Posts Tagged 'leaders debates'

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #14


SMOKE

A man of my own heart...

Morning Lemmings. So this is it. The final instalment of the Leaders’ Debates and Question Time before the nation descends into an orgy of anarchy, disorder and Final Demands. I, for one, am somewhat glad the end is in sight as these protracted Thursday nights have been absolute killer, beating me round the head with gnarly cudgel of current affairs until reason becomes but a distant memory, but I must concede that this election really has been one of the most mindbending spectacles I’ve witnessed to date. So summon your energy once more good people, for the end is neigh.

Ok, so let’s start off with a quick look at last night’s Leaders’ Debate. This ended up being a much meatier affair than its predecessors and it actually contained (shock horror!) some genuine debate. This is partly down to the candidates finally getting their heads round the bizarro-format, but also because the subject matter was the big issue in this election: The economy (stupid). Possibly the most pleasing thing for me was that Brown looked properly pissed off this time (although it’s a fine line between ‘pissed off’ and ‘unhinged’). During the previous two debates he’d half-heartedly gone along with the charade that he’s just as much the good natured Everyman that the spinners seem to think we want, but it hasn’t worked. Instead, he’s looked like a man who knows that his flies are undone, but can’t risk zipping them up in case it draws attention to the fact. ‘Uncomfortable’ is the word I’m looking for here. What we got tonight is a man who’s pretty much reached the end of his tether, has absolutely nothing more to lose and seems genuinely angry that Cameron may get the chance to bugger about with his beloved economy. Seriously, all through the first half he looked like he was about to lamp him and in many ways, it’s a shame he didn’t because if Bullygate taught us anything, it’s that the British public really don’t mind having a violent sociopath at the helm and if anything, they might actually quite like it. Unfortunately, he didn’t manage to sustain that rage into the second half and he kind of killed it for me when he finished off his final statement with that shiteating grin of his. Note to Gorgon: Never smile. Not to the public, not colleagues, not to your wife, not even to a new born child because frankly, it’s just scary.

Cameron also changed his tactics this time, did less of the ‘Man of the People’ bullshit (nary a mention of Big Society and the ‘change’ blather was reigned in to some extent) and instead opted for a more princely, ‘I’m above all this’ posture. On paper, that should work. In practice, it didn’t as the noble/highminded poise he was going for often ended up coming across as somewhat aloof and arrogant. The instant polls (of which I’m very cautious of) seem to have handed him victory but I just don’t see it. Looking ‘Prime Ministerial’ may well have been the aim, but the outcome was looking like a precocious child with an inflated sense of entitlement. Not nice.

And what of Clegg, the new Messiah sent to guide our fractured tribe through the dessert? Did he get his barnstorming OK Computer of a third album? Not quite. He faltered quite a lot during the opening questions and his attempts to mine the seam between the other two were somewhat overshadowed by the far more entertaining prospect of Brown totally losing his shit and biting Cameron. He rallied later on, seemed to give the only convincing answer on immigration and ended solidly, but a deal clincher this was not. So no more Radiohead for him and much more Alkaline Trio: Two very fresh and robust albums followed by a not-so-overwhelming but perfectly serviceable third record. That sounds a bit negative, but considering he came from absolutely nowhere, it’s no mean feat.

Other random points of note:

1. Cameron has a very shiny chin.
2. Clegg seems to think we have a vice-Chancellor. Does anyone want to break it to him that we’re not at uni any more?
3. The set was an assault of lavender but looked very scholarly.
4. Edina, the woman who asked the first question, has positively insane eyebrows. They looked like the logo you see on the back of No Fear T-shirts.
5. Dimbleby wiped the floor with the other presenters. Intimidated by the set up? No. A little bored by the constraints placed on him? Most probably. Absolutely gagging for a fag by the end (for I have it on good authority from numerous sources that he is not just a smoker, he’s a veritable smoking machine)? Without doubt.
6. The young teacher who asked a question near the end has one of the most impressive perma-scowls I’ve seen to date. At first I just thought he was pissed off with Cameron doing his ‘hardworking/people who just want to get along’ shtick on him, but then he turned it on Brown and even managed to combine it with nodding when listening to Clegg. Good scowling, sir.

Enough of that. We can safely close the lid on the Leaders’ Debates until which ever party gets in disintegrates like a cake in a bath (so we’ll probably see them again in a couple of months time). Farewell then, passing fad of lip service to democracy and hello to the stout, impervious citadel of Question Time.

The Menu:

Q1: Now we’ve had the debates, who’s won them?

Q2: Have the debates changed politics for the better?

Q3: Have the party leaders told us the truth about tax-and-spend?

Q4: Are you a bigot for asking the PM about immigration?

Q5: Do LibDem attacks on Cameron mean we’re heading for a LibLab pact?

In The Red Corner: Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, man who’s prospects aren’t looking so great these days.
There’s something deeply unsettling about watching a condemned man and in terms of the current government, no one is closer to having their goose cooked than Ed Balls. Right from the word go, he’s been Brown’s creature, his fortunes entirely shackled to his patron’s and right now, that’s about the last place in the world you want to be. He also has the added disadvantage of a haircut that makes him look like either a crew member of the Memphis Belle (see Fig. 1) or one of those weird ‘I’ll play whatever wanky instrument is left over’ types from the Arcade Fire (ginger guy who just seems to bang a drum occasionally and flounce about on stage, I’m looking at you). He is also a terrible, terrible liar. I could see him as some sort of middle ranking apparatchik from Collectivisation-era Russia who’s been tasked with guiding a visiting Commintern delegation around a Model Farm. Unfortunately, as the party rock up they find the crops are ablaze, the villagers ariot and the homesteads aruin. “Comrade Balls”, they enquire, “why is the wheat on fire?”. “Oh!” comes the reply “The diligent workers are roasting the fruit of the soil so that it may be easier to digest!”. “I see” they say, sounding less than convinced, “and why is it that the workers are stabbing each other with pitchforks?”. “Ah!” says Balls, “They are expressing their love for the Motherland in an ancient and much documented ritual”.
“Really? In years of study of these people I have never come across such a ritual. And what of the smouldering buildings? Has there been some terrible accident?”
“No, no! Of course not! It’s just that in this climate, smouldering buildings have been shown to provide the optimum level of comfort and shelter! With these fantastic facilities I can guarantee that next year’s grain yields and steel production figures will be 10 billion percent higher than this years!”

