Posts Tagged 'Leanne Wood'

Questionable Time #130


qt 130

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to a sad, sad edition of Questionable Time, direct from bright and sunny Bolton. By which I mean the Questionable Time that time forgot. You may not have noticed, but there’s actually been things called ‘debates’ going on, although the first one wasn’t really a debate, and – but I digress.

I must confess I actually forgot about Question Time’s existence for a while, hence why I’m late today, so caught up was I in Ed Miliband half-threatening to punch Jeremy Paxman in the face and claiming that, yes, he’s tuff enuff. I didn’t know it was possible to cringe and cheer at the same time, you’d think those would be opposite sides of the emotional spectrum, but Ed has shown me the way and now I feel a far broader range of human emotion than I ever did before.

Anyhow, this ought to be a short, perfunctory round-up, as will the dead-duck QTs for the next few weeks: but soon, friends. Soon. Something is coming. Something…relevant.

I’m late, I’m late, for a very important debate

Sure enough, even our first question is about – what a surprise! – the debates. This time – indeed, for the hundredth time – debating whether the debates should be debated. I mean, are worth it. Well, considering that 2.5 million people tuned in to the first double interview…don’t worry, Dimbles. Your time will come. In about a month, I’d say.

Anyway, everyone in the studio has apparently been watching the showdown and most likely eating pizza and yelling, as I did. Seems like because expectations for Miliband were so low, people were just impressed that he didn’t vomit on stage. Every little victory counts.

In any case, a somehow even less popular Labour leader shows up to annoy us all: Jim Murphy. The first real grilling comes quickly – are you going to spend all the mansion tax in Scotland? People are chuckling at whatever the hell he says, which may annoy that one lady who wants people to take the whole debates affair seriously, but I think everyone’s been at the bar at least once by now.

Janet Street-Porter warns about ‘attractive’ Clegg and the Cleggmania effect happening again. Don’t get burned again, people! Not like last time! She also complains about political cliches, which is in itself a cliche. Clicheception! Then a young man in the audience interrupts to show us all his many feelings on Ed Miliband getting bullied. ;______; The dude thinks that Ed should just act ‘the way he is’, although the problem is that many people want him to do the exact opposite. Still, at least he’s got some support!

He’s right to be bullied, warns Nicky Morgan, the Gove replacement that was presumably built in a lab somewhere. Labour’s dirty money is going to come from “people’s pockets”, warns she. Um, Nicky, isn’t there where all tax comes from? Meanwhile Leanne Wood goes straight in about Cameron fumbling on foodbanks, but also states that despite his protestations Ed still isn’t tuff enuff.

Steven Woolfe, the UKIP finance spokesperson, has such a monotonous voice that he’s threatening to even eclipse the rest of the panel (save Janet and Leanne) in the robot stakes, but he soldiers on to claim that it is the humble UKIP that will defeat the dreaded zero-hours contracts. Of course. They put it so highly on their list of top priorities. When people think UKIP, they think zero-hours contracts. They’re almost a single-issue party!

Jim Murphy also soldiers on, trying to give a name to every single member of the audience. Jim, please, it was awkward when Ed did it and it’s even worse with you. At least he’s not up in Scotland, where the more frightening crowd would no doubt have given him some choice examples. He goes for the predictable, but always hilarious, line of attack that Cameron was simply too chicken to face Miliband. Chick-chick-chicken. Bawk bawk bawk.

Nicky is outraged, her voice squeaking. How dare you call delicious Dave a chicken! Roasted in a thick wine sauce! Mmmm…Tory sauce. (I apologise for any brains broken during this QT edition.)

Kiss kiss fall in love

Next question, and we’re actually getting serious now, on where ~*~the money~*~ is coming from. Both the Tories and Labour have ruled out VAT and National Insurance increases. Will it come from further cuts in welfare? There’s only one way to find out…

“No,” says Jim Murphy.

…Oh.

JSP is here to generally rile people up, as usual. She thinks politicians saying that they’re going to cut benefits would be popular, thanks to the mean old media drumming it into people’s heads all the time. As a Media Studies student, I nod sagely, safe in the knowledge that my analysis of cultural hegemony is useful and accessible.

Leanne Wood is here too, of course. According to Dimbleby, she’s representing the SNP as well as Plaid Cymru, and that “you and Alex Salmond are like that” (with appropriate hand gestures). Leanne smiles broadly. Honestly, I ship it. (Look it up if you’re not sad, but want to swiftly become sad.)

