Posts Tagged 'Liverpool'

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 #45


questionable time 45 david dimbley spectrum loading screen

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

Burnham and Maude were a great pairing…

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

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

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

So then Mr. Farron, we meet again…

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

tim-farron-loudribs-gif

Fig. 1

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

The Welsh appear to have quietly annexed Liverpool…

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

Lionel Barber is an odd fish…

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

Tl;dr

Maude: 6.5/10

Just (about beat Burnham)

Burnham: 6/ 10

(Needs a slight) Adjust(ment)

Farron: 7/10

(Is a picture of) Trust(worthiness)

Wood: 6/10

(Is very) Robust

Barber: 5/10

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

The Crowd: 6/10

(Displayed much) Gust(o)

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #4


questionable time 4 david dimblebyGood morning Lemmings and welcome to another instalment of Questionable Time, this week brought to us by the seemingly sunstroked denizens of Liverpool. Now, I realise that our national character leads us to become a little giddy when faced with the prospect of unseasonably clement weather but I wasn’t quite prepared for just how unhinged we can be in the face of elevated temperatures until I watched last night’s show, seething pit of madness that it was. I also can’t help but feel a little sorry for the Labour party who (much like the Lib Dems last week) found their conference thunder stolen by a villain no less mundane than the possibility of driving 10mph faster on the motorway. Seriously Britain, have we not bigger fish to fry? Anyway, I’m sure we’ll come to that a little later on so in the meantime, let’s get this show on the road (at the current speed limit of 70mph).

Right, first victim tonight is Grant Shapps, Housing Secretary and a man whose constant, low-key gesticulation makes him look like he’s forever playing with an invisible Rubik’s Cube (see Fig. 1). Although relatively new to Question Time, Shapps seems to be getting the hang of it rather quickly and actually looks quite comfortable nestled between his mortal enemies/esteemed coalition partners on the panel and this, it would be logical to conclude, can only be a good thing, right? Well, yes and no. On the one hand it means that he doesn’t feel the need like some of the newer intake to stick his oar in to absolutely any two-bit point going (as is the case for many a Question Time rooky) but there’s something else I noticed about him this week that takes the sheen off this otherwise virtuous trait: He’s already getting a taste for applause.

grant-shapps-rubiks-cube

Fig. 1

Now, the very fact that a fresh-faced Tory minister can garner a few claps in Liverpool is an achievement in itself and one that was usually the result of skirmishing with Caroline Flint (who is quite a tough cooky when it comes to Question Timing), but it’s what he does with those claps that bothers me as his primary response to applause seems to be to look a little, well, pleased with himself in a ‘Look Mum, didn’t I do well’ sort of way. I realise that sounds churlish as after all, he earned those claps but he is sailing very close to the Line of Smugness right now and unless he starts to crowbar some humility in there (however faux it may be), he will run the risk of becoming annoying. So how should he respond? Well, there’s a few schools of thought here, ranging from the Warsi-esque Continue To Shout Relentlessly Over The Applause approach to the Look Wild Eyed And Visibly Pissed Off manouevre favoured by the likes of Mehdi Hassan. Personally speaking though, I’m a fan of the Shirley Williams technique: Look Unmoved Yet Regal and Imposing. Granted, this is a tricky one when you look so young that you’d get asked for ID when buying paracetamol but the blueprint is fundamentally sound. It’s worth a punt Grant as while you may well have the right to look tickled pink, too much self-satisfaction can only lead to people wanting you to look punched black and blue. Not a bad performance though.

Right, Red Team next and here comes Caroline Flint, Shadow Communities Minister and someone I feel slightly sorry for on account of the number of search queries I get for the term ‘Caroline Flint naked’. Let me assure you, she’s pretty unique in this respect and I’m not exactly drowning in a sea of ‘Ken Clarke naked’ searches. Ickiness aside, Flint was quite interesting last night as for the first half of the show she looked genuinely at ease and I’m chalking this up to the fact that following Miliband’s conference speech she no longer feels the need to unconditionally defend every aspect of New Labour’s time in office. For example, had this been a year ago she would have been all a-bristle and jumping down the throats of anyone who dared question the merit of the Blair/Brown government’s yet last night she seemed much more mellow and even hinted at that New Labour might have got some stuff wrong (shock horror). This isn’t to say that she wasn’t without edge and she did use pretty much every opportunity to have a go at the Tories, but it wasn’t quite as visceral as it has been in the past.

