Posts Tagged 'grant shapps'

Questionable Time #133


qt 133

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to an undisclosed location in London (and by undisclosed I mean yer bog standard BBC studio), and yet another episode of Questionable Time: Debates Edition! A roomful of poor unfortunate souls have been specially picked to watch an hour and a half of the ‘opposition’ party leaders debate each other, and straight afterwards get served another steaming heap of hot sweaty debatin’! Mmmm! Them’s good debatings!

At this point the word ‘debate’ has lost all meaning, so let’s get started already.

Please pray for Dimbleby

First up, who is the most dangerous party in Britain? UKIP, the SNP, or another gratuitous acronym? Douglas Carswell is on stage first, talking up the Kippers and predictably preening that they’re the best/around/nothing’s ever gonna keep them down. As it happens, his leader and fellow MP may be having trouble winning their respective seats – this guy’s one to watch. It appears he doesn’t want a coalition, rather a pact to enact proper change. EU-related, one assumes.

Angus Steakhouse Robertson, looking radiant as an entire glazed ham, disagrees and argues for more FREEDOM for Scotland. He wants to stand up for a different kind of politics, and would be willing to work together with other forward-thinking parties in order to do this. Like, for example, not Yvette Cooper.

Yvette, resplendent as queen of the goths in one of her formidable collection of dark purple suits, boldly speaks up to pretty much make chicken noises at David ‘no show’ Cameron. She and Angus get into an argument about numbers or whatever (I am no maths whizz and switched off halfway through), with Angus heartbreakingly trying his best to ‘do a Paxman’. I’m sorry, dude. You simply lack the requisite patronising sneer to do so.

It is at this point that Grant Shapps, or Michael Green, or whoever he is this week, slithers in. Wheedling that DCam ~*~wasn’t invited~*~, he bemoans the chaotic state of the debates and their participants as they are now – if only we had a certain leader to whip them all into shape! #where’sdave, counters Yvette. Grant responds to this by electing to have a go at the Scots. They’re scary, after all – you wouldn’t want to see them doing any deals, right, Middle England? (Unless they decide to do a deal with the Tories, in which case they’re lovely! But they said they won’t, so VOTE GRANT SHAPPS.)

Ah, and here comes Piers ‘Morgan’ Moron to enlighten us all on what we’re doing wrong. Apparently everyone is wrong except him, and you also can’t trust anybody except him. Watch Good Morning Britain on ITV now that my show’s been cancelled! He then goes ‘well in’, as I believe the yoof say these days, for Nick Clegg, calling him irrelevant and that no1curr about his ridiculous bleatings. Coming from Piers of all people, that’s gotta sting.

“I’m hurt,” says Jo Swinson, making a sadface :(

Piers brushes her aside with a remark about tuition fees, any single mention of which burns Lib Dems like water does the Wicked Witch of the West. Haven’t you heard our Nick Clegg apology remix :((((? asks Jo. Or words to that effect. (Don’t worry, she gets better later. A bit.) If only Nick Clegg had been on the guest list for the debate and hadn’t been visiting a hedgehog sanctuary or whatever it is he does now! You know what, screw whether they were invited or not, maybe Dave ‘n’ Nick just should have just turned up and sat on the stage and refused to move until they got let in if they felt so strongly about it.

Dimbleby is expressing a similarly devil-may-care attitude, his eyesight and will to live equally failing, having just spent an hour and a half shepherding around a group of squabbling schoolkids and now having to look after a whole ‘nother class of fools. He doesn’t even care who the questions are coming from or what they are, just that they get this over with as quickly as possible and he can go home and put his feet up. This will be the last general election he’ll be covering, so let’s all wish our great lord and saviour the best! (Apparently he’s now very popular on Buzzfeed, but I always have a soft spot for fashionable 70s Dimbleby.)

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

“Unlike the Westminster establishment parties,” says the man who originally became an MP through being part of a Westminster establishment party, “we’ve got a costed plan blah blah blah.” Now even ‘costed’ is becoming one of the phrases I never want to hear again after the election ends. Along with ‘Barnet formula’, which unfortunately has nothing to do with hairstyles.

Angus Young Robertson is back in black, standin’ up for the poor and bashin’ Trident. Piers is mortally offended by this lack of support for our brave nukes. He takes issue with Ed Miliband perhaps being a teeny weeny bit hesitant to smash his meaty fist on the button that could potentially end all life on Earth. This is a foul embarrassment for Piers. What a wimp, not wanting to gratuitously nuke people. Pfft.

I am fairly sure Piers Morgan is planning a bloody coup and I am terrified.

Piggy bank responsibility lock

Grant smirks punchably as he continues to attack Yvette. While her long-windedness does make it easier for him, every time he is asked a question, or Angus – accidentally or not – encourages him (nae man! Ye daen’t knergh wut ye doin!), a little rodenty smile spreads across his face, freaking me out immensely. Grant is also a strong contender for one of the best and most gleeful trolls of Question Time at the moment (along with Andy Burnham and anyone from the SNP). I don’t like the man, but this is intended to be somewhat of a compliment. Look at it this way: he may be a weasel with no name, but at least he’s an entertaining weasel with no name.

Then everyone jumps on the electoral reform bandwagon. Remember the AV referendum? I sure don’t! Douglas is in favour, and to be fair, Jo does a good bit about the merits of the STV system, which would make everyone very happy and contented forever. But we’re moving on quickly to other matters: namely, the NHS, which didn’t get covered in the second debate as it was heavily discussed in the first.

Piers is attacking Douglas now over HIV treatment and “scaremongering” re: health tourism. First Jo, then Yvette, now Douglas and all their respective leaders…the other panellists are looking nervous and in thrall to Piers’ unstoppable dismissal of absolutely everybody. Dimbleby asks Douglas why ol’ Nige chose to use such unfortunate AIDS-related phrasing that seemed to blame victims. “You need to talk to Nigel about that,” says Dugz. Groans abound. Don’t worry, he’ll be interviewed about it approximately every thirty seconds.

Anyway, we’ve got the most money for the NHS! says Douglas proudly. Jo finds her chance, saying the other parties are all promising pretty pink ponies and only the Lib Dems would properly regulate the nation’s piggy banks. Grant takes issue with this, saying that, ACKTCHUALLY, the Tories have the bestest plan of all. Jo brushes him off – attempting to appear as a future Liberal Democrat leadership candidate, I’d reckon…if she keeps her seat.

Then Angus Deayton Robertson rails against privatisation, but Jo, really riled up now, takes him to task for funding commitments during the #indyref campaign which may or may not have been a big mess/lovely and great with no complaints here. Dimbleby calms matters by saying we don’t want to “refight the referendum”. Tell that to Twitter.

Right to cry (deeply and at great length)

Lastly/briefly, right to buy – just because it’s popular, does it make it right?

“Yvette Cooper, let’s not be too long-winded on this,” says Dimbleby, speaking for us all. Yvette says it’s bad, Grant says it’s great, bears eat honey in the 100 Acre Woods. The crowd asks where the new stock of social housing is going to come from, to which the only available answer right now is presumably ‘idk lol’.

“It’s not the right to buy, it’s the right to bribe,” nods Piers, obviously pleased with himself for that devastating retort. Angus has the answer, though, and it’s to move to Scotland. Douglas disagrees: move to Clacton. Clacton likes the new Tory proposal, and so does he. Why, it’s almost as if he used to be a Tory MP or something!

So remember, kids, in conclusion: what’s good for Clacton is good for all.

With that bombshell (Piers’ ears prick up), it’s time for the scores.

Shapps: 6/10

Sneer

Cooper: 6/10

Austere

Swinson: 6/10

Deer (caught in the headlights)

Robertson: 6/10

Veer(ing left)

Carswell: 6/10

Veer(ing right)

Moron: 5/10

(New presenter of Top) Gear(?)

The Crowd: 6/10

Jeer(ed at ’em all)

Next time: Natalie Bennett disguised as Caroline Lucas.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #126


qt 126

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to Telford-in-Shropshire and one of the most catastrophically dull editions of Question Time I’ve ever been unlucky enough to witness. Let’s just get this over with and get back to discussing the real issues – for instance, why has Ed Miliband claimed that the above dress is apparently white and gold? It’s clearly blue and black. Typical short-sighted Labour!

Slow-cook economic yam

As Nigel Farage, currently putting his feet up in a posh American hotel, rubs his hands with glee, we come first to a question on rising migration figures. Mark Reckless MP is the purple representative for tonight and blames the government’s incompetence and…recklessness (YEAAAAHHHH.mp3). The solution is obviously to leave the EU in a huff.

Grant Shapps, looking like a smug ten year old grasping his tuck shop purchases with clammy ferocity, parrots the Tory party line like a parrot. A parrot on crack. Also, everything is fine, he says! Hesitant applause for Grantyboy. Meanwhile Rachel Reeves, in a pink cardigan I would like to wear (not her one, that would be creepy, but a different one also probably made by Romanian orphans) is surprisingly decent on this particular issue, and doesn’t go for shock-and-awe tactics. Then again I think Rachel is fundamentally unable to raise her voice any louder than a drone, so getting hysterical about immigration is something that is pretty much closed off to her. Make her Home Secretary at once, the disgusting grey splendour of the Home Office would suit her perfectly.

Our courageous Lib Dem panellist, Tessa Munt, begins by talking about a promise that ‘couldn’t possibly be kept’. Er…good one, Tessa! Maybe immigration isn’t so bad, she says, gazing wistfully into space. Mark Breakfast remains serene, his featureless pink head jutting out from his suit like a placid tortoise. He wants investment to encourage the domestic workforce, and is okay with letting smart people in but not smelly people. That’s the gist of it. Put it on a poster. Or employ me as his election campaign co-ordinator posthaste.

