Posts Tagged 'Ed Davey'

Questionable Time #124


qt 124

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to Questionable Time, coming to you from a pretty grand venue in Norwich! It certainly made me ooh and aah, probably ten times more than the panel itself did. Without further adURGH, let’s get started.

Tax solo

We’ve got a mangy lot in the ring tonight. Representing the yellows, Mr Davey is wearing a little Earth pin to show that he’s actually Captain Planet. In the red corner, we have professional Blunt Hunter Chris Bryant. Then there are two right-wing women with varying degrees of rightyness, and Armando Iannucci, who already looks fed up with everything.

The first questions reveals exactly why. Is ‘vanilla’ tax avoidance acceptable as ‘everyone does it’? Ooh, kinky. I suppose you could call it Fifty Shades of Fink. Or Finky Shades of Grey. Whatever, I’m not getting paid for this. In any case, Armando has a go at ‘dodgy’ business practices and gets a big old clap, quelle surprise. This is hardly an unemotional issue for the general public, or genpub as I don’t like to call them.

Sarah Wollaston immediately steals my joke about Fifty Shades that ten million people on Twitter have no doubt made already to tiresome results. You see, she doesn’t like aggressive tax avoidance. As opposed to gentle tax avoidance that pets kittens and picks wildflowers. Meanwhile, Eddy Davez is also fed up! Close the loopholes, says he! And if you don’t, I’ll do it meself. Thank goodness for that one brave Lib Dem in the Treasury fighting against the system. They had to go deep into the system to do it, but by golly, thanks to them there’s been absolutely no tax avoidance scandals since! …Er, apart from this one. And the other one. And the other one…

Chris, internet troll in chief, shrugs that there’s one rule for the rich and another for everybody else. Suzanne, surprisingly, agrees. UKIP would investigate tax avoidance like a bunch of Sherlock Go Homes. For UKIP, of course, is as clean as a whistle.

No, declares Chris, it is Labour that is as clean as a whistle! No, it is the Lib Dems, says Davey, via a disgruntled face scrunch! Armando is scribbling away, noting down sadly-not-too-ridiculous-to-be-true ideas for his next biting, fighting satire.

He admittedly has a lot to work with. Highlights include UKIP’s deputy leader professing not to know the details of an anti-tax avoidance bill that the party’s MEPs voted against en masse, Ed Davey basically admitting that everybody is terrible, dodgy, and united in terridodge, to much bafflement from Dimbus Dimbledore, Chris Bryant bellowing about Andy Coulson like he’s the big kid that kicked his legs in the sandpit, Sarah rolling her eyes to the skies and muttering about no good dirty Labourites in them hills, and an audience that for some reason doesn’t appear to trust any of them. Gee, I wonder why?

Deploy the ABBA

Next question: we need to talk about Russia.

Mr Davey argues that we are indeed being tuff on Russia, which I can’t really take seriously coming from him due to his face looking like a concerned potato. As a Libby Dibby, by the end of his answer he obviously turns it into a butt-licking for the EU. This, of course, rankles Suzanne from UKIP, who prefers to butt-lick NATO. Then she starts going on about impending war for some reason. I do not trust this woman with the nuclear button.

Suzanne is on a roll. “The EU has expansionist ambitions as well!” announces she, to much mirth. Ah yes, Suzanne! The EU is merely a cover for the New World Order, well, according to that strange website you once looked at anyway!

“I don’t see Ukraine as being part of Europe,” she continues.
“Shocking!” gasps a greatly offended Mr Potato Head, pointing and gawping like a sightseer seeing the Hindenburg explode above their heads.

Chris moves on. He posits that Putin admires strong people…like, for example, not a certain British Prime Minister he could mention. Although he does admire former Eurovision winners such as ABBA, so perhaps we should send Lordi on a peace mission.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

There’s then a big argument about sanctions (what are sanctions? We just don’t know,) with Sarah interjecting helpfully to tell us that Putin is a ‘bully’. I hadn’t thought of that new and revelatory argument before. Well done.

This is put cheerfully to bed by a man in the audience. To sum up: Putin don’t curr about sanctions, and everything is doomed. Hooray!

On the road you must be brave and tireless, on the road you can listen to the wireless

I once had a pink Barbie bus. I made it run over my Barbies. This is also presumably what Harriet Harman wants to do to certain sections of the press.

Suzanne, as an ex-tomboy, isn’t a fun of #pinkbus. Admittedly it does come off looking like a choice drawn up by a bunch of clueless male Oxbridge graduates, but then she goes too far and asks “What has the Labour party ever done for women?” and I think Chris’ head nearly explodes. He’s still smiling, but only in the manner of a deranged chimp who’s about to claw another chimp’s face off. He does this via an intense debate about the colour of his tie. Okay, and some good figures about gender equality – but that really is a fetching tie, isn’t it?

Somehow the topic wavers off course to become about young people’s interest in politics. Mr Davey goes off on a long spiel, conveniently forgetting to mention tuition fees before getting REKT by a young person who does just that. Everyone begins to squabble over trying to ‘seduce a young person’ by talking to them afterwards…ooh no, not in this political climate, guys!

