Posts Tagged 'michael gove'

Questionable Time #131


qt 131

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to another irrelevant edition of Questionable Time! Yes, seems like nobody cares about poor lil’ QT shambling on after the big, flashy Leaders’ debates…but that’s what I’m here for, to look after the muck nobody else wants to clean up. The debates themselves were as predictable as predicted: Cameron looked foreheady, no1curr about Clegg, Nigel Farage and Leanne Wood got into a fight, Nicola Sturgeon cried for FREEEEDOM, Natalie Bennett was Australian, and Ed Miliband did okay I guess, unless you’re reading the Sun or Telegraph, in which case he shat himself on stage.

But we’ll show those popular kids and their popular kicks. Let’s have a debate of our own. Let’s Questionable Time.

Are you sitting comfortably? No neither am I

Michael Gove starts off by dissin’ Ed too, although that technically is his job. He declares that because Ed Miliband is still a geeky dork then mean old Nicola ‘n’ Alex would be able to trample all over him with their big Scottish feet. A snarky beardy man in the audience points out that the Tories didn’t even win overall in 2010 so why should we believe that a prospective Tory government would be any more stable? Gove brushes this off in a Govey way while a Scottish lady also goes in for him and Dimbleby makes strange noises.

At this point, Anime Andy Burnham makes his move. The right-wing media are being proved wrong, he says, and Ed Miliband is actually “a man full of warmth and conviction” who he’d like to snuggle and play Manic Miner with. Not for the first time this night, it sounds like he’s about to burst into tears, which he does a lot. Oh, to be a living, eyelash-fluttering manga character!

A man in audience says they’re all fake except for lovely Nigel who is definitely not an ex-banker from a public school and is a MAN OF THE PEOPLE. Apparently. Peter ‘Jeremy Clarkson is a left-wing BBC conspiracy’ Hitchens agrees, aggressively tongueing Farage’s anus. Meanwhile, Danny Alexander/Brian the snail is back (already? Wasn’t he on only a few weeks ago?) and looking increasingly baggy and fleshy. “You need to have Liberal Democrats in the mix!” he says, like they’re a winning toy/stray rusty nail (delete according to political position) in a box of Coco Pops.

Somehow this all, mainly thanks to Peter, devolves into an argument about the break-up of the UK again. I had to deal with months of QTs about this in the run up to the #indyref, please don’t let me go through this hell again.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, thankfully, interrupts to practically scream UP THE WOMEN! The wimmins in the audience predictably cheer. This is great as I have been eagerly awaiting the feminist takeover of Question Time for some time now. Yasmin continues in this vein, basically shouting G’ARN NIC’LA at every opportunity. I mean, regardless of what you think of her policies, it’s nice to have a woman (Nicola Sturgeon) on the centre political stage who looks so much like a mum on the school run, but could probably punch you out (being Scottish, after all).

I’m not sure what’s going on now. Govey Wovey hates the SNP, Yasmin doesn’t, Andy’s making faces, Peter is making exactly one face for the entire duration of the programme (a mix between constipated/vaguely annoyed/braindead), and Danny is calmly staring into the abyss of the Lib Dems losing all their seats in Scotland and most of them in England. Uh…hooray?

Then something incredible happens. The subject of a Tory-UKIP coalition gets brought up, and Michael, squirming uncomfortably in his seat, can’t rule it out. Andy pounces.

The hysteria comes loud and fast. Can’t rule it out! Can’t rule it out! “We’re listening, Michael!” Andy squeals cutely. Gove panics and says something about rainbow coalitions but by this point it’s too late. Andy Burnham has transmogrified into his unstoppably manic alter ego: ANDY BURN ‘EM. And he is possibly the best source of reaction images ever. Goveing Tree, needless to say, is not amused.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

A man in the audience sums everything up with a question on why everything is breaking apart. The answer, of course, is that YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA!

Danny begins to actually answer this point but out of nowhere is interrupted by BURN ‘EM, who passionately starts to cry about collectivism. He just has a lot of feelings. Then even Gove gets #REKT by Hitchens. This isn’t a great night for the Govester! He sniffs, planning Hitchens’ method of death. Don’t worry Mike, you’ve got the entire second half of the show to make up for it…execution-style.

While Peter explains the difference between debt and deficit because, five years later, nobody still knows what they mean, and threatens to destroy both the Labour and Conservative parties in a bloody civil war (what is wrong with this man), there’s an equally absurd kerfuffle over what the hell a ‘formal’ or ‘informal’ agreement actually means. Andy struggles to make his voice heard while Gove tapdances away gleefully, because even though Labour ruled out a coalition with the scary Scots they might still play tag with them in the playground occasionally. Or whatever. This is getting so confusing that Dimbleby is now making the same face as Peter Hitchens. A worrying sign indeed. Let’s move on.

Fresh baked United Kingdom filled to the brim with jammy goodness

Is the country full? Well, Peter says yes – unless we clone Peter Hitchens, in which case things would be different around here. To summarise, immigrants are BRAVE but the EU is EVIL. Danny looks shocked and appalled. Hitchens adds another emotion to his grand arsenal: smug. However, Gove’s spirited defense of immigration seems to put the damper on a possible UKIP coalition, to the extent that Yasmin wants to hug him. Maybe they could form a coalition. Andy joins in and it’s all a big cuddlepile with Hitchens not invited to the party. Aww, this is nice. Even more coalitions!

But it can’t last forever. Andy breaks out of the cuddlepile by extremely subtly reminding us he’s werking-class with a reference to Auf Wiedersehn, Pet, and gets teary about the NHS as per usual. Dimbles sighs and has to intervene once again.

“We’re not talking about the NHS,” says he.

YES WE ARE, cries Andy, an unrepentant repeat offender of the Getting Emotional Brigade. Dimbleby reassures him that they’ve scheduled the NHS discussion for the last five minutes of the programme, but first they have to spend five minutes talking about ISIS, because both of these issues can surely be comprehensively covered in such a sumptuous amount of time.

