Posts Tagged 'Glasgow'

Questionable Time #127


qt 127

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to a very deep-fried edition of Questionable Time! Now I don’t know much about Scottish politics, aside from the fact that everybody currently seems terminally pissed off at the Labour Party, like a cat that’s thrown up on the rug. With this flawless understanding of the political climate in hand, let’s dive straight in. What could possibly go wrong?

It’s a piece of cake to debate a pretty cake

“Here we are in Glasgow”, begins Dimbledore with an air of desperate finality. For some godawful reason, we have six people on the panel instead of five. Why this nightmare is happening to me is never adequately explained, so I’m going to guess that it’s a trial run for the election debates (if they ever happen). Judging by this showing, it’s going to be a clusterscrew.

Speaking of the debates, our first question is whether everyone should start making chicken noises whenever David Cameron walks past. The Scottish Conservatives lady does not think so, but she has to be a bit mad (being a Scottish Conservative) so it’s safe to ignore everything she says. I don’t understand how anyone can look at David Cameron weakly wriggling out of a debate with Ed Miliband and not think he’s the biggest scaredy-cat to ever hawk a hairball. The same Ed Miliband who, the media will tell you, cannot eat a bacon sandwich unaided, and yet is too threatening an opponent for Fave Dave to match up to. Poor show David. Poor show. And poor show Ruth, thinking anyone is going to fall for this nonsense. Oh wait…looks like some of them have. Like Toby Young, who is here for some reason instead of down South in the warm. Well, takes all kinds!

In other news, why does Danny Alexander look so weird now? He’s suddenly not ginger, and his eyes are all bulgy! Ever since he gave up his glasses he hasn’t been the same and has been slowly morphing into some kind of frog person, perhaps in anticipation of losing his seat and returning to his previous life of living in a pond. He remains as dull as ever, though, the only man in existence to have both a non-sexy/non-hilarious Scottish accent.

Just put a plate of Eton mess there instead, says Humza Yousaf, and nobody will be able to tell the difference. If you have it next to a tape recorder repeating the phrase ‘long term economic plan’ that really would be eerily similar. But judging by this bite-sized nonsense it won’t be a very good debate anyway, no matter who decides to turn up. Humza and Kezia Dugdale are fighting, Val McDermid is appealing for an energised electorate, and the audience is responding in kind by mainly yodelling. I’m tired out already, but the fun is just beginning.

This is what happens when you remind Scottish people of the magic of voting

What will the result of the SNP pwning j00 n00bs be? The floor is open for screaming and crying. Kezia, the Scottish Labour deputy leader (what a job!), bravely climbs into the shame pit first. Kezia says it’s good news for DCam, but would rather not think about what it means for Labour. Meanwhile, Ruth Davidson tries not to seem smug.

Humza, akin to an angry and unstoppable robot, gleefully tears into anyone and everyone and disses Trident to great cheers from his posse. In response, Kezia huffs angrily about the SNP’s tax policies, but she is too boring to strike a fatal blow! Humza has her cornered before triumphantly making a mighty gaffe. “We’ll look at an issue-by-issue basis of working with the Tories – I mean the Labour Party!” he squawks. Yet more mass yodelling in the studio follows, as Dimbleby tries in vain to calm everyone down. But it is no use. This is merely the first step on the audience’s pub crawl tonight. Danny tries to intervene in his monotone voice, before being smacked down by a frustrated Dimbles, who reminds him that he probably won’t even have a seat after the election, so nyah nyah. Also he looks like Brian the snail. Double nyah nyah.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

After the right-wingers nod sagely amongst themselves about the break up of the union and the coming heat death of the universe, Val makes a point about dragging Labour to the left somehow. We don’t know how. By not voting for them, maybe? Yeah, that’ll work! Nevertheless, I think Kezia (and Jim Murphy, by extension) could morph into Tony Benn right then and there and Scotland would still act like a wronged wife whose husband has forgotten their anniversary, as evidenced by the audience grumbling at everything she says. Though she isn’t helping by being so terribly uninteresting. Still, as the old saying goes: you made your bed, now you’ve got to lie in it. And it’s got itchy crumbs everywhere so, like, eww.

Toby Young isn’t being horrible enough, this displeases me

Next up, do we need stronger laws to prevent hate screeching/preaching on university campuses?

This question actually gets a pretty reasonable response from the panel. I beamed in pride, watching over them like an attentive mother hen. It’s so nice when people are advocating freedom of speech but not apologising for war crimes! It’s so great when even Toby Young surprises you! Indeed, banning these jackasses could just make them seem like a delicious cake, a cake that you are not allowed to eat. We need to have an open conversation about how shit they are, and how bad the cake tastes.

Incidentally, Dimbles mentions a spat between David Cameron and Grant Shapps – when pressed, Brian the snail says nothing about this important issue. I was disappointed. This is clearly what the people most want to hear.

Next: why is Scutlernd missing its targets? Well, it’s not a political issue says Ruth Davidson. Convenient! Suddenly, Kezia is squealin’ and reminds us that Labour is the bestest. And has a cool mansion tax. Dimbleby interrupts again (seriously, man? This is, what, the sixth time?), asking “how much will you raise in Glasgow?” Burn! As if Glasgow is so impossibly awful that OF COURSE one couldn’t raise any money with a MANSION tax, har har har! The audience hates Labour so much, however, that they’re willing to put up with David Dimbleby dissing their own city for a cheap laugh.

