Posts Tagged 'Melanie Phillips'

Questionable Time #146


qt 146

Good morrow lemmings and welcome back, after an unpredictable absence, to Questionable Time. I won’t go into the details that, well, detail said absence, only that I’ll slowly be getting back into the swing of things from now on. So yes, expect my churning out of QTs to gradually accelerate by each passing week until I start posting them before the actual episode airs.

A lot has happened in politics over the summer, but I don’t need to tell you that! I’ll merely let this picture I made a couple of months ago do the talking for me:

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

So yes. Anyway. On with the show, comrades.

Mayday! Mayday!

Our line-up for this week consists of Priti Patel, noted padawan of Iain Duncan Smith, wearing a hip pair of nerd glasses, Lisa Nandy, the up-and-coming soft-lefty, who seems scared of said nerd glasses, Tim Farron, leader of the Lib Dems, who are now so irrelevant that QT can easily get their dang leader on the programme, Stewart Hosie, Deputy Leader of the SNP, probably known as Big Ears (and one of ~the 55~, Dimbleby states – because you’re one down, remember? Remember that, SNP? Eh? Eh? Eh? Dimbleby does), and Melanie Phillips/Noddy – a woman who needs no introduction! So let’s leave it at that.

Our first question hits like a freight train and oh boy oh boy I wonder what it could ever be after my long, long absence. Something new and fresh? Appropriate for the changing world of politics in the year of our Lord Labour leadership upset 2015? Nope, you gets your immigration question and youse are gonna like it. Glad those few weeks we had to pretend to care about drowned children are over. Anyway, let’s all debate Theresa May dissin’ them good.

Tim Farron, aka Owen Jones’ secret dad, calls Theresa the forthcoming leader of the ‘nasty party’ she once so criticised, and accuses her of stoking division. As a completely unrelated side note, you can’t have a leader of a political party named Tim, it’s just not right. Meanwhile, Pretty Polly Patel is tasked with defending AMayzeballs. She says the last generation of immigrants were cool dudes, but in these scary modern times of ours Labour has ruined immigrants and made them all lazy scroungers. Tch, you had a better class of immigrants back in the day! Lisa hits back saying that Theresa hands out jolly, candy-like contracts to private companies willy-nilly who don’t even curr about integration – and that she’s offensive, for that matter, like a dog that’s pissed on the carpet. Priti stares through her glasses menacingly. To be fair, they are very nice glasses. Then a man with a Union Jack pin on his lapel talks about ‘swaths’ so that’s where we are now. Then another man and a woman argue about whether immigrants ‘mix’, like a tasty smoothie.

I’m astonished by the ‘vituperation’ heaped on Theresa, says Melanie. I’m not sure what that word means. Anyway, she agrees with her, and sticks a metaphorical Melanie-style middle finger up to the IoD, as well. You can’t trust them and their dirty lies. Lisa Nandy slowly, ever so slowly, shakes her head. Then makes peculiar motions with her mouth. Then furrows her brow. She’s going to jump over the table and punch Melz in a moment.

Stewart ‘Hose-down’ Hosie says May’s speech was a pitch to be leader. Ain’t nuthin’ worse than that. Priti goes off on a tangent praising Jeremy Hunt, possibly angling for promotion herself. Stay tuned folks! In this topsy-turvy world of ours, anything could happen. Even Tim Farron himself could lead a (formerly) major political party. As a completely unrelated side note, doesn’t Tim look like a hobbit?

“If you strike me down I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine” – Iain Duncan Smith, shortly before being replaced as Tory leader, predicting his own resurrection

Next: cutting tax credits – yay or a big horsey neigh? How, tuts disapproving audience lady, can we believe baconcrotch when he says wants to take people out of poverty? Why is Priti, pointy-pointying her hand around, wearing what looks like a friendship bracelet? Judging by her answer I certainly don’t want to be friends with her. But the living wage will replace those phony tax credits, she argues. Well, Pritt Stick, it’s not a ‘living wage’ for me, a poor struggling young person! But she presses on regardless. Use the force, Priti, the disembodied voice of IDS tells her…

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

Lisa gets heated and says that 200,000 people will be pushed into poverty, like when some snot-nosed kid in the playground pushes you down a dirty slide. Tim sits primly with his fingers clasped, not wanting to get involved. They’re telling us we don’t work hard enough, says Lisa, trying to act statesmanlike (stateswomanlike? Statespersonlike? Stateslike?!) in case Jez C accidentally gets pushed down an open manhole tomorrow afternoon.

ABSOLUTELY I WILL ANSWER THAT barks Priti. We have to make savings on welfare and difficult choices. DIFFICULT FOR WHO interrupts Lisa. Stewart tuts and looks like he’s angrily sketching something. Tories neverrr make society fairrrerrr says he, in a lovely accent which I love. He then calls us ‘friends’. Super. Priti gives him a death glare, magnified through her glasses, and refutes him. Then Melanie says something along the lines of that she wants young people to starve, but honestly I was paying as much attention to her as Priti was, who was turning a page and not even looking at Melz Bellz, her head leaning on her hand. As a completely unrelated side note, Tim is doing okay, I guess, but will anyone even care?

Lisa gets into a ””spirited debate”” with a woman in the audience who is jealous that her friends with kids have got more money than her. A man in a sharp suit sporting overly-groomed hair chips in to agree. The people who are being affected work as hard as you do, sir, says Tim. Ooh!

Then Lisa and Priti argue about what or what not constitutes a living wage. What is a living wage? We just don’t know.

Jeremy Corbyn/Picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been/Lives in a dream

Will we have to side with ASSad and POOtin to win in Syria? (Childish nicknames both! Coincidence? I think not!)

Putin is not going to defeat ISIS because he’s weakshit, says Melanie, weakshit that’s in love with Assad. Or thereabouts. Stewart sensibly adds that any action has to be approved by both Parliament and the UN, and involve an actual plan this time, or we’ll just be inviting more shit in our face. Lisa concurs and says that only a good plan will gain support and not just lmao bomb everything lol!!!! Tim rambles on in a similar vein to Lisa but I’m currently more terrified by Priti gritting her teeth and rolling her eyes at him. RIP hobbit, we hardly knew ye.

Next! Is Jeremy Corbyn a ‘Britain hater’? Well, he’s not showing patriotic tendencies, insinuates Priti. When you add ‘tendencies’ to that phrase, it sounds oddly dirty. Lisa sweeps back her hair with a look that could shatter glass. I’m loving the antagonism between these two, in case you couldn’t guess. David Cameron demeans his office, ooh, burn, she paraphrases. Melanie states Jeremy wants to change everything that makes Britain…Britain. What, you mean like the crap trains? Tim sticks up for Jezza a bit…but draws the line when it comes to a wishy-washy attitude towards Europe. Reminder: Lib Dems wuv Europe, in case you’ve forgotten who they are and are in need of a refresher.

Dave was in the wrong, adds Stewart, so why doesn’t he and Jezza just have a nice sit down and a cup of tea. New politics and all that. And with absolutely no spitting, punching and/or egging. I’ve got my eye on you two.

Time for the scores!

Patel: 6/10

(Doesn’t want you on the) Dole

Nandy: 8/10

(In favour of green energy and not) Coal

Hosie: 7/10

(Rides high in the) Polls

Farron: 7/10

(You could the) Whole (Lib Dem party in a single minibus,) lol

Phillips: 7/10

(Exists to make you stop) Scroll(ing)

The Crowd: 5/10

(Many seemed to lack a) Soul

Next time: UKIP returns…with a vengeance.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #142


qt 142

Good morrow lemmings – we’re currently taking all bets on how crap Melanie Phillips is in this edition. Let’s find out, as we dive right into…Questionable Time: in Scientifivision™!

Let’s get ready to r…easonably debate!

Our first question, and it’s a belter: is it right to blame the security services for not stopping them there three sisters and their families from travelling to Syria or ‘owt? At least some bright spark on the production team has decided to allocate the serious questions first this time, instead of leaving five minutes to spare at the end for such matters. Good! Well done, Question Time! You get a freshly-baked cookie.

