Posts Tagged 'Germaine Greer'

Questionable Time #122


qt 122

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to this week’s (very) belated edition of Questionable Time. As you know by now the small fact of my laptop exploding prevented me from writing up a review for you while it was still fresh and tasty, and thus I have in my possession a slightly mouldy selection of old notes to punt into place for your reading pleasure. By now, you have probably already forgotten who was even on the panel, let alone what they said. In that case, I am pleased to re-educate you…

More like social ‘I don’t’ care, ho ho ho! Ohh, I’m so sad

We come from wriggly Wrexham, with a plea from Dimbleby to ‘JOIN US’ – sounding a little like a cult leader there, Dimbles, but then again what is the strange viewership of Question Time if not a cult of sorts? And, as inevitable as an overheating hard drive when one downloads too many questionable anime films (not that I would know, of course), the first question is on the Welsh NHS: is it crap? Or merely crud?

Sajid Javid, with his weird egg head, goes on the offensive. The current state of the Welsh NHS is the worst mistake humanity has made since New Coke. And it’s all thanks to that no good Labour lot! Peter Hain shakes his gleaming greying hair in dismay. The aging Hain has started to bear a remarkable resemblance to Swiss Toni of The Fast Show fame. Surely getting the health service up and running is also ‘very much like making love to a beautiful woman’.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Swiss Pete points out that things have gone done the shitter due to the Tories cutting social care and a stampede of old people lying around groaning and dying in hospital wards as a result. Sajid is about to respond when he is interrupted by the Plaid Cymru guy with a name I can’t spell. “WALES!” he practically bellows. Wales is great, apparently. He just loves Wales SO MUCH and nobody else does. (This is, incidentally, the Plaid Cymru manifesto for 2015.) His accent is similarly spectacular, by the way. He ignores Dimbleby’s pleas to stay on topic and continues to babble on about Wales and how both the Tories and Labour don’t love Wales as nearly as much as him. He just has a lot of feelings. #obligatorymeangirlsquote

Then things go absolutely apeshit when a lady clad in red in the audience, who I’m going to nickname Melisandre, also starts blurting out her feelings about the NHS. Wales has free prescriptions?! I didn’t know that. Those lucky bastards. Melisandre even mentions Aneurin Bevan and, as expected when you mention the holy St. Nye, everyone is overcome with emotion. Somewhere far away from here, Andy Burnham’s huge sad eyes well up with tears and he breaks down during a television interview, rolling around in the foetal position on the floor and chanting “Nye…Nye…” to himself. Or is that just me?

Kate Maltby, the Telegraph woman, intervenes to stop all this. She mentions she’s not a socialist, but even she, in all her Torygraphyness (seriously, that is one HECKA posh accent) admits that the American system is poo. That said…long pause…she thinks everyone on the panel is being a massive baby and the only real news source one should listen to is obviously the Telegraph. Well, obviously. With all those pictures of pretty A Level students jumping for joy on the front page. Of course.

Germaine Greer hasn’t spoken yet, which is clearly displeasing her greatly. Are the problems in the NHS due to the patriarchy? Actually, she says, it’s due to people not respecting the old. Like her. She’s old now, she repeats. Old and grumpy. Get off my lawn you darn kids.

Wailin’ Wales

Next question: Syriza! Ayyyy or nayyyy?

Peter is definitely for, Sajid is against, and Germaine says something Australian. Balance is restored to the world. Kate, meanwhile, gives another…long pause…and rails against Greece for being naughty. And it’s all Peter’s fault, somehow. Sajid makes an impassioned plea for people to ‘live within their means’, which sets off keysmashname Plaid dude who is gunning for a coaltion between Greece and Wales (and Plaid Cymru, THE PARTY OF WALES) to take on the world through force if necessary. Sajid stares into the camera like he’s on The Office.

Then there’s an argument about what really caused the 2008 banking crisis but I’m going to skip that because for goodness’ sake it’s not 2010 anymore.

