Posts Tagged 'Norman Baker'

Questionable Time #116


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

“You gotta work bitch” – acclaimed scholar Britney Spears

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

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

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

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

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

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

The war of Tristram’s ear

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

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

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

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

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

¯\_(ツ)_/¯, he says.

White vann diagram

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

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

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

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

Time for the scores!

Gove: 7/10

(Tried to) Restore (his reputation)

Umunna: 6/10

Wore (nice clothes)

Baker: 4/10

(A surprising) Bore

Platell: 5/10

(Warns against class) War

Brand: 7/10

(Unleashed a great) Roar

The Crowd: 6/10

(Found it a) Chore

Next week has obligatory Shirley Williams. Uh…yay?

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

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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Questionable Time #83


questionable time 83 david dimbleby toes

Good morning Lemmings and assuming you and your homestead haven’t fallen victim to the Great Sogginess (it used to be called ‘Christmas’), welcome back to Questionable Time. So, where are we? What’s going on? Who are these people? Why is that bald man waving a credit card around and when did Lewisham became the QT equivalent of a squat party? Well, I’d be lying if I said I knew but let’s just pretend that I do and indulge in some wild speculation.

Letdown #1: It makes me sad when Nad isn’t that mad…

…Because there’s so much potential there that it just seems like a crying shame when she makes it through an hour without saying something completely beyond the pale. It’s also especially galling in this instance as her opening (complete with grumpy chunterings about how she had to go first) was so off the Blue Team’s message that she looked like a shoe-in for a meltdown. Proposed Tory plans for the welfare state? Codswallop and balderdash! The mansion tax? Bloody good idea! Whose side are you actually on Nad? I have no idea! Perhaps aware that this wasn’t the best way to curry favour with her colleagues she then tried to make up for it by appending the phrase “Vote Conservative!” to the back-end of every sentence she uttered in the immigration question but her new-found enthusiasm sounded a little odd next to content that might as well have been lifted straight from UKIP manifesto (and by ‘manifesto’ I actually mean a colouring book where the only available colour is white).

So that bade well right? She was on the Mel-P trajectory and all that was really needed was a final push in order to truly unleash the crazy. The problem was that the final push never came and in truth, it never does on QT because despite all the headlines and bluster Nadine is essentially quite normal. “Normal?” you say “The woman who ate sheep’s testicles in the jungle and wrote an official looking blog that later turned out to be “70% fiction”? This is normal now?”. Well, alright the testicles thing was pretty weird but if you look at her background she really is just a regular person with a clutch of fairly normal right-wing values who grew up in common-garden circumstances and held down a standard issue job. What makes her look odd is the company she keeps – the Blue Team don’t do ‘normal’ in the literal sense of the word so she always ends up looking like the oddest clam on the beach when in fact it’s actually the other way round.

Anyway, all this is by-the-by as the end result is still the same: Rather than going off the handle, Dorries sort of held it together in a somewhat tetchy fashion and made it to the end without incensing everyone in a ten-mile radius. Two miles maybe, but the full ten? Disappointingly, no.

Letdown #2: Norm is also normal.

So it turns out that Norman Baker – the Lib Dem’s conspiracy theorist in chief who inexplicably landed in the Home Office after poor old Jeremy Brown and his panda were told to vacate the premises for no good reason whatsoever – is in a band. My initial reaction to this discovery was along the lines of ‘please say it’s some widdly-widdly Rush-like space noodling outfit’ but again my hopes have been dashed. No, after spending an afternoon where I effectively doubled The Reform Club’s Youtube views it’s my sad duty to report that far from belonging to some avant-garde exercise in sounds that only dolphins can hear, Norm’s band are instead the sort of pub rock ensemble that requires the audience to wear waistcoats, make a fuss about real ale and trade anecdotes about how they once saw Van Morrision arguing with a bus stop (see Fig. 1).

norman baker geddy lee

Fig. 1

I bring this up because like Dorries, Baker should – what with his clutch of niche causes and nose for the untoward – be a QT star, yet his performance was so quietly mundane that you often struggled to remember that he was actually there. I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on him as his whole appointment to the Home Office does smack of an exercise in giving him enough rope to hang himself with but really Norm, a little more weird wouldn’t go amiss.

