Posts Tagged 'Len McCluskey'

Questionable Time #111


qt 111

Good morrow lemmings and it looks like the most wonderful time of the year has come around once more. That’s right – it’s poppy season, and everyone’s got one on their lapel despite it being not even the last week of October. It starts earlier every year, doesn’t it? Soon we’ll be fully emersed in the Poppy Wars, where politicians try to out-poppy each other by pinning bigger and bigger paper flowers to every inch of their bodies in an attempt to be the most sincere.

Anyway, as you may have noticed, the Big Man has come to town. Actually, several big men. Alex Salmond’s admission that he may be getting back into the ring of Westminster politics was headline news, but Len McCluskey was also on hand to metaphorically punch his enemies into the stratosphere. All standard for a Liverpool edition of QT. Let’s do this shizzle.

This is a local panel for local people. There’s nothing for you here

Dimbleby starts us off by addressing a cameraman who’s wandered behind the stage, and then leads on to a question about life sentences.

Alex Salmond isn’t here to talk about this. It’s England’s fault, wotevs. So we move on, knowing that Alex’s time in the sun will come (on this particular edition I mean, since he’s been basically everywhere the past two years – I’ve got Salmond fatigue/Salmondella). Meanwhile in the blue corner is Mark Harper, who is clearly doing this show as a punishment for sinning in a former life. He simply must have got in trouble somewhere along the line – maybe he accidentally kicked Michael Gove’s dog – because no Tory with half a survival instinct would willingly go on a Liverpool Question Time. Five seconds off the starting gun and he already looks like he’s about to pee himself. I mean, for goodness’ sake, he’s the minister for disabled people and he’s being trotted out immediately after ol’ Freudy put his foot in his mouth! But ah, what the hell, that was one whole week ago. Everyone’s got over it now, right? Well apparently so because it doesn’t get brought up once. The cosmic ballet goes on.

His trundling dullness is interrupted by Louise Bours. Life should mean life, she says. Okay, the audience nods along. Nod. Nod. Nod nod nod. N- wait, what the hell did you just say? Bringing back capital punishment? I turn up the volume on iPlayer because things have suddenly got a whole lot livelier. The audience is groaning! Louise is struggling to be heard! Kill a cop, get your head chopped off!

“Is that UKIP policy?” Caroline Flint asks, baffled. Louise responds excellently. UKIP don’t have a policy. And the crowd goes wild! This is great fun.

The next question is even more fun. It’s about Hezza lamenting the state of the North and London trampling all over it. Len McCluskey’s ready for this one. He was born ready. We need regional banks! Regional jobs and growth! There’s money but the dirty Londoners are sitting on it having cocktail parties. The Tories don’t understand because “there are no Tories north of Birmingham”. This gets a predictably ecstatic reaction from the crowd, including some whistles (take it off, Len!) and Mark continues to pee himself. He does his best, pointing out that Len wouldn’t mind if Ed Miliband fell under a bus. Seems like the audience wouldn’t mind either. Mark valiantly rattles off some statistics but what he really needs to do is bring out his owl.

Caroline agrees with Hezza, unlike those mean old Tories – ignore the fact that Tarzan is also a Tory. “Mark is living in fantasy land”, she says, and then a member of the audience echoes her: “you’re living in cloud-cuckoo land!” This is quickly turning into the gang-up-on-Mark Harper show and it’s only about to get worse for him.

“The Labour Party doesn’t have an economic plan!” he squeaks (Mark, please speak up, I can barely hear you). Then he gets thrown into the dumpster by King of the School Alex, who proposes we run over George Osborne instead. More applauding. Gosh, this is a worryingly violent programme.

Louise smooths over her earlier brush with unpopularity by supporting “true localism”, health workers on boards etc, which is nice I guess but then she gets steamrolled by the audience, who appear to be preparing to join Len in storming the government and unleashing the glorious revolution. Len’s on a roll now: he only needs yell the words ‘zero hours’ and a great wave of emotion rolls across the studio drowning all in its wake. Alex suggests Liverpool and Scotland skip off into the sunset together. This is beautiful. I’m having a great time watching this, although I do feel a bit sorry for poor Mark.