After a skirmish where Humza derides ‘creeping privatisation’ in the NHS while ignoring SNP flirting with Weightwatchers (which sounds like a much funnier story than it really is), and Toby claiming that Labour’s mansion tax must be magic while doing his best Paul Daniels impression (‘how much will it raise? Not a lot!’), Val, detached, wraps everything up the way only she knows how, presumably. This country has its own ‘historic health problems’, says she. The spectre of deep-fried Mars Bars looms large.

This gets the biggest applause of the night. I’ve given up trying to understand this edition.

I’ve given up in general, actually.

Time for the scores!

Davidson: 6/10

(Had her lines rehearsed down to a) Tee

Dugdale: 4/10

Plea(ded)

Yousaf: 5/10

FREEEEEEEE(dom)

Alexander: 4/10

(Crawling gooily up a) Tree

Young: 6/10

(Did not go on a killing) Spree

McDermid: 6/10

Gee, (what’s a left-winger to do?)

The Crowd: 9/10

(Will) Knee (you in the groin)

Next time, Ian Hislop gurning.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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Questionable Time #38


questionable time 38 david dimbleby braveheart glasgow

Good morning Lemmings and if I’m not mistaken we appear to be in Scotland. For some of you this will be a Good Thing (I suspect that this will be the case if you happen to be Scottish) but from my point of view, this is less of a Good Thing and in actual fact may even qualify as a Bad Thing. Now, before a be-kilted rabble come crashing through my door, hellbent on upholding the honour of their proud nation let me state categorically that I have no problem with Scotland or the Scottish. There is no beef of any import between us and I see no obstacle to our continued co-existence. I do, however, have a problem when Question Time is in Scotland. Why? Because I don’t have a clue who anyone is, what they’re on about or why I should really care one way or another. Ok, so I guess there would be some sort of tangible effect on my life should the Scots take the nuclear option and divorce themselves from the Union, but outside of that? Nah. They could be sending wee bairns down haggis mines or pouring Irn Bru into the water supply for all I care… I won’t be losing any sleep. Having said that though, last night’s show did have one potential saving grace for me: It was coming from Easterhouse, a particularly hard corner of a very hard city. Would this be enough to offset my ignorance induced disinterest? I wonder…

The first question was the most cruel of false reprieves…

Let’s face it, we all knew this episode was going to be about the independence referendum and as I explained above, this isn’t the sort of thing that butters my current affairs parsnips. With this in mind, imagine my delight when the first question was not concerned with some exclusively Caledonian affair but was actually about the rapidly unfolding ‘Combi-Shambles‘. Yes! I was saved! This was about Westminster! This was about stuff that has a vague relevance to my life! Unfortunately, this fleeting sense of triumph was dealt a mortal blow when it dawned on me that I have no idea what exactly is going on with this latest governmental face-plant other than assorted ministers seem to be running around with their hair on fire and there’s a faint whiff of panic wafting ominously from Downing Street. Luckily it appears that I am not alone in this predicament and pretty much everyone on the panel decided that it was probably safer to turn some rhetorical tricks instead of actually trying to make sense of the unfolding chaos. In practice this took the form of the three political panelist (Sturgeon, Davidson and Curran) assembling themselves into a circular firing squad, counting to three and shooting each other in the back of the head whilst Mark Serwotka called for a plague on all their houses. Has this left me any the wiser about just what in criminy is going on with our nation’s energy policy? No. Was it fun watch. Yes, it was rather…

Scottish politicians are a tough bunch…

Ok, so the accent helps but I think it’s also fair to say that both Margaret Curran and Ruth Davidson have pretty thick hides. For Davidson, this partly comes with the territory: Being a Tory in Scotland is not noted for being the most relaxing of vocations and I’m sure she’s pretty used to being bashed about on a daily basis simply because she exists. However, what Davidson doesn’t do is let it get to her and I must admit that whether I agree with her or not, she does remain very steady under fire. Curran is also one who cops a lot of flak (thanks to Labour largely having taking Scotland for granted) but her talent is that she endures. Sure, she talks too fast when her feathers are ruffled and the fact that she’s played this game so long has led to a certain level of attrition, but Curran’s still just about in the game and played a reasonably solid hand last night.

The interesting one is Nicola Sturgeon though. Now, she does a very good initial line in the forthright, storming into questions with lashings of ‘Dear Sir, imagine my concern…’ before cobbling together some scheme whereby Scotland has cakes for both storage and immediate consumption. All of this is fine and dandy, particular if the going’s good but she does have one glaring vulnerability: She rattles easily. It happened a few times last night. Sturgeon would open with a broadside about how Labour let everyone down, the Tories – well, they’re just Tories – and wouldn’t it all be much better if we simply had our own country to mess about with? However, the problems begin when people start pressing for detail. You can see a little shudder develop and her eyes starting darting from side-to-side, sizing up the potential exits. Unfortunately, these exits have a nasty habit of being obstructed by irksome things such as ‘facts’ and ‘realities’ and this tends to lead her to double down on the offensive, a risky tactic made riskier by the fact that Sturgeon’s never quite as good on the second pass. That’s not to say I don’t think that she’s capable because she clearly is. It’s just that she can’t quite keep her fear under wraps and once you spot it it’s hard to ignore. That, and something about her bearing just really reminds me of a generic 6th-former from a late-80’s run of Grange Hill.

What about the other guys?