Finally, briefly, deeply…no. Just no. We’re not going to start charging for A&E. Any politician worth their salt knows that even if they might privately support doing so, to even whisper it out loud is a career death wish. And by the way, audience guy, what’s so ‘trivial’ about self-inflicted injuries? I fart in your general direction.

“We’ve been talking for an hour,” says Dimbles, in a fit of despair, as Chris bickers with everyone and Suzanne attempts to be Maggie Thatcher. We’re done here. (That woman in the audience will probably attempt a quick getaway before all those panellists rush up to talk to her. Run, girl, run!)

Time for the scores!

Davey: 5/10

(Stopped to) Think

Wollaston: 6/10

(With a nod and a) Wink

Bryant: 6/10

(Tickled) pink

Evans: 5/10

(Slightly off) Sync

Iannucci: 7/10

(Not a fan of) Fink

The Crowd: 6/10

(Needs a) Drink

Next time, a Sturgeon versus a Lion.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #78


Good…morrow, Lemmings!

As you may know, the webmaster is away this week. So, hello! I’m his stand-in, Elizabeth. He found me in a skip by the side of the road and offered me a job. Non-paying, of course. What do you think this is, the Financial Times?

First, let’s get the tragic news out of the way. Yes, as I’m sure you’re all aware by now, David Dimbleby has indeed gone and got himself a tattoo, in a fit of youthful rebelliousness. Now, I’m not bashing Dimbledore’s choice to get himself ‘inked’, as I believe the yoof say these days, if he so wishes. In fact, it suits the theme for this week’s episode, as he’ll fit in just splendidly with the disgruntled ex-shipbuilders now milling around in Portsmouth wailing and howling and cursing the Scots.

Oh! See what I did there? This leads us nicely on to the show itself! Gosh, it’s almost as if I planned that. Don’t worry though, it’s just a rumour that was spread around town.

Could you bring up some more tea, Davey?

I’ve noticed something about Ed Davey. It’s not just the fact that he looked hesitant, eager to ‘lay down’ some ‘proper disses’ on the energy companies but increasingly bereft because he’d never get his chance. It’s not just the fact that he stared off into space, blinking heavily, wishing with all his heart for BAE to be nice, to be gentle, looking permanently worried while twisting his pen back and forth in a somewhat heartbreaking way.

No. It’s the fact that he looks like Mr Molesley from Downton Abbey.

He has the same anxious air to him as well. I’m so convinced of this, whether or not anybody else sees it, that I’m going to start calling him Mr Davey for this entire edition.

Fig. 1

Regardless of what I call him, his performance remains the same. Let’s just say that it’s always a bad sign when David Dimbleby is by far the most awake person on the panel. Maybe his tattoo has given him a newfound fire in his belly, who knows. Maybe that’s what half an hour of non-stop shipbuilding talk does to a group of people, in the company of many beardy men.

But Mr Davey tried his best. He really, really did. He even tried to smack down the other panellists once or twice! At one point, Paul Kenny mockingly said he believed in the tooth fairy. Mr Davey slowly shook his head. Kenny tutted. The thrill of debate.

Out of nowhere, Mr Davey was suddenly stuck talking about drones. Why, his face seemed to say. Why me. He only wanted to discuss green levies. Why was he here? “I don’t know enough about this”, he muttered, clearly wanting nothing more than to shrink away and curse the day he was born.

(Meanwhile, Paul Kenny asserted that the drones “are getting away from us”. Yes. That’s the point.)

Nothing compared to his ‘fight’ with Nigel Lawson, though. Mr Davey simply could not believe it was happening. He was taking on a grumpy grandpa and the grumpy grandpa was winning. How was this even real? He’s Ed Davey! The most charismatic politician of them all!

But more on that later…

I once caught Stella Creasy’s very bad cold and hallucinated for two days straight (this is true)

Prior to this week’s programme I was still a little unsure what being Shadow Competition Minister entailed, but Stella Creasy has shown me the light. It means trying to cram as many words as possible into each sentence, and competing with every previous sentence to top your high score. As a result, she ended up urging the government to go easy on the dockers and to “keep the skills that are longterm skills”. As opposed to what, Stella? The skills that you get when you’re forced to play a minigame in a video game, and it’s a minigame that you don’t really enjoy but you have to do it anyway in order to progress the story?

Still, she was certainly earnest about it, that much was clear. When the sad subject of Typhoon Haiyan came up, Stella even appealed to us directly: listen to this man making a speech at the UN, she said, almost pleading with Nigel Lawson to finally understand her point of view. He cried, you know. In pain. And I, too, also feel that pain.

Not many politicians manage to look like wibbly-eyed anime characters, but after this performance I can definitely say that she is one of them. (Andy Burnham is, of course, another.)

Fig. 2

Stella Creasy is a conundrum for me. Occasionally she seems like a generic PolitiBot, manufactured in a laboratory somewhere in Slough, others she’s so uber-earnest your teeth almost shatter from the sugar rush. Sometimes she comes out with lines like “We’re not the dinosaurs, sir! Do we want to be extinct?!” and gosh darn it she’s just so sincere about it that you can’t help but answer, “No. No, Stella. I do not want to be a dinosaur.”

You wait ages for a Nigel, then two come along at once

I knew exactly what I was going to get when I heard Lord Lawson of Blaby was going to be on the panel. The question was, when would I get it?

