Posts Tagged 'Michael Heseltine'

Questionable Time #125


qt 125

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to sunny Stockton-on-Tees, and a silly and suspiciously Scottish specimen of Questionable Time! Not much else to say other than let’s boogie on down.

All I know is everybody hates me

Nicola Sturgeon looks mischievous, Norman Lamb has stolen George Galloway’s hipster glasses, and Duncan Bannatyne is wearing a ridiculous suit, the kind that Michael Heseltine – who is also present and sitting, slumped, akin to a elderly lion caged in a Chinese zoo – would wear in the 80s. Oh, and Caroline Flint is there as well. They’re gearing up to answer our furst kwestion: if everything is apparently hunky dory now, why does everyone still hate the Tories and enjoy egging them as a national pastime?

Nicola gets off to a shocking start as she argues that things aren’t actually hunky dory and strongly hints that everybody should move to Scotland instead. Caroline looks grumpy as Hezza retaliates. Everything, you see, is truly hunky dory after all. A standard Question Time skirmish, one that Hezza – as a veteran, and the first Cabinet minister to appear on the programme all the way back in 1979 – has no doubt batted away boredly many times before, but at least I’m pleased to see that he hasn’t lost any of his magnificent hair, or indeed his eyebrows, which have always appeared to be trying to escape from his face.

Caroline, however, is not dissuaded. She doesn’t think it’s an ‘equal recovery’, and is in fact a ‘race to the bottom’. She looks scared but overall pleased with herself for answering somewhat adequately. Things are calm so far…but that will all change later.

Duncan, meanwhile, has a nice accent. I imagine Nicola would swoon if he actually supported the SNP. As it is, he is merely a traitor. (Or rather, a TRAETAH!!) Oh, yes, and there’s a Liberal Democrat there as well. It’s the Lib Dems who are saving us all! says the Lib Dem. Well, thank goodness for that.

“Norman…” wheedles Caroline in response, like she’s your mum about to ask if you ate the last cookie.

Ten minutes in and surprisingly slowly (I had expected her to attack in the first few seconds), Nicola finally gets to the real issue at hand. Forget the Tories – it’s Labour who are the true enemies. Yeah! Them lot not in office! This is a promising preview of possible coalition talks.

Then Hezza risks igniting the fury of the ScotNats, as he calls them, by comparing them to Le Pen’s lot in France. Now I must confess that I am somewhat terrified of certain sections of the CyberNat army (not all of them, just the very loud ones with an Irn Bru addiction) and have currently been writing this post with a gun to my head – I mean, talking about how they’re all just marvellous! But even I wouldn’t go that far. Ssh Michael. You’re, what, a million years old now? It’s time for your nap.

Nicola Sturgeon then makes one of the most beautiful expressions ever seen on this programme.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

The Neverending Tory

Next question, since the Tories have apparently taken a beating so far (have they? I thought Hezza was doing okay, considering): why is Miliband so weird and why don’t Ant and Dec like him? Michael doesn’t know who they are. This is incredible. I propose we change the title of this show to ‘Michael Heseltine vs the Modern World’ and get him to comment on every single light entertainer of The Now. He’s a crafty one is old Tarzan, switching between appearing like a doddery, harmless old man, a respected elder statesman, and a completely batshit elderly army general directing his troops into battle despite not wearing any trousers at the time. Later he makes a Fifty Shades of Grey joke and I think in his mind he’s imagining he’s still up at the conference podium circa 1976, soaking up the rapturous applause. I hate him, I’m confused by him, but at the same time, I can’t help but love him.

Anyway, Ed Miliband is amazing and quite frankly I’m astounded we’re not being showered with shit in the street, says Cazza. And that’s the end of that discussion and there will definitely not be 10,000,000,000 more articles about this subject in the months ahead.

I’m still here, Norman Lamb reminds us.

Next up: Russia! Exactly how loud should we scream in terror?

The problem is Trident, concludes Nikki Nack. No it’s not! yells Solid Hezza (Guns of the Patriots edition), suddenly metamorphosing into his 1983-era self. Gonna bash some hippies! Gonna wear a flak jacket! We can’t leave France as the only nuclear power in Europe, he grimaces. After all, they’re bloody useless.