You know what I’m getting at, right?

Memphis Balls

Fig 1

Arcade Balls

Fig. 2

Anyhoo, he got off to a not bad start on Q1 by having a go at Cameron for avoiding questions and that was well received and a call to focus on policy in Q2 also did OK. However, Q3 (totally the best question of the night) was where it started getting sticky and he tried to duck the question by going on an extended waffle about how crap the Tories are. Sensing that wasn’t exactly warmly received he started chanting the electoral Get Out Of Jail Free Card of ‘doctors, nurse, teachers, nurse, doctors, doctors, nurses, blah, blah’ like a mantra. That didn’t in any way do the trick and things went from bad to worse as Dimbers got a bit personal (he must have had a lot of pent up energy after the Debate) and insinuated that he’d never be Chancellor. Smelling the blood in the water, pretty much everyone then got in on the act and started tearing strips off him as he tried his very best to not answer whether Labour would put up VAT or not. That ended up just looking crap and hamfisted. After this battering Q4 started with tumbleweed for him, but there was a brief flicker of Politburo Approved Honesty when he didn’t try to defend Gordon Brown’s Bigotgate comments and he finally limped away on Q5 after some LibDem brown-nosing. Bad do’s.

I’m struggling with Balls (fnar fnar!) right now because although he is the clumsiest of fibbers, I’m not sure that many other politicians are intrinsically more honest. They’re probably just better at bullshitting. Having said that, he has been right at the heart of the Treasury for years and it was the policies that he and his colleagues devised that laid the groundwork for the Great Economic Clusterfuck. When seen from that angle, this very much boils down to case of ‘you shat your pants, now wear them’. For that, my funny haired friend, you get low points.

A convincingly unconvincing 3/10

In The Blue Corner, Liam Fox, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence and general harbinger of doom.
Well hello there Death. Oh, sorry, my bad… It’s actually the ever morbid Liam Fox. Yes, Dr. Fox is back in the game again and can I just say how glad I am that he’s not my GP. It’s not that I doubt his medical skills, it’s just that everything that comes out of his mouth sounds like such bad bloody news. If he delivered a baby, I’m pretty sure he’d welcome this miracle of nature by saying “well done Mr Loudribs, you have a baby boy but can I just take this opportunity to remind you that it will one day die and that this event may well occur during you’re lifetime”. Thanks, Dr Fox. Worse still, I can also imagine that if I did present at his surgery with a problem, it would always end up (no matter how inexplicably) being my fault. Broken leg? You shouldn’t have tried walking and talking at the same time. Flu? That’s what you get for eating bread. Ebola? I told you not to use the internet! So yes, generally speaking Liam Fox is the bearer of bad news. Even if it’s good news.

Last night’s performance started pretty bland, waffling something neither here-nor-there on Q1 but he did get some gentle claps for saying he hoped that voter turnout would increase in Q2. Less clement weather prevailed in Q3 as he (like Balls) tried to dodge the question and instead read a charge sheet on Labour (including invoking that perennial Tory shibboleth, the selling of the gold. The way they go on about it leads me to think that the country is awash with insomniac Big C Conservatives, kept awake night-on-night by the sheer horror of the memory). Dimbers started to look dangerous as he prowled about in the background so he threw in a quick ‘Labour waste your money’ feint (which sort of worked) and followed it up with an NI jab. If the question had ended at this point, he’d have probably got away with it, but he took it full in the chops when an audience member asked whether the Tories would raise VAT. With Dimbleby now looking very dangerous he flapped about helplessly, tried an ill fated semantic defence and got clobbered with a whole load of booing. It was a sorry spectacle, but also highly entertaining. A slight recovery followed in Q4, although this was tainted when he got some mild heckles on the immigration cap issue and got into some inconclusive little skirmishes with audience members. Finally, he ended it all with one of the loudest bouts of booing I’ve heard for some time as he overplayed his ‘hung parliaments are bad’ line by wheeling out his ‘the Pound will tank’ bogeyman. Not the most graceful of exits.

Generally speaking, it wasn’t a great performance. There were moments where he got quite feisty and combative, but on the whole it was like a picnic in a graveyard. He gets one more point than Balls, but that’s only on account of not looking quite as pathetic and considering he set the bar very low, that’s not exactly a glowing achievement. So Liam Fox, how does it fell to be given some bad news? Hmmm? Hmmm?

A Danse Macabre of a 4/10

In The Yellow Corner: Vince Cable, LibDem Treasury Spokesperson and patron saint of global financial meltdowns.
Prostrate thyselves for St Vince is here to bless us with his trademark brand of unassuming wisdom and refreshing ordinariness. Actually, I have to say that St Vince isn’t quite as good at Question Time as I  thought he might be and that’s because it sometimes takes him out of his comfort zone. That’s the trouble with patron saints, they’re all just to damned specialised. Let’s say that one day St Adrian of Nicodemia, patron saint of arms dealers, butchers, guards and soldiers, calls in sick and the only saint available to cover his shift was St. Martin de Porres, patron saint of hairdressers (seriously, I’m not making this stuff up….here’s a big list). Obviously, carnage would ensue. Armies would find themselves armed with nothing more than GHD’s and tub’s of Dax, meat would start being cut into all sorts of fruity styles and shoplifters would run riot. So yes, saints need to stick with what they know. The same thing happens to St. Vince. Send him on Newsnight to harry Osborne and Darling and you can rest assured that he will emerge triumphant, smiting his foes with quiet, understated common sense. However, send him on Question Time and that cast iron guarantee simply evaporates in the face of non-economic policy.

