Posts Tagged 'Paddy Ashdown'

Questionable Time #136


qt 136

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to Hell.

Let’s get right to it, although this may be a somewhat late and truncated edition as I have spent a lot of my time in recent days either a) trudging around for ten hours straight following the campaign trail and getting attacked by dogs, b) bellowing like a harpooned whale at my television screen, or c) sleeping. I am currently in the middle of an existential crisis which has left me inhabiting no physical form to speak of. Nevertheless, I have typed this round-up for you…with my trembling, ghostlike hands.

You can leave your hat on

David Dimbleby is back from his nap and ready to rumble. Appaz UKIP was not available for this edition, so we’ll have to go on without them. Maybe they were locked out due to the voting system?

Besides which, we have to focus on the most pertinent issue of this election: Paddy Ashdown eating his hat. Though now an elder statesman, he has become an late game Twitter meme (replacing #EdBallsDay, RIP) when he promised to eat his hat if the now-infamous exit poll results were true. They were. If anything, they were even more shocking than we shockingly thought. Hatgate has been the sole highlight of a devastating night for the Liberal Democrats – and so, with the country having officially gone mad, Ashdown is presented with a confectionery hat live on television. Alastair Campbell is also presented with a chocolate kilt. Sadly, they do not scoff them down, and we can only wonder at their fates now. Did the audience have a party afterwards, or did the cameramen just nick them?

Honestly, I thought the hat would be bigger. Looking at the scale of the Lib Dems’ (and of course Labour’s) defeat, I was imagining Ashdown shoving an entire sombrero down his gob. There’s still time – some wag needs to do this and put the video on Vine.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Is Scottish independence now inevitable? With our first question comes the oily arrival of Francis Maude. Francis is a happy bunny, and cheerily (well, cheerily for him, which is to say a tad livelier than a corpse) says nah. The SNP fandom (#sturgeonfandom?) didn’t die down, it went TURBO THROTTLE, and the Tories never had a chance there anyway so it’s like…shruggie. Ruth Davidson was clearly having a great time, she never expected to win so just fed Soleros to people every day.

Alastair Campbell intervenes and says yeah probs. It’s Dave’s fault for stoking division. We should respect the SNP, most certainly fear them, but secretly envy them. What do they have that we don’t? Other than a charismatic leader, mobilised ground base, excellent organisational skills, and passionate policy prospectors? Like that’s a big deal!

Paddy says, sadly not with chocolate around his mouth, that we’re doomed.

John Swinney, the SNP dude, who appeared on this programme only two weeks ago but it feels like so much longer now, is having a nice day, now that you mention it. “I love living in Scotland,” he says. Everything is going super-duper for him. Until the Tories hit Scotland with their cuts, that is, but like that’s a big deal! Dimbles asks him to get to the point. Do you hope for fiscal independence? Well yeah, Swinney responds, but we, like, kind of want independence for everything. That’s sort of our ~thing~.

Julia Smugly-Brewer has her own strong opinions and unfortunately decides to air them. “Why are we always talking about Scotland? Why don’t we talk about England,” says she, and the answer to that point is because the question was about Scotland. Francis’ gloating continues, and John is offended and hates David Cameron for subtweeting about his beloved country that he loves to live in. Scotland, that is to say. Just in case you all forgot about it. Like that’s a big deal!

Labouring the point

Next up: is Labour too right-wing for Scotland and too left-wing for England? But where does that leave Wales? Everyone always forgets Wales ;_;

Campbell does his best and waffles a bit. He’s the official Labour Party damage control [insert Iraq joke here], plonked on when they’re having a particularly bad time of it, and nothing could be worse than living in The Now. He declares that people were afraid of JOHN AND HIS HORDE, and simultaneously Scottish people were tired of lazy Labour MPs havin’ a snooze. He sums up by stating that Labour needs to move away from Blairite/Brownite, New Labour/Old Labour divisions and go forward, perhaps crying a little bit, into the future.