At first, Papa Nigella gave us a sedentary performance, mentioning his time in the Navy on a ship called the Gay Charger and commenting that the word meant something different back then. This caused everyone to chuckle somewhat uncomfortably, because let’s be honest, nobody really wants to hear about Nigel and his charging, gay or otherwise.

But then, at last, the climate change question was aired.

Suddenly, quite frighteningly, Nigel snapped out of his stupour and stared wide-eyed into the light. This was it. This was what he was born to do. He had risen, like a phoenix from the fossil-fueled flames: the king of climate change denial. Haha. Climate change. What a laugh. He’d show them. Little did Mr Davey know that Nigel was merely waiting, all this time, waiting, planning, plotting, for that very moment to arrive. It was his one chance. Time to put the hippies in their place.

Apparently, all things considered, it’s been a nice, quiet time in the tropics recently! Nigel kicked back in his chair, utterly content in the fact that everybody on the panel was staring at him in horror and disbelief. Well. That’s what they get for being such a bunch of sheep. They might chortle, but he’ll have the last laugh, when he next visits the seaside and guffaws into the ocean’s salty face. You fool, he’ll cry. Don’t just sit there. Come over here if you think you’re hard enough.

Oh wait, he’ll say, smiling his crooked, gummy smile. You can’t.

To be fair, old Nigel’s sheer perseverance gave him points, even in the face of the rest of the panel literally laughing at him at one point, even the woman whose line of business is in great whacking trucks that fart who-knows-what into the atmosphere. But no. Nigel, through sheer force of denial, gaily charged on. There was no stopping him. It was all or nothing and Nigel wasn’t taking nothing for an answer, unless it’s the answer to how many more wind farms we should build. And there’s something to be said for that.

Them other two

I’m somewhat sad that Paul Kenny did reasonably well, for had he done embarrassingly badly, I’d get to say ‘oh my god, they killed Kenny!’ and everyone would laugh, and my job would be made at least 62% easier. But that didn’t happen. Kenny did decently, and even if he sounded at first like the Daily Mail’s stereotypical nightmare union leader, the audience seemed to be mainly on his side. Then again that might be because the audience was on everybody’s side this time around. For a group of people who are apparently so passionate about the Navy and, rather worryingly, sending warships to as many places as is legally allowable, they sure were easily swayed by first Nigel Lawson and then Mr Davey’s conflicting opinions about where the baby polar bears are supposed to live.

But more importantly, Kenny also wore a nice pink spotty tie, while saying stuff like “we couldn’t fight a cod war! We couldn’t put an exclusion zone around the Isle of Wight!” Scared, I resisted the urge to change the channel. It’s clear Kenny wants to declare war. Perhaps on Philip Hammond. No-one seems that bothered by this, by the way. Who even is Philip Hammond, the masses cry? We don’t know, but we don’t like him.

Nikki King also had a bone to pick with all the pointless squawking going on, in the style of your mum despairing about how why can’t she ever just have a nice family dinnertime without someone crying or dropping the tea tray or showing off their Claire’s Accessories star pendant (looking at you Stella Creasy) or getting into a fight about whether global warming exists.

“Isn’t this all so confusing?” she bemoaned, “I wish someone could tell me exactly what’s going on”. Yes, Nikki, well. That’s the thing. People sometimes have slightly differing opinions. That is, you could say, the entire point of this programme.

I suppose she was brought on to give a more ‘human touch’, while still being respected as a top businesswoman, and she did start off okay – she almost reminded me of a no-nonsense school nurse. But then she said that and that’s all I can think of now. I wish I knew what was going on.

Near the end, Mr Davey got angry, having finally gotten sick of Nigel Lawson’s flaccidity and his denial of the ocean’s acidity. I raised a weary cheer, because against my better judgement, I was actually starting to root for Mr Davey, simply because he no longer looked like he had wind. Go on my son, I cried, go on. The show was finally getting interesting. Davey and Lawson were fighting, Creasy was pleading, Kenny was punching and King was…I don’t know what she was doing. The energy bills issue was even raised again, and I was so sure that things were turning the corner –

But then someone just had to bring up carrier bags, didn’t they. I slumped back down and ate some more cake.

At last, a lady closed the show with a question on the arrogance of humanity, and doesn’t that sum this programme up well.

The final scores are:

Davey: 5/10

(Not so) dire

Creasy: 5/10

Misfire

Lawson: 4/10

Denier

Kenny: 5/10

(Singing to the) choir

King: 3/10

A flat tire

The Crowd: 4/10

Why?…er

I’m harsh because I’m in a grumbly mood. I was waiting all night for someone to make a tattoo joke and nobody did, so everybody gets a point deducted for disappointing me.

It’s been fun, but it’ll be back to normal next week when the glorious webmaster makes his return. So, in conclusion…it’s goodbye from me, and goodbye from me.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #47


Questionable time 47 david dimbleby weather map

Good morning Lemmings and well done: You have (I assume) survived the Mayan apocalypse, navigated your way through the choppy waters of Christmas and somehow safely emerged into the cold light of 2013. You must be very proud. Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ends as the Christmas truce is over and now it’s back to the relentless, maddening grind that is Question Time. Yeah, I know, those three Thursday nights where you weren’t screaming at the telly were cherished moments, free from rancour and strife but they could never last, not in a month of Sundays. No, all we can do now is huddle in our foxholes and hope for the best as the opening volleys of the new year do their ghastly work. Welcome back Lemmings, it’s time to get questionable.

