Posts Tagged 'Kelvin MacKenzie'

Questionable Time #29


questionable time 29 david dimbleby weasles ripped my flesh

Good morning Lemmings and a slight change of plan today thanks to some unforseen circumstances. You see the thing is that when I usually turn in on a Thursday night there tends to at least be some dull flicker of inspiration lurking in the recess of my mind of what line I’m going to take the next day but last night proved to be an exception to this rule. No, instead I went to bed with a head that was essentially a yawning vacuum of nothingness and 8 hours of sleep has done precisely zero to rectify this situation. I am without opinion, lost in a featureless desert of zilch and unsettled by the creative squalor caused by a poverty of ideas. And why would this be? I reckon that one or more of the following may to blame…

The show was just a bit… meh.

Come on, admit it: Deep down we all know that Question Time is basically panto with a slightly elevated reading age and what does every panto need? Goodies and baddies. Unfortunately there was no clear hero or villain amongst the political panelists (Peter Hain seemed happy to take it a little easy now that he’s resigned from the frontline while Marie Miller wisely decided to stick rigidly to her  brief and Leanne Wood just said Plaidy things that get Plaidy claps in Plaidy Wales) so I was banking on Kelvin MacKenzie and John O’Farrell to fill the Wicked Stepmother/Cinderella roles. Initially this seemed to go to plan as MacKenzie got all sweaty and ranty about this and that but I later found myself actually agreeing with him on the alcohol question and that makes him a rather ineffective Wicked Stepmother. Similarly, O’Farrell got to showcase some good lines but I always find it a little jarring when a 5th panelist has a clear party allegiance. I don’t mind it when they have clear views that may run in concordance with a particular party line but I find it hard to root for Cinderella when Cinderella is a fully paid up member of the Downtrodden Domestic Workers Union. It doesn’t exactly make for underdog status and underdogs are what good panto is all about. So yeah, there wasn’t much to be had from this bunch.

I pine for a Grexit…

I’ve found myself in an unhappy predicament over the last four years: I’ve boned up on economics, read a ton of books with complicated titles and have arrived at the inescapable conclusion that something big and nasty has to happen as the current system is just too knackered to stagger on much longer. Naturally I’m not overly keen on big and nasty events but I will say this: A full-on, pant-shitting crisis is looking increasingly preferable to going over the same old ground that we’ve done to death over the last four years. Seriously, I find myself consciously inviting disaster because I’m just so bored of going through the same charade of ‘yes, everything is totally buggered and no, no-one’s got a clue what to do about it’. So just hurry up Greece and do something spectacular because I can’t take the suspense any more. Default and default quickly otherwise Question Time is simply going to continue being Aren’t We All Glad We Didn’t Join The Euro Time and that does not good telly make.

Just what the hell happened to Brian May?

So QT has a shiny new website and this shiny new website has spent the last few days loudly proclaiming that Queen guitarist Brian May was going to be on the show this week (in fact it still does at the time of writing). This was something I was quite looking forward to as Brian May is an oddball of epic proportions and I considered it highly likely that he would say some very weird things about some very weird subject matters. However, the chief reason for my angst is that I spent way too much time on Wednesday night photoshopping his hair on to all the panelists’ heads (see Fig. 1) and I feel cheated by his non-attendance.

brian-may-question-time-hair-gif

Fig. 1

Yeah yeah yeah, I know what you’re thinking – ‘So what? It’s just a stupid .gif that looks like it was put together in a matter of minutes’ – but let me ask you this: Have you seen Brian May’s hair? Have you even the faintest idea of how difficult it is to cut all those absurd little tendrils of wiry craziness out? No? Well it’s a bloody nightmare and one that nearly pushed me over the edge (note to anyone who may be vaguely interested: The Colour Range tool is your friend). Consequently I was in a bad mood from the get go and spent most of the evening chuntering menacingly about how untrustworthy badger loving astrophysicists who collect Victorian stereophotographs are rather than watching the show with an eye to putting together something halfway decent the next day. Basically, it’s all Brian May’s fault.

Tl;dr

Hain: 5/10

Meh…

Miller: 5/10

Bleh…

Wood: 5/10

Feh…

MacKenzie: 5/10

Peh…

O’Farrell: 5/10

Geh…

The Crowd: 5/10

Pleh…

Brian May: 0/10

HAS STUPID HAIR

So there you go, not a great deal of fun to be had there and to add insult to injury there won’t be any Questionable Time next week either. No, I’m afraid that you’ll have to struggle on without me as I’m off to Berlin to see whether a man can survive on a purely wurst based diet for a week. That, and I also plan to indulge in a spot of Eurovision hooliganism. Come on Humperdink! This is our moment! Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of overwrought crooning!

In a couple of weeks Lemmings, in a couple of weeks…

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Questionable Time #13


questionable time 13 dimbleby the tank engine

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to 2012, a year in which – if this episode of QT is anything to go by – our primary vexation appears to be none other than trains getting from London to Birmingham slightly quicker at some point in the far distant future. Remember that extinction level economic crisis that dominated Question Time throughout 2011? Yeah, well you needn’t have worried because it turns out that all it needed was a damn good Christmasing and now it’s not worth bothering our pretty little heads over. On top of that it also seems that 2012 is the year in which politicians of all stripes put aside their various differences and simply agree with each other on just about bloody everything. That’s right, no more bitter hand-to-hand combat on the battlegrounds of economic policy but instead a cosy love-in as representatives from across the political spectrum bask in the warmth of consensus on boob jobs, HST and Leveson. Ok, so there was a bit of contention when it came to Scottish independence but I’m struggling to recall an episode of QT that was quite so dreadfully agreeable.

