hooligan. Seriously, I actually found it a little upsetting last night as there was so much potential for mischief from the Red Team yet Alexander simply didn’t have the pace, the instinct or the gumption to make any real hay from it. Ed Balls? As fatally compromised as he may be, he would have at least been able to harness those baser urges of his and would mostly likely have produced more hay than a Massey-Ferguson convention but no, instead we got a politician who although adept at identifying threats is simply not cut out to exploit opportunities. To shame Labour, to shame…

  • By contrast, Anna Soubry was very much up for it.

Come on let’s face it, we were all secretly hoping that the Blue Team were going to send Francis Maude on last night. It would have been the crowning glory to a week of self-inflicted nonsense but alas, wiser heads prevailed at Conservative HQ and what we got instead was Anna Soubry, a politician whose stock has just gone up in my book. So why was she a good choice? Well for one, she is very much her own person who has no problem with taking positions that run contrary to the party line. Considering how the party line this week has been something along the lines of ‘whoopsie-titting-bollocks’, that can only be a good thing. The other key asset that Soubry has is that she doesn’t appear to be posh (a case in point being her stance on grammar schools) and considering how the whiff of privilege is fast becoming one of the most toxic odours emanating from the Tory party, this was also a thing of much goodness. So yes, in contrast to Wee Dougie, Soubry was the right person for the job and the Blue Team owe her big time for successfully navigating their rickety old sloop through such choppy waters.

  • Labour are still incapable of making the political weather.

With the exception of Pastygate which seems to largely be the progeny of one very enterprising Labour MP, all of the open goals that have been presented to the Red Team this week have been entirely a result of the Conservatives own ineptitude and even then, Labour still find themselves vulnerable to counter-attacks (largely over the unions). Considering just how unpopular many of the measures this current government are taking are and just how much of a tin ear they have when it comes to communicating with people we would expect Labour to be heavily in the ascendant right now but they’re not. Why? Because aside from minor tinkering they still can’t articulate a plausible narrative as to what they would do differently and until they do we will continue to see them struggling to gain the initiative. Sort it out, Red Team.

 

2. Something horrible seems to have happened to Sarah Teather.

If I cast my mind back to the simpler times before the election I seem to recall that I actually grew rather fond of Sarah Teather. Ok, so I took the piss a bit when I insinuated that she was in fact made of interlocking circles but she did have a good line on the hopey-changey stuff and put in some very solid QT performances. However, it appears that all good things must come to an end and the Sarah Teather we got last night was a very different one from that of two years hence, one that appears to have been mentally ravaged by the experience of government. Take that awful moment in the first question when she failed to pick up on the actually quite funny joke made by an audience member about setting your house ablaze during a fire brigade strike. Now I’m a little torn as to whether she genuinely didn’t get it or was just being wilfully aloof but the result was terrible and made her come across like a really uptight school mistress who does not, repeat NOT, find the rudimentary schoolboy drawings of willies on the toilet walls to be funny. Admittedly things did pick up for her a little later on but I was constantly getting the impression that being in government is really hard for Teather and that it requires a considerable amount of self-censorship on her part. That in itself isn’t entirely unusual (in fact, lip biting appears to be the pastime of choice for left learning Lib Dems these days) but the way it manifests with Teather is because she appears to be troubled by an imaginary wagging finger that scolds her every time a non-government endorsed notion pops into her head. That’s a real pity because her appeal used to lay in the fact that she could be quite passionate when she was emotionally invested in a particular issue but now she just seems to have actively repressed her own beliefs to the point that she’s lost a part of herself and that’s a sad thing to witness. Maybe a pasty would cheer her up.

