Posts Tagged 'John Gaunt'

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #49


question time 49 summerMorning Lemmings and stop crying! I know it’s the last show of the series and all that but let’s face it, it ended with a hell of a bang. Admittedly, this has more to do with the fact that this week’s news has been hurtling forward at the speed of light than anything inherently Question Timey, but nevertheless, it was a belter.

Now usually I tend to do this in the order that the panelists were introduced but I’m making an exception this week and kicking off with Hugh Grant, mainly because he pretty much owned this show and cemented himself beyond doubt in the ‘more than just a pretty face’ category. Personally, I’ve always been a bit up and down with Hugh but in the last few years, he’s really grown on me. Here’s why:

  1. Bitter Moon

This is probably one of the worst films ever made and even by Polanski’s usual standards it’s beyond weird. I’d explain the premise if I understood it but I don’t and all I can really tell you is that involves Hugh Grant being berated by a wheelchair bound Peter Coyote while Kristin Scott-Thomas lezzes it up with Polanski’s real-life girlfriend. Sounds rubbish, right? Well yes, it is, but sublimely rubbish.

  1. Mickey Blue Eyes

If Bitter Moon is crapness done right then Mickey Blue Eyes is mediocrity taken to perfection. It’s a formulaic and wholly unsurprising flick which rests heavily on Grant playing the same role that he does in every damn film but you know what? I love it. Unashamedly, wholeheartedly and unreservedly love it.

  1. His sting in the New Statesman.

This piece totally blindsided me and if you haven’t read it, check it out. The long and short of it is that Grant blagged a pap (who had previously papped him) into spilling the beans about all sorts of nefarious goings on whilst he happened to be wearing a wire. Not only was it fairly entertaining but it was also a great piece of journalism. From that day on, Grant’s stock has been rising on the Loudribs Exchange (LR

So that’s where I was with him prior to the show and I’m happy to report that the upward tick on his share price graph is not merely an aberration and is in fact part of a sustained rally. This has been largely achieved by melding what he’s very good at (i.e. being a bit charming in a floppy sort of way) with actually knowing a thing or two about his pet subject and not being afraid to point fingers. In essence, he’s done a Lumley.

In terms of how this came across on the show, let’s just say that it’s a foolhardy politician who tries to go toe-to-toe with Grant as not only does he know the terrain inside out (he seemed more clued up than either Alexander or Grayling on the details) but he also does anger in quite an intriguing way. I say this because we’re so used to him being the ‘don’t mind me’ and ‘I’m so terribly sorry I’m so damnably befuddled’ chap when he’s in films that to see him accuse Cameron of being “Murdoch’s little helper” is like being viciously savaged by something you believed to be harmless and benign. On top of this, he didn’t seem to be picking sides last night and he poured near equal amounts of scorn on both the Tories and Labour whilst rattling both their closets so that the crowd could dance to sound of jangling skeletons, all of which was refreshingly even-handed. His bitter little scrap with Gaunt was also something to behold (especially when he did the old switcheroo and asked whether Murdoch had the right to tell people what to read) and again, it showed a very steely side to him that took me unawares. Ok, so the guy knows naff all about train manufacturing but I’m inclined to forgive him that. I was also a little disappointed that he wasn’t wearing his mugshot placard from back when he was arrested, but I’d handily mocked up such a scenario the day before (see Fig. 1) and then felt massively guilty when John Gaunt bought it up and got rightly shot down for being “cheap and pathetic”. But yes, Grant played the match of his life last night and I think this performance will be remembered for quite a while hence.

 

hugh grant question time

Fig. 1

Facing this rather formidable prospect for the Blue Team last night was Chris Grayling, a man who it’s very hard to find anything to say about. Some of this is because he looks scarily bland, almost as if he has an inflatable head that someone has simply drawn his features on to, but also because I suspect he really is quite a dull guy. However, this apparent lack of anythingness might have actually been an asset last night as his brief was bloody difficult (‘look angry yet promise nothing’) and while he didn’t exactly make matters better for the government, at least he didn’t make them that much worse. What he did do however was to look just a little lost and actually quite out of his depth. You could see the odd moment when he felt brave and tried to have a pop at Alexander but there was no fire in him and he probably could have been replaced by an actual inflatable man, like the autopilot from Airplane! In short, I’ve seen better.

Now, remember a few weeks back when I got sidetracked and started blathering on about a book about the US Civil War that I’m reading? Well here it comes again! I bring this up because the Civil War was basically led on the Union side by two different types of general. On the one hand were the dapper West Pointers of old who did things ‘the proper way’, looked terrific, were held in much fondness by their men but were absolutely crippled by caution (your McClellan’s and Burside’s). These guys seemed to be largely competent and decent people who played by the rules but as soon as anything unexpected happened (which it invariably did), they all went completely to pot. Now the other set of General’s were much more fun. These were the guys like Sherman, Grant and Sheridan who had no interest in ‘the proper’ way’ of doing things, looked a mess but were extremely effective and utterly, utterly ruthless. Naturally, this meant that they did things that look very questionable in hindsight and they bought to the war a special kind of ugliness but by god did they get things done.