Putin is a bit of an issue, understates Caroline, Mumsying it up. That’s why we need DA NOOKS. Duncan Bananarama agrees and Nicola looks betrayed. Norman Lamby and Beefy nods in assent. It’s twagic, says he, continually leaving absolutely no impression upon anyone.

There’s a lot of figure-swapping, budget deliberations and arguing over where money should be spent – the army? The navy? A nice pair of socks for the homeless? Nicola attempts once more to propose getting rid of Trident but is soon drowned out. How dare you try and fail to get rid of the nooks, comes the reply! After a while she just gives up and makes that face again. You could put it on a billboard and the SNP would win in a landslide (although, er, they seem to be on course to do that anyway…nice one guys! Heh heh! [gun cocking sound in the background])

Next question: should we make young people pull up weeds for pennies?

Duncan is all in favour of having young people ‘help out in the NHS’…for no money…(although he at least points out the plight of dyslexic and other disabled people who don’t have the same opportunities as abled folks) but Flint (For the Unemployed and Underpaid) splurges out on a jobs guarantee. Since she’s so dull this unexpected act of splurging is quite welcome coming from her somehow both impassive-and-nervous-looking face. I’m not totally in favour of the Tories’ approach, says Norman, to limited applause, like he’s not part of the dang government or something. Come and work for Duncan instead, as he’s currently trying to recruit members of the audience.

Nicola says it’s exploitation. She’s really getting fired up now, although as a Scottish person I have come to understand that she must be fired up 100% of the time. Hezza is in favour because one imagines his massive garden does need a bit of weeding. Nicola is now making that face approximately every 30 seconds.

The audience are now arguing amongst itself. Dimbles is not intervening, however. This is great fun.

Glasgow smiles

Lastly, will Scotland be the shadowy figure pulling the strings after the election? Caroline, don’t mess up these potential negotiations! She says that she’d like a majority, thank you very much…but Dimbles is on her case right away. Could she, he asks, work alongside the SNP? VOTE LABOUR, she squeaks.

Nicola, on the other hand, would like to form a gang with the progressives. Maybe just loitering in a corner, glaring and muttering about everybody else. Or drinking and smoking by the bike sheds. Hezza then warns against this threatening crew stealing YOUR dosh, as taxpayers!

“COME OAN!” yells Nicola, as if gearing up to meet Heseltine in the pit. Before a fight can break out, however, Dimbles stops the madness.

“Ohh…” whines the audience. It seems, despite some strong opinions either way, everyone quite enjoyed that.

I know. Baffling.

Time for the scores!

Heseltine: 8/10

Swat(ted questions away like a bored, well-fed leopard)

Flint: 5/10

(A slight) Blot (on her record)

Lamb: 5/10

(I can) Not (remember what he said)

Sturgeon: 8/10

Scot(land forever!)

Bannatyne: 5/10

(You) Ought (to work for him, appaz)

The Crowd: 9/10

Hot to Trot

Next time, despair.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #91


questionable time 91 david dimbleby north by north west

Good morning Lemmings and boy-oh-boy do we have a lot to cover today, so much so that I’m not even sure where to start. How about starting at the start? That would be a good start indeed so that’s what I’m going to do: Starting… at the start. Watch me start Lemmings, watch me start!

 

The Cold War is back in town…

…And boy have I missed it because, truth be told, I wasn’t getting on very well with the post-Soviet world. Sure, it was nice that we were ‘winning’ and could invade whoever the hell we wanted under the shakiest of pretexts but it was a complicated, random world that was very difficult to make sense of and didn’t have the cosy certainty that the Cold War possessed (the sort of end-of-the-world certainty that led my dad to fill the cellar with cans of tuna in case the balloon ever went up. He never had a tin opener down there though so the slow death of my family would have been a case-study in absurdity). Anyway, it seems that Putin’s decided that the game is back on and in a weird way I find this all rather comforting as it’s a world I understand and that fits together in my head (bearing in mind that this is the sort of head that reads atlases on the toilet and occasionally draws little arrows on them to signify hypothetical invasion routes). It also seems to fit together rather well in the heads of Michael Heseltine, David Aaronovitch and Alexander Nekrassov, the three panelists who really went to town on this subject.

