Posts Tagged 'Liam Fox'

Questionable Time #1


questionable time 1 dimbleby mission accomplishedGood morning Lemmings and welcome back. Welcome back from the non-summer where the world of politics decided to give up any pretence of rationality and instead took it upon itself to run around screaming gibberish with its hair on fire. Obviously, this turn for the surreal bodes well for the new series of Question Time as there’s currently an extensive backlog of barely comprehensible events to get our collective heads’ around, but before we can get stuck into that business we must first deal with a certain maudlin formality: The 9-11 10th anniversary special. Now, if I’m completely honest, I can’t say I’m thrilled with the prospect of writing up last night’s show as a) Question Time is at it’s best when dealing with fresh issues that could go any number of ways rather than the tragic events of yesteryear, b) this topic has already had the most thorough of QT airings over the last decade (seriously, they could have just put Claire Short on and got her to do a 180 on every single question if they wanted a slightly more succinct summary of events) and c) 9-11 isn’t the easiest of subjects to cover on a supposedly ‘funny’ blog. Trust me, it’s not exactly a comedy goldmine and every time you do come up with a good line you have to spend the next half hour going through the endless list of who it may offend. Still, here we are and I don’t make the rules. I just work here, ok?

Right, so first up we have Liam Fox, a man who’ve I’ve been keeping quite a close eye on of late as he seems to have undergone quite a transformation since become Defence Secretary. For example, back before the election you could always count on Fox to bring a certain grimness to proceedings, what with his moribund pallor, dead eyes and generally depressing take on the world (which can be summed up as “We’re all doomed unless we bring back the workhouse, the birch and Teddy Roosevelt”). It wasn’t a particular entertaining schtick, but at least it was consistent and I always felt safe in the knowledge that no matter how good the news was, I could always rely on Fox putting a downer on it. These days though, I’m not so sure. Take for example the results offered by a Google Image search in his name. If I’m not mistaken I think I can actually see a genuine smile pass the lips of Dr Death in any photo that involves uniforms, pieces of military hardware or desert landscapes. Scroll down some more and also take note of how the wearing of a flak jacket seems to enhance his mood by several thousand degrees of magnitude to the point where he actually appears to be ‘happy’ (see Fig. 1). Now, this in itself is hardly news as politicians generally get weak at the knees when given the opportunity to knock about with squaddies, but given his actions of late I think it may run a little deeper with Fox. First there was all that leaking of letter to Cameron where he refused to back substantial cuts in the military and then there was the subsequent leak where he outlined his disdain for International Development spending, probably on the grounds that it was the preserve of cotton picking hippies. On top of this, he’s somehow found the time to describe Afghanistan as a “broken 13th-century country”, wind up the top brass by hinting that there may be too many of them and drop a few thousand bombs on Libya.

liam-fox-defence-sec-gif

Fig. 1

Now, if I’m not mistaken, this is all starting to paint a picture of a man who’s gone completely native and not just in your more traditional “Cher-cher-cher-check out my poppy!” way that most politicians succumb to. No, Fox is going all the way up the river, guzzling industrial quantities of Kool Aid and he fears no man, least of all his own leader (who may pretty soon have to dispatch some Martin Sheen-esque assassin/errand boy in the hope of containing this one man insurrection). So that’s where he’s at and all of the above pretty much encapsulates his approach to last night’s Question Time which largely hinged around his belief that blowing up terrorists is a basically sound idea, Iraq was all a bit ‘meh’ and that if all else fails, big up the troops and ride the wave of obligatory applause. That’s not to say that he’s got a completely tin ear to the chatter of reality as there was the odd mention of un-Fox like words such as ‘negotiation’, but by and large it was fairly straightforward: Terrorists are bad, unless they’ve been blown up. Then they’re not so bad.

So did it work? Well, sort of in that while he may not have had the whole audience behind him, the ones that were were pretty enthusiastic in their approval and that while he clearly has gone a bit loco over the last year and a bit, he did manage to present himself as an actual politician rather than a rogue Special Forces operative who’s fallen out of radio contact. Still, I think I prefer the new Liam to the old one as while I admired the morbid certainty that used to enshroud the Fox of Yore, there’s nothing like the whiff of Dengue Fever and napalm to spice things up a bit.