Next up, should we say ‘frack you’ to fracking? Or is it the heir to coal? Will this benefit Wrexham, the ‘industrial Mecca of the North’? (A real thing it called itself, pre-pit closures, as evidenced by this screencap from an old election I sat through and watched in full because I’m a nerd:)

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

There seems to be, with the exception of that one lady who Sajid praised/smothered his gooey oily residue all over, wide opposition to fracking. Peter remains silent and sheepish, the Plaid man smugly smug. And Kate Maltby…long pause…simply cannot grasp that people might be concerned about other things than what slice of the profits pie the people of Wrexham are getting. It was quietly heartbreaking in a way, to see her repeatedly fail to understand any of the concerns, real of imagined, that the plebs are raising. Don’t worry, she reassures them when they question the effect on the environment and their communities, we’ll find a way to make sure you get a cut of the dosh!

Don’t h8, deb8

The final two questions race by so fast I barely have enough time to write anything down. Germaine Greer has been disappointingly uncontroversial in this edition – perhaps she’s mellowing with age, and become a kindly older lady who intends to bed-block like a pro. Even when during the question on giving vouchers to pregnant women to entice them to stop smoking, Kate practically screeches apropos of nothing BUT WHAT ABOUT THE POOR MENS, she doesn’t come back with any sort of withering response. I’m let down, Germaine! That was an open goal.

Finally, debates. Or deb8s as the yoof don’t call them. Sajid not-so-smoothly admits that Dave is ‘making progress’ on the idea, to much mirth in the crowd.

“The public have a right to see us exposed!” says Peter, and with that I scream in terror and switch off.

Time for the scores!

Javid: 5/10

Egg(head)

Hain: 6/10

(Too many sausage rolls from) Greggs

(ap?) Iorwerth: 6/10

Segued (everything into a rant about glorious Wales, motherland of all)

Maltby: 5/10

Beg(ged the good people of Wrexham to consider the profit motive)

Greer: 5/10

(Mystic) Meg

The Crowd: 8/10

(Should throw a) Keg (party)

Next week: Questionable Time at a reasonable time. And by the way, Ye Sacred Webmaster has asked me to do a bit of shameless promoting! Noobminster is his new, cool website – a handy-dandy guide to British politics for people with better things to do. Which is mostly everyone. So go visit! I’ll sneak another plug for this into next week’s post as well, just to make sure. [steeples fingers, glasses flash menacingly in the light]

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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Questionable Time #61


questionable time 61 david dimbleby space marine warhammer 40k

Good morning Lemmings and to all those Games Workshop nerds looking at the above pshop and having kittens because “Dimbleby is wearing Ultramarine livery yet those are CLEARLY Blood Angels behind him” I say a) shut up and b) I have a girlfriend. Socially awkward critics silenced? Good. Let us proceed with all due haste to the matter in hand. To Coventry we go…

Did David Davis have a nervous breakdown about half way through last night’s show?

Despite his politics being waaaaay to the right of mine I have all the time in the world for David Davis and not only because he’s an unrelenting pain in the arse for the Tory High Command. No, what I like about Davis is that he’s a true Lone Wolf who is certain of his ends, uncompromising in his means and still looks like he could kill you with those dark black marbles he calls eyes. Take the question on Europe and the Queen’s Speech for example: This was the one that left Hunt and Swinson all butterfingered and knock-kneed as they tried to transport the fragile china of not-really-wanting-a-referendum through the frenzied bullring of freshly UKIPed public opinion. Davis though? He wants out and doesn’t care how many Blue Willow plates get shattered along the way. As it happens, public opinion seems to be marginally with him on this one at the moment, but it wouldn’t have mattered either way because David Davis doesn’t really care what you or anyone else thinks. David Davis just cares about his Lines In the Sand and who’s crossing them.