 

For Aaronovitch, this couldn’t be more black and white: Putin’s up to no good, the Crimea vote will be rigged (at least he’s 95% sure it will be) and to do nothing is not an option. ‘Fair point’ I say, but wait, what’s this? Nekrassov’s got a juicy little counter in about how NATO has been more than a little underhand in its eastward expansion and anyway, this was a coup, not a revolution. Hmmm, also a fair point. What say you, recently-defrosted-cold-warrior Michael Heseltine?

 

‘Bollocks to the details, we’re not doing anything because we can’t’

 

And he’s right: There isn’t a great deal we can do because this isn’t some far-flung sandy place on the fringes of the world, this is a top-ranking nuclear power that happens to keep Europe’s lights on and as galling as it may be, that’s just the way life is. No well-meaning yet essentially empty ‘heads around the table’ platitudes a la Reeves and Hughes, no morally certain chest pounding a la Aaronovitch and Nekrassov, no just sitting there looking like a cat a la Platell, just a very straightforward ‘Life sucks kiddo, suck it up’. It was one of the very rare times on QT I actually felt like I was being treated like an adult and more power to Tarzan for that.

 

A pleasing interlude…

So that was a satisfying, meaty chunk of muscular debate and what followed with the Stephen Lawrence question was also quite heartening with thoughtful response all round (especially from Hughes and the audience) – except from Amanda Platell. Instead, she chose to address the questioner as ”a beautiful black man” before embarking on less-than-subtle eulogy to the Daily Mail (“my paper”) and Paul Dacre (“my editor”). Alas and to absolutely no one’s surprise these shenanigans came to an abrupt end when Dimbers told her to shut up and my attention swiftly moved on to the Scottish lass who claimed that she had chased her attacker to a police station only to find no-one was there. Her general demeanour left me in no doubt that this claim was 100% true and that her attacker was probably running to the police station for fear of their own safety.

 

And then suddenly…

…Everything went mental. Out of nowhere came a question on immigration and the tone was set to ‘febrile’ the minute the original questioner stated that Barking was now “the most terrible place on Earth to live”. Well, that was it – the pro-immigration section of the audience start working up a sustained chunter but it was the anti camp who kept catching the camera. Most notable of these was the bloke who started off on how he didn’t receive rejection letters when he applied for jobs any more and implied that it was probably the fault of immigrants. Understandably, this didn’t go down too well with the majority of the audience but was he going to take any notice of them? Was he hell. No, instead he just carried on going, this time blaming immigrants for not letting him have a house until it finally dawned on him that he might just have made a massive tit of himself. The solution? To grab his coat and leave the studio on the pretext of finding “somewhere to live”. It was surreal, a little bit frightening (although not frightening enough to dissuade the next audience member from describing immigration as an “invasion” and comparing it to the situation in the Crimea) and probably a QT first.

 

And how did the panel deal with this? Not badly actually. There were attempts made to reason with the man but I suspect that ‘reason’ was the last thing this guy was in the market for and anyway, it’s not like he stuck around to see what they would come up with. That just left Reeves (who somehow managed to go through the entire show without being referred to as ‘Liz Kendall’ – see Fig. 1) and Heseltine to have a minor to-do over Labour’s past immigration policy whilst Aaronovitch did most of the legwork for the pro camp and Hughes tried to split the difference but couldn’t quite carry it through. One thing we can be sure of though is that Barking certainly lives up to its name: It was all totally Barking mad.

rachel-reeves-liz-kendall-gif

Fig. 1

 

Tl;dr

 

Heseltine: 7/10

(Still has great) Hair

 

Reeves: 6/10

(Is every)Where (at the moment)

 

Hughes: 6/10

(Is neither) Here (nor) There

 

Aaronovitch: 7/10

Doctrinaire

 

Nekrassov: 5/10

(Knows much about Red) Square

 

Platell: 5/10

(Feels the need to) Share (her love of the Daily Mail)

 

The Audience: 7/10

(Did well not to) Swear.