Here’s how he did: Q1 was fairly standard ‘3 horse race’ stuff, not bad but generally unremarkable while there was some love for him when he bashed First Past The Post in Q2. Q3 saw him on much me solid ground as he came across as someone who genuinely does care that the numbers add up and avoided falling into the VAT trap by simply saying he couldn’t rule out a rise. There was no applause on this, but I don’t think it was the sort of question where crowd love would ever be forthcoming. You’re telling them that you’re probably going to raise their taxes so to escape from the field of battle unscathed is bloody good going. It was Q4 where he started coming unstuck and when he was pressed on the LibDems immigration ‘amnesty’ he started to get mired, mangling the point a little and not looking like he was in control of his answer. The same thing happened on Q5 when he tried to explain how the Libs would clean up parliament. That easy, straightforwardness that we usually associate with St Vince simply wasn’t on display and he became tangled, seemingly unable to turn his point into something of value. While his performance was way better than either Fox’s or Balls’, it’s weird and unnerving to watch someone who has become such a trusted voice of reason so quickly look just a little, well, mortal. And that’s the problem with saints. You’ve got to use them sparingly and pick their battles, otherwise they lose their saintliness. Keep Vince saintly, that’s what I say.

A comparatively good but uncharacteristically poor 6/10

In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland and insurance mascot impersonator (see title picture).

Ahh Alex, being troublesome and awkward again are we? Thought so. I have a feeling that Salmond’s was only on QT that night because he kicked up such an unholy and wholly unjustified fuss about the Leaders’ Debates that BBC threw him a bone in a return for a quieter life. It was a pretty Berlusconi-ish thing to but to give him credit, he did look like he knew he’d been busted and therefore reeled his mouth somewhat tonight. In fact, he even went as far as acknowledging this in Q2 when an audience member asked him whether the whole Leaders’ Debate brouhaha was a “cheap political trick”. “It wasn’t that cheap” came the reply. So in general, we didn’t see much of Salmond on this show and after a brief outburst of sour grapes in Q1 (‘at least Clegg got to go on the debates!’) he then had the good sense to generally shut up. I don’t know, as I’ve said before with Salmond, I shouldn’t really like him. He always looks like he’s involved in some sort of swindle, he relies quite heavily on rhetoric and there is just something a little ‘tin-pot dictator-ish’ about him. Having said that, he does have a level of self awareness that I like, he’s nimble in a debate and there’s a knowing look in his eye that says “My time will come”. I like that, even if I have to put up with listening to endless stories of what dazzling utopia of a country Scotland is as a consequence. So yeah, he shouldn’t really have been there, but at least he had the good sense to realised that.

A ill conceived but not badly executed 5/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Janet Street-Porter, angle grinder voiced media type and Viperfish lookalike (see title picture).

JSP? Really? In the last show before the election? Man, what a burn. Talking about men, did you happen to know they’re crap? No? Well Janet Street-Porter thinks so and never wastes an opportunity to drive home that point in the most screechingly, searingly awful way. So yeah, JSP was on this episode and when I found out on the Wednesday, I could feel the anger rising me in. I knew what happen. A totally innocuous question would be posed, her mouth would open out would pour a mixture of white noise and man-hate. Sure enough she got straight to it right from the word go (“macho politics” dontchaknow?) and I felt like throwing the cat at the telly. In fairness, that was her only real, extended rant about the evils of men, but it still pissed me off and I found it really hard to listen to her after that. The crowd seemed more sympathetic and she did make some OK points later on, but her earlier rant really got under my skin. Yes, we know that there’s still a lot to be done about gender equality and yes, politics is ridiculously biased towards males, but having a go at me on account of my bollocks isn’t going to change that. It’s simply going to turn people off the more serious issues. That aside, I just find it hard watching her in general as everything she does or says just seems to have this nightmarish, bad acid trip quality to it. That voice, those jerky movements and that mouth that looks like it could bite your head clean off, it all genuinely scares me. So crap marks for you JSP. You get one more point than you got last time, but that’s because you actually did make every point into one about men on your last outing. This was marginally more tolerable.

A horribly predictable 4/10

The Crowd: Birmingham

The audiences in these post-Debate QT’s having been getting progressively more lively and this bunch ended up positively boisterous, what with all the booing and whatnot. Actual, despite the largely non-epic marks that everyone has garnered, this was a great episode and that was largely down to the audience being very engaged with the show. Yes, there was some tribalism, a few scatty points were made and they were far too kind to Janet Street-Porter for my liking, but on the whole, there was a lively ebb-and-flow as people fell in and out of favour. Dimbleby was also on great form tonight, after having probably smoked an entire packet of Marlboro Reds and eaten a 2oz pack of Golden Virginia in the interval and this translated into very entertaining level of mischief. In terms of which party came out on top, it’s hard to say. Certainly Balls got a trouncing, but I think that was more about him and there was sympathy for the party in parts of the audience. Similarly with the Tories, it was Fox who took the flak for most of the bad stuff and yet again, they got a lot of support when it came to NI. The LibDems are now very much more relevant and as a result, they are getting a tougher ride than usual, but much like the country as a whole, this was too close to call. All good stuff (particularly the question about VAT. That totally ruined the night for Fox and Balls). Finally, audience members of note included a guy who looked like a pubescent Smiths fan but sounded like an old women and another guy who looked like Fig.1 in the Old School LibDem Recognition Manual. Long, straight, ginger hair, round glasses, slightly alternative looking clothes, making a point about Trident. It’s good that there still are some certainties in this world.

A highly unrestrained 8/10

So that’s it for this parliament. Come this time next week, we will either be quivering in terror at the majesty of our new overloads or running amuck as society falls apart under the chaos of coalition government. Personally, I’m for the latter (and will spend the next week in blissful denial at the possible of any other outcome) as it sounds much more fun and lets face it, the results of thirty years of ‘strong’ governments haven’t exactly the best advert for our system. Anyhow, as this is technically the end of this parliament (at least I think it is… someone please correct me if I’m wrong) I’m going to update the scoreboard at some point next week and hopefully dish out a few completely valueless awards, accolades and Marks of Cain. Question Time’s back on the 13th of May, so I too will return, just in case you happen to like all this nonsense. See you on the other side people.

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #13


By the power of Ann Lesley!