As a result of the trade-off for sensible debate (as opposed to the usual pointless squawking), things do get a lot more dour and less…well…squawky. David Davis, libertarian Tory extraordinaire and rival of Paddy Ashdown for the title of Squinty-Eyed Champion of the World (does he also have a hat to stuff in his gob?) says that it is right to ask how this tragedy happened but not to slap the blame on anyone willy-nilly. Meanwhile, Alex Salmond is equally sensible, his broad Scottish tones curiously hushed as he asks what the appeal is for vulnerable women to go abroad into a warzone with their children and fight for hatred. Melanie Phillips actually agrees, which is promising, urging the need for a better counter-radicalisation strategy and that the ‘danger’ is part of the appeal for impressionable youth.

Caroline Flint, current Queen of Question Time (appeared the most during the 2010-2015 period – will she retain her crown until 2020?) and Labour deputy leadership contender, says that we don’t hear enough about accounts of the atrocities coming from people who want to get back, and how the situations of adults and children going is markedly different. Other Guy AKA Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, pleads that people in MI5 are not appreciated enough! Stop being mean to them! Melanie goes full student politics by declaring that we purely see the world through a Western, colonialist lens, and Salmond says the Western world is not immune from religious fanaticism – such as that for the SNP! Ayy! …Ah, just kiddin’ youse guys.

Overall, very mature, very sensibly-debated, and even the applause was sombre. Good job everyone.

It’s not to last.

More like Snoreway

Next up: bloodsports time! Would it really be so bad to find ourselves out of Europe, the next question-askerer says…as we are “Great Britain”, after all! Woah, never thought of that one before.

Lionel launches a sick burn in his whispery monotone – we may be Great Britain, but we’re not “Little England”. Then he goes on and on about m-muh roaming charges. M-muh sovreignty, says Melanie in response. Apparently, we put more in than we take out, and shake it all about.

Alex Salmond is then pressed on his solidarity with the people of Norway. This show gets weirder by the minute. No, says Big Al, any relation between this oil-rich solitary nation and a certain other landmass is purely coincidental. Anyway, he goes on, both England and Scotland are members of Europe, and he hopes that he can join forces with other sympathetic parties in Europe to rid his country of the Labour scourge once and for all. Well, that was the gist of what he was saying, at least. Caroline Flint tuts and shakes her head. Oh Alex, you card!

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

David Davis declares that the nasty bullying of Greece due to its falling on its face and getting poked by long pointy German sticks represents a “failure of democracy”…sounding pretty Bennite there, double D! Caroline, on the other hand, goes all-in for a Yes vote (while encouraging m-muh reform) and states that the EU is a great trading partner. Melanie brushes this off and pretty much gives the entire country of America the middle finger while doing so. Oh Melanie, you card!

“Let’s leave the EU for the moment”, says Dimbleby, and everyone laughs. Indeed, why not put a ‘lol’ option on the ballot paper? I’m sure it’d attract a surprising amount of support.

Girls don’t cry

Nexty-wexty: should Tim ‘women are crybabies’ Hunt have fricked off? Melanie, while acknowledging Hunt as “bonkers”, claims that he is a great eccentric and that his magisterial free thinking on the role of women in STEM fields should be encouraged! He’s a trailblazer! Free expression! Love and peace, man!

Caroline pointedly points out that some women might be a little miffed that this behaviour from an already highly regarded and wealthy man should be protected, but then the women in the audience have their say. Their opinions vary due to BBC guidelines but seem reasonable enough either way. Most people seem to agree that while what Hunt said was terrible and should be widely mocked, sacking him was more iffy territory. Then again, apparently he didn’t mean it as a joke and didn’t apologise, so…shruggie. Thank goodness we have Alex Salmond to steer us on the right course, by means of…wibbly-wobblying somewhere in the middle of the argument, something he does very rarely.

Also, David Davis misquotes Voltaire, and damns the ‘Twitter mob’ that has struck terror into his heart. Even though he doesn’t have a Twitter. Okay, D-Dubs.

We wrap up with another well-answered question (damnit, Question Time, you need to be viler!): do we have a responsibility to help immigrants fleeing from Africa? Salmond says 65% are refugees and we have to help them as the government in the 1970s helped refugees fleeing Idi Amin. Also we screwed up most of their countries so, y’know…what goes around comes around!

Lionel and Caroline argue the need for a “moral obligation” to help those in danger of drowning – Melanie argues that while economic migrants should be scrutinised, what we really need to do is hit the PANIC BUTTON on the whole Middle East in general. David Davis shrugs his shoulders and wonders how life would be different if he was Tory Prime Minister right now.

Final, rhetorical question: what are the chances of some chubby guy living to see the conclusion of the Chilcot Inquiry?

The world may never know.

Time for the scores!

Salmond: 7/10

Nor(way, twinned with Scotland)

Davis: 7/10

(Showing mean old Twitterers the) Door

Flint: 7/10

(Didn’t quite) Score

Barber: 5/10

Snore

Phillips: 5/10

Pour(ed a slight amount of fuel on the fire)

The Crowd: 6/10

War (what is it good for)

Next time: the return of Mangaman.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #113


qt 113

Good morrow lemmings and a wet and windy welcome to this week’s edition of Questionable Time! One hopes the weather hasn’t spoiled your excitement for today’s event! So, without further ado and in the spirit of Bonfire Night, let’s set this place on fire. Flame on!

Behold the non-ginger DAlex

Dimbleby’s got his goldfish tie on this week so the answer to our first question – are we in crisis/a big lump of doggy doo-doo – is clearly yes.

First on the floor is Chazza Kennedy. How dare he get the show off to a great start by being sensible and likable. I won’t stand for this, on this show, my show, where one demands that all panellists be eye-twitching at least and vomit-inducing at most. But Charles ain’t into that. He thinks there’ll be another hung parliament, perhaps wishing it into being by sheer force of will, and tries to mention Nick Clegg as little as he possibly can. Excellent job Charlie. I have a feeling you’ll go far, you young rapscallion.

As Charles is busy being so rational, Dimbleby gets bored almost immediately and we jump straight to Douglas Alexander to ask him why Ed Miliband is so crap. Ed’s been having a tough week and election strategist Douglas is his first line of defence against the critics. However, this is rather spoiled by Wee Dougie being the most boring man in the world. If you were lucky enough to have seen his infamous Powerpoint at the Labour conference this year, you’ll know what I’m talking about. People were rolling in the aisles! Unfortunately, this was due to them all falling asleep at the same time.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Dougboy asserts that Labour is still the best party out there, but Dimbles keeps rattling on about the whole Miliband issue. While Douglas attemps a comeback, Brandon Lewis, Conservative housing and planning minister, is on the scene. #Poppywatch: he’s got possibly the tiniest poppy in existence on his lapel. Careful Brandon, or you’ll get the Sun on your back for being a traitor! He rattles off some Tory achievements and says they’re working very hard in Rochester – I should think so, considering Michael Gove is relentlessly hounding Conservative MPs who don’t pay a visit like an awful Telltale Heart living under your floorboards.

Meanwhile comedian Matt Forde says that the fact that everyone is so moderate nowadays is all thanks to his hero, Tony Blair. Also, people should learn from Farage! I wonder if Nigel considers him part of the liberal comedy conspiracy? Then he does an impression of Ed Miliband and everyone stops for a moment to boggle in amazement and horror.

Oops, and here comes trouble – you see, there’s been a bit of a controversy relating to the lovely UKIP gentlemen in the front row. Turns out that the BBC invited three UKIP Parliamentary candidates into the front of the audience and took multiple contributions from them without mentioning the fact that they were candidates! The internet is in uproar, of course. I’m not sure how often PPCs from other parties are in QT audiences – can anyone verify? I don’t know, it just seems sketchy to me! #butthat’snoneofmybusiness

But really, what’s the difference when you have Melanie Phillips on the panel? Last time I saw her, she disappointed in not being particularly repellent in her views, possibly because she had been asked to tone it down due to shenanigans. And for now, she hasn’t unleashed the beast…yet. But do not fear, my sweets. Some prime-cut ridonkulousness is a-coming…

Finally, when asked about who would be a better Labour leader than Ed, a confused young man in the audience answers with this beautifully dignified reply:

“There’s, er…Chucka Oomanna…?”

The audience softly groans, like someone would when they hear a favourite TV show has been rescheduled for a different timeslot (although not their ultimate favourite, don’t want to get too exciting here). Looks like poor smooth Chuka’s out of the running then. (What about ‘anime eyes’ Andy Burnham? He’s definitely the prettiest and cutest, so he’d win the One Directioner vote. And Yvette Cooper happens to be a woman – they’re in vogue now.) Wow boys and girls, isn’t this exciting?