What’s really interesting though is when those Lines In The Sand run perpendicular to each other and on this point the rape question was instructive. Here we have a situation where there is no easy solution and someone – whether they be a victim of sexual assault or a wrongly accused party – is going to come out terribly damaged. More importantly from Davis’ point of view, the fate of both of these parties is dependent on one of his most cherished Lines In The Sand – The Fair and Proportionate Rule of Law – and who gets the benefit of the doubt when crossing it. As soon as the question landed Davis screwed his face up into a ball and clutched the bridge of his nose as if stricken by some sort of existential neuralgia. ‘Gah!’ said his face, ‘Get behind me, Satan!.’

Granted, this may have been a reaction to Greer making some very strange noises about how rape victims should be all up in everyone’s grill rather than displaying entirely appropriate human responses to the most awful of traumas (just as the weird, grunt-cum-tortured-howl he let out later was a direct response to Jerry Hayes’ even stranger and slightly disconcerting to-do over rape statistics) but I suspect it was about something more profound: It was about what happens when two absolutes collide in a mind that only has room for one. To his credit, he actually talked a great deal of sense on the subject and did the best out of the bunch in arriving at a reasonable compromise but still, it does show that despite his outward projection of unshakable clarity, even a seasoned purveyor of Incontrovertible Truths such as he can become unstuck by humanity’s tendency towards the ambiguous.

There are two time travellers in Parliament…

One is Jacob Rees-Mogg, the living embodiment of Interbellum Toryism while the other is Tristram Hunt, the present day’s answer to the Genuinely Sincere Yet Too Clever For Its Own Good Fabianism of the 1930’s. It’s all there really – the pained frowning at the injustice of it all, the wordy appeals to do Good Things and the sort of rugged good looks that would look entirely fitting in a Republican trench on an Andalusian hillside – and on the whole, it sort of works. Ok, so he’s a little overeager in some of his exhortations and his scholarly good lookingness makes it difficult to ignore the accusation that he’s been parachuted in but at least there is a genuine sense that he believes in something and at least he’s trying despite the lingering guilt that life may have sent a disproportionately large amount of Good Things his way.

That, and I’d love to watch him and the Mogglet play Risk. Oh, to be a fly on the wall…

Swinson’s turning into a bit of an operator…

The knowing grin that came along with “It wasn’t in the manifesto”? That said it all. No Teather-esque lip chewing, no Hughes-like hand wringing, just an unapologetic acceptance that politics is a messy business in which you play the hand you’re dealt, all delivered with a touch of coyness to soften the edges. Watch this one. She’s going places.

Greer provides further proof of the Primacy-Recency Effect…

It’s a very straight-forward theory: When presented with a list of things to remember you’re most likely to recall the items at the beginning and the end rather than the stuff in the middle, all of which must be very comforting for Germaine Greer as the old ratbag’s a right bugger for losing her way mid-show.

It all started promisingly with a nice little spiel about UKIP but it quickly got lost as she did a round-the-houses crawl of all things Commonwealth before a circuitous trip down Etymology Lane and the aforementioned weirdness of rape victims being totally cool with staring down the perpetrators. Luckily though, she reeled it back in with some rather good stuff about the burden of proof and once again our inbuilt tendency to forget the middle had her coming out of it all looking rather good. Germaine, you owe the vagaries of cognition a big one.

Now here’s a photo of a back-in-the-day Greer draping herself sensuously around what may or not be David Davis (see Fig. 1)

germaine greer david davis norks

Fig. 1

Jerry Hayes: For and against.

For:

Nice turn of phrase (“Spittoon for angst” anybody?)

Nervous energy

Flailing arms

Beard

Totally batshit rant about the Lord Chancellor that I didn’t understand but looked fun

Against:

Shameless self-promotion

Nervous energy

Flailing arms

Highly dubious interpretations of rape figures and willingness to pick a fight about them

Verdict:

I have no idea.