Ok, moving on and wait a minute, I think I recognise this bloke. Isn’t that the guy who had whole world laid his feet before getting gazumped by his congested sounding brother? That’s right, it’s David Miliband, former Foreign Secretary and Great White Hope of Old New Labour! So yes, Miliband D has finally emerged from wherever he’s spent the last year hiding (and most probably weeping) but to what end we might ask? On the face of it, this appearance could be construed as largely innocuous as he is an entirely appropriate pick for a panel that’s going to debate 9-11+10 (=8?) but the cynical side of me (and that’s totally the side of me that has the most fun) isn’t entirely satisfied with this assessment, particularly given the way he played his hand. Let’s have a look at what he said.

  1. We should never have called the post 9-11 response ‘The War On Terror’.
  2. Hindsight hindsight hindsight.
  3. Torture is bad.
  4. We haven’t exactly played a blinder in Iraq or Afghanistan.
  5. Need to sort the whole Israel/Palestine shebang.
  6. I totally ballsed up when I voted for the Iraq War.

Now most of this is pretty unremarkable, common sense stuff but number 6 stands out as it marks the point where he’s finally ripped the thorn of Iraq out of his side. When questioned in the past about why he voted for the war and his views on the conflict, you could tell that Miliband was acutely aware he must at least look like his trying to defend his decision (and his party’s… let us not forget the Scolding of the Clapping Harman) but he never looked comfortable in doing so. That stance melted into thin air last night and by the end of the show he was in full mea culpa mode, admitting that it had been a mistake to vote for the war and driving the crowd into a frenzy of applause. This is important as while there are many reason as to why Miliband lost out in the Labour leadership contest, the fact that he was a very visible part of the New Labour foreign policy machine and that this put him off-limits to certain sections of the party was a big one. What he did last night can be construed as a concerted (and effective) attempt to detoxify that part of his legacy.

The other thing that Miliband did last night was to remind us that he’s actually quite good at this politics lark and that in terms of delivery, he’s a tough act to beat. In some ways this is quite surprising as if you really listen to him, he uses a lot of words to say not a great deal (not usually a good sign) and there is something a bit head boyish about him, but the overall effect is mainly positive and makes him sound grown up without being overly stuffy. All of which is in sharp contrast to his brother who hasn’t had the best time of making himself heard and if I was in his shoes right now, I’d be starting to worry. Time’s ticking Ed… You’ve not done a bad job to date but unless those polls start moving upwards soon I wouldn’t put too much stock in the virtues of brotherly love.

Right, given the absence of the Yellow Team (which is a shame as they’re the only mainstream party who can point to a pretty good record on post-9-11 foreign policy calls), we’re going to have to make do with grumpy looking geo-political pundits Richard Perle and Tariq Ali. Now, had this show been filmed five years ago I reckon we could have had a right old to-do on our hands as panelists don’t come much more polar opposite than this pair and back then they were both mouth foamingly crazy. However, it seems the passage of time has somewhat soothed their otherwise febrile mental states and what actually took place last night was less bare knuckle brawl and more Queensbury Rules, much to my disappointment.

Now, in case we’ve forgotten Perle was the ultra-realist neo-con who acted as a cheerleader for the Iraq War and generally took it upon himself to berate the rest of the world for being wusses and not American enough (he also, with the addition of comedy eyebrows, hair and cape, looks like a passable version of Grandpa Munster… See Fig. 2). As expected, he used last night’s show as a venue to claim that the world’s a much better place when it’s being carpeted with US ordinance, but not as emphatically as he would have a few years back. Instead there were hints here and there that he may not have been entirely happy with how Iraq turned out and that some things could have been done better, but generally speaking it was business as usual. In terms of performance, it wasn’t brilliant, what with him reminding us that more people died on 9/11 than 7/7 (as if it was a competition) and a couple of jokes fell flat, but yeah, it could have been worse.

richard perl grandpa munster

In contrast, Ali had a great innings last night and quite probably in spite of himself. I say this because while I generally tend to agree with his point of view, he’s had a habit in the past of annoying me by dint of getting overly agitated and jabby-fingered. However, last night was different and while he did manage to build a reasonable head of steam every now and then, you got the impression that he’s probably quite tired of going through the same arguments for the ten millionth time when it never seems to change anything. That gave his outing a more leavened quality than it’s had in the past and it was all the better for it. Sure, at the start he did get a little hot under the collar with Perle about the WMD issue but it didn’t turn into a full-blown rage fest. Instead, he just carried on hammering away with some pretty well-reasoned arguments and a semi-resigned look on his face, all of which garnered a very respectable haul of applause from the audience. So yes, I thought that was a solid effort and worthy of a good few points. Well done to you, Mr Ali.

