Posts Tagged 'Jeremy Browne'

Questionable Time #100


questionable time 100 david dimbleby photoshop montage

Good morning Lemmings and no, your eyes do not deceive you – Questionable Time is 100 posts old today and yes, you should all be very excited about this. What? What’s that? Why should you be excited? Well I don’t bloody know – I’m 100 now and easily confused so unless you’re the dispatch rider with my telegram from the Queen I’ll be asking you to take your leave now thank you very much indeed.

(Incidentally, due to arbitrary changes in naming schemes, this isn’t the 100th post at all. No, it’s actually the 149thor the 151st if you’re being particularly thorough. Either way though, Questionable Time is now officially old).

Anyway, to celebrate this ‘exciting’ turn of events, QT has got all giddy with excitement and sent us not 5 but 6 flesh bags to play with which works out as 20% extra ire to vent. Best get on with it then…

The sum of Tristram Hunt’s parts…

Cast your eyes on Tristram Hunt and what goes through your head? Well, if your answer is something along the lines of ‘A jaw line that says ‘rugged’,a pre-politics profession that says ‘bookish’, a voice that says ‘plumby’ and a constituency that says ‘authentic, grinding poverty” then not only are we on the same page but we’re probably both experiencing that weird sensation of witnessing something that shouldn’t really be. That sounds harsh – particularly as we often consider some of these traits to be positive things when dealt with in isolation – but when we take them as a combined whole they make this odd melange that just doesn’t quite cut it and leaves him in this strange netherworld of unconnected dots and verses that never quite make it to the chorus.

Take for example his response to the question about whether the UK is inherently racist: Here’s where he pitches his voice down to just shy of ‘solemn’, dons the look of a man wracked with concern, and gravely intones that maybe the Red Team took their eye off the ball when it comes to the worries of the great unwashed before swiftly concluding that it’ll all be ok in the end because Labour understand the cost of living – providing it doesn’t have to go into specifics about the price of milk, bread or any other essential component of this whole ‘living’ business. On paper, this is a perfectly reasonable play which, if deployed properly, should naturally segue into a soaring crescendo of Labour being the best placed party to right these wrongs but with Hunt it never quite does: Instead it just sort of judders along, never quite finding biting point as the listener tries to match the incongruous vision of this clearly clever and privileged man trying to ‘engage’ with people who might as well have grown up in a completely different universe.

The sad thing is that we caught a fleeting glimpse of the authentic Tristram this week. This was Historian Tristram who when asked about the comparisons between Hitler and Putin suddenly became enthused, animated and coherent. It was a good answer as well, robustly delivered and neatly tying up his specialist interest with a sly pop at The Daily Mail – a confluence of factors that made him (for a brief moment at least) a thing that was supposed to be. The problem is that these moments are not only so few and far between, they also tend to be sandwiched between those awkward encounters like the race question or the bluster he hid behind when Labour’s education policy was put under the spotlight. Oh Tristram, if only there were such a thing as a Minister for History…

…And the winner of this year’s Panelist I’d Never Thought I’d Like But Actually Have A Lot Of Time For is…

…Ladies and gentlemen, the Rt Hon. Jeremy Browne MP! Woop woop! So yes, Jeremy Browne is in the house and for one I am delighted because:

A: He’s the polar opposite of Tristram Hunt who knows what he is (a veritable trouser press of a man who is probably insufferably enthusiastic during any event that involves the words ‘Team Building’) and gives not a hoot if you don’t care for his ways.

B: The whole panda thing makes him ridiculously easy to photoshop.

And C: I think he got a really raw deal when he was thrown under a bus for the whole ‘Go Home’ debacle.

However, I must admit that it was a fair to middling performance last night where he never quite hit his stride and I suspect I know why: He got rid of his beard. To those who may not have spotted it, Browne spent much of this year with not only a beard attached to his face, but a majestic one that dominated everything within a 100 ft radius. Seriously, (and I say this as a bearded man) it was a thing of utter beauty that made him look like a Special Forces operator who’d just rolled in from the hills of the Hindu Kush with a clutch of sexy superficial wounds and a haunted look that says “I’ve seen things no man should see” (see Fig. 1). Alas, he now appears to be sans beard and as a result we’re back to plain old Vanilla Browne – not the worst thing in the world but certainly not a patch on Jeremy ‘Instrument of State Sanctioned Murder’ Browne. I really got on with that guy.

jeremy browne panda special forces beard

Fig. 1

Grayling and the love/hate of the game…

Hmmmm… A quiet one from the Justice Minister last night but one that was not without its own story to tell. Basically, the key to Grayling is not what he says – that’s usually your standard boilerplate ‘the mess Labour made’ stuff – but the way he reacts to things. For example, whenever an opponent is getting it in the neck you can always hear this little laugh come from Grayling and it’s not a nice laugh. No, instead it’s one of those ‘Fade away, jerk!’ laughs that you get when you ask a bus driver if they have enough change for a tenner and on top of that it’s usually packaged with a subtle sneer.

And thus is the problem with Grayling: Satisfaction for him comes not from the furthering of The Plan (whatever that may be) but from the game itself and, more precisely, the smiting of one’s enemies. Now, as a political tool this is certainly a handy disposition to cultivate but, in the wider battle of winning hearts and minds? Nah, it just reminds people of that look that Kevin McCloud of Grand Designs fame pulls when the amateur developers tell him that they’re project managing themselves and funding the job on their credit card. Schadenfreude: It’s a double edged-sword.

And the rest?

Time is short and so is this paragraph.

Allsop – Likes saying “ought to” a lot, talks about the property market in a very ’round the houses’ sort of way, conflates fertility with housing status.

Hamilton – Real life panto villain who represents the truly terrifying nexus of UKIP, bent Tories and bow ties.

Monroe – The only logical outcome of putting both Lily Allen and Owen Jones into the Large Hadron Collider, pressing the big red button and hoping for the best.

