Posts Tagged 'Ming Campbell'

Questionable Time #58


questionable time 58 david dimbleby margaret thatcher

Good morning Lemmings and welcome back from an Easter break that looked suspiciously like a rebranding of ‘Winter’. Given this grim state of affairs you’d be forgiven for assuming that Question Time would be half-heartedly dragging its way out of hibernation for another round of Yah-Boo-Sucksery but in fact, the opposite seems to have occurred and what we got last night was probably one of the best QT’s I’ve seen in a good long while. Say what you will about the late-PM, even in death she still has the capacity to wind up the citizens of this nation like no-one else. Alright, let’s get cracking.

Well… Someone’s firing on all four cylinders again…

Watching Ken Clarke over the last few years has been an unsettling experience and one that often felt like an exercise in concussion management. Let’s start with the initial blow to the head – the failure of the Tories to secure a majority and the formation of the coalition. For a man who was used to striding around a highly polarised political landscape with the weight of certainty behind him this must have come as a bit of a shock but credit where credit’s due, he weathered it well and showed few outward signs of lasting damage. However – as is often the case with head injuries – the symptoms of such a trauma were simply masked by the excitement of the initial incident and as time went on, I started to become increasingly concerned: Sidelined and stymied, the old boy seemed to be zoning out and if there was one thing that the doctors at A&E were emphatic about it was ‘Don’t let Ken nod off otherwise he may never wake up again!’.

Yet it seems that my worries were misplaced as the Ken we got last night was a million miles away from the vision of resigned defeat that we’ve seen of late. Suddenly taken out of the present and transported back to a time when he actually had shots to call the former Chancellor looked like a different man and one that I’ve still very much got a soft spot for. Lets start with his physical symptoms: Those heavy eyelids, those sloped shoulders and stifled yawns that had so long kept my fingers hovering over the number for NHS Direct had gone, replaced now by wide eyes, jutting jaw and animated limbs. As for his mental health, well that appeared to have been similarly transformed and where we once saw a man who knew he was on his way out, now stood a vision of boisterous vim.

Naturally, this return to form was of course accompanied by the re-emergence of old pathologies such as his endearingly crap attempts to bluster his way out of tight spots by talkingveryveryfast and ber-ber-ber-blurting things out (I’ve always loved the way his face visibly reddens with each ‘ber’) but in many ways this is a good thing: It’s proof of life, an affirmation that there’s still some fire in him and I for one have missed that. Whether he can keep this new-found vigour is a very different matter (I suspect that in a few weeks he’ll revert to his slow decline) but for the time being I’m just happy to see the return of someone who while far from perfect, did at least make politics a genuinely interesting place to be.

And it wasn’t just Ken…

Poor Polly. She really does have a thankless job, even if it’s one of her own making. In a nutshell, Toynbee’s place in the scheme of things is to try and alert us to the boring stuff that no-one really wants to know about but ultimately has a huge bearing on life – the mundane looking yet hugely consequential sub-clause, the penny on this, the percentage off that, these are the thing she has to make sense of and for the most part, she does it very well. The problem is that a life spent poring through the mundane in search of the malicious is a wearying business and quite often it can make her look a little – well – miserable. With this in mind, it came as a rather nice surprise to see her really fired up and making damn sure that the Tories rather starry-eyed version of the Maggie Narrative didn’t go unchallenged whilst also being the only member of the panel to try and root the discussion in the context of the future. So fair play Polly, for once it’s nice to see that frown turned upside down – or at least slightly modified with the Liquify Tool (see Fig. 1)

polly-toynbee-thatcher-gif

Fig. 1

In a similar vein, Ming Campbell – another long-tooth in danger of losing his purpose – also appeared reinvigorated and made himself a nice little niche as The Level Headed One who wasn’t afraid to ruffle a few Yellow Team feathers with his willingness to raise the vexing matter of ‘if she was so bad, why did we keep voting for her?’. The bollocking he gave Charles Moore at the back-end of the show was also rather good fun and wholly judicious to boot.

All three of the above – Ken, Polly and Ming – did well last night because they were finally back on ground they understood, a terrain composed of opposing ideas rather than the swamp of platitudes and managerialism that we’ve spent the last decade or so wallowing in. You saw it in the crowd as well: Not once did we hear the weekly refrain of They’re All As Bad As Each Other. Instead, there was a sense of people knowing which side they were on and making damn sure that their side clapped louder than the other. Seeing how it jazzed up the show so much, I propose that we start offing ex-PM’s at regular intervals, just to keep the mood alive.

What of the other two?

Yeah, not so great. In Blunkett’s case it all goes back to his metamorphosis from Rough Hewn Man of the People to New Labour Uber-Bastard who managed to assimilate all the wrong lessons from both the Old Labour and Thatcher years. It just makes him look compromised beyond credibility as illustrated by his inability to face up to quite how Thatcherite New Labour became, not to mention a rather scary moment when he looked like he was about to end up in deep trouble with feminists. He pulled it back, but is was touch and go.

As for Moore, well he’s an entirely different kettle of fish and quite a mad one at that. Some of this is forgivable – after all, he’s a very sympathetic biographer of Thatcher who’s had to spend every last second of the past week eulogising his idol. Sooner or later, that’s going to skew your sense of reality and towards the end of the show the wheels really started to come off. It started with an alarmist rant about a BBC conspiracy to send Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead to the top of the charts and ended with a truly weird spiel about how she couldn’t be the Wicked Witch of the East as she single-handedly defeated communism. I bet this sort of thing doesn’t happen to John Major’s biographer.

Anything else?

Yes! Special mention to the man who referred to himself as ‘one’ at least three times in the same sentence and then claimed he wasn’t a Tory, the gentleman with the thick German accent who kept his arm raised at a historically provocative angle throughout his answer and the lad who looked like the long-lost twin of That Guy From The Inbetweeners (see Fig. 2). Well done all of you.

inbetweeners question time

Fig. 2

Tl;dr

Clarke: 7.5/10

(Had a) Spring (in his step)

Blunkett: 5/10

(Is the) King (of nothing)

Campbell: 7/10

(Is often referred to as) ‘Ming’

Toynbee: 7/10

(Did her bit for the left) Wing

Moore: 5/10

Cling(s to Thatcher’s memory in an unhealthy sort of way)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Are all avid fans of) Sting?

Well, that was exciting wasn’t it? In all seriousness I found this episode fascinating because while I was never a fan of Thatcher, I do miss the sense that at least people knew what they believed in when she was at large.

Now, before I disappear, a little bit of housekeeping. The Indy and I have gone our separate ways so from now on this will be the only place to get Questionable Time. It is also likely to lead to the following:

Tardier deadlines!

Longerness!

Increasingly absurd photoshops!

More oblique references to mid-90’s Southern Californian punk acts!

A body clock that doesn’t hate me!

Oh you lucky things!

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #49


questionable time 49 david dimbleby toastGood morning Lemmings and yes, it’s that time again. Those on the right, prepare to howl in anguish at perceived left-wing bias. Those on the left, prepare to gnash your teeth angrily at perceived right-wing bias. And those in the centre? I don’t know… Just carry doing what you’re doing and try not to make a mess. That’s right Lemmings, it’s Questionable Time.

Anna Soubry’s slow decline was rather good fun…

If I’m having a really bad day and feel a little down in the mouth, I often like to cheer myself up by imagining what it’s like to be a Spad for Anne Soubry. Think about it for a second: As tasks go, ensuring that Anna Soubry makes it through a working day without alienating a large section of the population must like defusing a bomb that’s strapped to a greased cat with a taste for methamphetamine. Want proof? Then look no further than the past week. Wednesday: Manages to wind up half the country by implying that the poor are disproportionately prone to tubbiness. Thursday: Succeeds in vexing the remaining half of the country by castigating them for eating lunch at their desk. Thursday night: Goes on Question Time and reaps a rich harvest of boos. Should you happen to be travelling a between Dorset and London today, keep an eye out. You may just see a broken, weeping figure by the roadside begging for a lift to anywhere that isn’t Westminster. That person will be Anna Soubry’s Spad.

Tragically for the aforementioned Spad, last night was especially cruel as she didn’t have a bad start and emerged from the Europe question reasonably unscathed. I could feel the Spad’s relief: “Thank god for that. Maybe for once, just for once, I won’t end up calling the Samaritans tonight”. Oh silly Spad. Stop lying to yourself. You know as well as I do that the rest of the show is merely a build up to the inevitable question about portly poverty and that you’ve got to weather a good 40 minutes of gradual attrition before we reach that final, fatal juncture.

So it was that things slowly unravelled. Reports of Nick Clegg’s latest economic policy naysaying were met with a wonderful display of playing for time whilst joyous tidings about employment figures were quickly pooh-poohed as part-time codswallop. “Oh god, just end it now” murmured the Spad, but no, there was to be no reprieve as she tangled with an audience member on public sector cuts and was rewarded handsomely with opprobrium. And then it dropped. “Are poor people fat?” (see Fig. 1).

anna-soubry-fat-gif

Fig. 1

To be fair to Soubry, there was a moment when it looked like she might just get away with this and if I’m completely honest, I do have a little sympathy with her position. She’s right to raise the questions about the food industry’s role in the Great Plumpening but it’s just a shame that she did so in the most hamfisted way possible. Anyway, despite an ok-ish attempt at a Took Me Out of Context defence Soubry managed to throw away any chance of a clean getaway by accusing Ben Bradshaw of not acting like a former Health Minister should when the crowd was clearly behind him. It was at that moment I heard that distinctive crunch: Another delicate Spad broken on the Soubry wheel. If you happen to pass them on the A35, have a heart. Spads are people too.

Corollary note of dubious importance:

I encountered numerous problems when creating the above Anna Sourbry .gif. It appears that this jacket of hers somehow confers immunity to the Liquify filter, Photoshop’s mailed fist in the fight to make thin people fat. So, should you live in fear that someone is going to photograph you and then doctor that photo to make you look fatter than you are then fear no longer. Simply buy one of these jackets and never take it off.