The highlight of this section, however, was everybody laughing at the young Tory plant using the term ‘long-term economic plan’ which nobody, absolutely nobody outside of the Westminster bubble uses. Have you ever been down the launderette or Sainsbury’s or wherever and overheard someone talking about our long-term economic plan? Have you heard our long-term economic plan debated in the living room while eating Chinese takeaway? Have you heard it come up in any situation that doesn’t immediately make you want to fall asleep? Thought not. Also, the above was an interesting glimpse into my day-to-day life.

Camilla Long is here as well. I forgot about her for a minute there.

We just wanna make the world dance, forget about the price tag

Next: should MPs be allowed to have second jobs, comes the warbling cry. Rachel Reeves only gets the word ‘no’ out before she is greeted with rapturous applause. Nonetheless her voice still does not rise above a mumble, and she remains looking like a drugged rabbit about to be run over by Grant, the farmhand who has stolen the farmer’s tractor while cackling all the way. She points to how they do it in those forrin lands, with a percentage cap ‘n’ all. This isn’t good enough for some in the audience who seem to believe that MPs should only be paid in the shortlived 1990s fad Pogs.

DISGRACEFUL cries Tessa, helpfully.

Grant is on the other side of this debate. He’s all for MPs getting lots of lovely experience, and by experience he presumably means moolah. Camilla Long, however, has a groundbreaking solution! If we value our MPs we should give them more money, she says, which is terribly brave of her because airing this view in public is extremely dangerous and could possibly lead to her being attacked by an angry mob. Dimbleby looks concerned, as if to anticipate this.

Aww, heck…less admits that he abstained in the recent vote cos Nige has been too busy flying off to America to tell him what to do. Everyone laughs again. I could get used to this – ending each question with people collectively pointing and guffawing at the panel. Truly bringing the country together.

Next, there’s a brief discussion about those three girls who went to Syria to ‘live in a hole’. Camilla claims that any loser who wants to be crowned Little Miss Isis must already be a terrorist, or maybe just an arse. The panel falls over themselves to tut about how shocking and tragic this sad affair is. Mark Reckless, funnily enough, is quite sensible here, though: maybe it’s his bank manager aura. It worked for John Major, it could work for him. Watch out, Nigel, he’s after your job!

New Conservative manifesto proposal: polling stations in bingo halls

Last up…should we kick a rich pensioner?

Grant starts as he means to go on, sultrily licking the bums of the older folks who obviously vote en masse for his party. Why not, while you’re at it, just dictate that young people have to make a ceremonial offering to old people every month, like sacrificing a lamb or something? It would be a whole lot quicker and more efficient. So don’t worry, silver foxes who are (one would imagine) the main audience for Question Time – Grandpa Grant is ON YOUR SIDE!

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Dimbles points out that this might possibly be considered electioneering. WHAT A CYNICAL VIEW gasps Grant, offended. This is all because of the EU, adds Mark. Thank you Mark. Thanks for that contribution.

“Why don’t we do more for young people to get them to vote?” squeaks an earnest young lady in the audience. To be this innocent again! Tessa, our fightin’ Lib Dem, appeals for the youth vote (well somebody has to), and Rachel murmurs that Labour’s policy is to kick some pensioners, but only the types that remind us of Mr Burns.

Grant spreads his palms like he’s Tory Jesus and sighs to the sky. How dare you, Tessa. How dare you, Camilla. How dare you, Rachel. Old people have worked hard all their life. Especially if they’ve had extra consultancy jobs.

It is at this point that Dimbleby cuts him off mid-rant and saves us all.

Time for the scores!

Shapps: 5/10

(LONG-TERM ECONOMIC) PLAN!!

Reeves: 6/10

(Wake me up before you go-go, as sung by the popular 1980s group) Wham (which is exactly what one needs to do whenever they hear her speak, that is to say, fall asleep, and thus need waking up)

Munt: 4/10

(Was brave to) Yam(mer on about certain subjects that could be very easily mocked as I have just proven conclusively)

Reckless: 6/10

(Got himself out a) Jam

Long: 5/10

(You want to give MPs more money?) Damn

The Crowd: 7/10

Grand slam

Next time, ever more surreal scores. Look forward to it!

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #108


qt 108

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to a controversial edition of Questionable Time! As you may have noticed, Question Time has got in a bit of a pickle today, and it’s not exactly a subject one wants to joke about – but that’s alright, because the reaction to every other subject covered ended up being ridiculous in the extreme. The cameras are on, Dimbleby’s wearing his legendary pink shark tie, and the panellists are raring to go. Hop on board.

Also, my scanner still isn’t fixed. Perhaps it will never be fixed. What a fart.

You know that song from Les Mis, ‘Who Am I’, where Jean Valjean sings about his identity crisis, well do you think Grant Shapps sings that to himself every day in the shower

A man named Crustle starts us off with a simple one: “will tax cuts save Dave?”

Stella Creasy is up first and I’m already blown away by whatever it is she’s wearing around her neck. It looks like a bunch of piano keys, or maybe some sort of ancient cosmic device to manipulate the universe to your every whim. Stella is so earnest, so sweet and gentle looking, like a small beige rodent, you can sort of forgive her for anything, no matter if she’s basically staying on the same ‘message’ as everybody else. No, Stella says, and I can talk you through in detail why it won’t work and why our plan will. Silly Stella, we don’t have time for nonsense such as ‘detail’ on Question Time! Why won’t Dave be honest?, she continues, like your chirpy primary school teaching assistant, or a rabbit caught in the headlights.

Meanwhile, Grant Shapps, or whatever his name is today, is here and disappointingly hasn’t brought along his army of Tory youth in matching jumpers. Nevertheless, Grant is pretty confident he’s got this one in the bag. The economy is booming, and judging by that one audience member’s plea to thank the coalition for everything they’ve done, it’s all thanks to Darling Dave and his Dangerous Dudes. Dimbleby pushes back by saying he has asked the Institute of Fiscal Studies for some figures to trip up Grant’s flow of bullshit. Stella is uncomprehending. She doesn’t understand how one man’s face can be so smug. BUT GRANT! she cries, but Grant, indeed, is unrepentant.

Susie Boniface, the Mirror woman, squeaks in that Dave is the human incarnation of a boot stamping on a human face forever. Or, apparently, your boyfriend who always lets you down. A horrifying image to be sure.

Suddenly an extreme Cockney voice pipes up. My God, is this a Cameron fantasy of a working class lad made good – or fiscally neoliberal – made real? No, it’s Charlie Mullins, the lovable chimney sweep, or perhaps I’ve got that wrong.

He goes after Susie and they have a little showdown between themselves while Stella is trying to fend off Grant to no avail. Julian Huppert, your beardy geography teacher, makes his entrance here, by still hoping for a Lib Dem government to much general jollity and chortles in the audience. Unfortunately, there isn’t one question this entire programme about Nick Clegg dissing Theresa May about civil liberties, and since that’s Julian’s (commendable, to be fair) area of expertise he must have walked off stage at the end and thrown his hat on the ground and stomped on it. Although he doesn’t have a hat. Maybe he ripped his beard off.

AT LEAST BE HONEST GRANT! BE HONEST!!!! Stella weeps. Stella is absolutely befuddled that someone wouldn’t explain themselves plainly and truthfully. The truth is that there’s an easy way that these tax cuts are going to be paid for: Dave’s gone to Wonga. Grant continues to act like a naughty schoolboy kicking your pushover teacher Stella’s legs, and asserting his obvious honesty.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Are you going to actually explain your plans at any point or just keep on rambling, says Dimbles. (I’m paraphrasing here, but this is 99% accurate.)
Oh, we will, says Grant, confidently.
No, now, says Dimbledore.
Er…in the Autumn Statement? says Grant.
Well done Grant, nailed it, says Charlie.

It appears that Stella has missed an open goal. A more forthright panellist would have exploded at this point, screeching “Autumn bloody Statement?! Yyyyou bastard,” but she’s just too…nicey-nice. What surprised me is that the Fleet Street Fox woman also missed it. Come on ladies, Grant and Charlie are working together, you need to form a girl power clique!

I thought I found a way to enter / It’s just a defektor / I thought I found the connector / It’s just a defektor

Then there’s a question on why Tory MPs are buggering off to UKIP, with a first MP most likely on the way. Grant knows the solution to this mess. Don’t vote for them, vote for us, since we have everything that they have, but with added me. Nailed it again.

Julian is noncommittal. He loves Europe, you see, and thinks the defectors are a bunch of what that Home Office source called Nick Clegg for throwing shade at Theresa May: wankers.

“It’s sad to see a party split up like that”, he mumbles…so sad…can’t do anything about it…

(Also, the Clacton edition is being trailed menacingly over this argument, like a great dark cloud.)

According to Susie, UKIP are probably going to knock the Lib Dems into fourth place. Julian shakes his head in disgust, then gets his name forgotten by a fierce-looking audience member. It’s not been a good night for Julian, through no fault of his own! That same audience member then rounds on Stella who attemps to placate her but to no avail – the wrath of a woman despairing of the modern democratic process cannot be sated! Stella is just too waffly and doesn’t have the urge to grab someone by the collar and yell in their face, or alternatively shrug her shoulders for the 1000th time and go “they’re a bunch o’ shits”. That is her struggle, apart from getting abused by trolls online.

Then Charlie says that voters could “go to bed with Farage and wake up with Miliband”, and that’s a pretty terrifying thought no matter which way you swing it, so let’s move on.

…On second thought, let’s not (also, pajamas!)