Kipper Klusters: rich in vitamin D

Now for some immigration talk and Melanie kicks the door down outta nowhere. Multiculturalism?! she rages. No! Not multiculturalism! National identity! We’ve always been Celts! And then Saxons! And then Normans! Damn, look at all that national identity! It’s okay if they’re from similar cultures…but weird ones? Weird to Melanie Phillips, that is? Oh no!

I’ve had enuff of this anti-EU guff! bellows Matt in return, and Brandon bravely fights back by sitting on the fence. Charles takes the always-popular line of dissing Thatcher (well, except in, like, Finchley) and, secondly, that UKIP guy in the audience. Then the rest of the audience also rounds on the front row Kipper Kluster, and chaos ensues. Fight! Fight! Fight!

Luckily, Douglas Alexander puts us all to sleep before someone can get hurt.

The next question is on the clusterfuck of an abuse inquiry that probably should have started by now. A big neon sign flashing ‘TREAD CAREFULLY’ practically lights up above the panel’s heads. Thankfully, all there is to report is some respectful discussion about appointing the right chair, and the nature of the establishment, but then…Melanie Phillips steps up in her own very special way. This inquiry is nonsense, apparently, because all sorts of terrible things happen all the time and nothing gets done about it. Then she points out that sexualisation of children is a societal problem – true, true – but then.

But then.

Sex education is apparently causing a ‘paedophile society’. That is literally what she said. Let it settle in. Let it marinate.

Yes, teaching kids about where babies come from and to respect their boyfriends and girlfriends – unforgivable! It caused Savile! No, hundreds of Saviles, dancing in a line! Well hand me a cigar and call me Jim’ll. The panel snorts in derision as they very well should.

Now let’s all listen to Charles Kennedy instead. I’m not even a Lib Dem or anything but…luv u Charlie 5eva (that means I luv him more than 4eva). Kiss kiss.

I apologise for Questionable Time’s institutional anti-North bias

Final question: should there be an elected assembly for the North East? I’m swiftly losing the will to live, so let’s make this quick. Sorry, Northern-types.

The crowd, who have already been extremely rowdy tonight, use this opportunity to hector with all their might. Melanie thinks this will all end in tears. Don’t we know it. Douglas drones on about how George Osborne needs to sod off. Don’t we know it. Charles Kennedy mentions Mags Thatcher for a third time this edition. Don’t we…know it?

In the end, nothing of any value is said and we all go home crying and snotty. I guess Melanie Phillips was right after all.

Time for the scores!

Kennedy: 9/10

Reign(s over QT like a pudgy ginger king)

Alexander: 5/10

(Did not have much to) Gain

Lewis: 5/10

Plain Jane

Phillips: 4/10

Bane (of one’s life)

Forde: 5/10

Pain(ful impressions aside…)

The Crowd: 7/10

Again, again!

Next time: WELSHYYYYyyyyYYYYyyyy

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #90


Good morrow lemmings and ‘welcome’ to sunny Newport for another edition of Questionable Time. I’m filling in short-notice for the Glorious Webmaster, although he did leave me with some lovely graphics to use. Now, I was looking forward to an exciting rant-a-thon this week, but unfortunately things didn’t exactly turn out that way. However, there was still a great deal of stuff to make fun of, which is what’s really important here. Let’s do it, let’s B&Q it.

(To the tune of the Batman theme song) Annannannanna Sou-bry!

Anna Soubry is a woman who reminds me a lot of my mum at my primary school sports day. That is to say, supportive, likable, eager to muck in, but with a hint of stony realism behind the eyes that betrays the crushing disappointment she truly feels in her heart of hearts and soul of souls. That was Anna Soubry last night. She was successful in maneuvering her way around a tricky audience: a grumbly shouty Newport audience (although I don’t think there is any other type of Newport audience), and ran rings around Rushanara Ali even on the topics you’d think she’d trip up on (AKA bankers’ bonuses). While the crowd was unforgiving, she managed to survive, even if she had to cling on by her nails and use that old chestnut “you had thirteen years to regulate the banks!” It worked though, and she wasn’t half bad on the other questions either. Her disdain for UKIP is endearing at least. Unless you’re UKIP.

ANNA-SOUBRY-LOL-GIF

Fig. 1

Overall, she seems like a woman who probably had an acutely embarrassing nickname as a schoolgirl, like ‘Chortles’, and the experience has made her ready for anything the world can throw at her. Also, her one slip-up did lead to the best bit of the show: responding “I’m sure I have!” when asked if she’d ever apologised. A warm and cynical laugh – two adjectives that don’t usually go so well together – emanated from the tough Newport stock of the crowd, and all was well in the world.

(To the tune of ‘Prince Ali’ from Aladdin) Ms Ali, mighty is she, Ali Rushanara

Rushanara Ali seems like a nice lady, but let’s just say the questions didn’t fall right for her this time around. It started off OK-ish: surviving the bonuses question, and even the IRA question, but when she got to Harmangate she was sadly bowled over, probably due to the fact that the rest of her party was currently running around like headless chickens over the subject and she didn’t have any option but to play goalie against a football the size of a double-decker bus. I’m not sure if that metaphor makes sense, but you know what I mean.

If I may put on my smartypants hat for once, this probably has to do with her inexperience. She wasn’t prepared for the focus on jolly old Wales, and it was telling putting her up against Anna Soubry, who easily knew how to counter her answers – Rushanara could only blink to herself like a rabbit in the headlights as the panel engaged in a routine that looked like it came out of a Brass Eye special – an anti-paedophile outrage-off.

“I’M SO DISGUSTED I’LL EAT MY SHOES!” said one, only not really.

“OH YEAH? I’M SO DISGUSTED I’M GOING TO VOMIT ALL MY INTERNAL ORGANS THROUGH MY NOSE! HOW’S THAT FOR DISGUST?!”

“THAT’S NOT NEARLY DISGUSTED ENOUGH, YOU PAEDOLOVER!”

If that wasn’t enough, then came the stock question about immigration (Question Time rule: when in doubt, ask about immigrants!) and the panel devolved into trying to out-foreign background each other. Dimbleby looked on, appearing, as I believe the yoof say these days, 500% done.

(To the tune of my terrified tears) Mel P, the other Spice Girl

Melanie Phillips has left the building.

No, really, I was disappointed! I was hoping that she’d really let loose, like a water cannon on a bunch of Ukrainian protesters. But where was she tonight? Aside from a brief cry against political correctness gawrn mad, where was this legendary splitter of Twitter, this column scrawler and socialist-brawler, that stuns the internet every time she opens her mouth? Has Katie Hopkins usurped her? Could it be…that she actually toned it down on purpose?

I mean, no, naw, nah, that’s impossible. It’s not as though she wants her job at the Mail back…or anything…or that her last performance cost her dearly…or anything…no, nothing like that, and I don’t really care. All I’m saying is, it makes for boring television, doesn’t it? Farewell, Melanie Phillips, we’ll always remember how much you look like an evil Jacqueline Wilson.

How do you pronounce ‘Elfyn Llwyd’?

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know much about Wales except from what I learned from Gavin and Stacey and a visit to the Green Man Festival in 2007. However, Elfyn Llwyd wouldn’t be that bad of an advertisement, with his cuddly face, fluffy moustache, and a voice that could send you to sleep. Yes, Elf-man (I’m calling him Legolas) was calm, collected, and utterly soporific. This was probably for the best as even when he was arguing for all of the UK’s banks to be hit repeatedly with a shovel, or perhaps an army of shovels, Melanie Phillips did not round on him and rip his moustache from his face with her mighty jaws. No matter what he said, people appeared to nod dreamily to themselves, drifting through the land of Nod. I quite enjoyed the sensation. In conclusion, well done, Legolas Lwywlwlywylwl…zzz.

Wake up!

What? I was having a nap. Oh yeah, there was another guy there, right…Jay Rayner, the food critic guy, who seems to be on this programme a lot for some reason. In contrast to Elfyn, Jay was downright morose. There’s no way to properly regulate the banks, he mumped. Gosh, this IRA business is a bit grim, he fumped. He did get more lively when the topic shifted to the Daily Mail’s coverage of Harmangate, and pointed out their slightly creepy tendency towards printing pictures of 12 year old girls in bikinis. Melanie Phillips shook her head in exasperation, which is more than she did against the actual politicians on this programme (apart from Rushanara, who at this point was staring into nothingness, hoping to get a nice question on kittens).

