Next time: all change (?).
Next week Lemmings, next week…
Question Time dorkery writ large… "Mildly amusing if lengthy" – Mehdi Hasan
Good morrow lemmings and welcome to Questionable Time, lackadaisical from Leeds! Not much else to say other than we’ll shortly be forming a coalition with Scottish Questionable Time. Look forward to our posts detailing the beauty of Glasgow. After all, they’ll be conveniently bite-sized!
Equip defence +2 shield
We get down to serious business straight away with a question on that most glamourous of topics: defence spending. Lucy Powell hesitantly takes to the stand. She’s Labour’s election campaign head honcho, so generally a behind-the-scenes person, and nice as she may well be you can definitely tell that she’s not entirely comfortable being in the spotlight to begin with. She stiltedly splutters out some stuff about ARE BRAVE BOYS and the whole mess being the fault of that nasty Georgie Porgie in Number 11.
Anna Soubry, on the other hand, comes out punching. Anna – Chortles or Miss Jolly Hockey Sticks 2015 to regular readers – is a QT regular and often seems to be experiencing some kind of perverse glee during her performances on the programme. At least, she did in this one. We’re the same, you and I, she says sternly, taunting Lucy while at the same time fending off occasional snarking from Ian Hislop, who is there to pull faces. Labour would only lead you down one road, she warns, in her fearsome turtleneck: the path of chaos! It’s got dog turds strewn all over it!
Ian finally forms a full sentence, warbling for the panel to stop with ‘the party politicals’. Pfuh, he pfuhs. This is basically the extent of his contributions tonight. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Private Eye and Ian too, but he is admittedly very easy to take the piss out of, looking like a frustrated adult baby who is perplexed by the corruptness of his rattle.
The deep and meaningful questions continue with everyone contemplating the meaning of the word ‘army’. Just what is the army for? What even is an army? We just don’t know. Possibly killing people, I’d wager. Then a sudden, worryingly Australian voice pops up from the abyss. It’s Natalie Bennett, still bruised from her disastrous interview that I don’t even want to think about anymore for more than five seconds for fear of cringing myself inside out again.
Get rid of the nukes! she says, apropos of nothing. Dimbles helpfully grills her on the most important issue at hand here, an old policy of army bases possibly being turned into nature reserves. Everybody laughs, but they could be on to something here. Why don’t we have both? Why not let ARE BRAVE BOYS frolic amidst the begonias while whacking passing deer in the head as combat practice? Meanwhile, visitors can have a picnic and enjoy the scenic sights and imminent threat of death. It’s the perfect plan.
(Meanwhile, holy shit, Charles Kennedy looks tired. Are you okay, Charlie? He must be worried about losing his seat. Poor thing. He’s like an endangered and lovable tapir.)
Next up: would a Labour-SNP coalition be a betrayal to Eng-er-landers?
Chortles leaps into action – telling us that this would not just be a betrayal, but the end of the world as we know it. She looks disappointed in you, the audience, and Dimbleby himself, like your Nan telling you off for throwing up on the carpet. I must confess I am somewhat scared of Anna, especially after her being alleged to have sworn at Ed Miliband in the House that alleged one time. Allegedly. Please don’t sue me, Anna. Honestly though, she’s like Batman: the hero Westminster deserves, but not the one it needs right now. Who may put poor Lucy in a headlock.
Lucy ain’t here for that nonsense, however, and reiterates that she and her party want a majority.
“Everybody says that,” replies Dimbles. Ian Hislop leans back and gurns. Anna also gurns, and makes strange hand gestures to boot.
Ian is then kind enough to explain the history of that poster to us: the shadow of the disastrous yaoi manga couple David Owen ‘n’ David Steel looms large, and Ian’s possibly going to sue the Tories for nicking his idea. I imagine they didn’t use Nicola Sturgeon, the actual leader of the SNP, in the poster because Alex Salmond reminds voters of Shrek. He wants England to get out of his swamp.
Charlie, who hasn’t said much yet, finally gets to do a long speech. A Labour-SNP coalition, he says confidently, won’t happen because they hate each other. What, the Tories and the Lib Dems don’t? splutters Ian. A minority government may happen, Charles soldiers on, with a pact in place. I immediately think of the Lib-Lab pact of the 1970s. Then again, look how that turned out…
In conclusion: everyone’s getting betrayed! I’m betrayed! You’re betrayed! YAYYYY! Let’s get pizza.