Question Time, as I mentioned before, has got in quite a bit of trouble for bringing up the horrific death of a young schoolgirl, her body only just found, and the inappropriateness of the resulting debate being chaired by a bloke in a pink shark tie. While the discussion was pretty restrained, as all serious, non-kick-the-opposition questions should be, and an apology has been issued, this does bring up an important question that tends to rear its ugly head whenever a sensitive issue like this comes up on QT.

Are we entitled to debate absolutely everything in the news, where it must be pored over inanely as commentators try to top each other’s outrage, and misspelt tweets abound, amidst the high-emotion of the Question Time setting? Sure, people may want to talk about it – but is that really the right thing to do, when they’d only be figuratively stomping on an already grieving family?

Thankfully, the next question is about the objectively hilarious story of the Mirror ‘exposing’ (ooh, missus!) Newt Brooksmark or whatever silly name it is he has. Susie, you’re from the Mirror. Looks like you’re up to bat. She regales us with the legal definition of entrapment, and concludes that it wasn’t that because Newmark was an enthusiastic perv-in-pajamas anyway, and the (fake) power imbalance was, like, hella skeevy.

Charlie responds that nobody wanted to hear about Newmark’s pajamas before this sad event and nobody wants to now. Grant follows up by immediately reminding us of them again with a grin like he knows exactly what he’s doing, even though he attempts to look disapproving, but sadly doesn’t have the kind of face for any emotion other than ‘smug’ and ‘delirious glee’. Stella is earnestly befuddled once more as she wonders how anyone could have believed the weird-ass messages being sent. Susie responds that it’s quite simple: Brooks Newmark is the king of being ruled by what’s in your pajamas instead of what’s in your noggin.

Then Julian raises what is probably the main issue, which is the nonconsensual usage of a woman’s photos. This has been apologised for, but he gets a point for bringing it up. However, now we’re on to our last question, about…GPs or something, I’m sorry, but I’m still curled up in the foetal position thinking about paisley pajamas and crying.

Stella has been shrugging her shoulders all night long and doesn’t stop now. It’s a white hot battle between her and Grant’s rival visions of chucking stuff at the NHS and seeing what sticks. Apparently all the GPs are getting the hell out of the profession and Grant’s solution is to gurn smugly at them until the system fixes itself. We’re screwed, replies Susie. Nobody wants to become a new GP, and in this climate, I don’t blame them. Why become anything? Why not just cry, like me. Julian says, welp, the problem is NHS privatisation, and this finally rouses Stella as she huffs and puffs and shakes her head in legitimate outrage.

“Are you kidding me?!” she almost screams, “What about the Health and Social Care Act that your party voted for? Ring any bells, Julian?!”

“Ain’t my fault, #yolo.”

Dimbles then quickly wraps up the show before Stella can leap over the desk and punch Julian in the beard.

Time for the scores!

Shapps: 4/10

(I break out in hives every time I hear him) Speak

Creasy: 4/10

(Mainly) Squeak(ing in a mouselike fashion)

Huppert: 6/10

(Unable to utilise his) Critique (of authoritarian policies)

Boniface: 4/10

(Justified the) Peek (we got of Newmark’s jammies)

Mullins: 4/10

Cheek(y chappy)

The Crowd: 5/10

Bleak

Now let us never speak of paisley pajamas again.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #98


questionable time 98 david dimbleby rambo

Good morning Lemmings and if you’re feeling a little shell-shocked by the box of frogs that was last night’s show then stop crying because we only have ourselves to blame. Oh sure, we all thought we were being so clever, inviting Farage on week after week so we could all smugly mock his rubbery face and outlandish views. We thought we were doing it ‘for the lulz’ but now? Now he’s looking like he might actually win an electoral contest and it’s all our fault: We’re the ones who created this monster. We’re the ones who thought everyone else was in on the joke and we’re the ones who’ll be crying into our quinoa the day after the European elections. So answer me this Lemmings, where are your lulz now? WHERE ARE YOUR LULZ NOW?!?!

Anyway…

I love the smell of mania on a Thursday night…

So, Nige is back after his 5 month QT exile and if first impressions are anything to go by then he’s all hopped up to the nines on either a) green room booze, b) unshakeable self-belief or c) a mixture the two. Why do I say this? Well, the shouting was a bit of a giveaway (“They never tamed me!”) but most of all it was just how relentless he was in making the point that I Am None Of The Above (And I Am Most Definitely Not Grant Shapps). Got a problem? Well these guys won’t help you (particularly Grant Shapps). They don’t care, they don’t understand, they CAN’T understand because they’re not like you and me. Sure, they’ll try to paint me as part of the establishment, but you know better. You’ve seen me with my fag and my pint. You know I’m a chancer. You know that I’m probably not that competent but you don’t care. Why? Because you’re sick of being by fobbed off by these guys. Go on, give me a vote and I’ll tell them to naff off.

It’s not the most sophisticated message but it’s effective and very tricky to counter (as evidenced by the rest of the panel’s inability to decisively knobble him). The problem is that sometimes it works too well and last night might just have been one of those occasions. Allow me to explain:

Nigel Farage’s greatest gift is The Knowing Wink that he appends to every interaction – that look on his face that says ‘I know! I can’t believe I’m getting away with it either!’ (see Fig. 1). That’s the thing that we can relate to in Farage, the inner-blagger in all of us that cackles heartily when we’re given too much change or accidentally jump a queue. The problem last night was that The Knowing Wink was being subtly overpowered by The Prospect of Success: You could just see it on his face – he’d caught a whiff of his own hype and quite liked the smell. That gave his delivery this certainty and – dare I say it – a tinge of mania that made it all just a little scary.

Nigel Farage Ladbrokes

Fig. 1

This is a problem because Farage’s entire pitch (and thus by extension UKIP’s) has been that he’s just like us despite the fact that he patently isn’t and the thing that makes that pitch work is The Knowing Wink. Lose that and what have you got? Well, funny you should mention that because the bit on Grant Shapps is about to start.

How not to blag…

Ha! I’ve waited a long time to say this – Grant Shapps is now officially a busted flush and the proof of it is in just how thoroughly trounced he was by Farage last night. Seriously, it was embarrassing at times, watching him try to referendum his way out of the corner the Tories have painted themselves in to but no-one was buying it. And why weren’t they buying it? Because Shapps’ brand of blagging is an entirely different strain to Farage’s and an ugly one at that.

The main problem Shapps has is that his face just seems to constantly militate against sincerity and always ends up coming to a rest in a smug little pout – not a good look at the best of times but doubly so when you’re being taken to the cleaners by the closest thing politics has to Alan Partridge. However, the real kicker is how that look reflects on us, the blaggee. It says ‘I’m taking you for a ride because I’m better than you. Because I hold you in contempt.’. You don’t get that with Farage (who quite frankly seems delighted that anyone’s paying attention to him at all) and when you stack it up next to Shapps’ list of past offences, it becomes clear that it’s going to take more than just cheap beer and bingo to sort it all out.

It’s all coming up Umunna…

A good innings from Chuka last night and one that was aided greatly by both AstraZenica and Nigeria being on the agenda. However, it wasn’t all luck as the Europe question could have gone just as badly for the Red Team as it did the Blue Team had Chuka not been so on the ball when it came to denying Farage the space to make mischief. It’s also personally heartening because I can end up getting quite cross with Umunna for over thinking things and getting hobbled by hesitancy. Not last night though so pointy-points for the Ridiculously Good Looking man in the Red Corner.

Shirley’s bid to outlive Questionable Time…

I can just see me in 40 years time looking at this crap netbook of mine and wondering just what the hell I’m going to say about Shirley Williams after her 10,000 QT appearance. Seriously, she was knocking on a bit when I started doing this but now she’s properly old and still shows no signs of slowing down apart from isolated senior moments (the “country of Asia” anyone?). But still, I won’t complain when that day comes because despite over familiarity, there is an enduring appeal to watching a very forthright woman tell everyone off in turn before conjuring up some anecdote about the mid-20th century. Consistency: There’s a lot to be said for it.

If claps translated in to votes…

Then surely Caroline Lucas would be Queen. Alas, it appears that this not the case and despite a) a very solid performance and b) dressing up as a Christmas present I’m not predicting a Green landslide any time soon. In fact it’s almost like we’ve friendzoned the Greens, telling them how much we love their progressive policies but never actually taking them to the ball. That must be a pretty galling thing to deal with, particularly when they see us getting out of the limo with that weird kid from UKIP. Stay strong Caroline, there’s plenty more fish in the sea.

Tl;dr

Farage: 6/10

High (as a kite)

Shapps: 3/10

(The end is) Nigh

Umunna: 7/10

Aye

Williams: 6/10

(Still surprisingly) Spry

Lucas: 7/10

(Must wonder) Why (the Greens get such a raw electoral deal)

The Crowd: 7/10

(Were pretty) Fly

Well, there you go – a messy affair in which Farage nearly overdosed on himself and Shirley Williams finally took on the form of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. That’ll do for me.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #72


questionable time 72 david dimbleby kiss make up

Good morning Lemmings and let’s not tarry too long on this first paragraph because we have much to get through. Much, much, muchness. Right, let’s go…

Let’s twist again. And again. And again. And again…

Imagine you’re playing pontoon: You peek at your first two cards (in this case a pretty borderline article on the assumed sentiments of a politician’s dead father) and find that you’re in a bit of a bind as their combined scores tally up to 15. Dammit! “Oh well,” you say to yourself, “might as well go for it. Twist!”. The dealer peels another card off the deck in the form of a supremely ill-judged headline and throws it on the table for all to see. It’s a Jack and you’re bust – time to pony up and hope that your next hand’s not quite as dire… At least that’s what you’d do if you had even the slightest concept of sportsmanship/rules/general standards of human behaviour.