All of which leaves us with Bonnie Greer, a person who I am still struggling to find the purpose of and have yet to forgive for her bungling of the BNP episode. That sounds harsh but I think it’s justified on account of the fact that she has a highly recognisable (and highly annoying) Question Time Tic that I like to call ‘Greering for Time’. Allow me to explain: Stage 1 of Greering for Time is that art of covering your lack of a valid answers by embarking on a series of wild goose chases that more than likely contains references to how ‘real’ your life is in order to cover the fact that you don’t know what you’re talking about. A good example of this would be all of last night’s response that started with lines such as “When I was making a film”, “I know people”, “I Iived near Ground Zero” and “I’m from a services family”. Stage 2 of Greering for Time then involves folding some nebulous and ill-defined concept into the spoils of Stage 1 in the hope that if you repeat that concept enough, it might sound like a valid argument. Examples of this would be when she repeated the word “homicide” about a thousand times or her extended rambling about how “You can’t be a muslim”. Finally comes Stage 3 and all you have to do here is wrap up the previous stages with something involving ‘peace’ or ‘the people’ or even better, a mixture of the two (‘peacy people peace’ is ideal) to convey just how compassionate you are. If you follow thoee guidelines it seems that you can totally get away with loads of applause for having said nowt of any import.

Ok, so I’m sounding bitter now but that’s because I really don’t get it. Everything she said last night was at best tenuous and at worst flat-out bollocks, but everyone still lapped it up and she was rewarded handsomely for her dubious efforts. That’s not to say that I think her intentions are bad or that she’s up to no good, it’s just that she’s, well, a bit crap.

Alright, that’s the panel done so let’s have a quick look at the crowd before I take off. Now, the first thing is that I’m going to have to knock a point off their score on account of their falling for the old Greering for Time trick. Sorry, but that’s how it works around here. Other than that they seemed a pretty decent lot who although not electrifying did manage to bring a little oomph to the show and posed some genuinely interesting questions. A special mention goes out to the special lady with special teeth who made the following special statement: “There’s a problem of increasing the problems”. That there line is very special. Also, a mention is warranted for the gentleman who seemed to be sleep talking when he asked his question and took about an hour to remember that it was Iraq and Afghanistan that we had wars with. Nice work there Sir, feel free to return to your slumber.

Tl;dr

Fox: 5/10

Colonel Kurtz

Miliband: 7/10

Major Revival

Perle: 4/10

Corporal Punishment

Ali: 7/10

General Competence

Greer: 3/10

Private Grief

The Crowd: 6/10

Innocent Civilians

Ok, we’re done here. I’d like to say that next week’s Question Time will see us on a more familiar footing but I can’t as it’s taking place in Northern Ireland and I never have the faintest idea of who/why/what is going off on those episodes. Given the above, don’t be surprised if I engage in a certain level of Greering for Time in next week’s report. You have been warned.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Semi-Functional Question Time Corner #1


Morning Lemmings. I’m sorry to say it, but this is going to be an ultra short post as I’m currently taking my licks in a case of karmic retribution. It started on Wednesday night when I was smugly commenting on how my Primarni knock off All Stars were allowing me to navigate sheet ice with an Olympic grace and dexterity that put the ‘look at my Gortex’ crowd to shame. Sure as eggs, no sooner had I off got off the bus to work on Thursday did I perform an epic faceplant and I’ve consequently completely knackered my leg and am now pretty much bedbound. The upshot of this is that I wasn’t able to do any photoshops (not that I do them with my leg, it’s just that I can’t fold myself into my Pshop Cave at present) and the mixture of pain and various forms of pain relief rendered me largely insensible for Question Time last night. However, this probably doesn’t matter as from what little I gathered of last nights episode, it seemed to be a drunken brawl that defied any appeal to reason. In short:

 

