Posts Tagged 'Mehdi Hasan'

Questionable Time #120


qt 120
Good morrow lemmings and…you know what, I’m not even going to try this time. We know what’s coming. We know the drill. We know what’s been squawked and squealed about on Twitter, Facebook, Buzzfeed, all the dank fetid corners of the internet. It is merely my job to further poke the weeping scab of depravity until it oozes more putrid, pestilent pus and gets the nice rug all dirty. That’s right…it must be a David Starkey edition of Question Time.

Ahmed, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes

The first question is on free speech, and thus everyone gears up to do some free-speechifyin’. Mehdi Hasan begins by solemnly pointing out the true meaning of Islam and seamlessly leads in to a string of fart jokes. Incredible. There should be more discussions about farting on Question Time, instead of the verbal farts that are usually uncontrollably spilled from panellists’ mouths.

Unfortunately David Starkey then jumps in, and Dimbles has to intervene to prevent a punch-up from starting. Alright then, what does Starkey apparently have an urgent need to say? Let’s at least give him a chance, shall we? Okay, I’m not a big fan of using the term ‘primitive’, but then he seems to have calmed down…talks about how feeling strongly about something doesn’t necessarily protect you from criticism…okay David, nothing’s gone tits-up so f- OH HE’S JUST BLOWN IT! You can literally feel the ‘I’m sorry, WHAT did he say?’ ripple through the studio as he refers to Mehdi by the name…Ahmed. Because, like, all brown people are named Ahmed. Ahmed A. Ahmed of Ahmedson, Ahmedland. Listening in, Anna Soubry vibrates her muzzle back and forth like a soggy basset hound.

Yes, that perennial Questionable Time favourite, Chortles – aka the Conservative Anna Soubry MP – so named for her jolly hockey sticks manner (she was gurning before the questions even began!) has jumped into the fray. She barely gets five words in before David Starkey interrupts her again. “Isn’t that free speech? Allowing somebody else to have a point of view?” she quibbles, but Starkey is undeterred. He’s on a roll now, and will interrupt as many women as possible throughout his reign of terror. #jesuisahmed, goes the joke that by now everyone else has already made.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Douglas ‘interesting’ Alexander hasn’t talked yet, thankfully, because he always puts me straight to slZzZzZz. He too disses Starkey in the most monotone mumble he can muster. Meanwhile, Baroness Sal Brinton (who I’ve never heard of up to this point), wearing a cool Liberal Democrat phoenix glittery brooch, recites that Voltaire quote which approximately one million people on the internet who know absolutely nothing else about Voltaire have already slapped across a Twitter status. What a groundbreaking discussion. Let’s move on.

Snoopers’ poopers

Here we have the obligatory Lib Dem civil liberties blubbering, because this is an important issue to them! You know, despite the whole support for the Lobbying Act and secret courts thing. There’s a warning against the tracking of web browsing history, which I can sympathise with as you probably don’t want to look at mine. A million sweaty nerds would probably turn out in protest against this prospective law, if they can manage to tear themselves away from their tentacle hentai.

Chortles isn’t chortling any more. One is sadly reminded that she’s a Tory after all, despite her ‘having time’ for the Lib Dem coffee-making drones in the government. Douglas says that this is an issue that is “far, far too serious” to be discussed on Question Time. Oh, sorry, he means bickered over in the coalition. But the first one is clearly what he really means.

Mehdi points out that our much-lauded right to ‘freedom of expression’ is actually being kicked in the bum. How does the state accessing ‘your most private emails’ help anyway, says he? Ooh, ‘most private emails’…tell me more, Mehdi. At the same time, Starkey says that “essential human goodness” is bull. Mehdi points out that is true due to the mere existence of David Starkey. This is turning into ‘laugh at Starkey’ show and it’s brilliant. If one can ignore the racism, sexism and general arseholery going on, then the entire experience becomes hilariously ridiculous. Hasan and Starkey sniping at each other will never cease to amuse. At least it won’t to me, but I am easily amused.