Tl;dr

Hunt: 5/10

(A right old) Jumble (of a man)

Browne: 5/10

(Not much to) Grumble (about)

Grayling: 4/10

(Would laugh long and hard if he saw you) Tumble (down some stairs)

Allsop: 6/10

Bumbles (amiably about in a twee sort of way)

Hamilton: 5/10

(Does the sinister) Mumble (quite well)

Monroe: 6/10

(Reputedly makes good) Crumble

The Crowd: 6/10

(Made for a perfectly serviceable) Fumble (in the dark).

Gah, I can never get my head around these six-for-the-price-of-five episodes but then again, I am 100 so just getting to the end of this piece without major incident is an achievement in itself. Right, that’s me done and next week we return to bog standard, non-celebratory Questionable Time, hopefully with the more traditional compliment of five panelist. Until then, that’s your lot and GET OFF MY LAWN YOU BLOODY WHIPPERSNAPPERS!

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #76


questionable time 76 david dimbleby pumpkin

Good morning Lemmings and let’s start with some joyous news: Energy prices were not the first question of last night’s show and despite their subsequent appearance in Question #3 I think we’re probably out of the woods when it comes to Energy Prices Time. The bad news however is that HS2 got the #1 spot and that worries me because a) it’s just as dull an issue as energy prices and b) we’re probably going to have at least 20 years of this as the project lurches from one inevitable delay to the next. So here’s a small request to all future QT audiences: Pace yourselves as you’ve got another couple of decades of this to come and we wouldn’t want to have all our HS2 ‘fun’ at once now would we? Anyway…

I had a killer opening line for Jeremy Browne all figured out…

Who’s this jolly trouser press of a man?” was how I thought I was going to start this week’s section on Jeremy Browne and very pleased I was with myself for it is a good line that adequately conveys what Jeremy Brown usually looks like when he’s on QT – you know, all very upright and formal yet with a splash of affable bumbling, much like a meerkat at an award ceremony. Unfortunately, that line’s not going to work any more as it appears that poor old Jeremy Brown has yet to recover from the rather rude surprise of being sacked for no good reason – other than to make space for one of Parliament’s odder-balls – and as such he no longer resembles a jolly trouser press (I toyed with ‘deflated trouser press’ but that really doesn’t work because it implies the existence of an inflatable trouser press and that in turn sounds like the sort of thing you send the YTS kid out for after they’ve failed to secure the tartan paint or bucket of pixels you originally requested). I’m chalking this up as another black mark against the Deputy PM’s name… Thanks for ruining an otherwise great opener Cleggers!

So yes, this was Jeremy’s first outing since being unceremoniously heave-hoed off the front benches and you know what? I felt really, genuinely sorry for him. You could see it in the listlessness, the downcast face and the lack of wobble in an otherwise pleasingly wobbly head. Sure, he answered questions that were asked of him and did his best to look like his heart hadn’t broken into a thousand tiny pieces but you could tell that he was only there in order not to let the side down (whichever side that may be). Basically, he resembled a man who’s had the crap kicked out of him in a very random assault and that lingering sense of bewilderment just struck me as terribly sad.

However, there is one ray of sunshine in this otherwise bleak picture: No matter how roughly he is treated, now matter how raw his deal, Jeremy Browne can always take solace in one thing – he still has his panda… And I still have my panda cutout (see Fig. 1).

jeremy brown panda homeless

Fig. 1

I do so love a happy ending.

Something sketchy this way comes…

Here’s a question I tend to ask myself when observing a QT n00b on their first outing: Would you lend this person a tenner? In the case of George Osborne’s ex-Chief-of-Staff Matthew Hancock I’d say ‘no’ and here’s why. First off, he looked shifty. Now I’m aware that this is his initial QT sortie and I do give a dispensation for first time nerves but his shiftiness appeared more congenital than circumstantial. However, the thing that really gave me the screaming jibblies was the way he kept juxtaposing faux sincerity with actual sincerity. Take the Unite question: Here he started by trying to convince us that he’s a strong supporter of the unions but you got the feeling that he had to physically push those words out of his mouth because let’s face it, close allies of George Osborne are not exactly famed for their love of labour movements. Still, you often have to say things you don’t actually mean on QT so I’d be willing to let that slip if he hadn’t  followed it up with a line about what utter monsters Unite are and delivered with the most forthright conviction – that just made the initial porky look all the porkier. The same happened on the energy question – ‘I really like green energy BUT THESE WINDMILLS ARE MADNESS!’ was the jist of it and the implication was exactly the same: ‘I’ve been told I should appear to like green energy YET IT ACTUALLY ME MAKES WANT TO PUNCH HIPPIES’.

And that, dear Lemmings, is why I won’t be lending Matthew Hancock a tenner.

Episodes of QT you want Chris Bryant on vs. Episodes of QT you don’t want Chris Bryant on…

Episodes you want Chris Bryant on…

The ones where the main topic is something he likes getting his knickers in twist about conducted in front of a combative panel and an audience riven by factionalism.

Episodes you don’t want Chris Bryant on…

The ones with so-so topics, a panel who looked blitzed from the train ride to Cornwall and a crowd who politely clap every point whilst behaving in a reasonable fashion.

Things that make the bad episodes marginally better…

Watching the expression on his face when Paris Lees said that Ed Miliband “has real oak in his penis”. ‘Shocked delight’ is the best I can come up with.

And the other two?

