Posts Tagged 'Emily Thornberry'

Questionable Time #107


qt 107

Good morrow Lemmings, and it’s time for a new round of Questionable Time! As you may have noticed, our Glorious Leader has departed for the Promised Land and left affairs to me, Elizabeth, the dancing monkey. I’ll be trying out a new, quasi-liveblogging format of post this edition, so let me know your thoughts in the comments and if you want me strung up or not.

Also, unfortunately, my plans for this post were sadly dashed! My scanner has broken down/computer is slow as molasses, so I was not able to prepare some cool illustrations this time. But starting from next week, that’s what we’ll be doing. I leave you with only one bad Photoshop this edition, done in a panic when I realised that technology had failed me. And that’s why this post is so late and why I’m incompetent.

In any case, here we go!

Isis is also the name of the dog on Downton Abbey

Ahh, listen to that familiar theme tune! Doesn’t it send a chill down your spine, the kind you experience whenever you – merely for example – see a big ol’ spider hanging in the corner of your bedroom and you yell and the spider wobbles on its web and you lie crying in the corner waiting for the pain to end, my god won’t it end? Or is that just me?

The first question is on the potential airstrikes, despite the Scottish setting, but don’t worry – we’ll have more than enough of that brand of fun later. Emily Thornberry from the red team is first up and she’s assuring everyone that this isn’t like last time. She’s likeable enough, but her mumblings about an ‘international team’ bring up hazy memories of a certain film some of you may have heard of – Team America: World Police. Heck yeah! (Censored on behalf of our younger readers, of which I am sure there are many.)

IS or Isil or Isis or Helloisitmeyou’relookingfor are bloody horrible, repeats every member of the panel to much collective nodding. I groan as they continue to nod faster and faster, because questions like these rarely rouse hysterical screaming which is obviously the real reason we’re all watching Question Time, mainly in vain. Don’t worry, count on the Scots to heat things up later. In any case, MPs are most likely wondering right about now: ‘Why Iraq? Why couldn’t it be one of those other Middle Eastern countries no-one cares about?’ So, boots on the ground is a big no-no…at least for now.

Rory Stewart from the blue team is up next. He looks like a sixth-form student, specifically a guy I used to know in sixth-form, so much so that I did a double-take and almost looked up his Facebook to congratulate him on his new career path. He’s apparently a respected academic, foreign policy expert, charity worker, author and general scuttler across the Middle East. It’s unbelievable yet true, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes on to be promoted once or twice or thrice. Anyway, he says, squirting some anti-acne cream on to his sallow cheeks, airstrikes alone won’t solve things apparently, just like how dropping a beachball on to an anthill won’t get rid of an infestation. Everyone just sighs miserably at this point. It seems that politics, after a brief flash of life in the Scottish referendum, has devolved (heh) into a resigned grumble. All is as it should be.

Meanwhile, JSP is in the house and shaking her head about mission creep, which isn’t a hot new hiphop group but a very serious problem about not knowing what the hell it is you’re doing. She’s profoundly against airstrikes and makes a good point about the mawkish reporting of Isis atrocities. Janet hasn’t made any sort of embarassing outburst yet, but we’ll just have to wait and see!

Rory says we need diplomats on the ground. Bring in the diplomats! That’ll learn ’em.

On the Scottish side of things, it’s all about to heat up – so far John Swinney and Lesley Riddoch haven’t contributed much but that’s about to change. I’ve heard so many Scottish accents in recent weeks that I’ve basically turned Scottish.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE OIL, comes the obligatory cry from the audience, and on that note, let’s move on.

FREEEEDOM or whatever

Lesley begins by saying the past year was the best year of her life: the humanity, the optimism, the haggis. That’s a bit worrying Lesley, even if the level of democratic interest was heartening to see (although as an English person I was pooping myself over what would happen either way). But is it ovah? It ain’t ovah. Now the argument over the devolution solution begins. Janet agrees, it was great to watch with excess popcorn, but she’s tired of all the campaigning ‘n’ stuff and wants to have a nice nap. Or greater democratic control for ordinary people, either one. I’ve only now realised that Janet is like your wacky aunt that shows up at family reunions and spikes the punch with vodka.