 

Well, there you go – a dramatic little number with enough geopolitics to keep me drawing little arrows on my atlas and an audience member crazy enough to fill 300 words. Trust me, that doesn’t happen very often. Right, that’s me done. If you’ll need me I’ll be upstairs… With my atlas…

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #53


questionable time 53 david dimbleby horse meat lasagne

Good morning Lemmings and if you like your Question Time with an ecclesiastical twist then you’re in luck as this week finds us huddled amongst the pews of St. Paul’s Cathedral with our heads bowed solemnly, kneeling before the Altar of Dimbers. Not only that, but we’ve also got a bone-fide man of the cloth (Fraser), Methuselah himself (Heseltine) plus a fellow whose world view makes the Old Testament look fresh and edgy (Hitchens). Holy holiness Batman, it’s Questionable Time!

I think I’ve finally forgiven Michael Heseltine…

It’s funny the things that stay with you: My parents spilt up when I was 7 and did so at a time when the then Tory government made it their business to pour scorn upon single-parent families. Being 7 years old, I really didn’t care too much for politics but the memory – that these guys were having a go at my mum when we weren’t exactly having the best of times – has never left me and from that day on all Tories were all the same in my book: Mean, nasty and certainly not the type you’d want to swap stickers or Spokey-Dokeys with.

So how does Heseltine figure in all this? Well, simply by virtue of being one of the more recognisable figures from that period he just sort of became a de facto hate figure in my mind, the living embodiment of a government neither cared nor understood those it governed. Gradually though, I’ve begun to mellow and I’m now beginning to think maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t all that bad.

Part of this reappraisal is down to the fact that I can now look back on that period with a bit of distance and much to my surprise, Heseltine actually comes out of it looking relatively OK-ish. True, he – like everyone else in the Thatcher/Major administrations – has plenty of Greed (and Privatising Everything) is Good blood on their hands but what marks him apart was that he had his ear to the ground when it came to the plight of the ordinary. He’s the one who can take the most credit for doing away with the Poll Tax and on matter such as immigration (as demonstrated last night), he was well ahead of the Tory curve. But that’s half the story: The rest is more to do with what the passage of time has done to Heseltine himself.

If you cast your mind back to his political heyday, Heseltine was quite a dangerous looking character, both in his physicality (that ‘Now just you wait a moment!’ posturing, those semi-crazed eyes) and his behaviour (thrashing the Mace about springs about to mind). Now though? Now that nervous energy seems to have been replaced with an acceptance that he’s off the front line for good and with that comes the realisation that he doesn’t have to chance it any more. That’s important because despite the displays of supreme self-confidence, there’s a very strong thread that runs through Heseltine’s back story: He’s always had to sing for his dinner and with that comes the inevitable air of mania that permeated his public persona.

In terms of last night though, this new-found calm meant that instead of coming across as a bull-in-a-china-shop with something to prove, he now seems comfortable with his place in the world and is no longer driven by the desperation of ambition. That’s nice, because the last time he was on he just looked a little lost and out of it – like the world had moved on without telling him – but in this episode he was back on his game and even managed to generate a convincing head of steam when he and Hitchens had a to-do over whether soldiers are stupid (see Fig. 1). On top that, the moment when his mobile went off was genuinely endearing: There’s just something about a bashful looking old man with an inappropriately activated iPhone that makes my heart melt.

heseltine-angry-gif

Fig. 1

Oh Hitchens, you’re so hard to score…

The case for the prosecution: Peter Hitchens is either a misguided blowhard who boils the world down into a hard-to-shift crust of absolutes on the saucepan of life or a Level 99 Meta-Troll who thrives on self-generated controversy and has taken on all the characteristics of a philosophical retrovirus.

The case for the defence: That delivery! It’s so deadpan! ‘We’re all going to hell in a hand cart. It’s your fault. Now if you’ll excuse me I have less trivial things to pursue’. To pull that off you either need to have an insane tolerance to criticism or be a Level 100 Meta-Troll who has taken the Gentle Art of Making Enemies beyond the sublime.

My jury: Is wondering whether we can just give him mid-range marks based on a reason that was not presented in court and has no facts or evidence to support it either from the prosecution or the defence.