Last time Mark Serwotka was on I was pretty mean to him, mainly because he came across as rather smug. Luckily for him, this wasn’t the case last night as he had little time to display any other emotion than pure scorn for both the Tories and Labour, a move which paid off handsomely with the crowd. Actually, it was quite interesting to watch as while he’s never been shy of criticising the Red Team, he was really out for them last night. I’m guessing that part of this was playing to the gallery (which seemed to work splendidly) but the really telling thing was how he Goldilocksed the SNP, making sure the signals he was sending were neither too hot nor too cold. If I was in the Red Team, I think I’d be keeping a very close eye on that.

And what of Alan Cochrane? We’ll I’ve never come across him before but I will say this: His beard and voice match perfectly. He didn’t really get that much of a look in and when he did it was the sort of thing you’d expect the Scottish Editor of The Telegraph but I’ve got to say, that beard-voice combo really did it for me.

Is ‘Crazy Levels of Crowd Participation’ a compulsory part of the Scottish Curriculum or is Easterhouse just a bit special?

As expected, I had very little idea what was going on last night. Ok, so the drugs question was kind of interesting but it didn’t really bring anything new to the table and was simply a repeat of the merry little dance that Question Time periodically engages in (crowd + entire world conclude War on Drugs has failed. Politicians conclude that they can’t say its failed because they’ll get the blame for its failure). However, despite my complete inability to fathom anything, I must admit I actually really enjoyed this episode and the lion’s share of the credit for this should go to the crowd. Why? Because they were feisty as hell. They booed, they cheered, they booed and cheered at the same time. Quite what they were booing and cheering about I honestly couldn’t tell you, but the fact that they did was enough to keep my head in the game. So points for sore palms and horse throats and extra points for the following gentlemen: Mr ‘A Lot Of My Friends Smoke Cannabis” (or as I like to call him, Mr ‘My Employers Might Be Watching This’) and Mr ‘Because Of The Type Of People Who Frequent This Area’. Sir, you’re bravery is beyond question… Your wisdom? Not so much.

Tl;dr

Sturgeon: 5/10

Flighty

Curran: 5/10

Fighty

Davidson: 5/10

Bitey

Serwotka: 6/10

Incitey

Cochrane: 5/10

Alrighty

The Crowd: 8/10

(Can’t decide if they want to remain a part of) Blighty

So there you go… The televisual equivalent of trying to drink a 6-pack of Super-T whilst sitting in a washing machine that’s halfway through its spin cycle. Speaking of somewhat discombobulating experiences, I’d best share with you the fruits of an experiment I conducted earlier in the week. Using cutting edge photo manipulation software and a part of my brain that I really shouldn’t listen to, I tried to determine whether Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon would make for convincing Krankies. The result speak for themselves (see Fig. 1)…

alex salmod nicola sturgeon krankies

Fig. 1

Next week Lemmings, next week…

A Brief Interlude…


Morning Lemmings and as I mentioned last week I unfortunately have to be elsewhere today. However, I did catch a bit of last night’s episode and have just enough time to impart these choice pearls of wisdom to you.

  • The SNP appear to have recruited a third member to add to the endless rotation of Salmond and Sturgeon. His name is Mike Russell and he too suffers from the strange neurological condition that makes him hear the word ‘Scottish’ just prior to the word ‘Referendum’, regardless of context.
  • Alistair Carmichael hates his kids.
  • Whenever I see Margaret Curran the word ‘Emphysema’ flashes through my mind… No idea why.
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg really, really, scarily looks like the Medic from Team Fortress 2 (see Fig. 1)

rees-mogg medic tf2.

 

 

Ok, I really have to dash. Normal service will resume next week.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #29


Morning Lemmings and welcome back to the land malfunctioning SCART leads and green hued televisions. That’s right, my technical problems persist but being the selfless hero that I am, I carry on regardless, taking it on the chin just so that you can kill ten minutes at work, reading whatever nonsense I’ve provided you with this week. And nonsense it will be this week as I must confess to have had a very odd day. Now, considering my day job is as a mental health worker, that shouldn’t come as much of surprise and after eight years of being in this trade, I have to say that the bar for what I consider to be ‘strange’ is set very high (you have to do something really weird for me to take notice these days. Arguing with trees? Phhhhht… doesn’t even touch the sides. Accusing traffic cones of plotting conspiracies? Not even close. Insisting that John Snow lives in your chest of drawers? Boring! You get the picture). However, today was one of those where even I had to stop and question my sanity and if this report sounds a little more spaced out than usual, I apologise… It’s merely a consequence of having spent seven hours with the inexplicable.

 

Right, excuses made, fair warning given, let’s go.

 

The Menu

Q1: Was Boris acting irresponsibly by saying the Housing Benefit reforms would lead to “Kosovo style cleansing”?

Q2: Should David Cameron wield a rhetorical handbag on the EU budget?

Q3: Does the news that the economy has grown 0.8% mean the Conservative led coalition are right on the economy?

Q4: Was the head of M16 right to say that we should avoid torture, even if it helps terrorists carry out attacks?

 

In The Yellow Bit of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Ed Davey, LibDem Chief of Staff and rescuer of damsels in distress.

