Posts Tagged 'John Redwood'

Questionable Time #20


questionable time 20 david dimbleby mona lisa

Good morning Lemmings oh God, this is going to be a little trickier than I anticipated. You see, the problem I’ve got is that is that I spent my whole week lulling myself into a false sense of security for the following reasons:

      1. Dewsbury is just down the road from me, I’ve covered it before and was pretty confident that things would pan out in a certain way.
      2. Whilst I didn’t (despite strenuous efforts) manage to get on the show myself, I did manage to insert a spy into the audience in the form of the redoubtable @smokethiscity. After a week of intensive QT coaching and espionage training I deployed my little Manchurian Candidate to Dewsbury with a clutch of pre-prepared questions and a communication device (see Fig. 1). Advantage Loudribs.
      3. Thanks to my new-found knack for subterfuge I also gained valuable prior knowledge with regards to the composition of the panel. Given that they were all repeat offenders whose foibles are well documented I was now supremely confident that I had the drop on this week’s episode.

Fig. 1

So yes, I had it all figured out. Starkey would be insufferable, Clarke would flounder but everyone would be very kind to him whilst the politicians would provide me with the regular meat and potatoes I need to make a decent Questionable Time. For once I was holding all the cards and I’ve spent most of this week looking forward to a nice, easy Friday write-up that would call for very little effort on my part. So why am I sitting here right now feeling like my brain’s about to explode? Here’s why:

1. Bloody Starkey

I think I can be forgiven for simply assuming that David Starkey was going to be a breeze to write-up this week given that the man’s a vortex of absurdity who seems to grab every opportunity to get a little repellent and theatrical with both hands. In fact, I could pretty much get away with giving him a good kicking in today’s Questionable Time as he did spend a disproportionate amount of time accusing audience members of “insolence”, having a go at the French for being smelly ingrates and being told (very firmly no less) to shut up by Dimbers, all of which is exactly the sort of dickish behaviour we’ve come to expect from him. The problem is that even though I would very much like to stick the boot in (not only would it be easy, it would also be incredibly fun), I just can’t bring myself to because in actual fact, he came out with some good stuff last night. HEY, WHERE ARE YOU ALL GOING?! COME BACK! I KNOW IT SOUNDS CRAZY BUT HEAR ME OUT!

Ok, still with me? Good. Let’s start with the NHS question. Now, as Starkey rightly pointed out, we as a nation get a little bit crazy with the Cheeze Whizz whenever the topic of health is bought up and in no area is this tendency more pronounced than that of GP’s, Unimpeachable Bastions of Moral Integrity that they are. Here’s the thing though, I used to work in primary care and while I can confirm that the vast majority of GP’s are Hard Working Pillars of the Community there is also a minority that are, for want of a better word, Money-Grubbing Bastards. It’s not a nice thing to say but it’s true and there are many practices out there that use every possible trick in the book to squeeze as much as they can out of the NHS for their own personal enrichment. Given that suggesting such a thing in public is only slightly less socially-acceptable than telling children that Santa’s dead, it takes a certain amount of guts to shine a light on this issue and Starkey deserves some credit for that.

Similarly, he also had some worthy stuff to say on the segregation question, particularly when it comes to the thorny issue of what do we do when the rights of two minorities collide (which in this case was the right of the gay community to be gay and the ‘right’ of a small section of the Islamic community to hate people being gay). Now, this is an area that most people shy away from because not only is it loaded with emotion, it is also savagely complicated and littered with squares that can’t be circled without some very hard and very painful soul-searching. Yet again though, Starkey had the chops to bring it up.