Maybe if we didn’t spend so much time talking about debates then this wouldn’t have happened

Saudi Arabia suxxx, says Yasmin out of nowhere. And so do religious schools. Gove fights the urge to reply CALM DOWN DEAR and instead says something about spiritual nourishment. Mmmm…nourishment.

The others waffle some waffling crap but the crowd wants to know what they’ll actually do about these horrid scoundrels. Nobody knows as we only have five minutes and time is already up. Best…scheduling…ever. Next question!

Why not all work together on the NHS? Well, unimpressed audience lady, because people have very different plans for the NHS. Some people want to lovingly caress it, others want to hit it with a hammer.

Andy Burnizzle makes this exact argument to the extent that he is probably about to explode. His beautiful eyes are starting to pop out of his handsome skull as he clutches his trembling fist to his heaving breast, reinstating the main, most important point again and again: that he hates Tories. He frickin’ hates Tories. God damn does he hate them. Wait, what was the question again?

The others cycle through their equally predictable soundbites. Danny is moderately moderate and praises Holy Cleggus. Yasmin hates privatisation. Peter thinks the NHS is the only thing Labour hasn’t ruined and that they and the Tories are being squabbling babies about it. Both Andy and Michael then unite to pull a joint face of disgust. COALITION CONFIRMED?

I don’t think impressed woman was impressed, honestly.

Time for the scores!

Gove: 6/10

(Missed an open) Goal

Burnham: 8/10

Troll(in’)

Alexander: 5/10

(For whom the bell) Toll(s)

Alibhai-Brown: 6/10

(Middle of the) Poll

Hitchens: 6/10

(Had a leisurely) Stroll

The Crowd: 6/10

(On a) Roll

Next time: [inaudible screaming]

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #116


qt 116
Good morrow lemmings and welcome to sunny Romford-in-London! We’ve got a veritable cavalcade of weirdos on the panel today. Don’t just stand there, let’s get to it, strike a pose, there’s nothing to it.

“You gotta work bitch” – acclaimed scholar Britney Spears

Oh boy, oh boy, I wonder what new and interesting topics Question Time will cover this week? Plebgate? Ferguson protests? More Twitter storms that aren’t Thornberry-centric? No! It’s 25 uninterrupted minutes on immigration, because nobody’s talking about it and it’s a conversation we need to have, apparently! Nigel Farage’s ghostlike grimace floats over the panel, his laughter cascading off the walls and echoing into their very eardrums.

Chuka, you’re up. I am constantly baffled by this man. Once hailed as the great hope of the Red Team, everyone seems to have backed away from him slightly due to the fact that they’re a bit weirded out by the extent of his smooth, succulent silkiness. Chuka may well be the smoothest man who has ever lived. With his crisp dark grey suit, neatly preserved dark grey spotted tie, and World AIDS Day ribbon perfectly clasped on his lapel, he’s immaculately groomed and never puts a foot wrong, or indeed a word wrong – thus raising questions if he was actually bred in a lab somewhere, or created in Peter Mandelson’s sinister Machine for easy programming.

Anyway, Umunna Droid Version 2.0 talks nicey-nicely about higher education and doesn’t cause too much of a fuss. Tolerance! Respect! Fair play! Handsome Chuka will save us all, especially from rival leadership candidates Anime Andy and Pixie Yvette. Meanwhile, Michael Gove prissily clasps his hands together and peers over his glasses – perhaps seeking to unnerve Chuka, but you can’t unnerve a man who runs on pure undiluted smoothgroove.

Michael launches into his first attack. Immigrants come here because our economy is booming, which is good, but we need to control our borders anyway. Chuka raises a neatly crafted eyebrow. Suddenly he’s unceremoniously pushed offstage by Jo Brand, who asserts that certain areas of the press encourage scaremongering, looking pointedly at Amanda Platell, the Mail woman. Amanda isn’t taking that lying down, though – you gotta werk ‘ard, and don’t expect a meal ticket!! she declares, which only succeeds in making me feel hungry.

Our last panellist, Norman Baker, has a weird voice. He came to my university last week and got heckled by free education protestors. You’d think students would agree with him, though, considering he’s all pro-drug and pro-aliens and pro-David Duchovny. However, today, he’s disappointingly unweird. Boooo.

Well, things haven’t been too bad so far. Nobody’s shouted or screamed or cried, so maybe there is hope for QT after all –

The war of Tristram’s ear

I spoke too soon. We’ve all been drafted into the Class War without noticing. Oh, the humanity!

While a Daily Mail journalist criticising the ‘metropolitan elite’ is a bit of a larf, what was even more shocking in this episode was the behaviour of Michael Gove. Actually giving old loaf face the benefit of the doubt? Agreeing with some aspects of Labour policy? Quietly and unobnoxiously setting out his beliefs? Reader, I was shocked. Gove must know that he has the public image of a pile of dog vomit, so maybe he’s appeared on QT in order to tackle it. Bless our new Saint Gove, for he will lead is into a free school future of fun and frolics.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Hilariously, Jo Brand’s not havin’ any of that. Screw lovingly serenading public/private/whatever you wanna call them schools, THREATEN THEM UNTIL THEY CRY. Smooth Chuka tries to calm things down by hoping that one day state schools can be good enough that private schools are redundant =^w^= (that’s my attempt at a cute cat face). He doesn’t ask how, but maybe Jo Brand can be sent into battle to win this war.

Everything is awesome! Gove practically sings, echoing The Lego Movie. Dimbleby asks why he lost the support of teachers, then. Gove shrugs.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯, he says.

White vann diagram

There’s a big kerfuffle (although not too big, nobody here is swivel-eyed enough to start shrieking) about benefits and are they HIGHER or LOWER, ladies and gents? Everyone agrees that Something Must Be Done, or Has Been Done, but Does it Go Far Enough or should we Keep a Safety Net or just Drive This Bastard Off a Cliff. Then the next couple of questions are very quick, so I’ll just cover them in brief:

Facebook! Jo Brand and Amanda Platell have a passive-aggression-off! Should the website give a shit? Norman says this may be problematic! Gove and Umunna cry, no, YOU’RE problematic! Facebook continues to not give a shit.