Hmmmm… not quite sure what to make of this guy in that he’s got one of those faces that doesn’t really match his personality. Every time I look at him, I just hear the words “RUGGER BUGGER” repeating over and over again in my head and he also has this semi-vacant, middle distance stare that looks a little, well, thick. But none of this tallies with the way he presents which is actually pretty on the ball. I say ‘pretty on the ball’ because while he’s appears to be quite an accomplished offensive player, driving whatever point he’s making home in quite a forceful manner without crossing the line into belligerence, he’s not great at cornering and when plans start unravelling, that ‘Wayne Rooney with a multiplication problem to solve’ look involuntary spreads right across his face and he looks a little helpless. Still, it’s early days for Ed and the fundamentals seem to be there so let’s see how he did.

It was a fairly promising start as he looked convincingly cross whilst damning Johnson’s “appalling” behaviour, but then came unstuck as Sturgeon slapped him with a bunch of figures and Chris Bryant piled in with some pointed stuff about ‘progressiveness’ that sounded like an invitation to a duel. Q2 saw much waffling about not much at all followed by an admission that neither he nor Bryant had a clue about the real figures (which Bryant took in his stride whilst Davey looked a little out of sorts) and Q3 was basically a fighting retreat with a sudden out burst of wide-eyed Deficit Panic and a weaponised comparison of Scotland to Iceland. Last but not least was Q4’s no-brainer which he handled in the prescribed manner of ‘Torture = Bad’ and that was that. Home time.

Reading that back, it sounds quite unimpressive, but bear in mind that he was in Glasgow and on a week the coalition haven’t exactly been rolling in good news. Yes, it was a little dry and no, he’s not very quick on his feet, but given the circumstances, he did well to come away without any jeering and he even got a few good claps along the way. And that, in my opinion, is not bad going for someone who’s largely been a backroom boy with very little QT experience. Grant Shapps, take note.

A perfectly acceptable 5/10

In The Red Corner: Chris Bryant, Shadow Minister for Political and Constitution Reform and be-panted self photographer.

Now this guy is interesting. Really interesting. Not only does he have a suitably unorthodox background (former Anglican vicar and conservative student who came out as being gay and then went on to become a Labour MP), but his QT technique is also rather unique and out of the ordinary. For one thing, he’s incredibly nimble, spotting weak points in opponent’s arguments within the blink of an eye and then adjusting his tack very quickly to exploit these weaknesses to their full extent. He’s also one for close combat, not necessarily making things personal, but always ensuring that he’s all over whoever he’s up against and giving them very little space to manoeuvre. Now, this already sounds like a glowing report, but hold on: There are flies in the ointment, not the least being that he’s pretty much a flat-out gambler, taking some pretty hefty rhetorical risks that don’t always go his way (as this weeks “social cleansing” parliamentary jibber-jabber aptly illustrated). Still, credit where credit’s due, he doesn’t seem phased when these ventures go sour and you get the sense that he’s a hard man to rattle.

It all started inauspiciously enough as he spent the first part of Q1 defending his “cleansing” remarks, but he did get to lash out quite effectively at Davey later on and was given some crowd love for his efforts. Q2 turned into a right old scrap between him and Ed as he invoked the banker argument and they both accused each other of turning the debate into a “pantomime”, but he later found an exposed flank regarding Cameron’s lack of friends in Europe and he worked that in a quiet, effective manner. However, this more understated approach was fleeting as he decided to take on both Davey and Hendry simultaneously in Q3 (much shaking of the Bonus Stick ensued) and largely got away with it whilst Q4 saw some weird metaphor involving Anne Frank and some self referential ‘I used to live in Argentina’ stuff.

Now none of this sounds especially exciting and to be honest, he should have done better considering the territory and the political backdrop. However, it’s not really what Bryant says that fascinates me, it’s the way he moves. I’ve got a feeling that we’re going to be seeing much more of this guy as there’s something about his history and presentation that tells me he’s just different from a great many politicians. Is he destined for great things? I doubt it as although he’s a great tactical player, I’m not sure if the strategic reasoning’s all there and his penchant for risky moves could well derail him in the future. However, he does seem to have a remarkable ability to reinvent himself, his instincts seem pretty sharp and he’s tougher than he looks. With this in mind, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to mark him. Part of me wants to give him big numbers for just generally intriguing me, but then it would be somewhat unfair to class his performance as any sort of victory. So with fairness in mind, I’m going to split the difference but keep an eye on this guy. I’ve a feeling he could be quite fun in the near future.

A potential laden 6/10

In The Other Yellow Corner: Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Salmond sidekick.

So we’re in Glasgow tonight and that means that we’re going to see the SNP which in turn means that it’s either going to be Salmond or Sturgeon. Now, I must confess that I don’t really keep abreast of Scottish politics, mainly because it has absolutely no bearing on my day-to-day life in any way, shape or form, but c’mon! There’s got to more than two people in the whole bloody party! Anyhoo, minor chunter aside, it was Sturgeon’s turn tonight and I must say she did better than last time when she ended up embroiled in all sorts of Megrahi related bother. I’m not going to get to carried away in writing this up as it was a pretty much textbook regional party play: Have a go at whoever’s in power, stay well to the left of the mainstream and make damn sure you get some nationalist call-to-arms type stuff in the (something that she got told off by Dimber’s for in Q4 but went ahead with anyway). However, she did play these tactics quite well and she came close to knocking Davey right off-balance with a pretty well-reasoned argument about the Housing Benefit reforms in Q1. So yes, pretty solid Nicola. However, you do still look like a tomboy and I have a nasty feeling that you may be the person who keeps buying Sharleen Spiteri Albums. Please stop with that. It only encourages her.

A fairly standard but fairly good 7/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Simon Schama, history buff and flowerpot man incarnate.