But will there be another referendum? Devolution won’t stop that, says a woman in the audience. The SNP are growing and hunger for blood. IT WON’T STOP. NOTHING CAN STOP IT. RUN, MORTAL. The dream will never die!

There’s also a guy in the audience that looks like Rory Stewart’s SNP clone. My god, they’re breeding! Anyway, he says that he doesn’t believe that they’ll get devolution. Yes you will, assures Emily, to the satisfaction of no-one. Rory remains silent, perhaps freaked out by his clone.

Emily is still going. I’m British, she says a thousand times. Thank you for staying because I’m British, you’re British (whether you like it or not), everybody’s British! British for everyone! You all get a British! But the Tories still suck and I won’t even acknowledge them. Since she reminds me of Professor Sprout from the Harry Potter series she’s about to get away with this when John Swinney, who up until now appeared like the Yes vote version of Alistair Darling, makes a pretty sick burn. “You were all too happy to speak to each other during the referendum campaign!” Emily says no, we’re smacking David Cameron down. Don’t worry, we’ll force him into line. Rory remains silent, quietly sweating. Dimbleby rounds on him as he tends to do and the man, who looks like a weedy nerd but actually scampered across Afghanistan one time, is startled into life. “No ifs, no buts,” says Rory, “No public sector cuts”, he doesn’t continue.

Then Emily has one more go at dismissing DCam. “He’s been put back in his box!” Applause and laughter as the thought of David Cameron being left in a box is inexplicably popular.

The West Lothian question: Tam Dalyell has a lot to answer for

I scream in terror as this infamous questions rears its ugly head once more. Janet thinks some things should be devolved but on the other hand it could be a right kerfuffle, couldn’t it? John Swinney responds to the ‘should only Scottish MPs vote for Scottish devolution’ point by replying, smugly, well! You can’t exactly rely on Labour for that one, eh? Eh? Eh?! Emily will not rise to this. You hear me, John? You’re on your last warning.

NO! shouts Janet, NO MORE! WE’RE DROWNING IN REFERENDUMS. Rory sweats in response and doodles on his schoolwork paper. Lesley seems to have given up and basically finishes with a ‘Screw this, let’s abolish the Lords’ flourish. This gets approval from the audience, who are up for any sort of tearing down of ancient institutions at this point. Doesn’t matter what they are, grab your pitchforks because we’re about to go a-mobbin’.

Rory finally jumps in. English votes for English laws. It’s not like this would help the Tories or anything. Let’s rely on the Queen instead. Dimbleby, who has been overly sarky this whole episode, brings up the Queen ‘purring’ and her secret life as a member of furry fandom. Emily is cackling like a witch around a cauldron. But then Ed Miliband forgetting his speech pops up and ho ho ho oops it’s no longer a laughing matter. Of course, the fact that Ed Balls rambled boringly on about it for his whole conference speech doesn’t register, but John takes this moment to distinguish the lovely SNP from the evil Labours. Janet says she’s had enuff of these no-notes speeches and that they’re so macho, they’ve gotta be so macho, big and strong, enough to turn you on. And something about class war. I wonder if Janet is affected by the potential mansion tax? If only we lived in a Scottish dream state in which nobody disagreed with each other ever! BRB, moving up there in time for the next inevitable referendum.

Also, as brought up by Janet, apparently Ed Miliband’s had voice coaching, but so did Maggie Thatcher and pretty much every Prime Minister since then. The only problem with this is that unlike all those other PMs, Ed’s voice has not changed at all. He is uncompromisingly, eternally, despairingly Ed. Unlike Rory’s bizarre wish, he’s not Fidel Castro. This actually may end up being a problem.

The petty bickering continues until Dimbleby finally pulls the plug, thus proving Janet, Lesley and John to be absolutely correct: this is definitely the best time in their lives. Wouldn’t you all agree? I’m going to go eat a sandwich.

Anyway, I spot Clacton in the weeks ahead so be ready for Farageageddon on QT once more. Will his reign over the programme ever end? Signs point to a No vote there!

Time for the scores!