‘Who is considering the interests of the poor, beleagured English?’ insinuates some judgey woman in the audience. She later interrupts and is generally annoying. I am short-tempered from electioneering and have no time for her sassy mouth. Paddy can’t even say anything worthwhile in response, his mouth is too full of hat.

Julia extols the virtues of David Miliband. But he is gone. And if he ever comes back, it will not be in time for the leadership contest. Class warfare that, suckas.

LABOUR RUINED EVERYTHING, gloats Francis, clearly enjoying himself.

MURDOCH DID IT!! says another shouty woman from the audience, this time even shoutier. (My ears hurt.) Don’t patronise me, huffs Francis, finally displaying some emotion. Julia interrupts to talk about the real issues. We’ve been talking about Scotland for 25 minutes of the scheduled hour…that’s why people are disillusioned! says she. Eh? What’s your problem with Scotland, Julia? Did Scotland kick your dog or something?

Why did the Lib Dems die in a ditch? Paddy audibly sighs. He mumbles that there are things they need to consider, and basically admits he’s too tired and sad to do that right now. People are a bit sympathetic. Julia tries to hug him but he rebuffs her, sinking a potentially beautiful ship before it even leaves the harbour. The Lib Dems were “honourable” and cool beans, intercuts Francis, perhaps also hoping for a hug.

“You didn’t say that during the election campaign,” Paddy bitches, obviously not in the mood for any kind of hug.

John Swinney places the blame squarely on Danny Alexander’s yellow budget box, saying it looks silly, and I think that’s the one thing we can definitely all agree on.

Europe all night to get lucky

Two UKIP-focused questions next, despite a representative not being there (nelsonmuntzhaha.mp3): Is UKIP’s performance fair, when they got a helluva lot of votes?

Don’t care, don’t like ’em, says John.

Don’t care, don’t like proportional representation, says Francis.

Don’t care, the public don’t care, says Julia.

The crowd disagree vocally. John says he is a beneficiary of FPTP, but believes in PR, as does Paddy. Well, that’s nice. Pity it’s not a big deal to the majority party, eh?

Secondly: can David Cameron keep Britain in Europe? Alastair says this is Bad News Bears. The debate for the next couple of years will be dominated by this, as will the press. We’re for a referendum, says Francis, sticking to the party line as ever (boo, I wanted more gloating, while irritating it’s at least 1% more interesting), but need a renegotiation. Also it distracts from all the other stuff we’re going to do, which is a bonus!

Y’all are arrogant, not letting us get a say, squeaks Julia. We have a right to say no! Just say no, kids! Paddy is offended by this, of course. In fact, you could even say that if Britain leaves the EU…

…he’ll eat his hat.

Time for the scores!

Maude: 6/10

Gloat(ing)

Campbell: 6/10

(Ready to grab you by the) Throat

Ashdown: 6/10

Bloat(ed from all the hats he’s had to eat)

Swinney: 8/10

(Pretty chuffed about his share of the) Vote

Hartley-Brewer: 6/10

Quote(d as saying Scotland LITERALLY killed her dog)

The Crowd: 8/10

(I’ll get me) Coat

Next time: five more years.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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Questionable Time #99


Good morrow Lemmings and let us relive a comparatively more sombre Question Time experience than the trainwreck (akin to Thomas the Tank Engine, only instead of the trains bearing friendly, non-threatening faces they all feature a giant laughing Farage) that was last week. Still, there were still a number of amusing moments to be had, three-quarters of the show wasn’t devoted to one question, and whenever everything was in danger of lagging one could always entertain oneself by peering at Paddy Ashdown’s scrunchy face. So, without further ado:

I am neither in this programme nor out of it but somewhere in between

When Paddy Ashdown is lost in thought his eyes roll up into his skin like an angry hedgehog. Happily, this fun feature was also present last night. Paddy began, blind as a bat, as he meant to go on. The Lib Dems have saved the economy and everyone is happy and chillaxing. Yes, those ruddy Conservatives may have been involved just a little, but it’s the Lib Dems’ victory really.