 

3. The Civilian Panelist were so-so.

Is it just me or could Alexei Sayle simply not be arsed with being on Question Time last night? Maybe it was the rambling answers (‘I don’t care’ → ‘Something about the North’ → ‘Capitalists and that’), maybe it was the fact that he looked like he had a raging hangover (nothing says ‘Oh God, just make it stop’ like sitting with your head in your hands for an hour) but yes, he didn’t exactly look like he had a song in his heart or a spring in his step. By contrast, Simon Jenkins was much more game but he never really got the opportunity to do what he does best: Be difficult for the sake of it. Ok, so he looked like he might get a little cantankerous on the matter of the Falklands and he had the odd moment of wit on the petrol crisis but there was nothing for him to get his teeth really stuck into. However, I am pleased to announce that I have finally obtained conclusive evidence that his face is in fact made of sandstone. Behold Fig. 1 (and really behold it because it is far and away the most technically mind bending thing I’ve ever done in Photoshop).

 

simon jenkins rock face rockchops

Fig. 1

 

Tl;dr:

Alexander: 4/10

(Was as hushed as the Mary) Celeste

Soubry: 6/10

Impressed

Teather: 4/10

Repressed

Sayle: 4/10

Depressed

Jenkins: 5/10

Suppressed (the urge to go absolutely batshit crazy)

The Crowd: 6/10

(Didn’t get) Undressed

So that’s, that… A good episode that could have been great had Labour put up someone with a little more vim, not to mention the luckiest of escapes for the Tories. Anyhoo, that’s enough from me until after Easter but I shall see you three weeks hence when Question Time will be coming to my home of the last 10 years, Leeds. Operation Try And Blag My Way Into The Audience is go! Let’s just hope it’s a little more successfully than the last two times I gave this little maneuver a whirl.

 

 

After Easter Lemmings, after Easter…

 

Questionable Time #13


questionable time 13 dimbleby the tank engine

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to 2012, a year in which – if this episode of QT is anything to go by – our primary vexation appears to be none other than trains getting from London to Birmingham slightly quicker at some point in the far distant future. Remember that extinction level economic crisis that dominated Question Time throughout 2011? Yeah, well you needn’t have worried because it turns out that all it needed was a damn good Christmasing and now it’s not worth bothering our pretty little heads over. On top of that it also seems that 2012 is the year in which politicians of all stripes put aside their various differences and simply agree with each other on just about bloody everything. That’s right, no more bitter hand-to-hand combat on the battlegrounds of economic policy but instead a cosy love-in as representatives from across the political spectrum bask in the warmth of consensus on boob jobs, HST and Leveson. Ok, so there was a bit of contention when it came to Scottish independence but I’m struggling to recall an episode of QT that was quite so dreadfully agreeable.

The upshot of all this is that it was actually a pretty dull affair last night that lacked any real juice and left me feeling a little short-changed. Take the train question for example: Literally every single political panelist held near identical views and this left the floor wide open for Kelvin MacKenzie to reap all the rewards in his role as Self Appointed Man of the People. Now, I’m no fan of MacKenzie but I have to admit that without him last night would have been little more than a well-heeled Woodstock without the acid and let’s face it, that doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs. So that didn’t exactly inspire me with confidence (you know things are bad when the highlight of a particular question is a gentleman of Scouse extraction getting a little over enthused about Watford Junction) but I held out a little hope that at least the question of Scottish independence could provoke some level of disagreement. And so it did, but in a ridiculously one-sided manner.

Our main protagonist in the only real point of contention in this encounter is none other than the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon and I must say that I did feel slightly sorry for her last night. For one, life can’t be easy when it looks like your hair has been borrowed from a Lego figure (see Fig. 1) and preaching Scottish Nationalism to a London crowd is a tall order but the main reason was that Dimbers seemed to have it in for her a bit last night. Sure, she didn’t do herself many favours as she deployed her usual tactics when in a tight spot (which is to just continue talking, regardless of whether the content makes any sense) but Dimbleby was really short with Sturgeon and seemed to relish any opportunity to clip her round the ear. Another weird by-product of this question was the part when Sturgeon and Danny Alexander got into a very surreal little tiff, ostensibly about something-or-other that an aide to Alex Salmond had said. Sensing danger, Sturgeon tried to wibble her way out of it but Alexander wouldn’t let it go and just sat there, quietly repeating the phrase “Was she wrong? Was she wrong?” like a shell shock victim lost in his own personal hell. This bizarre little charade went on for some time and it reminded me of that ‘You can’t handle the truth!’ scene in A Few Good Men… Except set in a particularly passive-aggressive PTA meeting rather than a court-martial and with Tom Cruise’s character being played by the little man in the bowler hat from the Homepride ads.