So here I am in a quandary: On the one hand I simply can’t get past the fact that watching Starkey is like watching an enormous trifle made of bile and that all the histrionics (“he thinks he’s Moses!”) do nothing to lessen that perception. However, I have to admit that unappealing as it is, that trifle does – in places – actually taste quite good and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s even a hint of nutritional value in it. Ah, bugger it. I can’t keep this of level cognitive maturity up… Here’s a puerile photoshop of a very fruity looking David Starkey circa-some-time-in-the-mid-’80’s (see Fig. 2). There, that feels better.

david-starkey-1980s-sailors-gif

Fig. 2

2. Clarke Carlisle absolutely blew me away.

Ok, I confess. I spent the first part of this episode being an absolute snob towards Clarke Carlisle. “Awwwwwww…” I thought out loud, “Look at the little footballer fluffing his careful rehearsed lines and looking totally out of his depth. Bless.”. So yes, again I was lulled into the notion that he’d be a doddle to write-up as he was performing exactly how one would expect a footballer on QT to perform. Then the segregation question landed and I was forced to instantly STFU for from this unassuming figure gushed a torrent of utter brilliance. Seriously, his response to that question hit so many nails on the head and did so with such obvious passion that I was completely taken aback. I can’t even remember exactly it was that he said but the way he said it put an instant song in my heart and for the first time in God knows how long I actually felt myself actively rooting for a panelist. So I’m sorry Clarke Carlisle. I’m sorry for being snobby and doubting you and I’m also sorry for that time when I inadvertently made your name a high-ranking result for the search term ‘pissflaps’. BFF’s?

3. The other panelists mattered not a jot.

So with all this Clarkey-Starkey business going on, I guess it’s fair to ask how our three political panelists did and if I’m being honest, there’s not a great deal to tell. Part of this was that because it was a very evenly split crowd so no-one really got the upper hand at any point, but it’s also because it was a very middle-weight panel in which the combatants were quite evenly matched. Sure, John Redwood was (as always) a little weird, Rachel Reeves a little over-briefed and Jo Swinson a little unbalanced by some torn loyalties but no-one really buggered anything up and nor could they really make their voices heard over Starkey’s shrill rhetorical antics. As a result I’m awarding all the politicos an arbitrary ‘5’. There’s no shame in it guys… Mediocrity is under-rated.

TL;DR

Redwood: 5/10

Largely fine.

Reeves: 5/10

I can’t whine.

Swinson: 5/10

Pretty benign

Starkey: 6/10

Bit of a swine

Carlisle: 8/10

Did shine

The Crowd: 7/10

Contained a spy (who dropped me a line).

So there you go, despite all my efforts to play puppet master and have myself an easy Friday my efforts have been in vain. Clearly myself and @smokethiscity aren’t CIA material. On a rather more sombre note, I’d just like to take this opportunity to say a fond farewell to Bob Franklin, a regular commenter on Questionable Time who sadly passed away last month. I always greatly valued his support, opinion and kind words and my thoughts are with Di, Toby and Rupert.

Next time Bob, next time…

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Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #48


 

 

question time huddersfield

Morning Lemmings and praise be, we are no longer in Scotland and back on a more familiar footing, unhindered by issues I care not for and accents I can’t fathom. No Lemmings, this week we find ourselves in Huddersfield and I’m happy to say that I’ve got a pretty good idea of what goes on in that neck of the woods thanks to a rather colourful history I share with the town. Most of this is down to the fact that it’s only a few miles down the road from me but also because when the band I’m in first started playing live, we ended up in Huddersfield on a fair few occasions. Unfortunately for both me and Huddersfield, we hadn’t quite figured out the correct alcohol-to-performance ratio and one of our earlier gigs was largely characterised by me trying to explain/slur to the audience that “there’s no ‘I’ in ‘Huddersfeld Bus Staton”. This was largely met with bemused puzzlement but I remained undeterred and continued to berate the assembled rabble that “there’s no ‘I’ in ‘Huddersfeld Tran Staton” either. For reasons beyond me I just wouldn’t let this go (probably because I was very proud of being able to remove ‘I’s from words whilst barely being able to stand) and the evening rapidly descended into farce as I realised that all the things that my hands were doing with the guitar were not the things they were supposed to be doing. So yes, Huddersfeld and I go back a bit.