Tl;dr

Davis: 7/10

Hard

Hunt: 6/10

(Might have) Starred (in Land and Freedom)

Swinson: 6/10

(Plays a tight game of political) Card(s)

Greer: 5/10

(Is not quite as) Avant-Garde (as she used to be)

Hayes: 4/10

(You’re) Barred!

The Crowd: 6/10

(Clearly thought Jean-Luc) Picard (was clearly the best Captain in the Star Trek canon)

In the words of Atlanta rap duo Tag-Team, “Whoomp! There it is”: A straightforward affair where a man with a beard got overly animated and Tristram Hunt described Nigel Farage as “attractive”. Now, I know some of you were a little bummed that I missed Starkey last week so by way of recompense, here’s a link to a piece I did for Culture Kicks about QT. It’s good so give it a read. Culture, innit blud…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #14


questionable time 14 david dimbleby

Good morning Lemmings and brace thyselves for I have a confession to make: I think I might be developing a strange affinity with Baroness Warsi. Now, before you all run away in horror (I can hear a thousand laptops clacking shut in my head right now) allow me to explain: This isn’t an affinity based on any sort of shared worldview or spiritual kinship. Instead, it’s entirely circumstantial and stems from the fact that the very first Question Time I ever covered also happened to be Warsi’s first outing on Grown Up QT (she had previously been on the panel for the 2007 schools edition) and as a result we have a shared history. It’s like starting a new job on the same day as someone else. You may well dislike them intensely but for better or worse, your fates are somehow bound up together and whatever latent animosity you may feel for the person in question is always tempered by the memories of that first day.

So yes, Warsi and I have a shared QT career and as a result I’ve had the dubious honour of watching her technique develop over the years. In the early days this worked heavily in my favour as the Baroness always came with a cast iron guarantee that she would say something stupid and provide me with plenty of material to poke fun at. Most of the time this would involve a scenario where she’d open with a point that the crowd seemed to agree with before utterly overplaying her hand and painting herself into a usually hilarious corner (‘doing a Warsi’ as it came to be known). However, judging by last night’s performance, this isn’t so much of a problem any more… Ok, so she did get tangled in the rigging of the Royal Yacht question and also managed to cancel out her own argument when she got cajoled into admitting that a weak opposition is bad for democracy, but we’re not talking about the Black Hawk Down-esque scenes that regularly accompanied her earlier appearances. In short, she’s finally learned to rein it in a bit.

So credit where credit’s due, this is an improvement but let’s not get too carried away for like Alan Greenspan I have found a flaw: She’s now started getting really personal. The main recipients of this new and frankly frightening tactic took the form of Stephen Twigg and Caroline Lucas, both of whom were treated to sustained assaults that usually started with Warsi invoking their name and following it up some form of ‘you of all people’ accusation. Now, when deployed sparingly this can be a fruitful avenue of attack but the important word in that sentence is ‘sparingly’ and it’s a word that appears to be largely lost on Warsi. Instead it became her go-to method and that just left her looking a little petty. True, ‘petty’ is preferable to ‘wildly out of control’, but it still took the sheen off an otherwise improved performance. So keep trying my little coincidental fellow traveller for the road is long. With many a winding turn. That leads us to where – oh enough already.

Moving swiftly on (as dwelling on my feelings towards Warsi is starting to feel a little weird) I think it’s fair to say that both Lucas and Twigg put in pretty solid performances last night but performances that were not without their blemishes. In Lucas’ case it appears that the Falklands was her downfall as she had a real problem with trying to shoehorn the circle of self-determination into the square of pacifism. However, I’m inclined towards leniency as she did put in the hours when it came to questions about the economy and she punches above her weight for a one-person-party. As for Twigg, well he proved to be pretty nimble but not nimble enough to outsmart the ‘what the hell are Labour for’ question. In fairness to him though I don’t think even Houdini could have escaped from that one as right now no-one knows what Labour is for, least of all their frontbench politicians. Apart from that though I can’t find much to quibble about as it was a generally proficient performance.

