Posts Tagged 'john sergeant'

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #33

Morning Lemmings and gentle Jesus am I cold. Basically, my heating went on the fritz two weeks ago and despite pleading/shouting/going absolutely mental with the lettings agency, it is still knackered. As a result, my fridge is now like a crap oven that keeps my food a few degrees above room temperature, the gas hob is now my central heating and I think I can hear wolves in the garden. In short, it sucks.


Despite this though I soldier on, braving frostbite and hypothermia to bring you your weekly dose of post-Question Time nonsense. All I can say is that it’s a good bloody job I started growing my beard out in August this year. Onwards…


The Menu

Q1: Did the BBC Panorama special wreck England’s World Cup chances?

Q2: Does the possibility of the LibDems abstaining make up for their broken pledge on fees?

Q3: Is it fair that we have educational apartheid with Welsh and Scottish students paying less than English ones?

Q4: Do you agree with Hilary Clinton that Wikileaks is a threat to the United States?

Q5: Given that it was forecast, why has snow bought us to a stop?

Q6: Is it better to be a child of Thatcher or the son of Brown?

Q7: Figures released today show that MP’s claimed £3.1 million in expenses. Is this a step in the right direction?

In The Yellow Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and all-round whipping boy.

Remember how I said last week that Ken Clarke is the kid in the playground who inexplicably doesn’t get bullied? Well, Danny Alexander is the kid who very explicably does. Part of this is due to circumstance as poor old Danny is the unfortunate LibDem who has to carry the can for the cuts (see Fig.1) but the other side of it is that he has a face who’s default position is Imminent Foreboding and more advanced settings include Impending Doom, Anticipated Calamity and Outright Fear. Given that Westminster is pretty much a giant playground, these are not good facial settings to possess and I have visions of MP’s of all strains forming an orderly queue outside his office with the intention of stealing his football sticker/giving him a wedgy/calling him a “ginger rodent”. Basically, the guy is a walking ‘Kick Me’ sign, none of which bodes well for a Question Time appearance on a week when students who voted LibDem are going absolutely ape shit about tuition fees. Tough break Danny, tough break.

Cough up, Ginger!

Fig. 2

Actually, I have to say that he did much better than I was expecting and even managed to garner a few laughs with a joke about Scotland beating England in Q1, but this clement weather didn’t last long as he found himself in much choppier conditions on Q’s 2 and 3. Obviously, he was going to be Jonny On The Spot with regards to anything fees related and as soon as Q2 landed you could see his face creeping back into its default position as he desperately tried to square the circle of why he thought fees are ace but might not vote for them. Sure enough, the familiar orderly queue formed up with Sergeant first in line to call the whole shebang “pathetic” and an audience member hovered behind him, getting ready to deploy his “Shame on you, shame on you for turning blue” chant. I was personally heartened by this turn of events as I’d very much like to see more chanting in QT but for Danny it was the precursor to a facial lapse into Impending Doom territory as a last-ditch attempt to rescue the situation and cast the policy as “progressive” ended up producing some fairly ugly noises from the audience. He seemed to fair a slightly better in Q3 (in that no one poked his eye out with a pitchfork) but he also made the fatal error of personally pissing me off by invoking a very dodgy vignette that has being doing the rounds in Westminster of late. Excuse me while I digress for a second (and advanced apologise for the heavy use of Caps Lock you are about to witness):

During Q3 Alexander used the example of the graduate who gets a job as a care work and earns £20k a year. When I graduate, I also became a care worker and was paid the princely some of £10k a year for working in what was one of the most literally shitty and distressing jobs you can possibly imagine. 8 years later, I still work in the field, am considered to be pretty good at what I do and have advanced through the ranks to earn a, you guessed it, £20k a year, despite an unblemished record and having gained post-graduate qualifications (through work) in this time. I realise that the £10k figure is rather old but I can assure you that the starting salary for anyone in my line of work, degree or no degree, is very much around the minimum wage. So tell me Danny (and Miliband… he also mentioned the 20k Care Worker earlier this week), TELL ME WHO THIS MYTHICAL 20K CARE WORKER IS, BECAUSE I’D LOVE KNOW SO I COULD FIND OUT HOW IN GODS NAME S/HE ACHIEVED SUCH A THING. Westminster, stop with this folly and at least give us the basic courtesy of acknowledging that you pay the people who pick up the pieces in society appalling. Fair warning given, rant over.