So, it was all well and good, right? Flint no longer feels haunted by the ghosts of Labour’s past and can stride confidently into the sunlit uplands of Militopia without even breaking a sweat? Erh, no. Going on last night’s performance she’s having real trouble getting her head around exactly what New Old Purple Blue Labour is and it was actually left to Peter Oborne of all people to do the heavy lifting on Miliband’s behalf. And that’s the problem with Flint: She’s very good tactically, tough as nails and capable of sustaining damage that would destroy other panelists. However, when it comes to the strategic picture she’s all at sea and often seems incapable of fully articulating what it actually is that she stands for. Still, she could always go on naked. From what I hear, there’s a market out there for that sort of thing.

Moving on to the Yellow Team we have Tim Farron, President of the Liberal Democrats and a man who last night popped his QT cherry. Now there’s something I instinctively like about Farron in that he’s clearly a born trouble maker who’s making absolutely no effort to disguise the fact he really can’t abide being in coalition. That makes a nice change from the usual earnest hand wringing we’ve seen of late and the fact that he has no problem in nailing some fairly crimson colours to the mast is also refreshing. However, like Shapps, he also suffers from an undercurrent of latent smugness and despite the fact that it should be fairly easy for someone bigging up the virtues of social housing to turn a quick applause buck in Liverpool, the going for him was tougher than it should have been last night. Most of this was down to his unrepentantly pro-European stance but he also threatened to drag the show into the realm of farce at one point when he tried to make a convoluted and not entirely brilliant point about “sheep tagging”. I’ll leave it to your imaginations to figure out how that was interpreted by the audience but needless to say, it didn’t go quite the way he intended. So bad luck there Tim. Next time try bringing up a reference to ‘snow jobs’ or the importance of ‘rowlock safety’. That’s bound to work.

Ok, that’s the politicos done but it is with heavy heart that I introduce the first of tonight’s civilians: Janet Street-Porter, a woman whose sole aim in life is to scream the reason out of any debate. Last night we had the dubious pleasure of her railing variously against Europe, Labour and (of course) men, but it was the crowd’s reaction that vexed me as they heaped applause on her despite the fact that nothing she said made a lick of sense. You see, I’ve been exposed to such repeated and heavy doses of JSP in the past that I can deal with the fact that her vocal chords are only capable of making white noise and that her proposed solution to most problems is to line the male population against a wall and shoot them but what I can’t get my head round is why anyone else would go along with it. It just puts me into a flat spin of anguish and shakes my faith in humanity to its very core. I really hope I’m not alone in thinking this because if I am, then the game is truly up and the end is nigh. Surely I am not the only one who looks upon her works and despairs?

Ughh… Enough on JSP as I can take no more. Happily though, our final panelist is a doozy and one that I was secretly hoping would be on the roster after his wanton display of unreasonableness on Wednesday’s Newsnight. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you Peter Oborne, columnist-of-note and all round mentalist. Never one to shy away from controversy, Oborne lost no time in taking the seemingly innocuous speed limit question and turning it into a call to arms for the repeal of pretty much every law and the dissolution of Europe. But he wasn’t done with Europe yet, not by a long shot and he was soon able to piggyback on the anti-EU comments of an audience member, denouncing the project as “brutal”. The crowd went totally bananas with that comment, applauding him to the rafters and showering him with praise. However, none of them were prepared for what happened next and I’m pretty sure that it was the most comprehensive reversal of fortunes I’ve witnessed in nearly two years of covering Question Time. The first indication that his star was on the wane came when he effortlessly segued from damning Europe to calling Thatcher “a great woman”. As he happened to utter these fateful words in Liverpool it came as no surprise that the mood turned from one of jubilation to that of lynch mob but what was surprising was how little he cared about this turn of events. No, instead of backing off he then went on to describe Thatcher as “compassion itself”, a phrase that can get you sectioned if you’re north of the Severn-Wash line. Predictably, this lead to a torrent of heckles and the most comprehensive booing I’ve seen for some years but did he care? Did he cobblers.

