Posts Tagged 'Lord Falconer'

Questionable Time #139


qt 139

Good morrow lemmings and I don’t really have an excuse for the extreme lateness of this edition, other than being at my wizened old Nan’s all day and forced to eat many a water biscuit. Without further ado, let’s kick off. Soccer!

Clapping at my chamber door, only this and nothing more

We’re coming from Aberdeen, in, as Dimbleby puts it, “a country now dominated by the SNP” and also sweet jazz-funk grooves, allegedly. To that end, our first question is likewise about the yellow-‘n’-blacks (if I knew more about football I could make a joke about these team colours): apart from “musical chairs and clapping”, what do the SNP plan to achieve at Westminster?

John Nicolson, a new SNP MP (love the subtle rhyming going on there that sadly not enough people have translated into rap format), swells with pride. He launches into a speech about how the SNP are breaking boundaries by sitting wherever the hell they like in the chamber, clapping, and taking many a selfie, and that what are ye wee English ponces gonnae dew aboot it? Actually, that’s unfair – he does state that the SNP have been given a mandate to campaign for the issues that the people of Scotland have bombastically brought to public attention. Such as wanting control/wanting One Direction’s ‘No Control’ as a single. He also insinuates he spends his dinner parties clapping every time the food is brought in, which everybody finds a little weird.

Meanwhile, Ruth Davidson, leader of that most impressive of professions, Scottish Conservative Leader, is in a sombre mood. During the election campaign, perhaps knowing that her party didn’t have a hope in hell of getting any more than the one MP it ended up with north of the border, decided to have fun and just be herself for the duration. She fed Soleros to journalists. She posted pictures of herself singing in her car. She didn’t give a single, glorious shit. It was quite admirable, in a way.

Sadly, none of that devil-may-care attitude is on show tonight. Instead we have Serious Ruth, the stately politician, one of the last Bluecoats standing in the Wildlands. She launches into her pre-rehearsed spiel: while the SNP and Labour were being silly-billies with seating plans she’s doing the hard work in the less glamourous, more ugly Scottish Parliament. A tough beat for a tough cop.

Lord Charlie ‘Chazza’ Falconer speaks up. He looks at the flaming wreckage of the Scottish Labour Party and sighs. The Tories did this, he says, because of their superior dosh and their posters of Alex Salmond’s Shrek-like face leering down at you and/or Ed Miliband in a suggestive manner. But you know who helped them to triumph? Those wasp-coloured wankers over there.

John Nicolson looks horrified. A soft and judgey ‘ooh’ing emanates from the crowd. They didn’t like that at all. In fairness, those posters were really terrifying, weren’t they?

John, Ruth and now Alex Massie, Scotland Editor at the Spectator (what a job!), object. Alex points out the maths, saying that even if Labour won every seat in Scotland they still would have lost. He’s dressed up like an ancient country lord, however, which probably isn’t the best way to win round the crowd in these parts. Then he goes on about how the SNP would do anything or sacrifice anything as long as it advanced their main goal of independence.

Lesley Riddoch says that, whether they’re working for independence or not, the SNP can’t win either way. Except in elections, that is. Poor SNP. She then goes on to recite one of her own columns at length.

A lady from the crowd points out the baffling fact that the House of Commons simply can’t fit all of its MPs inside the debating chamber. Isn’t this a bit counterproductive? On the plus side, John says, I do have a sword hook. You know. To hang your sword up.

The SNP should accept that they lost and get on with it, screams a man in the crowd, like God from Monty Python. You sir, sound like a Unionist to me, John implies (or rather outright states). The man explodes and yells that he just said that he voted Yes in the referendum. This exciting back-and-forth goes on for about ten hours thus somewhat undermining the point of ‘getting on with it’.

Can Scottish Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats stop sucking so hard so there’s more of a debate, says another audience lady. Meanwhile, Lesley is going full throttle. She attacks certain people who say that SNP/pro-independence voters are ‘greedy’, when in reality the ones being greedy are those mean old Tories…greedy for Soleros, that is!

…I’m sorry, Solero jokes are probably passé by now. I’ll quietly give this well-loved meme a fitting send-off.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Next week we’re going to be in Plymouth, Dimbleby interjects, and, to show you just how far we are into penetrating the fetid wastes of hell, this triggers raucous laughter in the studio. Plymouth! Oh that Dimbleby, such a card!

Football’s coming home (to die in a ditch)

Should we all stick two fingers up to the Fifa World Cup? What, you mean the fact of zillions of Qataris dying wasn’t enough to raise a few eyebrows? I don’t know anything about football, so haven’t really been following this story – merely enjoying a distant chuckle at seeing a cluster of rich ugly white dudes get their arses kicked. Always a pleasure.

Alex Massie makes a sweet burn by saying that Scotland has been leading the way in boycotting the World Cup for many years now. Such Wildeian wit! Lesley is still outraged, and cries that this ‘beautiful game’ has been sullied! Sullied forever! Forever! Truly, she has no chill. At least all the dead Qatari slave labourers have finally been mentioned. In addition, John, Charlie and Ruth finally agree on something: Sepp Blatter sucks and won’t get away with this! He’s just been re-elected as Fifa president, by the way. Question Time: always predicting the future.

