Posts Tagged 'Ian Hislop'

Questionable Time #128


qt 128

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to Questionable Time, lackadaisical from Leeds! Not much else to say other than we’ll shortly be forming a coalition with Scottish Questionable Time. Look forward to our posts detailing the beauty of Glasgow. After all, they’ll be conveniently bite-sized!

Equip defence +2 shield

We get down to serious business straight away with a question on that most glamourous of topics: defence spending. Lucy Powell hesitantly takes to the stand. She’s Labour’s election campaign head honcho, so generally a behind-the-scenes person, and nice as she may well be you can definitely tell that she’s not entirely comfortable being in the spotlight to begin with. She stiltedly splutters out some stuff about ARE BRAVE BOYS and the whole mess being the fault of that nasty Georgie Porgie in Number 11.

Anna Soubry, on the other hand, comes out punching. Anna – Chortles or Miss Jolly Hockey Sticks 2015 to regular readers – is a QT regular and often seems to be experiencing some kind of perverse glee during her performances on the programme. At least, she did in this one. We’re the same, you and I, she says sternly, taunting Lucy while at the same time fending off occasional snarking from Ian Hislop, who is there to pull faces. Labour would only lead you down one road, she warns, in her fearsome turtleneck: the path of chaos! It’s got dog turds strewn all over it!

Ian finally forms a full sentence, warbling for the panel to stop with ‘the party politicals’. Pfuh, he pfuhs. This is basically the extent of his contributions tonight. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Private Eye and Ian too, but he is admittedly very easy to take the piss out of, looking like a frustrated adult baby who is perplexed by the corruptness of his rattle.

The deep and meaningful questions continue with everyone contemplating the meaning of the word ‘army’. Just what is the army for? What even is an army? We just don’t know. Possibly killing people, I’d wager. Then a sudden, worryingly Australian voice pops up from the abyss. It’s Natalie Bennett, still bruised from her disastrous interview that I don’t even want to think about anymore for more than five seconds for fear of cringing myself inside out again.

Get rid of the nukes! she says, apropos of nothing. Dimbles helpfully grills her on the most important issue at hand here, an old policy of army bases possibly being turned into nature reserves. Everybody laughs, but they could be on to something here. Why don’t we have both? Why not let ARE BRAVE BOYS frolic amidst the begonias while whacking passing deer in the head as combat practice? Meanwhile, visitors can have a picnic and enjoy the scenic sights and imminent threat of death. It’s the perfect plan.

(Meanwhile, holy shit, Charles Kennedy looks tired. Are you okay, Charlie? He must be worried about losing his seat. Poor thing. He’s like an endangered and lovable tapir.)

Gurnalition

Next up: would a Labour-SNP coalition be a betrayal to Eng-er-landers?

Chortles leaps into action – telling us that this would not just be a betrayal, but the end of the world as we know it. She looks disappointed in you, the audience, and Dimbleby himself, like your Nan telling you off for throwing up on the carpet. I must confess I am somewhat scared of Anna, especially after her being alleged to have sworn at Ed Miliband in the House that alleged one time. Allegedly. Please don’t sue me, Anna. Honestly though, she’s like Batman: the hero Westminster deserves, but not the one it needs right now. Who may put poor Lucy in a headlock.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Lucy ain’t here for that nonsense, however, and reiterates that she and her party want a majority.

“Everybody says that,” replies Dimbles. Ian Hislop leans back and gurns. Anna also gurns, and makes strange hand gestures to boot.

Ian is then kind enough to explain the history of that poster to us: the shadow of the disastrous yaoi manga couple David Owen ‘n’ David Steel looms large, and Ian’s possibly going to sue the Tories for nicking his idea. I imagine they didn’t use Nicola Sturgeon, the actual leader of the SNP, in the poster because Alex Salmond reminds voters of Shrek. He wants England to get out of his swamp.

Charlie, who hasn’t said much yet, finally gets to do a long speech. A Labour-SNP coalition, he says confidently, won’t happen because they hate each other. What, the Tories and the Lib Dems don’t? splutters Ian. A minority government may happen, Charles soldiers on, with a pact in place. I immediately think of the Lib-Lab pact of the 1970s. Then again, look how that turned out…

In conclusion: everyone’s getting betrayed! I’m betrayed! You’re betrayed! YAYYYY! Let’s get pizza.

Natalie pitches to ‘bring the railways back into public pants’. At least that’s what it sounded like, I don’t understand Australian. #no1curr #it’stheeconomystupid, hashtags Anna. Lucy looks into the camera in despair as Natalie keeps going, undeterred, slyly hinting that the Greens may support a Labour minority government on a vote-by-vote basis.

This is all too confusing. That’s why one should vote Labour and throw out any need for more confusion, nods Lucy. That’s the whole gist of her argument, to be honest. Aren’t you glad I summarised it for you?