But you don’t play by the rules. You’re a maverick, a loose cannon who’s standing up for what you believe in and right now you believe that a five-card trick will magically negate the fact that you’ve cocked this hand right up to the point where you’re out of the game. The banker reaches forward to collect his winnings but you’re having none of it: “Twist!” you scream as the other players exchange bemused looks and an uncomfortable silence envelopes the table. A friend of yours, an ex-editor of The Daily Telegraph, leans in towards you in an effort to set you straight:

Now come along Daily Mail I think you’ve had enough to -”

I SAID TWIST!”

Not knowing what to do the banker produces another card – a Queen this time. Your current score is 36 and bemusement is turning to concern. But you’re not done, not by a long shot.

AGAIN!”

The banker lays out a King. 46 and counting.

AGAIN!”

Another King and by this point even your brother, the Mail on Sunday is looking worried.

AGAIN! TWIST!”

You get the picture.

So that was a very long way of explaining the circumstances that bought Quentin Letts into the QT studio but how did he do on a personal level? Not good. Not good at all. In fairness to him he didn’t quite end up being the screaming lunatic of the above passage – the difference being that rather than shouting everyone down he just woozily dragged them around the houses whilst calling for yet more cards – but the fact that he still insisted on playing the game just gave his performance this very surreal air. And the result? Mockery – and not just an odd titter from certain sections of the crowd but full-blown, out-and-out derision like the part where he foolishly asked the crowd if the Mail was “completely out of order?”. “Yes!” came the near-unanimous response. Still, at least he can take comfort in the fact that he had at least one ally in the audience – a Kipper with a fairly tenuous grasp of exactly how the political spectrum works.

TWIST!

Mehdi Hasan: My new favourite person in the whole world.

You will not be hearing my traditional pleas for Mehdi Hasan to lighten up today. Instead I’m going to let the man speak for himself by quoting what I consider to be probably the best QT set piece I have ever seen – a beautiful chunk of rhetoric that served as wish fulfillment for a sizable chunk of the population. Behold:

…when you talk about who hates Britain or who has an evil legacy, who do you think has an evil legacy? The man who sucked up to the Nazi’s, who made friends with Joseph Goebbels and praised Hitler in the run up to World War Two – the owner and founder of the Daily Mail Lord Rothermere – or the man who served in the Royal Navy, risked his life for his adopted homeland – Ralph Miliband? Who do you think hated Britain more? And this isn’t just about Ralph Miliband actually because it’s opened up a whole debate about the Daily Mail. You want to talk about who hates Britain… [minor chuntering from Letts]… This is a paper that in recent years said there was nothing natural about the death of the gay pop star Stephen Gately, who said that the French people should vote for Marine Le Pen and the National Front, who attacked Danny Boyle for having a mixed raced couple in the Olympic Ceremony, who called Mo Farah a ‘plastic Brit’. So let’s have the debate about who hates Britain more because it isn’t a dead Jewish refugee from Belgium who served in the Royal Navy, it’s the immigrant-bashing, woman-hating, muslim-smearing, NHS-undermining, gay-baiting Daily Mail.”

Be still my beating heart.

And the – oh who cares…

So there were some party political types on last night but let’s not pretend that they weren’t completely overshadowed by the slow motion train wreck that was Mailgate. Anyway, a few choice points:

  1. I’ve finally figured out who Grant Shapps (see Fig. 1) reminds me of: He’s that kid at school – and every school has one – who thrives on goading others into wayward acts before legging it when the consequences of those acts become apparent (that’s if he hasn’t dobbed them in already). He also has a tin ear for nuance. Remember when that woman in the audience made a very eloquent point about how she’s fed up with all the ‘Hard Working People’ schtick? Well what better way to follow that up than by starting your next sentence with the phrase ‘Hard Working People’.
  2. I’ve now concluded that Yvette Cooper is the Bic Biro of politics: Dependable, functional, readily available (I don’t mean it like that…) and something you never really think about until you need one. True, she’s no Staedlter ball point (in my opinion the Rambo of Biro’s) but she’s dependable in a humdrum sort of way and there’s much to be said for that. However I can’t let her get away with quite how searingly dull she was last night. Yeah, yeah, yeah we know about the “lost three years” but can’t we just get back to the far more entertaining pursuit of Mail-baiting?
  3. Poor old Kirsty Williams looks like she could be a dab hand at this QT game if she could just get more than 20 seconds of camera time and not be quite so obsessed with the pupil premium. Better luck next time Kirsty.
eau de grant shapps

Fig. 1

Tl;dr

Shapps: 5/10

(As slippery and slap-) Dash (as ever)

Cooper: 4/10

(Gave it a mediocre) Bash

Williams: 6/10

(Made a decent) Hash (of it)

Letts: 2/10

(Sounded like he’d been on the) Lash

Hasan: 9/10

Smash(ed that ball right out of the park)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Displayed a high percentage of mous)Tache (owners)?

Well, what can I say? Two great episodes in as many weeks… Are we heading into some sort of QT Golden Age? I sincerely hope so. Anyway, that’s enough from me and should you still happen to be at a loose end you can check what happened when I cut Boris Johnson’s brain in two earlier this week.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #48


questionable time 48 davidi dimbleby camoflage

Good morning Lemmings and come, let us huddle for warmth in this most spiteful of winters. I know, I know, everything sucks right now – we’re knee-deep in the January Blues, everyone’s skint and it’s snowing hippos – but at least we can take solace in the fact no matter how apocalyptic the weather is, the Thursday night spectacle of ire, bile and absurdity remains resolutely unaffected. So come Lemmings, let us gather the survivors, let us construct a makeshift shelter from the charred remains of this week’s episode and let us hope for the best.

I’m a little gutted that Nigel Farage is finally growing up…

Oh Nigel, how far we have come, you and I… When I first laid eyes on you I have to admit that I wasn’t impressed. I don’t remember the exact circumstances but the chances are that you had been conjuring up wild stories of how the EU had made spherical bricks mandatory or maybe laying out some vision of a perfect society based entirely on gammon and Rotarians. Whatever. All I knew was that most of the things you said were vaguely populist and definitely bonkers, neither of which particularly buttered my parsnips. However, all that was before I started writing Questionable Time and once I was actually forced to watch you week in, week out, I began to see things differently. That’s when I discovered The Magic of Nigel Farage.

It hinges on this: For three solid years, you could predict with unerring accuracy how Nigel Farage would fare on QT. Initially, he would look nervous and shifty – like he knew he was gate crashing the party and it was only a matter of time before the host cottoned on – but this state of affairs would only last so long. By midway you’d see this look coming over his face, a look that said ‘You know what? Bollocks to this. I’m going for it’ and then suddenly, the game would change. Caution? To the wind! Reason? To hell with it! I’m going to make some faintly ludicrous statements and there’s nothing you can do about it! That wasn’t the magic though. The magic was that wonderful moment where the crowd would start clapping and you could hear his brain scream ‘OMG! I’M ACTUALLY GETTING AWAY WITH THIS!’.

However, that’s still not quite the full story as there was a third component to any given Farage outing and that was The Tragic Coda. It’s pretty simple really: After getting all hopped up on the dizzying scent of approval, he’d always overplay his hand and that rush of applause that had sustained him would trickle off to one solitary and quite, quite mad member of the audience clapping very, very loudly. This is the moment when you could see it kick in, the fatal realisation that ‘Oh god, I’ve totally buggered this up!’. To me, that was the icing on the cake as every episode had this wonderfully self-contained story arc that played out with the regularity of clockwork: Nigel the Underdog followed by Nigel the Victorious followed by Nigel the Defeated.

These days though? I dunno, something’s changed. For one, UKIP are actually making hay so there is the faint worry in the back of my head that he might come good on his gammon based society but more importantly, he seems aware of when he’s over-egging the pudding now. Ok, so that bit when he and an audience member got over excited about the French not taking part on the Falklands War could have qualified as a ‘Bollocks to it’ moment, but it occurred right at the end of the show and left no space left for the full Tragic Coda. Well dammit Nigel, I need that Tragic Coda. That was the bond that kept us together but it appears that you have turned your back on our arrangement and become infatuated with the grubby trappings of electoral viability. My heart? It is broken.

On any given night Flint vs. Shapps should be a good draw…

…Except that it wasn’t and to be honest, this was a pretty shonky episode that even Dimbers’ rather fetching frog tie couldn’t save. Alright, so the news is in the New Year’s doldrums and the only real going concern – Cameron’s Europe speech – got spiked by hostages in Algeria but I was expecting a little more from Shapps and Flint, a pair who positively ooze that Step-Siblings Who Don’t Get On vibe. Alas, on this occasion it was wet playtimes all round as Flint defaulted to her ‘MUST. DEFEND. EVERYTHING. NEW. LABOUR. EVER. DID.’ position whilst Shapps gave us the usual runaround of having an answer for everything whilst somehow addressing nothing (‘Hey guys… This is all really important and stuff, but stuff I’ve stuffed should stuff it right back into stuff). Shapps by a nose, but without honours.

At least Mary Beard gave it a fair crack…

So she’s all a bit ‘Who’s got the keys to the Volvo!?’/’I don’t suppose you could you tape me the latest Ladysmith Black Mambazo LP?’/’No, I’m sure the farmer’s market is this way!’ but in the final reckoning, Mary Beard was last night’s saving grace. Someone needed to keep the new and worryingly stable Farage in check, someone needed to respond to questions with a modicum of thought and someone needed to tell us whether horse meat is actually up to snuff. That person was Mary Beard. Well done. Have some points.