Right, back on track. The rest of Alexander’s performance was pretty subdued and his brief flurry of applause for bashing Gordon Brown in Q6 was perfectly offset by a failed joke about the Highlands being unable to deal with sunshine or somesuch twaddle in Q5. Now, if this had been anyone other than Danny Alexander, I’d probably be inclined to dish out some fairly poor marks because it was hardly a blazing turn. But considering that he’s probably one of the most vulnerable politicians in the whole country right now, I won’t and all things considered, I have to say I’m quietly impressed. Sure, Nadine Dorries played the role of unabashed villain with considerable vim, soaking up a fair but of hate along the way but still, he managed to leave the studio without someone Tipexing ‘DICKHEAD’ on his satchel and that is actually quite an achievement. So well done Danny, you get an above average mark and a fleeting taste of dignity.

An expectation defying 6/10

In The Red Corner: Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London and self confessed reptile nut.

Ok, first off, what the hell is Ken Livingstone doing in Coventry? I know Labour are all at sea at the moment, but seriously, a former Mayor of London is the best you can do? To shame. Anyhoo, the Newt King is back and there really isn’t that much to say because it was an entirely predictable display in Livingstoneism: 50% populist rhetoric, 30% semi-valid points and 20% lingering smugness. That’s not say I’m completely anti-Ken as I do quite enjoy the way he pops up from time-to-time with the sole intention of annoying someone or throwing a spanner into whatever works look like they may need a spanner throwing into but I just found it quite hard to pick out the relevance of him being on the show last night. Rather than going into detail, let’s see how the various elements of Livingstoneism were doled out last night.

Populist Rhetoric:

His ‘Tories “pulling up the ladder”’ line (although that was also semi-valid).

A pop at MSP’s and AM’s for bossing the English around.

“Ordinary people” paying for the recession (also semi-valid, but delivered rhetorically and in a populist fashion)


His ‘the Beeb could have waited a couple of days’ point.

Pointing out that the Olympics managed to are fairly uncorrupt so it’s not unimaginable that FIFA couldn’t be sorted out.

Lingering Smugness:

Repeated inferences that he pretty much won the Olympic bid single-handedly

Now, if I’m not mistakes, those responses seem to mirror the above stated proportions of Livingstoneism pretty faithful and I hereby declare my Theory of The Constitutional Proportion and Functional Units of Livingstoneism to be absolutely watertight. Goddamn I’m good. Next!

Ken, innit? 5/10

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue Yellow Corner: Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid Bedfordshire and self confessed blog fibber.

Now this is a strange specimen we have right here and one that defies the usual process of categorisation as on the one hand, she looks very Notting Hill Hugs And Cuddles New Tory whilst her history and record hint far more at On Your Bike And Hard Work Never Did Me Any Harm Old Tory. On the Notting Hill front, she ticks the boxes by dint of looking fairly approachable, having founded her own start-up at one point and generally engaging in non-Old School activities such as blogging (even if 70% of it is “fiction”). However, a brief look at her track record soon puts paid to any notions of The New Politics and what we find is a Hardcore Tory in Fair Trade clothing. Consider the following: Heavy campaigning for limiting abortion, feathers spat over all women shortlists, expenses jiggery-pokery and some fairly hardline attitudes towards benefit claiments. However, the real kicker in the Old School hypothesis is that she’s a member of the Cornerstone Group, a Tory faction dedicated to all things hardcore (their motto is Faith, Flag and Family). So yes, ignore the outward appearance as what we have here is a Proper Tory, red in tooth and claw.

In practice, this lead to a fairly scrappy affair with a whole-loada-nothin on Q1, much talk of being “proud” of the coalition in Q2 and some very ropey evasion at the start of Q3. However, it was in Q4 where her true colours began to shine through when she had an almighty go at students for not valuing education, not taking “proper courses” and generally being a burden on taxpayers. Thusly did the booing begin. The other thing that caught my attention were her rather frightening paeans to Thatcher, one of which was inexplicably crowbarred into the Wikileaks question. However, the real doozy was when she used Q6 as a platform to do the ‘my mum lived in a council estate’ routine which climaxed with the immortal line “I am truly a daughter of Thatcher and immensely proud of it!”. Dammit Nadine! Have you not talked to anyone normal since 1990?! You might as well have called yourself a Sister of Mugabe for all the good it would do you. So yeah, she deserved her boos on that one.