Then a very rude man in a tosser-like suit attacks Natalie and the Greens for being DIRTY HIPPIES. He probably owns a fedora and posts libertarian memes on 4chan. See, ma, I can stereotype too! Meanwhile, according to other equally snitty members of the audience, it sounds like England and Scotland are on the brink of war. I don’t like where this is going. Let’s move on, to…

Somebody needs to tell these kids that there’s no pizza in Islamic State so what’s the point

ISIS! What fun. Thankfully most of the running time has been exhausted by now. The panel engages in a condemnation-off as opinions range from a) it isn’t up to us to baby your kids, or indeed tap their technology (Ian and Charlie), to b) these girls may have been groomed so be careful not to be too alienating (Natalie), to c) middle-of-the-road-ness (Lucy). Charlie asks what the question was again. I think we can all relate to that.

Thankfully, the audience fills us in as the panel are busy scratching their heads. A woman asks why were these girls, and others like them, not feeling involved and engaged as part of British society? Has it failed them? Uh, I’d guess so. Another woman cries that it’s all well and good to have a conversation about this subject but we need to start getting answers. Ian knows the answers: it’s because of the perception of good and evil. Black and white. Pizza and chips.

Anna surprisingly calms down and has a go at Nigel Farage (we almost managed a whole show without bringing him up!), but then both she and Ian unleash the wrath of another man in the crowd. “Please don’t nod, Conservative lady, because I’m not agreeing with you,” says he. And thus an internet hero was born. Maybe he’ll also get gifted $10,000 by Ellen DeGeneres like the girl who posted the dress meme.

Finally, JEREMY CLARKSON. But only for five minutes!

“Natalie Bennett, are you a petrolhead?” asks Dimbleby. This was a great use of our time. The most important information to arise, though, was Ian Hislop’s frankly alarming revelation that Clarkson drew blood by hitting him with a pen the last time he was on Question Time and Charles Kennedy was there to confirm it. This means that, yes, Jeremy Clarkson may be a vampire. I didn’t expect it at first but in retrospect everything now makes sense.

Chortles signs us off menacingly.

“No presenter is ever bigger than the show,” she leers, looking at Dimbleby. Ready to unleash her punishment.

Charles Kennedy has ceased to care. So say we all. Well, unless you’re one of the half a million who signed that petition, in which case…#chill.

Time for the scores!

Soubry: 7/10

Mean

Powell: 6/10

Wean(ed off her backroomer-ness)

Kennedy: 7/10

(Vented his) Spleen

Bennett: 6/10

Green (machine)

Hislop: 7/10

(Had a mischievous) Gleam (in his eyes)

The Crowd: 7/10

(Throwing eggs at the) Screen

Next time, probably more gurning.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #103


questionable time 103 david dimbleby back tattoo

Good morning Lemmings – actually no, it’s not ‘good morning Lemmings’ at all and more like ‘Bah. Must we do this Lemmings?’ because for some reason last night’s very ill-tempered episode has left me in a thoroughly unpleasant mood. With this in mind, we’re going to dispense with the usual even-handedness, line the panelists up against a wall and make a series of rash decisions as to who’s to blame for the cloud of animosity that’s currently hovering over me. Ready? Let’s do this.

Was it Iain Duncan Smith’s insistence on ruining a perfectly good pshop?

Prior to the show I came up with this (see Fig. 1)…

iain duncan smith dog cone

Fig. 1

…And pretty pleased I was with myself too because it was going to be so easy to fold into the write up: All it would require would be one question about how the Universal Credit programme has gone so spectacularly awry that it’s now been reclassified as a ‘new project’ and that would be it – IDS would put on that face that’s supposed to look ‘appropriately concerned’ but actually comes off as ‘pleading desperately’, Hislop would have a field day and I’d be able to segue into the pshop with a killer line about how the only way you could make him look any more hapless is by sticking one of those dog cones on his head. In fact, so confident was I that this would come to pass that I even had a tweet of the pshop all ready to go during the show, just waiting for his inevitable downfall so that I could press the button and then bask in the satisfaction of all-too-easy victory. But the button was never pressed.

And why was the button never pressed? It was never pressed because a) aside from a few reflex jabs from Bryant and Yaqoob, matters relating to the DWP never really came up and b) he emerged from the rolling to-do with Yaqoob (more on that later) looking rather good. True, there were moments where his trademark brand of Trying To Look Very Cross Indeed But Not Quite Getting It Right (“Do me a favour Salma…”) had the potential to go sideways but so busy was the intemperate traffic between the combatants that it never developed into anything truly cringeworthy.

So here I am with a useless pshop, an unslaked thirst for ministerial blood and an embarrassingly abundant clutch of marks for the man in question. Iain Duncan Smith, I find you partially guilty for buggering up my QT experience and hereby sentence you to read your own novel.

Right, who’s next in the dock?

Was it Salma’s fault or was she stitched up?

So Salma ended up in hot water with the rest of the panel last night but I can’t quite fathom whether she was unjustly martyred or the victim of a kerfuffle of her own design. And why can’t I tell? Because I’ve not got a clue what’s going on with this whole Trojan Horse business – not the merest inkling other than it made for an entertaining intra-cabinet spat and that it just won’t get off the bloody news (however it’s worth pointing out that the arrival of Big Brother has once again lead me to surrender custody of the telly to the Frau Ribs so I haven’t had Newsnight to spoon feed me any ready-made opinions).