1997 seems like a very long time ago…

I have a bit of a personal problem with Ben Bradshaw and it’s to do with symbolism. Allow me to get misty eyed for a second: It was 1997. I was doing my A-levels and like much of the nation, I was pretty sick of 18 years of Tory rule. A couple of days before the election, Bradshaw happened to cycle past me in Exeter and I was transfixed: Here he was, this fresh-faced, handsome, openly gay Shape of Things to Come and you know what? I liked that shape because it felt like a breath of fresh air from the stifling greyness of the Major era. Labour duly won that election and for a time, Ben Bradshaw came good on his promise – Things Can Only Get Better and all that – but it didn’t last long. The wars kicked off, the filthy rich were relaxed with (intensely) and Ben changed too: He seemed crotchety and impatient. He moved up a couple of notches. Bikes eventually became ministerial cars and The Shape Of Things To Come looked increasingly like The Shape Of Things We’d Rather Forget. Fast forward to last night and what do we find? A man who looks like he’s just a little above it all, a man who’s in a hurry and a man who just can’t quite be bothered to reason with you any more. Sorry Ben, it just personal…

Has Ming just seen his own fate?

There was a telling moment last night: Ming mentioned that despite the fact he was but a lowly backbencher, he still gets invited on the show because he has influence with the Chancellor. The silence that followed was horrible, but not quite as horrible as the look of realisation that finally dawned on his face. The look said ‘Oh bugger. The jig is up’. Personally, I hope it isn’t because Ming’s been quite good fun this week – what him him pouring cold water all over Cameron’s referendum speech – but maybe that’s just me. Weymouth, it appears, remains unconvinced.

Angela Epsein says a lot…

Not much of which makes any sense. It’s forgiveable I guess, I’m sure I’d wibble all sorts of nonsense if I was on the panel but I’m fairly confident I’d draw the line at claiming that ‘steal the iPad’ was the number one game in UK playgrounds.

Ian Hislop is hereby excluded from the scoring system…

…Because it’s just not fair. He appears on a panel show every week, he knows where all the bodies are buried, and he’s just too bloody good at what he does. It’s just not cricket and I for one will have nothing to do with it.

Tl;dr

Soubry: 4/10

Combust(ible)

Bradshaw: 4/10

(Not entirely) Trust(able)

Campbell: 5/10

(Is looking increasingly) Disgust(ed with everything)

Epstein: 4/10

(Left me a little non)Plus(sed)

Hislop: N/A

(Is no longer entitled to rhymes)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Were all high as kites on angel) Dust?

So low and N/A scores for the panel, but big points for the Weymouth crowd who made last night quite the hoot. Right, it’s 4.30am. I’m off to dream about spelling mistakes as I weirdly yet invariably do on Thursday nights.

Next week Lemmings, next week..


Questionable Time #27


questionable time 27 david dimbleby che

Good morning Lemmings and pardon my yawns – I stayed up well beyond my bedtime last night, suckered in as I was by the local elections. Just in case you were wondering it wasn’t really the politics I was interested in (although watching Warsi stick her foot in it was pretty entertaining) as a trouncing for the coalition seemed like a foregone conclusion. No, instead it was graphs that did for me – or more precisely the combination of graphs and maps. It’s my kryptonite. Anyhoo, that’s about the long and short of that and you don’t come here to learn about my weird little psephological fetishes – at least I don’t think you do – so let’s get on with some Questionable Timing. Here’s what we learned.

Iain Duncan Smith’s face is incapable of lying.

I’ve noted in the past how IDS has this strange innocence about him but I don’t think I realised just how incapable he is of bluffing until last night. It’s his face: Those sad, sad eyes crowned as they are by those funny little demi-eyebrows. They’re like a direct line to whatever is going on inside that perplexing head of his. Now this in itself isn’t that remarkable as all politicians have certain tells (like that regal shade of crimson that David Cameron turns when he’s jolly angry about some jumped-up little chap on the opposite benches or that Cheshire Cat-like grin that Ed Balls does when he’s lying his face off) but the emotions that IDS’s face cannot but help to broadcast are remarkable because they give us a clue about how his mind operates. And how would that be? Well, from the evidence on display last night I can only conclude that he’s a man with an emotional repertoire that belongs to a different age or if we’re being more precise, the 1950’s.

Allow me to explain: When I was watching IDS last night his face did things that most faces do but the sentiments it conveyed were unique to the man in question. For example, he spent most of the first half of the show with his ‘eyebrows’ cocked down at the edges and up in the centre while his lips sucked in on themselves. If I saw this look on a generic face I would say that the person in question was ‘anxious’ or ‘apprehensive’. However, when IDS does it the word that pops into my head is ‘squiffy’. Similarly, when someone’s eyebrows reverse their polarity from their above state (so sides out, middle in) and their mouth sets into a scowl I tend to think that their owner is ‘angry’ or ‘pissed off’. Not with Duncan Smith, uh-uh… He looks ‘cross’.The list goes on: Regular person looks ‘happy’, IDS looks ‘gay’ (in the old-fashioned ‘My, isn’t this workhouse full of toiling urchins a gay sight to behold’). Regular person looks ‘odd’, IDS looks ‘skew-whiff’. Regular person looks ‘excited’, IDS looks ‘all aflutter’. You get the picture.

Anyway, the long and short of all this is that I can’t really give you an objective analysis of anything that he actually said because I was simply too entranced by watching the spirit of a Macmillan-era verger being channelled through the body of a 21st century cabinet minister. In fact, I’d like to go one further than that: I will never be able to give IDS an objective score because he’s just too bloody fascinating. As a consequence, he will no longer receive a numerical mark at the end of each report and will instead be assigned the punctuation mark that I think best describes the experience of watching him. Now here’s a .gif I made of him playing with an imaginary cube (see Fig. 1).

iain-duncan-smith-cube-gif

Fig. 1

I’ve finally realised that I don’t actually know what Harriet Harman does.

Have you ever had one of those weird moments when you’re thinking about someone you’ve known for years and realise that you don’t actually know what they do for a living? Well I had one of those with Harriet Harman last night. It’s not that she doesn’t do anything – she’s been a central figure in the Labour party for as long as I can remember and is regularly on our TV screens – but if push-came-to-shove and I was forced to cite an example of some specific action she was responsible for I’d be completely flummoxed. Given this startling realisation I took it upon myself to have a quick read up on her past appointments and with the exception of some rather solid pre-’97 shadow roles (as well as a brief period as Secretary of State for Social Security) all of her jobs in government have been a little, well, wanky. Take for example some of the following: Lord Privy Seal, Solicitor General and Labour Party Chair. All of these are roles which are undoubtedly important and have impressive sounding titles but they give us no clue as to what such a job actually entails. Similarly, when she’s found herself in positions with titles that let us know what they are actually about I still find that they are the ones that people really care don’t much for (lets face it, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport sounds about as profound as Minister for Interior Design, except when said minister may or may not have been up to his neck in shenanigans).

None of the above means to say that I have anything against Harman as I generally think she’s a pretty able performer and the fact that she inspires such loathing from the Daily Mail means that she must be doing something right, but I still can’t get past the fact that I’m unable to identify her purpose (an affliction also suffered by Frances Maude and John Prescott). Still, she’s not quite as bewildering as IDS so Harman can remain on the numerical scoring system… For now…

The Tories are rattled on the economy.

And well they may be given the events of the last two weeks. However, the really telling thing is not how they try to explain their approach to all matters fiscal but how they try to frame Labour’s. Over the past two years this has involved the relentless drum beat of ‘all you guys want to do is spend, spend, spend like lunatics’ but last night saw the emergence of a new line: Labour are ‘deficit controllers’. As to why they’re taking this line is a mystery to me as ‘deficit controller’ doesn’t actually sound that bad-a-thing (it’s hardly ‘J’accuse!’) but the fact that they’ve had to bin what was up until now a pretty successful stick to beat the Red Team with is interesting. I don’t know, maybe it was just that IDS was on some lone mission but I suspect it runs deeper than that. Watch this space Lemmings.

And the rest of ’em?

Ok, I’ll be honest, I couldn’t really get behind this episode. In its defence, the crowd were pretty sparky (I loved the grammar school boy of yore who had been sent 30 years into the future to defend the rights of ‘hard working people in the financial sector’) and the last 20 minutes on the economy had some decent stuff in but the following put the dampeners on it for me:

1: I grow weary of entrepreneurs equating every single problem in this world to the fact that the world is not friendly enough to entrepreneurs. Yeah, I get it… You guys think that making money is a pretty big deal but while I don’t know a lot of firemen, I’m pretty sure that they don’t equate every problem in this world to the existence of fire. Having said that, I’m inclined to let Theo Paphitis off the hook a little as he appears to be congenitally mischievous.

2 : Ming Campbell is still doing that thing where he looks really surprised to be on Question Time, almost as if he was supposed to be doing something else but got lost and just wandered into the studio.

3: Inclined as I am to agree with much of what Mark Serwotka has to say I just can’t help thinking that he sounds a little, well, smug.

All of which adds up to this:

Tl;dr

IDS: ~

(By) Jingo (he’s an odd puppy)

Harman: 5/10

(Would make quite a convincing) Flamingo (if spray painted pink and covered in feather).

Campbell: 5/10

(Is looking like the Lib Dems’) Ringo

Prophitis: 6/10

(Speaks the) Lingo (of money)

Serwotka: 5/10

(Probably likes to) Tingo

(Supplemental brackets: If you’ve never come across the word ‘Tingo’, please, please click the link… It’s possibly my favourite word ever, closely followed by this one)

The Crowd: 7/10

(May have had their babies stolen by) Dingo(s)?