Morning Lemmings. OK, I have to admit that I totally underestimated just how much craziness these Leaders’ Debates would cause. Even when I was watching the first one, I thought it was so dull that it would probably drive the electorate to unheard of heights of apathy, but at is turns out they’ve pretty much turned post-war politics completely upsidedown. So I was wrong, but in a good way. Anyhoo, last night’s debate was Nick Clegg’s Tricky Second Album and he was the one with everything to lose. So did he do a Bloc Party and follow up the brilliant Silent Alarm with the lacklustre Weekend In The City? A categorical no. In fact, I would go as far as saying that he’s actually put himself on a Radiohead trajectory and followed up a nice little breakthrough Pablo Honey with a more assured and fleshed out The Bends. Whether he can stick to this course and bust out a genre defining OK Computer remains to be seen, but it’s safe to say that although last night was very close, his Round One performance was not a flash in the pan. As for Cameron, well I’m slightly annoyed as I had a great Scouting For Girls metaphor all lined up (awful, turgid, monstrosity of a record followed by an even more awful, turgid, monstrosity of a record) but he actual did quite well, coming off as less nauseating and hucksterish than the first time round and even gracing us with a rare appearance of Angry Dave. Don’t mess with Angry Dave or he’ll get jolly well upset. As for Brown, I’ve already fleshed out my New Labour/Weezer theory at length, but that doesn’t quite fit either as he also did quite well in that he stopped pretending to be a human. We love you just the way you are Gordon: A lumpen, constant and inevitable body of mass that Christ himself cannot bend to his will. So with all that in mind, I’m assigning Brown to the Metallica plan (most of this year has been St. Anger while last night was much more Death Magnetic), Cameron to the Van Halen template (all good times until Diver Down, but a return to form with 1984… don’t worry though, Sammy Hagar’s début is just round the corner) and that’s the end of that. Other points of note include:

  1. The set looked like some dystopian rendition of a future Krypton Factor where the contestants have to fight to the death.
  2. Boulton is a million times better than Mitchell but a million times less great than Dimbleby… and he looks like he has gills.
  3. Using the words “Afghanistan” and “blown away” in the same sentence isn’t the best plan, Mr Cameron.
  4. Nick Clegg did a lovely little saunter towards the audience at the end. I have lots of time for good sauntering and he saunters well.
  5. At one point Cameron managed to use the word “change” three times in the space of a single sentence.
  6. Less colouring-in took place than in last week’s outing.

Enough already. Time for some real debate. Take me to London or lose me forever.

The Menu:

Q1: Cameron presents himself as an agent of change but is his impression of Nick Clegg good enough?

Q2: Does Nick Clegg’s funny-money allegations mean that the LibDems are any different from the other two parties?

Q3. Will a hung parliament be bad for the UK?

Q4. With inflation and unemployment up, why should we trust Labour?

In The Red Corner: Yvette Cooper, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, MP for Pontecarlo and Cas Vegas, husband of Balls.

It must be hard being Yvette Cooper as every time she appears on TV she looks absolutely knackered. Actually, I guess this isn’t that surprising given that not only has she been working deep within the bowels of Brown’s Treasury (a place not noted for its touchy-feely, ‘take all the time you need’ work ethic) since time immemorial, she’s also married to it in the form of Ed Balls (who just happens to be one of the most unpopular politicians in the country). On top of this, she seems to be one of the few members of Brown’s inner circle who seems to have some sort of contact with reality and as a result, she always looks like she knows that whatever idea she’s been wheeled out to defend will probably go pear shaped, but she carries on regardless, possibly out of a misplaced sense of duty. I like that. It’s not the flashiest of traits, but her mixture of grim resignation and ability to sound reasonable is actually quite endearing. This episode was a slightly easier ride than she’s had on past Question Times given that Gordon didn’t do too badly but also because of the weird mood that’s swept through Labour in the last week. Prior to the debates, most of the Red Team were locked in a death grip with the Tories, knew things were looking terminal and you could sense their despair at the futility of it all. However, that was before Clegg completely trashed the entire scheme of things with his performance and now Labour look like they’ve found a diamond in a turd. Sure, the most likely outcome isn’t amazingly brilliant (a hung parliament and possible coalition), but it’s a damn sight better than it was (probable defeat or a short lived embarrassment of a minority government), they don’t have to do any of the heavy lifting and hell, the sheer stupidity of our electoral system may see them come out smelling of roses. This has put a bit of a spring in their step and their attitude seems a lot more carefree than it was.

Was this reflected in Cooper’s performance? Pretty much. Q1 was a straightforward affair, with some standard Tory bashing at the start, a few doffs of the cap to Clegg and then a surprise swipe at him on Trident (which went down surprisingly well). Much the same followed in Q2 where, after a bout of waffle, she chided the Tory press for ganging up on The New Boy and then landed a himdinger on journalists in general (a brave thing to do in front of Ann Leslie) for treating the public “like idiots”. That was all very well received, much to absolutely no-ones surprise (accusing someone else of treating the audience like idiots never fails… Unless you’re Nick Griffin). Q3 wasn’t so easy as Labour can’t really come out and say ‘we love hung parliaments now’ without looking poisonously cynical, so she reverted to orthodoxy and wheeled out the standard ‘First Past The Post Is Well Cool’ arguments but did manage to fold in a nice little dig at Ken Clarke. Muted applause followed. Finally, she gave Q4 a fairly dull blathering of Treasury-speak before making sure that she gave the Tories one more slap for their economic policy. Sorted.

All-in-all, it was a fairly good performance and for once, she didn’t look like she’d only had half an hour’s sleep in the last month. I’m pretty sure that this is down to the sudden change in circumstances and the fact that most Labour MP’s seem to be in end-of-term mode. Seriously, most of them look like they just don’t give a shit anymore and not necessarily in a bad way. It didn’t all go her way and she took a lot of stick in counter-claps from the audience when it came to the NI rise, but by and large it was perfectly serviceable outing.

An easier than usual 6/10

In The Blue Corner: William Hague, Shadow Foreign Secretary, former election loser and Mekon impersonator.