I leaked a leak in time gone by

After that brief interlude, it’s time for another dose of Scotlapalooza! Round one: if Scotland votes to stay in the EU, but the rest of the UK votes to leave…will all hell break loose?

Alex, positive as always, shrugs that the people mumbling and grumbling such things are gunning for #indyref2. Nah, says John, the ‘No’ campaign said we’d be stronger together, so it’s not fair. P.S., let the 16-year-olds vote. They can Photoshop flower crowns on pictures of Angela Merkel or whatever it is they do.

Ruth squawks out reform, reform, reform multiple times like a parrot on amphetamines. The others join her and soon it’s a cacophony of voices spluttering out platitudes but no concrete plans. Lesley almost rips her shirt off as she bellows her love for Scotland, which continues on into…

Round two: should Alistair Carmichael resign? Lord Falconer is being very careful about this one. The last thing he needs or wants is another SNP MP taking AlCar’s place in the House. Although, I guess it would be kind of funny that if, after all this, he resigns and they just elect another Lib Dem in his stead. The yellow team (the original one, not the yellow-and-black one with the kilts) needs to fill up all the seats in its minibus, after all!

“It is impossible right now to know how the people of Orkney and Shetland feel!” Lesley cries. You’re telling me, mate. I don’t even know if they have Wi-Fi up there.

Should every MP who’s lied resign? Then we’d end up with a pretty empty House, hahahaha! Hahahahahahahaha! Original joke! No, we’re all nice really, says Ruth. While she decries any attempt at a “witch hunt”, honestly it looks like she doesn’t much care about the welfare of the Lib Dems, it’s not like her party is in coalition with them any more. Now the blue team can truly break out the hard liquor in the secret Downing Street stash. John, meanwhile, claims that it’s “a matter of honour” so we clearly need to cut off Alistair Carmichael’s head.

Last: should we have the right to die? A rather heavy subject for the last five minutes, one that all the panellists have but one response to: there needs to be, like, a truckful of safeguards for this shizzle. Maybe we could have a new referendum on it? asks another audience lady. Alex Massie visibly recoils.

Time for the scores!

Davidson: 6/10

(Not a) Lot (going on)

Falconer: 5/10

(Scottish Labour’s a) Dot (on the map)

Nicolson: 7/10

(Proud) Scot (and won’t hesitate to tell you at length)

Riddoch: 7/10

(Will) Slot (Her opinions absolutely everywhere)

Massie: 6/10

(Missed his) Shot

The Crowd: 8/10

Got (what they came for, maybe?)

Next time: PLYMOUTH!

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #51


questionable time 51 david dimbleby pop art Lichtenstein

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to yet another instalment of the UK’s most popular blood-sport-disguised-as-middle-brow-gum-flapping-contest, a beast that is otherwise known as Question Time. Now, despite having gorged itself senseless on topics featuring the word ‘referendum’ in the past few weeks, the monster’s appetite remains apparently undiminished and this week finds us heading north in search of fresh plebiscitary morsels. What’s that you say? You’re all referendumed out? Well too bad because we’re off to Scotland and they’ve got a whole load of crazy new referendum flavours to get your chops around. Tonight Lemmings, we dine in Stirling.

We’ll be seeing more of Hamza Yousaf…

So this is only the second QT appearance for the SNP’s Minister for External Affairs (an appointment that sounds suspiciously like ‘Minister for Guttering and Drainage’ in my book) but I’ve got to admit that this guy’s already showing some impressive form. Let’s start with the basics: First off, this guy’s got a really good QT face that hangs well off his head and naturally defaults to a look that’s just on the right side of the Relaxed/Cavalier line. That’s a big advantage from the get-go, but a face alone will only get you as far as the kettle – it won’t get the milk out of the fridge. Luckily for Yusaf, he’s had plenty of time to watch the master of the Relaxed/Cavalier line – Alex Salmond – at work and he seems to have taken plenty of notes.

Take the first question for example: This was the one on the Mid-Staffordshire Trust and he did that classic Salmond thing of pressing the right populist buttons (that whole ‘SNP as the True Defenders of the NHS Faith’ thing always seems to work quite well) but doing so without pleading or shouting. As an opener it worked a treat and he continued to rack up the points with the ‘should Huhne do time?’ question by slipping in a cheeky little dig at bankers without getting too carried away with it. So far, so good. However, the real test was the referendum question and here we saw that he’s still got a thing or two to learn from his sensei.

Clearly, this was a question from which there was no easy way out: Your party, whose reason d’être is to win independence for Scotland has finally secured a referendum yet only a quarter of Scots are behind you on leaving the Union. What gives? Now, had it been Salmond up there, we would have been treated to one of politics’ most splendid creatures – the Knowing Blag. This is where Salmond would blather some things that held no real consequence whilst giving you this look that says ‘Yeah, you know as well as I do that I’m just playing for time, but the fact that we both know makes it kind of fun doesn’t it?’ to which I’d agree and subsequently let him off the hook. Hamza’s not got that down yet and when he’s playing for time he just looks like, well – he’s playing for time. Not the best of looks, all told. Having said that though, these are minor quibbles and last night was a largely valiant effort that should cement his position as the 3rd Carpenter to Alex’s Richard and Nicola’s Karen.

