Posts Tagged 'manchester'

Questionable Time #36


questionable time 36 david dimbleby street fighter 2

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to Questionable Time’s which will from now on be having a bit of a timeshare with Indy Voices. That’s right, after years of lurking menacingly in the darkened recesses at the very bottom of the internet, Indy Voices has finally seen the light/taken leave of its senses and unleashed this Thing That Should Not Be on the wider world. I see big things coming of this, Lemmings…. I see a nation, one nation of average, regular Joes who attended comprehensive schools and had perfectly normal childhoods’ discussing Dialectical Materialism with their parents, all marching forward to a brighter future. One Nation, Lemmings, One Nation Under Questionable Time.

Anyway, delusions of grandeur aside, I suppose I’d better explain what this is all about. Basically, every week The Independent will be running a somewhat edited version of Questionable Time on their website. Most of the content will be the same but there will probably be a bit more of it here and maybe some bonus content from time-to-time. So, if you like your Questionable Time to be shorter and sweeter, head to Indy Voices, but if you want the warts and all version, stick around here. Or do both. In fact, definitely do both.

. To Manchester we go…

A Personal Appeal to Ken Clarke…

Hello Ken… Can I call you Ken? It’s just that you’ve been in my life so long that I feel we can dispense with the formalities. Not only that, but I also feel a strange kinship towards you that has, over the years, developed to the point of a political crush. You see I was born in 1979 and my life to the age of 17 was dominated by a backdrop of wall-to-wall Conservatives, most of whom I had a very bad feeling about. You though, you were different. For example, while most of your peers were happy to carry on speeding into the night after running down some innocent bystander in that rolling political hit-and-run that were the Thatcher/Major years, you were the one who would stop, check that the hapless victim was still breathing and maybe call an ambulance from your newfangled car phone. Sure, you too would most likely flee the scene before the authorities turned up (“Sorry old boy, no hard feelings but I must be getting on”) but it was the thought that mattered. And so it was that I breathed a sigh of relief upon your appointment as Justice Secretary. At least someone on the Blue Team might be able to rein in the wilder excess of their peers.

But look Ken, look what’s happened! They’ve replaced you with a guy who looks like an angry baked bean and cast you into that weird netherworld populated by a shadowy people know as The Ministers Without Portfolios (or as I like to call them, Ministers For Staring Into The Middle Distance). Sure, they’ve made the obligatory noises about how you’ll be a roving “wise head” but let’s not kid ourselves, they’ve done a number on you and you know it.

And how do I know that you know it? Well, first off there’s the fact that you spent a lot of time sticking up for the process of tendering but couldn’t quite bring yourself to mount a steadfast defence of your colleagues. Then there was that little jibe about Tory “modernisers” that you managed to stop before it went too far, but it was there nevertheless. Finally, that little ambush that Dimbers set up at the end about your ‘responsibilities’?  You happily walked into that of your own free will. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it: They chucked you under a bus and no amount of talking very loudly will cover for the fact that it eats you up.

So what now, Ken? What is to be done? Well, common sense would suggest that you have two options available: A) Spend the next three years simply going through the motions as Minister For Staring Into The Middle Distance before resigning your seat in 2015 to accept the inevitable ticket to the Lords or B), tell ’em to get knotted and spend the next three years hurrumphing from backbenches before ascending to the upper house. Option B certainly sounds like it could be quite fun but I think I might have just stumbled on an Option C: Defect to the Lib Dems.