Stewart: 5/10

Jogging (across the world)

Thornberry: 5/10

Slogging (away)

Swinney: 7/10

Flogging (some cut-price referendums, get ’em while they’re hot)

Riddoch: 3/10

Clogging (up the stage)

Street-Porter: 6/10

Hogging (the screentime)

The Crowd: 8/10

Blogging (about their intense Scottish opinions, probably)

So how do you all feel about this style of post? Like it? Hate it? If you hate it, I’ll be sad but change it back. I also may change other things around here, but don’t worry – nothing major. Just converting it into a Anna ‘Chortles’ Soubry fanclub, that’s all. It’s what we all really want.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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Questionable Time #86


questionable time 86 david dimbleby ken clarke dancing

Good morning Lemmings and are you feeling it? Are you feeling the warming glow of economic recovery and the promise of a better future? No? Why ever not? Oh, that’s right, because we’re still in a January that’s refusing to end, the sky appears to be falling in and all your carefully laid plans for smoking heavily in cars full of children have just been kyboshed by the busy bodies in their ivory duck houses. Gah! Truly it is the cruellest month! Right – lets stop all this moping about and get on with it. Onwards, to a very IT-orientated Questionable Time…

 

I feel like I’m writing this on Ken Clarke…

Remember back in 2008-ish when netbooks were the next big thing? Well I was one of the suckers who bought the hype and here I am 6 years later, tearing my hair out at an uncooperative oblong of cat hair clogged keys, unresponsive scripts and a rebooting process that takes around half-an-hour. In fact, it’s not even like I have to do this as I have a perfectly good desktop that doesn’t feel the need to constantly play silly buggers and even my phone is now quicker (by a factor of several million) than this hunk of wanton awkwardness – yet every week I go through the same ritual of starting the damn thing up, waiting for it to complain about something, closing it down again and then screaming as some piece of irremovable bloatware demands to be updated. Why? Why do I do this to myself? Because despite (or maybe because) of all its failings, this machine has personality and not just any old personality. No, this netbook is in every respect – except form factor – the silicon-based equivalent of Ken Clarke.

 

Let’s start with the booting up process: I press the on button, it makes noises that suggest it doesn’t take kindly to being woken up before arriving in that weird netherworld between the login and the desktop – just like Ken in the opening shot. Icons slowly start materialising on the right hand side of the task bar and fire off little pop ups to herald their arrival: ‘Windows has detected that you tried to change tax settings and isn’t very pleased’ says one and you immediately double-click the Firefox icon in the hope of resolving this issue only to find that the system was nowhere ready for such a strenuous activity. The egg timer appears, everything freezes and more pop-ups demand attention:

 

‘Unidentified pundits detected. Searching for drivers’

 

‘You are running low on patience, please save all unsaved work’

 

‘You appear to be trying to be trying to connect with the general public – Please check your connectivity settings’.

 

Ahh! Enough already! Eventually though things start to settle and the browser window finally springs to life. You open a few tabs on foreign crims, fire off a few emails about dredging and start to feel that you are actually in control of things. But then you get cocky: You click a link about smoking in cars and it opens a new window with a massive Flash banner in it – it’s Emma Smurthwaite and she’s just done the old switcheroo on your point about lobbyists. It’s all too much to deal with, the keyboard becomes unresponsive and the screen turns blue. Good night and God bless.

 

So that’s my netbook and it’s also Ken Clarke – a tired yet functional collection of idiosyncracies that you can’t easily reformat but have grown to love in a very counter intuitive way.

 

MS Thornberry: The OS that could have been…

I was going to compare Emily Thornberry to one of those massive Acer lappies that came out around the time of Windows Vista’s release but then thought ‘No, that’s not entirely fair’ because Vista was just plain bad and Thornberry is at least half-way competent. However, there is one thing that she shares with Vista and that’s her innate capacity to rub people up the wrong way – like when she got hoist on her own petard by refusing to have a firm opinion on a case study of her own making. In fact, that was a pretty reasonable thing to do as the very point of the case study was to highlight how difficult it is to have a firm opinion on delicate judicial proceedings but that didn’t matter – something about the way she said it just riled the crowd and they gave her a right old booing. Actually, maybe she’s more Windows 8 – a technically ok bit of software that will never be loved because it took away our Taskbar. Ok, Windows 8 she is.