We want austerity to burn, says Leanne, and if Plaid Cymru were running the campaign then everything would be better somehow. Well, what about this happiness index!! says JSP, getting hectic. While that’s all going on the UKIP dude continues to be disappointingly uneventful. It almost makes you miss Nigel Farage. At least you’ve always got…something…to say about him.

On the subject of coalitions/pacts, which inevitably comes up for no reason, Jim tries to emulate his boss by coming out fighting. Alex Salmond likes the sound of his own voice and is a poopyhead, says Jim, who probably is sick of the sight of the Saltire by now. Is that the Alex Salmond you recognise?, says Dimbleby slyly to Leanne. David, please, you make it sound like they’re married! Although…

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

JSP goes after Leanne again. Does she just not like her or what? It bothers people, these deals, she begins, before Nicky Morgan leaps in with some much-appreciated input of her own. Mainly about how she respects David ‘breaking the’ Laws and how coalition was hunky dory. When asked if she’d like another coalition, though, she frantically backtracks to great comic effect. She’d like a majority, duh, you guys! Whew, just avoided ‘doing a Pym’ there, Nicky.

If you say ‘Peter Mandelson’ three times facing a mirror at night, you wake up the rest of the house

Last(ish) question. Why is Ol’ Nigey Boy castigated for saying English jobs for English workers, when Greg Dyke said something similar about football at some point? Good one, Greg! You increasingly irrelevant man.

Leanne stops momentum to gush about trade unions for a bit. UKIP Steve takes to the stand instead. UKIP has nothing against immigrants, says Steve. When Gordon Brown said something similar back in the Noughties everyone loved him. Uh, no they didn’t, Steve. I’m fairly sure Gordon was hated 100% of the time. But apparently Nigel is being discriminated against. Steve talks constantly for about five minutes and to his credit sounds reasonably reasonable but I got distracted thinking about what would happen if Ed Miliband and David Cameron got in a punch-up.

Nicky reminds us of the existence of Peter Mandelson and we all cry. Screw Peter Mandelson, I’m proud people are coming here, replies Jim, or words to that effect. Everybody get in here! Get in the paddling pool! There’s room for everyone! Woo, getting a little crowded in there…says Steven while pointing and yelling in a low drone. (Don’t mention the British ex-pats!)

Someone from the crowd lowers the tone yet again. There’s too much positive discrimination, appaz. Whatever happened to getting a job on merit…says the white man. Thank you for your contribution. I shall now proceed to get trolled by angry white men on the Internet.

Finally: Jezza Clarkson. Should he have gone? Could he have got away with it if he’d only slapped, not punched?

To summarise, since I seem to be doing that a lot with the final ‘jokey’ question: Leanne brings up trade unions again, JSP throws a hissy fit again (this time about snobby BBC execs), Jim throws in a Hislop-esque ‘allegedly’ in there not again, and lastly, some guy in the audience asks for everyone to stop talking about this godforsaken topic.

Time for the scores!

Morgan: 5/10

(Run off the) Rails

Murphy: 6/10

(Trying not to think about Scottish Labour being a bunch of) #Fails (, lolololol)

Wood: 7/10

(Did it for) Wales

Woolfe: 5/10

(Why isn’t Nigel here to) Bail[s] (him out)

Street-Porter: 5/10

(What) Ails (you, Janet?)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Wants the) Details

Next time: who even knows?

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #114


qt 114
Good morrow lemmings, or should I say bore da? We’re in Cardiff, so let’s hope Dimbleby doesn’t get swallowed up by the space/time rift in its centre! And can someone please get rid of that ugly rug on the floor of the studio? I want it burned. Thanks.

Milidammerung

Our first question is, as it seems to be every week, about the continuing trials and tribulations of Ed Miliband. Gosh, they just never end! Panellist number one is the up-and-coming young heartthrob Stephen Crabb. So far the only thing I’ve actually heard about him is the fact that he has a immaculately well-groomed beard. Every article and profile about him is required to mention his facial hair by law. In fairness, it is incredibly mesmerising. He’ll do fine, just as long as he doesn’t mime the Welsh national anthem.

Anyway, he’s pleased as punch with Ed’s performance. Keep on keepin’ on, Ed! He’s “not ready” to be Prime Minister, apparently, which raises the question – when does someone become ‘ready’ to be PM? Do you have to win a race, or an arm-wrestling contest? Is there phasing involved? The paddling of the swollen ass, with paddles?