The next question is on the claim a judge made that a 16-year-old girl ‘groomed’ a 44-year-old man into having an affair with her. This is obviously a serious subject, and rightly most of the panellists condemn the judge’s remarks. Indeed, as pointed out, Anna and Douglas even used to be lawyers, so they do have experience of this kind of thing, maybe we should listen to th- NOPE DAVID STARKEY WANTS TO PLAY. He is as offensive as you can imagine. Can I use my freedom of speech to tell him to shut up and stop claiming that the girl seduced a pathetic dude who should have known better?

It’s about the abuse of power, Anna Soubry explains, as if to a particularly dense child.
“SHUT UP”, yells Starkey (really!). Soubry looks genuinely shocked that anyone could be such a bellend. As he blathers on about ‘sexually mature’ 13-year-olds, Soubry groans and moans in possibly physical pain. “Oh no…” she mumbles, “ohhhh noooo.”

Same here, Chortles. Same here.

Daffy deficit

Finally, next up is…the deficit. A dull and generic discussion compared to the exciting scenes that came before. Douglas is predictably soporific. “Thirteen years!” says Anna. I’m so bored of these endless back-and-forths that I can’t wait for the slightly different generic arguments that will come about after the election, whatever the result may be. Just think of the new, exciting buzzwords and catchphrases! Endless possibilities!

“We’ve got to start choosing,” says Starkey. I choose a world without David Starkey. Will that save us money?

We end with Chortles calling Mehdi a naughty boy, which I must confess I was slightly freaked out by.

Time for the scores!

Soubry: 7/10

(Will probably get a) Promotion

Alexander: 4/10

(Showed no) Emotion

Brinton: 5/10

(Going through the) Motions

Hasan: 7/10

(My) potions (are too strong for you, traveller)

Starkey: 3/10, 10/10 for sheer hilarity

Caused a (commotion)

The Crowd: 6/10

(Do the) Locomotion

Next time, Paul ‘get some nuts’ Nuttall. Who’s been hankering after ol’ Nige’s job, apparently. Bow down to your future king.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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Questionable Time #72


questionable time 72 david dimbleby kiss make up

Good morning Lemmings and let’s not tarry too long on this first paragraph because we have much to get through. Much, much, muchness. Right, let’s go…

Let’s twist again. And again. And again. And again…

Imagine you’re playing pontoon: You peek at your first two cards (in this case a pretty borderline article on the assumed sentiments of a politician’s dead father) and find that you’re in a bit of a bind as their combined scores tally up to 15. Dammit! “Oh well,” you say to yourself, “might as well go for it. Twist!”. The dealer peels another card off the deck in the form of a supremely ill-judged headline and throws it on the table for all to see. It’s a Jack and you’re bust – time to pony up and hope that your next hand’s not quite as dire… At least that’s what you’d do if you had even the slightest concept of sportsmanship/rules/general standards of human behaviour.

But you don’t play by the rules. You’re a maverick, a loose cannon who’s standing up for what you believe in and right now you believe that a five-card trick will magically negate the fact that you’ve cocked this hand right up to the point where you’re out of the game. The banker reaches forward to collect his winnings but you’re having none of it: “Twist!” you scream as the other players exchange bemused looks and an uncomfortable silence envelopes the table. A friend of yours, an ex-editor of The Daily Telegraph, leans in towards you in an effort to set you straight:

Now come along Daily Mail I think you’ve had enough to -”

I SAID TWIST!”

Not knowing what to do the banker produces another card – a Queen this time. Your current score is 36 and bemusement is turning to concern. But you’re not done, not by a long shot.

AGAIN!”

The banker lays out a King. 46 and counting.

AGAIN!”

Another King and by this point even your brother, the Mail on Sunday is looking worried.

AGAIN! TWIST!”

You get the picture.

So that was a very long way of explaining the circumstances that bought Quentin Letts into the QT studio but how did he do on a personal level? Not good. Not good at all. In fairness to him he didn’t quite end up being the screaming lunatic of the above passage – the difference being that rather than shouting everyone down he just woozily dragged them around the houses whilst calling for yet more cards – but the fact that he still insisted on playing the game just gave his performance this very surreal air. And the result? Mockery – and not just an odd titter from certain sections of the crowd but full-blown, out-and-out derision like the part where he foolishly asked the crowd if the Mail was “completely out of order?”. “Yes!” came the near-unanimous response. Still, at least he can take comfort in the fact that he had at least one ally in the audience – a Kipper with a fairly tenuous grasp of exactly how the political spectrum works.