Paul Nuttall and Lewisham: A match made somewhere other than Heaven.

UKIP seemed to be on to a winner during the last run of QT: Put the frighteningly sane Dianne James on whenever it’s a southern based marginal, Nuttall for anything north of Stafford that’s near a motorway and Farage for all other occasions. It was working because Nuttall’s brand of ‘ordinary bloke saying what we’re all thinking’ works really well in those towns which would never in a million years vote Tory yet have also fallen spectacuarly out of love with the Red Team (your Blackburns, Darwins and Stokes). But the same trick doesn’t work when you transpose it to screamingly Right On and cosmopolitan Lewisham. No, you just end up looking like that weird guy who a friend brought to your birthday party and then promptly abandoned when he started shouting about Romanians. Hard luck Paul, back up the M6 you go…

Where’s this Chuka been all my life?

Another week, another chance for me to wheel out my standard charge sheet against Chuka Umunna – mainly that everything he says comes across as stilted, over-rehearsed and lacking any real fire – except that I’m not going to this week. Instead I’m going to give the him a gold star for acting like an actual human being with his response to the Mark Duggan question. It was great – thoughtful, considered and most of all genuine. True, this was his episode to throw away given just how bloody tribal the Lewisham crowd are and there were periods where he lapsed back into his default position of regurgitating the latest policy brief but I’m going let that slide if only because it was nice to see that he is capable of displaying tangible emotions rather than his regular schtick of rhetorical box ticking.

And the winner of Best Newcomer 2014 goes to…

…Susie Boniface, aka the Fleet Street Fox. Alright, so it’s not exactly a crowded field when it comes to dishing out that award but her factual ducks were presented in a tidy row, the delivery was firm without being self-righteous and she really did make Paul Nuttall look like a bit of a tit. Winner winner chicken dinner!

Tl;dr

Baker: (Sub)dued

4/10

Dorries: (Less) booed (than expected)

4/10

Umunna: (Judged the) Mood (just right)

7/10

Nuttall: (Is) Screwed (south of the Potteries)

4/10

Boniface: (Is clearly a) Shrewd (cookie)

8/10

The Crowd: (Spend most of their time in the) Nude?

5/10

And so our story ends but not before I have a slight dig at the crowd for giving the Biased BBC brigade enough ammunition to keep them in bitter sounding blog posts for the next year. Oh well. Can’t have it all I guess. Right, I’m off to quietly weep about how few people want to buy t-shirts in January. Seriously guys, buy t-shirts… They’ll be the only dry clothes you get until at least August.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #48


 

 

question time huddersfield

Morning Lemmings and praise be, we are no longer in Scotland and back on a more familiar footing, unhindered by issues I care not for and accents I can’t fathom. No Lemmings, this week we find ourselves in Huddersfield and I’m happy to say that I’ve got a pretty good idea of what goes on in that neck of the woods thanks to a rather colourful history I share with the town. Most of this is down to the fact that it’s only a few miles down the road from me but also because when the band I’m in first started playing live, we ended up in Huddersfield on a fair few occasions. Unfortunately for both me and Huddersfield, we hadn’t quite figured out the correct alcohol-to-performance ratio and one of our earlier gigs was largely characterised by me trying to explain/slur to the audience that “there’s no ‘I’ in ‘Huddersfeld Bus Staton”. This was largely met with bemused puzzlement but I remained undeterred and continued to berate the assembled rabble that “there’s no ‘I’ in ‘Huddersfeld Tran Staton” either. For reasons beyond me I just wouldn’t let this go (probably because I was very proud of being able to remove ‘I’s from words whilst barely being able to stand) and the evening rapidly descended into farce as I realised that all the things that my hands were doing with the guitar were not the things they were supposed to be doing. So yes, Huddersfeld and I go back a bit.