White van man! QT almost completely missed this shitstorm from last week. Jo recounts a beautiful tale of pulling some sexist white ven men’s windscreen wipers off and has a go at Dimbleby. Jo’s practically aiming to become prime minister! Mr Smoothie looks uncomfortable and metropolitan. Daily Mail woman says something about UKIP representing the workers – and Ocado, which makes me even hungrier. Overall, I think people just need to understand that some white ven men are perfectly nice people, and some are complete dickheads. No need to lump ’em all together like lumpy custard.

Finally, Norman says we need less career politicians, and presumably more conspiracy theorists. With that, let’s stop this nonsense.

Time for the scores!

Gove: 7/10

(Tried to) Restore (his reputation)

Umunna: 6/10

Wore (nice clothes)

Baker: 4/10

(A surprising) Bore

Platell: 5/10

(Warns against class) War

Brand: 7/10

(Unleashed a great) Roar

The Crowd: 6/10

(Found it a) Chore

Next week has obligatory Shirley Williams. Uh…yay?

Also, a plug 4 u: Ye Olde Webmaster, the former Glorious Leader of this blog, has a new t-shirt out! It’s cool and fresh and funky and I urge you to buy it, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #71


questionable time 71 david dimbleby agatha christie

Good morning Lemmings and boy am I in a good mood today. Why? Because an old friend who I feared had disappeared from the face of the earth came crashing back into my life on Tuesday, a friend that I last recall seeing sometime around May 2010. That’s right Lemmings, Politics is back! Now, that may sound odd as many of the things we associate with Politics – you know, grown men and women jeering at each other, all the ‘he said/she said/you’re not playing with my toys’ sort of thing – have remained but that wasn’t actually Politics: That was just the political classes going through the motions while Politics quietly switched off its mobile and left a voicemail greeting along the lines of ‘Sorry I’m not available to provide you with distinct and tangible alternatives to the current state of affairs at the moment but you never know, give it a few years and I might be able to sort something out on the front.’. All of that changed on Tuesday when the Red Team finally snapped out of its torpor and actually started talking about those long forgotten things known as ‘policies’. Lemmings, I could have wept with joy.

Anyway, what does this sudden return of my missing companion mean for Question Time? It means a right belter of an episode. Observe.

Finally, the Red Team has a tune to make the Blue Team dance to…

…And oh how Gove danced, pressing Wee Dougie to his chest in a passionate embrace as they whirled and pirouetted across the floor. This came as somewhat of a surprise as I initially thought Gove was going for a ‘damning with faint praise’ line of attack (the chief means a politician has of appearing unrattled when they are in fact very much rattled) but the praise wasn’t that faint at all and extended way beyond energy policy. Miliband? Nice bloke, heart’s in the right place, just a shame that his party is still a well of Brownian Bile. McBride? Terrible business but Wee Dougie’s clean as a whistle. Kenya? We’re on the same page. Granted, he did land some forceful punches here and there (the holding of the blank sheet of paper and claiming it was Labour’s education policy was a nice touch) but the tone was very much one of ‘call off the dogs’.

So what’s going on here? It’s tempting to explain this away with the obvious answer that the Tories, concerned by how much Labour’s new-found backbone in the face of corporate interests is resonating with the public, are preparing the ground to steal (or at least knock off a passable replica) of the Red Team’s energy policy while they still can but this is Gove we’re dealing with: Like him or loath him, there’s no getting away from the fact that he’s a very canny and ambitious operator. No, I suspect this runs deeper than a single policy and relates to the Blue Team’s longer term strategy of boxing Labour into the centre ground with the threat of painting Miliband as ‘Red Ed’. So far this has worked a treat as it’s kept the debate squarely on terms that the Tories dictate and hampered Labour’s freedom of movement but Miliband’s speech on Tuesday represented a huge bluff call on Labour’s part and one that appears to have paid off: ‘Red Ed’ – it seems – is surprisingly popular with the public. Now Gove’s cluey enough to spot a busted flush when he sees one and I’d venture that his performance last night was an attempt to cushion the blow until they can come up with an effective counter and on that front he did rather well. After all, it’s very difficult to look like a genuine alternative to the status quo when Michael Gove is agreeing with the bulk of what you’re saying.

(A Minor Aside: Ever notice how much a young Michael Gove looks like Velma from Scooby Doo? No? Then see Fig .1)

yound michael gove velma scooby doo

Fig. 1

And what did Wee Dougie make of all this unexpected romancing? Well it’s very hard to tell as he only has three facial expressions – Slightly Ticked Off when he’s really fuming, Mildly Tickled when he’s exploding with joy and Vaguely Dahhhhhhh for every other occasion – so we’ll just have to chalk this up as another mystery in the vast unknowable that is the Inside of Douglas Alexander’s Head.

Something sarky this way comes…

Transfixed as I was by Gove whisking Dougie off his feet I couldn’t help but notice another presence in the dance hall – a sneering, menacing presence that should really have been wearing a black leather jacket and playing with a flick-knife. Yup, that’s right, Will Self was on again and as is usually the case he managed to make some of the best points of the show in absolutely the worst way possible. That to my mind is a great shame because it’s rare you get someone who’s so clearly intelligent and outspoken on QT, yet every damn time he’s on he just throws it away by crossing the invisible boundary between Satisfyingly Sarcastic and Oozing Moral Superiority before he’s even finished his first sentence. It breaks my heart Lemmings, it really does. Having said that though, the little panto tiff between him and Gove was pretty entertaining and lead me to spend most of the night thinking about who’d win if they did actually “take it outside”. My money’s on Self… By a whisker.

And what of the rest?