 

Sub-prime tales of amateur rockery aside, I was into this episode, not because it was in any way an epic bloodbath or anything remotely like that but mainly because it proved a cautionary tale into the pitfalls of frontbench politics. Our two protagonists in this tale of woe take the form of loco right-wing lodestar John Redwood and Womble-esque Secretary of State for Transport Norman Baker. Now, this pair have come at their career from completely opposite ends with Redwood entering government a bare two years after becoming an MP whilst Baker has only just arrived into a position of power after 13 years on the shelf. The experience of government for Redwood had been a chequered affair to say the least, what with him being possibly the most rabid proponent of Thatcherism in a government full of rabid proponents of Thatcherism, his now legendary bollocksing up of the Welsh national anthem and his failed attempt to topple John Major. Basically, he veered erratically between being genuinely, frighteningly crazy and a general purpose figure of ridicule. In contrast, Baker spent his early years being pretty much the textbook example of an effective backbencher and he had the guts to take on some very powerful figures (he started in motion the chain of events that led to Mandelson’s second resignation), would go out of his way to uncover things of an iffy nature (the Dr. Kelly affair comes to mind) and nurtured a whole host of kooky little side causes like Tibet. Here he is with a tiny manifestation of the Dalai Lama levitating between his cupped hands (see Fig. 1… it’s been a dry week for Google Images).

norman baker dalai lama

Fig.1

Fast forward to last night’s show and we find that the tables have turned and the results are quite dramatic for the fortunes of our protagonists. Take Redwood for example: Since he’s been on the backbenches Ol’ Vulcanchops has actually become quite fun as he wilfully takes potshots at his own party and this was apparent throughout the episode. Greece (which he insisted on addressing as ‘she’)? Let the bastards go under! U-turns? Couldn’t care less providing that someone stops Clarke from bumming offenders. Pensions?The public sector can go suck a lemon (actually, that’s a little unfair as he did attempt to act in a slightly conciliatory manner on this question)! Sure, some of what he said really shouldn’t be uttered north of the Severn-Wash line and he was rightly pilloried for taking the ‘it’s all Labour’s fault’ jalopy out for its ten trillionth spin but all the while he looked very comfortable and certainly wasn’t going to arse about with such trivialities as toeing the party line. Now, I realise that I’ve relentlessly taken the piss out of him in the past but that’s mainly because it’s so easy and in actual fact, I quite enjoyed seeing him on last night’s show, despite how weird that sounds as the words pass my lips. Jesus, did I really just say that?

Baker, by contrast, had an entirely different match and not a great one at that. He largely got away with the Greece question by letting Redwood go through the ‘Labour’s fault’ motions but he seemed vulnerable on the u-turn and pensions numbers. Granted, there was only one moment when things got really dicey (the boo-fest about the manifesto) but you could tell that he was on borrowed time and although he generally sounded reasonable, you got the sense that singing from the Downing Street issued hymn book was actually bloody hard work for him. And therein lies the rub: People like Baker and Redwood are essentially free range politicians and enticing though power may be, captivity in government leads inevitably to their slow decline into madness. In many ways I think that’s a shame because I like Baker and I think he’s well suited to his brief (Transport Minister is an inherently nerdy posting), but his main strengths lie in the fact that he’s very adept at holding the powerful to account and that’s something that’s very tricky to do when you’re actually in government. So sorry Norman, I know it’s cool to play with the biggest train set in the world but seriously, is it worth it?