The upshot of all this is that it was actually a pretty dull affair last night that lacked any real juice and left me feeling a little short-changed. Take the train question for example: Literally every single political panelist held near identical views and this left the floor wide open for Kelvin MacKenzie to reap all the rewards in his role as Self Appointed Man of the People. Now, I’m no fan of MacKenzie but I have to admit that without him last night would have been little more than a well-heeled Woodstock without the acid and let’s face it, that doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs. So that didn’t exactly inspire me with confidence (you know things are bad when the highlight of a particular question is a gentleman of Scouse extraction getting a little over enthused about Watford Junction) but I held out a little hope that at least the question of Scottish independence could provoke some level of disagreement. And so it did, but in a ridiculously one-sided manner.

Our main protagonist in the only real point of contention in this encounter is none other than the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon and I must say that I did feel slightly sorry for her last night. For one, life can’t be easy when it looks like your hair has been borrowed from a Lego figure (see Fig. 1) and preaching Scottish Nationalism to a London crowd is a tall order but the main reason was that Dimbers seemed to have it in for her a bit last night. Sure, she didn’t do herself many favours as she deployed her usual tactics when in a tight spot (which is to just continue talking, regardless of whether the content makes any sense) but Dimbleby was really short with Sturgeon and seemed to relish any opportunity to clip her round the ear. Another weird by-product of this question was the part when Sturgeon and Danny Alexander got into a very surreal little tiff, ostensibly about something-or-other that an aide to Alex Salmond had said. Sensing danger, Sturgeon tried to wibble her way out of it but Alexander wouldn’t let it go and just sat there, quietly repeating the phrase “Was she wrong? Was she wrong?” like a shell shock victim lost in his own personal hell. This bizarre little charade went on for some time and it reminded me of that ‘You can’t handle the truth!’ scene in A Few Good Men… Except set in a particularly passive-aggressive PTA meeting rather than a court-martial and with Tom Cruise’s character being played by the little man in the bowler hat from the Homepride ads.

nicola sturgeon lego hair

Fig. 1

As for individual performances, well I think it’s fair to say that ‘fair to middling’ is just about the best that this lot could muster with Ashdown putting in the most impressive turn simply by alternating between his ‘Paddy Ashdown is tired of reasoning with you people’ face and his ‘You don’t know cuz you weren’t there!’ war-vet-who’s-seen-too-much routine. Poor old Justine Greening fared less well, chiefly because she seemed to have been relegated to a role in this episode similar to that filled by Dictionary Corner on Countdown and appears to have been there only for reference purposes only. And as for Wee Dougie? Well, I’ve got to say that he’s beginning to freak me out a little. It’s his delivery. Very slow, very soft and very deliberate yet also completely relentless. It’s like being force-fed warm milk at the most leisurely of tempos and that, dear Lemmings, is the sort of experience that I’d rather avoid.

So there we are: A less than brilliant start to the series and one in which the crowd could be at complete odds with the panel and yet still clap along with practised docility. Ok, I guess that’s a little harsh but last night did bum me out a little as I’ve just spent the last month doing the whole Peace on Earth/Goodwill to All Men thing and I was really looking forward to kicking the new year off with a right old gorefest. Alas, it was not to be and so I’ll just have to bide my time until this new-found unity amongst QT panelists shatters into a thousand tiny shards of spite laden hatred. My reckoning is that it won’t be the longest of waits.

Tl;dr

Greening: Still in the waiting room

5/10

Ashdown: On the express train to Seriousville

6/10

Alexander: Lost his ticket

4/10

Sturgeon: Got tied to the tracks

5/10

MacKenzie: Has a season ticket to Smug City

5/10

The Crowd: Want to get off at Watford Junction

5/10

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #40


question time david dimbleby chris bryant 40

Morning Lemmings and urgh… I have been laid low by an ill-tempered bug. Seeing as I’ve been rendered stupid by a combination of daytime telly and the effort of keeping everything inside me inside me, I’m going to keep this short which is a bit of a shame as it was a great episode last night.

Anyhoo, first surprise of the evening for me was the discovery that I may have grown slightly fond of Baroness Warsi. While many may say that this is just an outward manifestation of my current sickness, I’m inclined to disagree and cite this in my defence: Warsi and I go back a long way. When I first started writing these reports over a year ago, Cameron was at the height of his ‘down wiv da kids’ phase and as a result, Warsi was wheeled out on a seemingly endless basis in an effort to bring some much-needed ‘we’re not all total bastards’ tarting up to the Tory brand. In this endeavour she roundly failed but in the process gave me plenty to make fun of at a time when I was only just getting the hang of writing these reports, something for which I am eternally grateful. Since then, Warsi seems to have been somewhat sidelined, emerging every six months or so to say something of not much consequence so I was interested to see how she would perform tonight and I must confess that I was quite pleasantly surprised.