It’s nice to see that The Daily Express has finally stopped pretending that there’s even an iota of impartiality left to fight its way through the wall-to-wall coverage of Diana/Maddy/Seemingly Innocuous Things That Will Kill You by having a Chief Political Correspondent who’s going to run as a UKIP candidate… We’re through the looking-glass here Lemmings. Anyway, how did he do? Well, on the plus side he managed – unlike his recently de-whipped colleague – to not to call any female audience members slags, beat Michael Crick around the head or to write off an entire continent as ‘Bongo-Bongo Land’ . That just left him with the usual Kipper message of a plague on all your houses (a win-win for an Express writer as he could then knock out at least a hundred front pages about the threat to house prices from plagues) but he hasn’t quite got that cartoony aspect to him that make UKIP so fun on QT. Maybe that’ll come through when he packs in the day job. As for Louise Cooper, well she seems game for a laugh, engaging enough and her bit on the price freeze was good. It’s just a shame that she slipped into caps-lock mode with that MY FAMILY ARE VERY IMPORTANT TO ME blather at the end. Oh well, hey-ho…

Tl;dr

Gove: 6/10

(Is clearly up to some)Thing

Alexander: 6/10

(Had a lovely little) Fling (with Gove)

O’Flynn: 5/10

(Employed the standard array of UKIP) Sling(s and arrows)

Self: 5/10

(Is long and thin… Much like) String

Cooper: 5/10

(Did seem to) Wing (it a bit at the end)

The Crowd: 5/10

(Are all fans of seminal early-90’s novelty act The Sultan’s of) Ping (FC)

Now, don’t be fooled by those lacklustre scores because this was a great a show: Meaty, dense and pacey (not to mention the fact that my two favourite stereotypes – a man in an elaborate bow tie and an angry vicar – were also represented). So yes, it appears that not only is my old friend Politics is back, but so too is Question Time. God I’ve missed you guys…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #57


questionable time 57 david dimbleby viking york

Good morning Lemmings and brace yourselves because we’ve got a slightly different flavour of Questionable Time this week. Had this been just another Thursday, 10.35pm would find me arranged in a supine position on the sofa, mouthing obscenities at a flickering screen and berating the cats for their obvious lack of interest. This Thursday however, was different. Instead – thanks to a mixture of bluff, guile and Twitter-stalking – I somehow managed to scale the walls of the QT fortress, negotiated my way past the guardhouse (“This isn’t the obsessive dork you’re looking for…”) and found myself watching the show in the all-too-horrible fidelity of real-life. I saw things Lemmings, things no man should see… Allow me to explain.

The holding area is a people-watcher’s dream…

Having been in the audience before, I am no stranger to the holding area (the place where the audience assemble prior to filming) and I know well its terrifying power. If I cast my mind back to that first encounter I can feel my stomach turning all over again, remembering the awful sensation that comes with the knowledge of a) you’re about to be on telly, b) you might actually have to say something and c) there’s every chance that you might make a pig’s ear out of it in front of an audience of millions. It’s buyer’s remorse writ large. Luckily for me, that wasn’t the case last night as having blagged a guest seat (the out-of-shot row off to the side) I was well and truly out of harms way. Instead, I could just kick back and take long, deep breaths of other people’s fear. And oh, what a heady scent it is.

There are two distinct groups in the holding area and their anxiety plays out in different ways. For the first group – the loners whose friends were canny enough to turn down an invitation to tragedy – it’s a quiet but visible terror, one which makes the legs jiggle, the eyes dart and the palms sweat while for the others – the team-handed – it’s a more vocal display of nervous laughs and high velocity yammering. Most of the loners busy themselves by endlessly going over the question they’re going to submit but every now and then you see a pair of them gravitate towards one another, gingerly at first but then all of sudden looking like they’ve known each other for years. This pairing-off quietly cascades across the room and as it does, you can feel the tension easing… That is until the Big Man arrives.

Time to pay Dimbleby his dues…

It’s been a solid Questionable Time rule that aside from applying his face to the ludicrous, I don’t do much in the way of Dimbers. This law stems from a mixture of the practical (it’s somewhat challenging to write about the same person week in, week out) and the judicious (he holds all the cards and that just doesn’t seem fair in a weekly death match format). This week though, I’m saying to hell with the rules and finally giving credit where credit’s due: Dimbers is damn good at his job.

The first time the audience meet him is in the holding area and the sight of this angst ridden rabble suddenly going weak at the knees is another one of those things that makes the whole process so fascinating to watch. On this occasion the Antechamber of Doom happened to be in a lecture theatre and given that I was loitering near the lectern I was treated to a grandstand view of a twitchy gaggle suddenly melt into a slush of dreamy eyes and blissed-out grins.

So how does he do this? Well, part of it is that he just looks mischievous but it’s mostly down to his ability to make you feel like you’re in on a secret. For example, this week we were treated to an anecdote about how a Question Time crowd got inadvertently swapped with a Top of the Pops audience (oh the money I would give to watch a QT crowd being made to get down and boogie), a frighteningly good Tony Benn impression and the tale of an audience member who claimed to have been murdered. More than that though, he manages to convey a sense that no matter what, no matter how slippery or evasive the buggers are, he’s going to make those poor saps on the panel pay and he needs your help to do it. Again, the change is visible: The crowd’s mile-wide-smiles take on a more fangy, savage edge, their nostrils flare and you can almost hear the chanting in their heads: Kill the pigs! Cut their throats! Kill the pigs! Bash them in!

So the show itself?

I have to admit that I didn’t catch much of the show last night as my seat was so tucked away that I couldn’t actually see what was going on but I will say this: Despite my usual fear of Gove, he actually did rather well last night. Of course, York – a stud of deep blue on that belt of red leather that keeps the nation’s political trousers from falling down – was always going to be a benign climate to operate in but his use of the Yadda-Yadda Play marks a first in QT history. In the interests of full disclosure, this uncharacteristic charitability may also be down to seeing him in an overtly humanizing context later that night: I witnessed him agonizing over snack choices in a very, very cold York station. Feeling his pain I forced a Questionable Time sticker upon him whilst muttering that I thought he did well on the show. He took it kindly enough for me to feel bad about the Gove .gif I made early in the day.