Next up are the civilians and I must say I was pleasantly surprised by Germaine Greer and Charles Moore, both of whom confounded my expectations. In the case of Greer I suspect that this is because she seemed to be in a very good mood last night and kept the finger wagging/scowling to a minimum. Ok, so she did try her usual trick of forcibly wrenching questions from their contextual habitat so that she could bang on about something only tenuously related but it wasn’t laden with the matronly hurumphing that she can be guilty of. And as for Moore? Well although he completely lost me towards the end with his love of all things regal I must say that he was a picture of fairness when it came to the Labour question and his outburst of mischief when he fingered Chris Huhne as the yacht leaker was pretty entertaining. It also reminded me that he wrote this article last year. If you have the time, give it a look because it knocked me sideways to hear an ex-editor of both The Telegraph and The Spectator talk so much sense.

Finally, we have the crowd and – much like the panel – I can’t find many sticks to beat them with as they displayed a level of buoyant vocality that served this episode very well. Oh wait, I’ve just remembered that I do have one crowd beating stick up my sleeve and that’s the tartan jacket worn by the Royalist lady. Man, that thing was so overpoweringly tartan that I hardly slept last night, wracked as I was by visions of intersecting black and red lines every time I shut my eyes. Post-Tartan Stress Disorder, it’s serious business.

Tl;dr

Warsi: 5/10

Learning

Twigg: 6/10

Earning (his dinner last night)

Lucas: 6/10

Turning (out to be pretty good)

Greer: 6/10

Churning (out her usual stuff, but in a very reasonable manner)

Moore: 7/10

Concerning(ly good)

The Crowd: 6/10

Gurning (from exposure to weapons grade tartan)

Oh and by the way, just before I go some of you may be wondering why you haven’t come across a tenuously funny/topical photoshops yet. Well, I’ll be straight with you, some weeks the photoshopping is a breeze and sometimes it’s a nightmare, mainly on account of the panel. For example, should Nigel Farage or Chris Bryant be on then you know it’s going to be a doddle as the internet is teeming with ridiculous photos of them. This lot however are not so forthcoming. Ok, so there are plenty of back-in-the-day shots of Greer looking counter-saucy but any resulting manipulation would just look bitter and all the good ideas I had involving the Royal Yacht were soon put off-limits by the Costa Concordia disaster. However, I am a martyr to my cause and I did manage to cobble something together. The problem is that it’s just so ridiculous that it didn’t really fit in anywhere so I’ve decided to bury it right at the bottom. Lemmings and Gentlemen, I give to you Stephen Twigg getting his sandwich stolen by a fishing rod wielding Caroline Lucas (see Fig. 1). I just work here, ok?

stephen-twigg-caroline-lucas-fishing-sandwich

Fig. 1

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #46


Morning Lemmings and as the title picture indicates, I am still without internet, hence my having to fall back on sticking pictures of my cat’s head on Dimber’s face. Actually, this situation could change at any moment as I’m currently waiting for the BT engineer to arrive and hook me up with some of that sweet, sweet data. I hope he comes soon. It’s been a hard week. I’ve had to ‘talk’ and ‘read’ and other such antiquated activities that have no place in the fast lane that is my life. The whole experience has been distressing to say the least so hurry Mr BT Engineer… This situation cannot persist.

 

Enough of that and on with Question Time, brought to us this week by the good people of Norwich. First on the stump we have Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development and all-round interesting guy. I say this not only because he’s at the liberal end of the Tory party and looks like his hair was borrowed from a Beano character but also because he pulls a neat trick: He appears to be a True Believer but not in a way that scares me. Most True Believers (politicians who look really, really into what they’re doing) fill me with horror as they have a habit of taking their pet ideas and running with them with wild abandon whilst giving nary a thought for the consequences (Blair and Thatcher being the textbook examples with the likes of Gove and IDS propping up the second rank). In short, not only have they drank the Kool Aid, they are also attempting to drown everyone else in it as well. Now Mitchell certainly has the look of the True Believer as his default posture seems to be one of alert engagement and he certainly seems convinced that his little corner of policy is a matter of life and death but there also seems to be something else going on with him that makes me think that he probably isn’t a nutter. I’m not quite sure what that thing is but should I find out, you’ll be the first to know.