Scores time!

Soubry: 7/10

Tough

Ali: 4/10

Rebuff(ed)

Llwyd: 6/10

Fluff(y moustache)

Phillips: 4/10

(A bit) Rough

Rayner: 5/10

(Had) Enough

The Crowd: 6/10

Gruff

So it wasn’t a vintage question time, to be sure. Even Melanie Phillips didn’t reach her expected levels of bile. Oh well, next week has Hezza, and hopefully his phone will go off again.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #66


 questionable time 66 david dimbleby goth

Good morning Lemmings and I hope you’ve brought provisions with you (sandwiches would be a start although booze will ultimately be of greater utility) because we’ve got an awful lot to get through today. Right, no messing about, let’s get cracking.

So Mel finally went off the deep end…

I was going to start with Brand but seeing how this site’s being absolutely hammered by people arriving from the search term ‘Melanie Phillips Question Time’ – not to mention the fact that my twitter feed has become a solid wall of people going on a Mel bender – I thought it prudent to bow to the wishes of the great unwashed. Anyway, prior to last night’s show I was feeling somewhat ambivalent about Phillip’s being on as she’s been relatively well-behaved of late. Granted, she’s managed to maintain an underlying level of bonkersness and there’s always some sort of societal windmill she’s been able to tilt at but compared to the uber-rabid Londonistan-era Mel, I rather feared that she was losing her teeth.

Nor did her answers early in the show do anything to dispel this feeling and in actual fact, most of what she came out with was pretty tame: On bankers she was so-so (although did manage to slip in an obligatory dig at nurses… well done there) while the drugs question saw her going through some hard-line motions but it was all the fairly predictable, doom-laden stuff that she routinely churns out. ‘That’s it.’ I thought. ‘The old girl’s finally cashed in her chips. Godspeed Mel, may you while away your days in crotchety grumpiness’. However that was before the question about Syria landed.

It all started innocuously enough – a dig at Cameron here, a failed state or two there – but then went sideways as she arrived at her two ‘I’s: Israel and Iran. The first sign that things were becoming unstuck was when she demanded that Iran be “neutralised” but that was just a warm-up. No, what really sent her over the edge was the bally gall of the audience to offer a collective tut at this idea. That was it. Out came the finger, jabbing away like a little spear of crazy as she laid into the “defeatism of the British people”. Naturally, slagging off 60 million people in one effortless little sentence did little to sooth the crowd and the tutting soon became the ominous rumble of boos, but Mel wasn’t finished. Not by a long shot.

HOW TRIVIAL OF YOU! HOW IGNORANT OF YOU!” was her next line and with it went any hope that the show might remain tenuously anchored in reality. The ominous rumble escalated, insults were traded and the good ship Question Time proceeded to turn turtle before finally disappearing beneath the unrelenting waves of farce that swamped its decks.

Twelve hours have passed since that incident and as I now peer at the fuzzy sonar scan of the show’s watery grave I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, this is the sort of thing that Questionable Time should thrive on – you know, bangs and crashes, bells and whistles, that sort of thing – and a part of me is quite pleased to see that Mel’s back and as unhinged as ever. Yet there was also something about the pure bitterness behind it all (from both Phillips and the crowd) that makes me feel a little queasy. Is this what we really wanted? The spectacle of a woman who’s essentially given up on humanity reaching snapping point in front of an audience of millions? The base, impulsive side of me says it is but deep down I can’t escape the feeling that we’ve traded in a stable, long-term relationship for a dirty little grope in a stationary cupboard.

You know something’s gone deeply awry when Boris starts looking like a voice of reason…

Believe me, I’m just as shocked as you by the above statement but I’ve got to admit that it’s essentially true: Boris was – in the main – actually pretty level-headed last night. True, he couldn’t sustain this new and rather disconcerting look for the entire show and by the end of the it he had assumed his more familiar form – that of a Rube Goldberg contraption brought to life (please click that link as it contains some pure brilliant). But still, I can’t deny that for the majority of it he actually resembled what can only be described as a ‘politician’ and when it came to the Syria, I was pretty much in total agreement with him. I know, I know… This is all a little difficult to take in but trust me, it happened and again, I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s like the QT I know and love just got its ears pierced, bought a motorbike and told the kids that Daddy needs some time to go and ‘find himself’. In short, confusion is reigning in my head right now along with a troubling sense of abandonment.

Will the real Russell Brand please stand up?

My one great hope for last night’s episode was that I might finally be able to form a definitive opinion about Russell Brand, something that has so far eluded me despite repeated attempts to peg him down. Here’s the thing – behind all the sex and drugs and Dickensian wibbling you do occasionally catch a glimpse of a thoughtful, sensitive and actually quite vulnerable man. Remember when he gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee about drugs policy? That was one of those rare, fleeting glimpses and that’s the Brand I’d like to like.

But they are so rare and while you’re waiting for them you have to endure the contrived dumbing down, the ‘awight mate Mr Dimbleby sir me lord’ and the nagging feeling that his ego may be reaching the point where it can’t support its own weight any more. And that, frankly, upsets me off because he doesn’t have to do it. Yes, I get that this may all be part of a grand plan to make politics ‘accessible’ and ‘relevant’ but I can’t help feeling like I’m being stealthily patronised whilst simultaneously being force-fed a year’s supply of low-hanging fruit.

Fundamentally though, there’s a more profound problem I have with Brand and it’s about trying to work out where the persona ends and the real man begins. I hoped that last night might bring me a little closer to sussing that out but alas, it was not to be.

Reasons why I’m quietly falling in love with Ed Davey…

  1. I think he’s in politics for the right reasons. True, he doesn’t offer much in the way of thrills and that streak of inevitable careerism is hard to ignore but I genuinely get the feeling that he’s a sensible man who wants to make a sensible world using sensible means. We sort of need a few of them kicking about.
  2. He and Jowell were about that only things that reassured me that I wasn’t in fact watching a Year 9 drama group attempting to perform a parody of Question Time.
  3. When I take notes for the show, I refer to the panelists by their initials – Davey’s being ED. Pleasingly, whenever I read the notes back in my head his name always comes out as ‘Aer-Der!’. It’s the little things that count in life.

And just in case you were worried that Tessa Jowell might neglect to mention the Olympics…

…She manages to squeeze one in during the dying seconds of the show. Phew! For a second there I thought we were in trouble. Anyway, it was a good innings from Jowell last night, particularly as Dimbers did seem to have it in for her at the start of the show. It was also the first time that I’ve heard a convincing apology for Labour’s failure to regulate the banks coming from someone who was very much at the heart of that ill-fated project. And that dear Lemmings may even warrant an extra point.

Tl;dr

Johnson: 6/10

Odd(ly restrained)…

Phillips: 3/10

(Rode rough)Shod (over any sense of proportionality)…

Brand: 5/10

(Is a tricky) Sod (to pin down)…

Davey: 6/10

Plod(s sensibly on)…

Jowell: 7/10

(Gave a knowing) Nod (to Labour’s culpability)…

The Crowd: 6/10

(Did a good job at being the Awkward) Squad…

Right, this has to end because I’m way over my thousand words and need to sit in a darkened room for at least a week. Before I go there’s the small matter of this week’s pshop which I’ve stuck below (see Fig. 1).

boris-johnson-russel-rand-hair-swap-gif

Fig. 1

Yeah, it’s not my finest work but that’s probably because I wazzed all my pixels up the wall making this rather beautiful Farage design which may just be available in t-shirt form in the none-too-distant-future. Watch this space. So anyway that’s your lot and let’s hope that Daddy returns next week – minus that ghastly leather jacket of course…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #55


questionable time 55 david dimbleby apocalypse now

Good morning Lemmings and what wares can I flog you today? Let’s see what I’ve got in this old cart of mine. Hmmm… How about a pair of fairly steady parliamentarians with a liberal bent? No? Too staid, too boring? Ok, what about a couple of ideological headbangers with a proven track record of winding each other up? Ah, I see… You’re still recovering from the Hitchens/Loach to-do a fortnight back and need something a little more nuanced. Well, I’m afraid that the only other thing I’ve got in at the moment is an unknown quantity so fresh to the scene that there’s not enough info on her to even throw together a Wikipedia article. No good? Tell you what then, I’ll do you the whole lot for five minutes of your time and throw in the denizens of Dover for free because I’m feeling generous today. No refunds though. Caveat emptor Lemmings, caveat emptor…

Last night was like Jaw’s: The Directors Cut

It’s one of the best closing shots in cinema – Rob Schneider and Richard Dreyfus, paddling their way to shore on the wreckage of their thoroughly over-sharked boat, elated by their triumph over the eponymous monster and no doubt looking forward to a hero’s welcome. The first few times I saw it, I was happy to let the implied narrative (that it will all be hunky-dory) prevail but on subsequent viewings I found myself strangely troubled. After all, the shore is an awfully long way away, their makeshift raft doesn’t really look up to much and one-dead-shark-does-not-a-safe-sea-make.

