Posts Tagged 'Medhi Hassan'

Questionable Time #63


questionable time 63 david dimbleby aliens colonial marine

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to a very hasty Questionable Time – hasty because I’ve got a plane to catch in a couple of hours and I’ll be damned if yammering on about dork stuff is going to derail my carefully laid plans to access the ‘Sun’. Apparently it’s this giant ball of burning hydrogen that appears in the sky and bathes those below with life-giving rays. I’m personally sceptical but you know… In for a penny, in for a pound. Anyway, I’m yammering and we haven’t even got on to the dork stuff yet so let’s get this road on the show.

Once a Labour Home Sec, always a Labour Home Sec…

Remember Patricia Hewitt? She was that very headmistressy Labour Health Secretary who had a rare talent for winding up health professionals and putting front line noses out of joint, something I can attest to because I worked for the NHS during the back-end of her tenure and found my nose to be as out of kilter as everyone else’s. Hewitt’s problem (other than having to aggressively push through some rather unpopular changes) was that she wasn’t good with people and often came across as cold, jagged and brittle – not really the sort of look you’re after when you’re the head of Britain’s caring professions – and when the news came down that she would be replaced by Alan Johnson you could hear a sigh of relief ripple across the nation’s health centres: Finally we were getting someone who actually seemed vaguely human.

And very human he was. Sure, the policies didn’t change much but we could put up with them because the person asking us to get our knickers in a twist about ‘patient choice’ (which was essentially code for ‘creeping privatisation’) had a warmth and normality to him that never made it seem like he was talking down to us. Fast forward a couple of years and Johnson’s getting promoted to Home Secretary. ‘Hmmmm’ I thought. ‘Maybe, just maybe this is the guy who can get the Home Office to chill out and stop acting like a bunch of heavy-handed paranoid yahoos’. Wrong. WRONG!

No, as we saw last night, Johnson was just as susceptible as any other to that strange disease that’s afflicted every Labour Home Secretary since 2001 and in even worse news, it appears that the affliction never entirely leaves its host – it just lies dormant until someone says the word ‘terrorism’. So it was that we opened last night’s show with Johnson displaying all the symptoms of Homesecretitis – a fever for surveillance, cold sweats of intercept evidence, a clammy sheen of national security clinging to his brow – and it wasn’t until mid-show that the spasms finally passed and he finally reverted back to his normal state of being a generally decent, reasonable bloke (decent and reasonable enough to fight Anna Soubry’s corner on the matter of Friday Deaths in hospitals). But still, it was rather jarring because I really do rather admire Johnson and to watch him suddenly become engulfed in this whole Tough Guy/If You Knew What I Knew act is a little heartbreaking. It also looks very odd when those sentiments come from the lips of a man who displays more than a passing resemblance to David Bowie (see Fig. 1)

alan johnson david bowie

Fig. 1

Soubry’s gradually growing me…

…Mainly because there’s something endearingly amateurish about her. Now, by that I’m not saying that she is an amateur as she appears to have a proper job and everything but it’s the way she’s got a very visible feedback loop. For example, when she sticks her foot in it (which is quite often) she can’t disguise that ‘Oh crikey, I’ve really buggered this up!’ look that flashes across her face and I quite like that as it makes her appear relatively normal. As it happens, she managed not to stick her foot in anything last night but the feedback loop was still very visible: It said ‘Golly gosh gal, you’re really doing rather well at this!’ and again, it made her look like an actual person as opposed to a locked down hack who’s playing it by the numbers. So, while I am a little disappointed that she didn’t let her jauntiness run away with itself and get her into all sorts of trouble, I’ll let her off on the grounds of human authenticity. Next time though I’d like to hear at least one ill-considered and inflammatory statement pass her lips… You know, just to keep her grounded.

I’m not sure if I can cope with a sensible Kipper…

Alright, what’s going on here then? A Kipper who spends 80% of the show not being totally harebrained and only gets marginally wound up about the EU in the remaining 20%? Something’s wrong. The plan has gone awry. Farage promised me clowns but has instead sent a vaguely competent individual who is largely in control of their faculties. I want my money back.