I see two figures grappling in the wilderness…

The wilderness isn’t a great place to be. It’s barren. It’s featureless. It doesn’t even have a Greggs, but – for his sins – this is where John Prescott has been exiled to. The reasons for his banishment are simple enough: With the collapse of the Blair-Brown project there’s no longer a need for a figure who spanned the gap between New and Old Labour and as a consequence, John Prescott has ceased to be useful. In fact, he probably ceased being useful quite a while back (the PCC elections were pretty much his last roll of the dice) but last night provided him with yet another chance to prove his worth.

So did he? In a word, ‘no’. The problem with Prescott is that he physically embodies all the properties of the phrase ‘gravy train’ and serves as a walking reminder to voters of why exactly they fell out with New Labour in the first place. Sure, in terms of pure rhetorical pugilism he’s still able to go the distance (too far a distance if Dimber’s constant telling off’s are anything to go by) but this can’t mask the fact that he’s deeply tainted – to the point of toxicity – by all the murkier parts of New Labour’s legacy. All the wars, the cosiness with the city, the cahoots that were gotten into, they all required a little bit of John Prescott and for that reason he’s just too culpable to be useful any more. So hard lines John, it looks like you’re set to roam the wilderness for the time being. Unless of course you punch someone. That’s tended to work in the past.

As it happens Prescott wasn’t alone last night as there was another panelist trying to find her way out of the political tundra and that panelist was Nadine Dorries. Now, Dorries has been excommunicated not on account of her utility but for her dangerousness. Her problem is a) she’s mad as a box of frogs, b) the press know she’s mad as a box of frogs and indulge her more than your Common Garden Backbencher and c) she gave her party a cast-iron excuse to remove the whip by going on IACGMOOH. However, it must be said that in terms of escape plans, last night was pretty good. For a start, she reined in some of her battier tendencies and refused to be drawn into matters like her stance on abortion and she also made a relatively (‘relative’ being the operative word) good fist of the ‘do politicians court celebrity?’ question. Alright, so it wasn’t a stellar performance but given that she’s the most divisive of figures who was at the mercy of a crowd all hopped up on local hospital closures, it could have been worse. My prediction? She’ll be back in the tent before too long. Why? Because last night proved that she can hold it in when she needs to… Or at least long enough to get to the to flap and aim outwards.

I’m becoming oddly attached to Ed Davey…

Here he is, the Adult In The Room. You may not have noticed it – what with all the panto shenanigans of Prescott and Dorries – but there was an actual politician on the show last night, the sort of politician who takes his job very seriously and the sort who if he finishes all his allotted tasks on time may just celebrate by having an extra Digestive before going to bed. Ok, that was cruel (particularly in light of how well boned up on Lewisham’s ongoing hospital woes he was) and I feel bad for mocking Ed Davey because he’s exactly the sort of politician we say we all want – diligent, committed and in it because ‘someone has to’ – yet automatically pick on because they seem a little…. well… square. Consequently, I find myself becoming rather attached to Ed Davey in the same way I’m attached to my toaster: My world wouldn’t fall apart if they/it went missing but things would seem marginally trickier in their absence.

John Bird would get me as far as Burton-on-Trent…

So, what to say about John Bird, founder of The Big Issue and self-styled “working class Marxist Tory”? Well, on the one hand he was great: Outspoken, assured and with the back story to back it up but on the other, he failed the Exeter St. David’s to Leeds test. For the uninitiated (which is all of you) this is a hypothetical hoop I throw people through when I’m not 100% sure of our long-term compatibility: At what point on that train journey would I be secretly wishing that I could just listen to my iPod? In the case of Bird I reckon we’d have a fine – nay, cracking time – until about Cheltenham Spa. We’d talk, I’d find his bafflingly contradictory political self-definition intriguing and we’d even go so far as to crack open a spur-of-the-moment tinny. This state of affairs would persist until about Birmingham New Street. By then his innate confidence would start to irk me, the beer would have left me with a cotton mouth and the conversation would start taking on a very one-sided aspect. By Burton-on-Trent, I’d have broken and sloped off to another carriage under the pretext of a toilet break. I’m not proud of the above but it’s better that we’re honest about these things.

Camilla Cavendish should ask for her money back…

It must be gutting: You get on QT, start saying a bunch of fairly reasonable things, find your stride and then BAM! You get cut off. That was pretty much how it panned out for Cavendish and while my gut tells me that she seems pretty legit, I never really got the chance to find out. I did, however, discover that not only did an audience member look vaguely like me, he was also wearing the exact same outfit. Thanks for freaking me out, you massive imposter (see Fig. 1)!

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

 

Tl;dr

Davey: 6/10

Dependable

Prescott: 4/10

Expendable

Dorries: 5/10

Extendable

Bird: 7/10

Amendable

Cavendish: 6/10

Commendable

The Crowd: 7/10

Bendable?