The other big political story of the night was that Labour’s panelist actually did very well and about bloody time too if you don’t mind me saying (mind you, that’s what you get when you only put forward ex-Home Secretaries for ten million weeks in a row). On the stump for the Red Team was parliamentary n00b Rachel Reeves and funnily enough, the MP for my constituency. While I’ve never met Reeves personally, I did send her a very pedantic email prior to the election demanding why exactly I should vote for her and to her credit, she replied at length. Ok, so we had a few disagreements about foreign policy and I actually ended up voting Green, but at least she took the time to indulge my curmudgeonry and from that point on, I’ve been keeping a close eye on her. In terms of the show, she got off to a strong start with some well-aimed jabs at the coalition and also had the gumption to bring up the fact that the Tory’s were fully signed up to Labour’s spending plans prior to the crash. Quite why Labour have been so reluctant to pull this one out of the bag more often I don’t know but it’s nice to finally see someone pour cold water on what has been the coalitions stock response to pretty much any criticism. Most of her other response were also fairly robust with a good innings on pensions/u-turns and the crowd seemed to be largely signed up to the Reeves Manifesto. Ok, so if you’re a Labour politician facing Redwood in Huddersfield and the crowd aren’t with you then you might as well just give up as this is about as easy as it gets, but I was impressed with her performance and I’ve got a feeling that she’s one to watch… Even if her slightly blokey voice jars with her otherwise female face.

Right, that’s the political bit, now for the civilians, this week represented by Anorak-in-Chief David Mitchell and paragon of mumsiness Fern Britton. Given that Mitchell has now been appointed as the Default Face of Middlebrow Satire he was pretty much in his element on Question Time and he was very easy to watch. All his answers were pictures of reasonableness with a few chuckles thrown in for good measure and while he isn’t so great with the details, the points he was making all seemed to make a good amount of sense. Britton on the other hand was a completely different kettle of fish and most of her responses can be summed up as follows:

I’m too sure about [insert current subject here], but as a mother/woman/feminist [delete as appropriate] I despair/enthusiastically endorse [delete as appropriate] of whatever it is that we’re talking about”

When this approach to political debate is combined with a halting yet impassioned delivery you begin to feel like you’re being smothered to death with several tons of marshmallows. I’m conscious that this all sounds a little po-faced as Britton doesn’t pretend to be anything other than human security blanket and her Blair interview made it clear that she’s the softest of softballers but I just don’t think her MO makes for very good Question Timing. Sure, it garners claps-a-plenty but it doesn’t really add anything to mix. Having said that, it would have been funny if Phillip Schofield was also on the panel and they ended up descending into their obligatory fog of giggles and innuendo, but until that happens my face will continue to be po.

So that was panel, what of the audience? On the face of it this was a pretty mundane show: Redwood largely behaved, no-one said anything especially earth-shattering and the biggest clap of the night actually went to Dimbleby when he speared Baker with some high velocity tuition fees. Having said that though it was just what I needed, largely because I instantly understood it. Given that I live in Leeds, the politics of the M62 are my bread and butter and this crowd were pretty much a living representation of what that entails. Sure, they weren’t the most exciting bunch (although the guy who looked like the Pennines’ answer to the X-Factor’s Wagner did spice things up a little) and no major scalps were claimed but it had the feel of a very well made cup of tea: Ultimately unexciting but immensely comforting nevertheless.

Tl;dr

Redwood: 6/10

(orange) Hued

Baker: 4/10

(got) Booed

Reeves: 7/10

Wooed

Mitchell: 6/10

Dude

Britton: 5/10

(probably makes a whole bunch of women feel) Brood(y)

The Crowd: 5/10

(sub)Dued

Ok, so that was totally mellow. Sorry if it wasn’t the most exciting report but it really did feel like a warm bath episode and warm baths are only funny if someone farts in the them. No one farted in this episode. Anyway, you’ll be pleased to know the mellowness was only transitory in nature and was soon ripped apart by the eye-splitting spectacle of Michael Portillo and Alan Johnson wearing near identical stripy shirts on This Week (and that was before the horror of watching Will Hutton’s strange face in HD). Expect more reasonable levels of irritability to return in the next instalment.

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.