 

IBM Oakeshott…

There’s no way Matthew Oakeshott is anything other than a giant corporate mainframe, probably originally built in the 50’s and programmed using some arcane language (‘Social Democracy’ I think) that no-one knows how to code in any more. There he sits, relentlessly churning out data on why we should tax wealth and I hope he continues to do so until his magnetic tapes degrade to the point of unreadability for it is a worthy endeavour indeed.

 

HP Littlewood…

‘Drudgery’. That’s the word that always pops into my head when I see Mark Littlewood – drudgery like using a locked-down Dell or HP on a corporate network. Sure, it can sync calendars and book rooms anywhere in the building but what if I want to play a cheeky round of Solitaire at lunchtime, eh? No, it’s just all a little grown up and unsmiling for me thank you very much. Now then, where’s my proxy list?

 

iSmurthwaite…

So then, what’s this shiny new array of bells and whistles that have the crowd all a-clapping? Why it’s iSmurthwaite, the latest bleeding edge iteration of cloud based synergistic solutions for all your current affairs needs. Like all the other iDevices, iSmurthwaite has much to offer – like high performance and a snappy UI – but I can’t help thinking that we’re probably paying just a little over the odds in order to look cool when there are much more functional alternatives about. Maybe I’ll upgrade when Ken finally calls it a day.

 

Tl;dr

 

Clarke: 5/10

 

Crashed

 

Thornberry: 4/10

 

(Had hopes) Dashed

 

Oakeshott: 6/10

 

(Probably has a frighteningly small amount of Level 1) Cache (Memory)

 

Littlewood: 4/10

 

(Would look interesting with a) ‘Tache

 

Smurthwaite: 6/10

 

(Did) Clash (much with Ken)

 

The Crowd: 7/10

 

(Sounded like they’d been on the) Lash

 

 

…And so our story ends. Oh wait, no it doesn’t because I forgot to work in this week’s pshop. It’s Ken and he’s adopting his usual position in the Commons (see Fig. 1).

 

ken clarke sleeping

Fig. 1

Right that’s it from me expect to say go check and out this t-shirt I designed – it’s GTA Coalition and I’m more than a little stoked with it.

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #77


questionable time 77 david dimbleby

Good morning Lemmings and where do we find ourselves on the one week where I actually wanted QT to be in Scotland? Stranded in the flatlands of Lincolnshire, that’s bloody where. Still, considering this is possibly the first show in the current run where there’s been nary a mention of utility bills I shall suck this puddle of iniquitous happenstance up with good grace and go about my work without rancour. Alright, so there might be a little bit of rancour but that’s just par for the course. Off we go…

I don’t practice Santeria, I ain’t got no crystal ball…

…But if I was ever to need a conduit to the Land of the Dead it would be Anna Soubry who I’d turn to based entirely on the remarkable job she did last night in channelling the spirit of the late Margaret Thatcher. It was an eerie spectacle: Soubry, still smarting from her endearingly ramshackle tumble through the first question suddenly fell into a trance-like state as Farage was getting busy putting the frighteners about. Arguments and ill-tempered exchanges flourished with both panelists and audience taking umbrage with one another yet Soubry remained hunched in silence, eyes fixed on an invisible point in infinity. “Over to you, Anna Soubry” came the call and then a pause as her head slowly raised to reveal gaping black holes where eyes should have been before rotating through a full 360 degrees.

They come here to WORK. They come here to do JOBS”

A chill descended on the studio as that ominous, just-a-little-too-long pause at the start of each sentence, that crawling slow delivery, that emphatic emphasis on the last word started to fire off flickers of recognition in the minds of all those present. Wait a second… I know who that sounds like… It’s… Oh Jesus no… The Iron Lady has cheated death!

Alright, so that might have been a slight exaggeration as it was actually more like a plummy sounding woman trying to do an impression of a woman who went out of her way to sound very plummy but the similarities were unmistakable – uncanny even – and my suspicion is that this is what Anna Soubry does when she knows she’s in a tight spot: She shuts her eyes, clenches her fists as tight as she can and keeps repeating “What would Maggie do? What would Maggie do? What would Maggie do?” over and over until her inner-Thatcher comes and rescues her. Given that I’m not exactly a fan of the late-PM, you’d think I’d view this as an undesirable trait but in fact I’ve grown to quite like it because it’s like a self negating-prophesy. Think about it, what would Maggie do? Well, she definitely wouldn’t be asking anyone for advice because she’d already know with horrifying certainty exactly what it was she wanted to do in the first place. I also have to admit that weird as it was, Soubry’s little voodoo ceremony actually turned out rather well and that’s the thing about Soubry – although she quite often buggers things up on QT she has a knack of shambling through things in a pleasingly game sort of way… And that, dear Lemmings, is definitely not what Maggie would do.

