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…


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