 

In terms of performance he did ok last night although it was quite a scrappy start as he went through the compulsory ‘Labour inheritance/grasping the nettle’ stuff that neatly divided the audience into Booers and Cheerers but you could tell that he wasn’t really into making a big deal out of this subject. His responses to the Libya and sexualisation questions were also pretty standard and without excess vim, but serviceable enough nevertheless. Where he did do well was on his home turf of International Development and here he let rip with a well thought out robust defence of the concept of aid whilst also acknowledging that there was still a lot of work to do. Personally, I thought it was great as it combined a moral imperative with a hearty dose of realpolitik but unfortunately for Mitchell it just seemed to pass the crowd by and left them in a state of blank silence. That’s a shame as I thought it was a rare moment of clarity in an otherwise very scrappy show and I think he deserved a little more for his efforts. Oh well, at least he won the top prize in Parliament’s Westminster Dog of the Year award back in 2009. Norwich may be fickle but at least he can always hark back to that crowning glory.

 

Moving on and we are soon confronted by none other than Charles Clarke the fourth ex-New Labour Home Secretary in as many weeks who also seems to have a big hairy bollock in place of where his head should be. Now I’m not really not a fan of Clarke, partly because of the standard charge list I associated with New Labour Home Secretaries (see LCCPMQTR passim), partly because he’s one of the most inept plotters that parliament has seen for a good few years but mainly because he always reminds me of an imbittered Deputy Head who has a burning resentment for both the students and the staff for not appreciating him quite as much as he thinks they should. To be fair to him, he wasn’t that bad last night as he refrained from using Question Time as a forum to pour scorn on his own team but also because he had quite an easy ride (lets face it, dishing out additional beat downs after the Archbishop of Canterbury has righteously smote you foes is hardly rocket science).Having said that, he did annoy me a slightly as he appeared to be gunning for the world record of how many times he could use the word ‘incoherent’ in one sitting. I totally agree Charles, the coalition’s policies are wildly incoherent but I, like the rest of the country, somehow managed to arrive at the conclusion myself and I really don’t need to learn it by rote. However, I am inclined to slip him an extra point for coming to Mitchell’s defence of the foreign aid issue. Very big of you Charles, very big.

 

Right, next up is our final politico of the day, Jo Swinson, Deputy Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and frighteningly young (frightening in that she’s younger than me) MP. I feel bad for what I’m about to say next as I get the feeling that she probably has genuinely good intentions, but she really could crank the perkiness down a notch or two, if only to stop her delivery sounding like that of a BBC Breakfast News weather reporter (a la Carol… “Good Mooooooooooooooooooooooooourning!”). The other thing that slightly irked me was that all of her answers reminded me of one of those nightmare job interviews where you’re really not sure what answer your prospective employer wants to hear and you end up hedging your bets by attempting the ‘balanced argument’ approach in the hope that you’ll come across as a well-rounded and thoughtful individual. In fact, what tends to happen is that you end up getting tangled in a mess of self-generated contradictions that make you look like an indecisive prat or worse still, an Apprentice candidate. Now, to be fair to Jo, she never outright contradicted herself but her whole line of being scrupulously fair and reasonable combined with a dose of youthful optimism (I really did think she was going to end every sentence with a ‘Yay!!!!!!’) was just a little too odd for my tastes and actually made me feel old (which is even odder as there’s only a few months between us). As I said before, I feel a little bad for saying this as she does seem like a nice person but I’m not in the market for nice on Question Time. I’m in the market for blood and stomach pills, sturm und drang, Sodom and Gomorrah, that sort of thing and I’m afraid that affable young whippersnappers just don’t cut that kind of mustard. So sorry Jo, I have no doubt your intentions are good but we all know what the road to hell is paved with.