nicola sturgeon lego hair

Fig. 1

As for individual performances, well I think it’s fair to say that ‘fair to middling’ is just about the best that this lot could muster with Ashdown putting in the most impressive turn simply by alternating between his ‘Paddy Ashdown is tired of reasoning with you people’ face and his ‘You don’t know cuz you weren’t there!’ war-vet-who’s-seen-too-much routine. Poor old Justine Greening fared less well, chiefly because she seemed to have been relegated to a role in this episode similar to that filled by Dictionary Corner on Countdown and appears to have been there only for reference purposes only. And as for Wee Dougie? Well, I’ve got to say that he’s beginning to freak me out a little. It’s his delivery. Very slow, very soft and very deliberate yet also completely relentless. It’s like being force-fed warm milk at the most leisurely of tempos and that, dear Lemmings, is the sort of experience that I’d rather avoid.

So there we are: A less than brilliant start to the series and one in which the crowd could be at complete odds with the panel and yet still clap along with practised docility. Ok, I guess that’s a little harsh but last night did bum me out a little as I’ve just spent the last month doing the whole Peace on Earth/Goodwill to All Men thing and I was really looking forward to kicking the new year off with a right old gorefest. Alas, it was not to be and so I’ll just have to bide my time until this new-found unity amongst QT panelists shatters into a thousand tiny shards of spite laden hatred. My reckoning is that it won’t be the longest of waits.

Tl;dr

Greening: Still in the waiting room

5/10

Ashdown: On the express train to Seriousville

6/10

Alexander: Lost his ticket

4/10

Sturgeon: Got tied to the tracks

5/10

MacKenzie: Has a season ticket to Smug City

5/10

The Crowd: Want to get off at Watford Junction

5/10

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #49


question time 49 summerMorning Lemmings and stop crying! I know it’s the last show of the series and all that but let’s face it, it ended with a hell of a bang. Admittedly, this has more to do with the fact that this week’s news has been hurtling forward at the speed of light than anything inherently Question Timey, but nevertheless, it was a belter.

Now usually I tend to do this in the order that the panelists were introduced but I’m making an exception this week and kicking off with Hugh Grant, mainly because he pretty much owned this show and cemented himself beyond doubt in the ‘more than just a pretty face’ category. Personally, I’ve always been a bit up and down with Hugh but in the last few years, he’s really grown on me. Here’s why:

  1. Bitter Moon

This is probably one of the worst films ever made and even by Polanski’s usual standards it’s beyond weird. I’d explain the premise if I understood it but I don’t and all I can really tell you is that involves Hugh Grant being berated by a wheelchair bound Peter Coyote while Kristin Scott-Thomas lezzes it up with Polanski’s real-life girlfriend. Sounds rubbish, right? Well yes, it is, but sublimely rubbish.

  1. Mickey Blue Eyes

If Bitter Moon is crapness done right then Mickey Blue Eyes is mediocrity taken to perfection. It’s a formulaic and wholly unsurprising flick which rests heavily on Grant playing the same role that he does in every damn film but you know what? I love it. Unashamedly, wholeheartedly and unreservedly love it.

  1. His sting in the New Statesman.

This piece totally blindsided me and if you haven’t read it, check it out. The long and short of it is that Grant blagged a pap (who had previously papped him) into spilling the beans about all sorts of nefarious goings on whilst he happened to be wearing a wire. Not only was it fairly entertaining but it was also a great piece of journalism. From that day on, Grant’s stock has been rising on the Loudribs Exchange (LR

So that’s where I was with him prior to the show and I’m happy to report that the upward tick on his share price graph is not merely an aberration and is in fact part of a sustained rally. This has been largely achieved by melding what he’s very good at (i.e. being a bit charming in a floppy sort of way) with actually knowing a thing or two about his pet subject and not being afraid to point fingers. In essence, he’s done a Lumley.