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #17


*@£&^

Morning Lemmings. A slight caveat before we start: If you’re looking for detail, you’d better go the hell some place else because I couldn’t make heads nor tails of this episode, largely thanks to Campbell and Morgan turning it into a brawl rather than a debate. To illustrate the point, take a look at a page from my notes (See Fig. 1):

Everyone! Just STFU!

Fig. 1

Now usually, I just about get the bulk of an episode down on paper, even when the panellist take it upon themselves to yap a lot. However, this only works when one person is talking at a time and when they do start to get a bit testy with each other, I tend to draw a little cloud (which is the internationally recognised comic book shorthand for a scrap). On the average episode, this may happen once or twice and precious little semantic juice is lost. On this instalment however, my notes are bloody covered in them, mainly with the letters ‘AC’ (for ‘Alistair Campbell’) or ‘PM’ (for ‘Piers Morgan’) written inside them (although if you look at the picture you can see one involving ‘Everyone’ and one with just ‘PM’. He was probably arguing with himself at that point). So apologies for some inevitable vagueness and condolences to anyone who has had the misfortune to converse with either of these individuals. My heart goes out to you. Right, Question Time… erh… time.

The Menu

Q1: How will the spending cuts affect jobs and the economy?

Q2: Will extra academies make for a two tier education system?

Q3: Why are both the Miliband’s and Balls now criticising the Iraq war?

Q4: What steps can the government take to stop backbenchers derailing the coalition?

Q5: Is entrapment journalism in the public interest?

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner – John Redwood, weird looking poster boy for the Tory right and Welsh national anthem forgetter.
So, the Tories refused to send a front bencher up against Alistair Campbell. Bad move Cammerclegg, as hell hath no fury like a Dimbers scorned (and muchly scorned was he) and just to drive the point home, they invited arch rightwing axe-grinder and bête noire of the Brave New World of Consensual Politics, John Redwood, instead. And what a funny creature Redwood is, representing, as he does, that totally batty ‘Get Your State Out Of My Every-Man-For-Himself Utopia’ right wing of the Tory party (you know, the guys and gals who seem mental enough to warrant close supervision from a Community Mental Health Team, but not so far gone as to join their UKIP brethren on the HMS Oddball). He also has the appearance of a man who is deeply unsettled by the rest by the rest of humanity and I have images of him as an adolescent, digging holes in empty fields and then sitting in them for hours on end whilst hissing at anyone foolish enough to stray too close. ‘Discontented Loner’ is the phrase I’m looking for. However, this can’t be the full story as during my usual Thursday trawl through Google Images for pshop fodder, I came across this little doozie (see Fig. 2):

Come on Sonya, let's be appalling!

Fig. 2

Look at him! He’s with a woman! And a half fit one at that! Never mind the fact that his get-up looks like it was borrowed from Paul Daniels back-up wardrobe, let us just revel in the fact that someone as weird as Redwood can at least seem to find something that halfway resemble happiness. There is hope for us all yet.

Anyhoo, this is getting a little bitchy so let’s get back to the point: John Redwood is pretty much a living Geiger counter when it comes to gauging how close to the edge the coalition is as he is the de facto headboy of the Tory Awkward Squad. If Cammerclegg can keep this motley collection of hardbitten ideologues onside, then the chances that things are going to be OK and the Blue/Yellow Team can continue not being driving around in ministerial cars for the foreseeable future. However, the act of keeping them onside is going to be a truly Olympian feat as this crowd have swallowed just about as much touchy/feely/’hug a hoodie and keep moisturised’ crap as they can possibly tolerate and there seems to be a steady chunter of treasonable mutterings emanating from the backbenches right now (as illustrated by Cameron’s failed 1922 gambit). With this in mind, what is to be made of John Redwood’s performance?