TWIST!

Mehdi Hasan: My new favourite person in the whole world.

You will not be hearing my traditional pleas for Mehdi Hasan to lighten up today. Instead I’m going to let the man speak for himself by quoting what I consider to be probably the best QT set piece I have ever seen – a beautiful chunk of rhetoric that served as wish fulfillment for a sizable chunk of the population. Behold:

…when you talk about who hates Britain or who has an evil legacy, who do you think has an evil legacy? The man who sucked up to the Nazi’s, who made friends with Joseph Goebbels and praised Hitler in the run up to World War Two – the owner and founder of the Daily Mail Lord Rothermere – or the man who served in the Royal Navy, risked his life for his adopted homeland – Ralph Miliband? Who do you think hated Britain more? And this isn’t just about Ralph Miliband actually because it’s opened up a whole debate about the Daily Mail. You want to talk about who hates Britain… [minor chuntering from Letts]… This is a paper that in recent years said there was nothing natural about the death of the gay pop star Stephen Gately, who said that the French people should vote for Marine Le Pen and the National Front, who attacked Danny Boyle for having a mixed raced couple in the Olympic Ceremony, who called Mo Farah a ‘plastic Brit’. So let’s have the debate about who hates Britain more because it isn’t a dead Jewish refugee from Belgium who served in the Royal Navy, it’s the immigrant-bashing, woman-hating, muslim-smearing, NHS-undermining, gay-baiting Daily Mail.”

Be still my beating heart.

And the – oh who cares…

So there were some party political types on last night but let’s not pretend that they weren’t completely overshadowed by the slow motion train wreck that was Mailgate. Anyway, a few choice points:

  1. I’ve finally figured out who Grant Shapps (see Fig. 1) reminds me of: He’s that kid at school – and every school has one – who thrives on goading others into wayward acts before legging it when the consequences of those acts become apparent (that’s if he hasn’t dobbed them in already). He also has a tin ear for nuance. Remember when that woman in the audience made a very eloquent point about how she’s fed up with all the ‘Hard Working People’ schtick? Well what better way to follow that up than by starting your next sentence with the phrase ‘Hard Working People’.
  2. I’ve now concluded that Yvette Cooper is the Bic Biro of politics: Dependable, functional, readily available (I don’t mean it like that…) and something you never really think about until you need one. True, she’s no Staedlter ball point (in my opinion the Rambo of Biro’s) but she’s dependable in a humdrum sort of way and there’s much to be said for that. However I can’t let her get away with quite how searingly dull she was last night. Yeah, yeah, yeah we know about the “lost three years” but can’t we just get back to the far more entertaining pursuit of Mail-baiting?
  3. Poor old Kirsty Williams looks like she could be a dab hand at this QT game if she could just get more than 20 seconds of camera time and not be quite so obsessed with the pupil premium. Better luck next time Kirsty.
eau de grant shapps

Fig. 1

Tl;dr

Shapps: 5/10

(As slippery and slap-) Dash (as ever)

Cooper: 4/10

(Gave it a mediocre) Bash

Williams: 6/10

(Made a decent) Hash (of it)

Letts: 2/10

(Sounded like he’d been on the) Lash

Hasan: 9/10

Smash(ed that ball right out of the park)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Displayed a high percentage of mous)Tache (owners)?