Oh Jesus, I feel sick and not just because of the green shroud that has enveloped my telly. No, what’s got me all a chunder is trying to keep my eyes on Simon Schama as he gesticulates so wildly that he threatens to shake the earth loose from it’s orbit and cast us adrift into the depths of space. And it’s not just the possibility that his head might actually rotate a full 360 degrees that’s bringing me to the edge of motion sickness (see Fig. 1), it’s also the way he sends you on a verbal rollercoaster every time he answers a bloody question.

Fig. 1

Seriously, I pretty much gave up taking notes about Schama as it was like putting your head into a semantic tumble dryer and in the end I invented a new shorthand symbol for whenever he was waffling long tracts of wordy sounding bollocks (see Fig.2)

Fig. 2

However, I did manage to snatch a few choice nuggets, some of which include:

“Spitting fire in Johnson’s eye!”

“He needs a handbag full of knuckledusters!”

“The Duke of Wellington would be spinning in his grave!”

Something about vultures and Tolstoy

“Suicide bombers aren’t cowards!”

“WAKE UP PEOPLE!” [whilst violently slapping the table].

Alright, so I’m taking the piss now, but in the main he’s fun to watch (the crowd seem to think so as well), even if I haven’t the got faintest idea what he’s talking about. This in turn leads me to conclude that Simon Schama isn’t a genius. No, I think he’s just a very good blagger who hasn’t got any O-Levels and reads a dictionary on the toilet in order to chance his way through life by connecting long words together in random configuration and if that is the case, good luck to him. Come what may Simon, stay animated, stay wobbly and we’ll swallow any old tosh you throw in our direction.

An enjoyably inexplicable 7/10

In the I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Hugh Hendry, hedge fund manager and seemingly unrepentant bastard.

Oh wow. Never in the history of LCCPMQTR has there been someone so ill suited the title of ‘I’m The Funny One/Just Like You’ as much as Hugh Hendry and that’s even following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Vorderman, McKenzie and Phillips. Quite clearly, Hendry isn’t one for ‘funny’ unless it happens to be at the expense of one of the many people he seems to regard as a useless mouth (which I think covers around 99% of the population) and the ‘Just Like You’ bit could only ever apply if you happened to be a misanthropic supervillain who was in the business of creating complex derivatives out of human pain and suffering. In some ways I kind of knew what I was in for as I’d seem on Newsnight a few months back and was pretty shocked by his apparent lack of compassion for his fellow man then, but that didn’t even come close to preparing for what we witnessed last night.

 

In short, Hendry has three default positions which are as follows:

 

1. Whatever you’re talking about is bleeding heart nonsense that will drive humanity to extinction as it clearly doesn’t turn a profit. As a result, you are stupid and I mock you from my palace made of solid gold.

 

2. I couldn’t give a shit about what you’re talking about as it has no bearing on the making or not making of profits.

 

3. Whatever you’re talking about is more important than the air we breath as it has the potential to make me vast sums of money and as a result I will continue to tolerate your existence, at least until you stop 100% agreeing with me.

 

 

It really is as simple as that. Take Q1 for instance: The very notion of thinking about people on Housing Benefit seemed to be fathoms below his pay grade, as if it were a chore, but then he remembered that he might have to pay taxes for that sort of thing and branded the whole thing “insane!” (as well as “crazy!”, “out of control!” and once again “insane!”). I’ve put exclamation marks behind those quotes as I think they were intended to be exclaimed, but in practice, they were delivered in a tone that said “You bloody idiots. I can barely muster the energy to explain these things to you peasants because you’re all stupid bloody proles who aren’t making me money at this given moment in time”. Similarly with Q2, he had plenty of scorn to pour on the EU (include some weird little aside about bureaucrats not being “people”), all delivered in a manner of such resignation that you were left with no doubt that he does in fact dwell in a completely different reality from the rest of us. Q3 stirred some slightly more convincing interest as it appeared to be a subject that might have something to with whatever parallel universe he inhabits, but it pretty much ended up with him telling off the entire nation for not being very nice to bankers (although he did land a well-aimed slap on Bryant about Labour’s relationship with the City) and a strange little outburst where he said that “Nicola Sturgeon won’t employ your kids!” (of course she won’t. She’s in a party that only has two members). However, the real fireworks were in Q4 where he just came straight out and said that he liked the idea of torture being used to scare terrorists (all said whilst looking bored). Rightly concerned, an audience member picked him up on this a little later and asked whether he really was in favour of torture. Without batting an eyelid, he confirmed this, said he didn’t want the intelligence services hindered by such trifling things as morality and even managed to squeeze in a weird reference to himself in the 3rd person (“Hugh Hendry lives in London with three young children”).

 

WTF?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?11111111111

 

Truly, I was blown away by this guy. I knew he had a reputation as a bit of fundamentalist but I didn’t realise just how black and white his view of the world are and when it comes to marking, I’m at a total loss. In the past, I’ve always marked those who I disagree with but add something to show quite well (your Douglas Murray’s and Nigel Farage’s, for instance), but there was something just so otherworldly and actually quite frightening about this guy that it left me wondering whether Ayn Rand had risen from the dead, got a sex change and moved to Scotland. Ok, I’ve decided: Low marks, if only for making Ruth Lea look like a member of the Woodcraft Folk.