So that was her and I’m left with the lingering sense of someone who is trouble, full stop. Admittedly, she did a show a bit of conviction which is nice to see once in a while but if I was Andy Coulson, I’d have a full-time minder following Dorries 24/7 with strict orders to chloroform her should there be any risk of her speaking her mind. Actually, if I was Andy Coulson, I’d probably be better off making contingency plans for a hasty trip to a country that we don’t have an extradition treaty with, but that’s a different matter all together.

A ticking bomb of a 4/10

In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Christopher Meyer, former Ambassador to the United States and post career tell-tale.

A few weeks back, I mentioned how diplomats tend to fall into the either the Fererro Rocher category or the hard-bitten, Graham Greene type bracket. Well, I’m afraid to say that I’m about to knacker my own theory as Christopher Meyer doesn’t seem to fit either, largely because he comes across as so emphatic. This is largely down to his delivery as some of the things he says are fairly nuanced, but the way in which he says them always makes them sound like cast-iron opinions and that’s not necessarily something you want in a diplomat. The other thing with Meyer is that he is definitely on the ‘Ho-ho’ side of the ‘Ha-ha/Ho-ho’ argument. I realise that the last sentence doesn’t make a lick of sense, so allow me to expand: When I’m taking notes for this and someone says something genuinely funny, I tend to mark a little ‘Ha-ha’ next to whatever they said. However, whenever Meyer came out with anything that drew a chuckle, I couldn’t quite bring myself to write a ‘Ha-ha’ as it just didn’t seem to fit. No, a ‘ha-ha’ is an involuntary thing. You ‘ha’ because you can’t help it. A ‘ho’ by contrast is something you do because you think you should or because social etiquette demands it. His “in all good bookstores” and his epic “you’re not dancing now” remark to John Sergeant probably were ‘ha-ha’ moments, but the rest of his quips (and there were many) all seemed just a little too prefabricated and pointed to be anything other ‘ho-ho’s’. Content wise, it was decent enough and his point about collective responsibility in Q2 was well received, but you always got the feeling that he probably put far too much effort into playing the Realpolitik Diplomat Extraordinaire act, especially when he started casting some very shady aspersions about Russia and FIFA in Q1. So yes, he wasn’t bad but I like my diplomats to be, well, a bit more diplomatic and I also don’t like it when a theory I up made about diplomats is rendered obsolete two weeks later. Points off for making me look stupid!

A heavy footed 5/10


In The ‘I’m The Funny One’/Just Like You Corner: John Sergeant, ex-Beeb political correspondent and Strictly stick-in-the-mud.

I hate Strictly. I hate Strictly because it’s about dancing and I hate dancing with a passion as it serves no purpose other than to make me feel intensely embarrassed if I ever find myself in a situation that might require me to engage in the act of dancing. Ever wondered why guitar based genres of rock are so popular with white males who have little coordination? Well, here’s your answer: It’s because dancing is bollocks. That should naturally lead me to have an instant disdain for John Sergeant but it doesn’t because a) I have fond memories of growing up and marvelling at how a man with a face like his could ever a appear on TV, b) I hear he upset a lot of people on Strictly by dint of being a crap dancer and c) I like to think that him and Dimbers may one day share a tender waltz together (see Fig. 2).

Fig. 2

Aside from that, it’s also hard to dislike John Sergeant as he has a wonderfully benign manner which can be deployed as a highly effective cover for some absolutely blistering attacks such as he previously mentioned stab at Alexander in Q2. However, he walks a fine line as he can sometimes be a little naughty and abuse these powers, not in downright nasty way, but enough to conjure up a whiff of malevolence. I’m struggling to find a concrete example from the show last night, but I did get the feeling that he was fighting the urge to really lay into another panelist whilst projecting the image of a kindly soul who probably spends his weekends taking orphans on steam train rides. Oh, and a rather liked the somewhat bewildering vision of a Terminatoresque scenario he came out with in Q4 and involved humanity being enslaved by computers. He also somehow managed to work Lady Gaga into one that as well. Don’t ask me how, I just work here.


A largely affable 6/10


The Crowd: Coventry

Good crowd, this lot. There was plenty of cheers, plenty of boos, a nice audience member quip about whether the Tories were giving the LibDems slack or enough rope to hang themselves and of course, a chanting solo! That sure as hell ticks a lot of my boxes. Politically, it was a little odd as Labour weren’t exactly represented but the overall tone was that the students are winning. Sure, the counter argument did find some support, but the crowd seemed very much behind the anti-fees brigade and the subject provoked the fiercest responses.