Liam Fox is looking more and more like one of those elaborately decorated roasted pigs that have an apple stuffed in their mouth. He seemed to spend most of the show retreating into interminable policy detail but did momentarily become a vista of beaming contentment when Dimbers asked if he was giving Ken Clarke the beat down. On the LibDem side it was always going to be a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’ Norman Lamb got taken apart but I have to say that he held the fort for longer than expected, largely through the practice of retreating into interminable policy detail while Sadiq Khan amply demonstrated that Labour are still in a mess by failing to capitalise on what must have surely been the most target rich QT environment for an opposition politician since the Iraq war vote. He achieved this largely through the use of retreating into interminable (non-existent) policy detail. On the non-party political side, Aaron Porter of the NUS made me re-read the warnings on my painkillers as I was convinced that I was tripping my tits off and Question Time were now inviting side characters from Tintin books on to the show while Janet Daily’s mixture of crazy hair, general contrariness and philosophical proximity to Ayn Rand made me wonder if I was bleeding internally. Finally, the crowd were such a jeery and seditious lot that I gave up trying to make sense of anything and decided to go native by howling at the cats for breaking their pre-election pledges not to chew through any more cables that connect to cool things (cable victims so far include 3 iphone chargers and the phone/internet line). However, my thanks does go out to the bearded audience member who was so red in face, hair and attire that he’s inadvertently fixed my TV and stopped it from displaying everything in varying shades of green. Thanks, Unidentified Malcontent!

 

Oh, and according to Norman Lamb, the £21k Care Worker can now expect to be on £27k in the blink of an eye. My manager doesn’t earn that much. Just sayin’…

 

In short, it was a bloody mess… 9/10.

 

So yes, that’s that. Sorry that this season ends with a rather damp squib, but I wasn’t really planning on completely buggering my leg up so I am as heartbroken as you are. In the meantime, I wish you Lemmings all a very merry Christmas and see y’all in mid-Jan, hopefully fully mobile and fighting fit. Here’s some vintage Beef to make up for the lack of topical photoshops.

Smells Like Beef Spirit. Ewww...

Next year, Lemmings…

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 #5


I have a motorcycle. Your argument is irrelevant.

thanks to the dearth of funny image of tonight's panellist on Google Images, the motorbike theme inexplicably continues.....

Morning Lemmings and welcome to possible the highlight of the season so far, The Gurt Big Ruck In Cardiff. Gums were flapped, fools were made and blood was shed. So without further procrastination let us get amongst the action.

In The Red Corner: Peter Hain MP, Secretary of State for Wales and All Round Glutton For Punishment

Well well well, if it isn’t Labours favourite punchbag, the venerable Peter Hain. I say this because he seems to be some sort of shock absorber for Labour as a whole. Bad news week? Send Hain on QT. Getting trashed in the polls? Hain to QT, please. Major cock up has occurred and there’s no way on earth we can come out of this looking good? Get Hain to suck up. It’s not that he’s particularly good at defusing these situation (he usual does a good turn in righteous indignation but then gets his bluff comprehensively called), but more that he seems to have a very high pain threshold and a short memory loss for the mauling he will have undoubtedly received only a couple of weeks earlier. Credit where it’s due though, he is always game for it and seems to relish taking one for the team, even if the team have been utter shits to him in the past (what with being comprehensively hung out to dry by the party on expenses and those muttered accusations of Champagne Socialism). Tonight however, seemed to be a well earned respite for him, mainly thanks to Nigel Farage playing the role of bullet magnet with wild abandon and a general lack of love for the Tories in the crowd. Opening with the Bullygate Question (which has fast become my favourite pre-election-storm-in-a-teacup) he got off to a faltering start by trying his less than convincing ‘man-of-the-people’ act (many a leaden reference to “my surgery”… he always tries this approach and it always goes wrong), but quickly got back on track by blaming the media and got in on some moderate claps. To be honest, there wasn’t much scope for cock ups on this front as the public really don’t care if Brown is a bully (given that the last guy was all hugs and hanging out but still managed to get involved in a whole bunch of wars), but still, it must have been nice for him to start a show without the risk of an errant pitchfork taking an eye out. The next one was slightly more tricky (the “forces of hell” Darling/Brown hullabaloo) but after claiming that Chancellor and PM were “joined at the hip” (which no one a bought) and a quick jab at David Cameron/George Osborne (which pretty much everyone bought) he was again the recipient for some crowd love. Things looked a little shaky when he had to fend off a three way assault from Dimbers (who was generally up to no good all evening), Farage (who naturally managed to make the point somehow, very tenuously relate to Europe) and Janet Street-Porter (who naturally managed to make the point somehow, very tenuously relate to women), but he weathered the storm and entered Round 3 in robust order. Round 3, as it turned out, was an absolute gift to anyone who wasn’t Nigel Farage as it related to his somewhat bizarre and very ill conceived name calling incident at the European Parliament. This should have been an open goal as the audience got the first crack and made it abundantly clear that they thought Farage was a div. All that was required was a strong assertion that Farage is, indeed, a div and then just sit back and lap up the applause. Hain obviously reached this conclusion himself, but somehow managed to fumble the ball by saying he agreed with the audience. And that was it. The audience, expecting a thorough beat down to be administered to Farage, hadn’t really planned for this outcome this and suddenly looked confused and all ‘wtf?!’. Hain, sensing that things had gone badly awry made a disparate change of tack and blurted out some sort of ‘I like Wales’ platitude and received a small ripple of applause, mainly out of sympathy. Question 4, on RBS and their bonuses was much more familiar territory for Hain, a no win situation where the best you can do is not to lose too much blood. However, he’s had plenty of practice at this sort of rearguard action and managed to shimmy away (with much damning of bankers and playing the old ‘global recession’ card) relatively unscathed. That’s pretty impressive considering what an absolute clusterfuck for Labour this issue presents. The next question,the ‘sex-ed’ issue that I haven’t really been paying much attention to (and thus drifted off a bit during the show), seemed pretty straight forward with little of note except a geeky looking ginger guy who kept stroking his chin in a bond villain manner and made some weird point about Creationism. Only one hurdle remained in the form of the John Terry question and although it looked straight forward it turned out to be a booby trap, laid by an audience who couldn’t give a shit about football. Unaware of the impending danger, Hain proudly proclaimed to be a Chelsea support and was then mocked by the crowd who had to remind him that he was in Wales. It wasn’t massively damaging, but then again, it didn’t look great.