As for Thornberry, I thought she got a tougher ride than she deserved. I know the Red Team aren’t that popular in York but at least she managed to go the whole evening without blowing chunks of One Nation and Squeezed Middle over everyone (something that’s been a particularly annoying habit of Labour panelists recently).

And what of the noobs? Well, not a bad first innings for Bennett (although she’s got big shoes of hemp and sunbeams to fill following Lucas’ departure), Horowitz seems to know what he’s doing in a very crowd pleasing sort of way and Littlewood is stone cold crazy but assertive enough for that to come across as So Crazy That It Might Just Work. And that’ll do for me.

Tl;dr

Gove: 6.5/10

Pob

Thornberry: 5/10

Rob(bed)

Bennett: 5/10

(Is new to the ) Job

Horowitz: 7/10

(Has an eloquent) Gob

Littlewood: 6/10

(Is probably a free market heart) Throb

The Crowd: 5/10

(Enjoy) HobNobs?

How’s about that then? Will that keep the wolf from the door until Question Time returns in April? Well it bloody well had because I’m knocking off for two weeks. Anyway, here’s that Gove .gif I was talking about (see. Fig. 1). Yeah, I know… It’s petty and mean but in my defence, who wouldn’t want an oxygenating and animated Gove ornament in their aquarium? No one, that’s who…

michael-gove-goldfish-gif

Fig. 1

Three weeks Lemmings, three weeks…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Super Time Pressured Post Question Time Match Report #1


I did try to make an animated version of this. I failed.

 

Morning Lemmings and welcome back from the Festivus break. First things first, the good news: My leg is now repaired and fully functional after my pre-Crimbo high velocity ground/Loudribs interface (apparently I bruised the bone in my hip. I never knew you can bruise bones, but who am I to argue with the good people at A and E or my own pain receptors?). In outpourings of further joy, I am pleased to announce that I have a new telly and the ghostly green shroud has now been lifted from the Heavenly Visage of Dimbleby. I was blind(ish) but now I see. So yes, rejoicing all round.

Now, just in case you thought you got away with it, here’s the bad news: Owing to other commitments, I have literally an hour to cobble something together so it’s going to be a super short QT Report tonight. I realize that this is a rather ominous start to the new series, but my sick note is in good order as I will be playing a gig with popular beat combo Achtung Everybody in a matter of hours. For all those who live in Leeds and fancy getting themselves down to Santiago’s for about 8.00, I salute you. I can’t promise that the music will be to your tastes, but as it’s only two quid on the door all subsequent complaints will be filed under ‘P’ for ‘Po-Faced’.

 

Right…. To the show. First up we have Michael Gove and his anatomically perplexing face (I wager that if you were to punch it, your fist would be sucked in by it’s putty like qualities and become stuck which in turn would lead to a rather awkward post-attempted assault situation where you either both freak out or end up simply standing in bewildered silence, fist still implanted in face). I must say I was quietly impressed with his outing, especially as a throng of teachers who had voted Conservative formed an orderly queue with the intention of giving him what for. This motley crew were mostly dealt with a combination of appropriately pitched humour and a very impassioned monologue that saw him get quite hot under the collar, both of which proved reasonably effective. However, he did get caught out by an early play of the “son of a fish merchant” card which Charles Kennedy then trumped with his own deployment of the “son and grandson of a Scottish crofter” gambit. Gah! Damned reformed alcoholics! Always spoiling everyone elses fun!  A similar scenario later unfolded when he poked fun at Dimbers’ rapidly advancing years (seventy-goddamn-two! He’s as old as Moses!) which was swiftly counter poked with a quip about some maths he had just got wrong, leading him to retreat into a confusing little passage where he may or may not have claimed to fancy Celina Scott. Oh, and before I forget, he also came out with this humdinger. “Facts are chiels that winna ding”. According to google, this is a Burns quote. According to everyone else, it’s the incoherent rantings of a maniac who’s minutes away from being sectioned. So that is he and despite the fact he’s clearly a True Believer in something quite potty (and I find True Believers of any ilk to be terrifying), he did pretty good.

Moving swiftly on we have Dianne Abbott making her ten trillionth appearance on recent QT’s, a fact that now leads me suspect that she is having some sort of sordid affair with Dimbers. Little to say here as I’ve expended most of my Abbott material in previous reports but it was your usual concoction of affable head nodding, exacerbated appeals to reason and reassuring mumsiness. All well and good, but beware Dianne, your well deserved familiarity is getting dangerously close to generating a smidgen of contempt. Bringing up the rear of the party political end is Charles Kennedy who tended to answer questions at great and rambling length but did so in the style of reading a bedtime story, thus cementing his position Person I Would Most Like To Offer Me A Cup of Tea Upon Waking From A Hangover. Also of note were his extensive efforts to put an ocean of clear blue water between himself and the government, an exercise that involved repeated reminders of his backbench status and his vote against Tuition Fee’s. Do you know something we don’t, Charlie? Actually wait, it’s blindingly obvious: The Lib Dems are fucked.

Finally, we have the two non-politicos, Jeanette Winterson and James Caan, both of whom adopted massively contrasting QT techniques. On Winterson’s side it was a case of delivering every withering broadside (and there were many) with Old Testament levels of certainty and brimstone (assuming of course that the Old Testament had been written by a high-profile lesbian) and she even took the trouble of pouring of her Special Reserve Scorn on Vince Cable, thus ushering in the finally act of The Passion of St. Vince. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Generally speaking she was pretty good fun although the way she takes a sharp intake of breath at the end of every sentence left me feeling a little disoriented. Caan, on the other hand, was an entirely different kettle of fish and a kettle of fish that I 68.5% approve of. On the plus side, his natural suaveness and gentle tone are a nice break from the usually rabid entrepreneurs they have on but the remaining 31.5% I don’t approve of was largely accounted for by his insistence on making every answer somehow business related (or in the case of the Jack Straw question, his flat-out refusal to answer it directly at all). Still, not bad.