Anyway, it went like this: Salma slightly overplayed her hand on the Iraq question – a forgivable offence since she’s the leader of a party that came into being because of the war – and then went on to defend the schools in the Trojan Horse affair. Now I don’t know if she was right or wrong on this matter as it’s a story that just makes my eyes glaze over but the reaction from the rest of the panel was pretty full on and it wasn’t long before I started to get the feeling that they were ganging up on her. That’s rarely a good look but then again, she was having to defend her point so doggedly that I got the feeling they might actually be on to something.

I dunno, it might six-of-one and half-a-dozen-of-the-other but the real problem was that it went on for what seemed like hours and the temperature got so heated that it killed the third question dead in its tracks. Anyone want to talk about British values? No? Shall we just keep shouting at Salma instead? Ok then! Basically, it felt like I was being forced to watch a very long running and involved soap opera that I’d never seen before and to have an opinion on it. For better or worse, right or wrong, I lay the blame for this at Salma’s door and hereby sentence her to a candle lit dinner with George Galloway. Ooph… Rough justice.

Was it Tessa Munt’s… very… very… slow… delivery?

Initially, yes – it was definitely her…very… very… slow (and rather matronly)… delivery that had me all out of a kilter but I ended up warming to her, mainly because she seems pretty genuine and in it for the right reasons. Granted, ‘genuine’ and ‘the right reasons’ tend not to make for the most electrifying QT performances (for that you want ‘mendacious’ and ‘entirely the wrong reasons’) but I feel that they mitigated some of the grief caused by her rather ponderous vocal stylings. Community Service for you, Munt. 60 hours of coming up with rhyming scores for me and we’ll call it quits.

Was it Ian Hislop’s particularly irksome mood?

I’m usually a big fan of Hislop on QT but last night he just seemed a little bored and difficult, like he couldn’t really be bothered to play the game. However there are a few things that can be said in his defence, the first being he did make life a little awkward for the rest of the panel and secondly, Private Eye are the only national publication who bother to send out very nice rejection letters – a courtesy that counts for a lot in my book. I think an informal caution is all that’s required here.

Was it Chris Bryant’s fault for simply being Chris Bryant?

Yes! Probably! I don’t know! He was just as rabid as everyone else but I’ve got a soft spot for him so his sentence will be suspended. Stay out of trouble Chris and I won’t have to repost that photo of you in your pants.

Tl;dr

IDS: 5/10

Bah!

Bryant: 5/10

Rah!

Munt: 6/10

Fah!

Yaqoob: 5/10

Wah!

Hislop: 5/10

Yah!

The Crowd: 5/10

Pah!

So that was that then: An ultra-scrappy episode where the panel got very hot under the collar about things I don’t understand and – in what was undoubtedly the highlight of the show – Dimbers got attacked by a fly. Pffft… Says it all really…

Right, thanks to the footy I’m done for two weeks but should you have money burning a hole in your pocket then please feel free to go and buy this Grand Theft: New Labourt-shirt I designed (and then – in the interests of fairness and all that – go and buy the Grand Theft: Coalition one as well).

gta-new-labour-final-tagged

In a fortnight Lemmings, in a fortnight…

Questionable Time #49


questionable time 49 david dimbleby toastGood morning Lemmings and yes, it’s that time again. Those on the right, prepare to howl in anguish at perceived left-wing bias. Those on the left, prepare to gnash your teeth angrily at perceived right-wing bias. And those in the centre? I don’t know… Just carry doing what you’re doing and try not to make a mess. That’s right Lemmings, it’s Questionable Time.

Anna Soubry’s slow decline was rather good fun…

If I’m having a really bad day and feel a little down in the mouth, I often like to cheer myself up by imagining what it’s like to be a Spad for Anne Soubry. Think about it for a second: As tasks go, ensuring that Anna Soubry makes it through a working day without alienating a large section of the population must like defusing a bomb that’s strapped to a greased cat with a taste for methamphetamine. Want proof? Then look no further than the past week. Wednesday: Manages to wind up half the country by implying that the poor are disproportionately prone to tubbiness. Thursday: Succeeds in vexing the remaining half of the country by castigating them for eating lunch at their desk. Thursday night: Goes on Question Time and reaps a rich harvest of boos. Should you happen to be travelling a between Dorset and London today, keep an eye out. You may just see a broken, weeping figure by the roadside begging for a lift to anywhere that isn’t Westminster. That person will be Anna Soubry’s Spad.

Tragically for the aforementioned Spad, last night was especially cruel as she didn’t have a bad start and emerged from the Europe question reasonably unscathed. I could feel the Spad’s relief: “Thank god for that. Maybe for once, just for once, I won’t end up calling the Samaritans tonight”. Oh silly Spad. Stop lying to yourself. You know as well as I do that the rest of the show is merely a build up to the inevitable question about portly poverty and that you’ve got to weather a good 40 minutes of gradual attrition before we reach that final, fatal juncture.