So that was him. Considering he’s usually against the ropes for the whole show, copping it big time for whatever epic shitstorm Labour have just presided over, Cardiff must have seemed like a holiday for the man. Sure, he didn’t really score any big points, but then again, goalkeepers don’t tend to score many goals. So enjoy your brief vacation Peter, as I’m sure that next time you’re on Gordon Brown will have been found eating children and wanking on piles of Credit Default Swaps. Or something like that.

A relatively sedate 6/10

In The Blue Corner, Dr Liam Fox MP , Shadow Secretary of State for Defence and generally shadowy guy.

Something deathly this week stirs from the bowels of Tory HQ. It must be the positively sepulchral Liam Fox! A few years back, a friend of mine pointed out that Fox is in possession of a pair of “dead eyes” (see Fig.1) and not in the crack marksman sense, but more in the ‘absence of a soul’ kind of way (much like Richard Hammond, post rocket car fiasco).

The face of grim inevitablity...

Fig. 1

On the face of it, Fox should be a poster boy for the positives of equality of opportunity in that he’s scaled the ladder from Council Estate lad to the front benches in the only way the Tories allow (grammar school, innit). This should make him a testament to a ‘can do’ attitude and a system based on merit, but somehow this gets lost in the shroud of hushed morbidity that hangs over him. And quietly foreboding he is. You’re not going catch Dr. Fox screaming from the rooftops about the horror of it all and how we’re all destined to burn in a diabolical inferno of our own making (he’s seen the inferno. It holds no fear for him). Instead, he just quietly, relentless bums you out, like a pissed off glacier that knows far, far too much about the land of the dead and the futility of it all. Tonight was a hard deal for him as the Wales is not a noted Tory Heartland, Fox himself doesn’t do the New Tory ‘head for the middle ground’ thing and there was the threat of Farage eating into his flanks on the right. Question 1 (Bullygate) was pretty much the shape of things to come as his ‘bullying is bad’ shtick didn’t really cut the mustard (although he did somehow manage to slip in a reference about David Kelly) and he was soon on the defensive when Elfyn Llwyd (who has just broken my spellchecker) slipped a knife between his shoulder blades by bringing up the Andy Coulson angle (which is a massive vulnerability the Tories have on this one). What followed was a scrappy defence and a hasty retreat to his catacomb. The “forces of hell” number turned into a similar debarcle when his brief ‘Gordo always shoots the messenger’ splutter was met with this series’ Most Awkward Tumbleweed Moment Yet and the initiative passed from his hands and straight into Peter Hain’s. The man was heard to say no more on the matter. The next question (Farage’s tirade) should have presented an opportunity for some easy points, but Fox couldn’t quite bring himself to endorse something that could, in some convoluted way, be seen to endorse Europe. He briefly scolded Farage (to light claps) but simultaneously damned Europe and the resulting chimera didn’t really look too pretty in the light of day and the crowd were left underwhelmed. RBS was a similar affair of scrappy firefights and unsteady footing but he did manage to have a good stab at that sex-ed question. Unluckily for Liam, I’d zoned out at that point so whatever pearls of wisdom he did deliver were completely lost on me. Dems the breaks, son. Things did improve right at the end when he read the audience right, spotted the tripwire and proudly proclaimed not to give a monkey’s about football when the John Terry question came up. That went down pretty well and saved his performance from being entirely lacklustre. Having said that, he’s had far better outings and all that this episode served to confirm was that yes, he is in fact neither living or dead but inhabits a strange twilight world where the sun never rises but night never falls. Yikes.