So there it is: A nicely gee’d-up little romp aided and abetted by a crowd all stoked on local issues. Now here’s a goofy pshop of Nadine Dorries being chased by a shark while John Prescott looks casually looks on. I made it when I was sure that Prezzer was going to trounce Dorries. Oh, hindsight… What chaos have you wrought? (See Fig. 2)

nadine dories shark john prescott

Fig. 2

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #34


questionable time 34 david dimbleby pet shop boys actually

Good morning Lemmings and please try to bear with me as I attempt to rearrange the whirlpool of annoyance, vexation and ill will that’s currently spinning in my head into something comprehensible. You see, I try – Lord knows I try – to keep Questionable Time at least a little bit objective and usually I do an OK-ish job. For instance, remember when I gave Melanie Phillips the highest marks on a show simply because whatever nonsense she was flapping her gums about was more entertaining than the sub-par dross everyone else was coming out with? Well, that was me trying to be ‘objective’: I can’t stand Phillips but at least she managed to keep me vaguely entertained. Alas, I think I’m going to have to check any sense of reasonableness at the door today because I simply can’t abide John Lydon and despite straining every fibre of compassion in my body I just can’t find anything good to say about the man. And why is this? Let us count the ways:

It’s all about bloody John.

Let’s just briefly set aside the standard charge sheet of this self-styled ‘solid working class lad’ (as opposed to a “middle class twat from Tring”) who is beholden to no one yet finds the time to advertise butter and marry wealthy heiresses, to see if we can’t actually figure out what he said last night: Struggling? Me too and that’s because he doesn’t actually say much. Instead he just oozes a sort of malevolent animosity towards anyone and anything that isn’t John Lydon. Ok, so the points that he did make semi-coherently were that he doesn’t much like politicians, is no fan of bankers and apparently likes taking drugs. I don’t have a problem with any of these views but I do have a problem with the way he frames them: These people/things are good/bad because I say they’re good/bad and if you’re in the market for reasons as to why I hate/love them then you are out of luck. Not only that, but in John Lydon’s eyes, John Lydon’s opinion takes primacy over that of anyone else’s. You’ve got something to say that might contradict my world view? Well how about you try saying it as I talk all over you, butt in and disparage your existence with a sneer, buddy! The good news is that he ran out of road on that front pretty quickly and by the end almost everyone was telling him to shut up but still, it’s a horrible way of making a point. What’s even worse is that I somewhat agree with him on the drugs issue but he totally squandered any capital he might have accrued in that department by making it personal between himself and Louise Mensch. And why did he do that? Because it’s all about bloody John.

That drawl… I can’t… Even… Arrrrghhhh!

Seriously, is it just me or is Lydon’s vocal inflection the sonic equivalent of rubbing a cheese grater against your face?

The left and right are both co-neck-tiiiiiiid”

Murdoch…. MUUUUUUUUUUURDER!”

Helloooooooo? HELLOOOOOOOO?”

Gah! Just stop already! It’s too much! Oh, and one other thing… The Bill Grundy Show was 36 years ago and since then calling people “shits” has lost a little of its shock value. Just saying John, just saying…

The Bottom Line: John Lydon is a creature.

Not only that, but he is a creature created by another man (the late Malcolm McLaren) and then foisted on the world in a horribly cynical and successful attempt to enrich the creator. In that respect I do have a little sympathy for Lydon: His destiny was never his own and he’s just playing out a role assigned to him by someone who saw the The Manchurian Candidate as less of a cautionary tale and more of a blueprint for commercial success. However, this does not excuse the not wearing of a shirt. John, if you’re feeling a little too hot, why not take off the cocking bomber jacket?

Enough. If I carry on with this I’m going to do myself a mischief.

Confession time: I think I’m actually growing to quite like Louise Mensch.

In the general scheme of things Louise Mensch should really annoy me: She has a tendency to get very shrill, has a habit of over-playing the righteous indignation card a little too often and her skin looks like it’s been applied by a process not dissimilar to vacuum forming. However I must confess that I was actually quite impressed with her last night, largely because she has a mind of her own. Sure, she’s a backbencher with numerous irons in the fire which gives her an advantage over her ministerial colleagues but I will say this: She didn’t need to bring up her Class-A drug use last night and although I have a slight suspicion that she did it to head off anyone else at the pass it was still quite a gutsy move. I was also impressed by her pouring of cold water on the citizenship test and the fact that she held her own against the very seasoned Alan Johnson is also to her credit. So yes, Mensch’s stock is on the rise in my book, not withstanding the fact that she keeps some very dodgy company.

And the rest of ’em?