On the subject of QT faces…

…Michael Moore (God’s gift to lazy photoshoppers who don’t want to think too hard about an actual premise… See Fig. 1) has a pretty unfortunate one. That’s not to say he’s bad-looking or anything, it’s just the way he scrunches up his eyes when he’s thinking really spins me out. Is he confused? Is he cross? Is he cross and confused? Is he cross at being confused? This is so confusing that it’s making me cross! Anyway, I feel sorry for him on this front as he’s actually pretty good when he finally hits his stride but that look combined with his rather halting delivery is just a little too jarring for me. It makes me scrunch up my face in a confused and cross looking manner.

michael moore name differentiation

Fig. 1

I get nervous watching Brian Souter…

Ok, Question Time, I see what you did there…. It’s the week in which gay marriage is all over the news so why not get the guy who spearheaded the campaign to keep Clause 4 in Scotland on? On any given week, I’d happily get behind this logic and chuckle heartily at the inevitable carnage that would ensue unfolded but this time around? I don’t know, there’s just something a little frightening about Brian Souter. Most of it’s in the eyes: They look like they’ve seen things they shouldn’t have and can never again return to their normal state. Then there’s the twitchiness, the impromptu confession that he’d tried to get his wife to take his speeding points and the entire glass of water he chugged in a microsecond – not to mention the fact that the crowd had his number and pre-emptively shouted down any funny business before he had a chance to get busy with it. All of this says to me that Brian Souter and Trouble have history and that history has a funny habit of repeating itself. If it’s all the same to you Brian, I think I might just quietly let myself out the back before Trouble turns up…

My long thaw with Charlie Falconer continues…

We’ve never been on the same page, Lord Falconer and I. His style of delivery has always been heavy on insistence and as he was generally insisting on things I wasn’t too keen on I can’t say that it was a match made in heaven. However, over time I’ve found myself mellowing on him and while he’s still very insistent, at least he’s actually quite good at explaining things (particularly lawyerly things) while his distance from power has taken some of the sting out of his tail. One day Charlie, one day we’ll be wed…

Mary Macleod wisely followed the Four Steps to Tory Survival in Scotland…

Step 1: Make no sudden movements.

Step 2: If forced to defend anything, make sure it’s the Union.

Step 3: Conserve energy: There are no votes to be chased here.

Step 4: Don’t eat the yellow snow.

Pro tip: Buckfast isn’t actually wine.

Well done Mary, you live to fight another day.

Tl;dr

Yousaf: 7/10

Sprite(ly)

Moore: 5/10

(Squeezed his eyes together too) Tight(ly)

Macleod: 5/10

(Did well to stay out of) Sight

Falconer: 6/10

(Didn’t) Indict (Souter for crimes he failed to commit)

Souter: 4/10

(Looked like he was going to throw a) White(y)

The Crowd: 7/10

(Were high as) Kite(s)?

Well, whaddayaknow? A merry little Highland Fling that made a modicum of sense despite my non-modicum of understanding for all matters Scottish. Let’s all have a referendum to celebrate!

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #15


Scariness...

Good mornings Lemmings. And we’re back. Ok, so I know I promised a small award ceremony at the end of the last QT Report, but a number of developments emerged in the intervening period that stymied my progress. They are as follows:

  1. I developed a very unhealthy News 24 addiction. Reality for me is now a flurry of high velocity red and white graphics, relentlessly dramatic drum backed pips and Nick Robinson’s smug little face. It’s reduced me to a level of such helpless passivity that I’m not even sure who I am any more.
  2. I spent most of this week in Barcelona, desperately trying to mangle French and Spanish together in a doomed effort to pretend that I can speak Catalan and failing miserably. I also spent much of this period in awe of the inexplicable concentration of mullets and tattoos that the city has generated. Seriously, even the pigeons have ape drapes and full sleeves. I thought about threatening to do a Lloyd-Webber, but all the hair and body art put me off.
  3. I bought Just Causes 2 and have spent most of those precious moments where I could tear myself away from the Soma of rolling news blowing the living crap out of everything that moves or stays still too long. The reasons for blowing up said crap still elude me, but that doesn’t stop blowing crap up from being awesome.
  4. The world as we know it has ended. From the moment that exit poll came in, the Earth’s magnetic field flipped polarity, wing-ed beasts took to the sky, stars began to fall from the heavens and death stalked the land.

So that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. I haven’t forgotten though and there is an outside chance I might manage to shoehorn it into next week. Enough already. Time to re-engage with the one constant in this disorientating flux. Welcome back to Question Time.

The Menu

Q1: Should LibDem voters feel betrayed by the deal with Tories?

Q2: Has David Cameron sacrificed too much to the LibDems?

Q3: Who should be the next Labour leader?