Think about it, Ken. You’re not a million miles away from them and given that you’d be the only person in the world actually seeking to join the Yellow Team, they’d give you anything you wanted. Sick of that yellow dove logo? Bang! It’s a purple basking shark. Unimpressed by The Land being the party’s de-facto anthem? Boom! It’s Mingus Ah Um! Not only that, but can you imagine the leaving do the Tory party would throw for you? I can and I’ve done my best to mock it up (see Fig. 1). Go on Ken, you know it makes sense.

ken clarke leaving do snake george osborne

Douglas Alexander should have employed The Reverse Pixies theory of politics…

Ah, Wee Dougie, nice to see you still wedged awkwardly between Steadily Dependable and Bordering on Dull. Unfortunately for you, tonight you ended up with the bulk of your body mass edging towards the Bordering on Dull side and that’s because you didn’t employ The Reverse Pixies method. Allow me to explain: The Pixies were always noted for structuring their songs in a certain way that is often referred to as Loud – Quiet – Loud. It’s dead simple really – you start your song off all guns blazing, crank down the ferocity to a whisper in the mid section and then finish it off with a hell-for-leather, balls-out assault. This formula works brilliantly for seminal early nineties alt-rock bands and also for some politicians (Farage sometimes pulls it off, although it’s usually Loud -Loud -Loud. Even when it is Loud – Quiet – Loud it’s because he hasn’t got a clue what he’s talking about in the middle bit). However, you are not that sort of politician but fear not because the Reverse Pixie (Quiet – Loud – Quiet) can be equally as potent.

I’ve seen you do it before on QT, lulling the crowd into a false sense of security with that measured, almost soothing tone of yours before shocking them back to reality with a sudden outburst in the middle of a spiel. Then, once the message has been delivered by means of verbal sledgehammer, you tuck them back in with some of that Scottish low-talking of yours. Unfortunately, you didn’t manage to pull off the Reverse Pixie tonight and what we actually got was Quiet – Quiet – Quiet, a method that only really appeals to fans of hellishly twee acoustic singer-songwriters and trust me Dougie, you don’t want their votes.

Just what exactly does Susan Kramer get up to when she’s not on Question Time?

Now this has been bothering me for a while: What exactly does Susan ‘Hair Like Cosmo Kramer From Seinfeld’ Kramer do? Well, a cursory glance at the internet suggests that she’s now a Baroness after losing her seat in 2010 (did you know that? I sure didn’t) but there it pretty much ends. No, the only thing that Susan Kramer actually does is appear on Question Time around once per year and this leads me to suspect the following: Baroness Kramer is the QT production team’s version of Blue Peter’s George the Tortoise (although with a slightly lopsided hibernation cycle). Once a year, they carefully remove a straw filled box that’s kept in the airing cupboard and gently coax her back to life with leaves of lettuce. Then, once the show is complete they gently lower her back into the container, check that the air holes are unobstructed and stow her away safely until another year dawns. It’s the only logical explanation.

Be that as it may, I must confess, this was a pretty good year for George Kramer, the Question Time Tortoise. Ok, so it wasn’t the toughest competition, what with Ken halfway checked-out and Dougie unable to crank the volume but fair to play to her, she did get the most claps. I also like the fact she really had it in for Willie Walsh, something that leads me to suspect that she spends most of her hibernation dreaming about being delayed at airports.

Talking of Willie Walsh…

Now here’s a guy I’m having trouble pinning down. On the upside, he’s more interesting than most of the business types they have in the dummy seat. Usually it’s all ‘blah blah CUT TAXES blah blah RED TAPE!’ but Willie Walsh seems to have a little more depth than that. However, that depth is offset by that weird, locked-down presentation where everything is delivered in such a controlled manner that you can’t help but wonder what’s really going on underneath. It’s not a deal breaker and his performance wasn’t bad but it does lend the whole thing an air of oddness that it probably could do without.

Now, while we’re on about business types being on the panel, I have a small suggestion to make. Can we please get Michael O’Leary of Ryanair fame on one day? Yes, I know he’s a bit of pillock and yes, he’ll try to turn the whole show into an hour-long Ryan Air commercial but seriously, it would be fun. That man is nothing if not value for money.