I don’t know why, but there’s something about Hague that I actually quite like. Actually, let me rephrase that: There’s something about Hague that I actually quite like providing I know he’s nowhere near the levers of power. I think it’s because deep down, he knows he shouldn’t be where he is as he’s a manbaby (see Fig. 1) with a wobbly head, blighted by the oddest of Yorkshire accents and with enough embarrassing stock footage of him to last a lifetime (the 16 year old fawning over Maggie, the ‘Hague’ hat, the 15 pints or whatever it was, etc, etc). On top of that, he always looks out of sorts with the rest of the party and terrified of being found out as a fraud (you know when he’s feeling like this because his voice starts to wobble mid-sentence in a very Alan Partridge sort of way). That all sounds pretty sad, but there’s another, more cheery side to him when he sometimes looks like he’s only just realised he’s a frontbench MP and can’t believe his luck. When this happens, he can actually bust out some pretty funny stuff, have a good knockabout with whoever he’s up against and actually appear semi-human (you know when he’s feeling like this because he delivers every line like a punchline, his voicing rising slightly at the end of every sentence). Luckily for Hague, tonight’s Question Time was an easier prospect than last week as Cameron had managed to get his act together in the debate, but still, the onus is on the Tories to convince the public right now, not the other way round.

avert thine eyes...

Future Foreign Secretary?

So which Hague did we get tonight? Sad Hague or Happy Hague? A bit of both really. Kicking off with Q1, he did his best his best to chalk up Clegg’s recent run of form as “novelty factor” stuff, but came off looking a little shifty and worse still, Cooper nicked his Trident point seconds after he said it and came away with all the applause. Gah! Sad Hague is sad. Q2 was more fun though and Sad Hague was displaced by the much more forthright Happy Hague who wasted no time in whipping out the “holier than thou” stick on Clegg and getting perhaps a little too much applause for demanding that all parliamentary spending goes online. Happy Hague is happy. Q3 saw some nice banditry from Dimbers as he casually tinkered around with some insinuations about Ken Clarke and Hague looked like he’d been busted and reverted to Sad Hague. This went on for some time and ended with a very shaky sounding “right behind” Osborne and a weary defence of First Past The Post that not even a makeshift offensive against the NI raise could save. Sad Hague is sad. Finally, Q4 saw the late re-emergence of Happy Hague when he got very giddy about the private sector and the audience went with him, giving him a nice round of applause to finish the night with. Happy Hague is happy. Yay!

So yes, neither Happy nor Sad Hague dominated and we are left with a curious Yin-Yang Hague, composed equally of both factions and locked in a sublime celestial ballet. I think I just got a bit carried away there.

A curious reflection on the duality of man 5/10

In The Yellow Corner: Menzies Campbell, MP for North East Fife and former didn’t-get-close-enough-to-an-election-to-lose-it Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Dammit Ming! You were only on two weeks ago! Just how the buggery hell am I supposed to come up with new material in that time?! Truly, this is merciless, Ming. Actually, I have a theory as to why he’s on again in such a short space of time and that’s because he got lost on his way out of the studio last time. For the last fortnight, he’s been wandering the corridors of the BBC, politely asking uncaring members of staff where he might find the tramstop and a copy of Punch magazine until he finally gravitated back towards the studio and dozed off in a chair, only to be woken by Dimbleby stubbing a cigarette out on his forehead. Alright, that’s enough of that. I’m being wantonly cruel to poor old Ming and he doesn’t really deserve it because despite his sometimes frail demeanour, his intentions are always resolute and he can put on a great display of gravitas. In many ways, he’s like a less-than-well looked after vintage sports car (a Triumph Stag, let’s say) that appears to go bloody well on the motorway, but gets into all sorts of trouble in the city because it’s clutch has gone. That’s Ming’s problem, his clutch. When he’s dealing with something he knows about, has plenty of time to build up speed and no difficult corners to make him change the tempo, he’s great. But if you start throwing a few sharp turns or other obstructions, he has to change gear. This causes all manner of grindy/crashy noises, the car jolts and stutters and sometimes even stalls, making him look pretty goofy. Usually, this isn’t a major problem as the LibDems simply haven’t been in the spotlight and that’s given Ming an empty motorway to show off on. That, unfortunately, is no longer the case. Now that Clegg’s completely put the zap on everyone’s heads, both parties are wilfully constructing roadblocks and pouring oil about the place, making what is usually a jolly jaunt up the M5 into a hellish Central London gridlock. Looking back on my notes, there was only one time when Ming got any decernable applause and that was off the back of ‘let’s change the subject’ sideswipe at Ashcroft in Q2. The rest of the time he just failed to get in his stride and kept juddering away, never really getting enough traction to carry the audience along with him. None of what he said was inherently wrong and this wasn’t a disaster, but you’d think the Libs would be in a commanding position tonight. I guess that’s what happens when you hit the big time, kiddo.

A non-Synchromesh 4/10

In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Elfyn Llwyd, MP for Meirionnydd Nat Conway (?!?), current frontrunner on the LCCPQTMR Scoreboard.

Elfyn’s back! Hooray! The last time Elfyn Llwyd was on, he had an absolute belter of an episode, so much so that he still reigns supreme on the infrequently updated Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report Scoreboard. However, that was to a home crowd and as regular readers will know, Loudribs 2nd Law of Question Time Dynamics dictates that “all regional parties get a +3 saving throw on their own turf “. Is Elfyn Llwyd about to bring my meticulously researched scientific theories crashing down about me? Of course not. I wrote the theory and bloody well give out the scores so there’s absolutely no chance of that happening. Having said that, he again put on a really good show, basically reminding everyone that there is a different way of running a country and that’s what we used to call ‘social democracy’. We’re often told that there is no appetite for the left (and by that I mean the traditional left) in this country, but if the response to Elfyn is anything to go by, this is patently wrong. The bulk of his answers drew solid applause and there was genuine support behind him for his ‘living pensions’ line on Q1. Ok, so he didn’t really appear to be as relevant as he was on his last appearance and there were a couple of moments where his ‘impassioned criticism’ face looked a little too much like his ‘grumpy’ face, but generally speaking, I can’t knock it. Not good enough to break my own rule though, OK?