A year ago, the Warsi Field Manual dictated that all questions should be dealt with by throwing caution to the wind and recklessly charging at them with limbs a-flailing and teeth a-gnashing. The upshot of this inspired strategy usually turned out to be Warsi starting very strongly before completely overplaying her hand and then drowning in a ditch she herself had dug. This time however, she managed to keep herself in check and actually manage to avoid a number of ambushes that were laid for her by both Dimbers and Bryant. Granted, she still hasn’t shaken that tendency to talk down to everyone when she’s wearing her ‘serious’ face and she still does the Power Point thing where she very slowly makes a list of all the reasons why she’s right, but she did manage to sound like someone who had spent slightly longer than a nanosecond thinking about what she was going to say and in terms of improvement, it was a massive leap forward. So yes, well done Warsi… It’s not like I fancy you or anything but you are growing on me.

Not content with experiencing just one revelation, I was also quite pleased to see the return of Simon Hughes as an actual human being as opposed to the wraith-like representation of the collective guilt felt by the left wing of the Lib Dems he’s portrayed of late. Clearly unable to carry on making excuses for the Orange Book brigade, Hughes dispensed with the hand wringing and lip biting and actually (shock horror) started talking like a man who might start acting on his principles rather than just trying to smother them to death with the pillow of coalition. Nuclear power? Nein danke. NHS reform? Do not want. Midsommer Murders? STFU. All of which was nice to see but perhaps his moment of glory last night was when he put across the best case I’ve heard yet for intervention in Libya. Coming from a man who was at the heart of the anti-war movement, that’s tricky terrain to navigate but he did it and that’s quite impressive. As his reward, I’ve posted a small piece of wish fulfillment that he may appreciate: A picture of him goading Ming into throwing Nick Clegg off something very high (see Fig.1). Enjoy Simon, enjoy.

ming campbell simon huges throwing nick clegg

Fig. 1

Moving on to the Labour end of things we have Chris Bryant, a man who is worth watching (if only to see who he upsets next). Sadly though, it was not to be his night, partly because the coalition players put on a rare display of competence and partly because Labour’s lack of policy left him looking somewhat naked (not that he cares… he’s God’s gift to lazy satirical photoshoppers, what with the abundance of semi-in-the-nip pictures of him available) when ever he was asked what his party would do. Oh, and the comment about having people you don’t like over to dinner with regards to Libya? It may well be true, but it’s probably best not to bring it up when the aforementioned dinner guest is getting stuck into a bit of massacring. Just sayin’ Chris, just sayin’…

Fourth on last nights panel we have Green-in-Chief Caroline Lucas who managed to make plenty of hay from the whole Japan fallout (probably not the best choice of words from me there). However, she couldn’t really sustain that momentum and by the time it got to the Libya debate she was starting to look a little unsure of herself and seemed slightly troubled that she couldn’t rely on Hughes to bolster her case. Still, Lucas did regain some ground on the NHS question and as ever, she managed to get a green argument across without conjuring up images of didgeridoos and dogs with leads made out of blue nylon rope. Or the Levellers. Man, I hate the Levellers…

Finally there’s Kelvin MacKenzie, walking foghorn and general affront to humanity. Surprisingly enough, he ended up being quite the crowd favourite and raked in much applause by simply getting very, very angry about everything. Personally, I still think he’s a bit of a shit and his sudden transformation into Cheerleader General for the nuclear industry (“fantastically green!”, “fantastically safe!”, “nuclear or nothing!”) was a little hard to swallow (just as his random shouting of the words “Wooton Bassett!” was a little unsettling) but the crowd appear to have spoken. Oh well, every dog has his day I suppose…

So that was the panel and quite an interesting bunch they were to. For me I guess the thing that made this show was that it’s the first time I’ve seen the coalition behave as they should: As two separate entities, bound uneasily together by cruel circumstance but still very much in possession of their own agendas. That’s nice to see after months of witnessing the coalition’s Lib Dem super ego being Shanghaied into doing the bidding of the Tory led id and it made it feel like Westminster politics may finally be regaining some of its definition again. Of course, none of this was possible without a willing crowd to play along and save for their MacKenzie worship, Eastbourne did a good job. Of particular note was the kindly looking doctor of advancing years who piped up at the end and used Lansley’s proposed reforms to beat Warsi about the chops. That was nice, doubly so as he looked entirely non-threatening and benign. Also of note was the guy wearing a green shirt and beret. Now I know Eastbourne is a little bit of a time warp but seriously? A beret? ’68 has come and gone, man… Let it go.

Tl;dr

Warsi: Improved

6/10

Hughes: Approved

7/10

Bryant: Removed

5/10

Lucas: Unmoved

6/10

MacKenzie: Screwed

4/10

The Crowd: Booed

7/10

Right, that’s enough… I’m crawling back under the duvet to continue whimpering pathetically. All those in the market for stoicism, I suggest you go the hell some place else. Next week Lemmings, next week…



Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #18


ACK ACK ACK!

Mornings Lemmings. Ok, I have to confess that this was a weird episode of Question Time (for reasons that I will come on to later) and I must confess that I’m having a bit of trouble making much out of it. For that reason, this is probably going to be quite a brief affair, although I am aware that I’ve made similar threats in the past, only to waffle on for pages on end. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Let us plough relentlessly on.

The Menu

Q1: Was David Laws right to resign?

Q2: Following the murders in Cumbria, should the gun laws be changed?

Q3: Is piracy on the high seas justifiable when Israel does it?

Q4: Should top civil servants be paid more than the Prime Minister?

Q5: Is Harriet Harman right to suggest that at least half of the Shadow Cabinet should be women?

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: David Willetts, Minister of State For Universities and Science, noted Tory brainiac.