Natalie pitches to ‘bring the railways back into public pants’. At least that’s what it sounded like, I don’t understand Australian. #no1curr #it’stheeconomystupid, hashtags Anna. Lucy looks into the camera in despair as Natalie keeps going, undeterred, slyly hinting that the Greens may support a Labour minority government on a vote-by-vote basis.
This is all too confusing. That’s why one should vote Labour and throw out any need for more confusion, nods Lucy. That’s the whole gist of her argument, to be honest. Aren’t you glad I summarised it for you?
Then a very rude man in a tosser-like suit attacks Natalie and the Greens for being DIRTY HIPPIES. He probably owns a fedora and posts libertarian memes on 4chan. See, ma, I can stereotype too! Meanwhile, according to other equally snitty members of the audience, it sounds like England and Scotland are on the brink of war. I don’t like where this is going. Let’s move on, to…
Somebody needs to tell these kids that there’s no pizza in Islamic State so what’s the point
ISIS! What fun. Thankfully most of the running time has been exhausted by now. The panel engages in a condemnation-off as opinions range from a) it isn’t up to us to baby your kids, or indeed tap their technology (Ian and Charlie), to b) these girls may have been groomed so be careful not to be too alienating (Natalie), to c) middle-of-the-road-ness (Lucy). Charlie asks what the question was again. I think we can all relate to that.
Thankfully, the audience fills us in as the panel are busy scratching their heads. A woman asks why were these girls, and others like them, not feeling involved and engaged as part of British society? Has it failed them? Uh, I’d guess so. Another woman cries that it’s all well and good to have a conversation about this subject but we need to start getting answers. Ian knows the answers: it’s because of the perception of good and evil. Black and white. Pizza and chips.
Anna surprisingly calms down and has a go at Nigel Farage (we almost managed a whole show without bringing him up!), but then both she and Ian unleash the wrath of another man in the crowd. “Please don’t nod, Conservative lady, because I’m not agreeing with you,” says he. And thus an internet hero was born. Maybe he’ll also get gifted $10,000 by Ellen DeGeneres like the girl who posted the dress meme.
Finally, JEREMY CLARKSON. But only for five minutes!
“Natalie Bennett, are you a petrolhead?” asks Dimbleby. This was a great use of our time. The most important information to arise, though, was Ian Hislop’s frankly alarming revelation that Clarkson drew blood by hitting him with a pen the last time he was on Question Time and Charles Kennedy was there to confirm it. This means that, yes, Jeremy Clarkson may be a vampire. I didn’t expect it at first but in retrospect everything now makes sense.
Chortles signs us off menacingly.
“No presenter is ever bigger than the show,” she leers, looking at Dimbleby. Ready to unleash her punishment.
Charles Kennedy has ceased to care. So say we all. Well, unless you’re one of the half a million who signed that petition, in which case…#chill.
Time for the scores!
Wean(ed off her backroomer-ness)
(Vented his) Spleen
(Had a mischievous) Gleam (in his eyes)
The Crowd: 7/10
(Throwing eggs at the) Screen
Next time, probably more gurning.
Next week Lemmings, next week…
Good morning Lemmings and apologies for the pshop atrocity above – some men just like to watch the world drown in a tidal wave of Outer Glow blending options every now and then. Anyway, what’s it to you? Do you want me to come after you with a piece of “sharpened bone” because that audience member was right – that’s exactly the sort of thing we denizens of Leeds routinely carry around. Ha! Not so brave now, are you? Right, let’s get going…
How do you know when a marriage is on the rocks? Well, one of the more reliable methods is to see what happens when one half of the partnership gets in from work. In the case of Tim Farron’s union with the rest of the Yellow Team there has been a marked deterioration in the civility of the 6pm homecoming over the years but last night really did throw into stark relief just how strained things have become at Chez Farron.
Take for example the early years of the coalition: Here you got the sense that Tim – troubled though he was by the way his bride’s outlook and behaviour had recently changed – was at least trying to make it work. There was the obligatory peck on the cheek, the ‘How was your day?’ followed by that state of semi-listening and obligatory ‘uh-huhs’/’mmmphs’ before he’d plant himself in front of Pointless and try to push the awful thought that he may no longer be in love with the rest of the Yellow Team to back of his mind. As time has gone on though this act has self-evidently become harder to sustain and by the back-end of last year you could really see the wheels coming off:
“Darling, did you manage to sort that redistribution of wealth out?”
“Dammit Tim, I told you before – we’re not teenagers any more! Now for god’s sake put down that bloody SDP manifesto and help me raise these tuition fees!”
