Posts Tagged 'Eric Pickles'

Questionable Time #109


qt 109

Good morrow lemmings and it seems that the rapture has come at last. By the time you read this we will most likely be in full swing of The Kippening. How will the world keep turning with its first UKIP MP? It is a time of desolation, chaos, and uncertainty. Brother pitted against brother. Babies having babies.

The end is nigh. Or perhaps, it is merely…the beginning? Or somewhere around the middle or something. I don’t know. Here’s Questionable Time, live and alive from Clacton, high five!

Chasing Carswell

Dimbles has exchanged his pink shark tie for his turquoise frog tie, and reminds us that another by-election is also happening, but since that won’t be referenced any time later in the show that doesn’t matter. The first question is about UKIP, of course, and nobody cares exactly how it’s worded as they’ll use it as a stepping stone to discuss absolutely everything relating to UKIP for the majority of the programme.

Harriet Harman, that QT stalwart, is up first, and is trying very badly to diss the Kippers while simultaneously not pissing off the entire audience. She’s off to a rocky start but Harriet very rarely gets hit with a knockout blow in situations like these – the Labour wranglers, no doubt, often opt to shove Harriet on with her metaphorical umbrella to take shelter against the shower o’ shit during unpleasant and turbulent moments in the politisphere (and the coming of a first MP for the purple team certainly counts as one of those for the Labs.) She’s alright at keeping the umbrella aloft, even though there’s nothing you can do other than cower beneath it, if you catch my drift and I’m not spreading this metaphor too thinly.

However, what about our peachy purple representative himself? The very first response he gives gets a playful “don’t curry favour with the chair” from Dimbleby, and that ought to tell you a little about where Patrick O’Flynn is going to pitch himself. I have a strong suspicion he was a last minute replacement as all the other Kippers are out screaming on the battleground, and also because he may actually be the smarmiest man in existence next to Grant Shapps. Maybe that’s just due to the answer he’s giving, which basically boils down to a badly edited UKIP party political broadcast. Come on Patrick, now we just need the soft focus stock images of ~ordinary people~! Talk to the producers, for goodness’ sake!

No, no, that’s being unfair. It’s not a PPB, not really. They’d have to have Nigel Farage on again for that to be true.

It’s always disconcerting to hear a Yorkshire accent coming out of Eric Pickles’ ’18th century MP for Dunny-on-the-Wold’ face. Also, he sounds a little hoarse – or is that just normal? He’s oddly soft-spoken. Maybe he’s trying to entice floating ex-Tories over to his side with his charm and masculine virility. He attempts to crack a joke about hoarding Ralph Lauren scarves or whatever, but UKIP dropped that potential source of hilarity like it was hot before any comedic capital could truly be made of it. Shame, as it’s probably too ‘radical’ for a lot of Labour MPs.

(Incidentally, why does Patrick have a permanent half-smile on his face, like the Joker? Why does he sound like Jeffrey Archer? Surely UKIP have representatives that don’t terrify me stashed away somewhere, maybe at the back of a cupboard?)

Jeanette Winterson takes this opportunity to opine that if Nigel Farage died tomorrow then UKIP would die alongside him. The panel doesn’t get too excited at this prospect – they know that Nigel has already survived a plane crash and is thus unkillable. He is the Terminator. And he’s coming for your seats. (P.S.: remind me to Photoshop Nigel Farage as the Terminator the next time he’s on the panel. It must be done.)

On a side note, away from UKIP, Malcolm Bruce – the Deputy Lib Dem leader guy – has a cute Lib Dem phoenix pin. That’s all I can say about him so far. He seems like a nice old man. A little confused. A kind face. Didn’t really get angry or upset or anything other than ‘pleasant’ for the whole show. It’s…kind of soothing? Reassuring? Maybe all Question Times should include a token ‘nice old man’ to offset the shrieking and poop-slinging going on on the other side of the table.

I…I’m so conflicted. I don’t even care about his policies any more. Questionable Time, I have a confession to make: I need this man to be my new grandpa.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

“Could I ask for some clarification on the health service?” pipes up Eric, sweetly yet suddenly. He asks, with a soft, offended tone to his voice, if the health service would be broken up and sold off under UKIP rule. Perhaps Eric is unaware of the chainsaw noises and maniacal laughter routinely coming from the Department of Health, but Jeffrey Ar- I mean, Patrick O’Thingy doesn’t point it out for him. He says that UKIP want the NHS exempted from TTIP, which not even Labour has committed to, despite the fact that…Labour did commit to that. Oops.