I hear music when I see Emily Thornberry…

…Not celestial choirs or anything like that but there are two tracks that pop into my head when I see her. The first is Foghat’s Slow Ride and I hear this when she’s doing well – you know, like when her voice goes all buttery and everything she says sounds mellow and reasonable. The second song however is Screeching Weasel’s Breaking Point and I hear this whenever she starts to get grumpy – you know, like when she does the rolly eye thing and everything she says sounds sarky and sanctimonious. Happily for Emily I’m pleased to report that we had a full evening of Slow Ride – not least on account of the unspoken truce between Teams Red and Blue in the face of the Garish Yellow and Purple Team– but I won’t go quite as far in my praise as the author of this text I received during the show did (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

All those wishing to chip into the Bet Against Uglymonkey Fund, please make yourselves known by way of the comments box.

Nigel’s playing for keepsies…

So we’ve all become quite accustomed to the cock-a-hoop/waggy-tailed/I-can’t-believe-I’m-getting-away-with-it Farage of late and that’s been a fun exercise in both mischief and farce, not least because no-one (except Michael Crick) has got hurt and it all just feels like mid-term tomfoolery. However all good things come to an end and it appears we are now stuck with a much more hard-headed, composed and actually rather steely Farage who’s up to his old tricks of selling crazy to Middle England (see Fig. 2). The most worrying bit is how well he managed to keep it all together last night – no getting carried away with it all, no talking himself into a corner – not to mention the fact that there was clearly a big appetite for the rather bitter dish he was serving. It was also probably his least fun appearance to date and I’m wondering how long that can be sustained – could we tolerate a ‘sensible’ Farage and everything that entails? I suspect not.

nigel farage the shining

Fig. 2

And the remainder?

I should tell Benjamin Zephaniah off for never really answering questions and trading in the vaguest of vagaries but who am I kidding? Like I could find it in my heart to go to town on clearly the nicest man in the whole world. As for Vicky Pryce, well what to make of her? She likes numbers – that was made pretty clear from the outset – and she also likes swallowing very hard mid-sentence. However, the bit that got me was the anecdote about the woman in the burqa eating an egg and how much that totally blew her mind. An egg! Eating it! In a burqa! Vicky Pryce: She’s seen things you wouldn’t believe…

Tl;dr

Soubry: 6/10

(Is very) Game

Thornberry: 7/10

(Deserves modest) Acclaim

Farage: 5/10

(Managed to) Blame (the EU for just about everything again)

Zephaniah: 6/10

(Did the) Same (things as he always does in the same lovely way)

Pryce: 5/10

(Did) Exclaim (much bewilderment at eggs and burqas)

The Crowd: 6/10

(Are fans of so-hot-right-now Californian trio) Haim

Well, that was right old school, what with the wall-to-wall talk on immigration. I guess it makes a change from gas bills though. Now, just so you know, I’m not going to be here next week but in a Questionable Time first I will have someone standing in for me. Her name’s Elizabeth, she’s the brains behind the consistently chucklesome Cones Hotline and she’ll be at the helm for next week’s nautical little jaunt to Pompey. Bud-a-bup-bup-bup-budda-budda-budda-bup (to the confused, that’s the theme from Blue Peter… It just felt appropriate…)!

Sort of next week Lemmings… Sort of…

Questionable Time #57


questionable time 57 david dimbleby viking york

Good morning Lemmings and brace yourselves because we’ve got a slightly different flavour of Questionable Time this week. Had this been just another Thursday, 10.35pm would find me arranged in a supine position on the sofa, mouthing obscenities at a flickering screen and berating the cats for their obvious lack of interest. This Thursday however, was different. Instead – thanks to a mixture of bluff, guile and Twitter-stalking – I somehow managed to scale the walls of the QT fortress, negotiated my way past the guardhouse (“This isn’t the obsessive dork you’re looking for…”) and found myself watching the show in the all-too-horrible fidelity of real-life. I saw things Lemmings, things no man should see… Allow me to explain.