Last night though, well that was a different kettle of fish because for the first time he couldn’t even bring himself to step over the threshold, opting instead to stay in his car and listen to Born to Run on an endless loop while the neighbours looked on with a mixture of glee and anxiety (‘Hey, have you seen Tim from Number 3? He looks like he’s proper lost it! That’ll never happen to us, right darling? Right?’). Not once did he mention a coalition policy or even pretend to speak as part of a family unit, preferring instead to pretend that the wedding never took place and that he was still living the pre-2010 social democratic dream.
So what now for this unhappy household? Well, before last night I was happy to chalk Tim’s recent behaviour to a case of simply being on maneuvers (see Fig. 1) – you know, that sort of 7 year-itch posturing where he intentionally stays out late and switches off his phone in an act of measured defiance but now I’m not so sure. No, I think it’s deeper than that: I think he knows that divorce is inevitable and he’s laying the ground work to make sure that he gets his half of the house and access to the kids. What’s even more interesting is just how attractive (justified barbs about hypocrisy aside) this ‘I’ve Still Got It’ Tim was to the audience. They knew he was kind of living out a fantasy but it was a fantasy that they were more happy to indulge. Watch this space Lemmings because if the 2015 election pans out as badly for the LibDems as conventional wisdom would suggest then don’t be surprised when you get an invite to a housewarming at Tim’s new bachelor pad.
Bad news and good news with the Blue Team…
First the bad news: Nick Boles, the wobbly headed junior minister who I suspect will be absolute QT gold has once again stood me up and escaped a damn good Questionable Timing. He’ll keep, I guess. However, it’s not all woe and misery because his replacement – backbencher Conor Burns – has appeared from nowhere and pulled off perhaps the single greatest Response To Tragic Events in recent QT history. Seriously, his answer to the Corpus Christie question was exceptionally good – sincere, without schmultz and pitched perfectly in tone (it was actually like a really well executed sermon). The rest of his performance wasn’t bad either so keep an eye on this guy: If he can keep a lid on calling hecklers “spastics” he could be going places.
Last night should have been Yvette’s for the taking – after all she knows the turf around these parts, Leeds is genetically Labour and having a shiny new (and left leaning) policy in the bag never really hurts the cause – but she didn’t quite manage to seal the deal, largely because Tim At Number 3 was stealing a lot of her progressive thunder. That’s not to say it was a bad performance (it wasn’t) but you did get the impression that having to look both left and right threw her a little off-balance. Either that or the Ed Balls Day celebrations were really heavy this year.
Sighs of relief all round at UKIP HQ…
Watching Suzanne Evans last night reminded me of a PE report I got back in school:
“Loudribs has done well this year despite himself”
And that’s because she did do ok – she didn’t seem too bonkers and gave the impression of being vaguely clued up by having a statistic for absolutely bloody everything. However, it was a close run thing that could have very easily gone sideways thanks to a) her permanently looking very pleased with herself and b) by claiming ownership of things that aren’t really hers (“my countryside”, “my beautiful rural school”). For a party that’s pitching itself as the bane of vested interests this probably isn’t the best semantic road to go down.
One ticket to Jenkoland please!
What would the world be like if Simon Jenkin’s ran it? Incredibly entertaining, that’s what. We’d all be free to do really stupid things in a land littered with lovingly conserved stately homes and sites of great cultural import. You want to drunkenly do handbrake turns in the grounds of Castle Howard with your hair on fire? Good for you! Go nuts! Just make sure you don’t damage the house. Fancy smoking PCP and racing diggers around Stonehenge? Then go, race diggers for it is your god given right! Just watch the stones ok? It would be like Downton Abbey meets Jackass.
Transported (himself back to 2010)
Comported (himself well)
(Would probably like to see a lot of people) Deported
Snorted (at airport security in schools)
The Crowd: 6/10
Hmm… pretty solid episode that (and I’m not just saying that out of fear of my sharpened bone wielding neighbours). Right, we’re done here. Go back to whatever it was you were doing and I’ll go back to figuring out just what I’m going to wear to Tim’s housewarming party…
Next week Lemmings, next week…
Good morning and ha! I’ve totally blagged you! There’s no Questionable Time or vaguely topical photoshops to be had here– no, all you’re going to get is the joyous prospect of a hard sell. Lucky, lucky you.
Anyway, this all started a week back when I made a minorly chuckleworthy comment on a reddit thread and then thought “Hmmm…. There’s a wonky pshop in that”. Half an hour later (a half hour in which I was simultaneously frying sausages, hence the rather slap-dash text alignment) the above was born and off it went to Twitter where it received some minor lulz before quietly petering out… Or so I thought. As it turns out, Radio Aire had picked it up and a few days later, a friend of mine tells me to check their Facebook page. Lo-and-behold, it had gone totally bonkers.