Assuming you managed to see beyond the Lydon induced red mist (and God knows that was difficult) you may have noticed the presence of three other people. Their performance can be summed up thusly:

  1. Alan Johnson proved once again that being a Generally Nice Bloke is a potent political weapon that is extremely difficult to counter. Granted, it’s always a little jarring when the Generally Nice Bloke mask slips momentarily (which it always does when anyone brings up the sacking of Prof. David Nutt) but taken as a whole he did very well. Alas, his being on Question Time meant that he wasn’t available for a shirt-off with Portillo on This Week but I’ve done my best to recreate the experience (see Fig. 1… There’s also a Questionable Time sticker in it for anyone who can tell me where the shirts originally came from. Answers in the comments please).
  2. Ed Davey once again proved that trying to portray yourself as a Generally Good Egg is only a partially successful strategy and one that’s liable to be eclipsed by the Generally Nice Bloke. There’s no shame in it, it’s just not that exciting.
  3. Poor old Dominic Lawson gets the lion’s share of my sympathy this week as he had some genuinely interesting stuff to say but was largely drowned out by The John Lydon Show. Hard luck there Dominic… Come back again when the show is less twatty.
  4. And finally The Crowd… They deserve praise for putting Lydon in his place and also for being generally seditious. I love it when people from Derbyshire get all hot under the collar because their accent simply isn’t capable of conveying anger. Comical Annoyance, yes. Furious Wrath, no.
michael portillo alan johnson this week shirts

Fig. 1

Tl;dr:

Mensch: 7/10

(Deserves a) Pat (on the back)

Johnson: 7/10

(Is a full) Fat (politician)

Davey: 5/10

(Was a bit) Flat

Lawson: 6/10

(Was unfortunately) Sat (on the sidelines).

Lydon: 1/10

(Is a total) Twat

The Crowd: 7/10

(Were more gloss than) Matte.

So that’s that: A racy little number marred only by the second 1/10 I’ve ever had to give out (I thought about giving him a zero and then stopped dead in my tracks…. That’s exactly what John Lydon would want me to do!). Alas, it was the last in the series so you guys are just going to have to get through this ‘summer’ without me. Still, many thanks for reading and hopefully Questionable Time should be back in September while John Lydon should be back in California, smoking his duty frees and annoying someone else. We can but hope.

Next September Lemmings, next September…

P.S. Thanks to the kind people at the #BBCQT Watchalong for their help this week. Much appreciated.

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #29


Morning Lemmings and welcome back to the land malfunctioning SCART leads and green hued televisions. That’s right, my technical problems persist but being the selfless hero that I am, I carry on regardless, taking it on the chin just so that you can kill ten minutes at work, reading whatever nonsense I’ve provided you with this week. And nonsense it will be this week as I must confess to have had a very odd day. Now, considering my day job is as a mental health worker, that shouldn’t come as much of surprise and after eight years of being in this trade, I have to say that the bar for what I consider to be ‘strange’ is set very high (you have to do something really weird for me to take notice these days. Arguing with trees? Phhhhht… doesn’t even touch the sides. Accusing traffic cones of plotting conspiracies? Not even close. Insisting that John Snow lives in your chest of drawers? Boring! You get the picture). However, today was one of those where even I had to stop and question my sanity and if this report sounds a little more spaced out than usual, I apologise… It’s merely a consequence of having spent seven hours with the inexplicable.

 

Right, excuses made, fair warning given, let’s go.

 

The Menu

Q1: Was Boris acting irresponsibly by saying the Housing Benefit reforms would lead to “Kosovo style cleansing”?

Q2: Should David Cameron wield a rhetorical handbag on the EU budget?

Q3: Does the news that the economy has grown 0.8% mean the Conservative led coalition are right on the economy?

Q4: Was the head of M16 right to say that we should avoid torture, even if it helps terrorists carry out attacks?

 

In The Yellow Bit of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Ed Davey, LibDem Chief of Staff and rescuer of damsels in distress.

Hmmmm… not quite sure what to make of this guy in that he’s got one of those faces that doesn’t really match his personality. Every time I look at him, I just hear the words “RUGGER BUGGER” repeating over and over again in my head and he also has this semi-vacant, middle distance stare that looks a little, well, thick. But none of this tallies with the way he presents which is actually pretty on the ball. I say ‘pretty on the ball’ because while he’s appears to be quite an accomplished offensive player, driving whatever point he’s making home in quite a forceful manner without crossing the line into belligerence, he’s not great at cornering and when plans start unravelling, that ‘Wayne Rooney with a multiplication problem to solve’ look involuntary spreads right across his face and he looks a little helpless. Still, it’s early days for Ed and the fundamentals seem to be there so let’s see how he did.

It was a fairly promising start as he looked convincingly cross whilst damning Johnson’s “appalling” behaviour, but then came unstuck as Sturgeon slapped him with a bunch of figures and Chris Bryant piled in with some pointed stuff about ‘progressiveness’ that sounded like an invitation to a duel. Q2 saw much waffling about not much at all followed by an admission that neither he nor Bryant had a clue about the real figures (which Bryant took in his stride whilst Davey looked a little out of sorts) and Q3 was basically a fighting retreat with a sudden out burst of wide-eyed Deficit Panic and a weaponised comparison of Scotland to Iceland. Last but not least was Q4’s no-brainer which he handled in the prescribed manner of ‘Torture = Bad’ and that was that. Home time.

Reading that back, it sounds quite unimpressive, but bear in mind that he was in Glasgow and on a week the coalition haven’t exactly been rolling in good news. Yes, it was a little dry and no, he’s not very quick on his feet, but given the circumstances, he did well to come away without any jeering and he even got a few good claps along the way. And that, in my opinion, is not bad going for someone who’s largely been a backroom boy with very little QT experience. Grant Shapps, take note.

A perfectly acceptable 5/10

In The Red Corner: Chris Bryant, Shadow Minister for Political and Constitution Reform and be-panted self photographer.