Hello stranger…

I’m glad Diane Abbott and I had a break. I’ve got nothing against her but there was a time when she was on so regularly that I worried she was going to have to list the QT studio as a second home. Anyway, she’s returned and is peddling the same wares that she was before, mainly by blending the familiar with the righteous. By and large it works and despite the fact she overplay her hand a little toward the end, I’ll still happily lap it up…. Even if that means listening to her name drop her constituency like 10 zillion times.

Nice try Vince…

I usually give Cable a hard time for his Knowing Look – that little glint in his eye that says ‘Just you wait until I’m in charge, then we’ll show them!’. It’s a viable QT play in the short-term but Vince has rinsed this little tactical flannel so hard I now need to see some substance. Initially, I thought he’d found some in his point-blank dismissal of IDS’s Child Benefit proposals but when he went on to insist that missing the target for the 4G auction was actually a textbook rendition of Keynesian economics, I pretty much gave up. Back to the drawing board Vince…

I think I’ve found my kryptonite…

God I love a wonky clergyman! Despite being a contented agnostic, there’s something about an outspoken and left leaning vicar that just slays me. Rowan Williams? Boss. John Sentamu? Yo-diggity. The latest addition to the canon? Giles Fraser.

Tl;dr

Heseltine: 7/10

(Not as) Mad (as he used to be)

Abbott: 6/10

(Not) Bad

Cable: 5/10

Had (at least stopped with the Knowing Looks)

Hitchens: 6/10

(Is an odd) Lad

Fraser: 7/10

(Is fair) Rad

The Crowd: 8/10

Gad(zooks)?

Well.. That was an envigorating little samalamadingdong wasn’t it? Good crowd, opulent surroundings and a heavyweight panel, all of which conspired to make the most satisfying show of the run so far. A special mention goes out to the Case Worker who made a lovely, rolling crescendo of a point that was backed up with some pretty thorough homework. If you’re reading Mr. Case Worker, tap me up… There’s some Questionable Time stickers with your name on them just waiting for an address.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #15


Scariness...

Good mornings Lemmings. And we’re back. Ok, so I know I promised a small award ceremony at the end of the last QT Report, but a number of developments emerged in the intervening period that stymied my progress. They are as follows:

  1. I developed a very unhealthy News 24 addiction. Reality for me is now a flurry of high velocity red and white graphics, relentlessly dramatic drum backed pips and Nick Robinson’s smug little face. It’s reduced me to a level of such helpless passivity that I’m not even sure who I am any more.
  2. I spent most of this week in Barcelona, desperately trying to mangle French and Spanish together in a doomed effort to pretend that I can speak Catalan and failing miserably. I also spent much of this period in awe of the inexplicable concentration of mullets and tattoos that the city has generated. Seriously, even the pigeons have ape drapes and full sleeves. I thought about threatening to do a Lloyd-Webber, but all the hair and body art put me off.
  3. I bought Just Causes 2 and have spent most of those precious moments where I could tear myself away from the Soma of rolling news blowing the living crap out of everything that moves or stays still too long. The reasons for blowing up said crap still elude me, but that doesn’t stop blowing crap up from being awesome.
  4. The world as we know it has ended. From the moment that exit poll came in, the Earth’s magnetic field flipped polarity, wing-ed beasts took to the sky, stars began to fall from the heavens and death stalked the land.

So that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. I haven’t forgotten though and there is an outside chance I might manage to shoehorn it into next week. Enough already. Time to re-engage with the one constant in this disorientating flux. Welcome back to Question Time.

The Menu

Q1: Should LibDem voters feel betrayed by the deal with Tories?

Q2: Has David Cameron sacrificed too much to the LibDems?

Q3: Who should be the next Labour leader?

Q4: Are we really in an era of ‘new politics’ when the government is full of white, middle class, Oxbridge educated men?

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Lord Heseltine, wild haired big beast and Mace defiling big shot of yesteryear.

Heseltine used to scare the absolute shit out of me. He was everywhere when I was a kid and although I didn’t have much of an idea about whatever it was he was ranting about, I did know that he looked like a genuinely dangerous berserker of a man. These days though, he doesn’t carry the same whiff of cortisol and testosterone. Instead, there’s something endearingly vulnerable about him. This is not say that he isn’t still quite, quite mad, it’s just that he sometimes gets stricken by this haunted, frightened look, as if he’s just spotted Death himself in the audience, beckoning him towards a pool of pure obsidian. Actually, it probably isn’t Death. It’s probably Liam Fox (he will come for us all in the end).

