Posts Tagged 'ed miliband'

Questionable Time #135


qt 135

Next time: all change (?).

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #24


This shit is bananas....

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

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

The Menu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A non-damaging but non-victorious 5/10


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

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

Fig 1

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

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

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

A semi convincing 6/10

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

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

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

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

A very out of character 7/10

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

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

A wantonly ordinary 5/10

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

Fig. 2

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

An essentially irrelevant but largely enjoyable 7/10

The Crowd: London

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

An odd but enjoyable 6/10

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

Now, about that Japanese shipping….

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #12


Ol' Big Neck and Wonky Eyes

Morning Lemmings. Ok, so I guess I’d better pay lip-service to the Leaders Debate as it provided the backdrop to last night’s Question Time and the world seems to have got its knickers in a twist about it (except, strangely, the Mail and Express, who are going with volcanogeddon on their front pages today… Your boy not do too well then?). I’m not going to get too deeply embroiled in it all as we’ll be here all day, but here’s a few choice titbits for you:

1: The format is super weird, like an episode of Blind Date where the audience couldn’t be bothered to turn up, Cilla’s been at the catnip and the girl who does the picking is in a comma. I know that everyone’s bleating about what a revelation it all was but I have to confess that I found it half stultifyingly dull, half mindbendingly bizarre (at one point I began daydreaming about how cool it would be if Cameron’s head just exploded, showering Clegg and Brown with blood and propelling fragments of skull into Stewart’s face. See what it’s done to me?) Debate without a feedback mechanism is an odd puppy indeed.

2: Alistair Stewart is a tool and a very staccato one at that. I know it was hard brief, given the Byzantine rules involved, but constantly barking “MR BROWN! MR BROWN!” does not a Dimbleby make.

3: Clegg did do well. I’ve been very scathing about him of late, mainly because he comes across as the political equivalent of skimmed milk: Sensible but life drainingly limp. However, he did manage to look like someone with two, possibly three dimensions last night and clearly stood apart from Brown and Cameron as a person who may have some non-crap tricks up his sleeve. So well done Cleggers, your stock’s just risen in my book.

4. Brown wasn’t that bad. Yes, ‘the big list’ is a very worn and dull tactic and desperately shoehorning shonky jokes into places where you shouldn’t isn’t exactly edifying, but he did win some points on the ‘steady pair of hands’ scale. If I was him, I’d knock these efforts to humanise himself on the head because it isn’t fooling anyone. We know he’s a creature who dwells in a netherworld of abstract numbers and ethereal statistics, but that’s actually part of his appeal (in an odd sort of way). Stick with what you know, Gordy. Oh, and watching him try to bum Clegg was pretty entertaining.

5. The biggest revelation for me was just how bad Cameron was. I was fully expecting him to walk this, but it was not to be. The main problem is that his ‘reduce hugely complex and nuanced issues into a happy little tale of how cocking normal I am’ tactic that works so well on soundbites and news bulletins simply can’t sustain 90 minutes of scrutiny. Seriously, if he had tried to boil the global economic crisis down to some anecdote about how he was hanging out in a Spar shop, buying something excruciatingly normal amongst excruciatingly normal people one more time, I swear to god I would have forced lit cigarettes down my ears, hot end first. The flakiness of the Tories latest wheeze (power to plebs, yo?) also began to look suspiciously flimsy after a few minutes and I can’t help but think that they are really going to have to up their game to stop the other debates going sideways.

6. The set looks like is was borrowed from a daytime telly gameshow, possibly involving William G. Stewart.

7. When the candidates weren’t talking they looked like they were messing about with colouring-in books.

8. 90 minutes is a bloody long time.

So that’s that: A rather disorientating experience that left me salivating for the fillet steak of Dimbleby after the gruel of Stewart. Waiter!

The Menu: This is a bit of format tweak, largely to curb my tendency to waffle about the finer points of the various questions. So, from now on, the questions go up first, I get to have a bath and read the New Statesman a bit earlier while you don’t have to trawl through quite as much blabber. Everyone’s a winner, kapeesh? So, what’s on tonight’s menu?

Q1: Who won tonight’s debate?

    Q2: The debate is being described as “historic” but will it make a difference?

    Q3: Does the Tories ‘people power’ wheeze represent an abdication of the state in providing services?

    Q4: Does Gordon Brown’s omission that he should have supervised the banks more closely mean he’s not fit to lead?