Well, things started out on a pretty standard footing on Q1 as he pulled the classic ‘translate national debt into a figure for every man, woman and child’ trick that is so beloved of pathological spending cutters before getting very starry eyed about the private sector (in an almost cute ‘women will leave you, men will betray you, but the private sector will always be there, comforting you with its tender embrace’ kind of way). Much the same followed with Q2 as he again slipped into ‘set adrift on memory bliss’ mode and eulogised academies as “ladders of opportunity” (before referring to his brand new best friends in the House of Commons as the “Liberal Democrat people”), much to no-ones surprise.

But wait! What’s this in Q3? Is that a Geiger counter I hear chirping into life? I think it is. Q3 should have been a straight forward exercise in ‘have a pop at Labour’ tactics that don’t go too far, so as to prevent any backwash from the Tories own voting record. Sure enough, he did have a token swipe at the Red Team, but then went to great lengths to stress (and I must say that it did look heartfelt) how much he regretted voting for it out of “loyalty” to David Cameron. I’ve got a feeling that isn’t quite the wholehearted endorsement that the Tory leadership were looking for. Not content with merely crackling out a few Rontgens on that matter, he then went into full Chernobyl mode on Q4 by roundly rubbishing the rise in Capital Gains Tax and saying that he hoped the government would change the policy before there was “a need for rebellion”. You don’t have to be an expert at reading between the lines to see what he was getting at. He calmed down a bit after that, wibbling some weird point about Royal access being free on Q5, but he certainly managed to drive the message home to his own party: ‘You’re on notice. Stop arsing about with hemp wearing hippies or else.’. They have been warned.

So that’s him. I’m not a big fan of Redwood, what with his fairly crazy outlook and generally humourless approach to everything, but I do enjoy watching a troublemaker at work and in this respect he did pretty well. However, I do worry about his liver function, given the really odd orange/yellow skin tone he has. I can’t see it being down to booze (there’s too much of a puritanical streak in him for that), but something ain’t right. Go and see Dr Liam Fox, John. I’m sure he’ll handle the matter with the utmost sensitivity and compassion.

A meddlesome 5/10

In The Yellow Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Susan Kramer, ex-LibDem MP and Cosmo Kramer hair-a-like (see Fig. 3)

Giddy up...

Fig. 3

Ok, so I get the Tory logic about not putting up a front bencher against Campbell, despite it being Queen’s Speech week. It was a pretty wanky move that’s caused a minor brouhaha, but yes, I see their reasoning. However, I’m at a loss as to why the Libs didn’t even bother to send an MP and to be honest, I think that’s pretty yellow bellied (ha!). Still, I can only work with what I’ve got and what I got on this episode of Question Time was Susan Kramer, one time Richmond Park MP who was recently ousted by Arch Cameron Chum, Zac Goldsmith. I’m not overly familiar with Kramer and I can’t really find much of note in this outing other than a) a nice deployment of a slightly ropey metaphor (the coalition is “something of camel, but camels get things through the desert” So they do) and b) she has the stance of a silverback gorilla: Head down, shoulders forward and elbows way the fuck out there. At times, she did come across as quite spirited, but for most part she just seemed to be largely irrelevant, given that she has absolutely no say in the running of anything. Actually, thinking about it, that’s a pretty cunning move from the Libs, considering that tonight was always going to be an exercise in getting hammered. Hmmmmm, Ok Yellow Team, maybe there was method behind the madness. Touché.

A so-so 5/10

In The Red Corner: Alistair Campbell, unflinching enforcer of Tony’s media will and father of Malcolm Tucker.

I’d love to see Alistair Campbell’s daily routine. I imagine it would look something like this:

0200: Awake to a CD of human screams, played at all times in my bedroom.

0230: Punch myself in the face repeatedly to banish any sleep addled delusions of mercy.

0300: Eat a bowl of rust and battery acid.

0330: Sprint for 20 miles whilst wearing shoes full of broken glass and listening to white noise at high volume.