 

Sub-prime tales of amateur rockery aside, I was into this episode, not because it was in any way an epic bloodbath or anything remotely like that but mainly because it proved a cautionary tale into the pitfalls of frontbench politics. Our two protagonists in this tale of woe take the form of loco right-wing lodestar John Redwood and Womble-esque Secretary of State for Transport Norman Baker. Now, this pair have come at their career from completely opposite ends with Redwood entering government a bare two years after becoming an MP whilst Baker has only just arrived into a position of power after 13 years on the shelf. The experience of government for Redwood had been a chequered affair to say the least, what with him being possibly the most rabid proponent of Thatcherism in a government full of rabid proponents of Thatcherism, his now legendary bollocksing up of the Welsh national anthem and his failed attempt to topple John Major. Basically, he veered erratically between being genuinely, frighteningly crazy and a general purpose figure of ridicule. In contrast, Baker spent his early years being pretty much the textbook example of an effective backbencher and he had the guts to take on some very powerful figures (he started in motion the chain of events that led to Mandelson’s second resignation), would go out of his way to uncover things of an iffy nature (the Dr. Kelly affair comes to mind) and nurtured a whole host of kooky little side causes like Tibet. Here he is with a tiny manifestation of the Dalai Lama levitating between his cupped hands (see Fig. 1… it’s been a dry week for Google Images).

norman baker dalai lama

Fig.1

Fast forward to last night’s show and we find that the tables have turned and the results are quite dramatic for the fortunes of our protagonists. Take Redwood for example: Since he’s been on the backbenches Ol’ Vulcanchops has actually become quite fun as he wilfully takes potshots at his own party and this was apparent throughout the episode. Greece (which he insisted on addressing as ‘she’)? Let the bastards go under! U-turns? Couldn’t care less providing that someone stops Clarke from bumming offenders. Pensions?The public sector can go suck a lemon (actually, that’s a little unfair as he did attempt to act in a slightly conciliatory manner on this question)! Sure, some of what he said really shouldn’t be uttered north of the Severn-Wash line and he was rightly pilloried for taking the ‘it’s all Labour’s fault’ jalopy out for its ten trillionth spin but all the while he looked very comfortable and certainly wasn’t going to arse about with such trivialities as toeing the party line. Now, I realise that I’ve relentlessly taken the piss out of him in the past but that’s mainly because it’s so easy and in actual fact, I quite enjoyed seeing him on last night’s show, despite how weird that sounds as the words pass my lips. Jesus, did I really just say that?

Baker, by contrast, had an entirely different match and not a great one at that. He largely got away with the Greece question by letting Redwood go through the ‘Labour’s fault’ motions but he seemed vulnerable on the u-turn and pensions numbers. Granted, there was only one moment when things got really dicey (the boo-fest about the manifesto) but you could tell that he was on borrowed time and although he generally sounded reasonable, you got the sense that singing from the Downing Street issued hymn book was actually bloody hard work for him. And therein lies the rub: People like Baker and Redwood are essentially free range politicians and enticing though power may be, captivity in government leads inevitably to their slow decline into madness. In many ways I think that’s a shame because I like Baker and I think he’s well suited to his brief (Transport Minister is an inherently nerdy posting), but his main strengths lie in the fact that he’s very adept at holding the powerful to account and that’s something that’s very tricky to do when you’re actually in government. So sorry Norman, I know it’s cool to play with the biggest train set in the world but seriously, is it worth it?