So there you go, a so-so affair that was the start of a very long evening for poor old Dimbers. That’s it from me, I’m off to do the washing up and wonder why my better half has used an exclamation mark on the calendar where it says ‘Green Bin Day!’. I mean c’mon, I realise Green Bin Day doesn’t come around that often but is it really that exciting? I must get to the bottom of this.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #37


question time 37

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Fig. 1

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

 

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

 

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

 

TL:DR

 

Maude: 3/10

Should have ducked and covered.

 

Smith: 2/10

Should give up.

 

Campbell: 8/10

Looks like the skeleton from the Scotch Video Tape adverts.

 

Hasan: 8/10

Played a good Che Guevara

 

Murray: 6/10

Played a good Donald Rumsfeld

 

Bristol: 8/10

Appears to be made of plutonium

 

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

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

TL:DR

 

Maude: 3/10

Should have ducked and covered.

 

Smith: 2/10

Should give up.

 

Campbell: 8/10

Looks like the skeleton from the Scotch Video Tape adverts.

 

Hasan: 8/10

Played a good Che Guevara

 

Murray: 6/10

Played a good Donald Rumsfeld

 

Bristol: 8/10

Appears to be made of plutonium

 

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

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #16


Let us pray...Morning Lemmings. As you may or may not have noticed, there is still a gaping void where the oft-mooted ‘Awards Ceremony’ should be, largely on account of me being back at work and the highly clement weather. Speaking of the weather, I’m going to try and keep it short tonight as I’m presently semi-naked, sweating bullets and wanting very much to have nothing to do. That, and I’ve noticed that not many people go searching out for Question Time dorkery when the sun’s out. Well done everyone, you have lives. Anyhoo, back to the task in hand.

So, last week was the first outing for the ConDemocrat chimera and sweaty confusion was the name of the game. Will this trend last? There’s only one way to find out. En garde!

The Menu

Q1: Was Nick Clegg right to defend Pakistani terrorists under the Human Rights Act?

Q2: Clegg and Cameron seem happier with each other than their own parties’. Have they betrayed their core vote?

Q3: Will Liam Byrne’s ‘there’s no money left’ letter be New Labour’s epitaph?

Q4: How can the country move forward when the Equalities Minister is anti gay adoption and against transsexuals from changing gender?

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Theresa May, Home Secretary, Minster for Women and Equalities and out-of-the-fucking-blue minister of state.

*sigh* May’s back. Actually, everyone on this episode is a repeat offender when it comes to LCCPQTMR, but I was especially deflated to see her return, given how life drainingly crap her last outing was. Furthermore, listening to her being introduced as “the Home Secretary” caused my brain to suddenly crash as I’ve still not got my head around the complete wtf?!?-ness of her appointment and I spent the first five minutes wrestling with a spiritual Blue Screen Of Death. If you didn’t catch her last appearance, it was like listening to a scratched spoken word CD of Tory election soundbites (“Change!”, “We’re All In This Together!”, “Brokun Britun!”, Shut Up!) that had been set on infinite repeat and piped directly into your brain. Even more concerning was the fact that her first big public outing (her speech to the Police Federation) was exactly the same, an endless roll call of squawked crapitudes that rolled on into eternity. So no, I didn’t have high hopes for her on this show.

Anyhoo, this episode started on a sticky wicket with Q1 so lots of flapping about and trying to look even-handed ensued, but largely failed to convince anyone. Commissions and reviews were promised, uncashable cheques were signed and the first evidence of the Crapitude CD being updated for this brave new world of consensual politics emerged: “5 Years of Stable Government!” Ha! After having so successfully put the ‘lack’ into ‘lustre’ with Q1, Q2 took a turn for the worse as the CD skipped back to some pre-election tracks (including such classics hits as “Deficit!”, “Strong and Stable Government!” and a new entry for “The Tory’s are for Freedom, Fairness and Responsibility!” That one even got some mild heckles) while Q3 contained basically nothing of note. However, Q4 was the real doozy and as soon as it was uttered, she was pretty much doomed. It did, briefly look like she might be able to squirm out of it when she muttered some ‘it was a long time ago and things have changed’ guff but that was before it all went south in a welter of incoherent ramblings (including a weird reference to “careers advice” as a panacea for all our equality woes). So that was pretty shit.

I’m really struggling with May as I go out of my way to try and find some redeeming features for the unwitting subjects of these reports, but I simply can’t find them her. Try as I might, every time she’s on I’m left with the impression of some self important local dignitary who’s trying to impart some arbitrary advice to a stationary rabble whilst on the back of a horse that won’t behave and keeps wandering off. It doesn’t matter what they’ve got to say, it’s just too distracting to listen as they wind in and out of earshot and writhe in the saddle, desperately trying to stay facing the crowd. That’s fine when you’re just another body on the opposition benches, but it actually starts to get frightening when you get some real power and the ability to mess about with people’s lives. So expect the entire Police Force to be in kitten heels by this time next week.

A habitually superficial 3/10

In The Yellow Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Menzies Campbell, MP for North East Fife and high mileage elder statesman.

Poor Old Ming, it’s not been his decade. Not only was he rather callously deposed from his position as LibDem leader (largely on the grounds of being a bit old and a bit knackered), but now the Libs finally do have a taste of the power action, Poor Old Ming is nowhere to be seen on the frontbenches and is instead sent out for repeated Question Time floggings. There’s gratitude for you. Anyhoo, Ming’s Question Time form is well documented and as I’m pushed for time, I’m not going to go into the nitty gritty and instead confirm that it was a pretty standard affair for him: Good on open water with a gentle breeze but not exactly the most stable of vessels when things start to get choppy. Actually, tonight he did a little better than usual, picking up some much deserved plaudits for his stand on the Human Rights Act in Q1 and indulging in some ‘read between the lines’ Tory baiting in Q2 so he’ll get an extra point or two for that. There’s also a question that occurred to me when watching him that warrants further examination: Is Ming a Big Beast?

On the face of it, he must be as he ticks all the right boxes. For one, he’s old, which is not a prerequisite for Big Beastery (take Mandelson, for example), but something that certainly helps and he’s also held the top job in his party (again, not a compulsory qualification, but one that lends extra credibility). On top of that, he’s a pretty good orator on certain matters and he’s got an interesting enough background (what with all his Olympian claims to fame and whatnot). However, I cannot in good conscience declare Ming to be a Big Beast and here’s why: He’s just so damnably innocent. Look at this way, Big Beasts come in many different shapes and sizes. At one end of the spectrum you’ve got your Tory Rogues whose very mention impart the sensation of brandy-on-stomach-lining (such as the late, great Alan Clarke) while at the other end you’ve got your Principled Firebrand types like Shirley Williams and (had he lived long enough) Robin Cook. In between, there are all sorts of randoms such as your Jazz And Good Times Ken Clarke types, your Balls Out Nutter Michael Heseltine types and your Craggy Faced Killer types such as Ashdown and Davis. The one common strand that links these disparate groups is they all seem to have the measure of humanity, viewing it as a creaking edifice of tangled imperfection that require either spirited leadership or damning to hell and back to stop the whole thing from crashing to the ground. Ming doesn’t have this and seems to be genuinely shocked when confronted with man’s inhumanity to man, aghast that people could be anything other than altruistic Good Samaritans, hell bent on all just getting along. In many ways, his wide eyed school boy enthusiasm for his fellow man is both refreshing and commendable, but it can also be a weakness and it certainly keeps him out of the hallowed ranks of the Big Beast’s for now. Maybe if kicked a puppy on live TV or spent an afternoon writing hate mail to the Pope, people would get a bit more on board with him, but until then he will stay as Poor Old Ming. Poor Old Ming.

A cut above the baseline 6/10

In The Red Corner: Caroline Flint, MP for Don Valley and female window dressing (her words, not mine).

Ol’ Snaggletooth’s back! Hooray for Snaggletooth! Actually, I thought she was quite interesting to watch tonight as being in opposition seems to suit her quite well. Back when she had to go out and defend the government, she reminded me a lot of the Red Army prior to Stalingrad: She was always fighting hopeless battles that she could never win, but through sheer dogged resistance and a remarkable capacity to sustain punishment, she would survive just long enough to trade territory for time and keep the sinking ship afloat. Now, she’s much more reminiscent of the Wehrmacht circa 1943-44: Although bruised and strategically on the retreat, she’s still a force to be reckoned with that is skilled at fighting withdrawals and ferocious local counter attacks. Don’t pity me, pity my better half.

The above was reflected throughout the episode, but especially in Q1 when she got to fool around with some gleeful knife twisting at the expense of the ConDemocrats and also in some rather deft little retreats on Q3 that managed to avert a potentially disastrous bout of Labour bashing from turning really sour. Towards the end, she even managed to pick up some praise from Shami Chakrabarti and that, my friends, is no mean feat. Sure, the crowd didn’t go wild for her, but she’s never been a favourite with the audience, what with being so jagged around the edges (although her “grubby speed dating” line went down very well with them) and Labour are very much in the background at the moment so I’d say that it was a pretty good performance. However, there is a caveat to all this and it’s a big one: She has Warsi Syndrome (the propensity to overplay one’s hand after initial success). It’s not a terminal case and she looks treatable, but there were times in the evening (such as when she went too far with the Labour Rollcall of Past Triumphs in Q3) when earlier gains were gravely jeopardised by reckless lunges and this slightly tarnished what was otherwise a pretty good innings.

A definite signs of improvement of a 6/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Shami Chakrabarti, tiny Liberty boss and perennial QT crowdpleaser.

