Posts Tagged 'Francis Maude'

Questionable Time #136


qt 136

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to Hell.

Let’s get right to it, although this may be a somewhat late and truncated edition as I have spent a lot of my time in recent days either a) trudging around for ten hours straight following the campaign trail and getting attacked by dogs, b) bellowing like a harpooned whale at my television screen, or c) sleeping. I am currently in the middle of an existential crisis which has left me inhabiting no physical form to speak of. Nevertheless, I have typed this round-up for you…with my trembling, ghostlike hands.

You can leave your hat on

David Dimbleby is back from his nap and ready to rumble. Appaz UKIP was not available for this edition, so we’ll have to go on without them. Maybe they were locked out due to the voting system?

Besides which, we have to focus on the most pertinent issue of this election: Paddy Ashdown eating his hat. Though now an elder statesman, he has become an late game Twitter meme (replacing #EdBallsDay, RIP) when he promised to eat his hat if the now-infamous exit poll results were true. They were. If anything, they were even more shocking than we shockingly thought. Hatgate has been the sole highlight of a devastating night for the Liberal Democrats – and so, with the country having officially gone mad, Ashdown is presented with a confectionery hat live on television. Alastair Campbell is also presented with a chocolate kilt. Sadly, they do not scoff them down, and we can only wonder at their fates now. Did the audience have a party afterwards, or did the cameramen just nick them?

Honestly, I thought the hat would be bigger. Looking at the scale of the Lib Dems’ (and of course Labour’s) defeat, I was imagining Ashdown shoving an entire sombrero down his gob. There’s still time – some wag needs to do this and put the video on Vine.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Is Scottish independence now inevitable? With our first question comes the oily arrival of Francis Maude. Francis is a happy bunny, and cheerily (well, cheerily for him, which is to say a tad livelier than a corpse) says nah. The SNP fandom (#sturgeonfandom?) didn’t die down, it went TURBO THROTTLE, and the Tories never had a chance there anyway so it’s like…shruggie. Ruth Davidson was clearly having a great time, she never expected to win so just fed Soleros to people every day.

Alastair Campbell intervenes and says yeah probs. It’s Dave’s fault for stoking division. We should respect the SNP, most certainly fear them, but secretly envy them. What do they have that we don’t? Other than a charismatic leader, mobilised ground base, excellent organisational skills, and passionate policy prospectors? Like that’s a big deal!

Paddy says, sadly not with chocolate around his mouth, that we’re doomed.

John Swinney, the SNP dude, who appeared on this programme only two weeks ago but it feels like so much longer now, is having a nice day, now that you mention it. “I love living in Scotland,” he says. Everything is going super-duper for him. Until the Tories hit Scotland with their cuts, that is, but like that’s a big deal! Dimbles asks him to get to the point. Do you hope for fiscal independence? Well yeah, Swinney responds, but we, like, kind of want independence for everything. That’s sort of our ~thing~.

Julia Smugly-Brewer has her own strong opinions and unfortunately decides to air them. “Why are we always talking about Scotland? Why don’t we talk about England,” says she, and the answer to that point is because the question was about Scotland. Francis’ gloating continues, and John is offended and hates David Cameron for subtweeting about his beloved country that he loves to live in. Scotland, that is to say. Just in case you all forgot about it. Like that’s a big deal!

Labouring the point

Next up: is Labour too right-wing for Scotland and too left-wing for England? But where does that leave Wales? Everyone always forgets Wales ;_;

Campbell does his best and waffles a bit. He’s the official Labour Party damage control [insert Iraq joke here], plonked on when they’re having a particularly bad time of it, and nothing could be worse than living in The Now. He declares that people were afraid of JOHN AND HIS HORDE, and simultaneously Scottish people were tired of lazy Labour MPs havin’ a snooze. He sums up by stating that Labour needs to move away from Blairite/Brownite, New Labour/Old Labour divisions and go forward, perhaps crying a little bit, into the future.