Q5: Is a hung parliament the political equivalent of volcanic ash (topical!)?

In The Red Corner: Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and somewhat boss eyed (see above) brother of David.
Another week, another Miliband, although this time we get the slightly more human of the pair. I’ve got quite a lot of time for Ed as he does seem to genuinely think about what he says and has an air of conviction that doesn’t spill over into sounding desperate. His career path hasn’t been quite as meteoric as his brother’s, mainly because he’s always been on the Brown side of the Labour fence, but to be honest, that seems to work in his favour as I’m natural suspicious of high achievers and their ilk. He also has much softer edges than David, mainly because he trades less in pure politics (which the younger Miliband excels at…. excels at far too much in fact) and more in ideas. That gives him a little more depth and a little less jaggedness. It was an easier show than it could have been for him tonight, considering Brown managed not to completely faceplant himself into the pavement while Cameron didn’t manage to live up to his own hype. Q1 was a pretty chushty affair that simply involved giving the obligatory props to ‘how great for democracy’ the whole shebang was, a few nods in Brown’s direction and a nice little crack at the Tories for Cameron’s China faux pas. Nothing of revelationary significance, but steady enough. Minor applause was the order of the day for Q2 as he needled the Tories again for Cameron’s weak effort and declared Gordon Brown to be a “man of substance”, but he overplayed this hand when he went back for a second bite and no-one would play with him. Q3 provided a rich seam to mine as it was pretty clear that the crowd weren’t on board with the whole ‘Big Society’ flakery and they dished out some love when he managed to big up the state without badmouthing the voluntary sector and generally harried Gove on some education do-dahs. Things could have got pretty difficult on Q4, but it seemed that the audience had made up their mind that this was going to be a fairly anti-Tory night and despite wheeling the standard issue ‘global recession line’ (this time working in references to “houses in Mississippi”… go on Ed! Paint a picture!) things did get sticky when an audience bought up that weird story about some department that had a “contemplation suite”. Miliband did the honourable thing in the face of this and dropped Ed Balls right in it (if in doubt, blame Balls) while the final question had him making some ‘we love constitutional reform now that the LibDems look like they might have a fighting chance’ gestures that didn’t look entirely heartfelt. So, all-in-all it was a pretty good turn and at the end of play he looked entirely unscathed. Some of this is down to circumstance. I’m guessing that the Leader’s Debate went way better than most Labour bigwigs hoped and the inevitable hammering he expected to take never materialised. Instead, all he had to do was not get over-cocky and just go with the audience, which he did and it worked. The other part of this is down to Miliband himself and the fact that he’s good at getting the pitch right. While his brother plays a very impressive offensive game, the political equivalent of Shock and Awe, Ed seems much more well rounded and flexible. He’s good in defence without appearing conceited and has the umph to take the fight to the other side as well, all of which goes in his favour. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m saying that this was some earth shattering display of statesman like qualities, but it was quite a nice, measured bit of play that sounded mostly convincing.

An above par 6/10

In Blue Corner, Michael Gove, long neck having (see above) Shadow Secretary for Children, Schools and Families and man made entirely of Play Dough
I have a hard time pegging Gove down. On the one hand he’s clearly bright, tougher than he looks (and he does look like his face was made by a three year old potter who’s been at the E-numbers…See Fig. 1) and tends to do quite well on the likes of Newsnight.

Zoinks!

Fig. 1

Like Ed Miliband, he’s more on the ‘ideas’ end of politics and he seems to be a lot better at nuance than most Tories are. Having said that, I have reservations about the ideas he comes up with (being mainly of the vague and woolly variety, dressed up to sound much more solid than they actually are), his body language points to a squirrel based ancestory and his ‘angry’ face is really irritating. It was a tough deal for him on this episode, considering he had only half an hour’s thinking time after watching his leader do a less than great job and the lack of feedback from the Leader’s Debate audience probably had him making wild guesses about how it went down with the public. The lack of response he got to Q1 (‘of course I love Dave but politicians “shouldn’t pass judgement” on this’…wtf?) was pretty much the shape of things to come while Q2’s little pop at LibDem immigration policy also failed to find it’s target. However, it was Q3 where things started getting messy and when he tried to explain why the whole ‘Big Society’ thing was so great (and he has his fingerprints all over this policy), he was treated to a full blown tumbleweed moment. Sensing that things were looking ominous, he rashly declared that he “loves” Shami Chakrabarti, only to have the subject of his affection turn around and call him a liar. Bad move. Q4 was a safer affair and a recitation of the standard Gordon Brown charge sheet and a sly little swipe at Law’s for being a banker back in the day seemed to do the trick. Moderate applause was his reward, along with a slight respite from the growing anti-Tory sentiment. Finally, he conjured up some thinly veiled warnings about a hung parliament for Q6 and then shuffled off, bloodied but not entirely unbowed.