Another week, another Shami and as always, it’s what we’ve come to expect: A pretty impassioned (although sometimes bordering on ‘overwrought’) knockabout that everyone liked and clapped along to. As you’d probably expect, Q1 was fertile ground to get hot under the collar about Liberty type stuff so she hit the ground running and then remained fairly combative throughout, bloodying noses here, there and everywhere. The thing is though, I get a little bored of watching Shami win all the time. That’s not to say I don’t think she’s good to watch or that what she does isn’t important (the world could use a few more Shami Chakrabarti’s), it’s just it all seems a little unfair, like when a sport gets totally dominated by a single player or team for years on end. For example, when exactly are Liberty going to be in a position where it has to deliver bad news (“Erh, sorry, but we just accidentally ended up lobbying parliament for a network of secret torture camps and now they’ve gone and passed a bloody bill to that effect! Our bad!”)? Never, that’s when! And asking people to go along with having more freedom is hardly rocket science is it? It’s like saying “who likes having a good nights sleep?!” and getting a bag of sweets every time someone says “yay!”. However. I do concede that in terms of applause, she was clearly on top and who the hell I’m to bugger about with peoples right to bash their hands together? No one, that’s who.

An inevitable 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Douglas Murray, intense young man and rightwing nutjob.

True, dat...

Fig. 1

Are you obviously scarily brainy? Do you stare at things with such focused ferocity that the objects themselves turn to dust? Do you think the state should be no bigger than a cornershop? Do you consider laser guided bombs to be the solution to most problems? Did you write this book (see Fig.1)? And do you really not like terrorists? If you answered ‘yes’ to all of these questions, you are Douglas Murray and if that is the case, I’d advise you to stop reading this now. Actually, I never end up being that nasty to Murray because even though he is quite, quite mad, he does make for ace telly and I’m a fan of ace telly.

As always, it was suitably rabid stuff from Murray tonight, damning all those pot smoking, peacenik, coalition types who refused to blast the terrorists into outer space or some other crazily draconian measure. “Any society that wanted to survive would not do this” he seemed to say through the foam that had formed in the corners of his mouth before damning Britain for being “a retirement home for would-be jihadis.”. Subtle as ever then. He did get some applause on stuff in Q2 (although it was usually a few people applauding very, very loudly. Comes with the territory) and there was even an outburst of reasonableness in Q4 when he had a pop at the Tories for their record on homophobia. Generally though, it was wild eyed and batty enough to hold my attention and that’s a good thing. One thing I did notice tonight though was that I felt differently about what he is than I had on his previous appearances and I think this has something to do with the death of New Labour.

Even towards the end of their tenure, when neoconservatism was totally discredited and had pretty much died in the US, I still got the feeling that this guy was somehow relevant and that in itself made him seem a little scary to me. It wasn’t that Labour were neocons or anything like that, but the views that Murray espouses belonged to the bit of history that occurred on their watch. Now they’ve gone, I can mentally bookend that period and put Murray on the shelf next to MySpace, Ali G and “the end of boom and bust”. As a result, I now feel a bit sorry for Murray when I see him, as if he were a member of the Flat Earth Society or one of those people who get angry about fluoride in water. So I’m afraid your time has passed Douglas and I, for one, will greatly miss your trademark brand of lunatic interventionism. Godspeed Dougie, Godspeed.

A newly obsolete 6/10

The Crowd: Richmond Park.

So things seem to have settled down this week. People are still a little confused, but that freefall, ‘stop the world, I want to get off’ sensation that permeated last week’s show has certainly been cranked down a notch or so. We’re still in a position where the lines of defence and attack are only just being drawn and no-one’s quite sure how things are going to pan out, but you get the sense that initial shock of the hung parliament is giving way to the reality of a coalition government. In terms of the this show, it was a pretty scrappy affair and no-one (excluding Shami) seemed to have an overall advantage. As for the crowd, they were pretty noisy, but you got the feeling people aren’t quite sure to how to react to this new government, straddling, as it does, two very different camps . As a result, I felt that this was quite a fragmented episode where no single section of the audience could build a sufficient head of steam to deliver a knockout blow to another. Instead, it was an uncoordinated scuffle where no one quite knew what side of the line they should be standing on and ran about screaming instead. In a word, ‘odd’.

Only one audience member of note tonight and that was an Australian woman who looked quite a lot like Kath from Kath and Kim although it might have just been her accent. I’m not good with faces.

A neither here nor there 5/10

Ok, that’s your lot. It’s half 10, I’m still roasting and I’ve still got to bugger about with the internet and all that. So much for doing nothing, See you next time.

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #13


By the power of Ann Lesley!

Morning Lemmings. OK, I have to admit that I totally underestimated just how much craziness these Leaders’ Debates would cause. Even when I was watching the first one, I thought it was so dull that it would probably drive the electorate to unheard of heights of apathy, but at is turns out they’ve pretty much turned post-war politics completely upsidedown. So I was wrong, but in a good way. Anyhoo, last night’s debate was Nick Clegg’s Tricky Second Album and he was the one with everything to lose. So did he do a Bloc Party and follow up the brilliant Silent Alarm with the lacklustre Weekend In The City? A categorical no. In fact, I would go as far as saying that he’s actually put himself on a Radiohead trajectory and followed up a nice little breakthrough Pablo Honey with a more assured and fleshed out The Bends. Whether he can stick to this course and bust out a genre defining OK Computer remains to be seen, but it’s safe to say that although last night was very close, his Round One performance was not a flash in the pan. As for Cameron, well I’m slightly annoyed as I had a great Scouting For Girls metaphor all lined up (awful, turgid, monstrosity of a record followed by an even more awful, turgid, monstrosity of a record) but he actual did quite well, coming off as less nauseating and hucksterish than the first time round and even gracing us with a rare appearance of Angry Dave. Don’t mess with Angry Dave or he’ll get jolly well upset. As for Brown, I’ve already fleshed out my New Labour/Weezer theory at length, but that doesn’t quite fit either as he also did quite well in that he stopped pretending to be a human. We love you just the way you are Gordon: A lumpen, constant and inevitable body of mass that Christ himself cannot bend to his will. So with all that in mind, I’m assigning Brown to the Metallica plan (most of this year has been St. Anger while last night was much more Death Magnetic), Cameron to the Van Halen template (all good times until Diver Down, but a return to form with 1984… don’t worry though, Sammy Hagar’s début is just round the corner) and that’s the end of that. Other points of note include:

  1. The set looked like some dystopian rendition of a future Krypton Factor where the contestants have to fight to the death.
  2. Boulton is a million times better than Mitchell but a million times less great than Dimbleby… and he looks like he has gills.
  3. Using the words “Afghanistan” and “blown away” in the same sentence isn’t the best plan, Mr Cameron.
  4. Nick Clegg did a lovely little saunter towards the audience at the end. I have lots of time for good sauntering and he saunters well.
  5. At one point Cameron managed to use the word “change” three times in the space of a single sentence.
  6. Less colouring-in took place than in last week’s outing.

Enough already. Time for some real debate. Take me to London or lose me forever.

The Menu:

Q1: Cameron presents himself as an agent of change but is his impression of Nick Clegg good enough?

Q2: Does Nick Clegg’s funny-money allegations mean that the LibDems are any different from the other two parties?

Q3. Will a hung parliament be bad for the UK?

Q4. With inflation and unemployment up, why should we trust Labour?

In The Red Corner: Yvette Cooper, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, MP for Pontecarlo and Cas Vegas, husband of Balls.

It must be hard being Yvette Cooper as every time she appears on TV she looks absolutely knackered. Actually, I guess this isn’t that surprising given that not only has she been working deep within the bowels of Brown’s Treasury (a place not noted for its touchy-feely, ‘take all the time you need’ work ethic) since time immemorial, she’s also married to it in the form of Ed Balls (who just happens to be one of the most unpopular politicians in the country). On top of this, she seems to be one of the few members of Brown’s inner circle who seems to have some sort of contact with reality and as a result, she always looks like she knows that whatever idea she’s been wheeled out to defend will probably go pear shaped, but she carries on regardless, possibly out of a misplaced sense of duty. I like that. It’s not the flashiest of traits, but her mixture of grim resignation and ability to sound reasonable is actually quite endearing. This episode was a slightly easier ride than she’s had on past Question Times given that Gordon didn’t do too badly but also because of the weird mood that’s swept through Labour in the last week. Prior to the debates, most of the Red Team were locked in a death grip with the Tories, knew things were looking terminal and you could sense their despair at the futility of it all. However, that was before Clegg completely trashed the entire scheme of things with his performance and now Labour look like they’ve found a diamond in a turd. Sure, the most likely outcome isn’t amazingly brilliant (a hung parliament and possible coalition), but it’s a damn sight better than it was (probable defeat or a short lived embarrassment of a minority government), they don’t have to do any of the heavy lifting and hell, the sheer stupidity of our electoral system may see them come out smelling of roses. This has put a bit of a spring in their step and their attitude seems a lot more carefree than it was.

Was this reflected in Cooper’s performance? Pretty much. Q1 was a straightforward affair, with some standard Tory bashing at the start, a few doffs of the cap to Clegg and then a surprise swipe at him on Trident (which went down surprisingly well). Much the same followed in Q2 where, after a bout of waffle, she chided the Tory press for ganging up on The New Boy and then landed a himdinger on journalists in general (a brave thing to do in front of Ann Leslie) for treating the public “like idiots”. That was all very well received, much to absolutely no-ones surprise (accusing someone else of treating the audience like idiots never fails… Unless you’re Nick Griffin). Q3 wasn’t so easy as Labour can’t really come out and say ‘we love hung parliaments now’ without looking poisonously cynical, so she reverted to orthodoxy and wheeled out the standard ‘First Past The Post Is Well Cool’ arguments but did manage to fold in a nice little dig at Ken Clarke. Muted applause followed. Finally, she gave Q4 a fairly dull blathering of Treasury-speak before making sure that she gave the Tories one more slap for their economic policy. Sorted.

All-in-all, it was a fairly good performance and for once, she didn’t look like she’d only had half an hour’s sleep in the last month. I’m pretty sure that this is down to the sudden change in circumstances and the fact that most Labour MP’s seem to be in end-of-term mode. Seriously, most of them look like they just don’t give a shit anymore and not necessarily in a bad way. It didn’t all go her way and she took a lot of stick in counter-claps from the audience when it came to the NI rise, but by and large it was perfectly serviceable outing.