I have no idea who Roland Rudd is…

The funny thing about PR people is how little you can find out about them. So far as I can gather, Roland Rudd’s one of those figures who repeatedly crops up in the background (he’s reputedly one of the ‘Four Wise Men’ who Tony Blair consulted on his way out), apparently pulls loads of strings and then disappears to do whatever shadowy PR people do. Am I any the wiser after watching last night’s episode? Am I hell. All I can really tell you is that he has very good posture and that his attempt to crack a joke about the purity of burgers got him nowhere. Oh well… You can lead a horse to water…

TL;DR

Shapps: (Likes to talk about) Stuff

5/10

Flint: (Was a little) Duff

5/10

Farage: (Managed to rein in the excess) Guff

6/10

Beard: (Took the evening by the) Scruff (of the neck)

7/10

Rudd: (Doesn’t do off the) Cuff (jokes very well)

5/10

The Crowd: (Were in the) Buff?

4/10

So bah! A stinker of an episode! Truly, January is the cruelest of months. Anyway, to take the edge off it, here’s a something I prepared for the old Nigel, the Nigel I knew and loved (see Fig. 1).

nigel farage needs you kitchener poster

Fig. 1

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #37


questionable time 37 david dimbleby grant shapps caroline flint zephaniah hair plus flag

Good morning Lemmings and welcome back to this, Our Hour of Reckoning. Should you have been lucky enough to remain unmolested by the collective gnashing of Blue Team teeth that was the Conservative Party Conference, let me bring you up to speed: It’s sink-or-swim, dog-eat-dog, kill-or-be-killed out there and if we’re not careful Johnny Bloody Foreigner is going to end up eating our lunch, breakfast and dinner. Happily though, you needn’t fear because Messrs. Cameron and Osborne have let it be known (via a rather charming Bad Cop With A Heart/Bad Cop routine) that they’ve got this all under control. It’s about striving and it’s about jolly well ensuring that the feckless poor stop getting paid for this silly breeding business. Most of all though, it’s about doing exactly the same thing that hasn’t worked for the last two years but doing it with a bit more gusto. As plans go, that sounds pretty watertight to me.

Anyway, how did the good people of Birmingham respond to this invitation to tragedy?

How indeed…

Grant Shapps is either very, very brave or just flat-out mad…

Oh happy day! Happy, happy day! In the three years I’ve been covering Question Time, one panelist has repeatedly stymied my attempts to draw a bead on him. You see, on paper Grant Shapps’ appearances have always been pretty solid. He does that whole bright-eyed and bushy-tailed thing that Nick Clegg used to before life had its way with him and not once can I recall him committing any screaming errors. However, there was always something niggling at me about Shapps, a nagging doubt telling me that he had something nasty in the woodshed that he’d rather not show us. Well now we know what’s been stowed away at the bottom of his garden and it’s not pretty: Grant Shapps has been making several names for himself through some – how shall I put it? – very iffy sounding business ventures. You can find a good run down of what’s come to light so far here but the short version is that Shapps has been engaged in some legal-yet-dicey sounding practices that don’t exactly have the invigorating whiff of propriety about them.

Now, should a veil of suspicion ever envelope my life, I’m guessing I’d probably hole up for a while, issue a few statements about how the allegations were pure claptrap and wait for things to blow over, but oh no… Not old Shappsy. No, he’s got a better idea: Why not put myself in front of a braying mob comprised of worked-up Brummies and political enemies? Yup, that sounds like a winner.

Luckily for Schappso the whole Michael Green line of attack was a bit of a busted flush as it didn’t get its own question and ended up being shoehorned in by Dimbers towards the back-end of the show. Naturally, it wasn’t an edifying spectacle, watching him try to laugh it all off whilst everyone else formed an orderly queue to have a pop, but it could have been worse. Much, much worse. This, however, is not to say that last night was in any sense a victory because it wasn’t. Far from it in fact. No, what happened was that the threat of the Michael Green question emerging was enough to put the zap on Shapps and what we got was an hour of the muted twitchiness that haunts a man who knows his fate all too well.

So what is to be done about it? Well, I’m no expert but if I was the Shappsarino, maybe I’d start thinking about knocking this whole ‘politician’ thing on the head. Ok, so for a while you looked like something new and shiny but that’s the problem with shiny new things: They tarnish easily. Don’t worry though… If it all goes completely pear-shaped we can tap up this guy I’ve heard about. He can turn $200 into $20,000. Michael Green, I think his name was…

I was genuinely looking forward to Caroline Flint being on…

Here she is, Ol’ Flinty McFlinterson, a panelist who has grown on me quite considerably over the years. Now I’ve been pretty hard on Flinters in the past, mainly based on the fact that she had a habit of getting into avoidable scraps that had a tendency to go very sideways very quickly, but what has always endeared her to me is that no matter how badly Ol’ Flinty got mauled, she’d always dust herself off, spit out a few broken teeth and then carry on as if she had nary a scratch on her. The other reason I was looking forward to her appearance was how self-evidently stoked she’s been to have first dibs on beasting Shapps – stoked to the point that she’d taken to winding him up on Twitter earlier in the week. ‘My,’ I thought, ‘how well this bodes’.

Alas, as mentioned earlier, the whole Shapps Shenanigans went off half cocked (partly because Flint had been so obviously dying to stick the boot in that she fluffed her lines) but the rest of her performance was solid. Ok, so she overplayed her hand a couple of times near the start and the Sword of Damocles hanging over Shapps’ made it a slightly uneven playing field but the message – that the Tories don’t care – was direct, effective and well received. On top of that, her bit on abortion was great and was also the moment when she finally found her pace. That’s the big tell with Flint, the pace. When she’s anxious or blagging the tempo goes up, but at that moment last night she was 100% on the level. And ‘on the level’ gets points…

I’m never sure which Simon Hughes we’ll be getting…

So come on then, which Simon Hughes is it this week? The self-loathing, long dark night of the soul Simon Hughes who can’t square the circle of trading principles for power, or the bloodied-but-unbowed, from my cold dead hands Simon Hughes who doggedly defends the foxhole of Social Democracy to the last round? Happily, it was mostly the latter, what with him getting all hot under the collar about Housing Benefit and having the odd to-do with Shapps , but there was still this sense that the last two years have really taken their toll. Don’t get me wrong, the resolve is clearly still there and he looked much better than some of his recent outings (there have been times when I’ve thought of ringing the Samaritans on his behalf) but I can’t help thinking that deep down, he’s flagging. Of all the Lib Dems, he’s had one of the most ideologically wrenching experiences with the coalition and bit-by-bit, it’s chipping away at him.

Still, he’s in better shape than I expected and that’s good because I’m really rather fond of Simon Hughes. Yeah, I know, he’s got the air of a man who’s out to atone for some unspecified thing that probably wasn’t his fault but I think he probably is a genuinely decent guy who’s in politics for the right reasons. And it’s not very often that I get to say that…

Lovely Benjamin is lovely…

I usually have a go at Benjamin Zephaniah because he’s always just so close to getting it right but never quite makes it. On the face of it, it’s all there: He’s a very gentle yet eloquent guy who knows about people and can convince them to listen to him. However, the problem in the past has always been that he’s rubbish at homework. So many times I’ve sat here going “Come on son! Get in there!” as he hits the nail on the head at the start of a question only to see him stall halfway through when he realises he hasn’t got much to follow-up with. We got a little bit of that tonight and there were instances where he was clearly playing for time, but by and large it was pretty good. I will say this though: His hair is a total nightmare to cut out in Photoshop.

I’m still very ‘meh’ about Cristina Odone…

Here’s the thing: I don’t actively dislike Cristina Odone. We have different views but at least she thinks them through. No, my problem With Cristina Odone is that I wouldn’t like to be stuck in a lift with her. Why? Because she just has this look she sometimes pulls that says very clearly ”This was your fault”. I can see it all so vividly now… Me and Cristina in the lift. A sudden jolt. It stops. Then… That look…

This was your fault”.

Nah. Sorry Cristina, but it just puts the jibblies up me. No shame in your QT performance though.

The Crowd.

Well, I gotta say that this wasn’t what I was expecting. I dunno, maybe I was all strung out on Shappsenfreude and got too greedy but I was hoping for a right bloodbath. That’s not to say it was bad because it wasn’t. The panel was mostly strong, the crowd were vocal and if I were the Tories, I would be more than a little concerned. However, the entirely-appropriate-yet-grimly-consensual nature of the first question sort of nixed the fight in everyone and that critical mass of anger/mischief that was needed to turn this into a great show was never really achieved. Still, kudos to the girl who was wearing half a dead peacock on each ear lobe. At least she tried…

Tl;dr

Shapps: 4/10

Cowed

Flint: 8/10

(Has reason to be) Proud

Hughes: 6/10

Ploughed (relentlessly on)

Zephaniah: 7/10

(Is) Allowed (around my house whenever he wants)

Odone: 5/10

(Can, at times, be) Loud

The Crowd: 6/10

(Live – on average – 61.4 miles away from) Stroud

So there you go… A nice, even spread of points for a fairly evenly spread show. Now I know what your thinking – ‘Where’s the other goddamn pshop?’. Well, I had a lovely (if slightly creepy) .gif of Tim Farron all set up and ready to go but as you may have noticed, he didn’t end up being on. However, what I do have is this rather saucy pin-up of Dimbers that should just fill the gap (see Fig. 1) and was rather fun to make. I don’t know why but there’s always a certain thrill to applying make-up to an old man’s face.

dimbleby pinup

Fig. 1

Right, it’s 3am, one of my eyes has decided that it no longer wants to remain open and the cats are demanding the sofa back. Time for me to go…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #10


questionable time 10 david dimbleby sheepGood morning Lemmings and just how the bloody hell are you all? Now, if you happened to be taken unawares by such an uncharacteristically upbeat intro into what is normally a weekly venting of bile then hold on to your hats because there’s more where that came from: Yes Lemmings, I can officially announce that I am in a Good Mood today. Ok, ok, I know you guys don’t usually come to this corner of the internet for the good vibes (for they tend to be few) but I have awoken this morning with a song in my heart and a spring in my step. Why? Well maybe it’s down to the fact that I’ve got my first week off in what seems like forever coming up soon, maybe it’s because that after a month of hardware woes I’ve finally cajoled my PC into playing nicely with Battlefield 3 but largely I think it’s a consequence of last night’s episode being pretty a solid offering. Alright, so it wasn’t exactly an epic that will be remembered for generations to come but it was a sturdy encounter that went a fair way to making up for last week’s Snoozefest-upon-Tyne.