Ahhhhhhhh! The sun! It’s disappeared! End days are upon us! Oh, wait, my mistake. It’s simply been obscured by David Willetts’ enormous cranium that is rumoured to contain ‘Two Brains’. Considering that he’s the minister for both science and universities, I take quite a lot of comfort in this fact and it also marks him out as someone rather special on the Tory frontbench: A proper, no holds barred poindexter. Sure, Letwin and Gove get some wonk cred by virtue of coming up with the meatier aspects of policy, but by-and-large, towering intellect doesn’t appear to be compulsory.

So, it’s well established that Willetts’ is scholarly in the extreme, but what hasn’t been resolved is where he fits in the pantheon of brainy subspecies and to aid us in this endeavour, may I point you towards this informative Venn Diagram of  Geeks, Dorks, Nerds and Dweebs. I’m guessing that quite a few of you are thinking ‘does it really matter which brand of buff he is?’ and I say to you “Yes! In the utmost!”. Having been labelled with all the above at various points in my life, I and my dorky brethren are acutely aware of the distinctions. Bookworms have feelings too and this stuff matters, Ok?

Back to the question in hand:  Considering he’s already written ten books on very clever sounding matters, intelligence is an area that he clearly isn’t lacking in (although trying to get Neil Hamilton off the hook wasn’t exactly a moment of incandescent genius) so we can clearly cross ‘Dork’ off the list of possible charges, leaving us with the matters of Obsession and Social Ineptitude to investigate further. On the subject of Obsession, at least three of his books are about welfare reform and considering that welfare reform isn’t exactly an area that just casually fall into, I think we can safely say that we’ve narrowed down the search to a straight out fight between ‘Nerd’ and ‘Geek’, a tussle that can only be resolved on the battlefield on Social Ineptitude. And what better arena to stress test the Not Gud Wiv Peepol Hypothesis than the fight to the death that is Question Time? To the show, dear friends, to the show.

Right then: Q1. Had this question been asked three or four days ago, I would have envisaged a right ruck kicking off, but in the light of events over the last few days, it’s potency seems to have been somewhat diminished. In many ways, that was quite a luck escape for Willetts and he seemed perfectly content to whip out the old ‘Individual Decision’ ploy whilst invoking a ‘All Above Board/Standards Commission’ play. Not exactly a frontal assault on the Coalition’s critics, but serviceable enough. Q2 was pretty much a no-brainer: Acknowledge the tragedy and then follow up with a soothing ‘Let’s Not do Anything Too Rash Now’ call to inaction. Simples. The Israel question (Q3) was the one that looked like it could start a bit of a barny, but Willetts did pretty well at a well balanced response that implied that Israel had acted like dickheads without going as far as actually condemning it and that earned some moderate applause. More claps were to come when he pulled MacKenzie up by reminding him that Hamas had been democratically elected, but he wasn’t able to sustain it as fudged together a bunch of platitudes in response to Q4. Silence reigned. Finally, he stumbled around a bit on Q5, told us that he’d had an argument with a French woman and then got suspiciously chummy with Diane Abbott, extolling her to “Go for it!”… Which was weird.

So how does the above translate into our Geek or Nerd diagnosis? Well, it’s pretty hard to call. On the one hand, he’s not unlikable, does seem to genuinely think before speaking and is free from any majorly socially dysfunctional traits. However, he’s not exactly Mr Excitement either (you not going to find him swinging from chandeliers, shouting “Kegger! Kegger! Kegger!” and puking into pot plants… Unless it’s a party at Diane Abbott’s house) and although considered, balanced answers probably make for good government, they’re not going to put a song in the hearts of the world at large. As it’s a nice sunny evening, I’m feeling generous and am thusly conferring on him the status of Tenuous Geek. Be warned though David: Nerdiness is mere millimetres away and you may still have your dinner money stolen.

A just about socially acceptable 6/10

In The Red Corner: Diane Abbott, Labour Leadership Contender and Portillo’s on-screen other half.

She’s somewhat of a conundrum, Diane Abbott. On the one hand, she’s a genuine trailblazer, what with being the first black, female MP, she’s never had a problem with going against the party line if she thinks the party line is stupid and she is capable of some genuinely inspired and heartfelt oratory. However, the picture’s not entirely consistent and there are a few things that stick in my craw, such as sending her son to private school whilst simultaneously criticising others for doing the same thing and the ‘Finnish Nurse’ debarcle left a nasty taste in my mouth. Having said that, she does seem to know when she’s crossed the line and is prepared to admit when she’s wrong (quite a rare thing in Westminster) and let’s face it, The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name (although it does sometimes dare to) between her and Portillo on This Week is genuinely endearing (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1

Speaking of This Week, I have a bone to pick with that show, namely WHAT’S GOING ON WITH THE SODDING VOLUME? I walk a tight rope on Thursday nights, trying to keep the volume loud enough so I can hear what’s going on Question Time, but not so loud that it wakes my better half and I get a telling off (she’s a saintly person, unless unduly woken up, in which case she’s quite the semi-conscious authoritarian). After years of experience, I totally know where the sweet spot on the volume knob is and Question Time always passes without incident. However, the plan, without fail, always falls apart when that pseudo-rave This Week theme kicks in at 120dB and is then followed up by Andrew Neil’s twat-of-a-face, a scramble to find the remote and an inevitable bollocking. So take warning This Week. You’re on thin ice. That is all.