I bring this up because last night could well be a template for what actually happens at the end of Jaw’s and it goes like this: Chief Brody (as played by Ken Clarke) and Hooper (Stephen Twigg) are happily splashing their way to dry land when they notice that things are getting a little choppy. Members of the crowd start asking some difficult questions about immigration, a swell develops and the raft begins to list precariously. It’s cool though. They are – after all – both fairly centrist and socially liberal politicians who have spent many years charting these waters and by working together, they somehow keep it from falling apart. But wait… What’s this? The three fins of Crow, Phillips and James have breached the surface and are bearing down on the raft with great vigour, eager to rend flesh from bone with the incisors of anti-EU sentiment. A scuffle ensues. Blood is in the water, the wind is picking up as the crowd move the subject on to the economy and the sharks are circling once more. Tensions become frayed between the two of them. Twigg looks like he wants to shove Ken off the raft but Ken’s inability to endorse Total Austerity with a straight face spikes his gun and they paddle on, praying that something will save them.

Suddenly, Twigg thinks he sees a way out. The third question is about whether UKIP are a threat to the Tories and this could potentially be a life saver: Make common cause with the sharks, serve Ken up to them and then get away while they’re dragging him to the seabed. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t quite work out like that and a jostle about who was to blame for the credit crunch ended in Clarke’s favour. That was of no consequence to the sharks though and once again they launched coordinated attacks from opposite ends of the spectrum. Ken and Twigg’s prospects darkened further as the weather takes a turn for the unhinged: A women in the crowd starts making rash and rather convoluted claims about immigrants that stokes a further surge of ill-will and all appears to be lost. Brody and Hooper: They ‘ain’t never going to make it back.

But then something miraculous happens. As if from nowhere, the subject of the Catholic church arrives and in an instant, our scene of frenzy finds itself becalmed. Melanie Phillips suddenly gets a little rational, Crow makes all sweetness and light while James plays it safe and the formally rabblesome crowd become a picture of tolerance. Relieved, exhausted and a little perplexed, Clarke and Twigg regain their hold on their battered raft and lash it back together with some pleasingly mellow platitudes about other people’s morals. They make landfall, the credits roll and everyone can look forward to being disappointed by Jaws 2.

Yeah, I preferred the original to be honest.

Diane James is still largely unknowable…

During my mainly fruitless hunt for info on James, I did notice that one word kept coming up: ‘Unflappable’. On the whole, I’m inclined to agree as for a first performance, this wasn’t bad at all. Granted, Dover did seem especially receptive to the UKIP line and her explaining away of the 4 million Bulgarians was a little dubious but still, she did manage to sound more together than your average Kipper. Mind you let’s not get carried away as my basis for comparison here is Farage. Most things look pretty ‘together’ when stacked up next to him.

I feel a little cheated by the Phillips/Crow love-in…

Ok, so it wasn’t exactly a ‘love-in’ but I was a little bummed that these mutually antagonistic parties set aside their differences in order to box the ears of Clarke and Twigg. I’m also strangely and perversely bummed that Phillips is ever-so-slowly losing her teeth. Sure, she got fair vexed by the whole EU shebang, but it wasn’t a patch on her mid-War on Terror heyday. Back then, no one could out-crazy Phillips, not by a long shot and in odd way, I miss that: Nothing’s more comforting than absolutely, 100%, knowing your enemy. Now it’s 99% and petty though it sounds, I miss that 1%. Now here’s a.gif of what her computer desktop may or may not look like to prove that I haven’t forgotten about her glory days (see. Fig. 1).

melanie-phillips-wallpaper-gif

Fig. 1

Tl;dr

Clarke: 6/10

(Got rather) Red (around the face)

Twigg: 6/10

(Narrowly avoided being) Fed (to the sharks)

James: 5.5/10

(Could soon become quite) Widespread

Phillips: 5/10

(Still fills me with) Dread

Crow: 5/10

(Has an intimidating) Head

The Crowd: 5/10

(All live in a) Shed?

Alright, so that was a rather raw and bruising episode that raises some awkward question about why a town so completely dependent on open borders despises them so much. I’ll let you figure that out because right now it’s 4:02 AM, nothing’s making much sense and I know for a fact that the Frau Ribs just loves to be woken up by the sound of trodden-on-cats.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #31


questionable time 31 davidi dimbleby kilt

Good morning Lemmings and seriously, do we really have to do this? Do we really have to voluntarily relive what was probably the dullest episode of Question Time I can recall? I guess we do. If you didn’t catch it last night then well done to you, you’re ahead of the game but if you did then I guess that reading this may at least have some cathartic value. We can treat it like a support group for those embittered by the fact that they lost an entire hour of their life last night. Anyway, here we go… *sigh*…

Inverness appears to be some sort of Reverso Logan’s Run…

I did most of my growing up in a very sleepy seaside town so large concentrations of the elderly hold no mystery for me. However even I have to admit that the sheer volume of oldsters on display last night was a frightening spectacle to behold, so thick was the floor with those in their autumn years. Quite how a town gets into a state where everyone under the age of 30 has either fled or been forcibly removed is a mystery – as are the logistics of how you’d run such a settlement (who delivers the papers? How do they cope with such high levels of unemployment in the educational sector? Do they even bother putting up ‘No Ball Games’ signs?) – but the very fact that this clear perversion of demographics can exist at all is enough to give me the jibblies. Not only that, but the studio looked very warm last night and I suspect that a day of heavy rain may have induced the wearing of extra layers amongst the crowd, something that did little to counter the clammy atmosphere of mothballs and torpor. In short, this was never really going to be a riot of a show.

It’s a sad day when Melanie Phillips is the only thing keeping you awake.

Panel wise, this could have been an ok episode as Charles Kennedy (when he’s not ‘missing his plane’) is usually pretty solid and Alan Cumming had the potential to bring something different to the table. However, as neither of these guys really got into their stride until right near the end of the show (Kennedy appeared to spend the first half trying vainly to wake up whilst Cumming got hobbled by questions of nationality and tax status) so the floor was left wide open for Melanie Phillips to extrapolate wildly on how seemingly innocuous developments will inevitably lead to a dystopian and apocalyptic future. Maybe think about not giving rich pensioners free money? Sure, BUT DON’T COME CRYING TO ME WHEN YOU SEE THAT THE ENTIRE WELFARE STATE HAS BEEN DESTROYED. Thrupence on petrol? Oh, no big deal UNTIL THE PINKO HIPPIES IN GOVERNMENT START PUTTING WIND FARMS IN YOUR BRAIN. Spice this up with some choice phrases like “incentive for mass fatherlessness”, liberal (or anti-liberal, I’m not quite sure which) use of words like “bogus” and you start to get the picture.

Now on any given Thursday I would probably pour scorn on absurd antics such as these but I’m giving Melanie a free pass this week as she was literally the only thing keeping me in the realms of consciousness last night. Yeah I know, semi-endorsing Melanie Phillips feels like a weird and dangerous thing to do so to balance things out here’s a pshop of her in a Bin Laden outfit (see Fig. 1). Questionable Time: It’s all about the balance.

melanie phillips osama bin laden

Fig. 1

Ok, so Lord Forsyth was semi-interesting…

Is it just me or was Lord Forsyth being positively seditious towards the government last night? The reason I have to ask is because although I’m sure that the content of his speech was pretty treasonable his tone was so hushed and gentle that it sounded more like a lullaby than a sustained attack on the likes of Cameron and Osborne. A similar thing happened when he and Phillips got stuck into a joint rant on the Euro: I got the impression from what he was saying that he was genuinely angry yet the most his demeanour could muster was the look of being vaguely ticked off. Odd, in a semi-interesting sort of way.