This whole Questionable Time on Indy Voices thing could come to a very abrupt end…

Huh… Well this is awkward… As long time readers of Questionable Time may know, I am not a fan of Janet Street-Porter’s QT outings, which is slightly tricky as she appears to be an Editor-at-Large for The Independent. Still, what’s the point in having barely constructed bridges if you can’t douse them in petrol and set them ablaze? Absolutely none, that’s what.

Alas, I have to confess that I actually wasn’t that wound up by JSP last night. Ok, so I’ve still got some sort of congenital vulnerability to her voice (it totally rustles my jimmies and makes me feel like I’m eating sand) but in her defence she didn’t blame absolutely everything on men and that sudden disclosure of the hairdresser incident really took me (and everyone else) aback. So yes, for once I’m going to go easy on JSP and you’ll just have to trust me when I say that The Independent is the best publication on earth… Sorry, I meant to say “that my neutrality has been in no way compromised by recent developments”.

Manchester still vexes me…

Once upon a time I was a student in Manchester and I can sum up my time there as thus: 50% ridiculous, world-class partying and 50% pure, abject terror. Now don’t get me wrong, the partying bit was great, but the terror? The terror I could have done without. So it is that I’m always slightly twitchy whenever I watch Manchester shows. It’s the vowel intonation (“stick yore head in a freezor, sound like yore from Manchestor”). It just sets me on edge.

Despite the above, I must confess that this was one of the more benign Manchester outings. Ok, so the show itself was mostly scrappy. The West Coast to-do was a bit of train wreck, the Miliband question failed to generate enough steam while the Savile thing only had one logical response (‘This thing is not a good thing’). However, the strong showing of support for not arming the police and the repudiation of the gallows were both rather heart warming and by-and-large, the crowd didn’t frighten  me.  Whilst we’re on the crowd, special mentions are mandatory for the guy whose glasses were so far down his nose that they flat-out confounded physics and also to the Classic Metalhead who made the rather good joke about Ed Miliband’s “Adrian Mole voice”. Should I ever be in Jilly’s Rock World, I will buy you a snakebite and black.

So not bad from a city that not only gave me a degree but also more Crime Reference Numbers than you can shake a stick at, superficial facial scarring and a compo cheque for £2200.

Tl;dr

Clarke: 5/10

Thwarted

Alexander: 5/10

(Should have) Resorted (to the Reverse Pixie Method)

Kramer: 6/10

Reported (that she didn’t like planes being late)

Walsh: 5/10

(Has) Transported (a great many people to far away locations on his aeroplanes)

Street-Porter: 5/10

Purported (to know a great many unsavoury things in the world of light entertainment)

The Crowd: 5/10

Assorted?

Alright, it’s insanely early in the morning, I’m starting to see things and with the benefit of hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have written this whilst listening to the new Godspeed You! Black Emperor album on repeat. That’s not to say it’s a not a great record – for it is – it’s just that at times it’s the sonic equivalent of staring at a strobe light after having dropped a metric ton of acid.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #26


Awww crap.....

Good morning Lemmings and just what, may I ask, is that fishy odour, wafting it’s way from the Blue Corner this evening? Why, it’s hyperactive Tory foghorn Baroness Warsi’s non-appearance! That’s right Lemmings, after making some rather lurid allegations of electoral fraud in the New Statesman, way after the deadline had passed when anything could be done about it, Warsi is nowhere to be seen on this episode. According to BBC Look North, my local news and official mouthpiece of Yorkshire Nationalism, Warsi was unable to attend tonight on account of being “sick”. Hmmmmm, not wanting to sound like cynic or anything, but that does sound rather convenient, given her proven track record of biting off more than she can chew on Question Time. But hey, what do I know?

Right, enough of this green inkery and off to Manchester with us before I start fashioning elaborate headwear out of tin foil.

The Menu

Q1: Is Labour now in the pocket of the unions since they backed Ed Miliband?

Q2: Is Ed Miliband the Labour equivalent of IDS?

Q3: Does David Miliband’s decision not to return to front bench politics undermine his brother’s leadership?