Kirsty Williams, the superheroically boring leader of the Welsh Lib Dems (must be a lonely job) says Labour is responsible for ruining everything. I think she’s trying to be a poor man’s Leanne Wood, but we’ll get to her later. Rod Liddle replies that Labour is fine, it’s Ed who is the problem. He’s a nice guy, but basically a hopeless nerd. This whole ‘doesn’t he look weird!’ guffawing about poor Eddie is somewhat cruel, methinks. Yes, let’s all point and laugh at the nerd! Not that I would know how that feels or anything…Rod says that he voted for Andy Burnham for leader, presumably because he is much prettier and has a dreamy ~werkin’ class~ accent.

‘Cuddly’ Carwyn Jones interrupts to shake his head like a sad grandpa. It was the world that was in depression, not just the UK – the credit crunch wasn’t merely the result of Gordon Brown’s miserable face making us all cry ourselves into an economic slump. Meanwhile, taking her cues from the grumbly Welsh audience (in Welsh, even grumbles are melodic) Leanne Wood is yelling from the left. She’d quite like to hook up with Alex Salmond for a glorious new revolution. All these beautiful Welsh accents make you want to start singing and shouting florid oratory, don’t they? No? Just me? Well screw all y’all.

Moving on, our next question is on convicted rapist and general shithead Ched Evans. Leanne, who is eager to assume the role of national hero for the night, says that while she generally supports giving people fresh out of prison second chances – this guy? Gross! No way! We should be thinking of the victim instead. Sage nodding from the crowd.

Then Rod Liddle makes a complete arse of himself by sticking two fingers up to being sensible. Citing ‘political correctness’, he throws a whiny baby temper tantrum and generally looks like a dick. Yeah, taking rape seriously is pretty politically correct! Pshh, rape, it’s not a big deal. You’ll be out of prison in a jiffy, if you even get there in the first place, and back to your old job in no time! Perhaps the fact that footballers get away with drink driving and manslaughter should be taken seriously, too, Rod, not used as an excuse. But whatever, what do I know, it doesn’t matter! He only plays in the third division!

In response, Kirsty Williams screeches at Rod like a enraged bat in a lump of guano. I guess you could say she’s got Rod Rage.

Inquiryception

Next question: NHS Wales! Stephen suavely and somewhat predictably claims, while sadly not stroking his beard, that it’s gone tits-up. How dare Labour claim to be the party of the NHS. It’s not as if they created it or anything. Carwyn counters comprehensively by stating that budget cuts are down to the Tories slashing all the d0lla bill$$$. But Stephen isn’t going down without a fight – he wants an inquiry into the Welsh NHS! Where’s the inquiry, Carwyn? Carwyn punches back! Jeremy Hunt is such a…Hunt. Wait, where did this question start again?

The crowd is braying for someone’s, anyone’s, head. They want the panel to listen to the oiks. At that precise moment, Leanne descends from the heavens, places her hands on her true believers’ heads and whispers that…she cares. No…Plaid Cymru cares. With their cute little flower logo. Such caring. So listening. Wow.

Also she really is complimenting Scotland tonight. Leanne Wood/Alex Salmond OTP.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Kirsty is trying to construct a tiff with Stephen. She hates the ‘language of Westminster’ tending to diss the NHS – instead, let’s all work together in a lovely coalition! But you still all suck. Nothing personal.

Stephen won’t be stopped. “David Cameron speaks with nothing but respect and he values the people on the front line -” and then there is the most derisive laughter I have ever heard on this programme thus far. Rod is laughing the hardest. His main role in this edition has been that of ‘internet troll’. Thanks Rod. You’ve done the job.

Crustgate

As for the final two questions? The first is about sandwiches. It is so ridiculous I didn’t even bother making any notes on it. The word ‘sandwich’ has been used more in five minutes than it has in the rest of Question Time’s 35 year history. There’s also one about devolution – some of the panel, and the audience, are thoroughly sick of all these referendums, and especially the diddly dang West Lothian question. The consensus is for Wales to get some of the sweet, sweet nectar that Scotland enjoys, and Leanne will fight and fight again until she can fall into its honeyed embrace. And presumably Alex Salmond’s embrace. England can go heck itself. Mic drop, walk away.

Then the show ends and a cameraman is bewitched by a statue. #aesthetic

Time for the scores!