I’ve got to say that despite working for the wretched Mail, I thought Harriet Sergeant was actually rather good last night and the only panelist to be consistently on the ball throughout. We may differ in view-point but at least she’s got the gumption to go out and see what life is like on the other side of the fence. As for Paris Lees, well it was a jerky start with her repeated ‘nationalise all the things’ responses but she found her feet with the probation question and followed it up with an oaken-penissed flourish on press regulation. That’ll do for me Paris…

Tl;dr

Hancock: 4/10

(Wears a) Cloak (of shiftiness)…

Brown: 5/10

(Looks like a) Broke(n man)…

Bryant: 5/10

(Isn’t the sort of) Bloke (you want on a low-intensity episodes)…

Sergeant: 7/10

Woke (me up when I was in danger of dropping off)…

Lees: 6/10

Oak (and penises)

The Crowd: 5/10

(Nearly) Choke(d when they heard about Ed’s oaky penis)

Well, I can’t say that I was overly enthused by it all last night but at least I got to bust out the panda again… That’s got to count for something, right? Anyway, I’m off but before I go here are two very shameless plugs:

  1. What happens when you cut Morrissey’s brain in half.
  2. A rather nsfw t-shirt I designed that’s just gone on sale. I feel like I should be saying “I’m not proud of this” but in actual fact I’m really rather proud of it.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #54


Questionable time 54 david dimbleby green chinese lady portrait

Good morning Lemmings and rejoice for unless I am mistaken, we appear to have a by-election on our hands. Now. I’m a by-election fan at the best of times but this one’s had it all: The suitably dramatic demise of an incumbent to kick the whole thing off? Check. The first real prospect of a Blue on Yellow electoral throwdown where the stakes are high enough to matter? Check. A Conservative candidate who’s in the process of wandering off the reservation, the off-chance of a UKIP upset and a Labour attempt to both have/eat cake (‘We knew we didn’t have a chance so we put a comedian up to show how unbothered we are about losing.’/’OMG! You guys got beaten by a comedian!’)? Check check check! Today, Lemmings, is a good day to be alive… providing you happen to be a politics dork with a predilection for mid-term ballots. Right, let’s do this…

Am I the only one who hears The Archer’s theme tune whenever Claire Perry’s about?

My god, Claire Perry’s got an abundance of jaunt. That gymkhana posture, the liberal use of exclamation marks, her sharp elbows, they all just scream Le Creuset and the ability to absolutely dominate PTA meetings. Anyway, I bring this up because last night was an instructive guide to both the benefits and perils of employing Jolly Hockey Sticks as a QT tactic. Let’s start at the very end, with the question about banker’s bonuses. In this case Perry stormed in, Jolly Hockey Sticky flailing wildly above her head and hellbent on reorienting the question to Labour’s less-than-stellar record on regulating banks. “I’m absolutely gobsmacked!” was her battle cry and the force of jaunt that built up behind her was enough to yank the crowd violently around to her point of view. Clapping ensued and so it would seem that Jolly Hockey Sticks are perhaps one of the most potent weapons in QT arsenal.

However, this conclusion can only be arrived at if one actively ignores the rest of the show, an episode which should act as a cautionary tale of Jolly Hockey Sticks Gone Bad to Shire-Tories across the land. Here’s how it happened: For most of the programme we saw Perry waggle her stick so vigorously in Angela Eagle’s direction that Dimbers was forced to intervene and what should have played out as righteous-indignation-spliced-with-the-invigorating-whiff-of-the-outdoors ended up coming across more like GTA:Waitrose (a game where the only car you can drive is a Volvo… Unless you buy the Saab DLC). 

So yes, despite a late rally, this was a largely avoidable tragedy brought about by a surfeit of pushiness and a fatal misunderstanding of the way people react to unbridled confidence: Where you see a defiant call-to-arms, they see a wagging finger.

What to do with Angela?

Ok, so I had a bumpy ride with Eagle last night. At first, I was all ‘Boo!’ as she squandered probably the biggest open goal we’ve seen in ages. I mean seriously, how hard is it to take apart a government that spends numerous years buggering up numerous lives in the self-proclaimed quest to retain the UK’s AAA rating only to go and lose it? It doesn’t get any easier than this – it’s like QT Christmas, birthday and new year’s all at once – yet thanks to a monotone delivery and a stare so vacant that the middle-distance started feeling uncomfortable, Angela fluffed it and the only injuries Perry suffered were largely self-inflicted.

Having said that, when it came to her response to the question about whether politics is a safe place for women, my ‘Boo!’ turned to a ‘Yay!’. All of a sudden, she appeared to be animated, engaged and talking a fair bit of sense. The crowd agreed, applause was applied liberally and for a moment, she looked like she was back in the game. Alas, this run of form was not to last and as she slowly faded towards the end, my overall impression was sort of a ‘Meh’… A doffed cap to her stout defence of women’s rights followed by a cocked snook for her inability to articulate the easy.

Oh Jeremy Browne, you so funny…

I’ve often wondered how Jeremy Browne ended up being a Liberal Democrat MP. The only scenario that seems vaguely plausible was that someone at LDHQ got drunk, phoned up Central Casting and demanded a more youthful version of Colonel Blimp. Upon delivery papers were signed, implicit contracts were formalised and the Yellow Team inadvertently took ownership of perhaps the most entertaining face in British politics: A slightly confused looking scrunch that never seems more than two minutes from yelling ‘Now just you wait a bloody second!’.

The 20th Century called and it didn’t sound happy…

Ken Loach: He likes to harsh your buzz, usually through the medium of social-realist cinema but also through the occasional QT appearance as well. Anyway, Ken was on last night and despite the general bleakness that comes with all things Loach, he was actually the star of the show and won by a country mile. Part of this is down to making some fair good points but for me the bulk of it is due to a sense of nostalgia: Ken reminds me of a world where ideologies actually had to compete and politics was able to look beyond the narrow confines of the electoral cycle. So yes, a good innings but I should really take this opportunity to warn younger readers: Never go to a Ken Loach movie on a first date. Yeah, I know… You think you’ll come across as a compassionate-yet-edgy firebrand but you won’t. Trust me, the film will bum you out so much that the walk home will be conducted in muted silence and no good will come of anything. Just… Just take it from me.