A bone chilling 3/10

In The Yellow (not that Yellow, the other Yellow) Corner, Elfyn Llwyd MP, Plaid Cymru bod and Lovable Salt-of-the-Earth.


So long (once again) to the Lib Dems this week and hello to Elfyn LLwyd, purveyor of avuncular charm and heart warming homilies. I like Elfyn and secretly wish he was standing in Leeds West so he could be my MP and lull me off to a blissful sleep with his earthy wit and soothing tones. If that meant that Wales gains it’s independence, then so be it. It’s a price worth paying. He’s also pulled off the one-in-a-million trick of a wearing a moustache well in politics. That’s a path fraught with danger and is much harder to get away with than you would imagine. For example, if you don’t have enough moustache, you look a bit like a pervy spiv, a la Mandleson in the early 80’s. Too much and you end up looking like a Regimental Sergeant Major in the mould of Bob Ainsworth (note to Bob: Looking like a Warrant Officer does not a better Minister of Defence make). Elfyn looks like neither of these and always reminds me of the uncle who everyone likes and is the only one in the family who’s not been divorced. Furthermore, being a Plaid MP is always an advantage on QT as it means you only ever play to home crowd and Elfyn used this to produce perhaps a textbook case of QT Done Right. Observe if you will:

Question 1 (Bullygate)

Elfyn Llwyd: A health dose of ‘it’s pretty much bullshit spun by the other parties’.

Audience: YEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHH!

Question 3 (Farage Tirade….he didn’t get much of a look in on Question 2)

Elfyn Llwyd: Heartwarming tale about how he and Peter Hain have had barney’s everyday for 18 years but it’s nothing personal followed by epic “Little Englander” slapdown to Farage.

Audience: YEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!

Question 4 (RBS)

Elfyn Llwyd: Ridiculous.

Audience: YEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

Question 5 [I totally wasn’t paying attention so anything could have happened].

Audience: YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!

Question 6 (John Terry)

Elfyn Llwyd: RUGBY!

Audience: FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKK YEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Ok, so I may have wildly overstated the actual applause he got, but you get the picture. He could have told the entire audience that he tortures baby seals for laughs and they would have still lapped it up as it would have been delivered in such a comforting way. So hats off to Elfyn Llwyd. Your name is a nightmare to spell, but you’re one hell of a panellist.

A snug and unpretentious 9/10

In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Nigel Farage MEP, former UKIP Leader and Well Heeled Demagogue.

Did anyone order several hundredweight (Imperial….NOT METRIC!) of pure crazy? I’m only asking because Nigel Farage is at the door and he appears to be licking the windows. I’m always pleased to see Farage on QT. He represents much that I hate, but he’s pure gold to watch, unhindered by trifling concerns such as sanity and reason. One of the strange things about him (aside from the fact that he looks like a ventriloquists dummy) is that for someone so rabidly anti-Europe, he shares far more with our continental cousins than he would care to admit. For one there’s his fruity, French sounding name and on top of that it’s clear that he owes many of his tactics to Napoleon, namely the pint sized general’s maxim that the best form of attack is defence. And attack he did. In the eyes of Farage, anything that remotely has the taint of left hand drive about it is a legitimate target for a sustained onslaught of character assassination, ridicule and wordy put-downs. He even refuses to limit his ire to things specifically European and can happily concoct some Brussels based conspiracy out of the most innocuous materials. Worst winter for 30 years? It’s the Krouts doing. Pirates in Somalia? They’re probably Frenchmen disguised as East African Buccaneers. Your paper didn’t arrive this morning? Well that’s what you get when you’re in hock with Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey’s. The stakes were particularly high this week as Farage was fresh from slagging off the EU President to his face and despite the entirely inevitable backlash that ensued, he was wholly unrepentant and spoiling for a fight. So crazy, numerous and varied were his rantings that there simply isn’t space to provide a detailed account so I’m afraid you’ll have to settle with these highlights.