Q4: Are we really in an era of ‘new politics’ when the government is full of white, middle class, Oxbridge educated men?

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Lord Heseltine, wild haired big beast and Mace defiling big shot of yesteryear.

Heseltine used to scare the absolute shit out of me. He was everywhere when I was a kid and although I didn’t have much of an idea about whatever it was he was ranting about, I did know that he looked like a genuinely dangerous berserker of a man. These days though, he doesn’t carry the same whiff of cortisol and testosterone. Instead, there’s something endearingly vulnerable about him. This is not say that he isn’t still quite, quite mad, it’s just that he sometimes gets stricken by this haunted, frightened look, as if he’s just spotted Death himself in the audience, beckoning him towards a pool of pure obsidian. Actually, it probably isn’t Death. It’s probably Liam Fox (he will come for us all in the end).

So yes. Heseltine is not the cataclysmic destroyer of worlds that he once was and is now like a gummy old tiger who has lost the ability to kill, but will still indulge in the odd ill-tempered outburst to remind us that he still has a taste for blood. On this episode, Heseltine turned out to be quite a lot of fun, just about keeping his instinct to damn the coalition to hell and back in check and instead, blaming it on the voters, fickle creatures that they are. In practice, this boiled down to repeated, through-gritted-teeth chantings of the National Interest/Strong Government/Pound Through The Floor mantra coupled with some rather wonderful ‘you bastards voted for this so tough shit’ rebukes to every man, woman and child in the country. It’s nice to see a politician go out of his way to alienate absolutely everyone and I must admit that he does have a point. Which ever way you cut it, this is what the votes stack up to so yes, we only have ourselves to blame. This rather spirited display of bloodymindedness also had the effect of making him more or less immune to tricky questions that would have totally derail more consensual types. Take for example Q2. For a wet behind the ears Tory noob, this would be a nightmare as every answer you could give would be wrong. If you say ‘yes’, you have sacrificed too much, you risk upsetting your brand new bessies and thus incurring the wrath of your own masters while if you say ‘no’ you’ll surely be called out for blatantly lying. None of this bothered Heseltine and he was refreshingly blunt about it: ‘This is what we’ve got. It stinks to high heaven, we’ll be hugely unpopular but that’s what you idiots voted for. Suck it up’. Refreshing and refreshingly well received by an audience who were taken off guard by it. He also had some nice little scuffles with Mehdi Hasan, confessed to being around for the last coalition (which was in 1721… or there abouts) and although he tailed off somewhat on Q4, his response to Q3’s ‘who should be the new Labour leader’ was great. “I don’t care”.

Considering what a minefield tonight could have been for the Tory panellist, all the above is quite an achievement and a testament to the fact that although he looks like his marbles are being mislaid at a steadily accelerating rate, there’s life in the old boy yet. Call Liam Fox and tell him to delay his visit by a year or two.

A couldn’t give a shit (in a good way) of a 7/10.

In the Yellow Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Simon Hughes, LibDem MP for Bemondsey, never-quite-makes-it-loiterer-on-the-cusp-of-greatness.

Hughes is the one I’ve had the most trouble pegging down this week as there’s something I just can’t fathom about him. On the one hand, he’s an able debater who’s made stands that are both principled and commendable yet on the other, there’s ‘a day late, a buck short’ quality about him that somewhat tarnish his other achievements and he strikes me as a man very much destined to be an ‘also ran’ in the mould of Peter Hain.

This will creep you out....

...sometimes google images just delivers.

This episode of Question Time was going to be a nightmare for whichever LibDem went up, given that no one was happy with the Condemocrat Alliance and straight from Q1, he was having to straddle an unstraddlable divide. To the left of him he had Hasan and Falconer, both sticking in the knife about the “betrayal” of the centre left while to the right was Phillips, bleating on about what a “sordid” “stitch-up” the whole deal was. In theory, Heseltine should have had his back, seeing as they’re ‘all in this thing together’, but Tarzan was having enough trouble biting his own lip and thought it far more fun to pick on the nation as a whole. That’s not what you really need when your appearing as a spokesperson for the Reasonable Team. Given this background, he struggled to keep his head above water, fending off blows from both sides whilst flailing away desperately in a bid to at least inflict a minor injury on his tormentors. Q2 had a similar ‘no-win’ quality to it, the same pattern applied and he ended up being laughed at by the audience when he said, with gallant levels of inexplicable conviction that the current coalition would last 5 years (although there was some love for him when he reminded the crowd that they’d be doing away with ID cards). For the best part of Q3, he wisely stayed behind cover, venturing out only to declare New Labour “irrelevant” before retreating in the face of Hasan baiting him on immigration while Q6 saw him call for positive discrimination before sloping off under another volley of Hasan’s fire. Hard times.