I’m never gonna dance again (though Alex Salmond apparently will)

Next question: it’s the election-winning issue, the NHS! Out of nowhere Louise turns into a killer robot. Destroy all managers. Destroy all managers. No, we need health and social care brought together! says Caroline. She’s not letting Dimbleby interrupt her, she’s roundhouse kicking all who stand in her way no matter what the question and/or answer actually is. DESTROY ALL MANAGERS, blasts Louise.

Mark now comes to the crux of the matter. The report vindicates us, he says, and we need a strong economy to achieve a strong NHS. Mark, for a small, shining moment, believes he’s on top of this one, but then he gets pushed in the lockers by Big Alex again. It’s almost sad. Caroline is enjoying watching Owl Man get beaten up. She doesn’t even need to intervene. Just lie back and enjoy the bloodbath.

Len’s leading his troops – let’s get the elite to pay their taxes! Yeah! Just grab ’em in the street and steal their wallets. The audience wolf-whistles their approval and for a moment I’m scared Len really will start taking it all off. Alex and Len then share an intimate moment of mutually gazing at each other. The saxophone solo from Careless Whisper plays sexily in the background. This edition of QT is too much for me. I’m literally dabbing my sweaty forehead right now.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Nite Owl bristles at Len’s accusation that he’s posh. How dare you call me posh. I’ll tell you whose fault it is, it’s Labou- DESTROY ALL MANAGERS! comes the cry from…the audience? Oh.

Then Alex drops the bombshell covered in the opening paragraph. Maybe Liverpool can adopt him? He’s certainly tried to adopt Liverpool.

I could only think of two bold headline thingies

Final question is on Scotland and whether they’ve been given the middle finger or not. Caroline says yes, Mark says no. All pretty standard. What does Alex think? Could he possibly be a little bitter? Surely not! He does, however, come out in favour of Liverpudlian votes for Liverpudlian people, and disses the “three amigos” that make up the world’s worst boyband – Cameron, Clegg and Miliband. All popular with the audience, as is Len’s admission of “positive neutrality”. Louise crests the wave by gleefully continuing Alex’s diss verse. Things have gotten out of hand again. Time for Dimbles to wrap it up.

One thing’s for certain though: this debate ain’t ovah, although I think Mark has finally finished weeing himself.

Time for the scores!

Salmond: 7/10

Here’s (Alex!!)

Harper: 4/10

(Almost broke out in) Tears

Flint: 6/10

(About average level with her) Peers

Bours: 5/10

(Unlike ol’ Nige, not someone you’d want to have a couple of) Beers (with)

McCluskey: 8/10

Fierce (shut up that rhymes)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Exploring new) Frontiers (for the coming revolution)

Next week has that fountain of charisma Tristram Hunt, and hopefully a crowd full of angry teachers.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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Questionable Time #32


questionable time 32 david dimbleby michael jackson bad

Good morning Lemmings and many thanks for your patience… As predicted, last week never happened as I was far too busy watching NOFX on the Thursday night and then subsequently far too busy trying to stop the room from spinning wildly out of control on the Friday, hence no Questionable Time. Still, here we are now (minus a certain amount of dignity) so let’s see what we can make out of last night’s choppy little number. Go!

We need to talk about Andy Burnham…

Seriously, we do because while he always seems to do quite well I tend to come away from his appearances feeling like I’ve somehow been hoodwinked. This isn’t a new thing – I’ve always had some lingering suspicions about Burnham – but I think last night was the first time that I caught a glimpse of what it is about him that makes me have to check that my wallet hasn’t been pinched: It’s because he’s a Strong Finisher.