So that was pretty exciting, but it was also very much in character as we all know that Oborne is a man who goes in for Euro Damning/Thatcher Venerating. What I wasn’t expecting however was his answer to the Miliband speech question. So far as I was concerned, this was going to be a pretty standard exercise in scorn pouring but in actual fact it turned out to be quite the opposite: He loved Miliband’s speech! Well, that pretty much finished me off and by the time the credits were rolling my whole world had been turned upside down. So well done Peter Oborne, you may be pathologically contrary old hack who couldn’t give two hoots about who you offend but by golly are you entertaining. Big marks for you and your complete disregard for social approval.

Alright, so that was the panel and all that’s left is the audience, odd bunch that they were. My first reaction to this lot was one of unmitigated gloom when it turned out that the first question was neither the existential financial crisis nor the seismic shifts currently taking place in the Labour party and was in fact all about the speed limit. Unsurprisingly, that made for the most tepid of debates and I was on verge of writing them off on the basis of that folly. However, they did pull things around and when it came to the meatier issues they did prove to be a vocal – if mercurial – lot. Like Birmingham’s audience last week, they went in for an awful lot of random clapping (so much so that I couldn’t really figure out which of the politicians actually won the day) but at least they had the saving grace of seeming to actually believe in something, even if that something was that they still very much hated Thatcher. They were also rowdy enough to provide the ideal foil for Oborne’s panto villain and to that end, I’m grateful. However, I would like to address the question raised by one lady as to whether you “can be a Eurosceptic and Pro-European?”. The answer to that is ‘no’. Because it would be stupid.

Schapps: 6/10

Good enough

Flint: 6/10

Tough

Farron: 6/10

Up to snuff

JSP: 3/10

Duff

Oborne: 7/10

Gruff

The Crowd: 6/10

Acceptable stuff

And that’s you’re lot. I’m off to continue torturing myself with the Battlefield 3 Beta: There’s a great game in there somewhere but I just wish the damn thing would stop lagging so I could at least have a chance of finding it. Ah, the joys of beta rage…

Next Week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #25


Morning Lemmings and oh boy am I in trouble. You see, for years I have struggled with an addiction and not a glamorous one either: I am a Civilization addict. The course of my affliction has been a near textbook case in Civ abuse, starting at the tender age of 17 when I had my first encounter with the notorious gateway drug that is Civ 2. While I was still able to function like a relatively normal human being during this period (at least to the untrained eye), I was constantly being tested by newer and more potent strains of the narcotic with the introduction of Civ 3 in 2001 and Civ 4 in 2006, each of which drew me deeper and deeper into the clutches of dependency. Seriously, I can’t begin to describe the toll it has extracted from me, all those late nights squinting at computer generated maps and whispering over and over again “Just one more turn… Just one more!”. But it never was just one more turn and today you find me staring headlong into the abyss of such depth that Christ himself would wince at it’s very mention. You see Lemmings, today is the day that Civ 5 is released in the UK. Today is the day that I and millions of others will someday come to call The End.

So it is with a greatly distracted mind that I bring you today’s Question Time report as for the past week my computer screen has looked like this (click on the picture to make it BIGGUR):

The Last Temptation of Ribs

Curses!

That’s right, I preordered that bad boy and have had to deal with the pain of knowing that all the data I need to take my addiction to new heights has been sitting on my hard drive, just waiting to be decrypted by it’s makers. Not only that, but I’ve had to put up with Americans on the internet rubbing my face in it by high fiving and cracking wise as it was released there 2 days ago. Today though, my desktop looks like this:

GIMME GIMME GIMME!

Verily!