So it was that things slowly unravelled. Reports of Nick Clegg’s latest economic policy naysaying were met with a wonderful display of playing for time whilst joyous tidings about employment figures were quickly pooh-poohed as part-time codswallop. “Oh god, just end it now” murmured the Spad, but no, there was to be no reprieve as she tangled with an audience member on public sector cuts and was rewarded handsomely with opprobrium. And then it dropped. “Are poor people fat?” (see Fig. 1).

anna-soubry-fat-gif

Fig. 1

To be fair to Soubry, there was a moment when it looked like she might just get away with this and if I’m completely honest, I do have a little sympathy with her position. She’s right to raise the questions about the food industry’s role in the Great Plumpening but it’s just a shame that she did so in the most hamfisted way possible. Anyway, despite an ok-ish attempt at a Took Me Out of Context defence Soubry managed to throw away any chance of a clean getaway by accusing Ben Bradshaw of not acting like a former Health Minister should when the crowd was clearly behind him. It was at that moment I heard that distinctive crunch: Another delicate Spad broken on the Soubry wheel. If you happen to pass them on the A35, have a heart. Spads are people too.

Corollary note of dubious importance:

I encountered numerous problems when creating the above Anna Sourbry .gif. It appears that this jacket of hers somehow confers immunity to the Liquify filter, Photoshop’s mailed fist in the fight to make thin people fat. So, should you live in fear that someone is going to photograph you and then doctor that photo to make you look fatter than you are then fear no longer. Simply buy one of these jackets and never take it off.

1997 seems like a very long time ago…

I have a bit of a personal problem with Ben Bradshaw and it’s to do with symbolism. Allow me to get misty eyed for a second: It was 1997. I was doing my A-levels and like much of the nation, I was pretty sick of 18 years of Tory rule. A couple of days before the election, Bradshaw happened to cycle past me in Exeter and I was transfixed: Here he was, this fresh-faced, handsome, openly gay Shape of Things to Come and you know what? I liked that shape because it felt like a breath of fresh air from the stifling greyness of the Major era. Labour duly won that election and for a time, Ben Bradshaw came good on his promise – Things Can Only Get Better and all that – but it didn’t last long. The wars kicked off, the filthy rich were relaxed with (intensely) and Ben changed too: He seemed crotchety and impatient. He moved up a couple of notches. Bikes eventually became ministerial cars and The Shape Of Things To Come looked increasingly like The Shape Of Things We’d Rather Forget. Fast forward to last night and what do we find? A man who looks like he’s just a little above it all, a man who’s in a hurry and a man who just can’t quite be bothered to reason with you any more. Sorry Ben, it just personal…

Has Ming just seen his own fate?

There was a telling moment last night: Ming mentioned that despite the fact he was but a lowly backbencher, he still gets invited on the show because he has influence with the Chancellor. The silence that followed was horrible, but not quite as horrible as the look of realisation that finally dawned on his face. The look said ‘Oh bugger. The jig is up’. Personally, I hope it isn’t because Ming’s been quite good fun this week – what him him pouring cold water all over Cameron’s referendum speech – but maybe that’s just me. Weymouth, it appears, remains unconvinced.

Angela Epsein says a lot…

Not much of which makes any sense. It’s forgiveable I guess, I’m sure I’d wibble all sorts of nonsense if I was on the panel but I’m fairly confident I’d draw the line at claiming that ‘steal the iPad’ was the number one game in UK playgrounds.

Ian Hislop is hereby excluded from the scoring system…

…Because it’s just not fair. He appears on a panel show every week, he knows where all the bodies are buried, and he’s just too bloody good at what he does. It’s just not cricket and I for one will have nothing to do with it.

Tl;dr

Soubry: 4/10

Combust(ible)

Bradshaw: 4/10

(Not entirely) Trust(able)

Campbell: 5/10

(Is looking increasingly) Disgust(ed with everything)

Epstein: 4/10

(Left me a little non)Plus(sed)

Hislop: N/A

(Is no longer entitled to rhymes)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Were all high as kites on angel) Dust?

So low and N/A scores for the panel, but big points for the Weymouth crowd who made last night quite the hoot. Right, it’s 4.30am. I’m off to dream about spelling mistakes as I weirdly yet invariably do on Thursday nights.

Next week Lemmings, next week..


Questionable Time #3


questionable time david dimbleby pot smoking hippy

Morning Lemmings and welcome to what really should have been the Question Time special on the Lib Dem conference but actually turned out to be just a plain old, common garden episode and not a great one at that. The fact that it wasn’t really focused on the conference is a shame as for once, it has actually been a semi-interesting autumn jaunt for the Yellow Team and one that could have made for an interesting show. Usually, the annual Lib Dem get-together is an exercise in wanton kookiness where a bunch of hemp clad peaceniks compare the bushiness of their beards, debate the merits of tax breaks for yurts and put forward motions to outlaw bad vibes. This year however they’ve gone all ‘spike’ and it was all the better for it, what with actual ministers making all sorts of thinly veiled threats to their partners in government while the rank-and-file puffed out their chests for a collective hollering of ‘Don’t Tread On Me’. It was almost as if the school chess club was in open rebellion. Anyhoo, that was the backdrop but going on this episode, you would have hardly known and what we actually got was a pretty random clutch of questions backed by what was the most easily led audience I’ve seen in years. But more on that later.