I guess the first reason why I found this episode quietly pleasing was that both of the Westminster representatives present (the Blue Team’s ever-so-slightly spivvy Grant Shapps and the Red Team’s ever-so-slightly menacing Chris Bryant) were actually really well matched. Now, these two have a fair bit in common given that although relatively new to the scene, both have been putting in the QT hours of late and the pair of them are also proving to be have a certain aptitude for TV based knockabouts. In the case of Shapps this is largely down to the fact that he’s got quite a perky delivery that fits his youthful appearance without making him look like a complete n00b. He also seems to be quite normal for a Tory frontbencher and although he can get quite fired up on the entrepreneurial juices of Thatcherism (last night’s veneration of YTS schemes being a case in point), at least he’s largely untainted by the whiff of privilege that emanates from some of his fruitier colleagues. Bryant, by contrast, is a very different kettle of fish and while Shapp’s presentation speaks of a fairly straightforward life of steady progression, Bryant’s alludes to one of drama and struggle. Whatever these drama’s may have been (and given his backstory – a gay priest who left the clergy on account of his sexuality – there have probably been a few) they seem to have left him with an instinct-driven, predatory disposition that is fascinating to watch: You can see his eyes dart about, scanning the horizon for signs of weakness in foes or danger to his person whilst his posture always seems to be that of a cat waiting to pounce.

This is not to say that either are without their flaws though, what with Shapps still not able to quite shake off that lingering air of smugness that marred his last performance and Bryant’s repeated use of proforma anecdotes (they usually go something like this: Rhonda → Constituents → Issue at hand → Saw my Mum → Something bad happened) making for slightly jarring interludes, but on the whole it was largely satisfying to watch the upper hand to-and-from between them and in fairness to both they managed to keep the party political bits to an acceptable level of torridness. Good show chaps.

So that was all well and good but the real main event for me was Simon Jenkins, a man I have an inexplicable brain crush on. Here’s why:

  1. Simon Jenkins cares not two-hoots what either you, I or Christ himself thinks about anything. You’ve got an opinion? Bully for you. Simon Jenkins also has one and it’s forceful. His opinion is going to beat up your opinion and there’s nothing you can do about it.
  2. His face is terrifying in HD, what with all those gullies and crevices that look like they’ve been hewn by tiny glaciers. He also has the most threatening smile I’ve ever seen and one that’s permanently affixed to his fortress of a face. It’s the sort of smile that Killer Whales have just before they mess up some penguins.
  3. He has an entertaining tendency to suddenly blurt out so-crazy-that-they-just-might-work ideas like abolishing the armed forces in their entirety. The fact that they are so-crazy-they-definitely-won’t-work is neither here nor there, but just knowing that he can just pull these little gems from nowhere is entirely great (see Fig. 1)

 

simon-jenkins-david-dimbleby-kill-everyone-animated-gif

Fig. 1

Sadly, Jenkins didn’t call for Wales to be nuked off the face of the planet last night but he did put on a formidable display of wilful contrariness. Ban smoking in cars? Pah! How about I smoke you and then run you over in my car! Intervene in Syria? Get the hell outta here, yer bum! Build more wind farms? From my cold, dead hands I CAN KILL MY KIDS IF I WANT TO!

And that’s just fine in my book as although I usually disagree with Jenkins, I just really like the fact that he can’t even be bothered to pretend he cares what anyone else thinks. It’s pigheadedness, but in the best possible way.

The same, however, cannot be said for Will Hutton, a man who always has some very important news to deliver and cares desperately that we should care desperately about whatever that news is. As is usually the case, these dire warnings pertained to the economy and as is also usual, I think he’s right: I think we are completely stuffed if we carry on doing what we’re doing. But here’s the thing that separates Hutton from Jenkins: While I’m usually onboard with what he’s saying, I just can never seem to fully get behind him. It might be because he is so consumed (to the point where he jumps up and down in his seat) by these visions of despair that he does appear a little mad, it might be because he always looks like he’s wearing lip liner but there’s always just something in the way of me hitching my wagon to the Hutton train. Jenkins? He can come up with any old crap and I’ll happily lap it up but Hutton? I don’t know. Maybe next time he’s on he should just say “You know what guys? Everything’s going to be just fine.” and see where that gets him, but yes, I do find the cognitive dissonance that he leaves me experiencing to be quite perplexing.

Right, I was going to do the audience now but I’ve realised I’ve forgotten that Plaid’s Elin Jones was also on the panel last night. Truth be told, this is probably because it was quite a forgettable performance and what fragments I can remember largely revolve around her talking about Wales type things that have no bearing on my life. So yes, her appearance was of no great import and I now feel bad for constantly bitching about Elfyn Llwyd always being on the Welsh episodes. At least he has a memorable moustache.

So finally to the crowd and what a rum old bunch they were this week, cheering and booing in equal measure whilst still making the time to allow a few have-a-go heroes to get very hot under the collar (as exemplified by the gentlemen with hair made of straw who went on an entirely epic rant about Evil Monetarists). However, the most important thing that they taught me last night was this: Should I ever be invited to a fancy dress party in Aberystwyth I should not, repeat not, go dressed as a wind turbine (as I have always intended to, should the opportunity arise). Those people, they get a little crazy about the things. Almost as if they were… tilting… at windmills.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH, I’LL BE HERE ALL WEEK. ENJOY THE VEAL!

Tl;dr

Shapps: 7/10

Is a male…

Bryant: 7/10

Hit many a nail (on the head)…

Jenkins: 8/10

Blew a gale…

Hutton: 6/10

Set sail (on the Ship of Woe)…

Jones: 4/10

Pretty much failed…

The Crowd: 7/10

Are from Wales…

So there you go: A perfectly serviceable outing that whilst not blisteringly relevant was still entertaining and has put me in a buoyant mood. I’m a simple creature at heart…. All it takes to keep me happy is the spectacle of an angry rabble berating our elected representatives once a week. Granted, it’s not the most exotic vice but it’s a damn sight cheaper than crack.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

chris bryant david dimbleby

Apologies to Chris Bryant... I just couldn't help myself...

Questionable Time #4


questionable time 4 david dimblebyGood morning Lemmings and welcome to another instalment of Questionable Time, this week brought to us by the seemingly sunstroked denizens of Liverpool. Now, I realise that our national character leads us to become a little giddy when faced with the prospect of unseasonably clement weather but I wasn’t quite prepared for just how unhinged we can be in the face of elevated temperatures until I watched last night’s show, seething pit of madness that it was. I also can’t help but feel a little sorry for the Labour party who (much like the Lib Dems last week) found their conference thunder stolen by a villain no less mundane than the possibility of driving 10mph faster on the motorway. Seriously Britain, have we not bigger fish to fry? Anyway, I’m sure we’ll come to that a little later on so in the meantime, let’s get this show on the road (at the current speed limit of 70mph).

Right, first victim tonight is Grant Shapps, Housing Secretary and a man whose constant, low-key gesticulation makes him look like he’s forever playing with an invisible Rubik’s Cube (see Fig. 1). Although relatively new to Question Time, Shapps seems to be getting the hang of it rather quickly and actually looks quite comfortable nestled between his mortal enemies/esteemed coalition partners on the panel and this, it would be logical to conclude, can only be a good thing, right? Well, yes and no. On the one hand it means that he doesn’t feel the need like some of the newer intake to stick his oar in to absolutely any two-bit point going (as is the case for many a Question Time rooky) but there’s something else I noticed about him this week that takes the sheen off this otherwise virtuous trait: He’s already getting a taste for applause.

grant-shapps-rubiks-cube

Fig. 1

Now, the very fact that a fresh-faced Tory minister can garner a few claps in Liverpool is an achievement in itself and one that was usually the result of skirmishing with Caroline Flint (who is quite a tough cooky when it comes to Question Timing), but it’s what he does with those claps that bothers me as his primary response to applause seems to be to look a little, well, pleased with himself in a ‘Look Mum, didn’t I do well’ sort of way. I realise that sounds churlish as after all, he earned those claps but he is sailing very close to the Line of Smugness right now and unless he starts to crowbar some humility in there (however faux it may be), he will run the risk of becoming annoying. So how should he respond? Well, there’s a few schools of thought here, ranging from the Warsi-esque Continue To Shout Relentlessly Over The Applause approach to the Look Wild Eyed And Visibly Pissed Off manouevre favoured by the likes of Mehdi Hassan. Personally speaking though, I’m a fan of the Shirley Williams technique: Look Unmoved Yet Regal and Imposing. Granted, this is a tricky one when you look so young that you’d get asked for ID when buying paracetamol but the blueprint is fundamentally sound. It’s worth a punt Grant as while you may well have the right to look tickled pink, too much self-satisfaction can only lead to people wanting you to look punched black and blue. Not a bad performance though.