Back to the point: She got off to a good start on Q1 by making the David Laws issue more about spending cuts rather than sexuality or money and that went down pretty well. Q2 was straight by the book and pretty much echoed everything Willetts said while Q3 saw her on more proactive footing, going out of her way to condemn Israel (as well as MacKenzie’s weird-as-you-like ‘Snickers’ gambit) and reaping much applause for her efforts. Q4 once again saw bankers and cuts in the frame (and was again roundly applauded) while Q5 saw her resist a Sisters Doin’ It For Themselves chorus. Not bad.

Looking at the above, you’d be forgiven for thinking we’ve got a genuine contender for the Labour leadership on our hands. However, there is one slight problem: We’re so used to her being matey and very honest on the This Week sofa that I think people would have real trouble getting their heads round her actual being leader, a position that requires high levels of non-mateyness and dishonesty. It’s like when a close colleague who you genuinely like gets a promotion and suddenly ends up in charge of you. You all try and maintain the charade that nothings really changed, but deep down, you both know things will never be the same again. I hope it doesn’t pan out like that because that’s a rubbish reason to lose, but I have a feeling it will. So sorry Diane, you’re great on the couch, but unfortunately you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

A generally well rounded 7/10

In The Orange-ish Corner: Leanne Wood, Plaid bod and generally unknown QT quantity.

Ok, this is the panellist I’m having real trouble with as nothing she did or said made any form of impact on me. All her responses were pretty standard Plaid lines, all tacking well to the left of the mainstream parties and which were generally well received, but that was more about the content than the delivery. Even after going through my notes, I can’t really find anything worth repeating so I’m going to wrap this up pretty quickly. Lustre: She lacked it.

An underwhelming 4/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Matthew Parris, former Tory MP, Times Columnist  and drowning dog rescuer.

I never quite know where I stand with Matthew Parris. I like the fact that he’s a former Conservative MP in the ‘Action Tory’ mould (what with the all the offers to be a spy, marathon running, living everywhere and dog rescuing) and that he’s capable of some pretty impressive bile laden writing, but there’s something that’s just too mercurial about him. Having said that, he did start off by tacking his colours firmly to the mast on Q1 by bashing the anti-gay media “lynch mob” whilst getting involved in many a (highly predictable) to-do with MacKenzie. I think most people didn’t entirely agree with him (the public seem way more concerned with the 40k than the sexuality aspect), but anyone who picks a fight with MacKenzie is on to a winner. Easy money. Q2 saw him largely sidestep the issues at hand, but he did go on a bit of one when he suddenly started ranting about “machets” (as opposed to ‘machete’s’), “petrol soaked rags” and “cyanide” which was both batty and entertaining. Not satisfied with Q2’s sidestep, he then pulled off the most epic dodge I’ve seen yet on Q3: When asked about his view on Israel’s actions, he simply told all and sundry that he had given up giving a shit and couldn’t give two hoots about the Middle East. That shut everyone up. It was downhill after that as Q4 offered little way in the excitement department, apart from the fact that it’s a “scandal” how little we pay the PM while Q5 had some wibbling about how we’re all “holding women back”.

So yes, quite an odd performance and one marked by a willful contrariness that is by turns quite fun and somewhat refreshing. However, there’s still something that’s gnawing at me about him and I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s that the contrariness is just a little too willful (although it’s presented as very casual) or maybe it’s just that he looks inexplicably young for a 60 year old but either way, there’s something stopping me from fully getting on board the train to Parris. Come back again and we’ll see if that changes, Matthew.

A solid but yet-to-convince me 6/10

In the I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Kelvin MacKenzie, abrasive ex-Sun editor and no friend to Scotland, Sheffield, Neil Kinnock, journalistic integrity, Freddie Starr, etc, etc, etc…

Why God, why? Why torment us on an otherwise pleasant day with this diabolical creature that sweats belligerence? Is the price we have pay for Lembit Opik losing his seat (an event which I found thoroughly humourous), because if it is, it’s not worth it. Yeah, Kelvin’s back and true to form, he’s a prat who’s pathologically contrary and not in a ‘I’m knocking on a bit so I don’t really care’ Matthew Paris kind of way but in a ‘whatever society deems to be acceptable/progressive I deem to be tantamount paedophilia’ kind of way. Straight out of the blocks he started to froth about David Laws and “our money”, used the term “reverse scamboli” and tried to imply that The Sun is bastion of gay friendly good intentions these days (a point that was aptly blown out of the water by Parris reminding him of recent Sun poll that asked whether gays should be MP’s). This was followed by some fuming about gun laws on Q2, a strange little rant about “strange places like Finland” and a rather hamfisted attempt at sensitivity when he branded the Cumbria murders as “a shocker”. Times and places, Kelvin. Times and places.

But wait! He’s barely in his stride and here comes Q3, the ideal vehicle to crash headlong into any notion of reasonableness. It started off pretty standard, with the usual invocations of Plucky Little Israel, dastardly Muslim martyrs and a barely relevant doff of the cap to Churchill, but he saved the best to last: Apparently, there’s an oversupply of Snickers in Gaza. So that’s ok then! No sanitation or reliable power source? Stop whining and get this peanut infested chocolate down your trap! House blown to pieces by IDF ordinance? Pull yourself together and count your confectionery blessings! Health and livelihood in grave peril thanks to collective punishment? STFU and start building a utopia made of Snickers! Seriously, I’m pretty much sure that this is stupidest point I have ever heard on Question Time outside of the Nick Griffin episode.