You can’t argue with the logic of Neil Hamilton joining UKIP…

Once upon a time, Neil Hamilton wasn’t just a Thatcherite, he was an uber-Thathcherite – the sort of guy whose total faith in the virtues of the free market became almost sinister. Then his political career fell apart in a blizzard of scandals and for the next decade or so he wandered around the public’s peripheral vision in various states of absurdity, wife dragged willingly in tow. Now, let me see… Where could I find a home for a man who is both ludicrous and unhinged. Oh wait! I know just the guys!

Tl;dr

Perry: 4/10

Duffy

Browne: 5/10

Stuffy

Eagle: 6/10

Scuffy

Loach: 8/10

Scruffy

Hamilton: 5/10

Enoughy

The Crowd: 7/10

Puff?

So there you go, some adequate by-election lulz to give us hope (Joanna) ’til the morning comes. Now, seeing as I’m feeling a little guilty for ragging on Browne so hard I’ve decided to make it up to him with this gif. Lemmings, I give to you an animated rendition of Jeremy Browne doing what he does best: Hanging out with his panda (see Fig. 1)

jeremy-brown-panda-gif

Fig. 1


Questionable Time #15


questionable time 15 david dimbleby pulp fiction

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to Plymouth or as I like to call it, Portsmouth-with-Hills-and-a-Slightly-Less-Intimidating-Accent. Now, usually Questionable Time is all about the panelists but I’m going to start by looking a little closer at the location this week because Plymouth is politically a pretty interesting place and this has implications for how last night’s show panned out. Let’s start by looking at a few choice Plymouth factoids:

1. Plymouth is a port city and with ports come lots of dockside industries that are traditionally the preserve of Labour inclined voters. True, these industries are not what they used to be in terms of scale but it still means that there’s a rump of the population who come from a traditionally Labour voting background.

2. Not only is Plymouth a port, it is also a military port (much like it’s more uncouth sibling Portsmouth) and this has an impact on its politics as it means there’s a high proportion of service personnel in the area that lend the city a certain True Blue aspect. Granted, this might not be as divisive a factor as it has been in the past given that New Labour always tacked pretty close to the Tories on defence but it is also fair to say that there’s a sizeable chunk of the population who go in for a spot of good old-fashioned flag waving and that bodes well for the Tory vote.

3. Finally it’s worth bearing in mind where Plymouth is: Wedged slap bang between the Lib Dem stronghold of Cornwall and the Yellowy/Blue county of Devon. That means that there’s also a bit of scope for some third-party mischief and although the Lib Dems haven’t had much electoral success in Plymouth itself, they still have an audible presence.

Demographically speaking this is all good news and so it was that the crowd were both vocal and diverse in their opinions. Politically speaking, no single faction managed to gain ascendency and for every lament for the plight of the poor there was a call for scroungers to be sent to salt mines. However, the going wasn’t quite so good for the panelists, especially in the cases of Jeremy Browne and Elizabeth Truss. In Browne’s case the main problem seems to be that he EN-UN-CI-ATES everything in this booming, halting roar that makes it sound like his lungs are made of oak. That makes for a very rigid delivery and his overall demeanour is of a man who probably suspects he’s a fish-out-of-water but doesn’t really know what to do about it. In terms of exactly what he said, well that was a pretty odd kettle of fish as well and he often veered wildly between the poles of Coalition Loyalty and Liberal Credentials whilst never really achieving a convincing balance that made any sense. As it happens, his comments about Stephen Hester are all over the news this morning as the media senses a weak point in the coalition line but they didn’t seem that incendiary at the time. I think that’s because his style of delivery is so odd that I was just too bewildered to make any sense of the content.

As for Truss, well she really struggled make an impression and managed to go through the whole show without receiving a single clap, largely on account of the fact that she really didn’t have a great deal to say about anything other than the fairly standard Tory spiel about benefit traps and druggies being wrong ‘uns. On any given Thursday that should be a pretty safe applause winning strategy but what she hadn’t counted on was the presence of Melanie Phillips, a woman whose sole objective in life is to take the usual Tory spiel and multiply it by a factor of several million. We’ll get on to Melanie a little later but lets just say that her trademark brand of ranting made Truss’ underplayed tutting look a little bland.

With the coalition bods proving less than potent it seemed likely that David Lammy would have a clear field on which to dance a merry jig. Initial signs proved promising in this department as he played heavily on the social justice angle but he soon found himself facing opposition from what should have been a secure flank: Step forward Mark Steele, cock-er-ney sounding comedian who has yet to be informed that the ’80’s ended quite some time ago. In theory Steele should have been counted on to provide unconditional covering fire to Lammy but to his credit he didn’t. In actual fact he came out as quite critical of the Red Team and did a commendably good job of playing Jiminy Cricket to Lammy’s Pinocchio, a development that ultimately sunk Labour’s hope of a decisive victory.

So, that was all well and good but there’s still something missing from this picture and if I’m not mistaken it is none other than Self-Propelled Vessel of Hatred Melanie Phillips. Now I have to admit that I was pretty bummed out by her performance in the early question as she seemed to be keeping it together fairly well. Sure, she wasn’t exactly a picture of compassion to those on benefits but she didn’t lead any direct appeals to violence and the tone was more ‘grim’ than her usual ‘apocalyptic’. However, I needn’t have worried as buried at the back of the episode was a question on Iran and as we all know, Phillips likes nothing more than the chance to get totally off her mash when there’s even the faintest whiff of cordite drifting over from the Middle East. She did not disappoint me. Lemmings and Gentlemen, I give to you The Most Outrageous Unsubstantiated Claim I Have Ever Heard On Question Time. Over to you, Mel…

Since 1979… there is no major terrorist atrocity in which Iran hasn’t had a hand”

Let that just sink in for a moment. Anders Behring Breivik? Clearly egged on by the Ayatollahs. The Aum Shinrikyo nerve gas attacks? All roads lead to Tehran. Timothy McVeigh? An unwitting pawn in the eternal struggle for Persian dominance. Now I’m used to Phillips coming out with some pretty absurd statements but this? I almost feel honoured to have witnessed it.