So yes. Heseltine is not the cataclysmic destroyer of worlds that he once was and is now like a gummy old tiger who has lost the ability to kill, but will still indulge in the odd ill-tempered outburst to remind us that he still has a taste for blood. On this episode, Heseltine turned out to be quite a lot of fun, just about keeping his instinct to damn the coalition to hell and back in check and instead, blaming it on the voters, fickle creatures that they are. In practice, this boiled down to repeated, through-gritted-teeth chantings of the National Interest/Strong Government/Pound Through The Floor mantra coupled with some rather wonderful ‘you bastards voted for this so tough shit’ rebukes to every man, woman and child in the country. It’s nice to see a politician go out of his way to alienate absolutely everyone and I must admit that he does have a point. Which ever way you cut it, this is what the votes stack up to so yes, we only have ourselves to blame. This rather spirited display of bloodymindedness also had the effect of making him more or less immune to tricky questions that would have totally derail more consensual types. Take for example Q2. For a wet behind the ears Tory noob, this would be a nightmare as every answer you could give would be wrong. If you say ‘yes’, you have sacrificed too much, you risk upsetting your brand new bessies and thus incurring the wrath of your own masters while if you say ‘no’ you’ll surely be called out for blatantly lying. None of this bothered Heseltine and he was refreshingly blunt about it: ‘This is what we’ve got. It stinks to high heaven, we’ll be hugely unpopular but that’s what you idiots voted for. Suck it up’. Refreshing and refreshingly well received by an audience who were taken off guard by it. He also had some nice little scuffles with Mehdi Hasan, confessed to being around for the last coalition (which was in 1721… or there abouts) and although he tailed off somewhat on Q4, his response to Q3’s ‘who should be the new Labour leader’ was great. “I don’t care”.

Considering what a minefield tonight could have been for the Tory panellist, all the above is quite an achievement and a testament to the fact that although he looks like his marbles are being mislaid at a steadily accelerating rate, there’s life in the old boy yet. Call Liam Fox and tell him to delay his visit by a year or two.

A couldn’t give a shit (in a good way) of a 7/10.

In the Yellow Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Simon Hughes, LibDem MP for Bemondsey, never-quite-makes-it-loiterer-on-the-cusp-of-greatness.

Hughes is the one I’ve had the most trouble pegging down this week as there’s something I just can’t fathom about him. On the one hand, he’s an able debater who’s made stands that are both principled and commendable yet on the other, there’s ‘a day late, a buck short’ quality about him that somewhat tarnish his other achievements and he strikes me as a man very much destined to be an ‘also ran’ in the mould of Peter Hain.

This will creep you out....

...sometimes google images just delivers.

This episode of Question Time was going to be a nightmare for whichever LibDem went up, given that no one was happy with the Condemocrat Alliance and straight from Q1, he was having to straddle an unstraddlable divide. To the left of him he had Hasan and Falconer, both sticking in the knife about the “betrayal” of the centre left while to the right was Phillips, bleating on about what a “sordid” “stitch-up” the whole deal was. In theory, Heseltine should have had his back, seeing as they’re ‘all in this thing together’, but Tarzan was having enough trouble biting his own lip and thought it far more fun to pick on the nation as a whole. That’s not what you really need when your appearing as a spokesperson for the Reasonable Team. Given this background, he struggled to keep his head above water, fending off blows from both sides whilst flailing away desperately in a bid to at least inflict a minor injury on his tormentors. Q2 had a similar ‘no-win’ quality to it, the same pattern applied and he ended up being laughed at by the audience when he said, with gallant levels of inexplicable conviction that the current coalition would last 5 years (although there was some love for him when he reminded the crowd that they’d be doing away with ID cards). For the best part of Q3, he wisely stayed behind cover, venturing out only to declare New Labour “irrelevant” before retreating in the face of Hasan baiting him on immigration while Q6 saw him call for positive discrimination before sloping off under another volley of Hasan’s fire. Hard times.