Truth be told, he didn’t do so badly as the crowd were most certainly not in the market for the regular Tory line and as I said earlier, events conspired against him. If that had been May, Osborne or Lansley, I could see it degenerating into rout, but he did pretty well to keep a semblance of a defence up and although he comes across as quite odd, he isn’t totally unlikable. So bad luck Michael, that was a choppy crossing but you can take comfort in the fact that you didn’t throw up all over yourself.

A spirited, if not entirely successful 5/10

In The Yellow Corner, David Laws, Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and slightly David Caruso-esque ex-banker.
I haven’t been impressed by laws to date, mainly because there’s something a little jobsworthy about him (“pleeeeease let us have power”) and he can be a little over assertive, but he was in a great position tonight, given Clegg’s out-of-fucking-nowhere turn. Naturally Q1 was a love-in with Nick and a fall-out with Dave, all of which went down with predictable well while he continued to keep the pressure on Cameron in Q2. Q3 saw him do really well as he managed to knock Labour for the nanny state whilst also bashing ‘Big Society’ as being deeply divisive, something that clearly resonated with the audience and made him a whole stack of hay. I have to confess that I missed him on Q4, having to both go to the toilet and find a bottle opener, so no searing insights from me there while Q5 saw him quietly fade out, chuntering about this, that or the other . On the face of it, he seems to have won the political argument but I can’t really put that down to any particular personal trait. Ok, so he seems competent enough and there was nothing I didn’t particularly dislike about his performance, but I still can’t quite get behind him yet. Maybe that will come with more exposure and there’s every possibility that I’m just being a mardy old hack, but for now I am going to suspend opinion on him. Laws: Make me like you.

A technically victorious but not-quite-there-yet 6/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Nigel Farage, ex-leader of UKIP, ventriloquists dummy (see Fig. 2) and wearer of naff suits.

gogtle of ginglish gere?

Fig. 2

I’m going to say something rash now: Politics is a better place with Farage in it. Now hold on there, don’t phone the duty mental health team and arrange a sectioning just yet because this doesn’t mean that I agree with him about…well…pretty much anything, it’s just that he’s a genuine character . A demented, small minded demagogue of a character, yes, but a character nevertheless and characters add much needed spice to what can otherwise be a dull and overly dry subject. He also looks like a cad who’s just a little bit too dorky to be a proper cad and I imagine him being stuck at Cad HQ, doing the accounts while all the real cads are out shagging emotionally vulnerable countesses and swindling impressionable young nobles out of their fortune. That thought cheers me for some reason. Sadly, I was kind of disappointed with tonight’s effort as there was nothing he could get really off his tits about and he kept having to invent reasons to be crazy, usually by making totally unrelated topics somehow link to the EU. Calling the LibDems “the modern day CND” and a brief seizure about Gordy selling the gold looked like they could have developed into some awesomely batty tirades, but alas, it was not to be. Instead, what we mainly got was ‘blah blah referendum, blah blah throwing the doors open, blah blah”. Now I know that UKIP’s main (and only) selling point is the whole Eurobashing thing, but come on, you have to bolster that up with obnoxious opinions about other things as well if you want my continued tolerance of your outlandish worldview. So step up your game, Farage. Next time your own, I want to at least see some hair on the palms of your hands.

A disappointingly flat 3/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: John Sergeant, reassuringly un-handsom ex-journo and buggerer-up of Strictly Come Dancing.