Q4: Does the IMF’s approval of Osborne’s plan mean that Ed Miliband has lost the economic argument?

Q5: Should the UK and France share their nuclear deterrent?

In The Yellow Bit Of The Blue Yellow Corner: Simon Hughes, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats and potential troublemaker of note.
“Ah ha!” thought I. “This will be fun! Another left leaning Lib Dem who’s going to do a crap job at hiding his disdain for all things coalition and thus paint himself into multiple corners!”. Given that Vince Cable looked like a man with toothache trying to eat a gravel sandwich as he wearily tried to pretend he was deeply enamoured with The New Politics last week, I was pretty much sure that Hughes would make a complete botch of this, particularly as he’s been appointed de facto Head Boy of the Lib Dem Awkward Squad. In fact, I positively needed him to bugger this up because he’s quite hard to poke fun at. Ok, so he’s a bit wooly and ‘Right On, yeah?’ in a very Lib Dem sort of way, but this is somewhat offset by the fact that he’s very sincere and genuinely seems to care about stuff that matter. All of this is very good news for politics, but incredibly bad news if you write a blog about Question Time that has to include a certain compulsory level of ‘funny’. Even photoshopping in some ridicule is pretty hard with him and the best I could do was to merely caption this shot of him punching a pensioner in the chest whilst smiling in a caddish fashion (see Fig. 1).

Pow!

Fig. 1

Ok, so I did airbrush out the pensioner’s hand that he happened to be holding at the time, but even so, he’s a hard man to mock. With this backdrop, the crux of my plan was to hope that Hughes would do the same thing that Cable did: Try to pretend he was a convert to the new orthodoxy whilst sounding completely unconvincing and thus come across like a devil sick of sin and provide me with a whole bunch of stuff to take the piss out of. Unfortunately for me, Hughes didn’t and in fact sounded like a proper, pre-election LibDem who barely noticed that his party was in government with the Tories. There were a few exceptions here and there, such as when he got all IMF happy in Q4 and rattled off numbers whilst invoking ‘interest payments’ (and throwing an odd little reference to when he couldn’t get cash out of an ATM), but never did the word ‘Greece’ pass his lips. In fact, the vast bulk of his answer sounded like he properly meant them, such as actually admitting that he quite liked the unions in Q1 and his fairly level-headed assessment of Ed Miliband’s problems in Q2 (“He’s not new. He’s part of the old government”. Fair play). Some of his more familiar “Diversity FTW!” posturings where on display in Q3 where he relished the opportunity to list all the un-PC things he was against, but it was in Q5 where he decisively hammered his Lib Dem colours to the mast. Rather than engage in the de rigueur coalition talk of ‘compromise’ and such, he went straight in for the kill, damning Trident for being dependent on American support and urging the country to lobby against it. After swimming in a sea of fudged boundaries and fuzzy borders since the coalition came about, this was like music to my ears: Politics I understand.

In pure performance terms, Hughes was neither here nor there on this episode. It was generally good, decent stuff but nothing that earth shattering and if the context was different, I’d probably chuck him some fairly average marks. However, it was impossible for me to watch Hughes without inevitably comparing him to Cable the week before and in this respect, it was a triumph. So well done Baldy, you’ve proved there still is such a thing as the Liberal Democrat party.

A welcome return of old certainties: 7/10
In The Red Corner: Dianne Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and eternal backbencher.
OK, I admit it, I’m all Abbotted out. Appearing twice in the space of seven shows was bad enough, but three times in the space of nine is just too much, especially after five solid months of exposure after the leadership contest. I realise that it would have been pretty hard for Labour to decide who to send on, given that they haven’t got a clue who’s in any given job right now, but come on, it would have at least been more entertaining if they’d sent David Miliband on, even if only to weep uncontrollably and tell people off for clapping throughout the show. So here we are today and the well is dry. My stockpile of funny is depleted and google images yields little of use. You’ve beaten me Dianne, beaten me to a bloody pulp by dint of your repeat QT offending. You win, I lose, let’s make this quick.