Judging by the audience reaction, this episode’s effort was pretty poor but I have sympathy for the fact that he was having to defend the indefensible. While there is no way that he can chalk this up as a victory, he can take comfort in the fact that most of the ire was aimed at the LibDems rather than at him personally and although he seemed to be the most grieviously injured party at full time, when he did get a chance to counter attack he took it, even if the odds were massively stacked against him. However, there’s something that still doesn’t add up about him and he reminds me of one of those weird middle management types who, although able and largely likeable, can no longer fit in with the shop floor staff nor swallow enough of their pride in ingratiate themselves with the bigwigs. Instead, they inhabit a shadowy world of lunches eaten alone, rounds bought for whole departments who still ignore him and suspicious looks from the boardroom. He’s not a tit, but he is a bit odd.

A distinctly undecided 5/10

In The Red Corner: Lord Falconer, lawyerly New Labour type and Blair cahooter.

Bah. Falconer’s back again and I can’t say feeling him any more than I did last time. On the one hand, I shouldn’t really care as on the face of it, he’s yesterday’s man and his views should be of little consequence. However, it’s also too early to write him off as people like Falconer (your behind the scenes, quietly scheming types) have a nasty habit of surviving and although they may fall out of the limelight, they’ll still be furtively scuttling about, doing something fishy and wielding power they don’t necessarily deserve. His appearance on this episode was also of little consequence as the focus of the show was squarely on the coalition and the impending doom that appears to be bearing down on us all. As a result, most of his answers were pretty much stock affairs, a dig at the LibDems for their supposed treachery here and a jab at the Tories for being Tories there. All standard stuff and nothing which warrants repeating at length. His only slightly interesting moment of the night was on Q3 when he did some less than subtle ‘isn’t David Miliband grand’ manoeuvrings, but then again, it was always pretty much assured that he’d back him so it wasn’t exactly earth shattering news. There was also a brief outburst of fun when an audience member whipped out a very tasty little jibe about him leaving documents on trains which went down very well, but Falconer didn’t cop as much grief as he should of on this one and managed to slink off largely unscathed.

So yes, not much to report on Lord Falconer and that’s the worrying thing: You never really know what’s going on with him until it’s too late. Most people, when asked to point out a villain in the Labour party will go for Mandelson and on the face of it, why not? He’s just as unelected, has been mired in deeper scandals and wealds terrifying amounts of power like a sledgehammer. However, he does have one saving grace that Falconer doesn’t: Showmanship. Love him or hate him, it’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer skill of his Machiavellian antics and there’s a perverse elegance in the sinister little dance that he does (he was a brilliant on election night. Watching him scheme in real time was a master class in the dark arts). All of this adds up to a sense of knowing what this man is about and although he might not be about very nice things, it’s cool to watch in the same way that documentaries about sharks are cool to watch. The only thing you can say about Falconer is that you’re not sure whether he’s up to something or not and that makes watching him like watching a documentary about carbon monoxide poisoning: Dull, banal and terrifying.

A shifty 4/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Mehdi Hasan: Political Editor for the Staggers, ex-C4 News politics bod.

I’m largely on board with Hasan. His pieces for the New Statesman are usually well researched, pertinent and very readable while his time with C4 was also characterised by a good nose for a story and a refreshing level of passion for his tribe (which is quite clearly the left). However, he does have to be careful as quite often his writing skirts very close to the border between ‘urgent’ and ‘shrill’ while his combative style can sometimes slip over into belligerence. He was on good form on this episode however, being presented with what is very much a target rich environment as now that the LibDems have come out on the Tory side of the divide, the left can (quite justifiably) kick them about all over the place. So no more ‘I agree with Nick’, no more ‘brethren progressives’, the gloves are well and truly off and what we got so it was an all out assault on the government of “Tweedlecam and Tweedle Clegg”. Many a scrap was had (largely with Hughes as Heseltine wasn’t playing ball), the word “betrayal” was bandied about a great deal and if the audience are anything to go by, it struck a chord with quite a few people. He did slip into a more thoughtful frame of mind in Q3 when he said that hoped the Labour leadership contest would be a long, drawn out affair that would allow time for proper reflection and also dropped in tacit support for the younger Miliband, but by and large he was on the offensive. As I said before, he does need to exercise some caution as shouting too loud at everyone makes you look a nutter and that wouldn’t really be a fair reflection on the man, but by and large it was a spirited affair that summed the sentiments of some of the audience very well. It’s also nice to see a little fire back in the belly of the left. For far to long, the right has had the monopoly on righteous indignation so it’s nice to see some angst going in the other direction and who knows, maybe a few years in the wilderness will finally get the left back where it should be: In the business of ideas.