Well, what can I say? Two great episodes in as many weeks… Are we heading into some sort of QT Golden Age? I sincerely hope so. Anyway, that’s enough from me and should you still happen to be at a loose end you can check what happened when I cut Boris Johnson’s brain in two earlier this week.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #39


questionable time 38 david dimbleby the office david brent

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to Sluff, famous for Mars Bars, tragicomic depictions of the UK workplace and for a bloody great fictional crematorium that featured in Brave New World. In fact,I find it rather apt that Slough turned up in Huxley’s novel as it’s always given me the sense of a place where the utopian and dystopian rub uncomfortably against each other. On the utopian side of the coin it can proudly boast of having the most ethnically diverse population outside of London and although not a New Town per se, it certainly has echoes of that period in British history where we thought we had the future licked. As it happens, we didn’t and the future turned out to be a much more drab and roundabouty affair than we initially anticipated, an unhappy occurrence that leads us to the more dystopian flip side of Slough: Aberrantly high crime rates, ‘The Slough Stench’ and that unshakable feeling that everything is – well – slightly crap.

Still, it’s not my job to bum out the people of Slough, not that there seems to be a shortage of people willing to do just that. No, my job is to see how the people of Slough react to a damn good Question Timing and so without further ado let us bravely put our collective heads into the maw of the beast.

Am I still on the Vince Train? I honestly don’t know anymore…

Back in 2008 when the whole world looked to be collapsing around our ears, one man stood forth and boldly donned the mantle of The Voice of Reason. That man was Vince Cable and in 2008 the one place I and many others wanted to be was in the first class carriage of the Vince Train, a doughty locomotive of yellow livery powered by pure Keynsianism. At first the ride was great fun, speeding along while the Hayek Express was forced into the sidings and I felt vindicated in having purchased my first class ticket at the station rather than experiencing the potential ignominy of having to upgrade on board. This train, I thought, was going places… Next stop, Government Central!

That, however, was where the problems started and if you ask me, Government Central has a lot in common with Birmingham New Street in that it’s a cold, dark, subterranean place that’s awfully hard to find your way out of. The effect it had on the Vince Train was no less baleful and there soon developed an ominous sounding creak from the axles while the Tanoy spoke of inevitable delays, usually attributed to signal trouble in the vicinity of Wilmslow. Looking back, I probably think that I should have got off at the next stop when I had the chance but I didn’t. Why not? Because for all the disappointments and that entire year where Cable carried a pained expression on his face like someone had just jellied his stapler, he had this look that made me stay on board. And it was just a look. A glint in the eye, a tap on the side of his nose that said ‘Just you wait. The chips may be down, but let me assure you that I’ve still got a couple of tricks up my sleeve’. Well, it’s now four years down the line and I must confess that I’m leaning so far out of the window of the Vince Train that there’s a good chance the next tunnel will take my head clean off. Could his performance last night coax me back safely into the carriage? To put it bluntly, no.

Here’s the thing: I actually quite liked the content of what Cable was saying last night. He played it very cautiously on the GDP figures, made it very clear that he wasn’t going to lend a hand to some of the Blue Teams pottier ideas (like IDS’s new stance on breeding) and was generally pretty reasonable about the Savile scandal. Instead, the problem for me was that he looked absolutely knackered, spent to the point that he simply couldn’t bring himself to flash me that look. Well, dammit Vince, I need that took! So what if you never back it up by actually pulling a rabbit out of the hat, at least the look seriously implies that you might be thinking about it. Last night, that look was nowhere to be seen. Should this situation persist, consider me off at the next stop.

There’s a wonderful mismatched buddy movie just waiting to be made starring Emily Thornberry and Claire Perry…

I think it’s fair to say that Emily Thornberry and Claire Perry aren’t exactly bessies, what with all the blow trading and eye-daggers we witnessed last night. For Perry’s part, I suspect that Thornberry’s rather measured and deliberate responses jangle her How Dare You Patronise Me nerve whilst Perry’s very assertive presentation scratches some very long fingernails across Thornberry’s Why You Jumped Up Little blackboard. Anyway, Perry generally had the better of it and emerged the less bruised of the pair but there was a brief and telling moment that stopped me dead in my tracks. During the Jimmy Savile question Thornberry said, very sincerely in fact, that she agreed with Perry and Perry responded with a genuinely heartfelt sounding “Thank you”. Well that was it Lemmings, after that my mind was set adrift on what could be the UK legislature’s answer to Point Break: Claire Perry as Keanu’s fresh-out-the-academy hotshot, Emily Thornberry as Busey’s seen-it-all-before jaded veteran, a pair who will never see eye-to-eye but find themselves thrown together by fate and the quest for justice. The only unresolved matter is who would take the part of Swayze’s ‘you can’t cage me bro!’ adrenaline junkie. Jacob “I’ve never sworn in my adult life” Rees-Mogg could be quite fun but I’m open to suggestions.