 

A fear inducing 3/10

 

The Crowd: Glasgow

Yet again, not as I expected. Given that Glasgow is usually pretty anti-Tory I was expecting pretty much one way traffic when it came to bashing the coalition but it wasn’t like that. Yes, generally opinion seemed mostly against the cuts, Sturgeon got the majority of claps and most people sounded very dubious about the plan for growth, but it was not a done deal and there was plenty of support in the opposite direction, especially when it came to Housing Benefit in London. Ok, so one guy managed to blame Thatcher, but this is Glasgow where Thatcher Blame is only marginally cheaper than heroin so yeah, colour me surprised with the general tone of the evening. Politically, I didn’t take much from this episode as it seemed to be a rather indecisive ding-dong but in terms of the characters involved, I thought it was interesting, especially watching Bryant and trying to figure out what he was up to. The crowd themselves were a pretty stock affair, but I can happily report that Question Time audience members have taken last week’s advise to heart and that there was a man there sporting a bow tie. For that, Glasgow, you get one mark above average.

 

Average score + 1 Bow Tie Modifier = 6/10

 

Right, we’re done. Actually, that ended up not being completely weird, a feat that is made all the more remarkable on account of the fact that I’ve been listening to the entire Man Or Astroman? discography on random whilst writing this. I remain sane. This is good news.

 

Next week Lemmings, next week.

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #9


Sweet 9% Lord...

Thanks to the paucity of amusing images of this week's panellist I've had to fall back on crude caricatures of regional stereotypes.

Morning Lemmings and welcome to another trudge through this week’s topical blabberfest. And a trudge it is this week, given that it was one of the more lacklustre outings. With that in mind, steel thyself and summon all your mental fortitude for this weeks QT Post Match Report, brought to you by the denizens of Glasgow.

In The Red Corner: Liam Byrne, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and noted demander of scheduelled cuppuccinos.

I have to admit that Liam Byrne freaks me out a little. His rise up the ranks of the Labour party has been way too quick for someone who appears to be running a sizable charisma deficit (elected in 2004, under-secretery in 2005, full blown minister in 2006, in the cabinet by 2008… either he has some remarkable hidden talent or he knows where a lot of bodies are buried) and in terms of public persona, he’s incredably hard to draw a bead on. I saw him on Newsnight the day before this episode of Question Time and was struck by just how thoroughly he strips all the emotion out of everything he utters. That’s not to say he isn’t totally unflappable because he does display a few tells when he’s under pressure (like speeding his speech up and sometimes dropping his ‘t’s) and although he’s not quite as dull as Des Browne (a man who is forcefully boring), there’s something going on that I can’t put my finger on. I don’t like things that elude my fingers being put upon them. He also looks a little like a cross between William Hague and a baked bean, but that’s by-the-by. Tonight’s little jaunt with Liam was pretty much a textbook case of general ‘staying on-message’-ness, kicking off with the obligatory budget question (‘has Darling “shot Labour in the foot” with his red box). Byrne’s response was straight down the party line (as one would expect from a Treasury minister), emphasising their pop at the rich and warning of mad-slasher-Tory-antics. Some complex little skirmish involving numbers and such like broke out between himself and Dimbleby, but nothing of great import occured. That’s ok I guess. It was a boring budget (although not a bad one, all things considered) and it’s pretty rare that anyone from a ruling party picks up any QT love on the back of them. The second question, (‘can Gordy survive until the election with all the strikes loomin’), elicited a rare stumble when he said Gordon Brown will survive “until the next election” and then got jumped on by Dimbleby. After some quick backtracking, he was right back to the script, packaging up the strikes as a matter between companies and unions but Dimbleby knew he’d rattled him and got stuck in with some mischevious Bob Crowe quotes. Sensing that the plan was in grave danger of going awry, Byrne muttered a few platitudes and withdrew under the smokescreen of a non-point from some audience member. Lucky escape. Question 3 (“Is Lobbygate indicative of the dying days of the last conservative government”) saw the plan back on track (in theory, at least) as he spoke of his “sheer fury” at the matter whilst looking very un-furious as well as cramming in another outing for that well worn “the best disinfectant is sunlight” line (which the audience fell for and rewarded him with some nice little claps). Dimbers goarded him a little by poking around the Mandelson/Adonis angle but Byrne was not to be drawn and retreated in good order. He got a little more proactive later on when he went for in some “public have a right to know” action, but that swiftly devolved into a confusing little skuffle between himself and Warsi about some inquiry that lasted 20 minutes. I wasn’t really sure what was going on (and neither were the audience, judging by their lack of response) but it looked like Warsi sort of won. Don’t quote me on that though. The next question (is the SNP exclusion from the leaders debates “an afront to democracy”?) had him making the pretty reasonable point that until they fielded a candidate in every constituency, it wouldn’t really be fair if they did, but after that he sloped back to his bunker and looked on as everyone else duked it out. The final question (is the expulsion of Israeli diplomats enough of a response to “an act of terror”) had the potential to get messy but it was one of those last minute affairs and he was saved by the bell after some “strong relations with Israel”/”need for trust” hedge betting.

Again, I find myself a little non-plused by Byrne. On the one hand, the stuff that comes out of his mouth is all pretty safe, largely reasonable and wholly uncontroversial, but that general lack of human spark/frailty make him seem a little odd and disconnected, as if the wheel is turning but the hamster isdead. I don’t know, maybe I’ll warm to him in time but for that happen, he really needs to give me something of character to hold onto. So that’s your job for next time Liam, grow a little soul.