  • Somehow managed to use the sentence “15 year old’s should be exposed” without a trace of irony.
  • Defended bankers and bonuses. Possibly Most Suicidal Moment of this series.
  • Made an utterly incomprehensible conspiracy theory on the hoof that had Belgium as some sort of blueprint for a dystopia EU nightmare.
  • Incurs wrath of literally everyone within a 50 metre (not yard) radius
  • Claims to be “more enlightened” than Janet Street Porter.
  • Managed to turn every nearly every single question into something about Europe.
  • Got most Comprehensive Booing of the series when Dimbers read back what he had said in the European Parliament.

    That was just a fraction of utter lunacy that he had to offer that night but needless to say, he emerged looking like a weird, self important bigot of a man who clearly doesn’t garner much sympathy in Cardiff. Having said that though, he basically made the show. QT only works when there’s a goody and a baddy and Farage is a baddy par excellence. For that reason, he gets some points.

An inevitable ill-fated but highly spirited 7/10

In The I’m The Funny/Just Like You One Corner: Janet Street Porter, Celebrity Something and Hater Of All Things Male.


Can anyone else hear an angle grinder being taken to a new born foal? Oh no wait, it’s Janet Street Porter! Before writing this up I thought I’d better check her back story again as I’m usually clueless as to why she’s always on telly and truth be told, I still am. From what I gather, JSP is largely renowned for being involved in successive failed ventures and for simply having opinions. That strikes me as grossly unfair as I have failed at a great many things and also harbour numerous opinions but you don’t see me living it up on prime time telly. Nevermind. Anyway, JSP was on tonight’s show and made short work of displaying these vaunted opinions which we largely based around ‘men’ and their being ‘bad’. While I don’t really have a problem with people having a pop at men in general (we largely deserve it), there’s just something about the way she delivers it that makes me instantly lose all sympathy for her position. Maybe it’s her fingernails-on-blackboard voice or maybe it’s the fact she strikes me as a newly divorced step-aunt who fucks up Christmas for everyone by getting blathered at dinner, making unfounded accusations about your gran and then putting her Superkings out in the Christmas pud. Whatever it is, I find listening to her to be not unlike how I imagine eating a lightbulb would be: All jagged shards and the nasty taste of tungsten. And that pretty much sums how she was on the show. Without going in to too much detail she was basically spoiling for a fight with anyone she could get her hands on and more often than not, this would involve some sort of combination of ‘men’ and ‘bad’. The crowd weren’t having it (and took her task at one point), but she did manage to scrape a little bit of love together when she had a pop at Farage for being “a bloke” right at the end. Given that Hitler probably could have got away with having a go at Farage, this does not represent a massive achievement.

A shudder inducing 3/10

The Crowd: Cardiff

So we had the pleasure of Cardiff tonight and a pleasure it was. With the exception of Elfyn LLwyd, no one was truly safe tonight and this turned out to be one of the more vocal mobs that we’ve had in the last few months. The whole gamut was there, from mercilessly and rightfully jeering the at ever-belligerent Farage to the ghostly silences that followed Liam Fox’s brief forays into the world of the living. It was all on show tonight. Janet Street Porter even got called out by name, largely for being a twat and that is something that pleased me immensely. All in all, it was a very solid performance and the only thing I can really knock them for is that none of them had a moustache quite as awesome as the guy in Middlesbrough last week. So well done Cardiff, a valiant display that came very close to victory….if it just wasn’t for that pesky Elfyn Llwyd.

A rousing and playful 8/10

So there we go, best show in this series yet. There will be competition mind, as Dimbers announced that there’ll be an all-women audience in Dewsbury soon. I know Dewsbury. This will be epic.


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