Tl;dr

Browne: (Was) Loud

5/10

Truss: (Left me less than) Wowed

5/10

Lammy: Ploughed (a nice little furrow)

6/10

Steele: (Impressed both me and the ) Crowd

7/10

Phillips: (Mushroom) Cloud

3/10

The Crowd: (Should be) Proud (of their performance)

7/10

So there you go, a pretty balanced affair that was capped off with some remarkable feats of crazy. All that’s left to do is look at this photo of Jeremy Browne riding on a dodgem with a Panda that I made last night. Why? Because I can…

jeremy browne dodgem panda

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #45


Good morning Lemmings and by ‘good morning’ I mean ‘Holy Jesus, it’s 5.30am and I’m on a Megabus’. Yup, tis the time of year again when I crowbar all 6’2” of me into the cheapest form of transport known to man and try to retain a semblance of sanity for 7 odd hours. Good times indeed. What’s even more fun about this particular trip is that I’ve so far had a grand total of 4 hours sleep with which to make good the wear and tear of a pretty epic week that was largely characterised by me having to pursue a belligerent schizophrenic across Leeds and other such related matters. In short, I’m fairly strung out right now.

Normally, this wouldn’t bode too well for the business of trying to make something semi-interesting out of a current affairs show but it might actually be an outright advantage right now because let’s be honest here, last night’s Question Time was pretty rubbish. In fact scrub that, last night’s Question Time was just flat-out crap, no two ways about it.

First up in the panel who seemed hellbent on putting the ‘lack’ into ‘lustre’ is Jeremy Browne who apparently works in the Foreign Office and who’s performance was mostly characterised by looking/sounding confused whilst talking in a very loud and forceful manner so as not to look/sound confused. As you can probably gather, that didn’t really work and with the exception of a brief rally at the end, he spent most of his time either trying to fence-sit his way out of trouble or when something hairy came up (like whether we’re sending Apaches to Libya), deploying a mixture of clumsy footwork and Ben Swainery that made me wonder if he hadn’t downed a bottle of cough medicine before going on. I think someone might also have to sit him down and explain what exactly Twitter is as I’m not sure just how realistic the threat of “medical records being tweeted” is given that it’s fairly hard to cram an extensive history of affliction into 140 characters (unless they happened to be repeatedly dogged by very concise ailments such as ‘flu’ and ‘AIDS’).

Ok, ok, I know I’m being wantonly cruel to Jeremy but it’s only just gone 6, we’ve just pulled up in Manchester and there’s all sorts of craziness dancing around in my peripheral vision. Time to move swiftly on I think.

Next up is Louise Bagshawe, chick-lit author turned Tory MP who has a fairly impressive track record of incoherent rantings but disappointingly managed to keep a lid on it for most of last night’s show. Here’s the cover of a book she wrote that may or may not have been tampered with (see Fig. 1).

louise bagshawe desire bollocks

Fig. 1

I myself am not the biggest fan of Bagshawe for two main reasons: One, she doesn’t trade in any currency other than certainties and two, her posture. Now, I know that’s a seemingly minor thing to get het up about but I always have a fear of people do the whole ‘ramrod straight’ thing as they usually turn out to be people who love telling me what to do and if there was a competition for Straightest Ramrod of Them All then I think Bagshawe would be in with a fighting chance of a win (seriously, you could have balanced a book on her head for the entire duration of last night’s show). However, I must admit that despite the above, she did turn out to be the most engaging of the political panelists and at least had the good grace to venture such outlandish things as opinions. As it happens, those opinions weren’t exactly up my street but at least she had something going on, even if that did include a worryingly evangelical eulogy to American patriotism and a cackhanded attempt to make it sound like the coalition weren’t completely buggering up the NHS. Had the competition been any stronger then things may have panned out differently, but as it was I’m going to give her a grudging ‘Did OKish’.

Right, things are getting weird now… I just spent 10 minutes drifting in and out of sleep and trying to figure out what the rail network would be like if it was run by cats (fickle, I’m guessing) so I’m going to have plug-in the ipod in the hope that it might straighten me out a little. Ok Ribsy, choose wisely… There’s a lot riding on this. The Aquabats? Nah, things are silly enough as they are. Mr Bungle? No way. That’s just asking for trouble. Sigur Ros? Christ no, I’d be asleep in seconds. Ok, let’s play it safe and go for a bit of Fugazi.

Right, that’s better, let’s crack on. Next on the stump is Hilary Benn, a man I’ve always felt a little sorry for but only up to a point. In his defence, it must be hard to be the son of someone as polarising as Tony Benn as he will forever be the yardstick by which you are measured and no matter what you do, it will always be construed as either being too much/not enough like your father. He also does seem to genuinely care about some worthy issues, as illustrated by this picture which I can honestly say I have not buggered about with at all (see Fig. 2).

hilary benn defecates in the open

Fig. 2

However, worthy as trying to stamp out outside defecation may be, I’ve always been left with the sense that Benn is very easy to talk round and his love for of all things New Labour (he voted for Iraq, ID cards, top fees and anti-terror laws) is just too jarring when he physically looks and sounds so much like his father. It’s sort of like listening to the spitting image of Bernard Manning praising the benefits of multiculturalism to the rafters or a Ted Nugent lookalike bigging up vegetarianism. In short, I’ve never been really comfortable with Hilary Benn and I don’t think this episode is in any way going to change that, given that I can’t remember a damn thing he said nor any opinion he ventured. Pretty much every answer was about as triangulated as you could get and he just left me with a sense of utter forgettabillity. Ohhhhh, hang on a second! There’s my favourite road sign in the whole country! The M6 exit for Congleton (see LCCPQTMR passim)! Now, what was I talking about again?