And just who exactly are these people?

A funny thing happens to me when I watch Johann Lamont: Her lips move, a sound comes out that is in a language I am fluent in yet I hear nothing. Well that’s not quite right, I do hear something – a little like the noise of a fridge humming into life – but nothing that I can convey any meaning from. This isn’t an accent thing either, it’s just that the part of my brain that deals with processing language just seems to shut down whenever I lay eyes on her. As a result I have absolutely no idea what she said last night but judging from the lack of enthusiasm from the crowd I don’t think I missed much. And as for Alex Neil, the first thing to say is that he isn’t Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon. I don’t know what happened last night – maybe they double-booked their annual leave or something – but I suppose it’s nice to occasionally have a Scottish episode that doesn’t involve Caledonia’s answer to The Carpenters. Apart form that all I can really tell you is that a) Alex Neil is very satisfied with being Scottish and b) is even more satisfied that a Scottish man like himself should get to go on the telly. Oh God, I can’t do this anymore…

Tl;dr

Forsyth: Zzz…

5/10

Kennedy: Zzzzz…

5/10

Lamont: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

3/10

Neil: Zzzzzzzzz…

4/10

Cumming: Zzzz…

5/10

Phillips: !!!!!!!!!!

6/10

The Crowd: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

3/10

There. I’ve done all I can. Well done if you made it this far, now let us agree to never speak of this episode again. Still, I guess it was an appropriate end to a week of ‘celebrations’ that looked more like a humanitarian disaster. Say what you will about the British but we sure now how to stand about in the rain looking uncomfortable and vaguely nonplussed. Oh and in a final twist of the knife I’m afraid I won’t be around next week as I’m off to see NOFX and intend to get so messed up that even watching QT on iPlayer is going to be out of the question. Professionalism: I has it.

In a fortnight Lemmings, in a fortnight…

Questionable Time #15


questionable time 15 david dimbleby pulp fiction

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to Plymouth or as I like to call it, Portsmouth-with-Hills-and-a-Slightly-Less-Intimidating-Accent. Now, usually Questionable Time is all about the panelists but I’m going to start by looking a little closer at the location this week because Plymouth is politically a pretty interesting place and this has implications for how last night’s show panned out. Let’s start by looking at a few choice Plymouth factoids:

1. Plymouth is a port city and with ports come lots of dockside industries that are traditionally the preserve of Labour inclined voters. True, these industries are not what they used to be in terms of scale but it still means that there’s a rump of the population who come from a traditionally Labour voting background.

2. Not only is Plymouth a port, it is also a military port (much like it’s more uncouth sibling Portsmouth) and this has an impact on its politics as it means there’s a high proportion of service personnel in the area that lend the city a certain True Blue aspect. Granted, this might not be as divisive a factor as it has been in the past given that New Labour always tacked pretty close to the Tories on defence but it is also fair to say that there’s a sizeable chunk of the population who go in for a spot of good old-fashioned flag waving and that bodes well for the Tory vote.

3. Finally it’s worth bearing in mind where Plymouth is: Wedged slap bang between the Lib Dem stronghold of Cornwall and the Yellowy/Blue county of Devon. That means that there’s also a bit of scope for some third-party mischief and although the Lib Dems haven’t had much electoral success in Plymouth itself, they still have an audible presence.

Demographically speaking this is all good news and so it was that the crowd were both vocal and diverse in their opinions. Politically speaking, no single faction managed to gain ascendency and for every lament for the plight of the poor there was a call for scroungers to be sent to salt mines. However, the going wasn’t quite so good for the panelists, especially in the cases of Jeremy Browne and Elizabeth Truss. In Browne’s case the main problem seems to be that he EN-UN-CI-ATES everything in this booming, halting roar that makes it sound like his lungs are made of oak. That makes for a very rigid delivery and his overall demeanour is of a man who probably suspects he’s a fish-out-of-water but doesn’t really know what to do about it. In terms of exactly what he said, well that was a pretty odd kettle of fish as well and he often veered wildly between the poles of Coalition Loyalty and Liberal Credentials whilst never really achieving a convincing balance that made any sense. As it happens, his comments about Stephen Hester are all over the news this morning as the media senses a weak point in the coalition line but they didn’t seem that incendiary at the time. I think that’s because his style of delivery is so odd that I was just too bewildered to make any sense of the content.

As for Truss, well she really struggled make an impression and managed to go through the whole show without receiving a single clap, largely on account of the fact that she really didn’t have a great deal to say about anything other than the fairly standard Tory spiel about benefit traps and druggies being wrong ‘uns. On any given Thursday that should be a pretty safe applause winning strategy but what she hadn’t counted on was the presence of Melanie Phillips, a woman whose sole objective in life is to take the usual Tory spiel and multiply it by a factor of several million. We’ll get on to Melanie a little later but lets just say that her trademark brand of ranting made Truss’ underplayed tutting look a little bland.

With the coalition bods proving less than potent it seemed likely that David Lammy would have a clear field on which to dance a merry jig. Initial signs proved promising in this department as he played heavily on the social justice angle but he soon found himself facing opposition from what should have been a secure flank: Step forward Mark Steele, cock-er-ney sounding comedian who has yet to be informed that the ’80’s ended quite some time ago. In theory Steele should have been counted on to provide unconditional covering fire to Lammy but to his credit he didn’t. In actual fact he came out as quite critical of the Red Team and did a commendably good job of playing Jiminy Cricket to Lammy’s Pinocchio, a development that ultimately sunk Labour’s hope of a decisive victory.

So, that was all well and good but there’s still something missing from this picture and if I’m not mistaken it is none other than Self-Propelled Vessel of Hatred Melanie Phillips. Now I have to admit that I was pretty bummed out by her performance in the early question as she seemed to be keeping it together fairly well. Sure, she wasn’t exactly a picture of compassion to those on benefits but she didn’t lead any direct appeals to violence and the tone was more ‘grim’ than her usual ‘apocalyptic’. However, I needn’t have worried as buried at the back of the episode was a question on Iran and as we all know, Phillips likes nothing more than the chance to get totally off her mash when there’s even the faintest whiff of cordite drifting over from the Middle East. She did not disappoint me. Lemmings and Gentlemen, I give to you The Most Outrageous Unsubstantiated Claim I Have Ever Heard On Question Time. Over to you, Mel…

Since 1979… there is no major terrorist atrocity in which Iran hasn’t had a hand”

Let that just sink in for a moment. Anders Behring Breivik? Clearly egged on by the Ayatollahs. The Aum Shinrikyo nerve gas attacks? All roads lead to Tehran. Timothy McVeigh? An unwitting pawn in the eternal struggle for Persian dominance. Now I’m used to Phillips coming out with some pretty absurd statements but this? I almost feel honoured to have witnessed it.

Tl;dr

Browne: (Was) Loud

5/10

Truss: (Left me less than) Wowed

5/10

Lammy: Ploughed (a nice little furrow)

6/10

Steele: (Impressed both me and the ) Crowd

7/10

Phillips: (Mushroom) Cloud

3/10

The Crowd: (Should be) Proud (of their performance)

7/10

So there you go, a pretty balanced affair that was capped off with some remarkable feats of crazy. All that’s left to do is look at this photo of Jeremy Browne riding on a dodgem with a Panda that I made last night. Why? Because I can…

jeremy browne dodgem panda

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #44


question time david dimbleby jail 44Morning Lemmings and welcome to Bizarro Time, a strange twilight netherworld of exterior opening shots, audience members wearing wristbands that made the whole affair look like a giant, penal Glasto, Dimbers referring to the venue as ‘The Scrubs’ (has he served time there?) and a complete lack of the Yellow Team. That’s right, this week’s Question Time comes to us from the bowls of the prison system and given the topical backdrop and panel, a right old to-do was to be expected. However, as I mentioned at the start this wasn’t so much Question Time as Bizarro Time and all is not quite what it seems. So Lemmings, let us firmly grasp the soap, strip down and head to the showers.