Right, Red Team next and here comes Caroline Flint, Shadow Communities Minister and someone I feel slightly sorry for on account of the number of search queries I get for the term ‘Caroline Flint naked’. Let me assure you, she’s pretty unique in this respect and I’m not exactly drowning in a sea of ‘Ken Clarke naked’ searches. Ickiness aside, Flint was quite interesting last night as for the first half of the show she looked genuinely at ease and I’m chalking this up to the fact that following Miliband’s conference speech she no longer feels the need to unconditionally defend every aspect of New Labour’s time in office. For example, had this been a year ago she would have been all a-bristle and jumping down the throats of anyone who dared question the merit of the Blair/Brown government’s yet last night she seemed much more mellow and even hinted at that New Labour might have got some stuff wrong (shock horror). This isn’t to say that she wasn’t without edge and she did use pretty much every opportunity to have a go at the Tories, but it wasn’t quite as visceral as it has been in the past.

So, it was all well and good, right? Flint no longer feels haunted by the ghosts of Labour’s past and can stride confidently into the sunlit uplands of Militopia without even breaking a sweat? Erh, no. Going on last night’s performance she’s having real trouble getting her head around exactly what New Old Purple Blue Labour is and it was actually left to Peter Oborne of all people to do the heavy lifting on Miliband’s behalf. And that’s the problem with Flint: She’s very good tactically, tough as nails and capable of sustaining damage that would destroy other panelists. However, when it comes to the strategic picture she’s all at sea and often seems incapable of fully articulating what it actually is that she stands for. Still, she could always go on naked. From what I hear, there’s a market out there for that sort of thing.

Moving on to the Yellow Team we have Tim Farron, President of the Liberal Democrats and a man who last night popped his QT cherry. Now there’s something I instinctively like about Farron in that he’s clearly a born trouble maker who’s making absolutely no effort to disguise the fact he really can’t abide being in coalition. That makes a nice change from the usual earnest hand wringing we’ve seen of late and the fact that he has no problem in nailing some fairly crimson colours to the mast is also refreshing. However, like Shapps, he also suffers from an undercurrent of latent smugness and despite the fact that it should be fairly easy for someone bigging up the virtues of social housing to turn a quick applause buck in Liverpool, the going for him was tougher than it should have been last night. Most of this was down to his unrepentantly pro-European stance but he also threatened to drag the show into the realm of farce at one point when he tried to make a convoluted and not entirely brilliant point about “sheep tagging”. I’ll leave it to your imaginations to figure out how that was interpreted by the audience but needless to say, it didn’t go quite the way he intended. So bad luck there Tim. Next time try bringing up a reference to ‘snow jobs’ or the importance of ‘rowlock safety’. That’s bound to work.

Ok, that’s the politicos done but it is with heavy heart that I introduce the first of tonight’s civilians: Janet Street-Porter, a woman whose sole aim in life is to scream the reason out of any debate. Last night we had the dubious pleasure of her railing variously against Europe, Labour and (of course) men, but it was the crowd’s reaction that vexed me as they heaped applause on her despite the fact that nothing she said made a lick of sense. You see, I’ve been exposed to such repeated and heavy doses of JSP in the past that I can deal with the fact that her vocal chords are only capable of making white noise and that her proposed solution to most problems is to line the male population against a wall and shoot them but what I can’t get my head round is why anyone else would go along with it. It just puts me into a flat spin of anguish and shakes my faith in humanity to its very core. I really hope I’m not alone in thinking this because if I am, then the game is truly up and the end is nigh. Surely I am not the only one who looks upon her works and despairs?

Ughh… Enough on JSP as I can take no more. Happily though, our final panelist is a doozy and one that I was secretly hoping would be on the roster after his wanton display of unreasonableness on Wednesday’s Newsnight. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you Peter Oborne, columnist-of-note and all round mentalist. Never one to shy away from controversy, Oborne lost no time in taking the seemingly innocuous speed limit question and turning it into a call to arms for the repeal of pretty much every law and the dissolution of Europe. But he wasn’t done with Europe yet, not by a long shot and he was soon able to piggyback on the anti-EU comments of an audience member, denouncing the project as “brutal”. The crowd went totally bananas with that comment, applauding him to the rafters and showering him with praise. However, none of them were prepared for what happened next and I’m pretty sure that it was the most comprehensive reversal of fortunes I’ve witnessed in nearly two years of covering Question Time. The first indication that his star was on the wane came when he effortlessly segued from damning Europe to calling Thatcher “a great woman”. As he happened to utter these fateful words in Liverpool it came as no surprise that the mood turned from one of jubilation to that of lynch mob but what was surprising was how little he cared about this turn of events. No, instead of backing off he then went on to describe Thatcher as “compassion itself”, a phrase that can get you sectioned if you’re north of the Severn-Wash line. Predictably, this lead to a torrent of heckles and the most comprehensive booing I’ve seen for some years but did he care? Did he cobblers.

So that was pretty exciting, but it was also very much in character as we all know that Oborne is a man who goes in for Euro Damning/Thatcher Venerating. What I wasn’t expecting however was his answer to the Miliband speech question. So far as I was concerned, this was going to be a pretty standard exercise in scorn pouring but in actual fact it turned out to be quite the opposite: He loved Miliband’s speech! Well, that pretty much finished me off and by the time the credits were rolling my whole world had been turned upside down. So well done Peter Oborne, you may be pathologically contrary old hack who couldn’t give two hoots about who you offend but by golly are you entertaining. Big marks for you and your complete disregard for social approval.

Alright, so that was the panel and all that’s left is the audience, odd bunch that they were. My first reaction to this lot was one of unmitigated gloom when it turned out that the first question was neither the existential financial crisis nor the seismic shifts currently taking place in the Labour party and was in fact all about the speed limit. Unsurprisingly, that made for the most tepid of debates and I was on verge of writing them off on the basis of that folly. However, they did pull things around and when it came to the meatier issues they did prove to be a vocal – if mercurial – lot. Like Birmingham’s audience last week, they went in for an awful lot of random clapping (so much so that I couldn’t really figure out which of the politicians actually won the day) but at least they had the saving grace of seeming to actually believe in something, even if that something was that they still very much hated Thatcher. They were also rowdy enough to provide the ideal foil for Oborne’s panto villain and to that end, I’m grateful. However, I would like to address the question raised by one lady as to whether you “can be a Eurosceptic and Pro-European?”. The answer to that is ‘no’. Because it would be stupid.

Schapps: 6/10

Good enough

Flint: 6/10

Tough

Farron: 6/10

Up to snuff

JSP: 3/10

Duff

Oborne: 7/10

Gruff

The Crowd: 6/10

Acceptable stuff

And that’s you’re lot. I’m off to continue torturing myself with the Battlefield 3 Beta: There’s a great game in there somewhere but I just wish the damn thing would stop lagging so I could at least have a chance of finding it. Ah, the joys of beta rage…

Next Week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #26


Awww crap.....

Good morning Lemmings and just what, may I ask, is that fishy odour, wafting it’s way from the Blue Corner this evening? Why, it’s hyperactive Tory foghorn Baroness Warsi’s non-appearance! That’s right Lemmings, after making some rather lurid allegations of electoral fraud in the New Statesman, way after the deadline had passed when anything could be done about it, Warsi is nowhere to be seen on this episode. According to BBC Look North, my local news and official mouthpiece of Yorkshire Nationalism, Warsi was unable to attend tonight on account of being “sick”. Hmmmmm, not wanting to sound like cynic or anything, but that does sound rather convenient, given her proven track record of biting off more than she can chew on Question Time. But hey, what do I know?

Right, enough of this green inkery and off to Manchester with us before I start fashioning elaborate headwear out of tin foil.

The Menu

Q1: Is Labour now in the pocket of the unions since they backed Ed Miliband?

Q2: Is Ed Miliband the Labour equivalent of IDS?

Q3: Does David Miliband’s decision not to return to front bench politics undermine his brother’s leadership?

Q4: Does the IMF’s approval of Osborne’s plan mean that Ed Miliband has lost the economic argument?

Q5: Should the UK and France share their nuclear deterrent?

In The Yellow Bit Of The Blue Yellow Corner: Simon Hughes, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats and potential troublemaker of note.
“Ah ha!” thought I. “This will be fun! Another left leaning Lib Dem who’s going to do a crap job at hiding his disdain for all things coalition and thus paint himself into multiple corners!”. Given that Vince Cable looked like a man with toothache trying to eat a gravel sandwich as he wearily tried to pretend he was deeply enamoured with The New Politics last week, I was pretty much sure that Hughes would make a complete botch of this, particularly as he’s been appointed de facto Head Boy of the Lib Dem Awkward Squad. In fact, I positively needed him to bugger this up because he’s quite hard to poke fun at. Ok, so he’s a bit wooly and ‘Right On, yeah?’ in a very Lib Dem sort of way, but this is somewhat offset by the fact that he’s very sincere and genuinely seems to care about stuff that matter. All of this is very good news for politics, but incredibly bad news if you write a blog about Question Time that has to include a certain compulsory level of ‘funny’. Even photoshopping in some ridicule is pretty hard with him and the best I could do was to merely caption this shot of him punching a pensioner in the chest whilst smiling in a caddish fashion (see Fig. 1).

Pow!