“Ready to play”. “READY TO PLAY”. Words can not describe the anguish I’m going through in order not to just slack off this week’s QT Report and instead just start playing Civ 5 for 72 hours straight. Hell, I’ve even taken half the day off work, just so I can bash this out in record time and then slip into the soothing embrace of my one, my only, my true friend, Civilization. This, Lemmings, is my gift to you. You’d better bloody appreciate it.

The Menu

Q1: Can the government really have a Business Secretary who believes that capitalism kills competition?

Q2: Can the LibDems survive as a political party when the coalition is over?

Q3: How does the government propose to regain control of the streets with the cuts coming?

Q4: Should the 9000 public sector workers who take home more pay than the Prime Minister be the first to be cut?

Q5: Secularisation in the UK bothers the Pope. Should it bother politicians?

In The Yellow Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and currently Tortured Soul.

Another week, another chapter in the Passion of St. Vince. Anointed directly by God in the wake of Das Kredit Krunch, the last three years have been something of a roller coaster for Cable as he’s lurched uncomfortably between Unimpeachable Voice of Reason to Begrudging Patsy For Tory Cuts, sometimes in the space of only a few days. The last time Vince was on Question Time was a pretty traumatic spectacle to watch as he made the best fist he could of putting on a brave face and pretending that he was well into this coalition business. Unfortunately, the end result was to paint a portrait of a man who was deeply uneasy with the way things had panned out and who couldn’t convince himself, let alone anyone else that this wouldn’t all end in anything but grazed knees and tears before bedtime. However, politics is moving at quite the rate of knots these days and last week saw him careening back to the Voice of Reason end of the spectrum again as he showered the LibDem party conference in a veritable orgy of choir preaching banker baiting and the right wing press lost no time in getting it’s knickers in twist about this sudden outburst of Bolshevism (see Fig. 1). Admittedly, it’s not that hard to get the Torygraph et al all lathered into a fury of McCarthyism these days as even implying that governments may have to spend money on stuff or that perhaps the private sector isn’t entirely populated by altruistic Good Samaritans is enough to get you branded as a Stinking Pinko, but that’s the way it is and thus was the backdrop to Vince’s appearance tonight.

Fig. 1

Ok, so as expected the first question on this weeks show was all about St. Vince’s speech and his first stab at it wasn’t a bad one as he tempered some of it’s more contentious parts by doffing his cap to “good business”, but still found a little room to scold the banks for buggering everything up. People liked that, there were claps and for a brief moment, it looked like he got away with it. That was, of course, until everyone except John Redwood (who clearly wasn’t in the mood to help a brother out) all piled in to the tune of ‘yeah, we know you hate the banks and that, but what are you going to do about I?’. ‘This and that’ was the jist of his reply, but unfortunately for him, there was nothing concrete enough there to shut everyone up and he got quite badly mauled as he did his best to extricate himself. Q2 didn’t provide much relief either as he tried to poo-poo all the polls that said the LibDems are heading for electoral oblivion and he was forced to wheel out the ‘look how grown up we are, working with Tories/we’re still an independent party’ line, none of which was greeted by anything other than stony silence from the audience (apart from the guy who somewhat bizarrely suggested that St. Vince would probably join the BNP in the near future). Aware that this probably wasn’t his night, he wisely stayed in the long grass on Q3, venturing out only to mutter something about it being Labour’s fault and the obligatory bigging up of decentralisation which managed to keep him out of any major trouble and it looked like he might have a chance to regroup. Unfortunately, the respite was only temporary as although he started well on Q4, throwing Will Hutton’s name about with wild abandon and having a quiet dig at the private sector for being even more absurd with salaries, the rally was short-lived and he was bought crashing down to earth by Dimbers invoking the spectre of Phillip Green. Damn you, Phillip Green!. Finally, there was Q5, and to be honest, it was a bit of a non-question that simply required a little ‘it’s not politicians’ role to get into religion’ and that was that.