Paul Nuttall actually makes UKIP a little scary…

I’ve got all the time in the world for UKIP in the same way I’ve got all the time in the world for Made In Chelsea: If taken in isolation, they’re both a toxic mess of things I’m no great fan of but this is balanced out by their inherent absurdity, a factor that renders them ultimately harmless yet mildly entertaining. Well, this was the case until Paul Nuttall somehow managed to become the only other UKIP member allowed off the compound unsupervised… Now I’m just plain scared. You see, I can happily dismiss UKIP as a slightly dotty group of people with too much time on their hands when they’re fronted by the likes of Farage, but Nuttall? No, he has an edge and a hard one at that, what with all the talk of punishing people in death and “lunatics” having the vote. What’s worse is that he comes across as a guy who might actually hang out with some vaguely ordinary people. It’s at this point that UKIP stop resembling a harebrained cult that recruits exclusively at village fêtes and starts to become something a lot more worrying. Still, you know what makes Paul Nuttall slightly less worrying though? A nice .gif of him with Gareth Keenans hair (See. Fig. 1).

gareth-keenan-paull-nuttall-resized-gif

I was going to tell Mehdi Hassan off for not smiling enough…

I spend a lot of time looking at QT panelists on Google Images, mainly because I need to photoshop them into ridiculous scenarios but also because it’s good to have a hobby. Anyway, the reason I’m telling you this is that I’ve had to do quite a lot of staring at photos of Medhi Hassan and one thing that’s struck me is that you rarely see him smiling and that this is a shame because it makes him come across as A Very Serious Man. Now, I like Hassan, I think he’s generally on the money but the Very Serious Man thing can get a bit much and I thought a gentle chiding was in order to get him to lighten up a little. As it happens, I need not have bothered as the first thing out of his was mouth a joke and not a bad one at that (he said the government’s Plan B was “Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis”). So what did this get him? A slight titter and nothing more. Gah! What more do you people want?! Unperturbed by this lack of audience reciprocation, he had another go during the question on IDS’s new wheeze and once more, it was a serviceable little number (“Tough on babies, tough on the causes of babies”) but yet again, nothing. So fair play to you Mehdi, you tried but maybe you were just born to be A Very Serious Man… Them’s the breaks kid…

Tl;dr

Cable: 5/10

Tired

Thornberry: 4/10

Acquired (a role in a fictional movie)

Perry: 5/10

Wired

Nuttall: 4/10

Conspired

Hassan: 6/10

Retired (any hopes of being a stand-up comedian)

The Crowd: 5/10

(Were suitably) Attired?

As those numbers imply, I can’t really chalk this up as triumph of of an episode, yet can I write it off as a total defeat. So quite a lot like Slough then…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #37


question time 37

Morning Lemmings and a word of warning: From here on in the photoshops are going to start getting really weird. Think about it this way… I’ve been doing this for about a year and as has become apparent, Question Time is littered with repeat offenders (Dianne Abbott, I’m looking at you) who seem to be on every other week. As a result, I’ve pretty much scoured Google Images in its entirety for fresh raw materials with which to poke topical fun at the great and the good, but it has become clear that this seam has been mined to the point of exhaustion and I will have to fall back on the absurd to make ends meet. I blame Labour. I wouldn’t have had to make these cuts if they hadn’t been running up such an astronomical Google Images deficit in the good times and clearly we don’t want this blog to go the way of Greece, Spain or Ireland. This is me taking us out of the Danger Zone.

 

Anyhoo, on to the show which this week (for the most part) seemed to have been filmed two years ago in an era where old certainties held true and our heads were not spinning from the unpredictabilities of coalition. In many ways, it was like the Cold War but with slightly different belligerents, full Technicolor and a very different outcome. Allow me to explain.