On the whole, it was textbook Abbott with plenty of New Labour condemning and Tory scolding frontal assaults, all wrapped in the maternity dress of casual informality. Her support for Ed Miliband sounded genuine throughout, her bouts of slapping Starkey went down well and it’s fair to say that the crowd were generally on board with her for most of her responses. All of which is pretty much exactly what happened when she was on two weeks ago (apart from the Ed Miliband bit. That would have been really stupid) and to be honest, I can’t quite muster the energy to go over the same old ground again.

So that’s it, Abbott. No offence to you, but I think we need to stop seeing each other for a while, hang out with other people, that sort of thing. In the meantime, I suggest that you get some photos of yourself pulling silly faces circulated around the web as there’s only so many times I can face-switch you with Marx.

A very familiar 6/10

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Grant Shapps, Minister of State for Housing and Local Government, QT Lamb to the Slaughter and JustWhoInTheHellExactly?
OK, so Warsi couldn’t attend, but seriously, who is this guy? Visually speaking, he seems like some genetic experiment that went horribly wrong as mad scientists tried to splice the DNA of Clegg, Cameron and Blair whilst tweaking his facially genes so that the only expression his face is capable of rendering is an intensely annoying smirk. OK, so maybe that’s a little a harsh and a trawl through his Wikipedia page does show that he might not be such as bad guy as he spent Christmas Eve 2008 sleeping rough in order to highlight the plight of homeless (something I have yet to see from any of his genetic donors) and he is the cousin of the sainted Mick Jones. But this is Question Time so past good deeds count for nothing while performance on the night counts for everything. So what of his performance? Well, the words ‘depth’, ‘his’ and ‘out of’ are the first ones that spring to mind and it has been quite some time since I’ve observed such a cruel hazing on the show. Observe, if you will.

Q1 started inauspiciously enough as he tried some preliminary skirmishing on the union front, but he quickly ended up in a sticky situation as he said that Ed Miliband would totally swing to the left. “What?” said Dimbers and Cox in commanding unison, knocking him right off-balance and he retreated in a babble of wibbled guff. Q2 contained little worth repeating while Q3 saw him squirming again as he proudly affirmed his Jewishness before getting into a right old tangle when Dimbers enquired whether he practices on not. Unsure as to what the best sounding answer would be, he flapped about before changing the subject and then excitedly claiming that he had “backed Ed Miliband’s campaign”. Whatever works for you, Grant. Coming into the finishing stretch, he made up for Simon Hughes’ unforgivable failure to mention Greece when the deficit issue arose and he lost little time in doing exactly that in Q4 before finally blathering something about the coalition agreement in Q5. In a word, ‘n00bish’.

Alright, so it was the guy’s first time on and he had been called in at short notice, so I do have some sympathy for his plight, but the enduring image I am left with of his performance is of Cox and Abbott shoving his head down a toilet and demanding him to surrender his dinner money. Grant, you need to wise up. Question Time is a rough school and unless you want to spend the rest of your days walking around with ‘Kick Me’ signs stuck to your back, I’d start seriously thinking about learning how to kick people in the knackers.

A decidedly Year 7 3/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Brian Cox, perenial movie bad guy and avowed Labour supporter.
My first reaction to seeing Brian Cox on tonight’s show was one of “Fuck! FUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!”. It’s not that I’ve got anything against the guy, it’s just that when I did the photoshops for this episode it was Wednesday evening and I was expecting Brian Cox, particle physics heart-throb and ex-keyboard player of D:Ream to be on instead. As a result, this week’s title picture looks somewhat bizarre as I didn’t have time to take that Brian Cox out and had to slap the other one in at very short notice. I can only work with what I’ve got, OK? Anyhoo, if I had known it was the actor Brian Cox, I wouldn’t have had any strong opinions either way as all I know about him is that he’s a bit of a thesp who tends to play Nasty Brits in Hollywood films. That though, was before I saw the magical chemistry between him and Starkey and by ‘magical chemistry’, I’m not talking about the ‘love at first sight’ kind. I’m talking about the ‘Uranium 235’ kind.