All of which leaves us with the crowd who were fairly rowdy, although slightly stymied by Charles Kennedy’s refusal to be a Lib Dem sitting duck. Audience members of note include a woman who’s body language was so jerky that I feared for the vertical hold on my new telly, another woman who appeared to be wearing a forage cap which actually turned out to be her hair and a serious looking banker type who seemed to have solved the entire economic crisis in a matter of sentences. Good work there, Serious Looking Banker Guy.

A fair to middling 6/10

Ok, I’ve got to go and shovel some food down my neck before rocking my socks off. Sorry for the brevity but needs must and by way of compensation here’s a link to some vintage Dimbleby footage kindly made available by Adam Curtis.

Time for a picture of Beefy? Time for a picture of Beefy.

Yarrrrrrr.... Thar she goes...

Sober bassists are bad enough...

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #12


Ol' Big Neck and Wonky Eyes

Morning Lemmings. Ok, so I guess I’d better pay lip-service to the Leaders Debate as it provided the backdrop to last night’s Question Time and the world seems to have got its knickers in a twist about it (except, strangely, the Mail and Express, who are going with volcanogeddon on their front pages today… Your boy not do too well then?). I’m not going to get too deeply embroiled in it all as we’ll be here all day, but here’s a few choice titbits for you:

1: The format is super weird, like an episode of Blind Date where the audience couldn’t be bothered to turn up, Cilla’s been at the catnip and the girl who does the picking is in a comma. I know that everyone’s bleating about what a revelation it all was but I have to confess that I found it half stultifyingly dull, half mindbendingly bizarre (at one point I began daydreaming about how cool it would be if Cameron’s head just exploded, showering Clegg and Brown with blood and propelling fragments of skull into Stewart’s face. See what it’s done to me?) Debate without a feedback mechanism is an odd puppy indeed.

2: Alistair Stewart is a tool and a very staccato one at that. I know it was hard brief, given the Byzantine rules involved, but constantly barking “MR BROWN! MR BROWN!” does not a Dimbleby make.

3: Clegg did do well. I’ve been very scathing about him of late, mainly because he comes across as the political equivalent of skimmed milk: Sensible but life drainingly limp. However, he did manage to look like someone with two, possibly three dimensions last night and clearly stood apart from Brown and Cameron as a person who may have some non-crap tricks up his sleeve. So well done Cleggers, your stock’s just risen in my book.

4. Brown wasn’t that bad. Yes, ‘the big list’ is a very worn and dull tactic and desperately shoehorning shonky jokes into places where you shouldn’t isn’t exactly edifying, but he did win some points on the ‘steady pair of hands’ scale. If I was him, I’d knock these efforts to humanise himself on the head because it isn’t fooling anyone. We know he’s a creature who dwells in a netherworld of abstract numbers and ethereal statistics, but that’s actually part of his appeal (in an odd sort of way). Stick with what you know, Gordy. Oh, and watching him try to bum Clegg was pretty entertaining.

5. The biggest revelation for me was just how bad Cameron was. I was fully expecting him to walk this, but it was not to be. The main problem is that his ‘reduce hugely complex and nuanced issues into a happy little tale of how cocking normal I am’ tactic that works so well on soundbites and news bulletins simply can’t sustain 90 minutes of scrutiny. Seriously, if he had tried to boil the global economic crisis down to some anecdote about how he was hanging out in a Spar shop, buying something excruciatingly normal amongst excruciatingly normal people one more time, I swear to god I would have forced lit cigarettes down my ears, hot end first. The flakiness of the Tories latest wheeze (power to plebs, yo?) also began to look suspiciously flimsy after a few minutes and I can’t help but think that they are really going to have to up their game to stop the other debates going sideways.

6. The set looks like is was borrowed from a daytime telly gameshow, possibly involving William G. Stewart.

7. When the candidates weren’t talking they looked like they were messing about with colouring-in books.

8. 90 minutes is a bloody long time.

So that’s that: A rather disorientating experience that left me salivating for the fillet steak of Dimbleby after the gruel of Stewart. Waiter!

The Menu: This is a bit of format tweak, largely to curb my tendency to waffle about the finer points of the various questions. So, from now on, the questions go up first, I get to have a bath and read the New Statesman a bit earlier while you don’t have to trawl through quite as much blabber. Everyone’s a winner, kapeesh? So, what’s on tonight’s menu?

Q1: Who won tonight’s debate?

    Q2: The debate is being described as “historic” but will it make a difference?

    Q3: Does the Tories ‘people power’ wheeze represent an abdication of the state in providing services?

    Q4: Does Gordon Brown’s omission that he should have supervised the banks more closely mean he’s not fit to lead?

Q5: Is a hung parliament the political equivalent of volcanic ash (topical!)?

