Posts Tagged 'Mark Harper'

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 #74


questionable time 74 david dimbleby passed out

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to Energy Prices Time, a live debate show where members of the audience spend at least half an hour getting animated about oldsters swapping heating for eating while the Blue Team keep repeating the word ‘tariff’, the Red Team keep repeating the word ‘freeze’ and the Yellow Team don’t bother to show up (what happened to Charles Kennedy this week? Must have ‘missed his plane’ again). This brave new broadcasting venture started three weeks ago with a rather promising pilot but has subsequently gone to seed and left me yearning for the good all days of Euro Crisis Time – a similar show that ran for at least two years before finally being put out of its misery by Phone Hacking Time. Those were the days…

 

I’ve been Reverse Afriyied!

So last week I ended up in a bit of a bind by a) not doing my homework on QT virgin Adam Afriyie, b) jumping to conclusions based on a Wikipedia article/Google Image search and c) having all those conclusions rubbished by a rather good QT performance. Clearly there’s a lesson in all of this and had you been dealing with a diligent blogger you may have expected me to learn it. But you’re not dealing with a diligent blogger – you’re dealing with a slipshod Internet Goon who takes a perverse delight in never, ever learning anything the first (or second… or third) time around. As a consequence I’ve done exactly the same thing to QT virgin Mark Harper although this time the results were somewhat different. Observe the process.

 

Step 1- Homework: A brief glance at his Wikipedia article...

Ok, so what have we got here… Comprehensive kid turned Oxbridge grad, grown-up job upon leaving… Blah blah blah… On the Tory front bench since 2005 – wait, 8 years? Where’s he been hiding all this time? Whatevs – blah, blah, blah – hates Europe, loves Israel – blah blah blah – oh hang on, what’s this? Ended up in hot water for some borderline insinuations about disabled benefit claimants? Central protagonist on the wrong side of the ill-fated forest sell off? And the brains behind the So Tory That Parody Has Turned In On Itself ‘Go Home’ vans? This could be interesting…

 

Step 2 – A Google Image search for ‘Mark Harper MP’…

Alright, so in goes his name… *Click* – WOAH! CHECK OUT THAT SMILE! It’s… It’s… Well I’m not quite sure whether it’s ‘winning’ or ‘shit eating’ but it’s certainly ‘something’. This changes everything.

 

Step 3 – Make rash assumption based on adding Step 1 to Step 2…

This guy must be a live wire, a maverick – maybe even a bounder! I mean c’mon, the combination of way-too-close-to-the-bone-remarks/policy initiatives and that Something Smile (see Fig. 1)? He’s going to be a riot!

 

mark harper go home teeth

Fig. 1

The result: Being wrong. Again.

There was no live-wirery, negative mavericknessnous, inverse bounding and a complete absence of the Something Smile. Instead we got a Should Work On Paper performance where he tried to do all the right things (e.g. someone says ‘you’re not doing enough’ and you then list all the things you’re doing) while neglecting the fact that we don’t really care about what you’re going to do – that’s what the news is for. No, this is QT and QT cares not for matters of the head. It does however care very much for matters of the gut – you know, the knot in the stomach, the smell of fear, the twitching of the eyes – and that’s the bit that Harper completely bypassed by doggy paddling his way through the show, trying very hard not to get into trouble. Did he make it to shore alive? Mostly. Do I feel like I have a better sense of who Mark Harper really is? Not in the slightest.

 

He’s a Doctor don’t you know?

Every time I’ve seen Tristram Hunt on QT I’ve always been left with the sense of a man who’s deeply uncomfortable at after work drinks. Everyone else – all half cut by half six – are living it up but Tristram can’t settle: The music’s too loud, Wetherpsoon’s always sets him on edge and while he’s fond of his co-workers they simply don’t know enough about 19th century social history to make him feel at ease – that, and he’s fretting about whether or not he set The Culture Show to record. The result of this has always been a slightly jerky, overly self-aware QT style which always makes him seem a little off kilter. However it now appears that if you make this man Shadow Education Secretary and then ask him questions about education you get a very different outcome: Suddenly he becomes fluid, assured and – dare I say it – impassioned – all of which is a marked improvement over the usual spectacle of him queezily nursing a pint of Fosters and explaining to his colleagues that he doesn’t watch football. True, we may have to leave aside the fact that he sounded scarily like Michael Gove when it came to content but apart from that it was nice to see him look so comfortable. So go on Tristram, The Macarena’s on and the last bus has already gone… Don’t fight it, feel it…

 

Someone in UKIP is wasting their time…

I bring this up because there was a little giveaway at the beginning of her first two responses: She started both answers with a very stilted ‘Thank you [audience member name] for bringing this up’ as if she’d been told to do so. Now, why UKIP are bothering giving her press training I don’t know because she’s a) pretty capable of handling herself and b) is probably the only member of the party you can put in front of a camera and have a better than evens shot of it not being a complete train wreck. Anyway, she dropped the PR act about midway through and did a half-decent job of appearing to be a functioning human being. Not bad given the company she keeps.

 

Stated Intentions vs Actual Outcome:

 

Bonnie ‘Germaine’ Greer:

Stated Intention – “I don’t have a strong, long, comprehensive answer”

Actual Outcome – Didn’t have a strong, long comprehensive answer.

 

Peter ‘Grumpy Pants’ Oborne

 

Stated Intention – ‘All these guys will lie to you and talk codswallop for the next hour’

Actual Outcome – Aggressively nuzzled Tristram Hunt with tender

affection for the duration.

 

I guess one out of two ain’t bad…

 

Tl;dr

 

Harper: 4/10

Flighty

 

Hunt: 6/10

Brighty

 

James: 5/10

Blighty

 

Greer: 5/10

Fighty

 

Oborne: 6/10

Alrighty

 

The Crowd: 5/10

Good nighty

 

Well, that’s that then… Oh wait, I almost forgot about announcing the winner of this year’s Most Applause For A Meaningless Platitude competition. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you the bloke who said “I feel for the kids” and was rewarded with a torrent of approval. Well done sir, you must be very proud. Right, that’s me done but if you’re suffering from a bad case of idle thumbs then please feel free to check out what happened when I cut Paul Dacre’s brain in half.

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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