Judging by the audience reaction, this episode’s effort was pretty poor but I have sympathy for the fact that he was having to defend the indefensible. While there is no way that he can chalk this up as a victory, he can take comfort in the fact that most of the ire was aimed at the LibDems rather than at him personally and although he seemed to be the most grieviously injured party at full time, when he did get a chance to counter attack he took it, even if the odds were massively stacked against him. However, there’s something that still doesn’t add up about him and he reminds me of one of those weird middle management types who, although able and largely likeable, can no longer fit in with the shop floor staff nor swallow enough of their pride in ingratiate themselves with the bigwigs. Instead, they inhabit a shadowy world of lunches eaten alone, rounds bought for whole departments who still ignore him and suspicious looks from the boardroom. He’s not a tit, but he is a bit odd.

A distinctly undecided 5/10

In The Red Corner: Lord Falconer, lawyerly New Labour type and Blair cahooter.

Bah. Falconer’s back again and I can’t say feeling him any more than I did last time. On the one hand, I shouldn’t really care as on the face of it, he’s yesterday’s man and his views should be of little consequence. However, it’s also too early to write him off as people like Falconer (your behind the scenes, quietly scheming types) have a nasty habit of surviving and although they may fall out of the limelight, they’ll still be furtively scuttling about, doing something fishy and wielding power they don’t necessarily deserve. His appearance on this episode was also of little consequence as the focus of the show was squarely on the coalition and the impending doom that appears to be bearing down on us all. As a result, most of his answers were pretty much stock affairs, a dig at the LibDems for their supposed treachery here and a jab at the Tories for being Tories there. All standard stuff and nothing which warrants repeating at length. His only slightly interesting moment of the night was on Q3 when he did some less than subtle ‘isn’t David Miliband grand’ manoeuvrings, but then again, it was always pretty much assured that he’d back him so it wasn’t exactly earth shattering news. There was also a brief outburst of fun when an audience member whipped out a very tasty little jibe about him leaving documents on trains which went down very well, but Falconer didn’t cop as much grief as he should of on this one and managed to slink off largely unscathed.

So yes, not much to report on Lord Falconer and that’s the worrying thing: You never really know what’s going on with him until it’s too late. Most people, when asked to point out a villain in the Labour party will go for Mandelson and on the face of it, why not? He’s just as unelected, has been mired in deeper scandals and wealds terrifying amounts of power like a sledgehammer. However, he does have one saving grace that Falconer doesn’t: Showmanship. Love him or hate him, it’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer skill of his Machiavellian antics and there’s a perverse elegance in the sinister little dance that he does (he was a brilliant on election night. Watching him scheme in real time was a master class in the dark arts). All of this adds up to a sense of knowing what this man is about and although he might not be about very nice things, it’s cool to watch in the same way that documentaries about sharks are cool to watch. The only thing you can say about Falconer is that you’re not sure whether he’s up to something or not and that makes watching him like watching a documentary about carbon monoxide poisoning: Dull, banal and terrifying.

A shifty 4/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Mehdi Hasan: Political Editor for the Staggers, ex-C4 News politics bod.

I’m largely on board with Hasan. His pieces for the New Statesman are usually well researched, pertinent and very readable while his time with C4 was also characterised by a good nose for a story and a refreshing level of passion for his tribe (which is quite clearly the left). However, he does have to be careful as quite often his writing skirts very close to the border between ‘urgent’ and ‘shrill’ while his combative style can sometimes slip over into belligerence. He was on good form on this episode however, being presented with what is very much a target rich environment as now that the LibDems have come out on the Tory side of the divide, the left can (quite justifiably) kick them about all over the place. So no more ‘I agree with Nick’, no more ‘brethren progressives’, the gloves are well and truly off and what we got so it was an all out assault on the government of “Tweedlecam and Tweedle Clegg”. Many a scrap was had (largely with Hughes as Heseltine wasn’t playing ball), the word “betrayal” was bandied about a great deal and if the audience are anything to go by, it struck a chord with quite a few people. He did slip into a more thoughtful frame of mind in Q3 when he said that hoped the Labour leadership contest would be a long, drawn out affair that would allow time for proper reflection and also dropped in tacit support for the younger Miliband, but by and large he was on the offensive. As I said before, he does need to exercise some caution as shouting too loud at everyone makes you look a nutter and that wouldn’t really be a fair reflection on the man, but by and large it was a spirited affair that summed the sentiments of some of the audience very well. It’s also nice to see a little fire back in the belly of the left. For far to long, the right has had the monopoly on righteous indignation so it’s nice to see some angst going in the other direction and who knows, maybe a few years in the wilderness will finally get the left back where it should be: In the business of ideas.

A rousing 7/10 that just about avoided becoming a rant.

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Melanie Phillips, standard bearer for right wing disgruntlement and Daily Fail foghorn-in-residence.