The holding area is a people-watcher’s dream…

Having been in the audience before, I am no stranger to the holding area (the place where the audience assemble prior to filming) and I know well its terrifying power. If I cast my mind back to that first encounter I can feel my stomach turning all over again, remembering the awful sensation that comes with the knowledge of a) you’re about to be on telly, b) you might actually have to say something and c) there’s every chance that you might make a pig’s ear out of it in front of an audience of millions. It’s buyer’s remorse writ large. Luckily for me, that wasn’t the case last night as having blagged a guest seat (the out-of-shot row off to the side) I was well and truly out of harms way. Instead, I could just kick back and take long, deep breaths of other people’s fear. And oh, what a heady scent it is.

There are two distinct groups in the holding area and their anxiety plays out in different ways. For the first group – the loners whose friends were canny enough to turn down an invitation to tragedy – it’s a quiet but visible terror, one which makes the legs jiggle, the eyes dart and the palms sweat while for the others – the team-handed – it’s a more vocal display of nervous laughs and high velocity yammering. Most of the loners busy themselves by endlessly going over the question they’re going to submit but every now and then you see a pair of them gravitate towards one another, gingerly at first but then all of sudden looking like they’ve known each other for years. This pairing-off quietly cascades across the room and as it does, you can feel the tension easing… That is until the Big Man arrives.

Time to pay Dimbleby his dues…

It’s been a solid Questionable Time rule that aside from applying his face to the ludicrous, I don’t do much in the way of Dimbers. This law stems from a mixture of the practical (it’s somewhat challenging to write about the same person week in, week out) and the judicious (he holds all the cards and that just doesn’t seem fair in a weekly death match format). This week though, I’m saying to hell with the rules and finally giving credit where credit’s due: Dimbers is damn good at his job.

The first time the audience meet him is in the holding area and the sight of this angst ridden rabble suddenly going weak at the knees is another one of those things that makes the whole process so fascinating to watch. On this occasion the Antechamber of Doom happened to be in a lecture theatre and given that I was loitering near the lectern I was treated to a grandstand view of a twitchy gaggle suddenly melt into a slush of dreamy eyes and blissed-out grins.

So how does he do this? Well, part of it is that he just looks mischievous but it’s mostly down to his ability to make you feel like you’re in on a secret. For example, this week we were treated to an anecdote about how a Question Time crowd got inadvertently swapped with a Top of the Pops audience (oh the money I would give to watch a QT crowd being made to get down and boogie), a frighteningly good Tony Benn impression and the tale of an audience member who claimed to have been murdered. More than that though, he manages to convey a sense that no matter what, no matter how slippery or evasive the buggers are, he’s going to make those poor saps on the panel pay and he needs your help to do it. Again, the change is visible: The crowd’s mile-wide-smiles take on a more fangy, savage edge, their nostrils flare and you can almost hear the chanting in their heads: Kill the pigs! Cut their throats! Kill the pigs! Bash them in!

So the show itself?

I have to admit that I didn’t catch much of the show last night as my seat was so tucked away that I couldn’t actually see what was going on but I will say this: Despite my usual fear of Gove, he actually did rather well last night. Of course, York – a stud of deep blue on that belt of red leather that keeps the nation’s political trousers from falling down – was always going to be a benign climate to operate in but his use of the Yadda-Yadda Play marks a first in QT history. In the interests of full disclosure, this uncharacteristic charitability may also be down to seeing him in an overtly humanizing context later that night: I witnessed him agonizing over snack choices in a very, very cold York station. Feeling his pain I forced a Questionable Time sticker upon him whilst muttering that I thought he did well on the show. He took it kindly enough for me to feel bad about the Gove .gif I made early in the day.

As for Thornberry, I thought she got a tougher ride than she deserved. I know the Red Team aren’t that popular in York but at least she managed to go the whole evening without blowing chunks of One Nation and Squeezed Middle over everyone (something that’s been a particularly annoying habit of Labour panelists recently).