0600: Ring up every newspaper editor on their home phone, call them “wankers” and then hang up.

0630: Throw ice cold water on the wife and children to wake them up.

0700: Shit brimstone.

0800: Threaten paperboy and accuse him of authoring smear stories in The Daily Mail.

0900: Arrive at work and partake in a varied mixture of circumventing democracy, intimidating opponents, intimidating colleagues and intimidating employers.

2200: Arrive home and read the children extracts from Machiavelli’s The Prince (or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road if they’ve been good).

2230: Feast on human souls.

2300: Shout at the sky for being there and shake fists at passing satellites.

0000: Shower in the blood of innocents.

0100: Update my Shit List.

0159: Sleep

Seriously, this guy’s like a political Terminator. He is out there. He can’t be bargained with. He can’t be reasoned with. He doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And he absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead. Nice guy.

So yes, Alistair was on the show and after watching him, I can see why the other parties ducked out: Fear. Pure, visceral, makes you want to throw up and cry fear. And to be honest, I can’t blame them as it’s a perfectly rational response to being confronted by a man made of anger. Trying to decipher what he said is pretty hard (given the reasons at the start of the article) but it can be generally summed up as ‘an all out offensive, all the time’. No-one was safe. The Tories were bastard cutaholics, the Libs were shifty turncoats, Piers was, well, Piers and Max Hastings lives in “an ivory tower”. The only people who were spared his ire were the saintly Labour party with their 13 Years Of Indisputable Achievements, David Miliband and the usual touchstones of “nurses, teachers, blah, blah”. Things started to look a little uncomfortable when Piers took him to task on the war and an exceptionally brave member of the audience enquired as to how he would feel if kids had died in Iraq, but it was a passing affair and one that was snuffed out when he scolded all of those who had the temerity to clap the question. Having said that, he did get strong applause at points but I can’t rule out the possibility that he rocked up at each audience members’ door the night before, brandishing a long length of rope and photos of their children.

And that’s the problem with Campbell. At first glance, he always appears triumphant, taking the fight to the enemy and smiting as if smiting were going out of fashion. But after you regain your senses in the wake of the Blitzkrieg, you suddenly realise that what you’ve just heard is nothing more than weaponised versions of the blindingly obvious that completely fail to account for any nuance or shades of grey. What’s even worse is that because he’s constantly on the attack, he never gets a chance to stop and consider the fact that maybe he should just shut the hell up from time to time. A killing machine without a feedback mechanism. Now that’s a dangerous thing.

A ‘does someone want to tell him that they lost?’ of a 4/10

In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Max Hastings, former Telegraph editor and massively spectacled war buff.

I love military history, which is very odd since I’m about as passive as they come and have absolutely zero compulsion to put myself at risk from any form of pain/mild discomfort. But still, I can’t argue with the facts and the fact is that since I was 9, I’ve devoured military history books like I was hooked on nerd crack (I know I’m ill and these days I trying to read something that’s a little less social maladaptive in between war tomes…like economics and politics books. No one said recovery would be easy). A by-product of this rather shameful fascination is that from time-to-time, Max Hastings crosses my path and I end up reading his work. Now don’t get me wrong, they’re not bad books. It’s just that every time I read them, I can’t help but see that droopy, washed out of face of his, pleading with me through the pages. “Please like me!” it says. “I’ve just written this book that’s full of tales of daring do but that goes out of its way not to trample on any holy cows like the unimpeachable reputation of the British military! Please like me!”.