Crabb: 5/10

Beardy

Jones: 5/10

Smeared-y

Williams: 5/10

(At least she) Appeared-y

Wood: 7/10

Revered-y?

Liddle: 4/10

Sneered-y

The Crowd: 7/10

Weird-y (it’s the accents!)

Next time has…Andy Burnham! And the first ever UKIP MP I guess. But more importantly, Andy Burnham!! Only squealing fangirls allowed in!!!! SQUEEEE!!!!!!!!

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #56


questionable time 56 david dimbleby 80's lcd game

Good morning Lemmings and let us summon our last ounce of gumption for we are nearly there: One more show after this and then QT‘s Winter Term is over. However, before we get all giddy with dreams of double-digit temperatures and gambolling lambs I’m afraid to say that The Cruellest Month (“Oh, you liked that hour of sunshine did you? How about I follow it up WITH SOME HORIZONTAL SNOW?!”) is not yet done with us and the grizzly business of last night’s episode still requires dissection. So tuck in those thermals and double up on those socks Lemmings – we’re going in.

What’s wrong with this picture?

He’s young. He’s ridiculously good-looking. He can dance on stage to the theme from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air with Will Smith (see Fig. 1) without looking like a total prat yet something – something just isn’t quite right. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem as you can usually count on something being not quite right with politicians, but in the case of Umunna I find it particularly galling because at this moment in time, I’m desperately looking for someone to believe in and – on paper at least – that someone should be Chuka.

chuka umunna fresh prince francis maude

Fig. 1

So where’s he falling down? At first I though that it might be a bad case of Professional Politicianism but having poked around a bit I’m not convinced: His back story – while not exactly the Bog Standard Bloke yarn that we all seem to crave right now – is different and interesting enough to set him apart from the pack  while that residual veneer of cool puts him in a different category to your more common garden apparatchiks. No, what’s killing the feeling for me is that he still hasn’t learnt when to let go.

Take a look at the second question for example, the question that, by rights, he should have skinned the most cats on. This was the one about growth and thanks to Maude choosing to dig in rather go on the offensive, he had an open field. In QT terms this is a doozy as while you’ll always have the Previous Labour Government Flank to worry about, the weak point in the Blue Team’s lines (the We’ve Totally Stacked The Economy Gap) is so wide open that all it requires is a little umph and it’s all gravy. Yet ‘umph’ was nowhere to be found and what we actually saw was the horrifying spectacle of a politician trying to talk in a rational manner to an electorate he believed to be rational creatures: A big mistake and while I sympathise with his inclination to reason, it won’t do him much good in the long run because we’re not in the market for trifling matters such as ‘facts’ and ‘evidence’. What we want is jabbing fingers, cocks that are sure and jibs that are cut. We want blood that we can spread on the bread that you so kindly provided along with the circus.

Alas, blood we did not get and instead of charging hell-for-leather at the Tory trenches he got thrown totally off-balance by Leanne Wood’s assertion that Darling would have cut more than Thatcher. A QT-pro would have rightly seen this for what it is – an interdiction tactic to stall an offensive – and powered on regardless but instead Ummuna went into a defensive posture and fell back on technicalities. Well, that was it I’m afraid. I zoned out and what could have been a textbook rendition of a QT Blitzkrieg Done Right ended up bogged down in the Quagmire of Factuality.

So there’s a lesson to be learned here – stop thinking so much and just go for those cheap shots. Yeah, I know, it feels disingenuous and there’s little dignity in it but that’s the game you’re in. Just disengage your brain, stop thinking like an actual person and march towards the sound of gunfire. The rest will sort itself out.

I’m developing a grudging respect for Maude…

…Because he’s a wily old bugger who knows how to play the game. Now, I realise that’s a fairly ludicrous statement to make about a man who single-handedly managed to instigate a highly flammable round of panic buying  but when you look at it from a purely tactical level, he’s a steady pair of hands. In essence, Maude’s strength is that he knows when he’s in a losing fight and isn’t afraid to seek more favourable terrain when the odds are clearly stacked against him, even if that means ceding territory. Again, it’s the growth question that really brought this out and his response was one of darting eyes, a thin skirmish line of accusations and a whole lot of backing away slowly. None of that sounds particularly gallant or glorious and that’s because it wasn’t: The Tories are in a bind when it comes to the economy and no amount of chest thumping is going to change that. However, what he did achieve was to stop a tactical retreat turning into a rout and by the end of the show he felt secure enough to venture into No-Mans Land and seize a few prisoners. Considering my usual aversion to Big Vision Tories, that’s not bad going.