Unfortunately, the standard of audience member’s names falls short of last week’s giddy highs (the best I can do you is Zoe Organ… Interesting, but no Mark Power) and yet again no bow ties. However, this should take away from a busy (seven questions) and somewhat boisterous episode despite no real stellar performances from the panel. Nice work Coventry. Continue apace.


A noisy 7/10


Right, cobblers to this for a game of soldiers, I’m bloody freezing and the monitor needs de-icing again. If you don’t see a post up by next weekend, send out a search party out for me.


Next week, Lemmings.


Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #12

Ol' Big Neck and Wonky Eyes

Morning Lemmings. Ok, so I guess I’d better pay lip-service to the Leaders Debate as it provided the backdrop to last night’s Question Time and the world seems to have got its knickers in a twist about it (except, strangely, the Mail and Express, who are going with volcanogeddon on their front pages today… Your boy not do too well then?). I’m not going to get too deeply embroiled in it all as we’ll be here all day, but here’s a few choice titbits for you:

1: The format is super weird, like an episode of Blind Date where the audience couldn’t be bothered to turn up, Cilla’s been at the catnip and the girl who does the picking is in a comma. I know that everyone’s bleating about what a revelation it all was but I have to confess that I found it half stultifyingly dull, half mindbendingly bizarre (at one point I began daydreaming about how cool it would be if Cameron’s head just exploded, showering Clegg and Brown with blood and propelling fragments of skull into Stewart’s face. See what it’s done to me?) Debate without a feedback mechanism is an odd puppy indeed.

2: Alistair Stewart is a tool and a very staccato one at that. I know it was hard brief, given the Byzantine rules involved, but constantly barking “MR BROWN! MR BROWN!” does not a Dimbleby make.

3: Clegg did do well. I’ve been very scathing about him of late, mainly because he comes across as the political equivalent of skimmed milk: Sensible but life drainingly limp. However, he did manage to look like someone with two, possibly three dimensions last night and clearly stood apart from Brown and Cameron as a person who may have some non-crap tricks up his sleeve. So well done Cleggers, your stock’s just risen in my book.

4. Brown wasn’t that bad. Yes, ‘the big list’ is a very worn and dull tactic and desperately shoehorning shonky jokes into places where you shouldn’t isn’t exactly edifying, but he did win some points on the ‘steady pair of hands’ scale. If I was him, I’d knock these efforts to humanise himself on the head because it isn’t fooling anyone. We know he’s a creature who dwells in a netherworld of abstract numbers and ethereal statistics, but that’s actually part of his appeal (in an odd sort of way). Stick with what you know, Gordy. Oh, and watching him try to bum Clegg was pretty entertaining.

5. The biggest revelation for me was just how bad Cameron was. I was fully expecting him to walk this, but it was not to be. The main problem is that his ‘reduce hugely complex and nuanced issues into a happy little tale of how cocking normal I am’ tactic that works so well on soundbites and news bulletins simply can’t sustain 90 minutes of scrutiny. Seriously, if he had tried to boil the global economic crisis down to some anecdote about how he was hanging out in a Spar shop, buying something excruciatingly normal amongst excruciatingly normal people one more time, I swear to god I would have forced lit cigarettes down my ears, hot end first. The flakiness of the Tories latest wheeze (power to plebs, yo?) also began to look suspiciously flimsy after a few minutes and I can’t help but think that they are really going to have to up their game to stop the other debates going sideways.

6. The set looks like is was borrowed from a daytime telly gameshow, possibly involving William G. Stewart.

7. When the candidates weren’t talking they looked like they were messing about with colouring-in books.

8. 90 minutes is a bloody long time.

So that’s that: A rather disorientating experience that left me salivating for the fillet steak of Dimbleby after the gruel of Stewart. Waiter!

The Menu: This is a bit of format tweak, largely to curb my tendency to waffle about the finer points of the various questions. So, from now on, the questions go up first, I get to have a bath and read the New Statesman a bit earlier while you don’t have to trawl through quite as much blabber. Everyone’s a winner, kapeesh? So, what’s on tonight’s menu?

Q1: Who won tonight’s debate?

    Q2: The debate is being described as “historic” but will it make a difference?

    Q3: Does the Tories ‘people power’ wheeze represent an abdication of the state in providing services?