In The Red Corner: Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and somewhat boss eyed (see above) brother of David.
Another week, another Miliband, although this time we get the slightly more human of the pair. I’ve got quite a lot of time for Ed as he does seem to genuinely think about what he says and has an air of conviction that doesn’t spill over into sounding desperate. His career path hasn’t been quite as meteoric as his brother’s, mainly because he’s always been on the Brown side of the Labour fence, but to be honest, that seems to work in his favour as I’m natural suspicious of high achievers and their ilk. He also has much softer edges than David, mainly because he trades less in pure politics (which the younger Miliband excels at…. excels at far too much in fact) and more in ideas. That gives him a little more depth and a little less jaggedness. It was an easier show than it could have been for him tonight, considering Brown managed not to completely faceplant himself into the pavement while Cameron didn’t manage to live up to his own hype. Q1 was a pretty chushty affair that simply involved giving the obligatory props to ‘how great for democracy’ the whole shebang was, a few nods in Brown’s direction and a nice little crack at the Tories for Cameron’s China faux pas. Nothing of revelationary significance, but steady enough. Minor applause was the order of the day for Q2 as he needled the Tories again for Cameron’s weak effort and declared Gordon Brown to be a “man of substance”, but he overplayed this hand when he went back for a second bite and no-one would play with him. Q3 provided a rich seam to mine as it was pretty clear that the crowd weren’t on board with the whole ‘Big Society’ flakery and they dished out some love when he managed to big up the state without badmouthing the voluntary sector and generally harried Gove on some education do-dahs. Things could have got pretty difficult on Q4, but it seemed that the audience had made up their mind that this was going to be a fairly anti-Tory night and despite wheeling the standard issue ‘global recession line’ (this time working in references to “houses in Mississippi”… go on Ed! Paint a picture!) things did get sticky when an audience bought up that weird story about some department that had a “contemplation suite”. Miliband did the honourable thing in the face of this and dropped Ed Balls right in it (if in doubt, blame Balls) while the final question had him making some ‘we love constitutional reform now that the LibDems look like they might have a fighting chance’ gestures that didn’t look entirely heartfelt. So, all-in-all it was a pretty good turn and at the end of play he looked entirely unscathed. Some of this is down to circumstance. I’m guessing that the Leader’s Debate went way better than most Labour bigwigs hoped and the inevitable hammering he expected to take never materialised. Instead, all he had to do was not get over-cocky and just go with the audience, which he did and it worked. The other part of this is down to Miliband himself and the fact that he’s good at getting the pitch right. While his brother plays a very impressive offensive game, the political equivalent of Shock and Awe, Ed seems much more well rounded and flexible. He’s good in defence without appearing conceited and has the umph to take the fight to the other side as well, all of which goes in his favour. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m saying that this was some earth shattering display of statesman like qualities, but it was quite a nice, measured bit of play that sounded mostly convincing.

An above par 6/10

In Blue Corner, Michael Gove, long neck having (see above) Shadow Secretary for Children, Schools and Families and man made entirely of Play Dough
I have a hard time pegging Gove down. On the one hand he’s clearly bright, tougher than he looks (and he does look like his face was made by a three year old potter who’s been at the E-numbers…See Fig. 1) and tends to do quite well on the likes of Newsnight.

Zoinks!

Fig. 1

Like Ed Miliband, he’s more on the ‘ideas’ end of politics and he seems to be a lot better at nuance than most Tories are. Having said that, I have reservations about the ideas he comes up with (being mainly of the vague and woolly variety, dressed up to sound much more solid than they actually are), his body language points to a squirrel based ancestory and his ‘angry’ face is really irritating. It was a tough deal for him on this episode, considering he had only half an hour’s thinking time after watching his leader do a less than great job and the lack of feedback from the Leader’s Debate audience probably had him making wild guesses about how it went down with the public. The lack of response he got to Q1 (‘of course I love Dave but politicians “shouldn’t pass judgement” on this’…wtf?) was pretty much the shape of things to come while Q2’s little pop at LibDem immigration policy also failed to find it’s target. However, it was Q3 where things started getting messy and when he tried to explain why the whole ‘Big Society’ thing was so great (and he has his fingerprints all over this policy), he was treated to a full blown tumbleweed moment. Sensing that things were looking ominous, he rashly declared that he “loves” Shami Chakrabarti, only to have the subject of his affection turn around and call him a liar. Bad move. Q4 was a safer affair and a recitation of the standard Gordon Brown charge sheet and a sly little swipe at Law’s for being a banker back in the day seemed to do the trick. Moderate applause was his reward, along with a slight respite from the growing anti-Tory sentiment. Finally, he conjured up some thinly veiled warnings about a hung parliament for Q6 and then shuffled off, bloodied but not entirely unbowed.

Truth be told, he didn’t do so badly as the crowd were most certainly not in the market for the regular Tory line and as I said earlier, events conspired against him. If that had been May, Osborne or Lansley, I could see it degenerating into rout, but he did pretty well to keep a semblance of a defence up and although he comes across as quite odd, he isn’t totally unlikable. So bad luck Michael, that was a choppy crossing but you can take comfort in the fact that you didn’t throw up all over yourself.

A spirited, if not entirely successful 5/10

In The Yellow Corner, David Laws, Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and slightly David Caruso-esque ex-banker.
I haven’t been impressed by laws to date, mainly because there’s something a little jobsworthy about him (“pleeeeease let us have power”) and he can be a little over assertive, but he was in a great position tonight, given Clegg’s out-of-fucking-nowhere turn. Naturally Q1 was a love-in with Nick and a fall-out with Dave, all of which went down with predictable well while he continued to keep the pressure on Cameron in Q2. Q3 saw him do really well as he managed to knock Labour for the nanny state whilst also bashing ‘Big Society’ as being deeply divisive, something that clearly resonated with the audience and made him a whole stack of hay. I have to confess that I missed him on Q4, having to both go to the toilet and find a bottle opener, so no searing insights from me there while Q5 saw him quietly fade out, chuntering about this, that or the other . On the face of it, he seems to have won the political argument but I can’t really put that down to any particular personal trait. Ok, so he seems competent enough and there was nothing I didn’t particularly dislike about his performance, but I still can’t quite get behind him yet. Maybe that will come with more exposure and there’s every possibility that I’m just being a mardy old hack, but for now I am going to suspend opinion on him. Laws: Make me like you.

A technically victorious but not-quite-there-yet 6/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Nigel Farage, ex-leader of UKIP, ventriloquists dummy (see Fig. 2) and wearer of naff suits.

gogtle of ginglish gere?