A disconcertingly detatched 4/10

In The Blue Corner: Baroness Warsi, Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion and Social Action, Undeserved Target for Extremist Eggs.

Baroness Warsi has been on my radar for quite a while now and I’ve been somewhat critical of her tendency to over extend herself on Question Time in the past. It usually goes like this: She starts off with some fairly solid stuff, gets in some early successes and then wazzes it all up the wall with some ill-conceived all-out offensive. However, I do like her tenacity and even if she does make some pretty junior errors, she takes her licks well. So, how’s she doing? True to form, she got off to an ok start with the budget question even if the material was a bit a dull (constantly chanting “deficit” does not a strategy make). Considering she’s a Tory and Question Time was in probably the most un-Tory place in the world, ‘ok’ is good enough. However, she soon started to overplay her hand when she produced this really contrived little laugh when Byrne was whittering on about cuts. It wasn’t that her point wasn’t valid, it was the way she had to almost shit this laugh out. It just sounded over the top and a little cynical. Question 2 (the rampant communism apparently sweeping the nation) was a similar affair as she started with an OK-ish joke about Gordy visiting the Queen before wrapping it all up very quickly with “the country’s unravelling!”. Again, not brilliant, but then again, no-one threw any cans of OPT at her so I’m happy to call that a draw. What did it for her this time was that when Liam Byrne said the Tories were “salivating” at cuts (a word he used twice in the space of five minutes. Probably a glitch in the matrix) she let out this theatrical moan that this was “really unfair!”. Again, the point may have been valid, but she said it such a way that made me instantly lose any sympathy. So far, so Warsi. However, things did begin to pick up on the Lobbygate question when she had a fairly good rant about the horror of it all and called for an inquiry. That was warmly received by the audience and she got a happy little shower of applause. That was followed by the inconclusive and confusing scrap with Byrne, but credit where credit’s due, she earned some hard claps there. The leader’s debates matter was more sedate as she went through the obligatory “Scotland is important” motions but made it clear that Salmond will “never be PM of the UK” (which is entirely true) while the Israel question brought forth nothing of any relevance. So here we are again with Warsi getting some things quite impressively right while horribly misjudging some others. However, I do think she’s improving and given enough practice, she could become a pretty formidable front-of-house type. I don’t think that she’ll necessarily make a brilliant minister, but she’s certainly interesting to watch. And that’s worth a bob or two.

A work-in-progress 6/10

In The Yellow Corner: Julia Goldsworthy, MP for Falmouth and Camborne, tireless Facebook campaigner for Cornish network recognition

Julia Goldsworthy should, by rights, be an ideal Question Time panellist. She’s young, not unattractive and bright, but there’s something that just isn’t quite working for her. I first started noticing it when she went on the scorn-inducing First Time Voters Question Time. That should have been the ideal vehicle for her, but somehow she didn’t manage to make as much hay as I expected her to. After this episode of QT I’m pretty sure I know what it is: It’s the not-quite-convincing urgency in all of her responses. All through the show, she seemed to be hellbent on crowbarring her way into every question before it was her turn and while I’m quite the fan of proactive strategies on Question Time, this tack just simply didn’t work. Rather than coming across as genuinely concerned (which I think she probably was), she ended up looking a little desperate and contrived. Take the first question, for instance. She started with a fairly straight forward ‘government think people are idiots’ line and then hurriedly pulled cutting Trident out of the bag (a wise move as Faslane is only down the road and Glasgow has never been too keen on being nuked… wimps). The problem was that she looked in such a manic rush to get the missile on the table that the point got lost and she ended up being cut off by Dimbers. Not to let this get in the way, she tried again, but the audience remained unswayed, even when she upped her bet to Eurofighter. If that wasn’t bad enough, Salmond was up next, took a leisurely stroll about the place, stole her Trident point and was then saturated in applause. Harsh. Stinging from this episode, she tried to barge in at the end of the question with a blurted “Vince Cable!” (“Matt Damon!”) but again, was met with silence. She did win some favour from the audience later with some good stuff on Lobbygate and the leader’s debates, but throughout most of the show she looked twitchy and preoccupied. That’s a shame because most of the things she said were pretty good and she does seem to be in politics for the right reasons. However, she really needs to take some deep breaths and calm-the-fuck-down because it doesn’t matter what you say, if it seems like you’re pinging off the walls at Mach 3 while you’re saying it, people simply won’t take it in. I hope she can get to grips with this because she’s got a lot of potential and it’s a shame to see it squandered. So how about it Julia? Some herbal tea, bit of Massive Attack on the ipod ? The world could be your lobster.

A fatally flawed but not irretrievable 4/10

In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, SNP Leader and Scourge of the Union

I don’t know what it is about Alex Salmond, but something about him reminds me of Silvio Berlusconi. It’s not the scandal/lothario/verging on dictator angle that sets me off (in fact, Salmond seems relatively free of anything too untoward, minus the odd lunch expenses jiggery-pokery), but there’s something there, albeit something muted (like Berlusconi after drinking three bottles of cough medicine or overdoing the tamazepam). I think it’s probably something to do with way he often tries to portray himself as quietly confident, but instead sometimes comes over as cocksure and smug. He also bears a remarkable resemblance to Churchill, the eponymous insurance company mascot (see Fig. 1), although that could be a blessing in disguise as Churchill is a very lovable corporate mascot.

No no no.....