Ok, to kick off last night’s proceedings we have Vince Cable, Business Secretary and Fearless Dissident/Sullen Looking Lickspittle (who, incidentally, occasionally likes to dress like Gandalf… See Fig. 1). Now, I don’t know about you guys but I’m pretty much Vinced out at the moment, what with having spent the last 18 months living in the hope that all of his treasonous chunterings might actually turn into some form of action and yet having to cope with the reality that with every call-to-arms also comes a through-gritted-teeth-climbdown. Thus it was that he started the night on thin ice and if he were to have any hope of keeping a dim flicker of hope alive in me he’d damn well better come out fighting. So did he? In a word, ‘no’. The areas where Vince had an opportunity to win me round were on the IMF and Palestine questions, both of which would have allow him to demonstrate that he hasn’t been entirely consumed by the mirage of coalition. The pre-show portents for the IMF question in particular looked promising as much of his conference performance was dotted with lines to be read between and looks of the knowing variety. Last night’s show presented him with a chance to come good on that implied mischief by at least hinting that he wasn’t entirely in agreement with driving the economy off a cliff but in the end, he didn’t. Instead, Vince did what he’s done for his last few Question Time appearances and sat on the most splintered and jagged part of the fence possible whilst trying to pretend that he was actually incredibly comfortable. It didn’t work and his insistence that we can have our Deficit Reduction Cake whilst gorging on Slices of Growth just didn’t look credible and amounted to nothing more than a feast of crumbs.

 

gandalf vince cable

Fig. 1

Similarly, the Palestine question was one where he could at least have given a nod in the direction of his Lib Dem providence but instead chose to play dumb by insisting that he’d have to see the resolution before venturing an opinion on the matter. Now, I do have a smidgen of sympathy here as he is in the Cabinet and has to walk the line to a certain extent, but a nudge and wink to the effect that he’d like to see the government support the Palestinians really wouldn’t have killed him. So come on Vince, stop pratting about because I’m tired: Tired of having my hopes raised by off-the-record whispers of conspiracy only to have them dashed by on-the-record and repeated use of the phrase “It’s very complicated”. Buck up your ideas Mr Cable as there’s only so far a halo can slip before it becomes a Health and Safety hazard.

Alright, next up we have Harriet Harman, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and bête noire of the Daily Mail. Now, prior to the show, I was prepared to cut Harriet a little slack as while I’m not exactly a fan, I do think she’s had a raw deal at the hands of the mid-market papers and I tried very hard to give her a fair innings. On the face of it, this didn’t prove too difficult as her actual answers were all pretty decent and the crowd seemed to agree with her on most subjects, but there was still something niggling at me. At first, I thought it was down to her faux shock when an audience member took her to task about the deficit figures but I later discovered that it was actually something else: Her posture. Now, Harman’s a pretty tall woman and when this is combined with her commendably straight back, she tends to have several inches on the other panelists and consequently has to look down her nose at them. I caught this in a wide-angle shot when Justine Roberts was saying something and Harman was looking in her direction. While her facial expression was pretty neutral and innocuous, the very fact that her head was slightly tilted back gave her an air of condescension that wasn’t exactly flattering and made her look like a bit of a pious snob. Ok, so I know it sounds petty, but it’s things like this that inadvertently work their way into people’s brains and tarnish what was otherwise a perfectly reasonable appearance. So Harriet, if you want my advice, carry on saying what you’re saying but for god’s sake, slouch.

Slouch woman, slouch! Sorry for shouting. I get that way sometimes. Anyway, moving on and we come to Priti Patel, MP for Witham and Question Time virgin. My first impressions of Patel were that she isn’t exactly the most cuddly politician, what with her forthrightly bandying about debt-per-second figures as if they were going out of fashion, but this feeling was soon superseded by a suspicion that something fishy was going on, a state of affairs prompted by the asking of the death penalty question. Now, I know that Question Time have a policy where only the audience get to submit the topics for debate, but I was struggling to believe that the burning issue this week has been the Troy Davis case as it’s only been marginally covered in the news and the water coolers of the nation haven’t appeared to be rife with clamour over the matter. No, I have a feeling that this question was cherry picked and the reason behind it is that the only thing anyone knows about Priti Patel is that she bloody loves the death penalty. Questionable Question Time ethics aside, I am sort of glad it happened as it’s rare that you get someone going quite so off the hook about their desire to see people killed in the face of overwhelming opposition and to be fair to Patel, she is a tough cooky who gave it a decent shot. However, I can’t get away from the fact that people under 40 who support the death penalty with such dogged vigour frankly scare me and it’s also fair to say that her relative lack of political experience did rear it’s head from time to time. Oh, and the way she draws out random syllables also irks me a little: “What about the raaaapists and paaaaaaedophiles”. Hmmmm.

Right, time for the civilians, this week represented by Ian Hislop and Justine Roberts. In the case of Hislop, I’m inclined to arbitrarily knock a few marks off as I always think it’s just a little unfair to let a man whose job is basically to gather enormous piles of mud to sling at politicians on to the show. That’s not to say I don’t like him or disapprove the fact that politicians need mud slinging at them, it’s just that the dice seem a little loaded. So yes, Hislop did well at holding power to ridicule and it was a good performance, but only in the way that lions tended to put on a good show when they had Christians thrown at them. It’s just what they’re built to do,the outcome is never in any doubt and the overall effect is one of amusement accompanied by a twinge of guilt.