 

First in our trip down Memory Lane is Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, who by rights should be playing the role of post-war America (confident, powerful and marching to the beat of inexorable progress) but is, in actual fact, now portraying the sorry vision of Hoover era America (unsteady, insular and without a song in its heart). He got the ball rolling by falling back on some good old Tory Values of Yore with the prisoners question and lost little time in throwing round words like “repugnant” before doing his best to divest himself of any substance when it came to multiculturalism. After this less than promising start, he then collapsed into a fug of isolationism as he toed the current Western line on Egypt (‘complex stuff, best not rock the boat and all that’), all of which ultimately amounted to very little. Little did he know that he was about to get hit by his own personal Great Depression, but a little more on that later.

 

Next up we have Jacqui Smith, filling the shoes of an increasingly warped, probably-evil and definitely mad dictatorship who has just lost its patron state. Think North Korea or Albania. Again, she seemed to be still rooted firmly in the past, believed she was still Home Secretary and capitalised handsomely on the opportunity to remind us of all the things we didn’t like about Labour by getting all ‘tuff on crime’ when it came to prisoners, muddying the waters with a bucket of terrorism on the multicultural question and then pretty much sidestepping Egypt in the same way Maude did, all of which was crap. Again though, there was drama just around the corner, but be patient… we’ll get to that soon.

 

Last on the list of our Cold Warriors is Menzies Campbell who, by all appearances, has been asleep since last April and has to yet to be informed that his party is in government with the Tories. This is probably for the best as I can only imagine what he’d like to do to Nick Clegg if he ever found out what he’s been up to of late (see Fig.1) and given his advancing years, I’m not sure if that would be good for his blood pressure. In this scenario, Ming takes the role of the out-there, edgy, and possibly-progressive regime that fires up the spirits of young revolutionaries everywhere, sort of like an only-just-post-revolution Cuba or Nicaragua just after Somoza fell. Hoisting the banner of Liberty, Ming took to the barricades on the prisoners issue, staunchly defended multiculturalism and at least venturing a solid opinion on Egypt, all of which reminded us why we used to like the Liberal Democrats and made me positively yearn for the days when wouldn’t even dare dream of power.

 

Fig. 1

More on him later, but as we all know, a Cold War needs an ideological struggle to underpin the narrative and aptly fulfilling this need are Mehdi Hasan, our alternate history’s Rabid Pinko Commie and Douglas Murray, our Pig Dog Capitalist Lacky. Now, these guys were much more fun than the geopolitical players and were at each others throats when ever the opportunity presented itself. For the most part, Hassan emerged the victor as he managed to maintain sufficient anger to come across as passionate, but keeping it just about in check enough to stop him looking like a nutter (something which has dragged down his score in past episodes). Murray, on the hand, actually looked quite ill and a little dishevelled, but if he was feeling worse for wear, that didn’t stop him from coming out all guns blazing. The best bit was on the multiculturalism question where Murray kicked off by regurgitating an article he had written for the Wall Street Journal this week and generally damned the whole concept to hell and back. This drew a fair bit of applause, but he was then given the beat down by a pissed off Hasan who invoked the spectre of Nick Griffin and garnered an even louder round of claps. This went back and forth for a bit but eventually ended in almighty kerfuffle that Dimbers was forced to break up with assertive use of the word “Order!”. That’s some good Question Timing right there.

 

Now, as I said earlier, this Cold War had a slightly different conclusion from the one we know and love in that it went nuclear. Up until the last question, I had written off this episode as a bit of a damp squib, but everything changed when the voluntary sector cuts question turned up. This happens to be a subject close to my heart (or maybe a subject close to giving me a heart attack) right now as I work in the voluntary sector. If I get enough time and summon the will, I might write a piece about it in the near future, but for the time being, all you need to know is that we are in the middle of a genuine and frankly terrifying crisis at the moment. I won’t go into it now, but trust me when I say that things are not good. Anyhoo, back to the point:

 