Leanne Wood is really rather fun…

…Fun in the same way it is to watch the playground misfit unsettle their more popular peers just by existing. In my day this was achieved via the means of West German army jackets (that’s right kids, WEST Germany… Now get off my lawn!), Clipper lighters on shoelace necklaces, lurking, and band t-shirts with swear words that showed through your school shirt. Wood, however, takes a more robust approach and spent most of the show picking fights in a wonderfully deadpan manner whilst stopping only to shoot the odd mucky look now and then. Are my horizons broadened by this wanton display of stick-in-muddery? Not really. Was it entertaining to watch? Why yes, I believe it was.

And the other two?

Props to Paphitis, he had a great show. It’s really easy for the Entrepreneur Panelist to drown themselves in a puddle of laissez-faire sermons but he kept it mostly grounded whilst applying just the right level of Couldn’t Give A Toss. As for QT noob Kirsty Williams, well her bright eyes and bushy tail were a forgivable incumbrance but she does show a certain level of resilience. A little more breaking on the Wheel of Dimbleby and she may be in with a shot.

Tl:dr

Umunna: 4/10

:-/

Maude: 6/10

:-I

Wood: 6/10

_

Paphitis: 7/10

:-)

Williams: 5/10

:-p

The Crowd: 6/10

=^_^= ?

Hmmm… Rather a lot of military history analogies worked their way into this write-up which is odd as I’ve been making a conscious effort to not spend all my time reading hefty tomes about men-of-yore killing each other. I thought I’d ease myself into a gentler world of literature with a biography of LBJ but it turns out that he’s more intense and frightening than most of the wars I’ve read about. At least I tried…

Next Week Lemmings, next week…

P.S. Next week could be interesting… Just sayin’…

Questionable Time #45


questionable time 45 david dimbley spectrum loading screen

Good morning Lemmings and rejoice, for we have a good episode on our hands – so good in fact that I’ll accept it as a partially apology for Liverpool’s behaviour of late. And what behaviour would that be? Well, a) they foisted The X-Factor’s Christopher Maloney upon us and b) if my suspicions are correct they then engineered a rolling-foist by voting to keep him in the show every week hence. Seriously Liverpool, you’ve made your point. You’ve had your pound of flesh. Now please, can we stop this madness? Anyway, enough of this and let’s do some Question Timing…

Burnham and Maude were a great pairing…

I was a bit nonplussed when I heard that Francis Maude was going to be on as he’s one of those figures who, despite being around forever, just seems to flit in and out of the picture, never staying still long enough for me to really pin him down. Similarly, Burnham drew a vague ‘meh’ from me as while he’s a very proficient QT-er who does a good line in the whole ‘local lad come good’ trade, he’s so constantly on-message that I can never really see past the bluster (or – for that matter – those shimmering, dazzling eyelashes of his). ‘Fair to middling’ was the best I hoped for. As it happens, these two turned out to be an inspired choice and what we got was a battle of wits that to’d and fro’d satisfyingly throughout the evening.

The key to it is that both protagonists are very ambitious but in different ways. Maude, with his hawk-like features and buzzard-esque stoop has the look of a man who Knows Too Much (although not, it should be remembered, about the safe storage of fuel) while Burnham is a classic Set Piecer, the sort who really hammers rhetorical points mercilessly whilst always making sure he ends with a crescendo. Both men can smell the other’s ambition and both men can’t help but be vexed by it.

To start with, the Set Piecer strategy seemed to be a nose ahead and despite putting up a pretty decent fight, Maude spent both the health and economy questions fighting a rearguard action with only limited success. However, he regained his balance in the Leveson question and did so just at the point that Burnham began to falter. It went like this: Maude got the first shot and did a pretty reasonable Next Stop Zimbabwe take on press freedom that garnered a fair few claps. Burnham though, well he fluffed his opening and had to resort to stealing Tim Farron’s answer almost word-for-word. As it turns out, the Set Piecer in him managed to blag it and parity was restored although not for very long. What happened next though was genius. Out of nowhere, Maude suddenly turned to Burnham and sincerely thanked him for his part in uncovering the truth about the Hillsborough tragedy. Well, that move was nothing short of inspired and not only did it earn him a metric tonne of applause, it also left Burnham with nowhere to go. The Well Timed Compliment: It’s the napalm of QT.