Strong Finishing in Question Time works like this: Upon receipt of a question you do not hesitate and immediately start to answer in a robust manner with the first thing that pops into your head. Now, that thing in your head might very well be wrong so constantly monitor the audience for signs of approval/disapproval and if things start to look dicey quickly segue into the next thing that pops into your head and see if that does any better. The key here is speed and vigour: If you pause or falter for even a nanosecond people will then know you’re up to something so it’s vital that you just plough on through and shimmy so quickly that your flip-flopping doesn’t have time to register in the minds of the audience. Eventually, you will stumble on a line that works and at that point you simply open up the throttle and romp to victory safe in the knowledge that if the finish is strong enough, no-one will remember the bit at the start where you were talking twaddle.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Well maybe on paper but in practice it’s a good deal trickier and not everyone gets it right. Warsi’s a good example: There are times when she uses the above tactics to great effect but all too often she’s stymied by a tin ear for the audience. This can result in her picking entirely the wrong point to hammer and her Strong Finish becomes a Cataclysmic Finish, much to her detriment and the wider world’s amusement. Burnham though? Well he’s bloody good at it, good to the point where it makes me a little queasy. Take for example the question about the BMA strike. Labour are in a right pickle over this and can end up contorting themselves into all manner of uncomfortable stances, just as Burnham did in his initial response (it was one of those ‘I totally condemn you for striking but well done for striking’ type answers). However, what sets him apart is how he then seamlessly reframed the entire question into one about NHS cuts and did so without breaking his stride. That bit at the start when he sounded like he was arguing with an imagined doppelgänger? Forgotten. The overwhelming impression one’s left with? Here’s a man who knows what he’s talking about.

So yes, it’s all very much too-clever-by-half and I’d like to take this opportunity to declare that I’m officially ‘On To’ Andy Burnham but there’s also one last thing I’d like to bring up about the Shadow Health Secretary: His eyelashes. My mum noticed a while back that Burnham is rather well endowed in the eyelash department and upon closer inspection I can confirm that he has both majestic and lustrous ocular trimmings. In fact, they’re so impressive that I think he’s missing a trick by not trying to accentuate them further and I’ve even gone so far as to put together a mock-up of what a little tarting up could do for him (see Fig. 1). Seriously Andy, go for it.

andyburnham-eyelashes-gif

Fig. 1

I find the West Midlands strangely endearing…

If you watch enough QT you start becoming very familiar with the way different audiences react under the studio lights. For example, shows in Liverpool always leave me feeling like I’ve just watched the inhabitants of a belligerent city-state convene a protest march against its geopolitical patron while episodes in Yorkshire are largely dominated by people telling us how bloody wonderful everything about Yorkshire is. The point is that there’s usually a sense of otherness (except in the case of London which simply refuses to acknowledge that anything exists beyond the M25), a sense that this particular locale’s problems are unique or that their virtues are unusually conspicuous. You don’t see that in the West Midlands as the audiences tend to look comfortable in their own skin yet also seem to be completely without guile. Yup, we’re from the Black Country. Yup, it’s not the most glamorous corner of the earth and yup, we may look a little hard done by but that’s perfectly ok with us. You know what? I really quite like that.

Oh, and before we move away from the audience, kudos to the angry young man who told Gove that he “worked damn hard for his GCSE’s” and that Education Secretary can “sit them for [him]”. I spoke to The Man this morning and he said that he got it totally stuck to him last night. Well done there Angry Young Man.

And the rest of ’em?

Well Ken Clarke certainly looked little more awake and alert than last time and didn’t do a bad job of soaking up the ire while Len McClusky cemented himself as Most Palatable Union leader simply by not looking as smug as Mark Serwotka or as violent as Bob Crowe. Disappointing to see Ruth Lea being largely calm and level-headed last night as I do love it when she gets a bit scatty on the free market catnip. Alas, she kept things largely within the realms of the reasonable last night so there’s no fun to be had there I’m afraid. And finally there’s Julie White, a lady of unknown providence who tends to say “you know?” when she clearly doesn’t know. Having said that, she was the least annoying entrepreneur we’ve had on for years and should I ever need to bore through large quantities of concrete with a diamond headed drill, she’ll be the first to know.

Tl;dr

Burnham: Sneaky

6/10

Clarke: (Doesn’t seem bothered by who got) Leaky (with the GCSE thing)

6/10

McCluskey: (Is less) Creepy (than some of his colleagues)

5/10

Lea: (Disappointingly un-)Freaky

5/10

White: (Looked a little) Peeky (at the start)

5/10

The Crowd: (Like to wear) Dashiki(s)?

6/10

Hmmm… Adequate marks for an adequate show, no more, no less. To be honest, I’m rather hoping that the news straightens itself out in the coming weeks as it’s been a little disjointed of late and that hasn’t made for great QT-ing. Still, we’re off to sunny Luton next week and who can tell what delights await us other than a hard-to-get-to airport and simmering racial tensions? Come back next week to find out.

Next week Lemmings, next week….


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