I fear many things in life. I fear war, destitution and teenagers playing music through mobile phones on the bus, but the thing I most fear is this: Watching Melanie Phillips after having just learned of a landslide Tory victory. Could you imagine just how smug, how ‘I told you so’, how ‘now you’ll get what’s coming’ she would be as she unfurls the schematics for her Immig-Paedo Re-Education Internment Centre she’s been working on when she hasn’t been too busy making sure that Middle England’s blood pressure never drops below 160/100 she would be? It’s enough to drive a man insane. Imagine then, my relief, upon hearing that not only was it not a landslide but that in fact Phillips’ beloved party would have to snuggle up to the filthy Libs. Gone was threat of undue smugness and apparent was the reality of another unspecified period of seething hatred from Ms. Phillips to an ungrateful nation. Bullet: Dodged. Actually, I have to admit that on this episode, Phillips wasn’t quiet as ghastly as she usually is and at times, I actually found myself agreeing with her, particularly her point on the 55% rule looking very dubious and some of her stuff on why New Labour failed (“Blairism could never explain what the left stood for”. True, dat). The rest was your standard welter of abuse aimed at anyone to the left of Franco, but with particular spite reserved for the Libs, perfidious upstarts that they are. Heavily used words include “betrayal” (a favourite for many on the night), “squalid”, “stitch up” as well as a new entry for “Cleggaroon”. So yes, pretty standard piss and vinegar but given that we’ve avoided having to deal with a post-landslide MetaPhillips I’m happy to award her slightly less crap marks than usual.

A lucky escape of a 4/10.

The Crowd: London

If there’s one thing that became apparent from this episode, it’s that I wouldn’t want to be a LibDem right now. People were really pissed off them and sided equally with both Phillips and Hasan when it came to pouring scorn on them. I know that u-turns in opinion are fairly common in politics, but to go from nobodies to saviours of the universe to lickspittle turncoats in the space of a month is pretty impressive. I also suspect that the Tories would have got a much rougher ride, had it not been for Heseltine’s inspired ‘blame the audience’ tactic (a manoeuvre that will known as a ‘Heseltine’) and it also seems clear that Labour very much on the sidelines for the time being. By and large though, the overriding sense I got from the crowd was the same as the one I’ve picked up from pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to of late which is “What the fuck is going on?!?” and this made for a vocal, if not somewhat bewildered mass that made for a lively show. Good work all round.

Members of note include the guy who asked the ‘leaving stuff on a train’ question to Falconer (well done sir, fine display), the poser of Q1 who’s name was ‘Diggory’ (absolutely fantastic name you have there sir) and a girl who looked a boy from McFly (well done Miss, top notch gender bending).

A struggling to comprehend but pissed off anyway 7/10

So there you go. Heseltine’s right. We got what we deserved. I wanted a hung parliament and here it is, grinning at me through it’s jagged, mangled teeth whilst making as much sense as an Escher staircase. But you know what? I’m actually quite liking it (it certainly makes for great TV) and I get the feeling that the next 12 months are going to be fairly epic in terms of things being turned on heads. One thing I will go out on a limb and predict is that there is no way this government is going to last 5 years (which really isn’t much of a limb to be going out on). This episode of Question Time is some of the first evidence of what a volatile mass of tension this coalition is and something will happen that’ll make the whole bloody mess explode, showering us all with fragments of Clegg and Cameron. I, for one, will enjoy the fireworks and hope to pick up a few souvenirs of the blast in the aftermath. Osborne’s severed and scorched nose would be particularly choice. See you next week for another voyage into the uncertain.

Loudrib’s Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #2


Leotards ftw

10 - Print "Lickspittle", 20 - Goto 10

Morning Lemmings. It’s been a week and I’ve received no booze so I can only assume that this charade must continue. You bought it on yourselves. Right, let’s get this thing under way.

The Line Up

In the Red Corner: Lord Falconer, erstwhile Lord Chancellor and noted chum of Tony Blair.

I don’t like Lord Falconer. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I have an instinctive dislike to lawyers and people who have been Tony Blair’s flatmate. The problem is that he’s a hard target to hit by dint of being a really good lawyer and this was on full display tonight. Kicking off with the expenses question, he deftly tacked straight down the middle, acknowledged people’s anger and softly imparted some eminently sensible stuff. Mild applause ensued, no one went mental and the world carried on. That’s not bad going considering the country think about the expenses issue in the same way they think about genocide and I must say I was mildly miffed at the way he got off the hook. However, I was heartened by the next question, the “was the cabinet mislead about the war?” one. Now surely, he’s going to get absolutely decimated on this one, right?. He’s one of Blair’s most prominent cheerleaders, is utterly unrepentant about the war and is sitting in between Claire Short and George Galloway. Surely, there’ll be blood, right? Well no (or at least not as much as I hoped) and here’s how he did it. He started by saying Robin Cook had loads of information to knock the government with, so we must have been open or honest as otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to have a pop at us. When he said that, I struggled to make sense of it, but he said it in such away that it sounded right. That’s a talent he’s got there and a bloody dangerous talent at that. Luckily, Dimbleby started getting mischievous and pointed out that Falconer and Blair are bessies and there were stories of him pinning Lord Goldsmith to a wall. Falconer, who must have seen this coming retreated into a “It wasn’t me guv, we was all in it together” defence and somehow managed to escape un-booed. However, the respite was brief as Claire Short charged on in, calling shenanigans on the whole shebang and was reward with robust applause. Undaunted by this turn of events, Falconer refuted all allegations of ‘Charlie and Tony, up the tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G’ and then went on the offensive by saying (in a mildly threatening manner) that all MP’s knew the score and that they should STFU. To cap it all off, he crowned his late rally with a very lawyerly statement: “It was a decision, not dishonesty”. I wouldn’t be surprised if Blair gets that scrawled on his headstone. The argument reignited a few minutes later when the crowd got their tuppence worth and accused him of arm twisting to which he did some courtroom acrobatics by saying that because some MP’s voted against the war, it’s all legit and kosher. The crowd didn’t buy this, but I must admit I was disappointed that he got away with it so lightly. There seems to be something fundamentally wrong about that. The rest of his performance was much blander but no less plastered in legalese, chuntering about privacy on John Terry and not criminalising people for assisted suicide (which, to be fair, did garner a moderate ripple of applause). A lucky escape in a show that could have been a complete trainwreck for him.