    Q4: Does Gordon Brown’s omission that he should have supervised the banks more closely mean he’s not fit to lead?

Q5: Is a hung parliament the political equivalent of volcanic ash (topical!)?

In The Red Corner: Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and somewhat boss eyed (see above) brother of David.
Another week, another Miliband, although this time we get the slightly more human of the pair. I’ve got quite a lot of time for Ed as he does seem to genuinely think about what he says and has an air of conviction that doesn’t spill over into sounding desperate. His career path hasn’t been quite as meteoric as his brother’s, mainly because he’s always been on the Brown side of the Labour fence, but to be honest, that seems to work in his favour as I’m natural suspicious of high achievers and their ilk. He also has much softer edges than David, mainly because he trades less in pure politics (which the younger Miliband excels at…. excels at far too much in fact) and more in ideas. That gives him a little more depth and a little less jaggedness. It was an easier show than it could have been for him tonight, considering Brown managed not to completely faceplant himself into the pavement while Cameron didn’t manage to live up to his own hype. Q1 was a pretty chushty affair that simply involved giving the obligatory props to ‘how great for democracy’ the whole shebang was, a few nods in Brown’s direction and a nice little crack at the Tories for Cameron’s China faux pas. Nothing of revelationary significance, but steady enough. Minor applause was the order of the day for Q2 as he needled the Tories again for Cameron’s weak effort and declared Gordon Brown to be a “man of substance”, but he overplayed this hand when he went back for a second bite and no-one would play with him. Q3 provided a rich seam to mine as it was pretty clear that the crowd weren’t on board with the whole ‘Big Society’ flakery and they dished out some love when he managed to big up the state without badmouthing the voluntary sector and generally harried Gove on some education do-dahs. Things could have got pretty difficult on Q4, but it seemed that the audience had made up their mind that this was going to be a fairly anti-Tory night and despite wheeling the standard issue ‘global recession line’ (this time working in references to “houses in Mississippi”… go on Ed! Paint a picture!) things did get sticky when an audience bought up that weird story about some department that had a “contemplation suite”. Miliband did the honourable thing in the face of this and dropped Ed Balls right in it (if in doubt, blame Balls) while the final question had him making some ‘we love constitutional reform now that the LibDems look like they might have a fighting chance’ gestures that didn’t look entirely heartfelt. So, all-in-all it was a pretty good turn and at the end of play he looked entirely unscathed. Some of this is down to circumstance. I’m guessing that the Leader’s Debate went way better than most Labour bigwigs hoped and the inevitable hammering he expected to take never materialised. Instead, all he had to do was not get over-cocky and just go with the audience, which he did and it worked. The other part of this is down to Miliband himself and the fact that he’s good at getting the pitch right. While his brother plays a very impressive offensive game, the political equivalent of Shock and Awe, Ed seems much more well rounded and flexible. He’s good in defence without appearing conceited and has the umph to take the fight to the other side as well, all of which goes in his favour. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m saying that this was some earth shattering display of statesman like qualities, but it was quite a nice, measured bit of play that sounded mostly convincing.

An above par 6/10

In Blue Corner, Michael Gove, long neck having (see above) Shadow Secretary for Children, Schools and Families and man made entirely of Play Dough
I have a hard time pegging Gove down. On the one hand he’s clearly bright, tougher than he looks (and he does look like his face was made by a three year old potter who’s been at the E-numbers…See Fig. 1) and tends to do quite well on the likes of Newsnight.


Fig. 1

Like Ed Miliband, he’s more on the ‘ideas’ end of politics and he seems to be a lot better at nuance than most Tories are. Having said that, I have reservations about the ideas he comes up with (being mainly of the vague and woolly variety, dressed up to sound much more solid than they actually are), his body language points to a squirrel based ancestory and his ‘angry’ face is really irritating. It was a tough deal for him on this episode, considering he had only half an hour’s thinking time after watching his leader do a less than great job and the lack of feedback from the Leader’s Debate audience probably had him making wild guesses about how it went down with the public. The lack of response he got to Q1 (‘of course I love Dave but politicians “shouldn’t pass judgement” on this’…wtf?) was pretty much the shape of things to come while Q2’s little pop at LibDem immigration policy also failed to find it’s target. However, it was Q3 where things started getting messy and when he tried to explain why the whole ‘Big Society’ thing was so great (and he has his fingerprints all over this policy), he was treated to a full blown tumbleweed moment. Sensing that things were looking ominous, he rashly declared that he “loves” Shami Chakrabarti, only to have the subject of his affection turn around and call him a liar. Bad move. Q4 was a safer affair and a recitation of the standard Gordon Brown charge sheet and a sly little swipe at Law’s for being a banker back in the day seemed to do the trick. Moderate applause was his reward, along with a slight respite from the growing anti-Tory sentiment. Finally, he conjured up some thinly veiled warnings about a hung parliament for Q6 and then shuffled off, bloodied but not entirely unbowed.