In terms of how this came across on the show, let’s just say that it’s a foolhardy politician who tries to go toe-to-toe with Grant as not only does he know the terrain inside out (he seemed more clued up than either Alexander or Grayling on the details) but he also does anger in quite an intriguing way. I say this because we’re so used to him being the ‘don’t mind me’ and ‘I’m so terribly sorry I’m so damnably befuddled’ chap when he’s in films that to see him accuse Cameron of being “Murdoch’s little helper” is like being viciously savaged by something you believed to be harmless and benign. On top of this, he didn’t seem to be picking sides last night and he poured near equal amounts of scorn on both the Tories and Labour whilst rattling both their closets so that the crowd could dance to sound of jangling skeletons, all of which was refreshingly even-handed. His bitter little scrap with Gaunt was also something to behold (especially when he did the old switcheroo and asked whether Murdoch had the right to tell people what to read) and again, it showed a very steely side to him that took me unawares. Ok, so the guy knows naff all about train manufacturing but I’m inclined to forgive him that. I was also a little disappointed that he wasn’t wearing his mugshot placard from back when he was arrested, but I’d handily mocked up such a scenario the day before (see Fig. 1) and then felt massively guilty when John Gaunt bought it up and got rightly shot down for being “cheap and pathetic”. But yes, Grant played the match of his life last night and I think this performance will be remembered for quite a while hence.

 

hugh grant question time

Fig. 1

Facing this rather formidable prospect for the Blue Team last night was Chris Grayling, a man who it’s very hard to find anything to say about. Some of this is because he looks scarily bland, almost as if he has an inflatable head that someone has simply drawn his features on to, but also because I suspect he really is quite a dull guy. However, this apparent lack of anythingness might have actually been an asset last night as his brief was bloody difficult (‘look angry yet promise nothing’) and while he didn’t exactly make matters better for the government, at least he didn’t make them that much worse. What he did do however was to look just a little lost and actually quite out of his depth. You could see the odd moment when he felt brave and tried to have a pop at Alexander but there was no fire in him and he probably could have been replaced by an actual inflatable man, like the autopilot from Airplane! In short, I’ve seen better.

Now, remember a few weeks back when I got sidetracked and started blathering on about a book about the US Civil War that I’m reading? Well here it comes again! I bring this up because the Civil War was basically led on the Union side by two different types of general. On the one hand were the dapper West Pointers of old who did things ‘the proper way’, looked terrific, were held in much fondness by their men but were absolutely crippled by caution (your McClellan’s and Burside’s). These guys seemed to be largely competent and decent people who played by the rules but as soon as anything unexpected happened (which it invariably did), they all went completely to pot. Now the other set of General’s were much more fun. These were the guys like Sherman, Grant and Sheridan who had no interest in ‘the proper’ way’ of doing things, looked a mess but were extremely effective and utterly, utterly ruthless. Naturally, this meant that they did things that look very questionable in hindsight and they bought to the war a special kind of ugliness but by god did they get things done.

I bring this up now because what Labour really needed last night was a Sheridan. As I mentioned earlier, the rate of knots that the news has been steaming along at is absolutely phenomenal and so far, Miliband has been making a decent fist of it (I caught PMQ’s this week and you can see that Cameron knows he’s in trouble. As soon as that temper starts poking it’s head out, you know you’ve pressed the right buttons). However, ‘a decent fist’ is only a start and what is actually required right now is someone who will sweep in on their flanks, break their lines and then relentlessly harry them all the way back to Richmond. Right now, the prime candidates for this role appear to be Bryant, Watson and, bizarrely enough, Prescott, all of whom have really got the bit between their teeth. Unfortunately for Labour, what they got was Douglas Alexander and his instincts are certainly not of the ‘relentlessly harrying’ type. No, I’m afraid to say it but Wee Dougie is one of those who makes an excellent general in peacetime but when put into a fluid situation like the one we have now, he simply goes rigid.