 

So that was the party political crowd and to be honest, they weren’t exactly electrifying. Good job then that waiting in the wings we have salty old figurehead of Wimminism Germin Greer and Eeyore of the right, Peter Hitchens. Given the fairly placid reaction of the panel to the Archbishop question, I was pretty much relying on Greer to spice things up a little only to be let down by the fact that she had absolutely no intention of addressing any matter directly. No, instead we were treated to a round-the-house spiel about presidential politics and her own record-breaking attempt involving the word ‘fiat’. ‘Oh well,’ thought I, ‘at least she’ll be able to sink her teeth into the child sexualisation question’ and sink teeth she did…. into a big fat sandwich of crazy. It started with a slightly odd grumble about how it was impossible to buy “non-tarty” clothes for little girls and then rapidly descended into a Freudian hell hole in which girls learn to flirt by kissing their fathers goodnight. An audience member understandably took the hump at this and demanded an explanation but was instead treated a lengthy, wordy and utterly impenetrable academic tract about culture and a bunch of stuff I couldn’t really work out. That pretty much spelt out the shape of things to come and after yet more interminability on the foreign aid question she made ready for a coup de grace concerning Libya. The question had originally been about whether the rape allegations warrant sending in ground troops, but it was the ‘rape’ bit that Greer homed in on and what came next was utterly bizarre. First of all she stated that “rape is always present with slaughter” a point I largely agree with but then it got weird as she started ranting about why the Libyan soldiers need Viagra to rape (as well as mentioning the word ‘fiat’ again) before demanding that they be given loads of the stuff as our troops would rape everyone anyway.

 

W

 

T

 

F

 

?

 

So Greer certainly set the bar high for crazy but at least she had a worthy challenger in the shape of Peter Hitchens. By rights, I should hate Hitchens, embodying as he does pretty much the purest form right wingery that runs completely contrary to my own political tastes but I must admit that I do have a certain level of grudging respect for him as at least he seems to think about stuff a little, unlike Melanie Phillips who simply has a direct link between that megacity of irrationality that lives in her skull and her mouth. Anyhoo, it all started standard enough with Hitchens adopting the Anti-Everything line on the Archbishop question (he hates Williams, hates Cameron, hates the Libs and most probably hates you) but it was in on the sexualisation question that he really got going, denouncing sex education and labelling it as “propaganda for promiscuity”. That really got the audience wound up but he wasn’t through with them by a long shot and went on to accuse them of actually wanting to sexualise kids. Brave move Pete, brave move. He managed to wind it back in briefly when it came to the aid question (although his reference to “teaching Africans to dance” was a little…odd) but what happened next was quite the sight to behold.

 

It started when a young, well-spoken audience member with ginger hair got a go on the mic and in her best ‘Dear Sir, Imagine my concern’ voice tried to set up a fairly ropy ambush. Following a slightly annoying “in my gap year” preamble she then went on to ask if Hitchens had ever been to a developing country in the hope he’d say ‘no’ and look like a right stuffy old pillock. Unfortunately, she didn’t contend with the fact that Hitchens is one of those rare commentators who actually bothers to bone up about the subjects of his blatherings and was right back at her with a “Yes. Loads. Somalia for one.”. That really knocked the wind out of her sails and she had to resort to a not entirely appropriate outburst of “LET ME FINISH!” before waffling on about Nepal. According to the crowd, her little turn was a triumph but I’m afraid I have to disagree with that assessment. She got pwnd. By Hitchens. That has to suck.