Truth be told, he didn’t do so badly as the crowd were most certainly not in the market for the regular Tory line and as I said earlier, events conspired against him. If that had been May, Osborne or Lansley, I could see it degenerating into rout, but he did pretty well to keep a semblance of a defence up and although he comes across as quite odd, he isn’t totally unlikable. So bad luck Michael, that was a choppy crossing but you can take comfort in the fact that you didn’t throw up all over yourself.

A spirited, if not entirely successful 5/10

In The Yellow Corner, David Laws, Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and slightly David Caruso-esque ex-banker.
I haven’t been impressed by laws to date, mainly because there’s something a little jobsworthy about him (“pleeeeease let us have power”) and he can be a little over assertive, but he was in a great position tonight, given Clegg’s out-of-fucking-nowhere turn. Naturally Q1 was a love-in with Nick and a fall-out with Dave, all of which went down with predictable well while he continued to keep the pressure on Cameron in Q2. Q3 saw him do really well as he managed to knock Labour for the nanny state whilst also bashing ‘Big Society’ as being deeply divisive, something that clearly resonated with the audience and made him a whole stack of hay. I have to confess that I missed him on Q4, having to both go to the toilet and find a bottle opener, so no searing insights from me there while Q5 saw him quietly fade out, chuntering about this, that or the other . On the face of it, he seems to have won the political argument but I can’t really put that down to any particular personal trait. Ok, so he seems competent enough and there was nothing I didn’t particularly dislike about his performance, but I still can’t quite get behind him yet. Maybe that will come with more exposure and there’s every possibility that I’m just being a mardy old hack, but for now I am going to suspend opinion on him. Laws: Make me like you.

A technically victorious but not-quite-there-yet 6/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Nigel Farage, ex-leader of UKIP, ventriloquists dummy (see Fig. 2) and wearer of naff suits.

gogtle of ginglish gere?

Fig. 2

I’m going to say something rash now: Politics is a better place with Farage in it. Now hold on there, don’t phone the duty mental health team and arrange a sectioning just yet because this doesn’t mean that I agree with him about…well…pretty much anything, it’s just that he’s a genuine character . A demented, small minded demagogue of a character, yes, but a character nevertheless and characters add much needed spice to what can otherwise be a dull and overly dry subject. He also looks like a cad who’s just a little bit too dorky to be a proper cad and I imagine him being stuck at Cad HQ, doing the accounts while all the real cads are out shagging emotionally vulnerable countesses and swindling impressionable young nobles out of their fortune. That thought cheers me for some reason. Sadly, I was kind of disappointed with tonight’s effort as there was nothing he could get really off his tits about and he kept having to invent reasons to be crazy, usually by making totally unrelated topics somehow link to the EU. Calling the LibDems “the modern day CND” and a brief seizure about Gordy selling the gold looked like they could have developed into some awesomely batty tirades, but alas, it was not to be. Instead, what we mainly got was ‘blah blah referendum, blah blah throwing the doors open, blah blah”. Now I know that UKIP’s main (and only) selling point is the whole Eurobashing thing, but come on, you have to bolster that up with obnoxious opinions about other things as well if you want my continued tolerance of your outlandish worldview. So step up your game, Farage. Next time your own, I want to at least see some hair on the palms of your hands.

A disappointingly flat 3/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: John Sergeant, reassuringly un-handsom ex-journo and buggerer-up of Strictly Come Dancing.