A theoretically contiguous 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Dame Ann Leslie, Mail Hack-of-Note and Phlegmatic Institution.

I really should take umbrage with Ann Leslie, what with her being so intrinsically associated with the Daily Fail but I have to admit that this isn’t the case and if anything, I really quite like her. It’s not out of agreement with her views that I say this and in terms of outlook, we couldn’t be further apart but there’s a certain breed of rightwinger that I’ve always had a great deal of respect for: the gin soaked, Sobranie smoking, blood and stomach pills, ‘to hell with the lot of them’ type of rightwinger (think Alan Clarke). Not only does Ann Leslie tick all the above boxes, but she also has the added advantages of looking like Skeletor (see main picture), a razor sharp tongue and a complete lack of interest in anyone else’s opinion of her. That makes for a fun combination. As is usually the case with the 5th panellist, I won’t go into detail, but here are some pearls of wisdom/turns of caustic wit she left scattered about the place:

  • Cameron was “limp” last week while Clegg is “not the messiah, but a very pretty boy”.
  • LibDems are “sandal wearing” and “self righteous”
  • “Diddums”
  • When asked about LibDem policies she responded “They suck, frankly.”
  • She voted for a “lap dancing madam” in the last election.
  • Gordon brown is “always saving the country after half ruining it”.

What I like about people like Ann Leslie is that you know where you are with them. If they were going to bring in some crazy eugenic policy or sell all the council estates to Tesco, they wouldn’t bother dressing it up with euphemisms and would probably even take the time to come and personally laugh in your face. They are comfortable with sin, make no apologies for their own and have none of that puritanical streak that less colourful strains of the right have. In short, they’re honest bastards. As for her performance, I liked it, the audience liked it and that gets points.

A Bloody Mary for breakfast of a 7/10

The Crowd: London

So this is second post-Debate crowd and they certainly seemed a little more awake than the last lot, not needing a full quarter of an hour to emerge to merge from their slumber. They were also genuinely without a favourite, treating all the parties in similar fashion and giving no-one an easy ride. If ever you needed confirmation that this is now a three horse race, this was it. Two things that did strike me were just how anti the NI rise they were and just how much love there was for private sector growth as opposed to public sector growth. Both of these issues drew the biggest applause and they are still a potential weaknesses for Labour (not that they seemed that bothered right now). The other thing that struck me were how cool the names were of the people asking the first two questions: Jack Warrior and Otto Balsagar. I wish I was called Jack Warrior. Or Otto Balsagar for that matter. But yes, they were a pretty lively bunch that adequately reflected the mood in the country: The cosy two party relationship is dead and the game has changed. That’s exciting stuff.

An sturdy weather vane of a 7/10

Alright, that’s your lot. Check back next week for the last Question Time report before the election…Yikes! Oh, and by the way, if you like what you’re reading, there’s a Facebook fanpage you can join. It’s like being in a gang. A rubbish gang with no obligations or responsibilities, but a gang nevertheless. Anyway, it’s here and if you’d care to stroke my ego, my ego won’t complain. Next week, Lemmings, next week…

Morning Lemmings. OK, I have to admit that I totally underestimated just how much craziness these Leaders’ Debates would cause. Even when I was watching the first one, I thought it was so dull that it would probably drive the electorate to unheard of heights of apathy, but at is turns out they’ve pretty much turned post-war politics completely upsidedown. So I was wrong, but in a good way. Anyhoo, last night’s debate was Nick Clegg’s Tricky Second Album and he was the one with everything to lose. So did he do a Bloc Party and follow up the brilliant Silent Alarm with the lacklustre Weekend In The City? A categorical no. In fact, I would go as far as saying that he’s actually put himself on a Radiohead trajectory and followed up a nice little breakthrough Pablo Honey with a more assured and fleshed out The Bends. Whether he can stick to this course and bust out a genre defining OK Computer remains to be seen, but it’s safe to say that although last night was very close, his Round One performance was not a flash in the pan. As for Cameron, well I’m slightly annoyed as I had a great Scouting For Girls metaphor all lined up (awful, turgid, monstrosity of a record followed by an even more awful, turgid, monstrosity of a record) but he actual did quite well, coming off as less nauseating and hucksterish than the first time round and even gracing us with a rare appearance of Angry Dave. Don’t mess with Angry Dave or he’ll get jolly well upset. As for Brown, I’ve already fleshed out my New Labour/Weezer theory at length, but that doesn’t quite fit either as he also did quite well in that he stopped pretending to be a human. We love you just the way you are Gordon: A lumpen, constant and inevitable body of mass that Christ himself cannot bend to his will. So with all that in mind, I’m assigning Brown to the Metallica plan (most of this year has been St. Anger while last night was much more Death Magnetic), Cameron to the Van Halen template (all good times until Diver Down, but a return to form with 1984… don’t worry though, Sammy Hagar’s début is just round the corner) and that’s the end of that. Other points of note include:

  1. The set looked like some dystopian rendition of a future Krypton Factor where the contestants have to fight to the death.

  2. Boulton is a million times better than Mitchell but a million times less great than Dimbleby… and he looks like he has gills.

  3. Using the words “Afghanistan” and “blown away” in the same sentence isn’t the best plan, Mr Cameron.

  4. Nick Clegg did a lovely little saunter towards the audience at the end. I have lots of time for good sauntering and he saunters well.

  5. At one point Cameron managed to use the word “change” three times in the space of a single sentence.

  6. Less colouring-in took place than in last week’s outing.

Enough already. Time for some real debate. Take me to London or lose me forever.

The Menu:

Q1: Cameron presents himself as an agent of change but is his impression of Nick Clegg good enough?

Q2: Does Nick Clegg’s funny-money allegations mean that the LibDems are any different from the other two parties?

Q3. Will a hung parliament be bad for the UK?

Q4. With inflation and unemployment up, why should we trust Labour?

In The Red Corner: Yvette Cooper, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, MP for Pontecarlo and Cas Vegas, husband of Balls.