…Wait a second, Harriet, why didn’t you jump on that like a starved and goaded monkey? Too busy holding the smelly umbrella? No, for Harriet is too busy ignoring earlier calls to avoid taking the moral high ground by…taking the moral high ground, and warning against division. Yes, let’s all be the same, and all wear tasteful giraffe jackets. It’s the best kind of freaky cultish uniform.

By this point I swear more audience members have spoken than panellists. In fact, let’s drop the panellists altogether and arrange a giant general public brawl-out, still chaired by Dimbleby. It’s what we all really want. One such eager-to-wrassle participant enters the ring with this doozy:

“If ol’ Dougy Carwizzle is re-elected,” they smartassedly smirk, “how long before a leadership election?”

Wry laughter breaks out, but Patrick is on the case. Nigel was only just re-elected and guess what – he, Patrick O’Archer himself, was his campaign manager! The sound of slurping is only drowned out by the barks of even more wry laughter. Thank the Lord we’re finally escaping this tenth circle of Hell.

Obligatory NHS screeching

The NHS and competition shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same sentence, begins Jeanette. I mean, competition? This isn’t a school sports day sack race. Luckily, Malcolm is here to win the sack race. Here’s some extra money we won’t get to deliver, because the Liberal Democrats are doomed and feeling kinda okay about it all things considered! Mental healthcare? Well, a lot of Lib Dem MPs are going to be in need of that come 2015, do ho ho! “We’ve just had a referendum in Scotland, by the way,” he says. NO, REALLY? I HADN’T GUESSED.

Finally Eric Pickles gets another chance to speak. He says that everything is running smoothly on board the good ship Coalition, and the following conversation goes as follows.

“But what about blah and blah?” says Malcolm.
“I’ve been working with Danny Alexander on blah and blah so [flips the bird].”
“No, but we still say blah and blah.”
“Well gee I’m SORRY you’re being pissy little bastards about blah and blah! Hmph!”

There, I saved you five more minutes of your life.

Eric isn’t living in reality, says Harriet. He’s in an alternate dimension. The Picklezone. With extra ketchup. Pickles fights back and there’s a predictable NHS scuffle, being the most emotionally charged issue of them all. The solution is for big companies to pay their taxes, yells Harriet triumphantly and vaguely, and that gets a convenient round of applause to allow her to suplex Pickles and move on.

“I don’t understand why you’re obsessed by this!” boggles Pickles as he is suplexed. Jeanette then asks him six times for an answer on…something? Profits before people, people before profits, I don’t know, it all got a bit muddled in the confusion, but it was very entertaining nonetheless. Pickles got in a bit of a pickle! I bet that pun has never ever been made before!

Ebola-ing for Soup

The next question is on foreign aid, and we’ll keep this short: foreigners can suck it! yelps Patrick. Or at least corrupt governments can. But not Ebola, we need to stop Ebola or we will all definitely die horribly by the end of the week. It is known. I read it on the internet.

Harriet disagrees. Foreign aid is 100% cute as it’s less than 1% of GDP, and we shouldn’t be mean, narrow-minded, Scroogey bastards. (Like a certain purple team she could mention.) Pickles agrees with her. It’s like all their past disagreements have melted away. Aww.

What does Nice Old Man think? Well, all these foreigners are “our brothers and sisters” and we should help them and hug them close, of course! Aww, again. I’d like to hug Nice Old Man too. Jeanette joins in with the agreeing! We’re all nice people with an obligation to be nice to each other, apparently! Aww, once more!

What a lovely conclusion to a bitter opening – wait, there’s another question?!

Ah, it’s only on MPs’ wages and there’s five minutes left so you bet your sweet bippy that there won’t be any sort of deep discussion going on here. Absolutely no MP who doesn’t want to get egged, stoned, and/or tarred and feathered in the street will say they won’t take their pay rise and will shake their head vigorously at any potential increase proposed. What about MEPs’ pay, Harriet almost giggles at Patrick. The panellists try to out-frugal each other as I grumble about the lost fuzzy-cuddles ending that could have been – but then Dimbles asks how many audience members have voted, and…guess what…it’s all of them! It just goes to show that the QT audience isn’t as ‘normal’ as they’d have us believe: they’re closet political nerds too. Thank you, Saint Dimbleby, for showing us the light.

Time for the scores!