Ahh, John Sergeant… while nature may have given you a pretty ropey deal in the looks department, it more than made up for it by blessing you with the most soothing voice in Britain. Seriously, it’s like swimming in a pool of Ovaltine and if ever anyone has to break some bad news to me, I’d like it if they could contact Sergeant first and get him to do it instead. He’s also one of the most reasonable sounding people on telly, taking his time to softly impart little nuggets of considered wisdom that seem to waft out of his mouth in a fine, sweet smelling mist. Tonight saw him being incredibly sympathetic towards Brown, swimming against the tide a little but getting away with it because it’s just impossible to be angry with someone who looks that much like a comedy cartoon sidekick. Worthy of note was his rather wonderful lambasting about the ‘Big Society’ issue, but unfortunately this got taken the wrong way by an overly eager audience member who thought he was being nasty about the voluntary sector and he had to crank his voice from ‘soothing’ to ‘ultra-soothing’ in order to extricate himself. Mostly though, it was good, thoughtful stuff and while I didn’t agree with it all (I, for instance, really want a hung parliament), it was said in such a way that it came across as it should: an opinion, not an existential threat to my beliefs system. Given that the prevailing wind in politics seems to be a very reductionist, with-us-or-against-us hurricane, it’s really refreshing to listen to someone who actually bothers to look at things in depth. So well done John, now come over to mine and gently lull me to sleep with some Beatrix Potter and Winnie the Pooh. And some warm milk. And tuck me in. That’s enough now. You can go.

A wonderfully contented 7/10

In The There Goes The Format Corner: Shami Chakrabarti, OO gauge defender of Liberties and formidable Question Time performer.

If there’s one person who you can safely bet on to wipe the floor with everyone on Question Time, it’s Shami Chakrabarti. In some ways it’s a little unfair because pretty much no one would disagree that having their door kicked down by the police is something they’d rather avoid, but for the most part it’s down to the fact that she’s passionate, eloquent and doesn’t pander to anybody. She also (as my better half spotted some time ago) looks a lot like a school boy and I’ve often wondered how she’d look in traditional cap and blazer (not in a pervy way, you understand?). Well, thanks to the judicious use of commercially available photo manipulation software, that moment has now arrived. Behold, Middle School Chakrabarti (see Fig. 3)!

Fig. 3

Ok, so it was a little weird having to type ‘boy in traditional school uniform’ into Google Images, but I feel that the end justifies the means. As always tonight, she did a sterling job, going with Clegg on the Leadership Debates, pouring scorn on ‘Big Society’ and generally making sure that none of the politicians got a free ride. The crowd were on board with her as they always are, even as she performed a fairly risky manoeuvre in which she implicated every one of us as a culprit in the credit crunch. That’s an important point right there and one that doesn’t get aired enough, mainly because people are too afraid it won’t go down well. Thankfully, Shami has no such qualms and will routinely point the finger, no matter how much of a holy cow the culprit is. I won’t get too carried away in praising her to high heaven as she does have a blessed position on the show, beholden to no-one and peddling an idea that’s almost universally agreed upon as ‘a good thing’, but there’s still an awful lot to like. So that was pretty much her lot and as usual, it was a very good lot which leads me to conclude that should ever the facility to gamble on Question Time exist, always go with Chakrabarti. You’ll be rich in no time.

A fully great 8/10

The Crowd: London

I had the deepest sympathy for the audience tonight, enduring as they did the full 90 minutes of Leaders Debate but without access to booze, fags, internet and things to throw at the screen. The strain was evident during the opening question and it took them a while to shake off the torpor that seemed to envelop the studio. However, once they regained consciousness, they proved to be a great crowd and one that was very much into Nick Clegg. The other interesting thing was that they were probably one of the most anti-Cameron audience we’ve seen all series which is saying something given that we’ve already been to Scotland and the North East. That’s not to say it was all one way traffic, but if I was in the Tories right now, I’d be seriously looking for that thinking cap of mine. One final thing that struck me about them: this was one of the first shows in a long time when expenses and ‘all MP’s are crap’ didn’t form the backbone of the audience argument. I’ve been quite negative about the Leaders Debates tonight, but if Clegg has somehow managed to drag the argument out of the Swamp of Culpability and into the Savannah of Possibilities, then that is good thing. A very good thing. But yes, generally they were a good bunch and made for a lively show. Members of note this week include a women who made a sentence out of seemingly random words (“more slightly a bit like a puppet show”), a guy who’s shirt looked like a tube of Cresta toothpaste and a women who forgot what she was saying before she said it. I fucking love it when that happens.

A refreshing and zesty 8/10

So Chakrabarti and the crowd carry the day. Well done to them and a ‘not a bad show’ to everyone except Farage. Come on Nigel! Stop with the non-crazy!

See yers next week.

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March 2023

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