So yeah, I pretty much stopped listening to him after that and if he did say anything of merit in Q’s 4 and 5, it fell on deaf ears. I do make a point of playing Devil’s Advocate on LCCPQTMR from time to time, but this guy is so far gone that I can’t find it in myself to do such a thing and I hope he gets pelted to death with an excess of Snickers bars.

A new low of a 2/10

The Crowd: Brecon

I said at the start that this was a really weird episode and it’s pretty easy to see why: For the last three months, Question Time panellists and audiences have been slugging it out in the sweltering, oppressive heat of the Election Jungle. Every point, no matter how small or inconsequential has been bitterly fought over and every square inch of ground has mattered. Then suddenly, two things have happened: Israel has reminded us that there is an outside world that’s got an alarming tendency to go wrong and the Cumbria murders have genuinely shocked us back into remembering that stuff, sometimes very bad stuff can happen outside Westminster. Suddenly, the jungle warfare becomes entirely irrelevant and we’re all left looking rather dazed and only able to utter one appropriate answer: ‘Oh dear’. Don’t get me wrong, that response is entirely right and proper, but it makes for a very odd debate and leaves everyone feeling somewhat lost and stranded. That’s not to say that the audience didn’t find things to get heated about (although that might have something to do with MacKenzie) but I came away with the feeling at times, they we’re simply going through the motions and that gave the show a very odd quality. It’s not the crowds fault that it ended up like this, it’s just a consequence of being human and in that respect, it was nice to see a general consensus around the big events. However, gripping, it was not.

An understandably shaky 5/10

Right, that’s done. Oh look, nearly 3000 words. Told you I never come through with that ‘keeping it short threat’. See you next week.

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #7


Hubba hubba!

It's a good look, Dimbers. you should go with it...

Morning Lemmings and welcome once more to the weekly QT round up, bought to you this week by the Wimmin of Dewsbury. That’s right pilgrims, Wimmin. I, for one , welcome our new beskirted overloads, but how did they fare in this week’s instalment of topical earbending? Only one to find out…. Onwards, to Dewsbury!

In The Red Corner: Caroline Flint, Labour MP for Don Valley, founder member of Blair’s Babes and political bullet magnet.

Caroline Flint seems to forever be on borrowed time. Every time she crops up, a memory stirs of some not-too-long-ago brouhaha involving Old Snaggletooth (as I affectionately refer to her), but I still decide to give her the benefit of the doubt until a new brouhaha ensues and the cycle rolls over again, repeating into infinity and beyond our limited lifespans. The most prominent example was her seemingly principled resignation over being used as “female window dressing” by Broon. “Fair play to you, O Snaggletooth” thought I, “Sisters doin’ it for themselves, yeah?”. I thought she came out looking pretty good from that but then she promptly managed to piss all the good press up the wall with her borderline saucy photoshoot for The Observer where she looked exactly like ‘female window dressing’. And so it goes on. Tonight was pretty much a case in point on this front. She got off to a good start on the first question (which was about whether Jon Venables’ as yet undisclosed offences should be made public) by deftly stradling the line between ‘Think of the Mother!’ and ‘Think of Justice!’, managed to sound pretty sensible and looked satisfied as the audience lapped it up. Further crowd love followed when she dismissed the whole Brokun Britun kerfuffle as nonsense and worrisome thoughts about her previous transgressions began to fade. But things were about to get pretty ugly pretty quickly. Dimbleby, who must have felt like a pimp on the night (what with hundreds of Wimmin arrayed obediently before him) used the second question (on bastard ‘spenses. Please, people of Britain, please let this issue die. It bores me to tears) as the launch pad for a cheeky ambush, bringing up some of her own sins on the matter. Flint squirmed about for a while, babbling on about a “washing machine” for some reason, before pulling out of the dive by saying that expenses were necessary to stop parliament being full of “millionaires and geeks”. That seemed to stop the bleeding but worse was to come with the question on whether Broon had used his trip to The Stan as a distraction from his appearance at Chilcot. This was clearly going to be trouble as an audience member who had a son in the forces managed to get her two-peneth worth in, bemoaning the fact that she had just had to shell out for her sons webbing. Snaggers flapped about for a while on this one, blaming “the terrain”, telling her to see her MP and saying that armies have a “tradition of swapping kit”, but the audience was not convinced and a quiet, rolling chunter began to build as she spoke. Sensing an opportunity to stir things up, Kelvin MacKenzie weighed in with a fairly lurid denunciation of Broon as a “compulsive liar” with “no truth in his soul”. The audience liked this and poured further petrol on the fire when a woman claimed that British troops were “not killed by the Taliban” but “killed by their equipment” (I have to say that this is patently bullshit as the kit may be bad, but it really doesn’t go around blowing up or shooting at our troops and the Taliban are pretty serious about this whole ‘killing our guys’ business. Or maybe I’m just being pedantic). Despite the complete fiction of this statement, the assembled gaggle of Wimmin went completely nuts for it, working themselves into quite the frothy state. Further assaults followed, this time from the direction of Monty Don and Snaggers was left completely over a barrel, pleading with the audience to “think of the dead” (they were. That was the point), but her entreaties were met with silence. Big, female, silence. Harsh. At this point, I would have called it a day, hid under the table or tried to fashion a makeshift foxhole on the studio floor but there was more bad news to follow as Dimbers nonchalantly twisted the knife with a crafty little one-two. First off he asked whether Flint thought Broon was liar. Predictable denials followed, only to be blown out of the water as Dimbers read out an extensive list of Snagger’s quotes to the contrary. She attempted a half hearted defence, but is was too late and a ripple of heckles swept the crowd. Ouch. By rights, it should have been all over at this point with Flint slumping limply in her chair, emitting barely audible grunts as her brain processed the thrashing she had just taken, but it wasn’t and after a not bad stab at the ASB question, she actually picked up some ok applause on the women’s shortlist one. And I think this is why I keep giving her a second chance. On the face of it, she’s not a brilliant politician. Wherever she goes, she leaves an inevitable wake of gaffes and as a minister, she was pretty mediocre. But what she has got going for her is an incredible toughness. The sort of sustained and overwhelming drubbing she took on the show is enough to make your average panellist buckle and send them running to the cover of one word answers, but not Old Snaggletooth. In the middle of the show, she took an epic trouncing yet she carried on going, toughed it out and even managed to salvage a bit of credibility at the end. And that’s quite cool in my book.