‘Who is considering the interests of the poor, beleagured English?’ insinuates some judgey woman in the audience. She later interrupts and is generally annoying. I am short-tempered from electioneering and have no time for her sassy mouth. Paddy can’t even say anything worthwhile in response, his mouth is too full of hat.

Julia extols the virtues of David Miliband. But he is gone. And if he ever comes back, it will not be in time for the leadership contest. Class warfare that, suckas.

LABOUR RUINED EVERYTHING, gloats Francis, clearly enjoying himself.

MURDOCH DID IT!! says another shouty woman from the audience, this time even shoutier. (My ears hurt.) Don’t patronise me, huffs Francis, finally displaying some emotion. Julia interrupts to talk about the real issues. We’ve been talking about Scotland for 25 minutes of the scheduled hour…that’s why people are disillusioned! says she. Eh? What’s your problem with Scotland, Julia? Did Scotland kick your dog or something?

Why did the Lib Dems die in a ditch? Paddy audibly sighs. He mumbles that there are things they need to consider, and basically admits he’s too tired and sad to do that right now. People are a bit sympathetic. Julia tries to hug him but he rebuffs her, sinking a potentially beautiful ship before it even leaves the harbour. The Lib Dems were “honourable” and cool beans, intercuts Francis, perhaps also hoping for a hug.

“You didn’t say that during the election campaign,” Paddy bitches, obviously not in the mood for any kind of hug.

John Swinney places the blame squarely on Danny Alexander’s yellow budget box, saying it looks silly, and I think that’s the one thing we can definitely all agree on.

Europe all night to get lucky

Two UKIP-focused questions next, despite a representative not being there (nelsonmuntzhaha.mp3): Is UKIP’s performance fair, when they got a helluva lot of votes?

Don’t care, don’t like ’em, says John.

Don’t care, don’t like proportional representation, says Francis.

Don’t care, the public don’t care, says Julia.

The crowd disagree vocally. John says he is a beneficiary of FPTP, but believes in PR, as does Paddy. Well, that’s nice. Pity it’s not a big deal to the majority party, eh?

Secondly: can David Cameron keep Britain in Europe? Alastair says this is Bad News Bears. The debate for the next couple of years will be dominated by this, as will the press. We’re for a referendum, says Francis, sticking to the party line as ever (boo, I wanted more gloating, while irritating it’s at least 1% more interesting), but need a renegotiation. Also it distracts from all the other stuff we’re going to do, which is a bonus!

Y’all are arrogant, not letting us get a say, squeaks Julia. We have a right to say no! Just say no, kids! Paddy is offended by this, of course. In fact, you could even say that if Britain leaves the EU…

…he’ll eat his hat.

Time for the scores!

Maude: 6/10

Gloat(ing)

Campbell: 6/10

(Ready to grab you by the) Throat

Ashdown: 6/10

Bloat(ed from all the hats he’s had to eat)

Swinney: 8/10

(Pretty chuffed about his share of the) Vote

Hartley-Brewer: 6/10

Quote(d as saying Scotland LITERALLY killed her dog)

The Crowd: 8/10

(I’ll get me) Coat

Next time: five more years.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #56


questionable time 56 david dimbleby 80's lcd game

Good morning Lemmings and let us summon our last ounce of gumption for we are nearly there: One more show after this and then QT‘s Winter Term is over. However, before we get all giddy with dreams of double-digit temperatures and gambolling lambs I’m afraid to say that The Cruellest Month (“Oh, you liked that hour of sunshine did you? How about I follow it up WITH SOME HORIZONTAL SNOW?!”) is not yet done with us and the grizzly business of last night’s episode still requires dissection. So tuck in those thermals and double up on those socks Lemmings – we’re going in.

What’s wrong with this picture?