It must be hard being Yvette Cooper as every time she appears on TV she looks absolutely knackered. Actually, I guess this isn’t that surprising given that not only has she been working deep within the bowels of Brown’s Treasury (a place not noted for its touchy-feely, ‘take all the time you need’ work ethic) since time immemorial, she’s also married to it in the form of Ed Balls (who just happens to be one of the most unpopular politicians in the country). On top of this, she seems to be one of the few members of Brown’s inner circle who seems to have some sort of contact with reality and as a result, she always looks like she knows that whatever idea she’s been wheeled out to defend will probably go pear shaped, but she carries on regardless, possibly out of a misplaced sense of duty. I like that. It’s not the flashiest of traits, but her mixture of grim resignation and ability to sound reasonable is actually quite endearing. This episode was a slightly easier ride than she’s had on past Question Times given that Gordon didn’t do too badly but also because of the weird mood that’s swept through Labour in the last week. Prior to the debates, most of the Red Team were locked in a death grip with the Tories, knew things were looking terminal and you could sense their despair at the futility of it all. However, that was before Clegg completely trashed the entire scheme of things with his performance and now Labour look like they’ve found a diamond in a turd. Sure, the most likely outcome isn’t amazingly brilliant (a hung parliament and possible coalition), but it’s a damn sight better than it was (probable defeat or a short lived embarrassment of a minority government), they don’t have to do any of the heavy lifting and hell, the sheer stupidity of our electoral system may see them come out smelling of roses. This has put a bit of a spring in their step and their attitude seems a lot more carefree than it was.

Was this reflected in Cooper’s performance? Pretty much. Q1 was a straightforward affair, with some standard Tory bashing at the start, a few doffs of the cap to Clegg and then a surprise swipe at him on Trident (which went down surprisingly well). Much the same followed in Q2 where, after a bout of waffle, she chided the Tory press for ganging up on The New Boy and then landed a himdinger on journalists in general (a brave thing to do in front of Ann Leslie) for treating the public “like idiots”. That was all very well received, much to absolutely no-ones surprise (accusing someone else of treating the audience like idiots never fails… Unless you’re Nick Griffin). Q3 wasn’t so easy as Labour can’t really come out and say ‘we love hung parliaments now’ without looking poisonously cynical, so she reverted to orthodoxy and wheeled out the standard ‘First Past The Post Is Well Cool’ arguments but did manage to fold in a nice little dig at Ken Clarke. Muted applause followed. Finally, she gave Q4 a fairly dull blathering of Treasury-speak before making sure that she gave the Tories one more slap for their economic policy. Sorted.

All-in-all, it was a fairly good performance and for once, she didn’t look like she’d only had half an hour’s sleep in the last month. I’m pretty sure that this is down to the sudden change in circumstances and the fact that most Labour MP’s seem to be in end-of-term mode. Seriously, most of them look like they just don’t give a shit anymore and not necessarily in a bad way. It didn’t all go her way and she took a lot of stick in counter-claps from the audience when it came to the NI rise, but by and large it was perfectly serviceable outing.

An easier than usual 6/10

In The Blue Corner: William Hague, Shadow Foreign Secretary, former election loser and Mekon impersonator.

I don’t know why, but there’s something about Hague that I actually quite like. Actually, let me rephrase that: There’s something about Hague that I actually quite like providing I know he’s nowhere near the levers of power. I think it’s because deep down, he knows he shouldn’t be where he is as he’s a manbaby (see Fig. 1) with a wobbly head, blighted by the oddest of Yorkshire accents and with enough embarrassing stock footage of him to last a lifetime (the 16 year old fawning over Maggie, the ‘Hague’ hat, the 15 pints or whatever it was, etc, etc). On top of that, he always looks out of sorts with the rest of the party and terrified of being found out as a fraud (you know when he’s feeling like this because his voice starts to wobble mid-sentence in a very Alan Partridge sort of way). That all sounds pretty sad, but there’s another, more cheery side to him when he sometimes looks like he’s only just realised he’s a frontbench MP and can’t believe his luck. When this happens, he can actually bust out some pretty funny stuff, have a good knockabout with whoever he’s up against and actually appear semi-human (you know when he’s feeling like this because he delivers every line like a punchline, his voicing rising slightly at the end of every sentence). Luckily for Hague, tonight’s Question Time was an easier prospect than last week as Cameron had managed to get his act together in the debate, but still, the onus is on the Tories to convince the public right now, not the other way round.

So which Hague did we get tonight? Sad Hague or Happy Hague? A bit of both really. Kicking off with Q1, he did his best his best to chalk up Clegg’s recent run of form as “novelty factor” stuff, but came off looking a little shifty and worse still, Cooper nicked his Trident point seconds after he said it and came away with all the applause. Gah! Sad Hague is sad. Q2 was more fun though and Sad Hague was displaced by the much more forthright Happy Hague who wasted no time in whipping out the “holier than thou” stick on Clegg and getting perhaps a little too much applause for demanding that all parliamentary spending goes online. Happy Hague is happy. Q3 saw some nice banditry from Dimbers as he casually tinkered around with some insinuations about Ken Clarke and Hague looked like he’d been busted and reverted to Sad Hague. This went on for some time and ended with a very shaky sounding “right behind” Osborne and a weary defence of First Past The Post that not even a makeshift offensive against the NI raise could save. Sad Hague is sad. Finally, Q4 saw the late re-emergence of Happy Hague when he got very giddy about the private sector and the audience went with him, giving him a nice round of applause to finish the night with. Happy Hague is happy. Yay!

So yes, neither Happy nor Sad Hague dominated and we are left with a curious Yin-Yang Hague, composed equally of both factions and locked in a sublime celestial ballet. I think I just got a bit carried away there.