Funnily enough nobody made any comment on how this extremely long and meandering speech related to the Gary Barlow question, or when he then repeated the exact same points he previously said when it came to covering the free school meals dealio. Not even Humza Yousaf, who clearly disagreed with everything he said, butted in. Everyone was too entranced by Paddy’s wonderfully waxen face to care.

Paddy seems like he was specifically grown in a laboratory for the role of the serious elder statesman, making respected comments about war crime allegations. He could do the entire show wearing a sparkly party hat and Dimbledore would merely sit there, transfixed, drawn into the endless craggy abyss that is Ashdown’s eyeholes.

Also, he still might be able to suplex you. Fear is the greatest motivator.

Ahh, the Chilcot inquiry, it burns!

Caroline Flint wants tax avoiders rounded up with a net and shot. Or at least that’s the perception you’d get after her most recent QT performance. At one point, Dimbleby interrupted her – you realise, Caroline, you can’t just put all the tax avoiders in a big hole in the ground and leave them there to rot? Caroline couldn’t answer that, but you could almost hear her thinking: why not? What’s the big deal? WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL, DIMBLEBY?

Then she and Esther (or as I nicknamed them, Betty and Veronica) had a bit of a bust-up over free schools. And then she and Tim had a bust-up over free schools. Caroline wants everyone to forget about free schools! Let’s talk about the million billion other schools instead! What’s the big deal? WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL, EVERYONE?

Unfortunately she ran out of steam when it came to the last question and the British public engaged in the only form of national sport that can truly bring them all together as a happy, loving family: Blair-bashing. She turned white as a sheet. It was quite a sight, let me tell you.

“Tim, whatever you’re on, can we all have some?”

I was going to have Esther McVey, as the official Tory Party representative, as one of the main sections for this edition – but you know what? Nah. Nah, nah, nah, nah, because another has stolen her crown. Oh, she put in a decent performance, but was utterly outclassed: whether it came to Scotland or education, a lone shadow stalked through the night, goshing and crikeying until he was blue in the face. And that person’s name is Tim Stanley.

I scoffed as I heard his profession being read out. Blogger. Yes, for a national newspaper, but still. I’m a blogger. I write many interesting pieces about the right way to cook a roast potato (boil ’em first). What did Tim have that I lacked? As it turned out…drugs. Possibly.

Aside from being a grown man named Tim, which is warning enough, even Dimbleby looked on in horror as TStanz engaged in what was possibly the wettest, smelliest incident of brown-nosing I’ve ever seen in my life. Or perhaps it should be termed Gove-nosing? Free schools are so popular! Coventry! You’re getting new free schools! “You’re very very fortunate!”

Coventry reacted in a predictable manner. Later on, the ‘Yes’ campaign gained a zillion more supporters as Tim began to verbally lick and kiss the entire nation of Scotland in a terrifying, quasi-incestuous manner. We’re brothers and we love you. Stay with us. Staaaay.

Fig. 1

Tim was a bit more sensible later on, when he explained that politicians create the context for war crimes to be able to happen in the first place. Whether you agree with that statement or not, at least he managed to say it without the entire audience breaking out into loud groans, which is a significant improvement from what came before.

I’m fairly sure Coventry isn’t in Scotland but don’t tell Humza that

Finally, inexplicable SNP panellist Humza Yousaf got off to a good start by revealing he is a Take That fan to much mockery and merriment. His broad Scottish accent makes his angry damnation of The Evil One (Gary Barlow) ever more entertaining. (Clearly he is Team Robbie.) “THURRTY FIEV MULLION POONDS”, he declared, to the proudly anti-Barlow audience’s glee.

Sadly he then went quiet for a while, perhaps exhausted by the ferocity of his Robbie-fandom. He interjected to agree that the Tory/Lib Dem fights are faker than Harry Styles’ and Taylor Swift’s relationship, but that was it until the actual question on Scotland (!!) that popped up.

Then he mainly just laughed at David Cameron. Come on Humza, we can all do that. Give us something a bit more POONDing.