Now this guy is interesting. Really interesting. Not only does he have a suitably unorthodox background (former Anglican vicar and conservative student who came out as being gay and then went on to become a Labour MP), but his QT technique is also rather unique and out of the ordinary. For one thing, he’s incredibly nimble, spotting weak points in opponent’s arguments within the blink of an eye and then adjusting his tack very quickly to exploit these weaknesses to their full extent. He’s also one for close combat, not necessarily making things personal, but always ensuring that he’s all over whoever he’s up against and giving them very little space to manoeuvre. Now, this already sounds like a glowing report, but hold on: There are flies in the ointment, not the least being that he’s pretty much a flat-out gambler, taking some pretty hefty rhetorical risks that don’t always go his way (as this weeks “social cleansing” parliamentary jibber-jabber aptly illustrated). Still, credit where credit’s due, he doesn’t seem phased when these ventures go sour and you get the sense that he’s a hard man to rattle.

It all started inauspiciously enough as he spent the first part of Q1 defending his “cleansing” remarks, but he did get to lash out quite effectively at Davey later on and was given some crowd love for his efforts. Q2 turned into a right old scrap between him and Ed as he invoked the banker argument and they both accused each other of turning the debate into a “pantomime”, but he later found an exposed flank regarding Cameron’s lack of friends in Europe and he worked that in a quiet, effective manner. However, this more understated approach was fleeting as he decided to take on both Davey and Hendry simultaneously in Q3 (much shaking of the Bonus Stick ensued) and largely got away with it whilst Q4 saw some weird metaphor involving Anne Frank and some self referential ‘I used to live in Argentina’ stuff.

Now none of this sounds especially exciting and to be honest, he should have done better considering the territory and the political backdrop. However, it’s not really what Bryant says that fascinates me, it’s the way he moves. I’ve got a feeling that we’re going to be seeing much more of this guy as there’s something about his history and presentation that tells me he’s just different from a great many politicians. Is he destined for great things? I doubt it as although he’s a great tactical player, I’m not sure if the strategic reasoning’s all there and his penchant for risky moves could well derail him in the future. However, he does seem to have a remarkable ability to reinvent himself, his instincts seem pretty sharp and he’s tougher than he looks. With this in mind, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to mark him. Part of me wants to give him big numbers for just generally intriguing me, but then it would be somewhat unfair to class his performance as any sort of victory. So with fairness in mind, I’m going to split the difference but keep an eye on this guy. I’ve a feeling he could be quite fun in the near future.

A potential laden 6/10

In The Other Yellow Corner: Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Salmond sidekick.

So we’re in Glasgow tonight and that means that we’re going to see the SNP which in turn means that it’s either going to be Salmond or Sturgeon. Now, I must confess that I don’t really keep abreast of Scottish politics, mainly because it has absolutely no bearing on my day-to-day life in any way, shape or form, but c’mon! There’s got to more than two people in the whole bloody party! Anyhoo, minor chunter aside, it was Sturgeon’s turn tonight and I must say she did better than last time when she ended up embroiled in all sorts of Megrahi related bother. I’m not going to get to carried away in writing this up as it was a pretty much textbook regional party play: Have a go at whoever’s in power, stay well to the left of the mainstream and make damn sure you get some nationalist call-to-arms type stuff in the (something that she got told off by Dimber’s for in Q4 but went ahead with anyway). However, she did play these tactics quite well and she came close to knocking Davey right off-balance with a pretty well-reasoned argument about the Housing Benefit reforms in Q1. So yes, pretty solid Nicola. However, you do still look like a tomboy and I have a nasty feeling that you may be the person who keeps buying Sharleen Spiteri Albums. Please stop with that. It only encourages her.

A fairly standard but fairly good 7/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Simon Schama, history buff and flowerpot man incarnate.

Oh Jesus, I feel sick and not just because of the green shroud that has enveloped my telly. No, what’s got me all a chunder is trying to keep my eyes on Simon Schama as he gesticulates so wildly that he threatens to shake the earth loose from it’s orbit and cast us adrift into the depths of space. And it’s not just the possibility that his head might actually rotate a full 360 degrees that’s bringing me to the edge of motion sickness (see Fig. 1), it’s also the way he sends you on a verbal rollercoaster every time he answers a bloody question.

Fig. 1

Seriously, I pretty much gave up taking notes about Schama as it was like putting your head into a semantic tumble dryer and in the end I invented a new shorthand symbol for whenever he was waffling long tracts of wordy sounding bollocks (see Fig.2)

Fig. 2

However, I did manage to snatch a few choice nuggets, some of which include:

“Spitting fire in Johnson’s eye!”

“He needs a handbag full of knuckledusters!”

“The Duke of Wellington would be spinning in his grave!”

Something about vultures and Tolstoy

“Suicide bombers aren’t cowards!”

“WAKE UP PEOPLE!” [whilst violently slapping the table].

Alright, so I’m taking the piss now, but in the main he’s fun to watch (the crowd seem to think so as well), even if I haven’t the got faintest idea what he’s talking about. This in turn leads me to conclude that Simon Schama isn’t a genius. No, I think he’s just a very good blagger who hasn’t got any O-Levels and reads a dictionary on the toilet in order to chance his way through life by connecting long words together in random configuration and if that is the case, good luck to him. Come what may Simon, stay animated, stay wobbly and we’ll swallow any old tosh you throw in our direction.