Last night, that tendency manifested in his wanton overuse of the line “judicial inquiry” and had I counted the amount of times he uttered those words, I would have probably run out of fingers. Now don’t get me wrong, I also think that a judicial inquiry is what needs to happen and he was right to hammer the Tories on that one but there’s so much more he could have done. Granted, his room for maneuver was constricted by New Labour’s own shenanagising with Murdoch (as aptly and repeatedly pointed out by Grant) but if you can build up enough forward momentum, that issue should start to fade a little. Ultimately in a political sense, this is very dangerous for Cameron. It doesn’t matter what way you slice it, he’s been knocking about with some very bad people and all those who suspected that he kept some pretty shady company now have all the ammunition they will ever need. As to why Alexander couldn’t find the grit to really pursue that line I don’t know but it’s a great shame that he didn’t and what could have been a Battle of Atlanta turned into a Battle of Antietam: A bloody, grinding affair that squandered what had otherwise been great odds in his favour.

Ok, history lesson over and on to Shirley Williams, a woman who appeared to be positively enjoying the whole experience last night, simply by dint of doing what she does best: Telling people off. Most of her ire was directed in the vicinity of Murdoch (and she was the only politico to come out as avowedly anti-News International) but he wasn’t the only one to get a thundering denunciation by any account. Oh no, there was Grayling getting it in the neck about BskyB, Grant being chided for something or other, Dimber’s for playing favourites with the boys and a poor member of the audience who got a minor tongue lashing for putting his hand up. Now usually I hate the teller-offers in this world but for reasons unknown, I don’t mind it with Williams. Partly I think this is down to her voice which is very well suited to rollickings and partly because she wears the head mistress cape so well, but also I think I may just have a soft spot for angry old people. Let’s face it, they’ve earned the right and I fully intend to become an absolute volcano of rage when I hit 70. So nice one Shirley, jobs a good ‘un.

Right, final panelist now and let’s not spend too much time on it as this week we have been blighted by John Gaunt, ex-Sun journo and all round pillock. In the interests of fairness I should point out that he did receive some fairly decent chunks of applause and he was far from uncritical of the News of the World but then again Hitler probably could have raised a clap or two by slagging off Murdoch on last night’s show. No, what really gets my goat about Gaunt is a) the way each sentence starts at around 70 dB and ends at an ear-splitting 150 dB and b) he reminds me of one of those novelty keyrings that play different and largely annoying little soundbites. Can’t be bothered to think of an answer? Just press the button named ‘Blame Europe’. Get caught out thinking you’re in London when you’re actually a Basingstoke? Just press the button marked ‘Annoying Squealy Laugh Followed By Rubbish Joke’. Worried that Hugh Grant might be hogging the limelight? Just press the button marked ‘Keep It In Your Trousers’. I think you get the picture and don’t need me to elaborate further on how much of a div he is. Div.

So there we have the panel, what of the crowd? Well, in actual fact it’s quite hard to draw a bead on them as the show was utterly dwarfed by its context and other than them being wholly game for a spot of Murdoch bashing, they all just seemed to coalesce into one great big angry mob. I make that sound like a bad thing but it’s not. Everything that has gone on in the past week completely justifies angry-mob-like-activity and I think this was pretty accurate depiction of the national mood. Then again I could be wrong. They could have been driven to such levels of torment by the tie Dimbers was wearing. He does know that Global Hypercolor ceased to be ‘in’ several decades ago, right?

Tl;dr

Grant: Hit

8/10

Grayling: Not in the least bit

4/10

Alexander: Doesn’t quite get it

5/10

Williams: True grit

7/10

Gaunt: Tit

3/10

The Crowd: Tightly knit

7/10

So there we have it, a right old clangerlang to end the series with. As is only right, I’d like to thank all those who’ve had to put up with how cranky I get on a Friday night, especially my partner Hannah. Thanks as well to those who keep coming back to read this week after week. The traffic on this blog isn’t exactly massive, but knowing that it hits a chord with some people is good enough for me. As is traditional at the end of the series, I will now make some rash promises about how this blog may move to its own dedicated site although this time I don’t fully intend to disappoint. I only semi intend to. Thanks for reading and enjoy your summers.

September Lemmings, September…


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 107 other followers

August 2020
M T W T F S S
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  

RSS Feed


%d bloggers like this: