Posts Tagged 'Kirsty Allsopp'

Questionable Time #100


questionable time 100 david dimbleby photoshop montage

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

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

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

The sum of Tristram Hunt’s parts…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

jeremy browne panda special forces beard

Fig. 1

Grayling and the love/hate of the game…

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

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

And the rest?

Time is short and so is this paragraph.

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

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

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

Tl;dr

Hunt: 5/10

(A right old) Jumble (of a man)

Browne: 5/10

(Not much to) Grumble (about)

Grayling: 4/10

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

Allsop: 6/10

Bumbles (amiably about in a twee sort of way)

Hamilton: 5/10

(Does the sinister) Mumble (quite well)

Monroe: 6/10

(Reputedly makes good) Crumble

The Crowd: 6/10

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

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

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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Questionable Time #35


questionable time 35 david dimbleby battlefield 3

Good morning Lemmings and welcome the hell back from what has been one of the strangest ‘summers’ I can remember. Strange how? Strange because we actually ended up winning things, a turn of events that struck me as deeply, deeply unpatriotic. Do not fear though for normal service has resumed. Wall-to-wall rain? Check. An economy that wants quietly taking out the back and shooting? Check. A political landscape where policies are actually announced through the medium of satire? Check, check, check. God, I love the smell of collective failure in the morning. So then Lemmings, what better way is there to celebrate this return to comfortable malaise than with a spot of Questionable Timing? None that I can think of. Go!

Danny Alexander may well be the Most Tragic Figure in the Most Tragic Party of a Tragic Coalition…

I got home early from work the other day, flicked on News 24 to kill time before Pointless and found myself watching Danny Alexander’s Q&A at the Lib Dem conference. I wasn’t really paying attention to what he was saying but what I did pick up was just how relaxed he looked. Usually, Alexander has this weird meerkat-on-sentry-duty gait about him and you can see him twitch at the slightest sound, just waiting for that inevitable moment when someone will have a go at him. Not last week though. Instead, he actually seemed comfortable in his own skin, reclining in his seat as the party faithful softballed some tepid criticism his way. It was nice – in a weird sort of way – as while I don’t have much love for the things he’s done, it just seems a little too easy to pick on the YTS kid who’s inexplicably been left in charge of the petty cash tin. Unfortunately for Danny the respite was short-lived. Fighting Season is here once more, the vultures are circling and if that haunted look in his eyes is anything to go by, he is more than aware that his number will come up repeatedly.

So it was that he spent the first half of the show wedged firmly between a rock and a hard place, desperately trying to fend off blows from the left whilst also ominously aware that Jacob Rees-Mogg had zero intention of keeping the right flank secure. “Oh Christ,” I could hear him think, “here we go again. Another year of getting my dinner money stolen. Another year of ‘kick-me’ signs stuck to my back”. So far, so tragic, right? Well yes and no because what happened next I actually found to be rather heartening. It was on the ‘plebs’ question: He started with the standard line that wasn’t it all such a rotten business but well done Mr Mitchell for apologising. Then, out of nowhere, he turned on Harriet Harman, bringing up the matter of her ‘ginger rodent’ comments, yet doing it with quite a bit of dignity. And that, dear Lemmings, is why Danny Alexander may be the Most Tragic Figure in the Most Tragic Party of a Tragic Coalition, but probably isn’t. On paper, it’s all there… We might well have asked Central Casting to supply us with a Treasury Minister from their Vulnerable and Easily Ridiculed Nerd portfolio. Yet somehow, he endures and can occasionally – like last night – surprise us with his capacity to carry the fight in the other direction. That, and Nick Clegg really is putting in a stellar performance in his quest to win the title of Most Tragic Figure in the Most Tragic Party of a Tragic Coalition. Now, that’s a contest I can really get behind.

I had a faint dread Harriet Harman being on…

I’ve got nothing particularly against Harriet Harman. Yes, she was an integral part of the toxic stew that New Labour eventually became but she was one of the more minor poisons and the fact that she winds up the Daily Mail so effectively means she must be doing something right. No, the reason for my faint dread was that she’s been on so many times before and I’ve never really managed to get a proper handle on her. I’ve already done the whole Minister of Nothing In Particular thing and the fact that I once had to spend several hundred words trying to make serviceable riff about her posture should be evidence enough that the well was becoming increasingly dry. So yes, I wasn’t looking forward to her being on. However, I am delighted to announce that about half way through the show something came to me that should just bail me out of this situation. Harriet Harman: She’s Labour’s supply teacher.

When I was at school, supply teachers could be broken into three distinct categories. First, there were the Damaged Goods. These were the ones who maybe couldn’t cut it in a permanent position or who had possibly been so thoroughly beasted by successive generations of savage little creatures that they now exhibited all the primary symptoms of Educational PTSD. I liked those ones, or to be more precise, I liked the hour of anarchy that their lessons inevitably descended into. Harriet Harman is not one of those supply teachers.

The second category is the Not A Toss Givers. These guys (and they usually were guys) tended to be towards the end of their careers and were simply wearily biding their time until their pensions kicked in. I remember one bloke who you used to cover for geography who would throw out some text books before putting headphones on and listening to the cricket for the entire lesson. I was as ambivalent towards the Not A Toss Givers, just as they were to us. We didn’t want to be there, they didn’t want to be there but we had all reached a mutual and silent accord that a truce would prevail throughout. Again, Harriet Harman is not one of these supply teachers.

No Harriet Harman belongs to the last group, the Steady Awayers. These were the teachers who still possessed a vague measure of competence, willingness and gumption yet were far enough removed from the long-term consequences of their actions that they would let the little things ride. Again, it was an unwritten contract: We won’t give you a hard time and will jump through most of the hoops providing you do the same. Essentially, they are the Good Step-Parents of the educational sector.

Back to Harriet: Harman is a Steady Awayer because while she always seems to be filling in (Caretaker Leader, Deputy Leader, Go-To Talking Head in Generic Crisis Situations), she’s still very much permanent, a bit like a price tag you forget to remove. The thing about long-term consequences, that’s also there as well. As I mentioned before, Harman was part of the New Labour pantheon when they were up to no good and was in Cabinet for some of their more cockeyed calls, yet the mud doesn’t stick to her in the way it does to others as she never seemed to be in the posts that actually mattered.

So that’s why Harriet Harman is like a supply teacher but the more important question is ‘how did she do?’. Not bad, all said. Her relentless pressing of the inequality line was effective whilst the pantomime cringes she deployed during Gingergate were enough to contain any serious damage. And for someone who remains so bloody hard to pin down, that’s not bad going.

I was totally ready to go to town on Jacob Rees-Mogg, but…

I was so stoked when they announced Moggingtons was going to be on. I mean c’mon, just look at the guy. How low can fruit hang? The weird thing is though that I just can’t seem to build a decent head of steam up about him. Why? Because I’m not sure that he’s actually real. No, what I think is going on is that a rift has opened up in the space-time continuum between the present day and the early thirties through which Jacob Rees-Mogg has fallen. How else can you explain the appearance of a relatively young man who looks like he turned up to the studio in a Junkers Ju52 after having just ticked off the League of Nations for being a bunch of cry-baby do-gooders?

Not only that, but I find it hard to get personal about him because he’s more of a symbol than a sentient entity: He’s the human incarnation of the Tory party’s immense capacity to propagate eternal stasis. So with these two factors so readily present I just can’t bring myself to do a proper hatchet job on him as it would be like accusing the rain of being overly wet. He is right on one thing though: The universal assumption that he may be the sort of guy to use the word ‘pleb’ does have something to do with his “vooooooooice”.

Kirsters and Coogers walk a fine line.

Here’s a first: An official Questionable Time retraction. Earlier in the week I got a little giddy that Kirstie Allsopp was on because I’ve had a pretty darn good photoshop of her kicking about for ages and I took to Twitter to make my delight known. Within said tweet (see Fig. 1) was a fallacious assumption that Kirstie’s non-appearance when she was slated to be on was because she cancelled. As you can see, this was clearly not the case so egg and bacon all over my face. Please call Phil Spencer and tell him not to break my legs.

kirsty allsopp tweet

Fig. 1

Anyhoo, red-faced grovellings aside I’m still very much split on Allsopp as she skirts dangerously on the border between the sororal and the matronly. You see, I like it when she does the outspoken thing and starts shouting “bollocks” on live television and she clearly believes in what she’s saying. However, I think she’s just a little too removed from the lives of most people to really have a trustworthy compass and this means she often sounds like she’s casually telling off vast swathes of the population when she probably only means to gently chide them. Still, not a bad run and her call to ‘kick the banks’ (“Kick ’em hard!”) had a wonderfully jaunty-yet-threatening ring to it. Now here’s that photoshop (see Fig. 2).

kirsty allsopp tennents super

Fig. 2

On to Steve Coogan and again, I’m terribly conflicted because it’s all or nothing with him. Remember when he was on the phone hacking episode earlier this year? He was so evidently pissed off that he forgot himself and was absolutely great as a consequence. This time though, not as great. Shorn of an issue to really get his teeth into you could really see him wrestling with that self-awareness and self-doubt that constantly stalks him. What’s even more of a pity is that the stuff he was on about was good. I really liked the fact that he made an issue of how he should pay more tax and he was right to probe some of the more uncomfortable aspects of the Rochdale case but he could never quite seem to generate the confidence to really run with those ideas. Overall, I find that pretty heartbreaking as I’ve got huge amounts of respect for Coogan as a comedian and there is great potential for him to excel on QT. All it needs is for him to have a little more faith in what he’s saying. Or to come in character as Alan Partridge. Steve, please come in character as Alan Partridge.

Brighton confuses me…

The Frau Ribs and I had a brief break in Brighton over the summer and – much like the time before – I came away suffering from cognitive dissonance. You see, I love the idea of Brighton. I love the idea of a city by the sea full of great record and book shops and I love the idea of a place being so wilfully contrary. The problem is that I don’t understand the logistics of Brighton. How can an economy be sustained by neo-twee cup cake boutiques and bespoke yurt manufactories alone? Why does the population need so many spurious sounding therapists? How? Why? These riddles remain unresolved. Anyhoo, how did they do? Pretty good, in a scatty sort of way. For example, there was great level headedness from one young lady on how cutting resources makes social workers’ jobs much more difficult followed by pure bat-shit insanity from the gentleman who shrieked “LIFE NOT 4 YEARS!”. That pretty much nails my definition of ‘scatty’.

Tl;dr

Alexander: 5/10

Twitchy

Harman: 6/10

Switchy

Rees-Mogg: 5/10

Richy

Allsopp: 6/10

Kitschy

Coogan: 5/10

Glitchy

The Crowd: 6/10

Itchy?

So there we have it, first blood in what is likely to be a violent and brutish parliamentary season. Man, it’s good to be back.

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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