An enjoyably inexplicable 7/10

In the I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Hugh Hendry, hedge fund manager and seemingly unrepentant bastard.

Oh wow. Never in the history of LCCPMQTR has there been someone so ill suited the title of ‘I’m The Funny One/Just Like You’ as much as Hugh Hendry and that’s even following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Vorderman, McKenzie and Phillips. Quite clearly, Hendry isn’t one for ‘funny’ unless it happens to be at the expense of one of the many people he seems to regard as a useless mouth (which I think covers around 99% of the population) and the ‘Just Like You’ bit could only ever apply if you happened to be a misanthropic supervillain who was in the business of creating complex derivatives out of human pain and suffering. In some ways I kind of knew what I was in for as I’d seem on Newsnight a few months back and was pretty shocked by his apparent lack of compassion for his fellow man then, but that didn’t even come close to preparing for what we witnessed last night.

 

In short, Hendry has three default positions which are as follows:

 

1. Whatever you’re talking about is bleeding heart nonsense that will drive humanity to extinction as it clearly doesn’t turn a profit. As a result, you are stupid and I mock you from my palace made of solid gold.

 

2. I couldn’t give a shit about what you’re talking about as it has no bearing on the making or not making of profits.

 

3. Whatever you’re talking about is more important than the air we breath as it has the potential to make me vast sums of money and as a result I will continue to tolerate your existence, at least until you stop 100% agreeing with me.

 

 

It really is as simple as that. Take Q1 for instance: The very notion of thinking about people on Housing Benefit seemed to be fathoms below his pay grade, as if it were a chore, but then he remembered that he might have to pay taxes for that sort of thing and branded the whole thing “insane!” (as well as “crazy!”, “out of control!” and once again “insane!”). I’ve put exclamation marks behind those quotes as I think they were intended to be exclaimed, but in practice, they were delivered in a tone that said “You bloody idiots. I can barely muster the energy to explain these things to you peasants because you’re all stupid bloody proles who aren’t making me money at this given moment in time”. Similarly with Q2, he had plenty of scorn to pour on the EU (include some weird little aside about bureaucrats not being “people”), all delivered in a manner of such resignation that you were left with no doubt that he does in fact dwell in a completely different reality from the rest of us. Q3 stirred some slightly more convincing interest as it appeared to be a subject that might have something to with whatever parallel universe he inhabits, but it pretty much ended up with him telling off the entire nation for not being very nice to bankers (although he did land a well-aimed slap on Bryant about Labour’s relationship with the City) and a strange little outburst where he said that “Nicola Sturgeon won’t employ your kids!” (of course she won’t. She’s in a party that only has two members). However, the real fireworks were in Q4 where he just came straight out and said that he liked the idea of torture being used to scare terrorists (all said whilst looking bored). Rightly concerned, an audience member picked him up on this a little later and asked whether he really was in favour of torture. Without batting an eyelid, he confirmed this, said he didn’t want the intelligence services hindered by such trifling things as morality and even managed to squeeze in a weird reference to himself in the 3rd person (“Hugh Hendry lives in London with three young children”).

 

WTF?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?11111111111

 

Truly, I was blown away by this guy. I knew he had a reputation as a bit of fundamentalist but I didn’t realise just how black and white his view of the world are and when it comes to marking, I’m at a total loss. In the past, I’ve always marked those who I disagree with but add something to show quite well (your Douglas Murray’s and Nigel Farage’s, for instance), but there was something just so otherworldly and actually quite frightening about this guy that it left me wondering whether Ayn Rand had risen from the dead, got a sex change and moved to Scotland. Ok, I’ve decided: Low marks, if only for making Ruth Lea look like a member of the Woodcraft Folk.

 

A fear inducing 3/10

 

The Crowd: Glasgow

Yet again, not as I expected. Given that Glasgow is usually pretty anti-Tory I was expecting pretty much one way traffic when it came to bashing the coalition but it wasn’t like that. Yes, generally opinion seemed mostly against the cuts, Sturgeon got the majority of claps and most people sounded very dubious about the plan for growth, but it was not a done deal and there was plenty of support in the opposite direction, especially when it came to Housing Benefit in London. Ok, so one guy managed to blame Thatcher, but this is Glasgow where Thatcher Blame is only marginally cheaper than heroin so yeah, colour me surprised with the general tone of the evening. Politically, I didn’t take much from this episode as it seemed to be a rather indecisive ding-dong but in terms of the characters involved, I thought it was interesting, especially watching Bryant and trying to figure out what he was up to. The crowd themselves were a pretty stock affair, but I can happily report that Question Time audience members have taken last week’s advise to heart and that there was a man there sporting a bow tie. For that, Glasgow, you get one mark above average.

 

Average score + 1 Bow Tie Modifier = 6/10

 

Right, we’re done. Actually, that ended up not being completely weird, a feat that is made all the more remarkable on account of the fact that I’ve been listening to the entire Man Or Astroman? discography on random whilst writing this. I remain sane. This is good news.

 

Next week Lemmings, next week.


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