The votes are in: A shifty 5/10, awarded for proficiency in the dark arts alone.

In the Blue Corner: Theresa May, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Minister of State for Shoes.

I have a feeling that Theresa May is the Tories go-to MP for potentially ominous situations. It’s not that she’s a great debater or rhetorical wizard, in fact it’s for quite the opposite reason: She’s so on-the-fence about everything that you forget she’s talking. Whenever confronted with pretty much any issue, she goes down the “well it’s a bit of this, a bit of that” line followed by a brief affirmation that she does like Tory type things like “stable families are important, you know?”. In short, she’s good at hiding in the long grass. Given that it’s not been the best week for the Tories (minor poll wobbles, backtracking and the dreaded ‘spenses) and that they know they’re vulnerable on Iraq (the “we voted on what we knew” line can only hold so long) she was a pretty clever choice and wasted no time in diluting issues with half hearted platitudes. On expenses she bemoaned what a horrid business it all is and something really must be done about it, dodged the Iraq issue entirely by saying something like she ‘wasn’t in the cabinet so I couldn’t possibly comment, you know?’ and confessed to not give two hoots about John Terry. She did nearly get as far as an opinion with assisted suicide by saying she liked Terry Pratchett but what about all the poor vulnerable people playing mind tennis in MRI scanners, but nothing of any substance really passed her lips. In that respect it was mission accomplished, a no-score draw for Tory HQ but from the viewers point of view it was like browsing the internet on dial up: Only just-adequate and very much annoying.

The Numbers in the Boxes: A weak handshake of a performance…3/10

In the Yellow Corner (wait a second, there is no Yellow!. Great, a week in and the format’s already shot to pieces. Cheers, Auntie): Claire Short, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood, Overly Trusting Dissenter in Chief.

I always have trouble making my mind up on Claire Short. On the one hand, her ‘will-she-won’t-she’ act in 2003 wound me up, but when I see her on TV, I end up quite liking her. Her evidence at the Iraq Inquiry was belting and stopped the whole thing looking like a complete waste of time, but her past still vexes me. Clearly it also still vexes her. On the show, she muddled around the expenses issue, not quite making sense and generally seeming unenthused by the whole issue. However, that changed when Iraq come up and she was soon in back her stride, lambasting Blair, pointing the finger at Falconer and generally bemoaning the sorry mess that had transpired. Despite mounting a pretty robust offensive, she didn’t seem to have the same level of anger that she’s displayed in the past and if anything, her whole discourse was tinged with melancholy and regret. This was particularly apparent when an audience member asked her why she hadn’t resigned and she seemed to crumple a little. She explained how Blair had promised her this and that and how she believed him but she looked like someone who knew she’s been played. While she came came across as very genuine, she also looked a little haunted and I couldn’t help feeling a little sad about that. She was also clearly pissed off with Falconer and did mange to rough him up some, but she didn’t quite have it in her to press home the advantage and really take him apart. Later, she briefly flickered back to life by having a jab at the press for the John Terry question and delivered a quite firm “grow up” to all and sundry on the assisted suicide issue but I was left feeling like there was still some unfinished business and that justice hadn’t been done. However, there was some dignity in it.

What it all adds up to: A slightly unsettling 7/10

In the Independent/Brainy Corner: George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Champion of the Oppressed, Scourge of Tyrants.

Yay! Gorgeous George is back in the house! Ok, Ok, I know he’s a one trick pony blowhard who’s never too far from from something a little fishy, but I like the guy. He called the war right, tried to do something about it, has bought the word ‘lickspittle’ back to popular parlance and is exceedingly good value for money. Oh, and his evidence at Senate Committee was showmanship of the highest order. Anyhoo, I had high hopes for George. Iraq was bound to come up and Falconer amply filled the role of baddy/whipping boy. However, first he had to trundle through the expenses question during which he went off on one about some phone bill of his that sounded dubious but swiftly concluded that he was still awesome and that we should halve the number of MP’s. So far, so so. But then came Iraq and he kicked off by bad mouthing Falconer for his Blairlust, calling the Chilcot Inquiry “a bunch of establishment flunkies” and giving props to Claire Short. Following a small Phillips shaped interlude, George was back, berating Falconer once more, blaming the war for enabling terrorism to start “spreading like topsy” and asking why we hadn’t bombed North Korea. “Great!” I thought, “He’s winding up a full on frontal assault involving the use of arcane and cool sounding words!”. But I was wrong. He managed to make one more brief point in which he confused the old ‘for/against war’ divide and then shut up. No rousing demagoguery, no naming of “popinjays” and no calls to arms. Colour me highly disappointed. He got a few points later with the football crowd by defending John Terry as a player but quickly lost them by siding with Melanie Phillips on assisted suicide, over-flogging the ‘thin end of the wedge’ angle and muttering dire warnings of the “panel of Dr. Death’s”. Come on George, one-trick pony’s are only fun when they’re doing their trick. Do you trick George! Do your trick!