Take Q2, for example. After a fairly rabid outpouring from Starkey about Ed Miliband, Cox was right up in his grill, calling him “corrupt” and telling him that his “sense of theatre is ridiculous”. The crowd loved that and despite numerous counters from Starkey, he emerged the victor. He also gave him a clip round the ear hole in Q4, reminding him that it wasn’t “the 50’s any more” before having a final nuke related to-do on Q5. So that was all good fun, knockabout stuff, although it has to be said that both of them looked genuinely pissed off with each other. The rest of Cox’s input was pretty good as well, leaning heavily to the left, but done with enough gravitas to not sound overly zealous. I did get a little annoyed when he sounded a little too high and mighty on one poverty related line, but yeah, by and large, it was good stuff.

So well done Brian, good job there. Now to arrange a five way between him, Starkey, Farage, Douglas Murray and Vorderman. A man can dream.

A pleasingly anti-Starkey 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: David Starkey, flambouent Tudorphile and avowed Tory supporter.
Hooray! Starkey’s back! Part shrieking Grande Dame, part petulant teenager, Starkey is simultaneously one of the most irritating people on earth and one of the most entertaining, the balance of which depends heavily on the company he’s keeping at the time. Noted for disagreeing with anything that doesn’t smack of full-blown autocracy/return to the Days of Empire, Starkey really needs someone else on the show to be able to stand up to him, otherwise he just looks like a nutter shouting at the sky for being too fat or accusing the moon of stealing his newspaper. Luckily for all involved, Brian Cox filled this role amply well and made a whole stack of hay by calling bullshit on Queen Starkey’s (see Fig. 2) many and varied accusations, a few of which I have listed below.

quees

Queen Starkey

Fig. 2

The Miliband/Kinnock Axis of Evil will be the “kiss of death” for Labour. “I adore it” proclaims Queen Starkey.

Ed Miliband is guilty of “fratricide”, New Labour are like “Richard III murdering his nephews” and Brian Cox is “naive”.

The unions will inflict “profound strife” on us all and Miliband has already shown “astonishing personal brutality”.

Cuts should be “fast and ruthless” and he really doesn’t like Ed Balls (he even told off the audience for clapping him as he still had more bile to pour on him).

The French are self-centred, selfish bastards who shouldn’t be trusted.

So there we go. Another restrained show of reason and subtlety from the ever moderate Professor Starkey. And I wouldn’t have it any other way as although he may be completely off his tits, it is a deeply engrossing display of high camp, spat dummies and frothy outbursts. Neither was he without support and he did manage to coin in quite a bit of applause on Q4, much though this quietly worries me. I guess the bottom line is that you know where you are with Starkey. He comes in a tin that says “Caution: Product contains dangerous levels of absurdity” and providing you’re in the right company, that can be kind of fun.

A blathering, incoherent 7/10

The Crowd: Manchester

I was totally into this episode. Politically speaking it was no great shakes, but in terms of pantomime action, especially at the Cox/Starkey end of the spectrum, it was delightfully unhinged. The crowd also did well, mucking in and adding to a fairly raucous atmosphere where it was hard to pick out who was cheering for what. Furthermore, there were quite a few audience members who stood out, including a very young man in a waist coat and bow tie (which captivated me so much that I didn’t hear what he said), a fully decked out member of the clergy and a girl with the loudest voice in the world. However, Audience Member of Note goes to the poser of the first question, purely on account of his name: Roman Fox Hunter. Here it is again in bold. Roman Fox Hunter. That’s made my week.

A giddy 8/10

Right. All done. Good show. Just enough time to squeeze in a few turns of Civ 5? There’s always enough time to squeeze in a few turns of Civ 5. Laters, Lemmings.


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