Being one who never looks a weird gift horse in the mouth I then boiled down the pshop into a T-shirt design, made contact with the magnificent people at Leeds’ Culture Vulture and a satanic bargain was struck. Behold Lemmings, the unholy product of our diabolical union (see Fig. 1).
So yes, it’s now a t-shirt and should you be a fervent Yorkshire Nationalist who wears their politics on their chest, feel more than free to purchase one here. Alternatively, if you are an Anti-Yorkshire zealot with an axe to grind, I hear that they will smolder satisfyingly if thrown on a pyre of Alan Bennett and Emily Brontë books. Either way, you’d make me a very happy boy.
Right, that’s the wallet-lifting over with. Go back to being-bummed-out/feeling-weirdly-conflicted/whooping-maniacally about the passing of the late-PM…
Thursday Lemmings, Thursday…
UPDATE: Culture Vulture’s t-shirt printer is currently on the blink so if you would like a t-shirt, you can get one here.
Good morning Lemmings and welcome to a very non-standard Questionable Time. Non-standard why? Well, I usually have a pretty set process for covering QT that involves settling down on the sofa at half-10 with a note pad in the hope of garnering enough material to cobble together something vaguely informative for the next day. This week though I have no such notes. And why don’t I have any notes? Well dear Lemmings, I have no notes because this time I was physically there. Yup, Operation-Blag-My-Way-Into-The Audience actually came good. Here’s what I learned:
The prospect of being on Question Time can seriously mess with your week.
Seeing how Operation-Blag-My-Way-Into-The-Audience has fallen flat on its face many-a-time in the past I decided to ditch the usual approach of going through the official channels and took it upon myself (with some able aiding and abetting from my brother) to get in touch with the production team itself. After a slightly nerve-wracking conversation with a producer I managed to secure a ticket and for a split second there I experienced the thrill of triumph. ‘Yes!’ thought I, ‘My hour has come! I’ve bloody won!’. However, that intoxicating whiff of victory was quickly dispelled as a new and ominous truth began to make itself known. ‘Oh Jesus, that means I’ve got to ask something’. That’s when things started going sideways.
The Question Time application process works like this: You apply and if you’re lucky enough to get through you will receive an invitation which states that you have to email the production team a question tout suite. The problem in this case was that despite being something of a news junkie, I could not think of a single issue in the last two weeks that has aroused even the faintest flicker of interest in me. I mean seriously, it was as if the news had simply decided not to bother turning up to work and editors across the nation were reduced to covering the sinking of the Titanic for the ten billionth time. Anyway, this complete and utter dearth of workable material combined with the fact that two years of covering QT has made me a little irrational about appearing on the show led me to get my knickers in a right old twist. I had to find something – anything – in the news that week (and the producers are quite insistent that your question must relate to an event that’s very fresh) that I had even a smidgen of an opinion on in order to have a shot at a question… Yet for the life of me I couldn’t find one.
So it was that my week was pretty much one of being glued to my phone and praying that the Spanish economy would collapse in the most spectacular of fashions, taking with it the entire Eurozone and plunging the world into a dark new epoch of chaos and woe. As it happens, that didn’t quite to come to pass and nor did my efforts to feign interest in the Abu Qatada (Qatada-Shmada!) case bear much fruit. I was stuck and for some reason being stuck really steamed my bean. Eventually Thursday arrived and I dejectedly handed in a question relating to something that happened three weeks ago. Defeat had been cruelly snatched from the jaws of victory. Loudribs had been vanquished by the news cycle. Irrelevance had become me. Or had it?
If the Question Time team had been manning the Titanic, the evacuation would have been slick as you like.
The upside of flunking the question test was that for the first time all day I stopped feeling nervous and could actually enjoy watching how an episode is put together. In many ways it’s like a well-heeled version of Gladiators as a room full of self-evidently confident and opinionated people are expertly herded through a logistical obstacle course. First there’s the security check, then the brief lull as everyone arrives before you have a warm up with Dimbers (who in real life comes across very much like an Uncle Bulgaria who’s developed a taste for brandy) and are corralled into the studio. Anthropologists would have a field day at that point as the spectacle of a mass of overly polite people all trying to scramble their way to the front of the line is truly something to behold. Yet somehow it all works and it’s to the production team’s credit that the whole process seems so effortless. That however is just a taster as the really bizarre bit is about to happen: The dummy panel.