In the cold light of day: A left-wanting 6/10

Melanie Phillips hair is a weird swimming cap.

Fig. 1

In the Funny/I’m Just Like You Corner: Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail Columnist, Poster girl For The Hyperventilating Middle England Crowd.

Oh Question Time, with this helping of moral panic on legs, you are really spoiling us. Say what you will about Melanie Phillips (such as the fact that her hair looks like those weird old floral swimming caps that my gran used to wear…see Fig. 1) she also presents that most sought after value for money that Galloway does, but from completely the opposite end of the spectrum. True to form she got off to a racing start by decrying the whole “flipping business” as “disgusting” and wailing about “trust” as if none of us had ever stolen a biro from work. It was an easy point, duly rewarded with satisfactory clapping. However, she soon found herself on the other side of the fence when it came to Iraq, wearily invoking the spectre of 9-11 for the n-th time and reminding us that Saddam really was a cad. As is usually the case when trying to defend the indefensible, she was met with stony silence from the crowd and a brief outburst from George Galloway. So no surprises there then. Even fewer surprises emerged moments later when she got the first crack at Terrygate and launched into a sweaty rant about “This John Terry character” being “a mass public debaucher” who has been photographed “urinating into beer glasses”. Persisting down the ‘someone think of the children!’ line she wound it up by calling the England captain a “creep” and the obligatory call to “throw him out!”. Well done. Have an applause biscuit. However, the plan became a little unstuck when Falconer and Short had a few digs at the Daily Mail for being as much a part of anti-privacy brigade as anyone else and was forced to stage a ‘but they’re all at!’ defence and trying to make out that this was somehow in “the public interest”. The crowd must have got bored at this point and no more applause biscuits were offered. Unbowed by the waning mood, she saved her biggest guns for last and cranked the Sodom and Gomorrah-o-tron to max by rechristening ‘right to die’ to ‘right to kill’, hypothesisinging that we’ll be killing the mentally ill next and speculating at the emergence of shadowy “Death Panels”. She even managed to get the last word of the show in and warned in that ‘if only you knew what I knew’ way she has that if we decriminalised assisted suicide, we would be hurtling towards a “brutalised society”. Job done then. All-in-all, it was a fairly sedate performance by her standards, particularly considering the company she was keeping that night and I was disappointed that there wasn’t a single cry for someone to hung or tarred and feathered.

When all is said and done: An ambivalent 5/10

The Crowd: Coventry

I’ve only ever been to Coventry once. I was getting a lift with a friend of mine from Manchester to London and she wanted to stop off there to call in on someone she knew. The experience was most noteworthy for the trip itself as my friend has a form of narcolepsy where she falls asleep when bored. As the M6 is not noted for being a thrill ride we were forced to listen to the soundtrack of West Side Story at full blast whilst singing along lest she fall asleep and send us careening under the wheels of a death lorry. It was an odd four hours. The other only point of interest during that trip was that we stopped at a ‘Balti Pub’ in Coventry for lunch and were both thrilled by the possibilities that such an establish could potentially offer. Think about, a curry house that’s a pub, what’s not to like? As it was, the Balti Pub turned out to be crap, being a weird chimera of uninspiring pub and tepid curry house that ticked neither box with sufficient gusto to have either been exciting or worth the two and a half hours of Broadway-show-meets-plot-line-for-weird-low-budget-thriller terror we had just been through. I bring this up because the Balti Pub was this show. When I looked on the Qtime website on Thursday morning I was thrilled. The line up and the events of the past week seemed to conspire to make for an epic dust up and I was certain that it would be a complete hecklefest. As it turned out, it was just borderline OK. No-one totally lost their shit, most of the questions were mundane, softball affairs and the audience just didn’t seem to be able to get itself going. Even the known volatility of the panellists seemed to be cancelled out by the sloppy fug that seemed to shroud the place and what should have been an A plus barney slowly decomposed into a D minus wet play time. Sorry Coventry, I know it’s not the greatest lot in life being a city that’s only famous for being bombed and ugly, but your Balti Pub Qtime just didn’t cut the mustard.

As the clouds gather: A fully skimmed 4/10

Ok, so that’s it. Claire Short gets the Queen of Coventry crown while the rest of ’em should seriously think about bucking their ideas up. The beer offer still stands although I’m now lowering the bar to offers of cigarettes as well as it turns out that this is bloody hard work. Check back next week for more post-QTime banter.


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