And what of the noobs? Well, not a bad first innings for Bennett (although she’s got big shoes of hemp and sunbeams to fill following Lucas’ departure), Horowitz seems to know what he’s doing in a very crowd pleasing sort of way and Littlewood is stone cold crazy but assertive enough for that to come across as So Crazy That It Might Just Work. And that’ll do for me.

Tl;dr

Gove: 6.5/10

Pob

Thornberry: 5/10

Rob(bed)

Bennett: 5/10

(Is new to the ) Job

Horowitz: 7/10

(Has an eloquent) Gob

Littlewood: 6/10

(Is probably a free market heart) Throb

The Crowd: 5/10

(Enjoy) HobNobs?

How’s about that then? Will that keep the wolf from the door until Question Time returns in April? Well it bloody well had because I’m knocking off for two weeks. Anyway, here’s that Gove .gif I was talking about (see. Fig. 1). Yeah, I know… It’s petty and mean but in my defence, who wouldn’t want an oxygenating and animated Gove ornament in their aquarium? No one, that’s who…

michael-gove-goldfish-gif

Fig. 1

Three weeks Lemmings, three weeks…

Questionable Time #39


questionable time 38 david dimbleby the office david brent

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to Sluff, famous for Mars Bars, tragicomic depictions of the UK workplace and for a bloody great fictional crematorium that featured in Brave New World. In fact,I find it rather apt that Slough turned up in Huxley’s novel as it’s always given me the sense of a place where the utopian and dystopian rub uncomfortably against each other. On the utopian side of the coin it can proudly boast of having the most ethnically diverse population outside of London and although not a New Town per se, it certainly has echoes of that period in British history where we thought we had the future licked. As it happens, we didn’t and the future turned out to be a much more drab and roundabouty affair than we initially anticipated, an unhappy occurrence that leads us to the more dystopian flip side of Slough: Aberrantly high crime rates, ‘The Slough Stench’ and that unshakable feeling that everything is – well – slightly crap.

Still, it’s not my job to bum out the people of Slough, not that there seems to be a shortage of people willing to do just that. No, my job is to see how the people of Slough react to a damn good Question Timing and so without further ado let us bravely put our collective heads into the maw of the beast.

Am I still on the Vince Train? I honestly don’t know anymore…

Back in 2008 when the whole world looked to be collapsing around our ears, one man stood forth and boldly donned the mantle of The Voice of Reason. That man was Vince Cable and in 2008 the one place I and many others wanted to be was in the first class carriage of the Vince Train, a doughty locomotive of yellow livery powered by pure Keynsianism. At first the ride was great fun, speeding along while the Hayek Express was forced into the sidings and I felt vindicated in having purchased my first class ticket at the station rather than experiencing the potential ignominy of having to upgrade on board. This train, I thought, was going places… Next stop, Government Central!

That, however, was where the problems started and if you ask me, Government Central has a lot in common with Birmingham New Street in that it’s a cold, dark, subterranean place that’s awfully hard to find your way out of. The effect it had on the Vince Train was no less baleful and there soon developed an ominous sounding creak from the axles while the Tanoy spoke of inevitable delays, usually attributed to signal trouble in the vicinity of Wilmslow. Looking back, I probably think that I should have got off at the next stop when I had the chance but I didn’t. Why not? Because for all the disappointments and that entire year where Cable carried a pained expression on his face like someone had just jellied his stapler, he had this look that made me stay on board. And it was just a look. A glint in the eye, a tap on the side of his nose that said ‘Just you wait. The chips may be down, but let me assure you that I’ve still got a couple of tricks up my sleeve’. Well, it’s now four years down the line and I must confess that I’m leaning so far out of the window of the Vince Train that there’s a good chance the next tunnel will take my head clean off. Could his performance last night coax me back safely into the carriage? To put it bluntly, no.

Here’s the thing: I actually quite liked the content of what Cable was saying last night. He played it very cautiously on the GDP figures, made it very clear that he wasn’t going to lend a hand to some of the Blue Teams pottier ideas (like IDS’s new stance on breeding) and was generally pretty reasonable about the Savile scandal. Instead, the problem for me was that he looked absolutely knackered, spent to the point that he simply couldn’t bring himself to flash me that look. Well, dammit Vince, I need that took! So what if you never back it up by actually pulling a rabbit out of the hat, at least the look seriously implies that you might be thinking about it. Last night, that look was nowhere to be seen. Should this situation persist, consider me off at the next stop.