So what to make of all this? Personally, I found it harder to watch than his last appearance because he looked more aware that he was being played this time round. It must be heartbreaking for him. He’s the reason a good many people voted for the LibDems and there must have been a few days when he dared to believe that he could actually be in a position to affect some real changes. Then the reality of coalition began to bite and St. Vince had to watch as he was quietly shuffled away from any positions of real power and into the Give Him Enough Rope To Hang Himself position of Business Secretary while his plans were quietly neutered. Sure, he carried on, hoping that because he was too big to be outside the tent (pissing in), there might still be a chance to get something of worth out of it all and he even managed to get his conference speech cleared by the big boys (who still need him patch the holes on the good ship Coalition’s port side). However, he must know that they were simply giving him a thumb to suck, that they gave into it too easily for it not to be a stitch up and that at some point in the not too distant future he will look upon what is being done in his name and conclude that none of this is worth it any more. I hope it doesn’t come to that because I like Vince and I think that (most) of his ideas are on the money, but I can’t escape the whiff Inevitable Tragedy I get every time I see him on TV. So Vince, if you’ve got any miracles kicking about, now is the time to use them, otherwise you’ll end up as a martyr, not a saint.

A darkly foreboding 4/10

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: John Redwood, MP for Wokingham and right wing Vulcan.

Whilst on my usual trawl through Google Images for pshop fodder, I couldn’t help notice an uncanny photographic similarity between John Redwood and Alan Partridge. It’s not about their appearances as Redwood looks like a jaundiced Space Cad while Partridge just looks a little stupid, but the poses they pull and the scenes they set all seem to have a suspiciously high level of correlation. Take the photo I posted of Redwood the last time he was on: Now, imagine that his female companion has an Eastern European accent (“It is an alien judge, Alan!”) and that the room isn’t in a house, but in a static caravan instead. See what I’m getting at? Then I stumbled on this little beauty (see Fig. 2).

LYNNNNNNNNNNN!

Fig. 2

It’s a clear as day. John redwood is Alan Partridge’s Evil Twin. Ok, so they’re not identical twins and it is fair to say that there are plenty of differences between them. For one, Alan Partridge is a stupid and insensitive prat while Redwood isn’t stupid and clearly, their lives have taken very courses. Also, Redwood has a streak of determination in him that Partridge has always lacked, but you have to admit that the turtleneck sweaters, the pints of Directors that both almost certainly claim to enjoy and their fondness for right-wing views do point to some sort of common heritage. It’s a theory, but you know…. Just saying…

OK, so how did Redwood do? Well, to be brief (because the Civ pangs are growing in intensity and duration), it was pretty much standard Redwood and characterised by lots of gritted teeth and invitations to read between the lines. Basically, John Redwood knows what he believes in and he believes it well. Unfortunately, for him, these beliefs do not appear to be the beliefs that coalition would like to be known for and as a result, he has to make a pretence of not being the kind of guy who would privatise the air we breath at the drop of a hat. And is he good at pretending? In a word, ‘no’.

Take Q1, for example. Clearly, the party line is ‘Vince has his views and although we may disagree slightly, we will be best friends forever’. Redwood certainly managed the ‘different views’ bit admirably, reeling off a list of all the things capitalism had provided for Vince (it was very extensive), but didn’t do so well on the BFF part by simply writing Cable’s speech off as the LibDems being a bit flouncy. This was pretty much the theme for the rest of the evening which mainly composed of blaming Labour for everything, less than convincing endorsements of the benefits of coalition politics and unconditional love for all things private sector. He also got into numerous scraps with Mehdi Hassan and got to rattle off another big list in Q3 when he speculated on the causes of crime, but by and large it was pretty standard stuff. That’s not to say I didn’t like him being on because at least he’s not afraid to get stuck in and have a good scrap, but I could have told you what his response to every question would have been well in advance of his answer and it’s fair to say that the crowd weren’t exactly enamoured with him. Still, it could have been worse. At least he didn’t put the Potato Famine down to the Irish being “fussy eaters”.

An Inner City Sumo of a 5/10

In Red Corner: Caroline Flint, MP for Don Valley and regular QT flak taker.