Well, that’s about it for this week, but not before leaving you all with the best line of the night, from dear old forgotten Esther herself: “in England we need to know why we’re rubbing up against each other”. Why indeed, Esther. Why indeed.

Incidentally, it’s scores time.

McVey: 5/10

(Missed her) Boat

Flint: 6/10

(Sort of keeping) Afloat

Ashdown: 7/10

(Knows his party line by) Rote

Yousaf: 5/10

(Wants a ‘Yes’) Vote

Stanley: 6/10

(Probably owns a) Moat

The crowd: 5/10

(On teachers they) Dote

The next edition of Questionable Time is the 100th! Wow! Not sure if that actually means anything, but bask in this simply amazing achievement anyway. Bask in it.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #33


questionable time 33 david dimbleby misfits

Good morning Lemmings and hold on to your hats because we’ve got a live one here. Yup, that’s right, after a slew of mediocre and bothersome QT’s that never really got off the ground Luton has decided to pull its finger out for the penultimate show of the series. And about bloody time if you ask me. Anyway, here’s what we learned:

I was genuinely excited at the prospect of Paddy Ashdown and Terry Smith being in the same room together.

There are many people in this world who claim to know some Awful Things and to be quite frank, most of them annoy me. Take for example Nick Ferrari: He claims to know all sorts of Awful Things about the way this country is heading and uses every opportunity he can to make us aware of just how Awful these Things will be. The problem here however is that a) I’m not entirely convinced that the horrors of which he speaks are anything more than figments of his imagination and b) the way he howls and bleats about our impending doom makes me want to do him a mischief. Happily though, the same cannot be said for either Paddy Ashdown or Terry Smith, men who have taken the art of knowing Awful Things to dizzying heights. Lets start with Ashdown:

That Paddy Ashdown knows some very Awful Things is beyond dispute. The man is an ex-Marine who’s spent a good part of his life practising Awful Things on behalf of the state before going on to govern a country that was beset with Things of the most Awful nature. In short, he’s got chops when it comes to the unthinkable. But it’s what he chooses to do with this information that’s important and this is where Ashdown’s real strength lies: He tells you about these Things and their Awfulness without fuss or drama, neither trying to sweeten the pill nor over-egg the pudding. Basically, he treats you like an adult. As for Smith, well it’s all very similar. His background is in finance and given his CV I think it’s entirely probably he knows a great many Awful Things about The City. But again, it’s what he chooses to do with this information that matters and like Ashdown he opts to play it super-straight: Thing’s are much more Awful than you could possibly imagine. Suck it up. Now, that’s not a nice piece of news to impart but he does it in such an unflinchingly steely manner that it almost doesn’t seem scary: The entire global economy could happily implode, taking with it several hundred years of human progress but it’s ok because no matter what, Terry Smith will survive the cataclysm and be able to say ‘I told you so’ when we all emerge from our fallout shelter.

So yes, I’m a very big fan of people who really know what they’re talking about – doubly so if they happen to be kickboxing econo-doom-mongers or ex-Special Forces nation builders – and what I was really hoping to witness was a flat-out confrontation between the two of them. Alas, that was never going to happen as they seem largely united in their outlook on economy and aside from Smith’s suggestion to simply get rid of the House of Lords (never one for partial solutions, Terry Smith) they largely spoke as one. But still, could you imagine a face-off between the two of them? It would be like the world’s most intense staring contest (if Paddy Ashdown’s eyeless squint qualifies as staring) that would probably result in someone’s head exploding. I’ve done my best to visually extrapolate such a scenario (see Fig. 1) but I must confess that I am a little bummed that it didn’t come to pass. Still, a solid effort from both parties involved and one that lent this episode some of the much-needed gravity that’s been missing from QT of late.

paddy-ashdown-terry-smith-staring-contest-gif

Fig. 1

My jury’s out when it comes to Justine Greening.