There’s a wonderful mismatched buddy movie just waiting to be made starring Emily Thornberry and Claire Perry…

I think it’s fair to say that Emily Thornberry and Claire Perry aren’t exactly bessies, what with all the blow trading and eye-daggers we witnessed last night. For Perry’s part, I suspect that Thornberry’s rather measured and deliberate responses jangle her How Dare You Patronise Me nerve whilst Perry’s very assertive presentation scratches some very long fingernails across Thornberry’s Why You Jumped Up Little blackboard. Anyway, Perry generally had the better of it and emerged the less bruised of the pair but there was a brief and telling moment that stopped me dead in my tracks. During the Jimmy Savile question Thornberry said, very sincerely in fact, that she agreed with Perry and Perry responded with a genuinely heartfelt sounding “Thank you”. Well that was it Lemmings, after that my mind was set adrift on what could be the UK legislature’s answer to Point Break: Claire Perry as Keanu’s fresh-out-the-academy hotshot, Emily Thornberry as Busey’s seen-it-all-before jaded veteran, a pair who will never see eye-to-eye but find themselves thrown together by fate and the quest for justice. The only unresolved matter is who would take the part of Swayze’s ‘you can’t cage me bro!’ adrenaline junkie. Jacob “I’ve never sworn in my adult life” Rees-Mogg could be quite fun but I’m open to suggestions.

Paul Nuttall actually makes UKIP a little scary…

I’ve got all the time in the world for UKIP in the same way I’ve got all the time in the world for Made In Chelsea: If taken in isolation, they’re both a toxic mess of things I’m no great fan of but this is balanced out by their inherent absurdity, a factor that renders them ultimately harmless yet mildly entertaining. Well, this was the case until Paul Nuttall somehow managed to become the only other UKIP member allowed off the compound unsupervised… Now I’m just plain scared. You see, I can happily dismiss UKIP as a slightly dotty group of people with too much time on their hands when they’re fronted by the likes of Farage, but Nuttall? No, he has an edge and a hard one at that, what with all the talk of punishing people in death and “lunatics” having the vote. What’s worse is that he comes across as a guy who might actually hang out with some vaguely ordinary people. It’s at this point that UKIP stop resembling a harebrained cult that recruits exclusively at village fêtes and starts to become something a lot more worrying. Still, you know what makes Paul Nuttall slightly less worrying though? A nice .gif of him with Gareth Keenans hair (See. Fig. 1).

gareth-keenan-paull-nuttall-resized-gif

I was going to tell Mehdi Hassan off for not smiling enough…

I spend a lot of time looking at QT panelists on Google Images, mainly because I need to photoshop them into ridiculous scenarios but also because it’s good to have a hobby. Anyway, the reason I’m telling you this is that I’ve had to do quite a lot of staring at photos of Medhi Hassan and one thing that’s struck me is that you rarely see him smiling and that this is a shame because it makes him come across as A Very Serious Man. Now, I like Hassan, I think he’s generally on the money but the Very Serious Man thing can get a bit much and I thought a gentle chiding was in order to get him to lighten up a little. As it happens, I need not have bothered as the first thing out of his was mouth a joke and not a bad one at that (he said the government’s Plan B was “Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis”). So what did this get him? A slight titter and nothing more. Gah! What more do you people want?! Unperturbed by this lack of audience reciprocation, he had another go during the question on IDS’s new wheeze and once more, it was a serviceable little number (“Tough on babies, tough on the causes of babies”) but yet again, nothing. So fair play to you Mehdi, you tried but maybe you were just born to be A Very Serious Man… Them’s the breaks kid…

Tl;dr

Cable: 5/10

Tired

Thornberry: 4/10

Acquired (a role in a fictional movie)

Perry: 5/10

Wired

Nuttall: 4/10

Conspired

Hassan: 6/10

Retired (any hopes of being a stand-up comedian)

The Crowd: 5/10

(Were suitably) Attired?

As those numbers imply, I can’t really chalk this up as triumph of of an episode, yet can I write it off as a total defeat. So quite a lot like Slough then…

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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