A rousing 7/10 that just about avoided becoming a rant.

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Melanie Phillips, standard bearer for right wing disgruntlement and Daily Fail foghorn-in-residence.

I fear many things in life. I fear war, destitution and teenagers playing music through mobile phones on the bus, but the thing I most fear is this: Watching Melanie Phillips after having just learned of a landslide Tory victory. Could you imagine just how smug, how ‘I told you so’, how ‘now you’ll get what’s coming’ she would be as she unfurls the schematics for her Immig-Paedo Re-Education Internment Centre she’s been working on when she hasn’t been too busy making sure that Middle England’s blood pressure never drops below 160/100 she would be? It’s enough to drive a man insane. Imagine then, my relief, upon hearing that not only was it not a landslide but that in fact Phillips’ beloved party would have to snuggle up to the filthy Libs. Gone was threat of undue smugness and apparent was the reality of another unspecified period of seething hatred from Ms. Phillips to an ungrateful nation. Bullet: Dodged. Actually, I have to admit that on this episode, Phillips wasn’t quiet as ghastly as she usually is and at times, I actually found myself agreeing with her, particularly her point on the 55% rule looking very dubious and some of her stuff on why New Labour failed (“Blairism could never explain what the left stood for”. True, dat). The rest was your standard welter of abuse aimed at anyone to the left of Franco, but with particular spite reserved for the Libs, perfidious upstarts that they are. Heavily used words include “betrayal” (a favourite for many on the night), “squalid”, “stitch up” as well as a new entry for “Cleggaroon”. So yes, pretty standard piss and vinegar but given that we’ve avoided having to deal with a post-landslide MetaPhillips I’m happy to award her slightly less crap marks than usual.

A lucky escape of a 4/10.

The Crowd: London

If there’s one thing that became apparent from this episode, it’s that I wouldn’t want to be a LibDem right now. People were really pissed off them and sided equally with both Phillips and Hasan when it came to pouring scorn on them. I know that u-turns in opinion are fairly common in politics, but to go from nobodies to saviours of the universe to lickspittle turncoats in the space of a month is pretty impressive. I also suspect that the Tories would have got a much rougher ride, had it not been for Heseltine’s inspired ‘blame the audience’ tactic (a manoeuvre that will known as a ‘Heseltine’) and it also seems clear that Labour very much on the sidelines for the time being. By and large though, the overriding sense I got from the crowd was the same as the one I’ve picked up from pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to of late which is “What the fuck is going on?!?” and this made for a vocal, if not somewhat bewildered mass that made for a lively show. Good work all round.

Members of note include the guy who asked the ‘leaving stuff on a train’ question to Falconer (well done sir, fine display), the poser of Q1 who’s name was ‘Diggory’ (absolutely fantastic name you have there sir) and a girl who looked a boy from McFly (well done Miss, top notch gender bending).

A struggling to comprehend but pissed off anyway 7/10

So there you go. Heseltine’s right. We got what we deserved. I wanted a hung parliament and here it is, grinning at me through it’s jagged, mangled teeth whilst making as much sense as an Escher staircase. But you know what? I’m actually quite liking it (it certainly makes for great TV) and I get the feeling that the next 12 months are going to be fairly epic in terms of things being turned on heads. One thing I will go out on a limb and predict is that there is no way this government is going to last 5 years (which really isn’t much of a limb to be going out on). This episode of Question Time is some of the first evidence of what a volatile mass of tension this coalition is and something will happen that’ll make the whole bloody mess explode, showering us all with fragments of Clegg and Cameron. I, for one, will enjoy the fireworks and hope to pick up a few souvenirs of the blast in the aftermath. Osborne’s severed and scorched nose would be particularly choice. See you next week for another voyage into the uncertain.


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