Pickles: 5/10

Befuddled

Harman: 5/10

(Standing in a) Puddle (Under her umbrella)

O’Flynn: 5/10

(In a threatening) Huddle (with the rest of the East Side Kippaz)

Bruce: 6/10

(Deserves a) Cuddle

Winterson: 6/10

Ruddle (is apparently a red ore used in dyeing and marking, yeah she was alright)

The Crowd: 7/10

TROUBLE!

Chazza Kennedy had better come covered in phoenix pins next week if he’s to keep anybody’s attention these days.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #21


questionable time 21 david dimbleby john lennon yoko ono

Good morning Lemmings and before we get under way I would just like to take a minute to relate a rather bizarre story that unfolded exactly a week ago today. Having just literally pressed the ‘Post’ button on last week’s Questionable Time I got a knock on the door and found myself confronted by two smartly turned out representatives of the local Labour party. Sensing an opportunity for some gentle mischief I then spent the next five minutes explaining how my ‘Never Vote For An Incumbent’ rule leaves them with an outside chance that I might put a tick in their box at the next election but they had better not count on it because I have a long memory and still can’t quite forgive New Labour for this, that and the other. Rightly sensing that much tastier and lower hanging fruit may lie further down the street (it turns out bearded men in dirty tracky bottoms aren’t the core demographic they are after), they politely took their leave and moved on to pastures afresh. So far, so ‘meh’. Anyhoo, off I went to the kitchen to crack on with the washing up and as I was gazing listlessly out of the window when I caught sight of a small figure moving purposefully down the street. Then something started stuttering in my brain. “Hmmmmm….” I thought as I ran the hot water “why is this seemingly innocuous scene giving me the jibblies? Is the Matrix glitching again?”. Squinting a little as I tried to seek out the cause of this weird sensation I was suddenly deafened by the sound of a thousand pennies dropping. “That’s not…. It can’t be…Wait… No… IS THAT RACHEL BLOODY REEVES?!?!”

Within seconds my mind had gone into complete meltdown: “But… But you were only on my telly a few hours ago and I’ve just spent the whole day writing about you! I must have gone too far. I must have blogged too hard and am now hallucinating about members of the Shadow Cabinet stalking me. Oh my God, this is how it starts! This is how people end up inside Secure Units!” At this point I stopped making conscious decisions and felt the hand of compulsion grab me firmly by the scruff of the neck. Out I went, out into the street and before any of my usual social circuit breakers could kick in there I was, barefoot and hollering “RACHEL REEVES I JUST GAVE YOU FIVE OUT OF TEN!”. The figure stopped in her tracks and turned to face the source of all the commotion. “Bloody hell, that is Rachel Reeves! And bloody hell, she’s coming over here!”

As to what happened next, well that will probably never be known as I was no longer even slightly in command of my faculties but I do remember her saying “Five out of ten?” to which I responded with “Something something Questionable Time! Something something you were just on my telly and now you’re on the internet! Something something something!”. To her credit, she took it in her stride and allowed me to babble on (although I do remember a big neon light saying “SHE’S BLAGGING” pinging on in my fevered brain as she neither confirmed nor denied that she had any idea as to what ‘Questionable Time’ may be) before slowly withdrawing and making good her escape. And there I stood, bemused, dishevelled and not even remotely interested in doing the washing up any more. I gathered myself just enough to put together a garbled tweet and minutes later my phone pings to tell me that Rachel Reeves is now following me on Twitter. Was that the whiff of burning plastic I could smell emanating from cranium? I think it might have been.

Anyway, I’m bringing this up for three reasons:

  1. It’s was really, really weird and I feel compelled to share the weirdness.
  2. I would very much like to take this opportunity to tell all future panelists of Question Time that they best not be getting any ideas and trying this out for themselves. It is not ok to go swanning passed my house on the day that I’m straining every inch of my brain to poke fun at them. It’s not right and there are probably laws against it. Rachel Reeves I can forgive: She’s my local MP and as a consequence she has a hall pass but the rest of you guys? No. It’s not on.
  3. Recounting this tale has eaten up a good 700 words and that’s just dandy in my book because I was having real trouble making anything out of this episode.

And why would that be? Well, I guess part of it is because I had entirely the wrong attitude when it came to last night’s show. I was looking for a damn good hating and both Eric Pickles and Will Self have very good track records in stoking my hate levels (Pickles for frequently being on the wrong side of the folksy/condescending line and spectacularly buggering up my life since he’s been in government, Self for saying a great many things that I completely agree with but saying them in a way that makes me feel nauseous and wretched). Add into that a generic Mail columnist in the form of Janice Atkinson (or is it Janice Atkinson-Small? The internet stands in defiance to Dimber’s assertion of the former) and we’re on for a right old session of heartburn and high blood pressure, right? Wrong!