An easier than usual 6/10

In The Blue Corner: William Hague, Shadow Foreign Secretary, former election loser and Mekon impersonator.

I don’t know why, but there’s something about Hague that I actually quite like. Actually, let me rephrase that: There’s something about Hague that I actually quite like providing I know he’s nowhere near the levers of power. I think it’s because deep down, he knows he shouldn’t be where he is as he’s a manbaby (see Fig. 1) with a wobbly head, blighted by the oddest of Yorkshire accents and with enough embarrassing stock footage of him to last a lifetime (the 16 year old fawning over Maggie, the ‘Hague’ hat, the 15 pints or whatever it was, etc, etc). On top of that, he always looks out of sorts with the rest of the party and terrified of being found out as a fraud (you know when he’s feeling like this because his voice starts to wobble mid-sentence in a very Alan Partridge sort of way). That all sounds pretty sad, but there’s another, more cheery side to him when he sometimes looks like he’s only just realised he’s a frontbench MP and can’t believe his luck. When this happens, he can actually bust out some pretty funny stuff, have a good knockabout with whoever he’s up against and actually appear semi-human (you know when he’s feeling like this because he delivers every line like a punchline, his voicing rising slightly at the end of every sentence). Luckily for Hague, tonight’s Question Time was an easier prospect than last week as Cameron had managed to get his act together in the debate, but still, the onus is on the Tories to convince the public right now, not the other way round.

avert thine eyes...

Future Foreign Secretary?

So which Hague did we get tonight? Sad Hague or Happy Hague? A bit of both really. Kicking off with Q1, he did his best his best to chalk up Clegg’s recent run of form as “novelty factor” stuff, but came off looking a little shifty and worse still, Cooper nicked his Trident point seconds after he said it and came away with all the applause. Gah! Sad Hague is sad. Q2 was more fun though and Sad Hague was displaced by the much more forthright Happy Hague who wasted no time in whipping out the “holier than thou” stick on Clegg and getting perhaps a little too much applause for demanding that all parliamentary spending goes online. Happy Hague is happy. Q3 saw some nice banditry from Dimbers as he casually tinkered around with some insinuations about Ken Clarke and Hague looked like he’d been busted and reverted to Sad Hague. This went on for some time and ended with a very shaky sounding “right behind” Osborne and a weary defence of First Past The Post that not even a makeshift offensive against the NI raise could save. Sad Hague is sad. Finally, Q4 saw the late re-emergence of Happy Hague when he got very giddy about the private sector and the audience went with him, giving him a nice round of applause to finish the night with. Happy Hague is happy. Yay!

So yes, neither Happy nor Sad Hague dominated and we are left with a curious Yin-Yang Hague, composed equally of both factions and locked in a sublime celestial ballet. I think I just got a bit carried away there.

A curious reflection on the duality of man 5/10

In The Yellow Corner: Menzies Campbell, MP for North East Fife and former didn’t-get-close-enough-to-an-election-to-lose-it Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Dammit Ming! You were only on two weeks ago! Just how the buggery hell am I supposed to come up with new material in that time?! Truly, this is merciless, Ming. Actually, I have a theory as to why he’s on again in such a short space of time and that’s because he got lost on his way out of the studio last time. For the last fortnight, he’s been wandering the corridors of the BBC, politely asking uncaring members of staff where he might find the tramstop and a copy of Punch magazine until he finally gravitated back towards the studio and dozed off in a chair, only to be woken by Dimbleby stubbing a cigarette out on his forehead. Alright, that’s enough of that. I’m being wantonly cruel to poor old Ming and he doesn’t really deserve it because despite his sometimes frail demeanour, his intentions are always resolute and he can put on a great display of gravitas. In many ways, he’s like a less-than-well looked after vintage sports car (a Triumph Stag, let’s say) that appears to go bloody well on the motorway, but gets into all sorts of trouble in the city because it’s clutch has gone. That’s Ming’s problem, his clutch. When he’s dealing with something he knows about, has plenty of time to build up speed and no difficult corners to make him change the tempo, he’s great. But if you start throwing a few sharp turns or other obstructions, he has to change gear. This causes all manner of grindy/crashy noises, the car jolts and stutters and sometimes even stalls, making him look pretty goofy. Usually, this isn’t a major problem as the LibDems simply haven’t been in the spotlight and that’s given Ming an empty motorway to show off on. That, unfortunately, is no longer the case. Now that Clegg’s completely put the zap on everyone’s heads, both parties are wilfully constructing roadblocks and pouring oil about the place, making what is usually a jolly jaunt up the M5 into a hellish Central London gridlock. Looking back on my notes, there was only one time when Ming got any decernable applause and that was off the back of ‘let’s change the subject’ sideswipe at Ashcroft in Q2. The rest of the time he just failed to get in his stride and kept juddering away, never really getting enough traction to carry the audience along with him. None of what he said was inherently wrong and this wasn’t a disaster, but you’d think the Libs would be in a commanding position tonight. I guess that’s what happens when you hit the big time, kiddo.

A non-Synchromesh 4/10

In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Elfyn Llwyd, MP for Meirionnydd Nat Conway (?!?), current frontrunner on the LCCPQTMR Scoreboard.

Elfyn’s back! Hooray! The last time Elfyn Llwyd was on, he had an absolute belter of an episode, so much so that he still reigns supreme on the infrequently updated Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report Scoreboard. However, that was to a home crowd and as regular readers will know, Loudribs 2nd Law of Question Time Dynamics dictates that “all regional parties get a +3 saving throw on their own turf “. Is Elfyn Llwyd about to bring my meticulously researched scientific theories crashing down about me? Of course not. I wrote the theory and bloody well give out the scores so there’s absolutely no chance of that happening. Having said that, he again put on a really good show, basically reminding everyone that there is a different way of running a country and that’s what we used to call ‘social democracy’. We’re often told that there is no appetite for the left (and by that I mean the traditional left) in this country, but if the response to Elfyn is anything to go by, this is patently wrong. The bulk of his answers drew solid applause and there was genuine support behind him for his ‘living pensions’ line on Q1. Ok, so he didn’t really appear to be as relevant as he was on his last appearance and there were a couple of moments where his ‘impassioned criticism’ face looked a little too much like his ‘grumpy’ face, but generally speaking, I can’t knock it. Not good enough to break my own rule though, OK?

A theoretically contiguous 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Dame Ann Leslie, Mail Hack-of-Note and Phlegmatic Institution.

I really should take umbrage with Ann Leslie, what with her being so intrinsically associated with the Daily Fail but I have to admit that this isn’t the case and if anything, I really quite like her. It’s not out of agreement with her views that I say this and in terms of outlook, we couldn’t be further apart but there’s a certain breed of rightwinger that I’ve always had a great deal of respect for: the gin soaked, Sobranie smoking, blood and stomach pills, ‘to hell with the lot of them’ type of rightwinger (think Alan Clarke). Not only does Ann Leslie tick all the above boxes, but she also has the added advantages of looking like Skeletor (see main picture), a razor sharp tongue and a complete lack of interest in anyone else’s opinion of her. That makes for a fun combination. As is usually the case with the 5th panellist, I won’t go into detail, but here are some pearls of wisdom/turns of caustic wit she left scattered about the place:

  • Cameron was “limp” last week while Clegg is “not the messiah, but a very pretty boy”.
  • LibDems are “sandal wearing” and “self righteous”
  • “Diddums”
  • When asked about LibDem policies she responded “They suck, frankly.”
  • She voted for a “lap dancing madam” in the last election.
  • Gordon brown is “always saving the country after half ruining it”.

What I like about people like Ann Leslie is that you know where you are with them. If they were going to bring in some crazy eugenic policy or sell all the council estates to Tesco, they wouldn’t bother dressing it up with euphemisms and would probably even take the time to come and personally laugh in your face. They are comfortable with sin, make no apologies for their own and have none of that puritanical streak that less colourful strains of the right have. In short, they’re honest bastards. As for her performance, I liked it, the audience liked it and that gets points.

A Bloody Mary for breakfast of a 7/10

The Crowd: London

So this is second post-Debate crowd and they certainly seemed a little more awake than the last lot, not needing a full quarter of an hour to emerge to merge from their slumber. They were also genuinely without a favourite, treating all the parties in similar fashion and giving no-one an easy ride. If ever you needed confirmation that this is now a three horse race, this was it. Two things that did strike me were just how anti the NI rise they were and just how much love there was for private sector growth as opposed to public sector growth. Both of these issues drew the biggest applause and they are still a potential weaknesses for Labour (not that they seemed that bothered right now). The other thing that struck me were how cool the names were of the people asking the first two questions: Jack Warrior and Otto Balsagar. I wish I was called Jack Warrior. Or Otto Balsagar for that matter. But yes, they were a pretty lively bunch that adequately reflected the mood in the country: The cosy two party relationship is dead and the game has changed. That’s exciting stuff.