A curious reflection on the duality of man 5/10

In The Yellow Corner: Menzies Campbell, MP for North East Fife and former didn’t-get-close-enough-to-an-election-to-lose-it Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Dammit Ming! You were only on two weeks ago! Just how the buggery hell am I supposed to come up with new material in that time?! Truly, this is merciless, Ming. Actually, I have a theory as to why he’s on again in such a short space of time and that’s because he got lost on his way out of the studio last time. For the last fortnight, he’s been wandering the corridors of the BBC, politely asking uncaring members of staff where he might find the tramstop and a copy of Punch magazine until he finally gravitated back towards the studio and dozed off in a chair, only to be woken by Dimbleby stubbing a cigarette out on his forehead. Alright, that’s enough of that. I’m being wantonly cruel to poor old Ming and he doesn’t really deserve it because despite his sometimes frail demeanour, his intentions are always resolute and he can put on a great display of gravitas. In many ways, he’s like a less-than-well looked after vintage sports car (a Triumph Stag, let’s say) that appears to go bloody well on the motorway, but gets into all sorts of trouble in the city because it’s clutch has gone. That’s Ming’s problem, his clutch. When he’s dealing with something he knows about, has plenty of time to build up speed and no difficult corners to make him change the tempo, he’s great. But if you start throwing a few sharp turns or other obstructions, he has to change gear. This causes all manner of grindy/crashy noises, the car jolts and stutters and sometimes even stalls, making him look pretty goofy. Usually, this isn’t a major problem as the LibDems simply haven’t been in the spotlight and that’s given Ming an empty motorway to show off on. That, unfortunately, is no longer the case. Now that Clegg’s completely put the zap on everyone’s heads, both parties are wilfully constructing roadblocks and pouring oil about the place, making what is usually a jolly jaunt up the M5 into a hellish Central London gridlock. Looking back on my notes, there was only one time when Ming got any decernable applause and that was off the back of ‘let’s change the subject’ sideswipe at Ashcroft in Q2. The rest of the time he just failed to get in his stride and kept juddering away, never really getting enough traction to carry the audience along with him. None of what he said was inherently wrong and this wasn’t a disaster, but you’d think the Libs would be in a commanding position tonight. I guess that’s what happens when you hit the big time, kiddo.

A non-Synchromesh 4/10

In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Elfyn Llwyd, MP for Meirionnydd Nat Conway (?!?), current frontrunner on the LCCPQTMR Scoreboard.

Elfyn’s back! Hooray! The last time Elfyn Llwyd was on, he had an absolute belter of an episode, so much so that he still reigns supreme on the infrequently updated Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report Scoreboard. However, that was to a home crowd and as regular readers will know, Loudribs 2nd Law of Question Time Dynamics dictates that “all regional parties get a +3 saving throw on their own turf “. Is Elfyn Llwyd about to bring my meticulously researched scientific theories crashing down about me? Of course not. I wrote the theory and bloody well give out the scores so there’s absolutely no chance of that happening. Having said that, he again put on a really good show, basically reminding everyone that there is a different way of running a country and that’s what we used to call ‘social democracy’. We’re often told that there is no appetite for the left (and by that I mean the traditional left) in this country, but if the response to Elfyn is anything to go by, this is patently wrong. The bulk of his answers drew solid applause and there was genuine support behind him for his ‘living pensions’ line on Q1. Ok, so he didn’t really appear to be as relevant as he was on his last appearance and there were a couple of moments where his ‘impassioned criticism’ face looked a little too much like his ‘grumpy’ face, but generally speaking, I can’t knock it. Not good enough to break my own rule though, OK?

A theoretically contiguous 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Dame Ann Leslie, Mail Hack-of-Note and Phlegmatic Institution.

I really should take umbrage with Ann Leslie, what with her being so intrinsically associated with the Daily Fail but I have to admit that this isn’t the case and if anything, I really quite like her. It’s not out of agreement with her views that I say this and in terms of outlook, we couldn’t be further apart but there’s a certain breed of rightwinger that I’ve always had a great deal of respect for: the gin soaked, Sobranie smoking, blood and stomach pills, ‘to hell with the lot of them’ type of rightwinger (think Alan Clarke). Not only does Ann Leslie tick all the above boxes, but she also has the added advantages of looking like Skeletor (see main picture), a razor sharp tongue and a complete lack of interest in anyone else’s opinion of her. That makes for a fun combination. As is usually the case with the 5th panellist, I won’t go into detail, but here are some pearls of wisdom/turns of caustic wit she left scattered about the place:

  • Cameron was “limp” last week while Clegg is “not the messiah, but a very pretty boy”.

  • LibDems are “sandal wearing” and “self righteous”

  • Diddums”

  • When asked about LibDem policies she responded “They suck, frankly.”

  • She voted for a “lap dancing madam” in the last election.

  • Gordon brown is “always saving the country after half ruining it”.

What I like about people like Ann Leslie is that you know where you are with them. If they were going to bring in some crazy eugenic policy or sell all the council estates to Tesco, they wouldn’t bother dressing it up with euphemisms and would probably even take the time to come and personally laugh in your face. They are comfortable with sin, make no apologies for their own and have none of that puritanical streak that less colourful strains of the right have. In short, they’re honest bastards. As for her performance, I liked it, the audience liked it and that gets points.

A Bloody Mary for breakfast of a 7/10

The Crowd: London

So this is second post-Debate crowd and they certainly seemed a little more awake than the last lot, not needing a full quarter of an hour to emerge to merge from their slumber. They were also genuinely without a favourite, treating all the parties in similar fashion and giving no-one an easy ride. If ever you needed confirmation that this is now a three horse race, this was it. Two things that did strike me were just how anti the NI rise they were and just how much love there was for private sector growth as opposed to public sector growth. Both of these issues drew the biggest applause and they are still a potential weaknesses for Labour (not that they seemed that bothered right now). The other thing that struck me were how cool the names were of the people asking the first two questions: Jack Warrior and Otto Balsagar. I wish I was called Jack Warrior. Or Otto Balsagar for that matter. But yes, they were a pretty lively bunch that adequately reflected the mood in the country: The cosy two party relationship is dead and the game has changed. That’s exciting stuff.

An sturdy weather vane of a 7/10

Alright, that’s your lot. Check back next week for the last Question Time report before the election…Yikes! Oh, and by the way, if you like what your reading, there’s a Facebook fanpage you can join. It’s like being in a gang. A rubbish gang with no obligations or responsibilities, but a gang nevertheless. Anyway, it’s here and if you’d care to stroke my ego, my ego won’t complain. Next week, Lemmings, next week…

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.

Zoinks!

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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