Ok, first up is Ken Clarke who has taken a break from his busy schedule of sticking his foot in his mouth to take his licks in public and try to remove said foot from said mouth. Actually, I must confess to feel quite sorry for Ken on this one. Yes, it probably wasn’t the most sensitive use of words but let’s face it, a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old having consensual sex is a different kettle of fish from someone actually forcing themselves on another. That’s not to say that rape isn’t the most serious of crimes, but there are different shades of severity just as there are different shades of Ken (see Fig. 1).

ken clarke rape

Anyhoo, a vocal and belligerent segment of the population took umbrage with Ken’s less than perfect choice of words and a media shitstorm unfolded on Wednesday with a speed and rapidity that defied belief. Worse still, the outrage wasn’t confined to the group who had the strongest claim to a legitimate beef and soon Ken was getting it in the neck from pretty much everyone: The right (for being Ken and soft on crims), No. 10 (for being Ken and switching his phone off), feminists (for being Ken and looking like the sort of bloke who says ‘wimmin’) and Labour (purely for laughs and the fact that they’ve been down on their luck for last few weeks). So yes, the stakes were high for the old boy and anything other than some heavy-duty contrition would inevitably lead to him having to slum it on the naughty step with the likes of Laws, Huhne and Fox (although I get the feeling that Fox actually feels quite at home on the naughty step).

To this end, Ken did pretty well by fully admitting he was a bit of a klutz for saying things in the way he did and that he compounded this by allowing the media to run rings round him, but he didn’t back down on his original point and the crowd were largely with him (although not cheering. I think everyone was a little nervous about how that response would go down). Eventually he settled down into a policy argument with Straw and the rest of his performance was fairly standard Ken fare, but he does seem to have got himself off the hook and that is something I’m largely glad about. For one, I think that this was a pretty wanky “media brouhaha” (to use Ken’s turn of phrase) and he was a victim of people looking for a fight but the second reason is slightly more important: Ken is a flawed character and politics needs flawed characters. One of the reasons we seem to have lost so much trust in politicians is that they spend so much time trying to impress us with how trustworthy they are and that is something that sets alarm bells ringing. By contrast, Ken’s never really pretended to be anything other than he is: A boozy semi-rogue who listens to jazz, nods off in the Commons and can’t really be arsed with the managerialism of modern politics. There are many aspects of him that I’m not too keen on (being knee-deep in Big Tobacco for one), but that’s the thing about human beings in general, they are not perfect and that’s not necessarily a bad thing (on a very tenuously related point, if you too happen to be a fan of flawed character’s, I highly recommend boning up on the American Civil War. I’m reading this utterly fantastic book on it at the moment and rough diamonds/tragically doomed characters are two-a-penny in that conflict, especially on the Union side. Seriously, check it out if you’re a fan of human frailty and the beauty of our failings).

Right, next up we have Jack Straw who has taken a break from his busy schedule of being a too-wiley-by-half, hard-bitten New Labour ex-Home Sec who might as well have been a proper Tory ex-Home Sec to, erh, carry on doing just that. As I mentioned last week, I have a real problem with previous Labour Home Office bods as this particular ministry seemed to do crazy things to their brains and I’ve never been a fan of Straw in particular. Having said that, I do have to admit that while the cloak of nefarious cunning he wraps himself in isn’t the most becoming of garments, it does suit him down to the ground and fits like a glove. Say what you want about his views and motives, at least he has the decency to look the part. The Demon Headmaster’s main contribution to last night’s show was to send my understanding of where everyone should be on the political spectrum into a flat spin as he embarked on a flanking march so far to the right that he nearly fell of the map and at times made common cause with Melanie Phillips, thus conjuring up the possibility of a love that dare not speak its name. That was one mental image I really didn’t need to see.

For the most part, Straw’s line of attack was pretty much based on the ‘I’LL SHOW YOU HOW TOUGH I AM!’ blueprint so beloved by New Labour but that didn’t seem to have as much traction with the crowd as it may have had in the past. However Straw is no dummy and in-between bouts of pounding his chest he found the time to chip away at the rich little seam of Justice on the Cheap. That proved far more effective, especially with the prison officers and went a little way to negating the excesses of his more truculent episodes. Also, he did mellow a little when it came to the matter of foreign aid and I must confess to being mightily relieved as there was an outside chance that he and Phillips may just start rutting like deranged elk had their opinions not diverged at that point. So yes, it was a pretty standard affair from Straw and while I still don’t particular like the guy, I do have to give grudging respect for his talent for survival and other related dark arts. My one piece of advice? Maybe it’s time to update your glasses Jack… I mean c’mon, Lennon’s been dead for 30 years now. Just sayin…

Ok, Panelist #3 coming up and this week it’s Shami Chakrabarti who has taken a break from her busy schedule of appearing on Question Time at least 200 times a year to appear on Question Time. Naturally, this was an opportunity for Shami to do what she does best (i.e. clip politicians round the ear in a firm but reasonable manner) in a very appropriate environment. Now, Shami’s been done to death in these Post Question Time Match Report’s (mainly by dint of appearing on Question Time 200 times a year) so I won’t go into too much detail other than to say that this was a solid performance that balanced the practical (giving life sentences to rapists means that they are more likely to kill people) with the ethical (telling Phillips to STFU on overseas aid because it’s the right thing to do), all delivered by a charming little boy with lovely manners. Very good Shami, see you next week.

Finally we have Melanie Phillips who has taken time out of her busy schedule of calling the Moon an Islamic conspiracy and accusing the Nanny State of making children drink monkey milk to give a bunch of lags what-for and generally spread the hate. I came up with that line earlier in the week and I must admit that I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to use it as she was fairly (by her standards) restrained when it came to the first question on rape. Like all the other panelists, she gingerly picked her way round the subject as if the monolith from 2001 had just risen from the studio floor and no-one was quite sure whether to fear or worship it. “Bugger” thought I, “this is going to make the write-up a little tricky”. Happily though, this new-found sensitivity was short-lived and she proceeded to crank up the Bile-o-Tronand let slip the dogs of crazy on both the ‘does prison work’ and foreign aid questions (“Close down the Department of International Aid!” Nice one Mel). Overall, it was your standard outpouring of wide-eyed monkeyshine but this time with added weird thanks to the temporary blossoming of romance between her and Straw. However, I will bung her an extra mark for exercising a smidgen of restraint in the first 20 minutes.

By the way, I discovered this week that Phillips tweets. Since my day job as a mental health worker doesn’t quite provide the levels of insanity I need to sustain me, I’ve signed up as a follower and now have the luxury of being assaulted by 140 tiny little fists of madness every couple of days. Seriously, I’m impressed by the density of the derangement she is capable of generating. It’s like mental plutonium.

So that was panel and bully for them. However, the main reason why this was going to be a Bizarro Episode was that it was in prison and prisoners were part of the audience (well done to Dimbers for saying “thanks for coming”. It’s not like a three-hour journey or anything). On the whole, they were fairly tame (although the guy who asked for more money for cons and guards was quite entertaining) but one did stand out. This was the guy at the end with the plumby accent and suit. To be honest, I can’t quite remember what he said (although everyone seemed to like it) mainly because my mind was doing somersaults trying to figure out a)what he was in for (ram-raiding Laura Ashley?) and b) whether he walked about the prison wearing that suit. That provided a brief respite (or “respit” as Straw pronounces it) from some fairly dense stuff so I doff my cap to thee, O Lord of D-Wing. As for the rest of the crowd, well they partially restored my faith in my fellow-man. For one, I was glad that most people seemed on board with the idea that justice needs to be about rehabilitation as much as it is about punishment but also because they showed that they completely saw through the media’s (and Labour’s… to shame, Ed. You’re better than that) attempts to make something out of not very much at all. I also liked the fact that the guy who was most vocal in support for Clarke was wearing a shirt so pink that if it were shade of paint, it would be called ‘FUCKING PINK’ (Caps-lock mandatory).