He’s young. He’s ridiculously good-looking. He can dance on stage to the theme from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air with Will Smith (see Fig. 1) without looking like a total prat yet something – something just isn’t quite right. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem as you can usually count on something being not quite right with politicians, but in the case of Umunna I find it particularly galling because at this moment in time, I’m desperately looking for someone to believe in and – on paper at least – that someone should be Chuka.

chuka umunna fresh prince francis maude

Fig. 1

So where’s he falling down? At first I though that it might be a bad case of Professional Politicianism but having poked around a bit I’m not convinced: His back story – while not exactly the Bog Standard Bloke yarn that we all seem to crave right now – is different and interesting enough to set him apart from the pack  while that residual veneer of cool puts him in a different category to your more common garden apparatchiks. No, what’s killing the feeling for me is that he still hasn’t learnt when to let go.

Take a look at the second question for example, the question that, by rights, he should have skinned the most cats on. This was the one about growth and thanks to Maude choosing to dig in rather go on the offensive, he had an open field. In QT terms this is a doozy as while you’ll always have the Previous Labour Government Flank to worry about, the weak point in the Blue Team’s lines (the We’ve Totally Stacked The Economy Gap) is so wide open that all it requires is a little umph and it’s all gravy. Yet ‘umph’ was nowhere to be found and what we actually saw was the horrifying spectacle of a politician trying to talk in a rational manner to an electorate he believed to be rational creatures: A big mistake and while I sympathise with his inclination to reason, it won’t do him much good in the long run because we’re not in the market for trifling matters such as ‘facts’ and ‘evidence’. What we want is jabbing fingers, cocks that are sure and jibs that are cut. We want blood that we can spread on the bread that you so kindly provided along with the circus.

Alas, blood we did not get and instead of charging hell-for-leather at the Tory trenches he got thrown totally off-balance by Leanne Wood’s assertion that Darling would have cut more than Thatcher. A QT-pro would have rightly seen this for what it is – an interdiction tactic to stall an offensive – and powered on regardless but instead Ummuna went into a defensive posture and fell back on technicalities. Well, that was it I’m afraid. I zoned out and what could have been a textbook rendition of a QT Blitzkrieg Done Right ended up bogged down in the Quagmire of Factuality.

So there’s a lesson to be learned here – stop thinking so much and just go for those cheap shots. Yeah, I know, it feels disingenuous and there’s little dignity in it but that’s the game you’re in. Just disengage your brain, stop thinking like an actual person and march towards the sound of gunfire. The rest will sort itself out.

I’m developing a grudging respect for Maude…

…Because he’s a wily old bugger who knows how to play the game. Now, I realise that’s a fairly ludicrous statement to make about a man who single-handedly managed to instigate a highly flammable round of panic buying  but when you look at it from a purely tactical level, he’s a steady pair of hands. In essence, Maude’s strength is that he knows when he’s in a losing fight and isn’t afraid to seek more favourable terrain when the odds are clearly stacked against him, even if that means ceding territory. Again, it’s the growth question that really brought this out and his response was one of darting eyes, a thin skirmish line of accusations and a whole lot of backing away slowly. None of that sounds particularly gallant or glorious and that’s because it wasn’t: The Tories are in a bind when it comes to the economy and no amount of chest thumping is going to change that. However, what he did achieve was to stop a tactical retreat turning into a rout and by the end of the show he felt secure enough to venture into No-Mans Land and seize a few prisoners. Considering my usual aversion to Big Vision Tories, that’s not bad going.

Leanne Wood is really rather fun…

…Fun in the same way it is to watch the playground misfit unsettle their more popular peers just by existing. In my day this was achieved via the means of West German army jackets (that’s right kids, WEST Germany… Now get off my lawn!), Clipper lighters on shoelace necklaces, lurking, and band t-shirts with swear words that showed through your school shirt. Wood, however, takes a more robust approach and spent most of the show picking fights in a wonderfully deadpan manner whilst stopping only to shoot the odd mucky look now and then. Are my horizons broadened by this wanton display of stick-in-muddery? Not really. Was it entertaining to watch? Why yes, I believe it was.

And the other two?