It all started inauspiciously enough with Murray using the question as an excuse to bash the lazy and feckless around the chops while Smith used it as excuse to reel off a list of past Labour policies that no-one gives two hoots about any more. Then it came to Francis Maude and the first glimpse of a mushroom cloud hove into view as he blamed everything on Labour. Boom. That was it. The crowd, who had already been quite volatile got to the point of criticality and absolutely exploded. Hands down, this was the biggest boo-fest of the current run and despite some counter-booing from a few section of the audience, Maude was right at Ground Zero. Things got even worse when a psychotherapist set off some secondary explosions while Murray did his best to stoke the inferno by accusing the nation of being “morally obese”, further exacerbating the situation and forcing Dimbers to wade in again and break it all up. Despite his best efforts, the firestorm raged on and when the show ended, it seemed certain that we had been plunged into a nuclear winter for the next decade. Now that’s rattling good history.

 

TL:DR

 

Maude: 3/10

Should have ducked and covered.

 

Smith: 2/10

Should give up.

 

Campbell: 8/10

Looks like the skeleton from the Scotch Video Tape adverts.

 

Hasan: 8/10

Played a good Che Guevara

 

Murray: 6/10

Played a good Donald Rumsfeld

 

Bristol: 8/10

Appears to be made of plutonium

 

OK, that’s it. I’m absolutely knackered for reasons pertaining to the last question on the show and need to do something mindless. Time to fire up Just Cause 2 I think…

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Morning Lemmings and a word of warning: From here on in the photoshops are going to start getting really weird. Think about it this way… I’ve been doing this for about a year and as has become apparent, Question Time is littered with repeat offenders (Dianne Abbott, I’m looking at you) who seem to be on every other week. As a result, I’ve pretty much scoured Google Images in it’s entirety for fresh raw materials with which to poke topical fun at the great and the good, but it has become clear that this seam has been mined to the point of exhaustion and I will have to fall back on the absurd to make ends meet. I blame Labour. I wouldn’t have had to make these cuts if they hadn’t been running up such an astronomical Google Images deficit in the good times and clearly we don’t want this blog to go the way of Greece, Spain or Ireland. This is me taking us out of the Danger Zone.

 

Anyhoo, on to the show which this week (for the most part) seemed to have been filmed two years ago in an era where old certainties held true and our heads were not spinning from the unpredictabilities of coalition. In many ways, it was like the Cold War but with slightly different belligerents, full Technicolor and a very different outcome. Allow me to explain.

 

First in our trip down Memory Lane is Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, who by rights should be playing the role of post-war America (confident, powerful and marching to the beat of inexorable progress) but is, in actual fact, now portraying the sorry vision of Hoover era America (unsteady, insular and without a song in it’s heart). He got the ball rolling by falling back on some good old Tory Values of Yore with the prisoners question and lost little time in throwing round words like “repugnant” before doing his best to divest himself of any substance when it came to multiculturalism. After this less than promising start, he then collapsed into a fug of isolationism as he toed the current Western line on Egypt (‘complex stuff, best not rock the boat and all that’), all of which ultimately amounted to very little. Little did he know that he was about to get hit by his own personal Great Depression, but a little more on that later.

 

Next up we have Jacqui Smith, filling the shoes of an increasingly warped, probably-evil and definitely mad dictatorship who has just lost it’s patron state. Think North Korea or Albania. Again, she seemed to be still rooted firmly in the past, believed she was still Home Secretary and capitalised handsomely on the opportunity to remind us of all the things we didn’t like about Labour by getting all ‘tuff on crime’ when it came to prisoners, muddying the waters with a bucket of terrorism on the multicultural question and then pretty much sidestepping Egypt in the same way Maude did, all of which was crap. Again though, there was drama just around the corner, but be patient… we’ll get to that soon.

 

Last on the list of our Cold Warriors is Menzies Campbell who, by all appearances, has been asleep since last April and has to yet to be informed that his party is in government with the Tories. This is probably for the best as I can only imagine what he’d like to do to Nick Clegg if he ever found out what he’s been up to of late (see Fig.1) and given his advancing years, I’m not sure if that would be good for his blood pressure. In this scenario, Ming takes the role of the out-there, edgy, and possibly-progressive regime that fires up the spirits of young revolutionaries everywhere, sort of like an only-just-post-revolution Cuba or Nicaragua just after Somoza fell. Hoisting the banner of Liberty, Ming took to the barricades on the prisoners issue, staunchly defended multiculturalism and at least venturing a solid opinion on Egypt, all of which reminded us why we used to like the Liberal Democrats and made me positively yearn for the days when wouldn’t even dare dream of power.