Ahh, John Sergeant… while nature may have given you a pretty ropey deal in the looks department, it more than made up for it by blessing you with the most soothing voice in Britain. Seriously, it’s like swimming in a pool of Ovaltine and if ever anyone has to break some bad news to me, I’d like it if they could contact Sergeant first and get him to do it instead. He’s also one of the most reasonable sounding people on telly, taking his time to softly impart little nuggets of considered wisdom that seem to waft out of his mouth in a fine, sweet smelling mist. Tonight saw him being incredibly sympathetic towards Brown, swimming against the tide a little but getting away with it because it’s just impossible to be angry with someone who looks that much like a comedy cartoon sidekick. Worthy of note was his rather wonderful lambasting about the ‘Big Society’ issue, but unfortunately this got taken the wrong way by an overly eager audience member who thought he was being nasty about the voluntary sector and he had to crank his voice from ‘soothing’ to ‘ultra-soothing’ in order to extricate himself. Mostly though, it was good, thoughtful stuff and while I didn’t agree with it all (I, for instance, really want a hung parliament), it was said in such a way that it came across as it should: an opinion, not an existential threat to my beliefs system. Given that the prevailing wind in politics seems to be a very reductionist, with-us-or-against-us hurricane, it’s really refreshing to listen to someone who actually bothers to look at things in depth. So well done John, now come over to mine and gently lull me to sleep with some Beatrix Potter and Winnie the Pooh. And some warm milk. And tuck me in. That’s enough now. You can go.

A wonderfully contented 7/10

In The There Goes The Format Corner: Shami Chakrabarti, OO gauge defender of Liberties and formidable Question Time performer.

If there’s one person who you can safely bet on to wipe the floor with everyone on Question Time, it’s Shami Chakrabarti. In some ways it’s a little unfair because pretty much no one would disagree that having their door kicked down by the police is something they’d rather avoid, but for the most part it’s down to the fact that she’s passionate, eloquent and doesn’t pander to anybody. She also (as my better half spotted some time ago) looks a lot like a school boy and I’ve often wondered how she’d look in traditional cap and blazer (not in a pervy way, you understand?). Well, thanks to the judicious use of commercially available photo manipulation software, that moment has now arrived. Behold, Middle School Chakrabarti (see Fig. 3)!

Fig. 3

Ok, so it was a little weird having to type ‘boy in traditional school uniform’ into Google Images, but I feel that the end justifies the means. As always tonight, she did a sterling job, going with Clegg on the Leadership Debates, pouring scorn on ‘Big Society’ and generally making sure that none of the politicians got a free ride. The crowd were on board with her as they always are, even as she performed a fairly risky manoeuvre in which she implicated every one of us as a culprit in the credit crunch. That’s an important point right there and one that doesn’t get aired enough, mainly because people are too afraid it won’t go down well. Thankfully, Shami has no such qualms and will routinely point the finger, no matter how much of a holy cow the culprit is. I won’t get too carried away in praising her to high heaven as she does have a blessed position on the show, beholden to no-one and peddling an idea that’s almost universally agreed upon as ‘a good thing’, but there’s still an awful lot to like. So that was pretty much her lot and as usual, it was a very good lot which leads me to conclude that should ever the facility to gamble on Question Time exist, always go with Chakrabarti. You’ll be rich in no time.

A fully great 8/10

The Crowd: London

I had the deepest sympathy for the audience tonight, enduring as they did the full 90 minutes of Leaders Debate but without access to booze, fags, internet and things to throw at the screen. The strain was evident during the opening question and it took them a while to shake off the torpor that seemed to envelop the studio. However, once they regained consciousness, they proved to be a great crowd and one that was very much into Nick Clegg. The other interesting thing was that they were probably one of the most anti-Cameron audience we’ve seen all series which is saying something given that we’ve already been to Scotland and the North East. That’s not to say it was all one way traffic, but if I was in the Tories right now, I’d be seriously looking for that thinking cap of mine. One final thing that struck me about them: this was one of the first shows in a long time when expenses and ‘all MP’s are crap’ didn’t form the backbone of the audience argument. I’ve been quite negative about the Leaders Debates tonight, but if Clegg has somehow managed to drag the argument out of the Swamp of Culpability and into the Savannah of Possibilities, then that is good thing. A very good thing. But yes, generally they were a good bunch and made for a lively show. Members of note this week include a women who made a sentence out of seemingly random words (“more slightly a bit like a puppet show”), a guy who’s shirt looked like a tube of Cresta toothpaste and a women who forgot what she was saying before she said it. I fucking love it when that happens.

A refreshing and zesty 8/10

So Chakrabarti and the crowd carry the day. Well done to them and a ‘not a bad show’ to everyone except Farage. Come on Nigel! Stop with the non-crazy!

See yers next week.


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