I bring this up now because what Labour really needed last night was a Sheridan. As I mentioned earlier, the rate of knots that the news has been steaming along at is absolutely phenomenal and so far, Miliband has been making a decent fist of it (I caught PMQ’s this week and you can see that Cameron knows he’s in trouble. As soon as that temper starts poking it’s head out, you know you’ve pressed the right buttons). However, ‘a decent fist’ is only a start and what is actually required right now is someone who will sweep in on their flanks, break their lines and then relentlessly harry them all the way back to Richmond. Right now, the prime candidates for this role appear to be Bryant, Watson and, bizarrely enough, Prescott, all of whom have really got the bit between their teeth. Unfortunately for Labour, what they got was Douglas Alexander and his instincts are certainly not of the ‘relentlessly harrying’ type. No, I’m afraid to say it but Wee Dougie is one of those who makes an excellent general in peacetime but when put into a fluid situation like the one we have now, he simply goes rigid.

Last night, that tendency manifested in his wanton overuse of the line “judicial inquiry” and had I counted the amount of times he uttered those words, I would have probably run out of fingers. Now don’t get me wrong, I also think that a judicial inquiry is what needs to happen and he was right to hammer the Tories on that one but there’s so much more he could have done. Granted, his room for maneuver was constricted by New Labour’s own shenanagising with Murdoch (as aptly and repeatedly pointed out by Grant) but if you can build up enough forward momentum, that issue should start to fade a little. Ultimately in a political sense, this is very dangerous for Cameron. It doesn’t matter what way you slice it, he’s been knocking about with some very bad people and all those who suspected that he kept some pretty shady company now have all the ammunition they will ever need. As to why Alexander couldn’t find the grit to really pursue that line I don’t know but it’s a great shame that he didn’t and what could have been a Battle of Atlanta turned into a Battle of Antietam: A bloody, grinding affair that squandered what had otherwise been great odds in his favour.

Ok, history lesson over and on to Shirley Williams, a woman who appeared to be positively enjoying the whole experience last night, simply by dint of doing what she does best: Telling people off. Most of her ire was directed in the vicinity of Murdoch (and she was the only politico to come out as avowedly anti-News International) but he wasn’t the only one to get a thundering denunciation by any account. Oh no, there was Grayling getting it in the neck about BskyB, Grant being chided for something or other, Dimber’s for playing favourites with the boys and a poor member of the audience who got a minor tongue lashing for putting his hand up. Now usually I hate the teller-offers in this world but for reasons unknown, I don’t mind it with Williams. Partly I think this is down to her voice which is very well suited to rollickings and partly because she wears the head mistress cape so well, but also I think I may just have a soft spot for angry old people. Let’s face it, they’ve earned the right and I fully intend to become an absolute volcano of rage when I hit 70. So nice one Shirley, jobs a good ‘un.

Right, final panelist now and let’s not spend too much time on it as this week we have been blighted by John Gaunt, ex-Sun journo and all round pillock. In the interests of fairness I should point out that he did receive some fairly decent chunks of applause and he was far from uncritical of the News of the World but then again Hitler probably could have raised a clap or two by slagging off Murdoch on last night’s show. No, what really gets my goat about Gaunt is a) the way each sentence starts at around 70 dB and ends at an ear-splitting 150 dB and b) he reminds me of one of those novelty keyrings that play different and largely annoying little soundbites. Can’t be bothered to think of an answer? Just press the button named ‘Blame Europe’. Get caught out thinking you’re in London when you’re actually a Basingstoke? Just press the button marked ‘Annoying Squealy Laugh Followed By Rubbish Joke’. Worried that Hugh Grant might be hogging the limelight? Just press the button marked ‘Keep It In Your Trousers’. I think you get the picture and don’t need me to elaborate further on how much of a div he is. Div.

So there we have the panel, what of the crowd? Well, in actual fact it’s quite hard to draw a bead on them as the show was utterly dwarfed by its context and other than them being wholly game for a spot of Murdoch bashing, they all just seemed to coalesce into one great big angry mob. I make that sound like a bad thing but it’s not. Everything that has gone on in the past week completely justifies angry-mob-like-activity and I think this was pretty accurate depiction of the national mood. Then again I could be wrong. They could have been driven to such levels of torment by the tie Dimbers was wearing. He does know that Global Hypercolor ceased to be ‘in’ several decades ago, right?

Tl;dr

Grant: Hit

8/10

Grayling: Not in the least bit

4/10

Alexander: Doesn’t quite get it

5/10

Williams: True grit

7/10

Gaunt: Tit

3/10

The Crowd: Tightly knit

7/10

So there we have it, a right old clangerlang to end the series with. As is only right, I’d like to thank all those who’ve had to put up with how cranky I get on a Friday night, especially my partner Hannah. Thanks as well to those who keep coming back to read this week after week. The traffic on this blog isn’t exactly massive, but knowing that it hits a chord with some people is good enough for me. As is traditional at the end of the series, I will now make some rash promises about how this blog may move to its own dedicated site although this time I don’t fully intend to disappoint. I only semi intend to. Thanks for reading and enjoy your summers.

September Lemmings, September…

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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