In order to get the sound, lighting and cameras all sorted out they ask for members of the audience to volunteer to sit on the panel and to have a debate with the crowd. You thought politicians were odd on the show? Yeah, well audience members can out-odd them by a considerable margin, particularly if they have views on the fringes of the political spectrum as one gentlemen did. Another guy who wasn’t on the panel but put in his two-penneth worth anyway provoked some very sharp intakes of breath as he opined on “the gays” and “the things they get up to in the bedroom”. Anyhoo, that rather surreal turn of events went on for quite some time before a producer arrived and read out the names of the people who would be asking the questions. At that point my new-found aura of serenity evaporated in the blink of eye.
‘Oh shit. They just called my name’.
I’d love to tell you what actually happened on the show but I was too busy clutching a piece of paper in a sweaty death grip to take any notice.
Once your name is called out you have to stand up for a minute so that the cameras can find you and then you are taken backstage for the briefest of briefings. The long and short of it is thus: The very first question will not be filmed but will serve to warm up the panel and the audience. After that it will go straight into recording and when Dimbers calls your name you read out your question in a prompt manner whilst preparing for him to come back to you at the end of the topic.
At that point you are returned to your seat, the panel arrive and things get under way. It is also the point at which your whole world becomes exclusively focused on the printout of your question.
‘Oh crap oh crap oh crap is the Bradford Spring an unseasonable OH MY GOD WHAT ARE THESE WORDS I DON’T EVEN!’
Yeah, that’s sort of what was going through my head and for all I know they could have been debating whether fish have the right to get married for the first 15 minutes. Happily though the words did manage to leave my mouth in reasonably good order when my name was called but that was by no means the end of my silent meltdown. Oh no, then you have another desperate 10 minutes of trying to figure out just what in the hell you’re going to say next. As it happens, Dimbers never did come back to me, the danger passed and I spent the next 40 minutes feeling like my jammies had been rustled in the most profound way – which led to another weird phenomenon…
It matters who you are sitting next to.
My immediate neighbour on the night was a very jaunty and engaging guy named Jonathan who had an absolutely infectious enthusiasm for what was occurring in front of us. Given my somewhat shell-shocked state and the fact that I was no longer capable of independent thought I found myself becoming nothing less than a human extension of Jonathan’s will. If he clapped, I clapped. If he grinned and nodded, I grinned and nodded. Whatever he said, I agreed with wholeheartedly. Luckily for me, Jonathan doesn’t appear to be a howling mad extremist and to the best of my knowledge I didn’t give my involuntary endorsement to bringing back the birch/sending Qatada to the Moon/replacing the Cabinet with a Facebook group.
If you think being on the show is weird watching it back an hour later AND following the #bbcqt feed will blow your head clean off.
So I survived the show and then scurried home in a somewhat agitated, hungry and dehydrated state (the dehydration was my fault. Fear of needing a wee in the middle of the show had led me to forgo fluids for a frankly ludicrous period of time). Given how late the recording had gone on I literally got through the door just as it was about to start and never really got a second to collect my thoughts. So there we were, myself and my better half, the show starts and there I am! My phone starts making all sorts of noises as friends start texting. Then I ask my question and the camera cuts back to me for a response shot and all I can think is ‘JESUS CHRIST WHY DO I KEEP LICKING MY LIPS SO MUCH? I LOOK LIKE A TONGUE PERVERT!’. Then my phone goes absolutely mental and I check Twitter to see what’s going on. People, it turns out, have opinions about my beard and quite diverse opinions at that. And then I realise what I’m doing: I’m sitting in my front room, watching me an hour ago whilst simultaneously watching what a bunch of strangers think about my beard. It was at that point that my brain gave in and conceded that I had in fact become stuck in the Matrix.
And the show itself?
It was bloody good. Tim Farron is now totally my favourite person in the whole wide world, the venom between Galloway and Aaronovitch was both very real and very visceral, Warsi wasn’t bad and I am now forced to admit that yes, I do have a weird and slightly uncomfortable crush on the Labour Party’s Appropriate Adult, Yvette Cooper (I think it’s her long neck. See Fig. 1). In some ways it was a shame that I was too distracted to really pick up on any of the real substance but if you were in the market for political theatre last night, you got it in spades.
So there you go, that’s how my little adventure into the real-life world of Question Time went and I must say that it was a pretty grand experience. No scores this week as my head’s just a little too mangled to spend half an hour searching an online rhyming dictionary but rest assured that no-one would have scored below 6, such was the calibre of the panel. Anyway, thanks for reading and normal service will resume next week.
Next week Lemmings, next week…