Snaggletooth again? She gets about does Old Snaggers, but I must admit that she is improving over time. During her period in government, Flint’s QT appearances were usually characterised by an insane capacity to blithely soak up punishment and a tendency to rely overly on aggressive counter attacks. However, she seemed much mellower tonight and, perhaps almost unbelievably, admitted that Labour had got stuff wrong in the past. That’s a big watershed for Flint who would have usually gone fully nutso on anyone who even implied that Labour were anything other than sainted bringers of greater things, but yes, tonight she did actually come clean and say that there was stuff they got wrong. That’s not to say she hasn’t completely lost some of her more jagged edges and she did overplay her hand towards the end of Q3, but by and large it was quite a well-rounded performance, even if there still is something about her that I still find to be a little serrated.

A pleasingly gentler 6/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Mehdi Hassan, Senior Editor for the New Statesman and full lefty.

Right, come on, I can’t take much more of this. Four damn years I’ve waited for this game and there’s still two panelists to go. Let’s make this snappy. Mehdi Hassan is, as the above suggests, a journalist who’s pretty left-wing and I’m pretty sure that this is only his second QT outing. First time round was generally good, but he’s got a tendency to get a little overexcited and throw away some valuable points by falling on the wrong side of the passionate/nutter line. Tonight was also a competent display where he got a lot of mileage out of holding Cable’s feet to the fire but he managed to combine that with not letting Labour get away scot-free, had some ace punch ups with Redwood (in which he emerged the victor) and largely managed to keep the crowd on his side (I think her netted the most applause overall). There were a few times where he looked in danger of going too far and getting stuck out on a limb, but luckily, he managed to keep these tendencies mostly in check. The interesting thing for me was watching him and Hislop eye each other up somewhat nervously. Both knew that they were largely on the same side, but there was an unspoken element of uneasiness between them that nearly bubbled over at times. Oh, and he started his answers to both Q’s1 and 2 with the word “Intriguing”. Intriguing.

A solid 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Ian Hislop, Editor of Private Eye and libel magnet.

I think it must be quite hard being Hislop as there must an overwhelming temptation to never agree with anyone about anything. Part of this comes with the territory as Private Eye’s job is to hold the powerful to scrutiny, no matter who they are, but I think there might also just be a naturally contrary streak in him and that he really rather enjoys being a thorn in any given side. True to form, Hislop managed to have a go at a wide range of targets including Vince for being all mouth and no trousers, Labour for being too cozy with the banks, the police for playing politics and every man, woman and child in the land for saying that they wanted the third party in power but then hating them when they finally got in. All of these were valid points and were well made, but there was always a lingering danger of him coming across as Anti-Everything, purely for the fun of it (like when he said “no one would care” if the LibDems disappeared). That would be a shame as generally speaking, he does know what he’s talking about and we need people like Hislop in the world, but if everyone thinks your simply taking the piss then they stop listening. So, Ian Hislop, your mission for next time is to agree with somebody about something, just to prove you can. And to stop your head wobbling so much. It makes me lose my train of thought.

A recalcitrant but worthy 6/10

The Crowd: Liverpool

So, we’re back in the North for the first ‘proper’ QT of the series and very northern it was too. The general feeling from the crowd was one of open suspicion (occasionally veering into open hostility) towards the coalition and a very real fear of what the cuts were going to bring. This is not to say that Labour were the apple of the audience’s eye either, but I think the Red Corner was probably the safest place to be on this episode. I must say that I quite enjoyed this instalment as I felt robbed by last week’s placid-yet-confusing Labour leadership show and although no one went properly nuts, there was enough friction in the air to keep me interested. Audience members of note this week include a guy with a thin face but a wide head who made me think the aspect ratio on my telly had broken and a beponytailed Scouser in a suit who went in for some impassioned wailing about the Lisbon Treaty that included the word ‘birthright’. There’s always one.

A steady 6/10

Omg! It’s done! I’m free! Free! Ok Lemmings, I’m outta here. I hope to be back next week, but there is quite a high chance that I may overdose on Civ and end up in a permanently psychotic state, shouting at the cats for not building the Three Gorges Dam damn quickly enough and telling the postman to declare war on Bismark. Addiction is an ugly thing Lemmings, an ugly thing.


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