Moving on to Justine Roberts and I find myself pleasantly surprised by an appearance that I had every reason to fear. I say this because Roberts’ day job is to be Commander-in-Chief of what I consider to be possible the most frightening entity the internet has spawned to date: Mumsnet. While some may welcome our new cyber-matriarchs with open arms, I for one find the idea of a digital phalanx of organised sharp elbows to be the stuff of dystopian nightmares and have lived in near constant terror since its inception. Happily though, Roberts went quite a way to quell these fears by putting on a well-rounded performance and while I won’t be setting up a fake Mumsnet account so that I can get in on the action, I will sleep easier in the knowledge that the internet probably won’t be overrun by a tutting horde of Dido fans.

Ok, that’s the panel, now time for the element that I hold to be largely responsible for a sub-par show: The audience. My first and biggest beef with these guys is that no matter what a panelist said, they would clap as if their lives depended on it. Seriously, the only way you could tell if a point was contentious was to try to pick out the boos in the sea of applause and this lent the show all the validity of a Stalin era Party Congress. Second beef: The guy with the wig who whittered something about how “we need to grow more food”. The food thing is by-the-by but what most certainly isn’t is the wearing of a jet black toupee over near-white hair. That, sir, simply isn’t good enough. And finally, just what the Dickens happened to the black guy wearing a full suit and bowler hat? I caught him in the opening shot, slap bang in the middle of the crowd and decked out as if he was on his way to sell a large quantity of bullion. “Hello”, I thought “here comes trouble” but alas no! Trouble never came and we heard not a peep from him. In my opinion Birmingham, this was an inexcusable mistake and one you pay dearly for in the final reckoning… The final reckoning which is just about to happen NOW!

Tl;dr

Cable: 3/10

Pah!

Harman: 6/10

Ha!

Patel: 4/10

Gah!

Hislop: 7/10

Rah!

Roberts: 7/10

Ta-dah!

The Crowd: 3/10

Bah!

So there you go. A roundly rubbish episode of which we shall never speak of again. My only hope is that next week’s crowd come all dressed in bowler hats and suits. I would consider that to be adequate compensation.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

 

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #25


Morning Lemmings and oh boy am I in trouble. You see, for years I have struggled with an addiction and not a glamorous one either: I am a Civilization addict. The course of my affliction has been a near textbook case in Civ abuse, starting at the tender age of 17 when I had my first encounter with the notorious gateway drug that is Civ 2. While I was still able to function like a relatively normal human being during this period (at least to the untrained eye), I was constantly being tested by newer and more potent strains of the narcotic with the introduction of Civ 3 in 2001 and Civ 4 in 2006, each of which drew me deeper and deeper into the clutches of dependency. Seriously, I can’t begin to describe the toll it has extracted from me, all those late nights squinting at computer generated maps and whispering over and over again “Just one more turn… Just one more!”. But it never was just one more turn and today you find me staring headlong into the abyss of such depth that Christ himself would wince at it’s very mention. You see Lemmings, today is the day that Civ 5 is released in the UK. Today is the day that I and millions of others will someday come to call The End.

So it is with a greatly distracted mind that I bring you today’s Question Time report as for the past week my computer screen has looked like this (click on the picture to make it BIGGUR):

The Last Temptation of Ribs

Curses!

That’s right, I preordered that bad boy and have had to deal with the pain of knowing that all the data I need to take my addiction to new heights has been sitting on my hard drive, just waiting to be decrypted by it’s makers. Not only that, but I’ve had to put up with Americans on the internet rubbing my face in it by high fiving and cracking wise as it was released there 2 days ago. Today though, my desktop looks like this:

GIMME GIMME GIMME!

Verily!

“Ready to play”. “READY TO PLAY”. Words can not describe the anguish I’m going through in order not to just slack off this week’s QT Report and instead just start playing Civ 5 for 72 hours straight. Hell, I’ve even taken half the day off work, just so I can bash this out in record time and then slip into the soothing embrace of my one, my only, my true friend, Civilization. This, Lemmings, is my gift to you. You’d better bloody appreciate it.

The Menu

Q1: Can the government really have a Business Secretary who believes that capitalism kills competition?

Q2: Can the LibDems survive as a political party when the coalition is over?

Q3: How does the government propose to regain control of the streets with the cuts coming?

Q4: Should the 9000 public sector workers who take home more pay than the Prime Minister be the first to be cut?

Q5: Secularisation in the UK bothers the Pope. Should it bother politicians?

In The Yellow Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and currently Tortured Soul.

Another week, another chapter in the Passion of St. Vince. Anointed directly by God in the wake of Das Kredit Krunch, the last three years have been something of a roller coaster for Cable as he’s lurched uncomfortably between Unimpeachable Voice of Reason to Begrudging Patsy For Tory Cuts, sometimes in the space of only a few days. The last time Vince was on Question Time was a pretty traumatic spectacle to watch as he made the best fist he could of putting on a brave face and pretending that he was well into this coalition business. Unfortunately, the end result was to paint a portrait of a man who was deeply uneasy with the way things had panned out and who couldn’t convince himself, let alone anyone else that this wouldn’t all end in anything but grazed knees and tears before bedtime. However, politics is moving at quite the rate of knots these days and last week saw him careening back to the Voice of Reason end of the spectrum again as he showered the LibDem party conference in a veritable orgy of choir preaching banker baiting and the right wing press lost no time in getting it’s knickers in twist about this sudden outburst of Bolshevism (see Fig. 1). Admittedly, it’s not that hard to get the Torygraph et al all lathered into a fury of McCarthyism these days as even implying that governments may have to spend money on stuff or that perhaps the private sector isn’t entirely populated by altruistic Good Samaritans is enough to get you branded as a Stinking Pinko, but that’s the way it is and thus was the backdrop to Vince’s appearance tonight.