Props to Paphitis, he had a great show. It’s really easy for the Entrepreneur Panelist to drown themselves in a puddle of laissez-faire sermons but he kept it mostly grounded whilst applying just the right level of Couldn’t Give A Toss. As for QT noob Kirsty Williams, well her bright eyes and bushy tail were a forgivable incumbrance but she does show a certain level of resilience. A little more breaking on the Wheel of Dimbleby and she may be in with a shot.

Tl:dr

Umunna: 4/10

:-/

Maude: 6/10

:-I

Wood: 6/10

_

Paphitis: 7/10

:-)

Williams: 5/10

:-p

The Crowd: 6/10

=^_^= ?

Hmmm… Rather a lot of military history analogies worked their way into this write-up which is odd as I’ve been making a conscious effort to not spend all my time reading hefty tomes about men-of-yore killing each other. I thought I’d ease myself into a gentler world of literature with a biography of LBJ but it turns out that he’s more intense and frightening than most of the wars I’ve read about. At least I tried…

Next Week Lemmings, next week…

P.S. Next week could be interesting… Just sayin’…

Questionable Time #45


questionable time 45 david dimbley spectrum loading screen

Good morning Lemmings and rejoice, for we have a good episode on our hands – so good in fact that I’ll accept it as a partially apology for Liverpool’s behaviour of late. And what behaviour would that be? Well, a) they foisted The X-Factor’s Christopher Maloney upon us and b) if my suspicions are correct they then engineered a rolling-foist by voting to keep him in the show every week hence. Seriously Liverpool, you’ve made your point. You’ve had your pound of flesh. Now please, can we stop this madness? Anyway, enough of this and let’s do some Question Timing…

Burnham and Maude were a great pairing…

I was a bit nonplussed when I heard that Francis Maude was going to be on as he’s one of those figures who, despite being around forever, just seems to flit in and out of the picture, never staying still long enough for me to really pin him down. Similarly, Burnham drew a vague ‘meh’ from me as while he’s a very proficient QT-er who does a good line in the whole ‘local lad come good’ trade, he’s so constantly on-message that I can never really see past the bluster (or – for that matter – those shimmering, dazzling eyelashes of his). ‘Fair to middling’ was the best I hoped for. As it happens, these two turned out to be an inspired choice and what we got was a battle of wits that to’d and fro’d satisfyingly throughout the evening.

The key to it is that both protagonists are very ambitious but in different ways. Maude, with his hawk-like features and buzzard-esque stoop has the look of a man who Knows Too Much (although not, it should be remembered, about the safe storage of fuel) while Burnham is a classic Set Piecer, the sort who really hammers rhetorical points mercilessly whilst always making sure he ends with a crescendo. Both men can smell the other’s ambition and both men can’t help but be vexed by it.

To start with, the Set Piecer strategy seemed to be a nose ahead and despite putting up a pretty decent fight, Maude spent both the health and economy questions fighting a rearguard action with only limited success. However, he regained his balance in the Leveson question and did so just at the point that Burnham began to falter. It went like this: Maude got the first shot and did a pretty reasonable Next Stop Zimbabwe take on press freedom that garnered a fair few claps. Burnham though, well he fluffed his opening and had to resort to stealing Tim Farron’s answer almost word-for-word. As it turns out, the Set Piecer in him managed to blag it and parity was restored although not for very long. What happened next though was genius. Out of nowhere, Maude suddenly turned to Burnham and sincerely thanked him for his part in uncovering the truth about the Hillsborough tragedy. Well, that move was nothing short of inspired and not only did it earn him a metric tonne of applause, it also left Burnham with nowhere to go. The Well Timed Compliment: It’s the napalm of QT.