In the case of Pickles I thought I was onto a winner as he spent the first question looking pissed off and constipated whilst saying approximately nothing at very great length. However, that trend was not to last and by the second question he found himself largely on the right side of the folksy/condescending line, even if it was at times through gritted teeth. Add into this some rather disarming outbursts of humour tinged with barely submerged contempt for his peers (I did really like it when he started scrawling out Atkinson’s notes) plus a remarkably reasonable stance on gay marriage then it becomes clear that this wasn’t going to be the day that I could absolutely let rip on him. It is still however the day that I can post a photoshop I made of Eric Pickles as a pickle (see Fig. 1). No one rides for free around here.

eric pickles dill gherkin

Fig. 1

As for Self, well he really wasn’t as obnoxious as he usually is and I have to say that the points he made on both Afghanistan and the railways were very, very good. Ok, his pulling of the ‘Ooooooooooh!’ face in response to something Atkinson said did grind my gears a little but in the general scheme of things he did well. So that just leaves Atkinson on my Hate Bench and given her day job, I was pretty sure that she would whip me up into a frothy lather of spittle and bile. As it turns out, she couldn’t and I put this down to the fact that I never really had a clue what she was talking about. It wasn’t so much the content as the jarring and completely arbitrary pauses that seemingly came out of nowhere, not to mention her halting ramblings about a “leaky pipeline” and female MPs. In short, she just left me bewildered.

Hmmmm… So not a lot of hate to be had here and given that our next two panelists are none other than Caroline Flint and Will Young, it swiftly became clear that my Thursday night was going to end up becalmed and adrift in serenity. Now, I know that some of you are going to wonder why I’m making Caroline Flint out to be some sort of beacon of tranquillity as she can be both combative and irksome so allow me to explain: Ever since Questionable Time has been going, Flint has been on more than any other panelist and thus I have had several years in which to watch her go from an overly aggressive diamond-in-the-rough into actually quite an accomplished performer who could well see her status upgraded to Steady Pair of Hands. Ok, so much like Reeves last week she suffered from Labours belated recognition that they now need to be really hammering slogans home (Ol’ Snagletooth never actually said ‘the squeezed middle’ but she might as well have done given how many platitudes along the same line she came out with) but on the whole, her performance was solid. And for me that’s nice because such prolonged exposure to Flint has left me feeling quite fraternal towards her and it’s pleasant to see her continue on the trajectory of incremental improvement. I realise that this hardly makes for an objective account of her performance but that, I’m afraid, is just the way it is.

All the above leaves us with Young and let’s face it, there’s no way he’s walking out of here without some really good marks. As to why he deserves such plaudits, well part of it is to do with the way he gets points across (he’s thoughtful and reasoned while assertive when he needs to be) and partly because the role of 5th panelist fits him like a glove. Usually when a figure from the realm of celebrity is shoehorned on to the show they come with a health warning: ‘This person will probably have an opinion on one specific and personally dear issue but will be useless for the rest of the show’. Not so with Will Young because he actually had well thought out opinions on everything (including the habitually toxic question of Afghanistan) and delivered these opinions in such a soothing-yet-confident manner that I just couldn’t help but get right behind him. Oh, and the stuff he came out with on gay marriage? Top flight Question Timing.

So, where does all this leave me, hankering as I was for a right old evening of venom? Well part of me is a little a disappointed as it was just one of those nights where I really fancied getting hot under the collar but I must confess that it was a generally high quality episode made even higher by the presence of an audience member in a bow tie and dinner jacketish sort of affair. I’m still a sucker for innately posh gentlemen in a dapper get-up and as always, Surrey didn’t fail me. It must be down to all those £2 million homes that are full of grannies.

Tl;dr

Pickles: 5/10

Weigh(s a lot)

Flint: 6/10

(Has a certain) Cachet

Self: 6/10

(Is looking quite) Grey

Young: 8/10

(Is quite clearly) Gay

Atkinson: 3/10

(Is) Away (please leave a message and she’ll get………………. Right back to you)

The Crowd: 6/10

Way-hey!

Oaky-doaky, there we go(ky). I’m off to do the washing up and try to quell this feeling of apprehension that I’m about to see Eric Pickles barreling down my street. Have you people got nothing better to do than harass bloggers of minor significance? Have you not got homes to go to? Do I have to involve the authorities? Question Time panelists: There’s just no trusting them.

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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