A last-ditch but valiant 5/10

In The Blue Corner: Justine Greening, Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government, owner of an exceptionally wide mouth (see above).

I had absolutely no idea who Justine Greening was before tonight and feared we’d be presented with another of this weird, faceless breed of Tory young pups who have so far failed to make an impression on me. However, I have to say that she did pretty well, getting a lot of love from the audience and coming across as the most confident of the three party panellists. I think that this is partly a consequence of her pulling off being Northern far better than most Tories do. If you think about it, the Conservatives only really have three Northern faces that get any attention these days: William Hague, Ed Pickles and Baroness Warsi. Hague has never looked too comfortable in his Northern skin as it made him look like a bit of an oddity amongst his peers. I suspect that he probably received quite a bit of ribbing from The Old Boys for his Rotherham roots and as a result, he always seemed very conscious of it and perhaps a little ashamed. Pickles looks far more at ease with his heritage, but his problem is that while he tries to play the Salt Of The Earth Northerner card, it doesn’t quite work. Instead, he comes across as a provincial shopkeeper who resents selling stuff to the tourists who keep his business afloat and to anyone who isn’t ‘his kind of person’. It’s all a little bit self important and twatty. The final contender, Baroness Warsi, simply doesn’t register on the scale because her Northern-ness is completely eclipsed by her Asian-Toriness, something which is so novel that it completely overpowers the fact that she’s from West Yorkshire (and her Pulled Up By The Bootstraps schtick does grate a little). Justine Greening, by contrast, has managed to hit the nail on the head by coming across as slightly novel (for a Tory), yet unpretentious and down to earth. On the show she did pretty well considering Dewsbury isn’t natural Tory territory. The Venables case brought out some fairly standard “risk to the public” stuff, but there was an appetite for it and it went down well. MP’s pay also went pretty smoothly, but she hit the big time on Afghanistan by having a go at Broon for the lack of equipment and generally going with the will of the crowd. With the wind behind her, she continued to rack up some easy points on Askew/ASB (if in doubt, blame ‘paperwork’) and topped it all off with the big, pink love-in that was the shortlists question. OK, so it was pretty easy to look confident and in control after Snaggers had been kicked all over the place, but she didn’t bollocks anything up and clocked a few wins in any area that isn’t really her turf. So well done Justine Greening, you have escaped the curse of the Faceless Tory Noobs.

A well handled and confident 7/10

In the Yellow Corner: Jo Swinson, Lib Dem Foreign Affairs Spokesperson and sickeningly young MP.

There’s a lot to like about Jo Swinson. She does a good line in well reasoned argument as well as being a consistent and vocal critic of the war(s). Tonight, she was on pretty good form, sounding very grounded yet principled,when it came Venables/Askew cases (particularly her “difference between…public interest and of interest to the public” piece) as well as getting in on the collective hug that was the shortlist question. The audience responded well and it’s fair to say that she looked like someone who you’d want in Parliament. My only beef is how she handled the Afghanistan question. From the Lib Dems point of view, this is an open flank on both parties that should be worked relentlessly and without mercy as not only has the issue been festering for an epic 8 years, but it is also one of those fault lines where public opinion is markedly and stubbonly in opposition to both Labour’s and the Tory’s. This should be her natural territory as she has both credibility and form on the issue and no-one else has a satisfying answer when it comes to the big question of just why the hell are we in Afghanistan. When it came to her turn to answer the question she started well by asking why soldiers aren’t paid more (big applause) and then promptly ran out of steam. All she needed to do was to point to the massive elephant in the room, call bullshit on her parliamentary colleagues and then retire to a safe distance as they both took one in the chops. But she didn’t and as a result, Greening was given a free ride and held the initiative for the rest of the show. As I said before, the rest of it was all good stuff that worked, but she lacked the killer instinct to deliver the decisive blow and walk out the victor. So let this be a warning Swinson, I like you, you’ve got lots to offer, but QT requires some ruthlessness that I’m yet to see. Be a bastard and I’ll give you more points.

A could-have-been-a-contender 6/10

In the Independent/Brainy One Corner: Kelvin MacKenzie, ex-Sun editor and full time bigmouth.