Right, the next victim, ex-diplomat Christopher Meyer, is in a similar category to Bagshawe in that while I’m not a massive fan of him personally, at least he had the good grace to occasionally go out on a limb and actually speak his mind. Unbound by any political constraint as he is, it was nice to finally see someone acknowledge that one of the reasons we are not intervening in Syria is simply because we can’t and his candour had the effect of making Browne look even more out of his depth as he skitted all over the place on the Libya question. However, Meyer’s finest hour came in the closing moment of the show when he suddenly got massively old-school and demanded that drunks be put in “horrible, smelly, urine soaked cells”. Now I’m not a subscriber to this particular approach but there is something deeply satisfying about watching an old man momentarily fly off the handle and you could tell he was enjoying it. So yes, given that this was a very small pond, Meyer had the distinction of being the big fish so well done to him and holy crap, I appear to be in Birmingham. Do I feel a fag break coming on? You bet your sweet ass I do!

Ok, we’re nearly there and trust me, this bit is not going to take long as next up is privacy lawyer Charlotte Harris. Bereft of any tangible memory of anything she said or did I’ve been forced to fall back on my notes, only to find that they too are nothing more than a yawning vacuum occasionally interspersed with “sounds lawyerly” here and there. She literally said nothing of any import whatsoever and therein lies the overarching problem with this show: The questions were crap. I think I mentioned a few weeks back that I find it very hard to get fired up about the whole super injunction issue and I have a horrible feeling that it’s turning into this year’s version of the dreaded expenses scandal: An issue that has minimal bearing on our day-to-day lives, commands a very limited number of stock responses (I like/don’t like celebs/MP’s), generates an awful amount of heat and rumbles on for bloody ages. In this episode the issue took up at least half the show while the rest of it fell into the sinkhole of foreign policy based queries. Now don’t get me wrong, Libya is an important issue but unless there’s a backdrop of domestic antagonism running alongside (as there was with Iraq) then Question Time just isn’t the best place to deal with it.

As a result, this was a really flat show that never really got off the ground and apart from Bagshawe’s brief flirtation with the Heckle Zone, there was nothing for anyone to get their teeth stuck into and the crowd just seemed to be surplus to requirement. Having said that, there was one entertaining interlude where a very posh looking young chap in a scarf thought it wise to demand that drinkers pay for hospital treatment which then earned him a stinging rebuke from a very earnest sounding bloke in glasses. Sensing that he might be in over his head Scarf Boy then modified his position to doing it on a case-by-case basis and everyone had a good laugh at just how twatty that sounded. Hardly a titanic epic but you’ve got to take what you can get. Oh and also, the poser of the last question looked a little like Hellboy. Gentle Jesus, has it come to this?

Tl;dr

Browne: Zzzzzzzz

4/10

Bagshawe: Zzzz

5/10

Benn: Zzzzzzzz

4/10

Meyer: Zzz

6/10

Harris: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

3/10

The Crowd: Zzzzzzzz

4/10

Alright, that’s me done and not a moment too soon as I’m not quite sure what’s real and what’s not at this precise moment in time. Sorry if it was all a little weird/dull but you play the hand your dealt and this was a pretty dull episode that happened to occur on an especially weird day. Should anyone in Exeter feel slighted by the low marks awarded today then you are more than welcome to meet at the bus station car park at 1.05pm and we can have a little fight or resolve the issue in whatever way you please. Of course, that is contingent on you reading this prior to my estimated time of arrival which is in turn contingent on me somehow magically finding some internetz in the back of a Megabus. I have a feeling that is not going to happen.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #30


Morning Lemmings and why don’t we start with the traditional parade of dog-eared excuses and semi-plausible sick notes? Why not indeed. Ok, first up, sorry for the paucity of the photoshop effort this week. Basically, they didn’t announce who was on until Thursday evening and due to other commitments, I only had 15 minutes to slap something together, hence the reliance on recycled images and shonky comic ploys. I ain’t happy with it, but whatchagonnado? Secondly, I’d better point out that the only thing keeping my eyes open right now is the cat’s incessant whining to be let out and the packs of feral youths, roaming streets with fireworks who are preventing me from letting the cat out. In short, I’ve had a pretty mental week (literally) and have spent all of today embroiled in incidents of the distinctly dicey variety. I’m currently chugging industrial quantities of cola in a bid to attain some sort of state of alertness, but if the writing seems a bit off this week, look no further than the above.

 

Right, that’s any form of personal responsibility dealt with. Let’s crack on.

 

The Menu

 

Q1: Does the panel think that Sheffield Halham will decapitate Nick Clegg at the next election on account of tuition fees and Forgemasters?

 

Q2: Should prisoners be allowed the vote, especially if they have committed heinous crimes?

 

Q3: Does the recent Anglo-Franco treaty mean the end of independence and sovereignty?

 

Q4: Is fear around the air freight bombs being used to justify further restrictions of our liberty?

 

Q5: Will Obama end up like Blair: Trying to please everyone and satisfying no-one?

 

In the Yellow Bit of the Blue/Yellow Corner: Jeremy Browne MP, Minister of State at the Foreign Office and QT Virgin.

Boy, am I going to have fun with this guy, but in the interests of fairness, let me quickly make a case for his defence. First off, being a LibDem in Sheffield at the moment must be like being an underweight nerd at the International Bully and Victimiser Conference. Pretty much every promise that the LibDems have had to go back on of late has hit Sheffield particularly hard and I think it’s fair to say (just look at Q1) that whoever was on the stump for the Yellow Team was going to get a bit of kicking. Secondly, this is his first time on QT and he’s part of a panel that contains no less than three seasoned Question Time veterans which again is hardly the most comfortable place to be. Lip service to fairness paid, let us now engage in the far more pressing business of ripping poor Jeremy to shreds.