Medhi’s back on form…

I had a pop as Hasan last time for being grumpy (to which he kindly responded by declaring Questionable Time to be “mildly amusing if lengthy”… Fair play Medhi, fair play) but he gets a free pass this week because the terrorism question re-kindled all that passion that made him such a good read back when we were up to our necks in the stuff. It wasn’t just me either: The crowd were very taken with him and that made for a virtuous circle where they geed each other up and gave Johnson/Soubry a right good rollicking. So well done Medhi and if you wish to subsequently describe Questionable Time as “blisteringly funny and of entirely appropriate length”, that would be just fine with me.

And Fellowes?

Not a lot to say except that he harvested all the low hanging fruit and his sentences always sound like they’re teetering drunkenly at the top of a staircase, just waiting to topple over. It’s because he taaaaalks like thiiiiiiiiis.

Tl;dr (And no rhymes because I’m the bloody departure lounge)

Johnson: 5/10

Soubry: 6/10

James: 5/10

Hasan: 8/10

Fellowes: 6/10

The Crowd: 7/10

Hmmmmm, not a bad episode all told. Right, I’ve got to skiddadle for the boarding gate so sorry if it’s been a little slap-dash but normal service will resume in a week’s time.

Additional Note of Minor Import:

It recently occurred to me that I’ve been generating an awful lot of non-QT graphics type stuff and that it hasn’t had a proper home. Rather than watching it traipse forlornly around Twitter and Facebook I’ve finally got round to setting up another site in order to provide it with a modicum of dignity. If you’d like to check it out, you can find it here. On top of that, should you wish to buy the rather fetching Nick Cotton themed greetings card I knocked up, you can do so here.

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Questionable Time #12


questionable time 12 david dimbley wedgewood

Good morning Lemmings and let us start by asking ourselves a simple question: Just who in the hell are these people? Ok, so we know Medhi Hassan as he’s a Question Time

requent Flyer and Tristram Hunt has also been on once before but the rest of them? Your guess is as good as mine.

In the case of Simon Wolfson this point is particularly pertinent as according to what little I can glean from the internet he is a man who goes out of his way to lurk in the shadows. What we do know is thus:

  1. He’s the CEO of Next.
  2. He has a lot of love for the Conservative party and is rather partial to chucking money in their direction.
  3. He’s mad keen on austerity.

Other than that the guy appears to be a complete mystery and despite being exposed to him for a full hour last night I have very little to add to the list. Ok, so we can throw in the fact that he really isn’t a fan of Europe (which isn’t exactly a revelation given his background) and that despite his love of cuts he isn’t adverse to the government spending piles of cash on the Olympic opening ceremony (again, not quite the surprise of the century as he happens to be sponsoring said ceremony), but apart from that we are left none-the-wiser. And this, dear Lemmings, is why I can’t help but find him a little sinister: His bearing, his squared-away posture and the innate confidence in his voice all speak of a man who is very much used to getting his own way yet doesn’t have to abide by the constraints that seem to apply to most other mortals. In many respects he reminds of the Koch brothers in America – a pair of walking question marks who you just know call more shots than they should – and that isn’t really much of compliment. People like that give me the jibblies and that’s exactly what Simon Wolfson left me with last night. Jibblies everywhere. Still, should he ever need any new marketing ideas for Next, I have a few of my own (see. Fig. 1).

david dimbleby next

Fig. 1

So Wolfson appeared to be the main event on the Blue side of the line but he was not without backup as Tory backbencher Claire Perry also turned up for the ride. Now, I’m having a fair amount of trouble pinning this QT n00b down as she has a slightly confusing approach when it comes to televised debate. This usually starts with a cheery example of how normal she is (“I’ve been on a train!”, “I have daughters!”, “”I eat food!”) but then descends into an argument with herself as she tries to balance the pro’s and con’s of various arguments in real-time. Technically, I should be commending this tendency as an outward manifestation of a rational mind but in actual fact I found it all to be a little confusing and I had trouble trying to divine exactly what it is she believes in. Do you like Europe? No, but then again I’m not going to urge Cameron to do anything specific about it. What about benefits? Well, it’s all Something for Nothing innit, but JSA is too low. And the Olympics? Too much money but it’s good for the economy. If we factor in her eagerness to jump into arguments foot first (as she was constantly doing with Hunt and Hassan) we’re left with quite an odd melange that left me all a little ‘¿Qué?’… And that’s before we even get to the bizarreness of her calling for the government to blag the Olympics on the cheap in an Apprentice stylee.