Fig. 1

Ok, so as expected the first question on this weeks show was all about St. Vince’s speech and his first stab at it wasn’t a bad one as he tempered some of it’s more contentious parts by doffing his cap to “good business”, but still found a little room to scold the banks for buggering everything up. People liked that, there were claps and for a brief moment, it looked like he got away with it. That was, of course, until everyone except John Redwood (who clearly wasn’t in the mood to help a brother out) all piled in to the tune of ‘yeah, we know you hate the banks and that, but what are you going to do about I?’. ‘This and that’ was the jist of his reply, but unfortunately for him, there was nothing concrete enough there to shut everyone up and he got quite badly mauled as he did his best to extricate himself. Q2 didn’t provide much relief either as he tried to poo-poo all the polls that said the LibDems are heading for electoral oblivion and he was forced to wheel out the ‘look how grown up we are, working with Tories/we’re still an independent party’ line, none of which was greeted by anything other than stony silence from the audience (apart from the guy who somewhat bizarrely suggested that St. Vince would probably join the BNP in the near future). Aware that this probably wasn’t his night, he wisely stayed in the long grass on Q3, venturing out only to mutter something about it being Labour’s fault and the obligatory bigging up of decentralisation which managed to keep him out of any major trouble and it looked like he might have a chance to regroup. Unfortunately, the respite was only temporary as although he started well on Q4, throwing Will Hutton’s name about with wild abandon and having a quiet dig at the private sector for being even more absurd with salaries, the rally was short-lived and he was bought crashing down to earth by Dimbers invoking the spectre of Phillip Green. Damn you, Phillip Green!. Finally, there was Q5, and to be honest, it was a bit of a non-question that simply required a little ‘it’s not politicians’ role to get into religion’ and that was that.

So what to make of all this? Personally, I found it harder to watch than his last appearance because he looked more aware that he was being played this time round. It must be heartbreaking for him. He’s the reason a good many people voted for the LibDems and there must have been a few days when he dared to believe that he could actually be in a position to affect some real changes. Then the reality of coalition began to bite and St. Vince had to watch as he was quietly shuffled away from any positions of real power and into the Give Him Enough Rope To Hang Himself position of Business Secretary while his plans were quietly neutered. Sure, he carried on, hoping that because he was too big to be outside the tent (pissing in), there might still be a chance to get something of worth out of it all and he even managed to get his conference speech cleared by the big boys (who still need him patch the holes on the good ship Coalition’s port side). However, he must know that they were simply giving him a thumb to suck, that they gave into it too easily for it not to be a stitch up and that at some point in the not too distant future he will look upon what is being done in his name and conclude that none of this is worth it any more. I hope it doesn’t come to that because I like Vince and I think that (most) of his ideas are on the money, but I can’t escape the whiff Inevitable Tragedy I get every time I see him on TV. So Vince, if you’ve got any miracles kicking about, now is the time to use them, otherwise you’ll end up as a martyr, not a saint.

A darkly foreboding 4/10

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: John Redwood, MP for Wokingham and right wing Vulcan.

Whilst on my usual trawl through Google Images for pshop fodder, I couldn’t help notice an uncanny photographic similarity between John Redwood and Alan Partridge. It’s not about their appearances as Redwood looks like a jaundiced Space Cad while Partridge just looks a little stupid, but the poses they pull and the scenes they set all seem to have a suspiciously high level of correlation. Take the photo I posted of Redwood the last time he was on: Now, imagine that his female companion has an Eastern European accent (“It is an alien judge, Alan!”) and that the room isn’t in a house, but in a static caravan instead. See what I’m getting at? Then I stumbled on this little beauty (see Fig. 2).

LYNNNNNNNNNNN!

Fig. 2

It’s a clear as day. John redwood is Alan Partridge’s Evil Twin. Ok, so they’re not identical twins and it is fair to say that there are plenty of differences between them. For one, Alan Partridge is a stupid and insensitive prat while Redwood isn’t stupid and clearly, their lives have taken very courses. Also, Redwood has a streak of determination in him that Partridge has always lacked, but you have to admit that the turtleneck sweaters, the pints of Directors that both almost certainly claim to enjoy and their fondness for right-wing views do point to some sort of common heritage. It’s a theory, but you know…. Just saying…

OK, so how did Redwood do? Well, to be brief (because the Civ pangs are growing in intensity and duration), it was pretty much standard Redwood and characterised by lots of gritted teeth and invitations to read between the lines. Basically, John Redwood knows what he believes in and he believes it well. Unfortunately, for him, these beliefs do not appear to be the beliefs that coalition would like to be known for and as a result, he has to make a pretence of not being the kind of guy who would privatise the air we breath at the drop of a hat. And is he good at pretending? In a word, ‘no’.