You know that there’re just some things that you’re never going to like? Well for me, Kelvin MacKenzie is one of them. Just like being sold insurance by Iggy Pop or watching Josh and his Supergroup Based Around The Concept Of Free Texts Being The Key Ingredient To Instant Stardom (come on Josh, I’ve been in a band for 6 years that fuck all people have heard of and I get shit loads of free texts) he just sets my nerves on edge and there’s nothing I can do about it. Fortunately (or maybe disappointingly) he wasn’t quite cranked to the odious nines on this episode, although his opening gambit on the Venables case was a truly squalid affair. Kicking off with a good long rant about how he’s “hostile to” a whole heap of things to do with criminals, he lunged down the ‘lock ’em up for all eternity’ line and was met with both stony silence and audience accusations of the Sun being very much a part of the problem. That prompted an ill advised pop at the Beeb which was laughed out of town and kicked off a spat of nasty little scraps with most of the panel. I think at this point he realised that you can’t get away with the ‘I know I’m right and to hell with you pinko commie bastards’ act with an all female audience (it only just works on a mixed one). Consequently, he reigned things in a bit and even picked up the odd clap here and there. I know I’ve said in the past that I try and keep these reports as neutral as possible, but I’m afraid that no matter what he does (other than renounce everything he has ever stood for), he’s always going to get shit marks from me. It’s just they won’t be AS shit this week.

A grudgingly restrained 4/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Monty Don, Gardener Bloke and Possessor of Inscrutable Features.

I’m on board with Monty. He seems well intentioned enough, has this far-away look about him that adds a certain layer of mystery and has something that gardeners are not usually noted for: Opinions. I hear he’s also quite a hit with Wimmin in general, so tonight was a pretty easy gig, what with the massive abundance of Wimminz and all. On the show, his approach can be mainly characterised as ‘ponderous’ with the occasional spark of fire. Starting off with the Venables case he got some good claps in with a very solemn “people are not born evil” and some anti-lynch mob posturings as well getting in a few jabs at MacKenzie. He went on to stumble a bit on the dreaded ‘spenses by saying MP’s should be paid 100k a year (I think the audience were in the market for seven quid an hour, tops), but soon recovered and made the point that Swinson failed to make on Afghanistan (and also got a bit disingenuous with his maths. The Afghan war has been going on twice as long as World War 2? No, Monty, it hasn’t). An endorsement of “clip round the ear” discipline was warmly received by the assorted Wimmiz on the Askew question while a pop at Harriet Harman and a call for an all women parliament (which earned him a ripple of flirty giggles from many Wimminz Of A Certain Age) sealed the deal for him at the end. I don’t want to get carried away here because it doesn’t take a genius to do well as the 5th panellist (all you have to do is mirror the audience, throw in the odd gag, don’t piss off anyone too much and the day is yours) but there’s not much to dislike about him and the ponderousness works well for him. It makes him like a tortoise. A sexy tortoise.

An in-no-hurry 7/10

The Crowd: The Wimminz of Dewsbury

Ok, I have to admit that I was expecting a different kettle of fish tonight, mainly out of some rather unfair prejudices I harbour about Dewsbury. I live in Leeds and (as the handy diagram below shows) if there’s something tabloidy and nefarious going on in West Yorkshire, it’s quite often in Dewsbury.

Diagram Alert!

A geeky friend of mine has already pointed out that my boxes are in the wrong configuration. Spreadhead does respond to poindexters.

I know, I know, that’s a massive generalisation but the Matthews case, the stirrings of the BNP and other such untowardness haven’t exactly done the place many favours so I was basically expecting a hard faced, very white and angry lynch mob to rock up from some of the nastier estates and basically shoot down any MP’s who had the temerity to turn up. As it it turned out, the audience was primarily composed of of middle aged women who work in the public sector (The Backbone of West Yorkshire! You remember that ‘trickle down’ thing that you promised us from London? You know, all those vast sums earned by the City which would somehow end up in our pockets? Well, they never arrived so I guess you’ll just have to keep giving us public sector jobs to keep t’North afloat) and I must say that they made for a pretty interesting crowd. Unlike most of the mixed audience shows, this mob came across as a lot less tribal. With the exception of Flint and MacKenzie (who were eventually forgiven), they seemed willing to listen to the panellists without sinking into default positions and everyone was given a fair shot. It also seemed to be less about specifics and much more about tone. For instance, Ashcroft didn’t come up once, despite it being plastered everywhere and I think that’s probably because they didn’t care about the buts-and-bolts ‘whodunnit’ aspect of things and were much more concerned with the broader implication of the effect of money on politics (hence the MP’s pay question). They were also very vocal in their support/disdain for various viewpoints. When I watch the show, I take notes and I draw arrows of differing sizes and thickness so I can see how much applause each point got. With these guys, they started loud (so big thick lines then) and then just kept getting louder and louder (completely fucking up my system… I ended up gouging holes in my pad trying to keep up with the volume). I actually think it would have been better if there were male panellists from the parties involved as if Kelvin MacKenzie is anything to go by, it must be pretty bloody frightening being held to account by that many women and I could see that some hilarity would ensue. Nevertheless, it was a pretty bracing affair and even if the whole ‘equipment, not the Taliban killing our boys’ thing wound me up a little, the rest of it was a refreshing break from the usual state of affairs. Stand-out members of the night include a woman with very loud off camera jewellery and a surprise appearance from Claire Young from The Apprentice. Considering she was always noted for wanting to have the last word on The Apprentice, there was a strange yet nice symmetry to her having the actual last word on QT. But yes, I digress. Wimmin of Dewsbury, you did good in my book.

A refreshing, if at times scatty 7/10

So that’s that then. A first in the form of a three way draw between Monty, Greening and the Wimminz. All male audience next time plz. See you next week, yeah?


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