Still, none of this proved to be a major tactical disadvantage as the Red Team’s Tristram Hunt also suffered from a rather vexing handicap although one of a very different nature. Part of this is down to the fact that he just appears slightly incongruous: You can tell he really wants to be a Man of the People (as is usually required from an MP for Stoke) but can never quite get away from the fact that he’s the son of a Lord who went to a fancy school. On top of that, his background as a historian doesn’t stand him in the best stead for fast-moving debates as he seems to need a lot of time and space to develop his arguments. Sure, it would be lovely if he could nurture those little historical anecdotes into a fully fledged broadside against his foes but things move quite rapidly on Question Time and never did he really get in a position where he held the initiative. Instead it was a juddery performance where he never looked entirely comfortable and often seemed in danger of losing his balance.

Luckily for him though Medhi Hassan was more than up to the task of doing the heavy left-wing lifting and had no such trouble in throwing his rhetorical weight about, even if it was at times done in a rather breathless manner. I’m not going to go on too much about him as he’s had plenty written about him in previous Questionable Times but let’s just say I’m glad he was on as the show would have otherwise been nothing more than a right-wing circlejerk.

Speaking of right-wing, here comes Constance Briscoe and boy was I not expecting her. The thing that rattled my cage with Briscoe was the huge gulf between tone and content that was apparent from start to finish. You see the thing is that she has a lovely way of speaking. It’s a gentle, measured timbre that’s actually quite soothing to the ear but when you start to pick apart what she’s saying you find nothing but absolutes (and some fairly right-wing absolutes at that). For example, she was scathing when it came to the benefits culture in the UK and clearly has little time for those on the dole yet she delivered this tirade and in the gentle tones of a kindly aunt. Ok, fair play to her, she was pretty funny when she took a sideways sweep at Dimbers for being a man but on the whole I found her to be just plain scary.

And that was the thing with this episode: It was an utterly polarised affair, what with the LibDems being entirely absent (probably quite fortuitously given the prominence of Europe on the agenda) and the two Westminster candidates painting themselves into semantic corners. That left the field wide open for a straight forward Right vs. Left clashing of horns from the remaining panelists, all of whom seemed more than cut out for the task. However, there is still something missing from this mix and that’s the audience.

Now, these guys were probably the most interesting thing about the show and that’s because they appeared to be in the market for only one thing: Jobs. Sure, they made it abundantly clear that they are no fans of Europe, nor for that matter do they hold a candle for either Cameron or Miliband but one thing they were certain about was that Stoke is getting shafted. Again. I have sympathy with them on this because Stoke, (much like Middlesbrough) is a town that de-industrialisation has wrecked absolute havoc on and in the wider scheme of things it serves as a depressing warning for what may be in store for the rest of the country if the economy continues on its current trajectory. That the crowd seemed disinterested (at times contemptuous) of the Westminster panelists is not surprising and the overall impression I got was of a town that feels forgotten, neglected and slighted. Did that make for a fun show? Not really. It was too scrappy and visceral to contain any real moments of joy but it certainly was instructive: We could all be living a Stoke-esque existence in the not too distant future and from the evidence on display, it’s not exactly a barrel of laughs.

Tl;dr

Wolfson: 5/10

Stood on high

Perry: 5/10

Was by-the-by

Hunt: 5/10

Did well not to cry

Hassan: 7/10

Is not shy

Briscoe: 5/10

My oh my

The Crowd: 5/10

Like…. pie?

So there you go, the West Midlands have spoken and they are not happy bunnies. Mind you, I can’t really blame them… I think I’d get a bit down in the mouth if my town’s only claims to fame were plates, Bruno Brookes and Slash.

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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