An sturdy weather vane of a 7/10

Alright, that’s your lot. Check back next week for the last Question Time report before the election…Yikes! Oh, and by the way, if you like what you’re reading, there’s a Facebook fanpage you can join. It’s like being in a gang. A rubbish gang with no obligations or responsibilities, but a gang nevertheless. Anyway, it’s here and if you’d care to stroke my ego, my ego won’t complain. Next week, Lemmings, next week…

Morning Lemmings. OK, I have to admit that I totally underestimated just how much craziness these Leaders’ Debates would cause. Even when I was watching the first one, I thought it was so dull that it would probably drive the electorate to unheard of heights of apathy, but at is turns out they’ve pretty much turned post-war politics completely upsidedown. So I was wrong, but in a good way. Anyhoo, last night’s debate was Nick Clegg’s Tricky Second Album and he was the one with everything to lose. So did he do a Bloc Party and follow up the brilliant Silent Alarm with the lacklustre Weekend In The City? A categorical no. In fact, I would go as far as saying that he’s actually put himself on a Radiohead trajectory and followed up a nice little breakthrough Pablo Honey with a more assured and fleshed out The Bends. Whether he can stick to this course and bust out a genre defining OK Computer remains to be seen, but it’s safe to say that although last night was very close, his Round One performance was not a flash in the pan. As for Cameron, well I’m slightly annoyed as I had a great Scouting For Girls metaphor all lined up (awful, turgid, monstrosity of a record followed by an even more awful, turgid, monstrosity of a record) but he actual did quite well, coming off as less nauseating and hucksterish than the first time round and even gracing us with a rare appearance of Angry Dave. Don’t mess with Angry Dave or he’ll get jolly well upset. As for Brown, I’ve already fleshed out my New Labour/Weezer theory at length, but that doesn’t quite fit either as he also did quite well in that he stopped pretending to be a human. We love you just the way you are Gordon: A lumpen, constant and inevitable body of mass that Christ himself cannot bend to his will. So with all that in mind, I’m assigning Brown to the Metallica plan (most of this year has been St. Anger while last night was much more Death Magnetic), Cameron to the Van Halen template (all good times until Diver Down, but a return to form with 1984… don’t worry though, Sammy Hagar’s début is just round the corner) and that’s the end of that. Other points of note include:

  1. The set looked like some dystopian rendition of a future Krypton Factor where the contestants have to fight to the death.

  2. Boulton is a million times better than Mitchell but a million times less great than Dimbleby… and he looks like he has gills.

  3. Using the words “Afghanistan” and “blown away” in the same sentence isn’t the best plan, Mr Cameron.

  4. Nick Clegg did a lovely little saunter towards the audience at the end. I have lots of time for good sauntering and he saunters well.

  5. At one point Cameron managed to use the word “change” three times in the space of a single sentence.

  6. Less colouring-in took place than in last week’s outing.

Enough already. Time for some real debate. Take me to London or lose me forever.

The Menu:

Q1: Cameron presents himself as an agent of change but is his impression of Nick Clegg good enough?

Q2: Does Nick Clegg’s funny-money allegations mean that the LibDems are any different from the other two parties?

Q3. Will a hung parliament be bad for the UK?

Q4. With inflation and unemployment up, why should we trust Labour?

In The Red Corner: Yvette Cooper, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, MP for Pontecarlo and Cas Vegas, husband of Balls.

It must be hard being Yvette Cooper as every time she appears on TV she looks absolutely knackered. Actually, I guess this isn’t that surprising given that not only has she been working deep within the bowels of Brown’s Treasury (a place not noted for its touchy-feely, ‘take all the time you need’ work ethic) since time immemorial, she’s also married to it in the form of Ed Balls (who just happens to be one of the most unpopular politicians in the country). On top of this, she seems to be one of the few members of Brown’s inner circle who seems to have some sort of contact with reality and as a result, she always looks like she knows that whatever idea she’s been wheeled out to defend will probably go pear shaped, but she carries on regardless, possibly out of a misplaced sense of duty. I like that. It’s not the flashiest of traits, but her mixture of grim resignation and ability to sound reasonable is actually quite endearing. This episode was a slightly easier ride than she’s had on past Question Times given that Gordon didn’t do too badly but also because of the weird mood that’s swept through Labour in the last week. Prior to the debates, most of the Red Team were locked in a death grip with the Tories, knew things were looking terminal and you could sense their despair at the futility of it all. However, that was before Clegg completely trashed the entire scheme of things with his performance and now Labour look like they’ve found a diamond in a turd. Sure, the most likely outcome isn’t amazingly brilliant (a hung parliament and possible coalition), but it’s a damn sight better than it was (probable defeat or a short lived embarrassment of a minority government), they don’t have to do any of the heavy lifting and hell, the sheer stupidity of our electoral system may see them come out smelling of roses. This has put a bit of a spring in their step and their attitude seems a lot more carefree than it was.

Was this reflected in Cooper’s performance? Pretty much. Q1 was a straightforward affair, with some standard Tory bashing at the start, a few doffs of the cap to Clegg and then a surprise swipe at him on Trident (which went down surprisingly well). Much the same followed in Q2 where, after a bout of waffle, she chided the Tory press for ganging up on The New Boy and then landed a himdinger on journalists in general (a brave thing to do in front of Ann Leslie) for treating the public “like idiots”. That was all very well received, much to absolutely no-ones surprise (accusing someone else of treating the audience like idiots never fails… Unless you’re Nick Griffin). Q3 wasn’t so easy as Labour can’t really come out and say ‘we love hung parliaments now’ without looking poisonously cynical, so she reverted to orthodoxy and wheeled out the standard ‘First Past The Post Is Well Cool’ arguments but did manage to fold in a nice little dig at Ken Clarke. Muted applause followed. Finally, she gave Q4 a fairly dull blathering of Treasury-speak before making sure that she gave the Tories one more slap for their economic policy. Sorted.

All-in-all, it was a fairly good performance and for once, she didn’t look like she’d only had half an hour’s sleep in the last month. I’m pretty sure that this is down to the sudden change in circumstances and the fact that most Labour MP’s seem to be in end-of-term mode. Seriously, most of them look like they just don’t give a shit anymore and not necessarily in a bad way. It didn’t all go her way and she took a lot of stick in counter-claps from the audience when it came to the NI rise, but by and large it was perfectly serviceable outing.

An easier than usual 6/10

In The Blue Corner: William Hague, Shadow Foreign Secretary, former election loser and Mekon impersonator.

I don’t know why, but there’s something about Hague that I actually quite like. Actually, let me rephrase that: There’s something about Hague that I actually quite like providing I know he’s nowhere near the levers of power. I think it’s because deep down, he knows he shouldn’t be where he is as he’s a manbaby (see Fig. 1) with a wobbly head, blighted by the oddest of Yorkshire accents and with enough embarrassing stock footage of him to last a lifetime (the 16 year old fawning over Maggie, the ‘Hague’ hat, the 15 pints or whatever it was, etc, etc). On top of that, he always looks out of sorts with the rest of the party and terrified of being found out as a fraud (you know when he’s feeling like this because his voice starts to wobble mid-sentence in a very Alan Partridge sort of way). That all sounds pretty sad, but there’s another, more cheery side to him when he sometimes looks like he’s only just realised he’s a frontbench MP and can’t believe his luck. When this happens, he can actually bust out some pretty funny stuff, have a good knockabout with whoever he’s up against and actually appear semi-human (you know when he’s feeling like this because he delivers every line like a punchline, his voicing rising slightly at the end of every sentence). Luckily for Hague, tonight’s Question Time was an easier prospect than last week as Cameron had managed to get his act together in the debate, but still, the onus is on the Tories to convince the public right now, not the other way round.

So which Hague did we get tonight? Sad Hague or Happy Hague? A bit of both really. Kicking off with Q1, he did his best his best to chalk up Clegg’s recent run of form as “novelty factor” stuff, but came off looking a little shifty and worse still, Cooper nicked his Trident point seconds after he said it and came away with all the applause. Gah! Sad Hague is sad. Q2 was more fun though and Sad Hague was displaced by the much more forthright Happy Hague who wasted no time in whipping out the “holier than thou” stick on Clegg and getting perhaps a little too much applause for demanding that all parliamentary spending goes online. Happy Hague is happy. Q3 saw some nice banditry from Dimbers as he casually tinkered around with some insinuations about Ken Clarke and Hague looked like he’d been busted and reverted to Sad Hague. This went on for some time and ended with a very shaky sounding “right behind” Osborne and a weary defence of First Past The Post that not even a makeshift offensive against the NI raise could save. Sad Hague is sad. Finally, Q4 saw the late re-emergence of Happy Hague when he got very giddy about the private sector and the audience went with him, giving him a nice round of applause to finish the night with. Happy Hague is happy. Yay!

So yes, neither Happy nor Sad Hague dominated and we are left with a curious Yin-Yang Hague, composed equally of both factions and locked in a sublime celestial ballet. I think I just got a bit carried away there.

A curious reflection on the duality of man 5/10

In The Yellow Corner: Menzies Campbell, MP for North East Fife and former didn’t-get-close-enough-to-an-election-to-lose-it Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Dammit Ming! You were only on two weeks ago! Just how the buggery hell am I supposed to come up with new material in that time?! Truly, this is merciless, Ming. Actually, I have a theory as to why he’s on again in such a short space of time and that’s because he got lost on his way out of the studio last time. For the last fortnight, he’s been wandering the corridors of the BBC, politely asking uncaring members of staff where he might find the tramstop and a copy of Punch magazine until he finally gravitated back towards the studio and dozed off in a chair, only to be woken by Dimbleby stubbing a cigarette out on his forehead. Alright, that’s enough of that. I’m being wantonly cruel to poor old Ming and he doesn’t really deserve it because despite his sometimes frail demeanour, his intentions are always resolute and he can put on a great display of gravitas. In many ways, he’s like a less-than-well looked after vintage sports car (a Triumph Stag, let’s say) that appears to go bloody well on the motorway, but gets into all sorts of trouble in the city because it’s clutch has gone. That’s Ming’s problem, his clutch. When he’s dealing with something he knows about, has plenty of time to build up speed and no difficult corners to make him change the tempo, he’s great. But if you start throwing a few sharp turns or other obstructions, he has to change gear. This causes all manner of grindy/crashy noises, the car jolts and stutters and sometimes even stalls, making him look pretty goofy. Usually, this isn’t a major problem as the LibDems simply haven’t been in the spotlight and that’s given Ming an empty motorway to show off on. That, unfortunately, is no longer the case. Now that Clegg’s completely put the zap on everyone’s heads, both parties are wilfully constructing roadblocks and pouring oil about the place, making what is usually a jolly jaunt up the M5 into a hellish Central London gridlock. Looking back on my notes, there was only one time when Ming got any decernable applause and that was off the back of ‘let’s change the subject’ sideswipe at Ashcroft in Q2. The rest of the time he just failed to get in his stride and kept juddering away, never really getting enough traction to carry the audience along with him. None of what he said was inherently wrong and this wasn’t a disaster, but you’d think the Libs would be in a commanding position tonight. I guess that’s what happens when you hit the big time, kiddo.