 

More on him later, but as we all know, a Cold War needs an ideological struggle to underpin the narrative and aptly fulfilling this need are Mehdi Hasan, our alternate history’s Rabid Pinko Commie and Douglas Murray, our Pig Dog Capitalist Lacky. Now, these guys were much more fun than the geopolitical players and were at each others throats when ever the opportunity presented itself. For the most part, Hassan emerged the victor as he managed to maintain sufficient anger to come across as passionate, but keeping it just about in check enough to stop him looking like a nutter (something which has dragged down his score in past episodes). Murray, on the hand, actually looked quite ill and a little dishevelled, but if he was feeling worse for wear, that didn’t stop him from coming out all guns blazing. The best bit was on the multiculturalism question where Murray kicked off by regurgitating an article he had written for the Wall Street Journal this week and generally damned the whole concept to hell and back. This drew a fair bit of applause, but he was then given the beat down by a pissed off Hasan who invoked the spectre of Nick Griffin and garnered an even louder round of claps. This went back and forth for a bit but eventually ended in almighty kerfuffle that Dimbers was forced to break up with assertive use of the word “Order!”. That’s some good Question Timing right there.

 

Now, as I said earlier, this Cold War had a slightly different conclusion from the one we know and love in that it went nuclear. Up until the last question, I had written off this episode as a bit of a damp squib, but everything changed when the voluntary sector cuts question turned up. This happens to be a subject close to my heart (or maybe a subject close to giving me a heart attack) right now as I work in the voluntary sector. If I get enough time and summon the will, I might write a piece about it in the near future, but for the time being, all you need to know is that we are in the middle of a genuine and frankly terrifying crisis at the moment. I won’t go into it now, but trust me when I say that things are not good. Anyhoo, back to the point:

 

It all started inauspiciously enough with Murray using the question as an excuse to bash the lazy and feckless around the chops while Smith used it as excuse to reel off a list of past Labour policies that no-one gives two hoots about any more. Then it came to Francis Maude and the first glimpse of a mushroom cloud hove into view as he blamed everything on Labour. Boom. That was it. The crowd, who had already been quite volatile got to the point of criticality and absolutely exploded. Hands down, this was the biggest boo-fest of the current run and despite some counter-booing from a few section of the audience, Maude was right at Ground Zero. Things got even worse when a psychotherapist set off some secondary explosions while Murray did his best to stoke the inferno by accusing the nation of being “morally obese”, further exacerbating the situation and forcing Dimbers to wade in again and break it all up. Despite his best efforts, the firestorm raged on and when the show ended, it seemed certain that we had been plunged into a nuclear winter for the next decade. Now that’s rattling good history.

 

TL:DR

 

Maude: 3/10

Should have ducked and covered.

 

Smith: 2/10

Should give up.

 

Campbell: 8/10

Looks like the skeleton from the Scotch Video Tape adverts.

 

Hasan: 8/10

Played a good Che Guevara

 

Murray: 6/10

Played a good Donald Rumsfeld

 

Bristol: 8/10

Appears to be made of plutonium

 

OK, that’s it. I’m absolutely knackered for reasons pertaining to the last question on the show and need to do something mindless. Time to fire up Just Cause 2 I think…

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #25


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

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

The Last Temptation of Ribs

Curses!

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

GIMME GIMME GIMME!

Verily!

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

The Menu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fig. 1

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

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

A darkly foreboding 4/10

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

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

LYNNNNNNNNNNN!

Fig. 2

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

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

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

An Inner City Sumo of a 5/10

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

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

A pleasingly gentler 6/10

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

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

A solid 7/10

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

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

A recalcitrant but worthy 6/10

The Crowd: Liverpool

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

A steady 6/10

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

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.


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