Clarke: 7/10

Redeemed

Straw: 5/10

Schemed

Chakrabarti: 7/10

Beamed

Phillips: 3/10

Screamed

The Crowd: 7/10

Esteemed

So there you go. A good, if slightly weird show that probably vexed everyone who hoped Clarke would break down like a turd in the rain. Next week Question Time will be in Exeter and I (oddly enough) will be writing it on a Megabus to Exeter. I suffer for my art.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #36


Question Time 36 Dimbleby Burnham Beards

Morning Lemmings and apologies in advance for the inevitable typos that are going to occur. My excuse is solid: My living room has been over-run by cackling harridans who are intending to watch Eclipse, which I believe is part of the Twilight Trilogy of Toss. Now, I’ve had my share of pain and discomfort in life. I’ve survived dengue fever, been held hostage and once sat through an entire episode of Hollyoaks (true story!), but I have to draw the line somewhere and right now, that somewhere happens to be anywhere even remotely related to Twilight. As a result, I have gone into self-imposed exile in the bedroom and am using my netbook to write this week’s Question Time Report… my netbook who’s keyboard was obviously designed for the hands of a tiny infant. Consequently, I’m expecting typos to flourish with wild abandon and make no apologies for this turn of events. If you were in my shoes, you’d do exactly the same. Right, on to the show.

 

Ok, so first up on last night’s show we had Damian Green, Minister of State for Immigration and the sole representative of the coalition present. Now, I’ve got a little bit of a soft spot for Green as he comes across as quite affable, doesn’t tend to say things that are too crazy and generally seems like an alright kind of guy. Like most of the panel, he spent most of the Egypt question conducting a grand exercise in fence-sitting (‘I just LOVE freedom and all that but let’s not get too carried away now’) and mostly pulled it off, hedging his bets without looking like he was downright evading the question. So far, so good. However, it all started going a bit pear-shaped when the matter of the coalition selling off all our forests came up. Clearly, this is a half-baked policy that will get itself a damned good u-turning in the weeks ahead, but since it’s not yet been through that rather undignified process he had little option but to defend the indefensible. Unfortunately for Green, I don’t think Christ himself could have assuaged the crowd’s lust for blood and he was battered about from all sides, mangling his words as he desperately tried to cling to whatever gossamer thin lifeline his lackies had provided him with prior to the show. It didn’t work and he ended up looking thoroughly bruised by the encounter. The following question on Lord Carlisle’s terror quotes provided a brief respite and he went straight back into fence-sitting mode with an extended version of the ‘it’s complicated’ defense, but by-and-large got away with it. However, this reprieve was short-lived and before long, he was back on the ropes, this time trying to explain the unexplainable in the form of the Big Society. Unfortunately, no one bought this and he finished the show looking thoroughly roughed up. All of the above sounds pretty bad, but I’m inclined to cut him a bit of slack as he was in the unenviable position of trying to make some of the most ill-conceived policies in modern history sound like they weren’t entirely made of crazy. Although he might not have achieved this end, he at least managed to not look like a complete prat and that’s no small feat, given the context.

 

Next in line we have Andy Burnham, Shadow Secretary of State for Health. Now, before we get stuck into his performance, there’s been something I’ve been meaning to mention for quite some time: Burnham should grow a beard. Every time I see him on TV, he’s got this amazing 5 o’clock shadow that points towards the potential for some truly regal facial growth. I’ve even gone to the trouble of mocking up how he may appear by adding my own beard to his face (and Dimbers’) in this weeks title picture, a process that left me feeling a little weird, but there you go. As you can see, it clearly suits him and it is my opinion that if he had gone into the Labour leadership contest sporting a full, grizzly facial mane he would now be Leader of the Opposition.

Anyhoo, back to the show. Much like Green, Burnham chose to tackle the thorny issues of both Egypt and domestic terrorism by firmly planting himself on the middle of the fence but didn’t do it quite so well, largely because Green seems capable of looking quite comfortable whilst precariously perched while Burnham keeps having to shift his weight by babbling quite a lot in order to avoid crashing to earth. This manifested in his claims to LOVE freedom (Green got away with only LOVING freedom… just caps, no bold type) and it gave the impression that he was playing for time. However, he did find his stride later on with the forests question (despite getting caught out on Labour’s own record of forest sales) and especially in the Big Society car-crash where he got very Liverpool about things and looked like that might actually have some genuine anger building in him. Given the mood of the audience, this was received with open arms and it is tempting to say that he emerged the political victor. However, I am inclined to knock a point off as it was essentially like shooting fish in barrel whilst Green’s task was on a par with President Ahmadinejad trying to appear all nonchalant and groovy with everything at a Pride march. Not bad though.

Moving on, we have the Terrible Twins, Claire Short and Melanie Phillips, effectively cancelling each other out on all matters Egypt and terrorism (Claire Short sees your “Londonistan” and raises you a “don’t get rid of freedom to protect freedom”!). Now, both of these two have the potential to be annoying, but I must say that neither really wound me up. Granted, the bar is very low for Phillips as I’ve built up a rather worrying tolerance for her absolutely batshit crazy views and bulging eyed method of delivery, but by her own standards, she wasn’t as bad as she could have been. Ok, so by any other measure, that’s still pretty bad and it was uncomfortable enough for me to run this weeks topical pshop (see Fig.1) without feeling guilty, but it could have been worse and lets face it, watching her dig the knife into the nearest Tory present when it came to forests and Big Society was bloody good fun.

Melanie Phillips Fuckwit Opinions

Fig. 1

 

Similarly, Claire Short’s performances over the last 6 years or so have always seemed a little tainted by her record of ‘will she, won’t she’ resignations and her own awareness of this, but she was on pretty good form last night and started to look like she’s comfortable in her own skin again. Furthermore, at least the pair of them actually had a bloody opinion on the Egypt situation which is more than can be said for the rest of the panel. For that, they are rewarded with points.

Our final meat puppet from last night comes in the shape of economics bod Noreena Hertz, and I must say that I’m slightly at a lose as to what to make of her. On the matters of Egypt/terrorism, Hertz chose to join the big fence sit with Green and Burnham, but did so in an odd way, forcefully planting herself right in the middle and almost telling people off who ventured forth with an opinion. Even weirder was when she managed to big up the Internet in one sentence (it’s single-handedly liberating Egypt, dontchaknow?) whilst bigging it down only moments later (cyberterrorism will single handedly de-liberate the UK, dontchaknow?) all the while maintaining an air of peevish annoyance. So far, so not-so-great but things get even stranger when you look at her response to forests/Big Society questions. She was on fire, getting well stuck in to Damian Green and whipping the audience into to a right old frenzy of excitement! Seriously, I find it hard to recall a member of the panel being so well received. That in itself should warrant high marks but I find that I just can’t award them and I think I’ve figured out why: She reminds me of Gillian McKeith. Part of that is down to her somewhat washed out, could-do-with-a-pub-lunch look but I think it’s more to do with the way she just seems really pissed off with everyone for not taking everything she says ultra-seriously. It’s a shame because she came out with some really good stuff and the crowd obviously agreed with her, but there was just something that stopped me getting on board the Hertzwagon. Mind you, at least she didn’t examine the contents of anyone’s shit.

Finally, we have the Workington crowd who, as mentioned above, went frankly mental at times. However, the show itself was weird and I think that’s mainly to do with the fact that it was dominated by the Egypt question. Obviously, that had to be the first question as it’s a truly monumental event that deserves our full attention, but in terms of it’s Question Timeability, it’s an odd one as no one in the room could really do anything about it and as the situation is so fluid right now, nobody really had a clue what’s going on. As a result, the first half hour was a stilted affair that didn’t really go anywhere and a similar scenario unfolded with the terrorism issue. However, in contrast to these rather odd sections the questions that addressed coalition policies drew such a level of excitement/ire that I thought the assembled rabble may well take up arms against their Southern Overlords, jump on the next train to London and raze Tory HQ to the ground. Seriously, they were like people possessed (especially the oldish looking guy who like dressed like a twenty-something hipster) and if the coalition are in the market for bad omens, they need look no further than this episode.

So yes, this was quite an odd experience and one that wasn’t too different from sitting in a room with faulty fluorescent tube that spends half of its time stutter and flickering before finally bursting into blinding, retina burning light. In a word, ‘unhinged’.

TL; DR

Green: 6/10

A lucky non-escape

Burnham: 6/10

Should grow a beard

Phillips: 4/10

Annoying, but could have been worse

Short: 6/10

A timely return to form

Hertz: 4/10

Stay off the mung beans

Ok, that’s me done. I’m going to skulk off to the bath and try avoid going downstairs, lest I be asphyxiated by a fug of oestrogen and age-inappropriate crushes.

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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