A non-Synchromesh 4/10

In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Elfyn Llwyd, MP for Meirionnydd Nat Conway (?!?), current frontrunner on the LCCPQTMR Scoreboard.

Elfyn’s back! Hooray! The last time Elfyn Llwyd was on, he had an absolute belter of an episode, so much so that he still reigns supreme on the infrequently updated Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report Scoreboard. However, that was to a home crowd and as regular readers will know, Loudribs 2nd Law of Question Time Dynamics dictates that “all regional parties get a +3 saving throw on their own turf “. Is Elfyn Llwyd about to bring my meticulously researched scientific theories crashing down about me? Of course not. I wrote the theory and bloody well give out the scores so there’s absolutely no chance of that happening. Having said that, he again put on a really good show, basically reminding everyone that there is a different way of running a country and that’s what we used to call ‘social democracy’. We’re often told that there is no appetite for the left (and by that I mean the traditional left) in this country, but if the response to Elfyn is anything to go by, this is patently wrong. The bulk of his answers drew solid applause and there was genuine support behind him for his ‘living pensions’ line on Q1. Ok, so he didn’t really appear to be as relevant as he was on his last appearance and there were a couple of moments where his ‘impassioned criticism’ face looked a little too much like his ‘grumpy’ face, but generally speaking, I can’t knock it. Not good enough to break my own rule though, OK?

A theoretically contiguous 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Dame Ann Leslie, Mail Hack-of-Note and Phlegmatic Institution.

I really should take umbrage with Ann Leslie, what with her being so intrinsically associated with the Daily Fail but I have to admit that this isn’t the case and if anything, I really quite like her. It’s not out of agreement with her views that I say this and in terms of outlook, we couldn’t be further apart but there’s a certain breed of rightwinger that I’ve always had a great deal of respect for: the gin soaked, Sobranie smoking, blood and stomach pills, ‘to hell with the lot of them’ type of rightwinger (think Alan Clarke). Not only does Ann Leslie tick all the above boxes, but she also has the added advantages of looking like Skeletor (see main picture), a razor sharp tongue and a complete lack of interest in anyone else’s opinion of her. That makes for a fun combination. As is usually the case with the 5th panellist, I won’t go into detail, but here are some pearls of wisdom/turns of caustic wit she left scattered about the place:

  • Cameron was “limp” last week while Clegg is “not the messiah, but a very pretty boy”.

  • LibDems are “sandal wearing” and “self righteous”

  • Diddums”

  • When asked about LibDem policies she responded “They suck, frankly.”

  • She voted for a “lap dancing madam” in the last election.

  • Gordon brown is “always saving the country after half ruining it”.

What I like about people like Ann Leslie is that you know where you are with them. If they were going to bring in some crazy eugenic policy or sell all the council estates to Tesco, they wouldn’t bother dressing it up with euphemisms and would probably even take the time to come and personally laugh in your face. They are comfortable with sin, make no apologies for their own and have none of that puritanical streak that less colourful strains of the right have. In short, they’re honest bastards. As for her performance, I liked it, the audience liked it and that gets points.

A Bloody Mary for breakfast of a 7/10

The Crowd: London

So this is second post-Debate crowd and they certainly seemed a little more awake than the last lot, not needing a full quarter of an hour to emerge to merge from their slumber. They were also genuinely without a favourite, treating all the parties in similar fashion and giving no-one an easy ride. If ever you needed confirmation that this is now a three horse race, this was it. Two things that did strike me were just how anti the NI rise they were and just how much love there was for private sector growth as opposed to public sector growth. Both of these issues drew the biggest applause and they are still a potential weaknesses for Labour (not that they seemed that bothered right now). The other thing that struck me were how cool the names were of the people asking the first two questions: Jack Warrior and Otto Balsagar. I wish I was called Jack Warrior. Or Otto Balsagar for that matter. But yes, they were a pretty lively bunch that adequately reflected the mood in the country: The cosy two party relationship is dead and the game has changed. That’s exciting stuff.

An sturdy weather vane of a 7/10

Alright, that’s your lot. Check back next week for the last Question Time report before the election…Yikes! Oh, and by the way, if you like what your reading, there’s a Facebook fanpage you can join. It’s like being in a gang. A rubbish gang with no obligations or responsibilities, but a gang nevertheless. Anyway, it’s here and if you’d care to stroke my ego, my ego won’t complain. Next week, Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #11


Woking, yeah?

Is that a gang sign he's pulling?

Wtf Question Time?! Wednesday?! I haven’t yet got my head round the carnage caused by the bank holiday jiggering my week and now you go and throw another spanner in the works? It’s as if the International Date Line has somehow achieved sentience, given the mid-Pacific the old heave-ho and is currently pacing around West Yorkshire, confusing my fragile grip of the days of the week. Colour me unimpressed. Anyhoo, Wednesday or no Wednesday it’s still Question Time, brought to you this week by the good god-fearing folk of Woking. Brace thyself for some dormitory town action…

In The Red Corner: David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, erstwhile will-he-won’t-he Labour leadership maybe and apple of Hilary Clinton’s eye.

He’s a strange beast, David Miliband. His rather speedy trajectory through the ranks of the Labour party has been remarkable, but it also belies his fundamental weakness: He’s a purely political animal. Formally a think tank policy wonk, he worked his way from parliamentary researcher to Tony Blair’s inner circle, then onto parliament and then to some of the highest offices of state. Not bad for a 44 year old. The problem is that while this has made him an incredibly difficult and determined political adversary to anyone foolish enough to stand in his way, a life led in the political bubble means that he doesn’t quite have that knack for the common touch, unlike his brother who does seem to be a genuinely nice bloke. He also looks alarmingly like a teddy bear, what with that happy little fuzz of hair that sits atop his head (see above), although this seems to have gone down very well with Hilary Clinton. Eww. He got off to a rough start on this episode and faced an uphill struggle with the ‘Is Gordon Brown more qualified than business when it comes to the NI raise?’ question. Nevertheless, he went straight into ‘not one step back’ mode, pulled his ‘intense’ look and tried to make it all about the Tories (they’re “coming after your public services!”). That didn’t go down well and some moderate heckling developed (as well as some feisty little tiffs with Dimbleby and Daley), although another lunge at the Tories did bear some nearly ripe fruit. Further audience intervention aimed squarely at Big Gordy (to the effect that he was “economically illiterate”) soon followed, but again he kept driving at the same point, oblivious to the political shrapnel flying all over the place and scornful of any notion of retreat. At this point it’s tempting to say “Well done Mr Minister of Teddy Affairs. You stick to your guns sir! Hail fellow and well met!”, but it just didn’t seem to work. Sure, he looked cool as a cucumber, despite the apparent mauling, but it left you with the impression that this guy just doesn’t work on the same wavelength as everyone else and maybe in not such a great way. Question 2 was a much easier affair (‘is Chris Grayling and his gay B and B comments a sign that the Tories haven’t changed?’), so much so that he even had a set piece lined up for it. Again, looking very serious and intense, he took his time laying up his “Camera on. Camera off.” manoeuvre before a hearty bout of ‘same old Tories’ and ‘thin end of the wedge’-ing. That got a healthy response, but let’s face it, scoring points against gum flapping Tory with Victorian values is hardly rocket science. The third question caught him strangely off balance (‘what’s the point in voting Labour if they’ll have a new leader in a couple of years?’) and Dimbers took a personal interest in tightening the screws by reminding him of his own leadership ambitions. This did cause him to wobble but credit where credit’s due, he did do a deft little recovery with his “Lord Mandelson works in mysterious ways” gag before attempting a fighting withdrawal with ample use of words like “judgement “, “values” and “commitment”. It sort of worked, but his subsequent ‘I’m totally behind Gordon’ bluster didn’t look so great. The audience got in on the act later, slapping him about for some of his off camera comments about Brown and they did manage to draw some blood. However, being who he is, Miliband didn’t seem to notice the bleeding and looked totally unmoved. The next question (‘would the LibDems get in bed with a party who promised PR’) was less dicey, but he still took some flak for Labour’s piss poor record on all of their promised reforms and he had to resort to using the intense look directly against the audience which is always a risky strategy. Finally, with the end nearly in sight, he had a stab at the ‘Is Gordon Brown’s middle class act essential to politics these days?’ with another preplanned response (a Bevin quote about ‘it’s not where your from, it’s where your going’) before going straight back on the offensive and lashing out at inheritance tax. That confused the bejesus out of the audience who clapped and booed in equal measure. And so ended a rather belligerent appearance.

The thing that gets me about Miliband is that although it’s clear that he is bloody clever, very quick on his feet and properly knows his stuff, that does not translate into someone you’d want in charge. Sure, the Terminator-esque ‘hell or high water approach’ may work very well when employed against political opponents and scare the shit out of anyone who may have a beef with him, but to most people it just looks like he’s a bit of a weirdo with an obsession for pain, combat knives and air pistols. That, combined with the teddy bear look, is just far to much for my brain to take in.

A Blitzkrieg in a civilian area 4/10

In The Blue Corner: Theresa May, Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, token ‘stylish’ Tory.