So yeah, me and Max go back a long way and over the years, I’ve built up this picture of him as a genuinely clever guy, but one who never felt comfortable with his place in the world. I can almost see him walking into his local country pub, a place where he’s been going for 20 years (yet still no-one refers to him by name) and asking for a pint of Directors. The barmaid politely pulls the pint, serves it too him in a regular glass and the tension in him begins to ebb. “Here I am,” thinks Max, “just a nice normal guy, doing normal things in a normal setting. Maybe I am normal!”. But then he looks across at the other regulars, all happily supping away, talking about things he’s not privy to and the anxiety begins to tug. It’s not the being left out of the conversation bothers him as being left out of conversations is pretty much a fact of life for him and one he has learnt to accept. No, what stings is that they’re all drinking out of those pint glasses with handles that look like oversized grenades. Everyone knows that the only people who get those glasses are people who’ve drunk in that pub for over a decade and are proper ‘regulars’, but he’s dunk there for two! “Why won’t they let me drink from the big glasses? What have I done that’s so terrible that they won’t let me drink from the big glasses?!”. The doubt begins to spiral, his car windscreen-like glasses begin to steam up and he leaves after drinking only half a pint. Poor Max.

Wow, that was a fun little diversion, wasn’t it? Ok, ok, enough with the Tormenting of Max Hastings and back to the question in hand: How did he do? In a word ‘alright’. There were moments when he got the crowd behind him, describing himself as “a useful idiot” for initially supporting the Iraq war showed a commendable level of self awareness and he wasn’t afraid of getting into the odd punch up here and there. However, despite not saying anything really stupid (apart from that we’re all in “deep do-do”) the points he made that did have merit just didn’t seem to be backed up by the self confidence to make them stick. Part of this may be the fact that he was up against Campbell and Morgan, but I think it goes deeper than that. I think it’s down to the fact that he really does doubt himself and feels his life’s just seems like an endless charade that’s just waiting to collapse around his ears. It’s either that, or maybe it’s just me who’s a bit weird.

A sorrow tinged 5/10

In The I’m the Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Piers Morgan, ex-Mirror Editor and media whore at large.

Oh Christ. Did I just sneeze on the screen without realising I did? I ask, because it appears to be coated in a slimy, green mucus that is slowly oozing its way to the bottom. Oh, wait a minute, it’s Piers Morgan! Yup, Piers is back and true to form, he’s as annoying as ever, yammering away at points that seem to be rooted not in conviction and simply serve as (yet another) vehicle for self aggrandisement. Actually, that’s not entirely fair as some of the stuff he came out with on education and the war were pretty reasonable, the crowd were behind it and he was the only person on the panel that came close to holding Campbell to account. So yes, in terms of content, it was better than his average but I still have a problem with how he says it: All lowest common denominator mixed with unhealthy levels of showboating. Oh, and the joke about sucking Fergy’s toes wasn’t funny. So let us not dwell on Piers, because that’s exactly what he wants us do and that would break Rule #1 of the Interwebz: Don’t feed the troll. May his mark be middling to low.

A grudging 4/10

The Crowd: Gravesend

As I said at the start, this was quite a hard show to keep up with, what with the running fights between Morgan, Campbell and anyone stupid enough to get caught in the cross fire. As a result, the audience appeared to be slightly marginalised and much more in ‘spectator’ mode than they have been of late. That’s not to say they were quiet, it’s just that whatever noise they did make was soon drowned out in a hail of Campbell/Morgan twatery. The other thing that struck me was that the political landscape seem to be firming up. On the last two shows, people have struggled to know which side they were on and the crowds came across as unsure and divided. On this episode, they appeared to be much more clear blue water between those who were ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ coalition but the bad news for the LibDems is that quite a lot of those who voted for them now seem to be on the ‘anti’ side. Ouch.

Audience member of the night totally goes to the guy who asked Campbell about his kids. You’re a very brave man and if I had medals to give out, one would be in the post as we speak. Oh, and one last thing… WHAT THE FUCK WAS GOING ON WITH CAMPBELL’S PICTURE OF DAVID LAWS?! IT WAS HUGE! IN A FRAME! WHERE THE FUCK DID HE HIDE IT?!

Actually, don’t answer that.

A beginning to smell the coffee 5/10

See yers next week, fellow QT dorks.


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