Fig. 1

Tonight, he started out with the wind on his back, brazenly stealing Goldsworthy’s Trident point on the budget question and then tacking on all manner of unpopular schemes to cut, such as ID cards. That went down very well and he seemed to have control of the commanding heights at this point, but failed to consolidate his position with a long and largely irrelevant ‘blah’ on the strikes issue (my notes from the night actually read as “blah” and I remember him talking for quite some time on that one). Luckily, this appeared to only be a temporary snag and he soon had the audience back on side with a thorough damning of lobbying in all it’s form before threatening to run nationwide with Plaid on the leader’s debates saga (everyone knew it was a rhetorical point, but at least it was a bit of a laugh) and labelled the whole affair as a stitch-up. Good times all round. He was also the only panellist to really break cover on the Israel question, suggesting that the government action was nothing more than a “gesture” and was thusly well received by the masses.

On the face of it, it was a strong performance (he is a good showman) and there are a lot of areas where I find myself agreeing with Alex Salmond. However, and for the life of me I can’t think why, there’s just something about him that I simply don’t trust. I’m happily prepared to accept that it’s probably one of those random instances of someone rubbing you up the wrong way for absolutely no reason, but no matter how objective I try to think about it, I simply can’t shake it. Maybe it’s because any thought I have about Scottish independence inevitably leads to a mental image of Buckfast swilling hordes of pale Highlanders laying siege to Newcastle and deep frying our young. That’s not rational, I know, but we all have our demons.

A sturdy 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP Group and stern looking money bloke.

Ok, ok, so this guy’s a million miles away from either ‘funny’ or ‘just like you’ (unless you happen to be an All Powerful High Priest of Capitalism, in which case I take it all back) but I don’t want to mess with the format. It’s taken me 9 weeks to get the bastard thing standardised and I’ll be damned if the capricious vagaries of the Question Time production team are going to get the better of me on this one. The fightback starts here. Anyhoo, just who in the hell is Martin Sorrell? Well, it turns out that he somehow made a massive advertising conglomerate out of a company that made wire shopping baskets and is the guy who came up with the Conservative’s “Labour Isn’t Working” slogan of yesteryear (something that prompted much blowing of one’s own trumpet later on in the show). I’m never quite sure why they invite the heads of massive corporations and companies on QT because most of the time, they play the neutrality card to hell and back so they don’t have to say anything that could have a possibly negative impact on sales (Sir Stuart Rose, I’m looking at you). To these guys, politics is a sideshow, a necessary evil that takes away from the much more important job of making piles of money. Only if politicians have the temerity to start seriously messing about and getting in the way of this will they start to get involved and then god help any poor soul who gets in the way, but as this is an election year which is looking increasingly difficult to call there was precious little chance of anything substantial passing his lips. And so it was. He did some numbers stuff about the budget, made it abundantly clear he was ‘apolitical’ and then damned all politicians for thinking people were “imbecilic”. The crowd were into that, but he really didn’t give anything away other than a general disdain for politics. Naturally, on the strikes question he poured scorn on the unions so no surprises there, but something interesting did occur on the Lobbygate issue. Before he had a chance to speak, Dimbleby mentioned that Sorrell himself had a hand in the lobbying industry. This led to the somewhat bizarre outburst of ‘hooray for me’ for the ‘Labour Doesn’t Work’ campaign (which seemingly came from nowhere) and some sly little moves to throw Dimbers off the scent. This mainly involved invoking Blair’s South Korean oil interests in the hope that the crowd would pick on this as the big issue rather than the lobbying industry as a whole. The crowd started to take the bait but Dimbleby was one step ahead and started reading out some ominous sounding bumph from a lobbyist promo brochure which led to some squirming from Sorrell and a lively little offensive from Salmond. At this point, the crowd turned on him and he ended up looking worse for wear when he tried to get off the hook by saying the Ashcroft affair was even worse. Two wrongs don’t make a right, Sir Martin. Sensing that things might have gone south in a big way, he spent the rest of the show skulking in the shadows, although he came close to an opinion on Israel when he rejected the notion that it was a “terrorist state”, but saying little else. I don’t know, I guess that in some ways, having proper business types on Question Time makes for good anthropology, but they’re so damn cagey that it rarely makes for incendiary telly and with the exception of the Lobbygate moment, this was pretty much the case here.

A cards-too-close-to-chest 4/10

The Crowd: Glasgow

Alright, alright, so yet again I have fallen into the trap of pernicious national and regional stereotypes. Here was me, expecting a harsh sounding, braying mob of angry Glaswegians when what we actually got was quite a mild bunch who (with the exception of the Lobbygate and Israel question) remained mostly unenthused by all that occurred. I guess they got behind Alex Salmond a bit, but I’m putting this down to the newly created Loudribs 2nd Law of Question Time Dynamics which is that all regional parties get a +3 saving throw on their own turf. If you don’t know what a saving throw is, look it up. And then try and guess how many friends I had as a teenager. There was one guy who caught my eye though, a nervous but very wise sounding man who made a great comparison between the industrial disputes of the Winter of Discontent and the present unrest. Apart from that, nothing really leapt out at me and I must say I feel a little short changed. Come on Glasgow, you are all in possession of one of the most easily weaponised accents in the world and you have no idea how much it scares English people. Use it or lose it Glasgow, the choice is yours.

A highly mediocre 5/10

And with that, I am done. My dreams will now be haunted by the special unit of Glaswegians who will be sent to hunt me down for giving out bad marks, pending the inevitable invasion. Roll on Stevenage.


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