The other big political story of the night was that Labour’s panelist actually did very well and about bloody time too if you don’t mind me saying (mind you, that’s what you get when you only put forward ex-Home Secretaries for ten million weeks in a row). On the stump for the Red Team was parliamentary n00b Rachel Reeves and funnily enough, the MP for my constituency. While I’ve never met Reeves personally, I did send her a very pedantic email prior to the election demanding why exactly I should vote for her and to her credit, she replied at length. Ok, so we had a few disagreements about foreign policy and I actually ended up voting Green, but at least she took the time to indulge my curmudgeonry and from that point on, I’ve been keeping a close eye on her. In terms of the show, she got off to a strong start with some well-aimed jabs at the coalition and also had the gumption to bring up the fact that the Tory’s were fully signed up to Labour’s spending plans prior to the crash. Quite why Labour have been so reluctant to pull this one out of the bag more often I don’t know but it’s nice to finally see someone pour cold water on what has been the coalitions stock response to pretty much any criticism. Most of her other response were also fairly robust with a good innings on pensions/u-turns and the crowd seemed to be largely signed up to the Reeves Manifesto. Ok, so if you’re a Labour politician facing Redwood in Huddersfield and the crowd aren’t with you then you might as well just give up as this is about as easy as it gets, but I was impressed with her performance and I’ve got a feeling that she’s one to watch… Even if her slightly blokey voice jars with her otherwise female face.

Right, that’s the political bit, now for the civilians, this week represented by Anorak-in-Chief David Mitchell and paragon of mumsiness Fern Britton. Given that Mitchell has now been appointed as the Default Face of Middlebrow Satire he was pretty much in his element on Question Time and he was very easy to watch. All his answers were pictures of reasonableness with a few chuckles thrown in for good measure and while he isn’t so great with the details, the points he was making all seemed to make a good amount of sense. Britton on the other hand was a completely different kettle of fish and most of her responses can be summed up as follows:

I’m too sure about [insert current subject here], but as a mother/woman/feminist [delete as appropriate] I despair/enthusiastically endorse [delete as appropriate] of whatever it is that we’re talking about”

When this approach to political debate is combined with a halting yet impassioned delivery you begin to feel like you’re being smothered to death with several tons of marshmallows. I’m conscious that this all sounds a little po-faced as Britton doesn’t pretend to be anything other than human security blanket and her Blair interview made it clear that she’s the softest of softballers but I just don’t think her MO makes for very good Question Timing. Sure, it garners claps-a-plenty but it doesn’t really add anything to mix. Having said that, it would have been funny if Phillip Schofield was also on the panel and they ended up descending into their obligatory fog of giggles and innuendo, but until that happens my face will continue to be po.

So that was panel, what of the audience? On the face of it this was a pretty mundane show: Redwood largely behaved, no-one said anything especially earth-shattering and the biggest clap of the night actually went to Dimbleby when he speared Baker with some high velocity tuition fees. Having said that though it was just what I needed, largely because I instantly understood it. Given that I live in Leeds, the politics of the M62 are my bread and butter and this crowd were pretty much a living representation of what that entails. Sure, they weren’t the most exciting bunch (although the guy who looked like the Pennines’ answer to the X-Factor’s Wagner did spice things up a little) and no major scalps were claimed but it had the feel of a very well made cup of tea: Ultimately unexciting but immensely comforting nevertheless.

Tl;dr

Redwood: 6/10

(orange) Hued

Baker: 4/10

(got) Booed

Reeves: 7/10

Wooed

Mitchell: 6/10

Dude

Britton: 5/10

(probably makes a whole bunch of women feel) Brood(y)

The Crowd: 5/10

(sub)Dued

Ok, so that was totally mellow. Sorry if it wasn’t the most exciting report but it really did feel like a warm bath episode and warm baths are only funny if someone farts in the them. No one farted in this episode. Anyway, you’ll be pleased to know the mellowness was only transitory in nature and was soon ripped apart by the eye-splitting spectacle of Michael Portillo and Alan Johnson wearing near identical stripy shirts on This Week (and that was before the horror of watching Will Hutton’s strange face in HD). Expect more reasonable levels of irritability to return in the next instalment.

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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