 

Ok where, to start? Well, I guess the first thing that struck me was his voice. It’s just so damn jaunty and un-LibDemmy. If I was listening to last night’s show on the radio and didn’t know who was speaking, I would swear to god that he must be some Tory backwoodsman of the Old School who was campaigning vociferously for a cull of something or other, but he’s not. He’s a LibDem minister. As well as being thoroughly merry, his voice is also characterised by having only one volume setting and this appears to be ‘loud’, something which again is far more Tory territory than LibDem. Sure, his vocal chords aren’t exactly his fault and can be forgiven, but what can’t is his general approach to answering questions. At best, this tends to involve some plumby variation on the “Yes but no but yes but…” routine, something that doesn’t really cut it when you’ve got a blood soaked brawler of the likes of Straw in close proximity and at worst, it’s a straight-forward case of him wedging his foot so firmly in his mouth that medical students will puzzle over how he managed to do this for years to come. A case in point: After being asked for his take on Q3, Browne gaily frolicked into a nice little tract about how the treaty wouldn’t mean we have to “speak French, wear onions round our necks and stripy T-shirts or ride bicycles.” Dammit man! What in the hell do you think you’re doing?! Sure, the crowd want a little red meat from time to time, but times and places fellah!

 

So yes, that didn’t go down too well and he was in fact heckled at this point, much to no-one’s surprise. As this was truly his lowest ebb, I guess it’s only fair to counter it with a high point, but the truth is that I can’t find one. Going back over my notes, most of his answer really didn’t say much about anything and the vast majority of them are summed up by the word “BLAH” in capital letters, a trend that doesn’t bode well for his political future. But here’s the thing though: I actually quite enjoyed his performance and not just in a sadistic ‘let’s watch the new boy give up his dinner money’ sort of way. No, the impression I was left with was of a Labrador driving a train: There’s Jeremy, miles out of his depth, yanking on random levers for the sake of yanking on levers, hurtling towards certain death but utterly oblivious to this eventuality and actually somewhat enjoying the experience. I like that mental image. It makes me smile and for some reason, so did Jeremy Browne’s performance. Ok, so the fact that he is actually a Minister of State is a little unsettling, but that weird inability he has to see that he’s neck-deep in shit and sinking fast is actually rather endearing and for that reason, he gets a slightly better mark than the technicalities of his performance merit. Oh, and he rather aptly looks quite a bit like Jeremy from Peep Show (see Fig. 1).

 

Fig. 1

 

An enjoyably crap 5/10

 

In the Blue Bit of the Blue/Yellow Corner: David Davis MP, stone cold ex-SAS type and general man of principle.

I like Davis and always have, mainly on account of you know exactly what he stands for. Yes, he’s sort of a one trick pony in that his platform is built almost entirely out of civil liberties timber, but that’s not a bad thing in itself and parliament needs people like him to make a hullabaloo when the likes of New Labour get totally carried away with the whole power deal. The other thing I like about Davis is that he looks hard as nails and you know that it’s not an act. Like Paddy Ashdown (also former special forces), his eyes seem to be recessed several inches into his skull and he has the look of a man who could quite nonchalantly kill you but wouldn’t even bother mentioning this to his wife because it seemed like such a mundane occurrence. So yes, I’m on board with Davis in a kind of ‘fear and respect’ sort of way. I don’t agree with him on a great many things, but I will always give him the time of day.

 

In terms of performance, it was stock Davis in that he was beholden to no man, not afraid to criticise his own side if he thought they were playing fast and loose with civil liberties and wonderfully bullshit free. Whilst he said nothing that’s particularly worth repeating at length, his responses were all very consistent and managed to pull off the very difficult trick of splicing self-evident common sense with a very strong helping of principle (especially around Q4 where his arguments for intercept evidence but against Control Orders won him a great deal of sincere applause), all of which led me to wonder why he isn’t running the country. Then I remembered that the Tory party turned him down and instead went for a PR man who looks a little like a boiled ham, which in turn made a something inside of me die a little.

 

An uncompromisingly rugged 8/10

 

In the Red Corner: Jack Straw MP, former warmonger-at-large and perennial survivor.

I don’t like Straw, never have, but by god is he interesting. In many ways, he’s like Davis’ evil twin and they even have similar upbringings in that they both grew up on council estates and suffered family tragedies in their early years. However, this is where their paths diverge and while Davis spent 17 years with Tate and Lyle going from the shop floor to the upper echelons, Straw took the default New Labour route of briefly practising law before going down the career politician route. In outlook, they are both polar opposites, what with Straw being the man who laid most of the foundations for some of New Labours over zealous authoritarianism, but it is in the way that they operate that the differences are most glaring. I mentioned before that Davis looks genuinely tough and tends to do things in a very straight forward, no compromise sort of way. Straw, by contrast, looks anything other than tough (in fact, he looks the Demon Headmaster from the eponymous Children’s BBC show of yore… See Fig.2), so much so that I reckon I could have him and instead has to rely on cunning, an area that he utterly excels in. The other key of difference is that Straw has legacy to defend whilst Davis has nothing of the sort since he has never been in government, all of which conspires to make watching the two of them together rather interesting.

Fig. 2

 

Ok, so getting down to his performance, it was largely what we’ve come to expect: Combative, emphatic, but also slightly twitchy. Take Q1 for example: Early in that question, he got to make a lot of hay by opening both barrels on the coalition, threw around words like “deceit” and “laughable” and generally played to a receptive gallery. Then things got tricky as people bought up his own past as leader of the NUS and his support for tuition fees whilst in government. Some politicians get derailed by moves like this, but Straw is way too grizzled and started to dig his heels in, refusing to give ground to the opposition and making sure that he had the last word. Now, this isn’t a pretty tactic (in fact, it borders on being disingenuous) but it is effective if you know what you’re doing with it and Straw does. Yes, it doesn’t look entirely convincing, but it’s better than the alternative of looking like a numpty who’s been caught out. A slightly different ploy was on display in Q4 when he did his ‘solemn’ look and then cast a smokescreen of technicalities, but the intent was still the same: Never go down without a fight, never give an inch, not one step back unless it’s to lead the enemy into a trap. Again, not entirely edifying but always purposeful. However, what did surprise me was his reaction to Q3 when he flat-out condoned the government’s policy on the Anglo-French treaty and gave it two resounding thumbs up. Now, I’m pretty sure that this is a sign of a slight mellowing now that he’s out of government as I really can’t remember a time when Straw has done anything other than just relentlessly attack anyone who happened to be sat opposite him in the Commons. I could be wrong on that one, but I suspect that I’m not.