So then Mr. Farron, we meet again…

Following some extensive skullduggery, I was lucky enough to find myself in the crowd for the Leeds edition of Question Time that ran earlier this year. It was a pretty good show – one in which I thought that George Galloway was actually going to lamp David Aaronovitch – but the real revelation was Tim Farron. It boiled down to this: I automatically assume that politicians are up to something sketchy until they can prove otherwise yet the moment that Farron caught my eye, I remember thinking ‘Oh my god, I implicitly trust this guy’. True, I was high as a kite on adrenaline after asking a question and the self-inflicted dehydration didn’t help (I was terrified of needing a wee) but there was just something about Farron that overruled my default cynicism. I rapidly developed an alarming political crush, a crush that’s now so out of control that I find myself making gifs of an idealised chance encounter between myself and Mr. Farron (see. Fig. 1). It is also a crush that remains undimmed by last night’s episode.

tim-farron-loudribs-gif

Fig. 1

Tim Farron’s secret – other than his projectile trustworthiness – is that he appears to live in a world where 2010 never happened. That whole coalition business? Nah, you dreamed it. Never happened. The Lib Dems are still in opposition, the Tories are still caddish yahoos and Social Democracy is still very much on the Yellow Team’s agenda. Sure, he made the odd token defence of Blue Team/Yellow Team collaboration but they were never more than routine patrols conducted without vigour and by the end of the show I was happily set adrift on memory bliss. Ah, the pre-2010 world… A place where the Lib Dems stopped short of breaking their knuckles when wringing their hands…

The Welsh appear to have quietly annexed Liverpool…

Alright, I’m a little confused here. Why exactly was Leanne Wood on last night? Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a dig at Wood herself as I happen to rate her quite highly, partly because I like her viewpoint but mainly on account of her delivery: It’s just so nonchalant. Honestly, there could be someone running at her full-tilt, whilst brandishing an axe and she’d just quietly reel off a list of reasons why they shouldn’t until they eventually stopped dead in their tracks, perplexed by this barrage of dry reason. No, the reason I ask is that we were in Swansea last week and if you ask me, that sounds like a pretty appropriate venue for the leader of the Welsh nationalists. Liverpool though? Not so much… Unless of course we’ve somehow hoodwinked the Welsh into taking Maloney off our hands in which case I whole heartedly endorse this impromptu rearranging of borders.

Lionel Barber is an odd fish…

Hmm… Don’t know what to make of this one. On the one hand, he didn’t say anything massively stupid but the way his speech halts in the middle of every sentence is a little disconcerting as was his bungled joke at the start of the Leveson question (it was memorable only for the uncomfortable parade of tumbleweed that followed). No, there’s something about this guy that doesn’t add up and I found watching him to be like using an elderly relative’s computer: On paper, it should be a great machine but a combination of rashly installed toolbars, screaming demands from paid-for anti-virus software and the fact that the toolbar is now inexplicably at the top of the desktop just make it all a little fraught. I reckon we start with defragging but progress to a full format if that doesn’t get us anywhere.

Tl;dr

Maude: 6.5/10

Just (about beat Burnham)

Burnham: 6/ 10

(Needs a slight) Adjust(ment)

Farron: 7/10

(Is a picture of) Trust(worthiness)

Wood: 6/10

(Is very) Robust

Barber: 5/10

Must (stop for a few seconds on the middle of every sentence)

The Crowd: 6/10

(Displayed much) Gust(o)

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #37


question time 37

Morning Lemmings and a word of warning: From here on in the photoshops are going to start getting really weird. Think about it this way… I’ve been doing this for about a year and as has become apparent, Question Time is littered with repeat offenders (Dianne Abbott, I’m looking at you) who seem to be on every other week. As a result, I’ve pretty much scoured Google Images in its entirety for fresh raw materials with which to poke topical fun at the great and the good, but it has become clear that this seam has been mined to the point of exhaustion and I will have to fall back on the absurd to make ends meet. I blame Labour. I wouldn’t have had to make these cuts if they hadn’t been running up such an astronomical Google Images deficit in the good times and clearly we don’t want this blog to go the way of Greece, Spain or Ireland. This is me taking us out of the Danger Zone.

 

Anyhoo, on to the show which this week (for the most part) seemed to have been filmed two years ago in an era where old certainties held true and our heads were not spinning from the unpredictabilities of coalition. In many ways, it was like the Cold War but with slightly different belligerents, full Technicolor and a very different outcome. Allow me to explain.