Take Q1, for example. Clearly, the party line is ‘Vince has his views and although we may disagree slightly, we will be best friends forever’. Redwood certainly managed the ‘different views’ bit admirably, reeling off a list of all the things capitalism had provided for Vince (it was very extensive), but didn’t do so well on the BFF part by simply writing Cable’s speech off as the LibDems being a bit flouncy. This was pretty much the theme for the rest of the evening which mainly composed of blaming Labour for everything, less than convincing endorsements of the benefits of coalition politics and unconditional love for all things private sector. He also got into numerous scraps with Mehdi Hassan and got to rattle off another big list in Q3 when he speculated on the causes of crime, but by and large it was pretty standard stuff. That’s not to say I didn’t like him being on because at least he’s not afraid to get stuck in and have a good scrap, but I could have told you what his response to every question would have been well in advance of his answer and it’s fair to say that the crowd weren’t exactly enamoured with him. Still, it could have been worse. At least he didn’t put the Potato Famine down to the Irish being “fussy eaters”.

An Inner City Sumo of a 5/10

In Red Corner: Caroline Flint, MP for Don Valley and regular QT flak taker.

Snaggletooth again? She gets about does Old Snaggers, but I must admit that she is improving over time. During her period in government, Flint’s QT appearances were usually characterised by an insane capacity to blithely soak up punishment and a tendency to rely overly on aggressive counter attacks. However, she seemed much mellower tonight and, perhaps almost unbelievably, admitted that Labour had got stuff wrong in the past. That’s a big watershed for Flint who would have usually gone fully nutso on anyone who even implied that Labour were anything other than sainted bringers of greater things, but yes, tonight she did actually come clean and say that there was stuff they got wrong. That’s not to say she hasn’t completely lost some of her more jagged edges and she did overplay her hand towards the end of Q3, but by and large it was quite a well-rounded performance, even if there still is something about her that I still find to be a little serrated.

A pleasingly gentler 6/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Mehdi Hassan, Senior Editor for the New Statesman and full lefty.

Right, come on, I can’t take much more of this. Four damn years I’ve waited for this game and there’s still two panelists to go. Let’s make this snappy. Mehdi Hassan is, as the above suggests, a journalist who’s pretty left-wing and I’m pretty sure that this is only his second QT outing. First time round was generally good, but he’s got a tendency to get a little overexcited and throw away some valuable points by falling on the wrong side of the passionate/nutter line. Tonight was also a competent display where he got a lot of mileage out of holding Cable’s feet to the fire but he managed to combine that with not letting Labour get away scot-free, had some ace punch ups with Redwood (in which he emerged the victor) and largely managed to keep the crowd on his side (I think her netted the most applause overall). There were a few times where he looked in danger of going too far and getting stuck out on a limb, but luckily, he managed to keep these tendencies mostly in check. The interesting thing for me was watching him and Hislop eye each other up somewhat nervously. Both knew that they were largely on the same side, but there was an unspoken element of uneasiness between them that nearly bubbled over at times. Oh, and he started his answers to both Q’s1 and 2 with the word “Intriguing”. Intriguing.

A solid 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Ian Hislop, Editor of Private Eye and libel magnet.

I think it must be quite hard being Hislop as there must an overwhelming temptation to never agree with anyone about anything. Part of this comes with the territory as Private Eye’s job is to hold the powerful to scrutiny, no matter who they are, but I think there might also just be a naturally contrary streak in him and that he really rather enjoys being a thorn in any given side. True to form, Hislop managed to have a go at a wide range of targets including Vince for being all mouth and no trousers, Labour for being too cozy with the banks, the police for playing politics and every man, woman and child in the land for saying that they wanted the third party in power but then hating them when they finally got in. All of these were valid points and were well made, but there was always a lingering danger of him coming across as Anti-Everything, purely for the fun of it (like when he said “no one would care” if the LibDems disappeared). That would be a shame as generally speaking, he does know what he’s talking about and we need people like Hislop in the world, but if everyone thinks your simply taking the piss then they stop listening. So, Ian Hislop, your mission for next time is to agree with somebody about something, just to prove you can. And to stop your head wobbling so much. It makes me lose my train of thought.

A recalcitrant but worthy 6/10

The Crowd: Liverpool

So, we’re back in the North for the first ‘proper’ QT of the series and very northern it was too. The general feeling from the crowd was one of open suspicion (occasionally veering into open hostility) towards the coalition and a very real fear of what the cuts were going to bring. This is not to say that Labour were the apple of the audience’s eye either, but I think the Red Corner was probably the safest place to be on this episode. I must say that I quite enjoyed this instalment as I felt robbed by last week’s placid-yet-confusing Labour leadership show and although no one went properly nuts, there was enough friction in the air to keep me interested. Audience members of note this week include a guy with a thin face but a wide head who made me think the aspect ratio on my telly had broken and a beponytailed Scouser in a suit who went in for some impassioned wailing about the Lisbon Treaty that included the word ‘birthright’. There’s always one.

A steady 6/10

Omg! It’s done! I’m free! Free! Ok Lemmings, I’m outta here. I hope to be back next week, but there is quite a high chance that I may overdose on Civ and end up in a permanently psychotic state, shouting at the cats for not building the Three Gorges Dam damn quickly enough and telling the postman to declare war on Bismark. Addiction is an ugly thing Lemmings, an ugly thing.


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