Fig. 1

Ok, so I did airbrush out the pensioner’s hand that he happened to be holding at the time, but even so, he’s a hard man to mock. With this backdrop, the crux of my plan was to hope that Hughes would do the same thing that Cable did: Try to pretend he was a convert to the new orthodoxy whilst sounding completely unconvincing and thus come across like a devil sick of sin and provide me with a whole bunch of stuff to take the piss out of. Unfortunately for me, Hughes didn’t and in fact sounded like a proper, pre-election LibDem who barely noticed that his party was in government with the Tories. There were a few exceptions here and there, such as when he got all IMF happy in Q4 and rattled off numbers whilst invoking ‘interest payments’ (and throwing an odd little reference to when he couldn’t get cash out of an ATM), but never did the word ‘Greece’ pass his lips. In fact, the vast bulk of his answer sounded like he properly meant them, such as actually admitting that he quite liked the unions in Q1 and his fairly level-headed assessment of Ed Miliband’s problems in Q2 (“He’s not new. He’s part of the old government”. Fair play). Some of his more familiar “Diversity FTW!” posturings where on display in Q3 where he relished the opportunity to list all the un-PC things he was against, but it was in Q5 where he decisively hammered his Lib Dem colours to the mast. Rather than engage in the de rigueur coalition talk of ‘compromise’ and such, he went straight in for the kill, damning Trident for being dependent on American support and urging the country to lobby against it. After swimming in a sea of fudged boundaries and fuzzy borders since the coalition came about, this was like music to my ears: Politics I understand.

In pure performance terms, Hughes was neither here nor there on this episode. It was generally good, decent stuff but nothing that earth shattering and if the context was different, I’d probably chuck him some fairly average marks. However, it was impossible for me to watch Hughes without inevitably comparing him to Cable the week before and in this respect, it was a triumph. So well done Baldy, you’ve proved there still is such a thing as the Liberal Democrat party.

A welcome return of old certainties: 7/10
In The Red Corner: Dianne Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and eternal backbencher.
OK, I admit it, I’m all Abbotted out. Appearing twice in the space of seven shows was bad enough, but three times in the space of nine is just too much, especially after five solid months of exposure after the leadership contest. I realise that it would have been pretty hard for Labour to decide who to send on, given that they haven’t got a clue who’s in any given job right now, but come on, it would have at least been more entertaining if they’d sent David Miliband on, even if only to weep uncontrollably and tell people off for clapping throughout the show. So here we are today and the well is dry. My stockpile of funny is depleted and google images yields little of use. You’ve beaten me Dianne, beaten me to a bloody pulp by dint of your repeat QT offending. You win, I lose, let’s make this quick.

On the whole, it was textbook Abbott with plenty of New Labour condemning and Tory scolding frontal assaults, all wrapped in the maternity dress of casual informality. Her support for Ed Miliband sounded genuine throughout, her bouts of slapping Starkey went down well and it’s fair to say that the crowd were generally on board with her for most of her responses. All of which is pretty much exactly what happened when she was on two weeks ago (apart from the Ed Miliband bit. That would have been really stupid) and to be honest, I can’t quite muster the energy to go over the same old ground again.

So that’s it, Abbott. No offence to you, but I think we need to stop seeing each other for a while, hang out with other people, that sort of thing. In the meantime, I suggest that you get some photos of yourself pulling silly faces circulated around the web as there’s only so many times I can face-switch you with Marx.

A very familiar 6/10

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Grant Shapps, Minister of State for Housing and Local Government, QT Lamb to the Slaughter and JustWhoInTheHellExactly?
OK, so Warsi couldn’t attend, but seriously, who is this guy? Visually speaking, he seems like some genetic experiment that went horribly wrong as mad scientists tried to splice the DNA of Clegg, Cameron and Blair whilst tweaking his facially genes so that the only expression his face is capable of rendering is an intensely annoying smirk. OK, so maybe that’s a little a harsh and a trawl through his Wikipedia page does show that he might not be such as bad guy as he spent Christmas Eve 2008 sleeping rough in order to highlight the plight of homeless (something I have yet to see from any of his genetic donors) and he is the cousin of the sainted Mick Jones. But this is Question Time so past good deeds count for nothing while performance on the night counts for everything. So what of his performance? Well, the words ‘depth’, ‘his’ and ‘out of’ are the first ones that spring to mind and it has been quite some time since I’ve observed such a cruel hazing on the show. Observe, if you will.

Q1 started inauspiciously enough as he tried some preliminary skirmishing on the union front, but he quickly ended up in a sticky situation as he said that Ed Miliband would totally swing to the left. “What?” said Dimbers and Cox in commanding unison, knocking him right off-balance and he retreated in a babble of wibbled guff. Q2 contained little worth repeating while Q3 saw him squirming again as he proudly affirmed his Jewishness before getting into a right old tangle when Dimbers enquired whether he practices on not. Unsure as to what the best sounding answer would be, he flapped about before changing the subject and then excitedly claiming that he had “backed Ed Miliband’s campaign”. Whatever works for you, Grant. Coming into the finishing stretch, he made up for Simon Hughes’ unforgivable failure to mention Greece when the deficit issue arose and he lost little time in doing exactly that in Q4 before finally blathering something about the coalition agreement in Q5. In a word, ‘n00bish’.

Alright, so it was the guy’s first time on and he had been called in at short notice, so I do have some sympathy for his plight, but the enduring image I am left with of his performance is of Cox and Abbott shoving his head down a toilet and demanding him to surrender his dinner money. Grant, you need to wise up. Question Time is a rough school and unless you want to spend the rest of your days walking around with ‘Kick Me’ signs stuck to your back, I’d start seriously thinking about learning how to kick people in the knackers.

A decidedly Year 7 3/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Brian Cox, perenial movie bad guy and avowed Labour supporter.
My first reaction to seeing Brian Cox on tonight’s show was one of “Fuck! FUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!”. It’s not that I’ve got anything against the guy, it’s just that when I did the photoshops for this episode it was Wednesday evening and I was expecting Brian Cox, particle physics heart-throb and ex-keyboard player of D:Ream to be on instead. As a result, this week’s title picture looks somewhat bizarre as I didn’t have time to take that Brian Cox out and had to slap the other one in at very short notice. I can only work with what I’ve got, OK? Anyhoo, if I had known it was the actor Brian Cox, I wouldn’t have had any strong opinions either way as all I know about him is that he’s a bit of a thesp who tends to play Nasty Brits in Hollywood films. That though, was before I saw the magical chemistry between him and Starkey and by ‘magical chemistry’, I’m not talking about the ‘love at first sight’ kind. I’m talking about the ‘Uranium 235’ kind.

Take Q2, for example. After a fairly rabid outpouring from Starkey about Ed Miliband, Cox was right up in his grill, calling him “corrupt” and telling him that his “sense of theatre is ridiculous”. The crowd loved that and despite numerous counters from Starkey, he emerged the victor. He also gave him a clip round the ear hole in Q4, reminding him that it wasn’t “the 50’s any more” before having a final nuke related to-do on Q5. So that was all good fun, knockabout stuff, although it has to be said that both of them looked genuinely pissed off with each other. The rest of Cox’s input was pretty good as well, leaning heavily to the left, but done with enough gravitas to not sound overly zealous. I did get a little annoyed when he sounded a little too high and mighty on one poverty related line, but yeah, by and large, it was good stuff.

So well done Brian, good job there. Now to arrange a five way between him, Starkey, Farage, Douglas Murray and Vorderman. A man can dream.

A pleasingly anti-Starkey 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: David Starkey, flambouent Tudorphile and avowed Tory supporter.
Hooray! Starkey’s back! Part shrieking Grande Dame, part petulant teenager, Starkey is simultaneously one of the most irritating people on earth and one of the most entertaining, the balance of which depends heavily on the company he’s keeping at the time. Noted for disagreeing with anything that doesn’t smack of full-blown autocracy/return to the Days of Empire, Starkey really needs someone else on the show to be able to stand up to him, otherwise he just looks like a nutter shouting at the sky for being too fat or accusing the moon of stealing his newspaper. Luckily for all involved, Brian Cox filled this role amply well and made a whole stack of hay by calling bullshit on Queen Starkey’s (see Fig. 2) many and varied accusations, a few of which I have listed below.

quees

Queen Starkey

Fig. 2

The Miliband/Kinnock Axis of Evil will be the “kiss of death” for Labour. “I adore it” proclaims Queen Starkey.

Ed Miliband is guilty of “fratricide”, New Labour are like “Richard III murdering his nephews” and Brian Cox is “naive”.

The unions will inflict “profound strife” on us all and Miliband has already shown “astonishing personal brutality”.

Cuts should be “fast and ruthless” and he really doesn’t like Ed Balls (he even told off the audience for clapping him as he still had more bile to pour on him).

The French are self-centred, selfish bastards who shouldn’t be trusted.

So there we go. Another restrained show of reason and subtlety from the ever moderate Professor Starkey. And I wouldn’t have it any other way as although he may be completely off his tits, it is a deeply engrossing display of high camp, spat dummies and frothy outbursts. Neither was he without support and he did manage to coin in quite a bit of applause on Q4, much though this quietly worries me. I guess the bottom line is that you know where you are with Starkey. He comes in a tin that says “Caution: Product contains dangerous levels of absurdity” and providing you’re in the right company, that can be kind of fun.

A blathering, incoherent 7/10

The Crowd: Manchester

I was totally into this episode. Politically speaking it was no great shakes, but in terms of pantomime action, especially at the Cox/Starkey end of the spectrum, it was delightfully unhinged. The crowd also did well, mucking in and adding to a fairly raucous atmosphere where it was hard to pick out who was cheering for what. Furthermore, there were quite a few audience members who stood out, including a very young man in a waist coat and bow tie (which captivated me so much that I didn’t hear what he said), a fully decked out member of the clergy and a girl with the loudest voice in the world. However, Audience Member of Note goes to the poser of the first question, purely on account of his name: Roman Fox Hunter. Here it is again in bold. Roman Fox Hunter. That’s made my week.

A giddy 8/10

Right. All done. Good show. Just enough time to squeeze in a few turns of Civ 5? There’s always enough time to squeeze in a few turns of Civ 5. Laters, Lemmings.


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