 

First in our trip down Memory Lane is Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, who by rights should be playing the role of post-war America (confident, powerful and marching to the beat of inexorable progress) but is, in actual fact, now portraying the sorry vision of Hoover era America (unsteady, insular and without a song in its heart). He got the ball rolling by falling back on some good old Tory Values of Yore with the prisoners question and lost little time in throwing round words like “repugnant” before doing his best to divest himself of any substance when it came to multiculturalism. After this less than promising start, he then collapsed into a fug of isolationism as he toed the current Western line on Egypt (‘complex stuff, best not rock the boat and all that’), all of which ultimately amounted to very little. Little did he know that he was about to get hit by his own personal Great Depression, but a little more on that later.

 

Next up we have Jacqui Smith, filling the shoes of an increasingly warped, probably-evil and definitely mad dictatorship who has just lost its patron state. Think North Korea or Albania. Again, she seemed to be still rooted firmly in the past, believed she was still Home Secretary and capitalised handsomely on the opportunity to remind us of all the things we didn’t like about Labour by getting all ‘tuff on crime’ when it came to prisoners, muddying the waters with a bucket of terrorism on the multicultural question and then pretty much sidestepping Egypt in the same way Maude did, all of which was crap. Again though, there was drama just around the corner, but be patient… we’ll get to that soon.

 

Last on the list of our Cold Warriors is Menzies Campbell who, by all appearances, has been asleep since last April and has to yet to be informed that his party is in government with the Tories. This is probably for the best as I can only imagine what he’d like to do to Nick Clegg if he ever found out what he’s been up to of late (see Fig.1) and given his advancing years, I’m not sure if that would be good for his blood pressure. In this scenario, Ming takes the role of the out-there, edgy, and possibly-progressive regime that fires up the spirits of young revolutionaries everywhere, sort of like an only-just-post-revolution Cuba or Nicaragua just after Somoza fell. Hoisting the banner of Liberty, Ming took to the barricades on the prisoners issue, staunchly defended multiculturalism and at least venturing a solid opinion on Egypt, all of which reminded us why we used to like the Liberal Democrats and made me positively yearn for the days when wouldn’t even dare dream of power.

 

Fig. 1

More on him later, but as we all know, a Cold War needs an ideological struggle to underpin the narrative and aptly fulfilling this need are Mehdi Hasan, our alternate history’s Rabid Pinko Commie and Douglas Murray, our Pig Dog Capitalist Lacky. Now, these guys were much more fun than the geopolitical players and were at each others throats when ever the opportunity presented itself. For the most part, Hassan emerged the victor as he managed to maintain sufficient anger to come across as passionate, but keeping it just about in check enough to stop him looking like a nutter (something which has dragged down his score in past episodes). Murray, on the hand, actually looked quite ill and a little dishevelled, but if he was feeling worse for wear, that didn’t stop him from coming out all guns blazing. The best bit was on the multiculturalism question where Murray kicked off by regurgitating an article he had written for the Wall Street Journal this week and generally damned the whole concept to hell and back. This drew a fair bit of applause, but he was then given the beat down by a pissed off Hasan who invoked the spectre of Nick Griffin and garnered an even louder round of claps. This went back and forth for a bit but eventually ended in almighty kerfuffle that Dimbers was forced to break up with assertive use of the word “Order!”. That’s some good Question Timing right there.