 

Given the above, you’d expect the rest of the audience to be shying away from prodding Hitchens in future but a little later on another member of the crowd got a similar taste of the PH Treatment after trying to make the point that Libya looked like a just war. “You’re about the right age” said Peter, “Go ahead, sign up.”. BOOM!I have to admit that was pretty cool and even the otherwise unapproving audience also had to agree.

 

All of which pretty well sums up Hitchens: His ideas range from the abhorrent to the plain old barking but he’s a tough cookie who gives as good as he gets and doesn’t care who he tangles with. As howlingly mad as he is, I have to doff my cap to the fact that he’s very good at being howling mad and he certainly makes a better fist of it than Greer does. Were he ever to end up on my caseload, I think I would be quietly pleased.

 

That’s the panel done so on to the audience and I must confess that this lot really were an odd bunch who may or may not have had complete control of their faculties. For one, the applause/heckles were all over the place and at times seemed to be divvied up on a completely random basis. Crowd member gets too big for her boots and gets mauled by Hitchens? Everyone goes nuts and the girl’s a hero! Mitchel makes a well-reasoned yet passionate appeal to the benefits of foreign aid? Tumbleweed. However, I can forgive them this as Greer and Hitchens had already made the atmosphere so weird that it became less of a topical current affairs show and more of a bad acid flashback. The other thing I picked up was that although the crowd seemed fairly even split in terms of ‘for’ and ‘against’ the coalition, you could sense real anger in the room and that seems to tally with the felling in the country in general. So far, the recession has unfolded as thus:

 

1. Headless Chicken Phase: Lehman’s goes under, the world and his wife predict imminent apocalypse, people get in flap yet life in the real world continues apace.

 

2. Impending Doom Phase: Osborne delivers Comprehensive Spending Review, people predict imminent apocalypse, some start losing their job’s and life starts getting harder but is still relatively normal.

 

That’s what’s happened so far, but right now we’re about go into the third phase, the Actual Doom phase where all the nasty stuff that was in the CSR starts to feed through to everyday life and shit gets real. It’s taken two and a half years to get here (two and a half years where every news bulletin is telling us that we only have minutes before we’re all destitute) and I must say it’s been a surreal experience: You know you’re angry, you know that a bunch of insanely rich people have just seriously screwed your life up, yet the actual evidence on the ground doesn’t tally up with the vision of desolation that you see in your mind’s eye and it leaves you feeling rather discombobulated. Well, the good news is that pretty soon that feeling of discombobulation will be a thing of the past as we’ll all have plenty of actual, tangible and real stuff to be angry about (which is, as you’ve probably guessed, the bad news). In essence, this is where the actual recession begins for the bulk of the population, with everything up to now being little more than a phoney war. Now, somewhere in the frenzied nightmare that was this episode I could sense that feeling beginning to bubble up. It’s not that people are angry as people (myself included) have been angry from the start of the crash but I got the feeling that the anger is now taking on form and direction and as soon as the real world starts to tally up with that bleak portrait of the future we’ve all been gazing at for the last two and a half years, the coalition will be in trouble. In short, things are about to kick off.

 

Oh, and just before we finish up on the crowd, the Best Name of the Series So Far Award goes to Jodie Shanahan-Prendagast. Stirling work there sir.

 

Tl;dr

 

Mitchell: Natty

6/10

 

Clarke: Fatty

5/10

 

Swinson: Chatty

5/10

 

Greer: Ratty

3/10

 

Hitchins: Batty

6/10

 

The Crowd: Scatty

5/10

 

 

Ok, we’re done. Since I started writing this, the BT man has been so I now have the internet and by rights, I should be beavering away, scouring Google Images for fresh material with which to further distress my victims but you know what? I’m not going to do that. I’ve got 35mb line, a Steam account full of all sorts of chostiness and a fridge full of beer. Nope, tonight I pick up my love affair with online gaming where we left off and to hell with the pshops! This is our time!

 

Next week, Lemmings… Next week…


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