So then Mr. Farron, we meet again…

Following some extensive skullduggery, I was lucky enough to find myself in the crowd for the Leeds edition of Question Time that ran earlier this year. It was a pretty good show – one in which I thought that George Galloway was actually going to lamp David Aaronovitch – but the real revelation was Tim Farron. It boiled down to this: I automatically assume that politicians are up to something sketchy until they can prove otherwise yet the moment that Farron caught my eye, I remember thinking ‘Oh my god, I implicitly trust this guy’. True, I was high as a kite on adrenaline after asking a question and the self-inflicted dehydration didn’t help (I was terrified of needing a wee) but there was just something about Farron that overruled my default cynicism. I rapidly developed an alarming political crush, a crush that’s now so out of control that I find myself making gifs of an idealised chance encounter between myself and Mr. Farron (see. Fig. 1). It is also a crush that remains undimmed by last night’s episode.

tim-farron-loudribs-gif

Fig. 1

Tim Farron’s secret – other than his projectile trustworthiness – is that he appears to live in a world where 2010 never happened. That whole coalition business? Nah, you dreamed it. Never happened. The Lib Dems are still in opposition, the Tories are still caddish yahoos and Social Democracy is still very much on the Yellow Team’s agenda. Sure, he made the odd token defence of Blue Team/Yellow Team collaboration but they were never more than routine patrols conducted without vigour and by the end of the show I was happily set adrift on memory bliss. Ah, the pre-2010 world… A place where the Lib Dems stopped short of breaking their knuckles when wringing their hands…

The Welsh appear to have quietly annexed Liverpool…

Alright, I’m a little confused here. Why exactly was Leanne Wood on last night? Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a dig at Wood herself as I happen to rate her quite highly, partly because I like her viewpoint but mainly on account of her delivery: It’s just so nonchalant. Honestly, there could be someone running at her full-tilt, whilst brandishing an axe and she’d just quietly reel off a list of reasons why they shouldn’t until they eventually stopped dead in their tracks, perplexed by this barrage of dry reason. No, the reason I ask is that we were in Swansea last week and if you ask me, that sounds like a pretty appropriate venue for the leader of the Welsh nationalists. Liverpool though? Not so much… Unless of course we’ve somehow hoodwinked the Welsh into taking Maloney off our hands in which case I whole heartedly endorse this impromptu rearranging of borders.

Lionel Barber is an odd fish…

Hmm… Don’t know what to make of this one. On the one hand, he didn’t say anything massively stupid but the way his speech halts in the middle of every sentence is a little disconcerting as was his bungled joke at the start of the Leveson question (it was memorable only for the uncomfortable parade of tumbleweed that followed). No, there’s something about this guy that doesn’t add up and I found watching him to be like using an elderly relative’s computer: On paper, it should be a great machine but a combination of rashly installed toolbars, screaming demands from paid-for anti-virus software and the fact that the toolbar is now inexplicably at the top of the desktop just make it all a little fraught. I reckon we start with defragging but progress to a full format if that doesn’t get us anywhere.

Tl;dr

Maude: 6.5/10

Just (about beat Burnham)

Burnham: 6/ 10

(Needs a slight) Adjust(ment)

Farron: 7/10

(Is a picture of) Trust(worthiness)

Wood: 6/10

(Is very) Robust

Barber: 5/10

Must (stop for a few seconds on the middle of every sentence)

The Crowd: 6/10

(Displayed much) Gust(o)

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #29


questionable time 29 david dimbleby weasles ripped my flesh

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

The show was just a bit… meh.

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

I pine for a Grexit…

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

Just what the hell happened to Brian May?

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

brian-may-question-time-hair-gif

Fig. 1

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

Tl;dr

Hain: 5/10

Meh…

Miller: 5/10

Bleh…

Wood: 5/10

Feh…

MacKenzie: 5/10

Peh…

O’Farrell: 5/10

Geh…

The Crowd: 5/10

Pleh…

Brian May: 0/10

HAS STUPID HAIR

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

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

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #18


ACK ACK ACK!

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

The Menu

Q1: Was David Laws right to resign?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A just about socially acceptable 6/10

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

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

Fig. 1

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

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

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

A generally well rounded 7/10

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

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

An underwhelming 4/10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new low of a 2/10

The Crowd: Brecon

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

An understandably shaky 5/10

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


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