 

Now, as I said earlier, this Cold War had a slightly different conclusion from the one we know and love in that it went nuclear. Up until the last question, I had written off this episode as a bit of a damp squib, but everything changed when the voluntary sector cuts question turned up. This happens to be a subject close to my heart (or maybe a subject close to giving me a heart attack) right now as I work in the voluntary sector. If I get enough time and summon the will, I might write a piece about it in the near future, but for the time being, all you need to know is that we are in the middle of a genuine and frankly terrifying crisis at the moment. I won’t go into it now, but trust me when I say that things are not good. Anyhoo, back to the point:

 

It all started inauspiciously enough with Murray using the question as an excuse to bash the lazy and feckless around the chops while Smith used it as excuse to reel off a list of past Labour policies that no-one gives two hoots about any more. Then it came to Francis Maude and the first glimpse of a mushroom cloud hove into view as he blamed everything on Labour. Boom. That was it. The crowd, who had already been quite volatile got to the point of criticality and absolutely exploded. Hands down, this was the biggest boo-fest of the current run and despite some counter-booing from a few section of the audience, Maude was right at Ground Zero. Things got even worse when a psychotherapist set off some secondary explosions while Murray did his best to stoke the inferno by accusing the nation of being “morally obese”, further exacerbating the situation and forcing Dimbers to wade in again and break it all up. Despite his best efforts, the firestorm raged on and when the show ended, it seemed certain that we had been plunged into a nuclear winter for the next decade. Now that’s rattling good history.

 

TL:DR

 

Maude: 3/10

Should have ducked and covered.

 

Smith: 2/10

Should give up.

 

Campbell: 8/10

Looks like the skeleton from the Scotch Video Tape adverts.

 

Hasan: 8/10

Played a good Che Guevara

 

Murray: 6/10

Played a good Donald Rumsfeld

 

Bristol: 8/10

Appears to be made of plutonium

 

OK, that’s it. I’m absolutely knackered for reasons pertaining to the last question on the show and need to do something mindless. Time to fire up Just Cause 2 I think…

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Morning Lemmings and a word of warning: From here on in the photoshops are going to start getting really weird. Think about it this way… I’ve been doing this for about a year and as has become apparent, Question Time is littered with repeat offenders (Dianne Abbott, I’m looking at you) who seem to be on every other week. As a result, I’ve pretty much scoured Google Images in it’s entirety for fresh raw materials with which to poke topical fun at the great and the good, but it has become clear that this seam has been mined to the point of exhaustion and I will have to fall back on the absurd to make ends meet. I blame Labour. I wouldn’t have had to make these cuts if they hadn’t been running up such an astronomical Google Images deficit in the good times and clearly we don’t want this blog to go the way of Greece, Spain or Ireland. This is me taking us out of the Danger Zone.

 

Anyhoo, on to the show which this week (for the most part) seemed to have been filmed two years ago in an era where old certainties held true and our heads were not spinning from the unpredictabilities of coalition. In many ways, it was like the Cold War but with slightly different belligerents, full Technicolor and a very different outcome. Allow me to explain.

 

First in our trip down Memory Lane is Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, who by rights should be playing the role of post-war America (confident, powerful and marching to the beat of inexorable progress) but is, in actual fact, now portraying the sorry vision of Hoover era America (unsteady, insular and without a song in it’s heart). He got the ball rolling by falling back on some good old Tory Values of Yore with the prisoners question and lost little time in throwing round words like “repugnant” before doing his best to divest himself of any substance when it came to multiculturalism. After this less than promising start, he then collapsed into a fug of isolationism as he toed the current Western line on Egypt (‘complex stuff, best not rock the boat and all that’), all of which ultimately amounted to very little. Little did he know that he was about to get hit by his own personal Great Depression, but a little more on that later.

 

Next up we have Jacqui Smith, filling the shoes of an increasingly warped, probably-evil and definitely mad dictatorship who has just lost it’s patron state. Think North Korea or Albania. Again, she seemed to be still rooted firmly in the past, believed she was still Home Secretary and capitalised handsomely on the opportunity to remind us of all the things we didn’t like about Labour by getting all ‘tuff on crime’ when it came to prisoners, muddying the waters with a bucket of terrorism on the multicultural question and then pretty much sidestepping Egypt in the same way Maude did, all of which was crap. Again though, there was drama just around the corner, but be patient… we’ll get to that soon.