It’s May’s second appearance on the old LCCPQTMR and I have to say that she didn’t do too well the last time (a paltry 3/10). So, was that just a bad day? Was I being overly unkind? Is there life in the old girl yet? Unfortunately, it seems to be a categorical ‘no’ on all three and if anything, I was being generous in my write up last time. The trouble with May is that she seems utterly devoid of independent thought and totally reliant on whatever line has been fed to her by Tory HQ beforehand (the same accusation can be levelled at Miliband, but you get the feeling that he created the party line in the first place so at least it’s original material). I say ‘fed’, but I think ‘pumped’ is a more appropriate term, as if they hook her up to a machine like the ones they use to milk cows, just reversed and fixed to her mouth. Once the nozzle is firmly in place, a high pressure stream of soundbites, platitudes and buzzwords are forced in, filling the vacuous caverns of her head with precious substance. This process isn’t particularly unusual and all political parties have people who need a thorough pumping before being let lose on the public, but May has one other fatal weakness that was all too evident on this episode of Question Time. The valve that she uses to release all this political slurry has only two settings: Full Blast or Not A Cocking Drop. Take the first question about NI for example. The Tories have had the initiative on this issue all week and the crowd seemed to be onside so it was a simple case of turning on the tap and drenching everyone in a torrent of party approved blabber. And so it was as she switched the valve to Full Blast and poured forth some “jobs tax”, “cut waste” and “kill recovery” (a line that keeps switching sides between Labour and the Tories with alarming regularity at present). Job done, the valve was switched back to Not A Cocking Drop and some audience love duly came her way. So it’s in the bag, right? Wrong. Despite Miliband taking it fully in the chops from the audience, Ming came to his aid and started to lay into George Osborne, much to the approval of the crowd. Maybe at this point it would be prudent to change tack, try a different angle or head for higher ground, no? Wrong again. Faced with a swiftly developing threat, she switched the valve back to Full Blast and out came a load of ‘threaten jobs, jobs, threaten, jobs jobs threaten jobs economy, jobs…..threaten’. Unconvinced, the audience decided that any lead she had was probably an aberration and took it upon themselves to have a pop at politicians in general instead. A brief glimmer of independent thought stuttered to life when she tried a ‘Labour will only save one pound in a hundred’ gambit, but the meagre glow was swiftly extinguished when it turned out that no one gave a shit. So that was pretty ropey. Question 2 (Grayling’s off message rascality) was a much more dangerous affair, but her tactics were the same as ever and she kicked off with a spurt of ‘we believe in the law’, ‘we love gays’ and bizarrely enough ‘we love the NHS’ hokum. Clearly, no one was buying this and Dimbers started to tinker about, stirring things up. Again, on went the valve and out came a load of ‘we believe in the law’. After that, it turned into a bit of a free for all, but not once did she offer a convincing defence, other than ‘we’re nice now’ and ‘we believe in the law’. Basically, it was a bit of a rout. Question 3 (‘will Gordy go after election?’) should have been a cake walk, but she wazzed away the opportunity with a slew of unconvincing ‘change’ stuff (although there was some minor applause for that) while the response to the constitutional reform question was entirely forgettable. Finally, as she limped towards the finish, she opened the valve for the last time on the middle class issue, but it seemed that she had exhausted all the good, high pressure stuff earlier on and all that was left was the vapour from the last question’s ‘change’ platitude. And with that she was wheeled back to the depot where she would be refilled and primed, fresh for whatever the next day may bring.

Ok, that all sounds really unkind as she didn’t receive the same sort of roughing up that Miliband did, but the point is that this should have been a walk over. The Tories have had a good week, the audience seemed largely sympathetic (except on the Grayling matter) and there was real potential to wipe the floor with the opposition. Instead, what we got was a whole bunch of boil-in-the-bag semi-opinions served with a glass of flat diet cola (not the real stuff, own brand) and that’s just not bloody good enough. I know that her whole footwear saga has helped bridge the gap between the two Tory tribes of Maillites and Telegraphios (spicy enough for the Mail! Not too brash for the Telegraph!) but seriously, is that a price worth paying for guaranteed mediocrity? I think not.

Again, a vapid 3/10

In The Yellow Corner: Menzies Campbell, MP for North East Fife, former Olympian and victim of Long Knives.

Oh Ming, what became of thee? Back in 2003, when parliament took complete leave of its senses and dashed headlong into the Iraq fiasco, Ming was the voice of reason. His opposition to the war was resolute, forthright and simply oozed gravitas, making him a natural figurehead for those like myself who had a really bad feeling about the whole clusterfuck (and there were millions of us). Thus it was that when he came to replace Chat Show Charlie as leader, I was quietly confident that he would bring some much needed oak and copper cladding to the otherwise balsa and string LibDem Ship of the Line. Oh how wrong I was. Teased mercilessly by all and sundry before being forced out to pasture, Ming’s stint at the helm will pass into history as a footnote that the LibDems would rather forget, like when Ashdown was caught shagging his secretary. That’s not to say that I don’t think he’s a wise, honourable and decent sort of guy, it’s just that he seems to be from another age and almost looks like a helpless innocent amongst the rough and tumble of the Westminster Ghetto. Having said that, he got off to a pretty good start on this episode with the NI question, natural offering prayers to St. Vince, calling shenanigans on efficiency savings and vilifying Osborne. As St. Vince is eternally benign, heaven opened and applause did poureth forth. Question 2 (Gayling…sic) also saw him on good form as he rightly pointed out that this isn’t the first time Grayling’s buggered things up, pointed out the Waffen SS venerating European company the Tories are keeping and capped it all off with a splendid “still the nasty party”. The crowd got right behind that and stayed with him as came back for a few further swipes at May. All good stuff. The next question (will Brown stay on?) saw him go a bit flatter, just giving a matter-of-fact ‘I know him and he won’t’ response while the PR issue had him skitting about, trying to say very little in a lot of words. Finally, he rounded the show off on the ‘middle class’ question with some pretty vintage LibDem ‘we want a tolerant society’, which was fairly warmly received and that was that.

Out of all the party political panellists, it’s safe to say that Ming was the winner and when he gets in his stride, he’s great. The problems arise when he’s not in his stride and he just looks a little lost and confused, as if someone’s has just told him that the popular beat combo, ‘The Beatles,’ have just split up. Stick with what you know Ming and you’ll be fine.

A mature 6/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Simon Schama, wobbly historian and dictionary swallower.

Seriously Question Time, before you put this guy on again please display a warning that watching him will likely cause motion sickness, disorientation and nausea. He simply can’t sit still, jerks about like a marionette being operated by a detoxing alcoholic and his joints are like those of an Action Man: Fully articulated and capable of traversing a full 360 degrees, head included. If that wasn’t enough, the stuff that comes out of his mouth takes an equally circuitous route, full of flowery, impressive sounding words but somehow skinny on the substance. Having said that, there is something oddly compelling about this otherwise incongruous combination and while most of the stuff he said can either be filed under ‘I’ for ‘Incomprehensible’ or ‘O’ for ‘Of No Great  Import’, you end up convincing yourself that because it all sounds so bloody wordy, it must be true and of great relevance. To illustrate, here are the notes I took for the NI Question, verbatim.

SS – la de dah

don’t know how I’ll vote

la de dah

[doodle of wobbly stickman to remind me that he looked like a bourgeois Thunderbird]

Labours are deficit hawks

Tories are Keynesians

[picture of upward arrow to indicate applause]

That first ‘la de dah’ bit went on for bloody ages and didn’t seem to make a lick of sense, but watching it was strangely captivating. The conclusion, on the face of it (having been completely baffled by the explanation) also seems fairly mad but like the audience, I was clapping in my head and I have no idea why. He was a little more rooted in reality for the Grayling question, busting out an epic phrase in the form of “homophobic hyenas” while the ‘will Gordy stay’ matter had him wetting his pants about how great democracy is. I was dying for a wee myself at the end of Question 4, so I only caught the last bit of his stint but he was back on ultra-elaborate form for the final act, merrily taking us through the backwoods of Gladstone, Sociology 101 and normality before leaving us with this: “leave circumstances of pedigree and swap it for political philosophy”. That sentence only just makes sense and the audience had to pause, perhaps to gather their senses after this whistlestop tour of goddamn everywhere before finally bursting into applause after concluding that it sounded clever, so it must be clever. Did I learn anything from Schama that night? Not really. Did I feel brainier afterwards? Yes! Yes I did! And I’ll never know why! Damn you, Schama!

A doesn’t-stand-to-reason 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Janet Daley, Telegraph columnist and scary haired lady.

I’m not familiar with Janet Daley and the only thing I can really say with any certainty is that her hair is absolutely mental (see Fig. 1), something which came as quite a shock as I thought the Telegraph only permitted bowler hats and tiaras.

FUCKING HAIR!

Fig.1

I haven’t got an enormous amount to say about her because she didn’t really make much of an impression on me, despite being quite combative at points and taking the fight to Miliband at regular intervals. That’s not to say it was a bad performance and her “economical illiterate” accusation that she aimed at Brown went down like a storm with the audience who then recycled it three times hence, it’s just that it wasn’t stellar. Maybe when I’m less distracted by trying to decipher just what the hell Schama is talking about I’ll be able to give her a fairer go, but for now she’ll just have top live with moderate marks.

A neither here nor there 5/10

The Crowd: Woking

I’ve only ever been through Woking on the train to Portsmouth but the very brief impressions I have of it are generally in the ‘leafy’ category. Given where it is, I was pretty sure that this would be a firmly Tory crowd and this seemed to be confirmed during the first question. However, it went downhill pretty quickly for the Conservatives after that and I must say I was pleasantly surprised by how much anger there was towards Chris Grayling and his being a totally div. As an audience they were a pretty vocal lot and as has become near compulsory of late, pretty pissed off with politicians in general. Can’t say that I noticed any real stand-out members, but in general they were a fairly solid crowd and made for a not bad episode. A sound effort, Woking.

A steady away 7/10

And that brings us to the end. Sorry it’s a day late, but as I said earlier this whole Wednesday thing (combined with a thorough Schamaring) has got my head swimming. Down is up, up is down, rivers flowing backwards, etc, etc. See you next week when I’ve rotated back to reality.


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