Fig. 2

I’m going to say something rash now: Politics is a better place with Farage in it. Now hold on there, don’t phone the duty mental health team and arrange a sectioning just yet because this doesn’t mean that I agree with him about…well…pretty much anything, it’s just that he’s a genuine character . A demented, small minded demagogue of a character, yes, but a character nevertheless and characters add much needed spice to what can otherwise be a dull and overly dry subject. He also looks like a cad who’s just a little bit too dorky to be a proper cad and I imagine him being stuck at Cad HQ, doing the accounts while all the real cads are out shagging emotionally vulnerable countesses and swindling impressionable young nobles out of their fortune. That thought cheers me for some reason. Sadly, I was kind of disappointed with tonight’s effort as there was nothing he could get really off his tits about and he kept having to invent reasons to be crazy, usually by making totally unrelated topics somehow link to the EU. Calling the LibDems “the modern day CND” and a brief seizure about Gordy selling the gold looked like they could have developed into some awesomely batty tirades, but alas, it was not to be. Instead, what we mainly got was ‘blah blah referendum, blah blah throwing the doors open, blah blah”. Now I know that UKIP’s main (and only) selling point is the whole Eurobashing thing, but come on, you have to bolster that up with obnoxious opinions about other things as well if you want my continued tolerance of your outlandish worldview. So step up your game, Farage. Next time your own, I want to at least see some hair on the palms of your hands.

A disappointingly flat 3/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: John Sergeant, reassuringly un-handsom ex-journo and buggerer-up of Strictly Come Dancing.

Ahh, John Sergeant… while nature may have given you a pretty ropey deal in the looks department, it more than made up for it by blessing you with the most soothing voice in Britain. Seriously, it’s like swimming in a pool of Ovaltine and if ever anyone has to break some bad news to me, I’d like it if they could contact Sergeant first and get him to do it instead. He’s also one of the most reasonable sounding people on telly, taking his time to softly impart little nuggets of considered wisdom that seem to waft out of his mouth in a fine, sweet smelling mist. Tonight saw him being incredibly sympathetic towards Brown, swimming against the tide a little but getting away with it because it’s just impossible to be angry with someone who looks that much like a comedy cartoon sidekick. Worthy of note was his rather wonderful lambasting about the ‘Big Society’ issue, but unfortunately this got taken the wrong way by an overly eager audience member who thought he was being nasty about the voluntary sector and he had to crank his voice from ‘soothing’ to ‘ultra-soothing’ in order to extricate himself. Mostly though, it was good, thoughtful stuff and while I didn’t agree with it all (I, for instance, really want a hung parliament), it was said in such a way that it came across as it should: an opinion, not an existential threat to my beliefs system. Given that the prevailing wind in politics seems to be a very reductionist, with-us-or-against-us hurricane, it’s really refreshing to listen to someone who actually bothers to look at things in depth. So well done John, now come over to mine and gently lull me to sleep with some Beatrix Potter and Winnie the Pooh. And some warm milk. And tuck me in. That’s enough now. You can go.

A wonderfully contented 7/10

In The There Goes The Format Corner: Shami Chakrabarti, OO gauge defender of Liberties and formidable Question Time performer.

If there’s one person who you can safely bet on to wipe the floor with everyone on Question Time, it’s Shami Chakrabarti. In some ways it’s a little unfair because pretty much no one would disagree that having their door kicked down by the police is something they’d rather avoid, but for the most part it’s down to the fact that she’s passionate, eloquent and doesn’t pander to anybody. She also (as my better half spotted some time ago) looks a lot like a school boy and I’ve often wondered how she’d look in traditional cap and blazer (not in a pervy way, you understand?). Well, thanks to the judicious use of commercially available photo manipulation software, that moment has now arrived. Behold, Middle School Chakrabarti (see Fig. 3)!

Fig. 3

Ok, so it was a little weird having to type ‘boy in traditional school uniform’ into Google Images, but I feel that the end justifies the means. As always tonight, she did a sterling job, going with Clegg on the Leadership Debates, pouring scorn on ‘Big Society’ and generally making sure that none of the politicians got a free ride. The crowd were on board with her as they always are, even as she performed a fairly risky manoeuvre in which she implicated every one of us as a culprit in the credit crunch. That’s an important point right there and one that doesn’t get aired enough, mainly because people are too afraid it won’t go down well. Thankfully, Shami has no such qualms and will routinely point the finger, no matter how much of a holy cow the culprit is. I won’t get too carried away in praising her to high heaven as she does have a blessed position on the show, beholden to no-one and peddling an idea that’s almost universally agreed upon as ‘a good thing’, but there’s still an awful lot to like. So that was pretty much her lot and as usual, it was a very good lot which leads me to conclude that should ever the facility to gamble on Question Time exist, always go with Chakrabarti. You’ll be rich in no time.

A fully great 8/10

The Crowd: London

I had the deepest sympathy for the audience tonight, enduring as they did the full 90 minutes of Leaders Debate but without access to booze, fags, internet and things to throw at the screen. The strain was evident during the opening question and it took them a while to shake off the torpor that seemed to envelop the studio. However, once they regained consciousness, they proved to be a great crowd and one that was very much into Nick Clegg. The other interesting thing was that they were probably one of the most anti-Cameron audience we’ve seen all series which is saying something given that we’ve already been to Scotland and the North East. That’s not to say it was all one way traffic, but if I was in the Tories right now, I’d be seriously looking for that thinking cap of mine. One final thing that struck me about them: this was one of the first shows in a long time when expenses and ‘all MP’s are crap’ didn’t form the backbone of the audience argument. I’ve been quite negative about the Leaders Debates tonight, but if Clegg has somehow managed to drag the argument out of the Swamp of Culpability and into the Savannah of Possibilities, then that is good thing. A very good thing. But yes, generally they were a good bunch and made for a lively show. Members of note this week include a women who made a sentence out of seemingly random words (“more slightly a bit like a puppet show”), a guy who’s shirt looked like a tube of Cresta toothpaste and a women who forgot what she was saying before she said it. I fucking love it when that happens.

A refreshing and zesty 8/10

So Chakrabarti and the crowd carry the day. Well done to them and a ‘not a bad show’ to everyone except Farage. Come on Nigel! Stop with the non-crazy!

See yers next week.


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