 

Last on the list of our Cold Warriors is Menzies Campbell who, by all appearances, has been asleep since last April and has to yet to be informed that his party is in government with the Tories. This is probably for the best as I can only imagine what he’d like to do to Nick Clegg if he ever found out what he’s been up to of late (see Fig.1) and given his advancing years, I’m not sure if that would be good for his blood pressure. In this scenario, Ming takes the role of the out-there, edgy, and possibly-progressive regime that fires up the spirits of young revolutionaries everywhere, sort of like an only-just-post-revolution Cuba or Nicaragua just after Somoza fell. Hoisting the banner of Liberty, Ming took to the barricades on the prisoners issue, staunchly defended multiculturalism and at least venturing a solid opinion on Egypt, all of which reminded us why we used to like the Liberal Democrats and made me positively yearn for the days when wouldn’t even dare dream of power.

 

More on him later, but as we all know, a Cold War needs an ideological struggle to underpin the narrative and aptly fulfilling this need are Mehdi Hasan, our alternate history’s Rabid Pinko Commie and Douglas Murray, our Pig Dog Capitalist Lacky. Now, these guys were much more fun than the geopolitical players and were at each others throats when ever the opportunity presented itself. For the most part, Hassan emerged the victor as he managed to maintain sufficient anger to come across as passionate, but keeping it just about in check enough to stop him looking like a nutter (something which has dragged down his score in past episodes). Murray, on the hand, actually looked quite ill and a little dishevelled, but if he was feeling worse for wear, that didn’t stop him from coming out all guns blazing. The best bit was on the multiculturalism question where Murray kicked off by regurgitating an article he had written for the Wall Street Journal this week and generally damned the whole concept to hell and back. This drew a fair bit of applause, but he was then given the beat down by a pissed off Hasan who invoked the spectre of Nick Griffin and garnered an even louder round of claps. This went back and forth for a bit but eventually ended in almighty kerfuffle that Dimbers was forced to break up with assertive use of the word “Order!”. That’s some good Question Timing right there.

 

Now, as I said earlier, this Cold War had a slightly different conclusion from the one we know and love in that it went nuclear. Up until the last question, I had written off this episode as a bit of a damp squib, but everything changed when the voluntary sector cuts question turned up. This happens to be a subject close to my heart (or maybe a subject close to giving me a heart attack) right now as I work in the voluntary sector. If I get enough time and summon the will, I might write a piece about it in the near future, but for the time being, all you need to know is that we are in the middle of a genuine and frankly terrifying crisis at the moment. I won’t go into it now, but trust me when I say that things are not good. Anyhoo, back to the point:

 

It all started inauspiciously enough with Murray using the question as an excuse to bash the lazy and feckless around the chops while Smith used it as excuse to reel off a list of past Labour policies that no-one gives two hoots about any more. Then it came to Francis Maude and the first glimpse of a mushroom cloud hove into view as he blamed everything on Labour. Boom. That was it. The crowd, who had already been quite volatile got to the point of criticality and absolutely exploded. Hands down, this was the biggest boo-fest of the current run and despite some counter-booing from a few section of the audience, Maude was right at Ground Zero. Things got even worse when a psychotherapist set off some secondary explosions while Murray did his best to stoke the inferno by accusing the nation of being “morally obese”, further exacerbating the situation and forcing Dimbers to wade in again and break it all up. Despite his best efforts, the firestorm raged on and when the show ended, it seemed certain that we had been plunged into a nuclear winter for the next decade. Now that’s rattling good history.

 

TL:DR

 

Maude: 3/10

Should have ducked and covered.

 

Smith: 2/10

Should give up.

 

Campbell: 8/10

Looks like the skeleton from the Scotch Video Tape adverts.

 

Hasan: 8/10

Played a good Che Guevara

 

Murray: 6/10

Played a good Donald Rumsfeld

 

Bristol: 8/10

Appears to be made of plutonium

 

OK, that’s it. I’m absolutely knackered for reasons pertaining to the last question on the show and need to do something mindless. Time to fire up Just Cause 2 I think…

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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