 

So that’s the bulk of Straw’s performance and as I’ve already mentioned, I’m generally not a fan (particularly given his involvement in the Iraq War and his role in slowly grinding my post 1997 optimism into a fine powder). However, he is a survivor and with good reason: He knows where the bodies are buried and isn’t the least bit frightened of disinterring them with a mind to reanimation. Is this a noble calling? Probably not. Is it interesting to watch though? Most certainly.

 

Finally, how can I leave Straw without mentioning his little comic turn in Q5 where he asked Dimbers if he remembered FDR’s 1938 election victory and then called him “sweetheart”? Straw, I may question your motives, but I sure as hell admire your chutzpah.

 

A hard-bitten 6/10

 

In the Independent/Brainy Corner: Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty and furthest thing away from a Question Time Virgin possible.

Cripes, it’s been months since we’ve seen Shami, that endearing little boy who always ends up with more applause than Christ himself could garner and I briefly feared that she may have been sent away to boarding school and thus couldn’t partake in her usual schedule of at least ten appearances per series. As that last sentence suggests, Shami is no stranger to LCCPQTMR and as result, I’m going to keep it brief. Needless to say, it was the usual potent mix of impassioned calls to reason, breathless exhortations and non party political latitude that also had the usual result of driving the crowd wild and inevitably leading to victory, so no surprises there (although it has to be said that she shares this week’s victory with David Davis so sorry Shami, but this can’t be claimed as an outright win). All of that sounds like a rather begrudging endorsement and in a way it is because if I’m totally honest, I just get slightly bored with the fact that Shami winning is usually a forgone conclusion. However, I will try to not be completely po-faced about this as I am glad that there are people like her about and I agree with the majority of what she says.

 

One thing that did mark this performance out from some of her other appearances was the weird interplay between her and John Gaunt, a man Shami made an unlikely ally of when she threw Liberty’s weight behind him in the whole Nazigate business. You could tell this left both of them somewhat bewildered as to how to react to each other as they clearly still retain the ability to grind each others gears but aren’t quite sure whether formal hostilities have resumed (her was-it-sarky-was-it-witty “my old friend John Gaunt” quip being a case in point) and this added a little extra flavour to an otherwise standard Chakrabarti outing. Oh, and her performance is also responsible for Least Deserving Outburst Of Wild Applause In The Series So Far Award when the crowd went absolutely batshit after she spoke a little French in Q3. She could have said “Let’s lock up all the children in the land and make them eat coal” and they would have still slapped their hands together in unquestioning adoration, so blinded by the wildly improbable feat of someone actually knowing a few words in a foreign language. Has it come to this, Britain? HAS IT?

 

An inevitable 8/10

 

In the I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: John Gaunt, former TalkSport Radio presenter, Sun columnist and Nazi accuser.

I’m having trouble here. By rights, he should be my perfect Bad Guy by dint of holding a wide and varied array of right-wing views that are delivered in the most belligerent of tones. But wait! What’s this? We’re only into Q1 and we’re hearing an employee of News International knocking the government for being full of millionaires? Something ain’t right here. But there’s more! Here comes Q4 and if I’m not mistaken, I’m hearing the self-same Sun hack having a pop at Control Orders! Ok, so he tempered that by making it clear that he would still like to see Muslim extremists locked up and he did have the compulsory rant/wild speculation of doomsday scenarios whenever Europe was mentioned, but I must say that this turn of events has left my head spinning because dammit, I want to able to categorically hate the Bad Guy and I can’t do that if he’s talking about things I agree with. I can semi hate him, if only for talking a little bit LIKE THIS, turning every sentence into a crescendo that Godspeed would be proud of and his general knack for demagoguery also steams my bean (“this is Great Britain not GREAT BURMA!”), but I just can’t give him thoroughly horrible marks. Neither, it seems, could the crowd who were right behind him, especially in Q1 and thus we witness the strange spectacle of a Sun man cleaning up in a Mirror city. What with Glasgow refusing to tar and feather the nearest available coalition candidate last week, I now no longer know anything. Down is up, up is down, rivers flowing backwards, etc, etc.

 

An annoyingly not entirely awful 4/10

 

The Crowd: Sheffield

This was always going to be an odd show, mainly because three of the panelists were ‘we like liberty’ types whilst the other two were either too cunning or just too completely off the planet to really buck the consensus. Throw into this mix a list of question that hinge heavily around a civil liberties agenda and what you get is an episode that’s much more about the Y axis than the X of the wonderful Slomp Projection. I guess that’s quite nice for a change but I hope it doesn’t become a habit because I’m a sucker for the X axis. In terms of working out whether Sheffield is approving of the coalition it was also a little odd as they weren’t really represented. Yes, there were members of both parties there, but the LibDem panelist was so far removed from reality that he didn’t really count and the Tory member sounded so distant from government that he couldn’t really act as gauge either. Still, I must say that it was a fairly lively affair and if anything can be drawn from the crowd’s input it is that Nick Clegg should be seriously worried about his prospect for re-election and that no one really felt like defending Europe. Furthermore, I’m sad to say that the glorious run of two bow tie wearers in a row has come to an end. Bad move, Sheffield, you could have got some easy points there.

 

A slightly different but regrettably un-bow tied 6/10.

 

And that’s that. Right, I’m knackered and sober so I’m out of here but I will leave you with a small something by way of apology for this week’s poor pshop effort. Behold, Beefy (the bassist in our band) looking massive and chasing all sorts of crap.

 

Run. Just run.

 

 

Next week, Lemmings…


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