This was never going to be a nice week for a Tory on QT, let alone for a Transport Secretary who got brutally flip-reversed by her own team a few days back so the odds really weren’t on Greening’s side. To her credit, she did manage to look largely composed for the bulk of the show and the good news is that this wasn’t a Chloe Smith/Ben Swain moment. The less positive news for Greening is that if the Blame Labour For Everything line was looking a little threadbare six months ago it looks positively craven now (something that three separate audience members went to great lengths to point out) and her reliance on it soured her performance from the get-go. Similarly her repeated use of the phrase ‘cracking on’ became so familiar as to be contemptible and although it’s preferable to confessing that the government really doesn’t have a clue what’s going on at the moment there is something deeply suspicious about people who are constantly telling you that they’re ‘on to it’. Still, it could have been worse and I will say this: Justine Greening has excellent posture: Shoulders back, spine ramrod straight, head up… that’s some quality sitting down she pulled last night.

I like the fact that Tony Robinson must leave right-wingers feeling horribly conflicted.

First things first, hats off to Tony Robinson for his opening broadside on the bankers question. That was real passion on display and it set the rest of the show up really nicely. I’m going to now put my hat back on and gently scold him for not quite doing enough homework, something which is a real pity because if he had a stronger grasps of the facts his answers would sound a little less like conspiracy theories. Gentle scolding dispensed, I am now going to take my hat off again and congratulate him purely for existing. Why? Because it causes True Blue types to blow a cognitive gasket. Here’s how it works: Upon laying eyes on Tony Robinson a True Blue is liable to register a surge in their blood pressure because they know him to be a jumped-up, oiky little lefty who’s spent most of his life bad-mouthing the Tory party. However, things start to become problematic when they realise that he’s also Baldrick from Blackadder and no matter how hard they try, they cannot bring themselves to hate the living embodiment of one they hold so dear. Time suddenly appears to stop, a hissing noise issues from their brains, smoke pours out of their ears, everything goes black. Job’s a good ‘un Tony.

And the other one?

I think I’ve finally realised why I’ve always had trouble with Tessa Jowell. Part of it is that I’ve never really known what the point of Tessa Jowell is (she always seemed to be Minister for Stuff or Deputy to the Office of the Trivial) but I think it’s more to do with the fact that she fails my 3rd Test of Friendship: Are they a fun person to get drunk with? I suspect that Tessa Jowell is probably a crushing bore when drinking and I also suspect that she would wear rattley jewellery that would really get on my nerves. And what evidence do I base this on? None whatsoever apart from a very queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach when I try to picture the two of us sat at a bar. Sorry Tessa but the pit of my stomach has spoken and for better or worse it holds some sway over me.

Tl;dr

Greening: 5/10

(Got diddled by Osborne’s about) Turn

Ashdown: 7/10

(Has soldierly credibility to) Burn

Jowell: 4/10

(Is not someone I) Yearn (to get bladdered with)

Smith: 7/10

(is very) Stern

Robinson: 6/10

(Showed great) Concern

The Crowd: 7/10

(Were probably drinking tea from an) Urn (just before the show was filmed)

So there. Speaking of the crowd, sorry that they didn’t get much of a look-in in this week’s Questionable Time. I find myself a little pushed for space but I think it would be an injustice not register just how delightfully indignant they all were. Here’s to you, Delightfully Indignant Luton Crowd. Right, that’s me done… I’m going to give work a call to see if my box of Questionable Time stickers has arrived yet. Tap me up on the old Facebook or Twitter if you want in on some adhesive Dimbleby action.

Make your laptop handsome!

Make your laptop handsome!

Tame your feral beasts!

Next week Lemmings… Next week….

Questionable Time #13


questionable time 13 dimbleby the tank engine

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to 2012, a year in which – if this episode of QT is anything to go by – our primary vexation appears to be none other than trains getting from London to Birmingham slightly quicker at some point in the far distant future. Remember that extinction level economic crisis that dominated Question Time throughout 2011? Yeah, well you needn’t have worried because it turns out that all it needed was a damn good Christmasing and now it’s not worth bothering our pretty little heads over. On top of that it also seems that 2012 is the year in which politicians of all stripes put aside their various differences and simply agree with each other on just about bloody everything. That’s right, no more bitter hand-to-hand combat on the battlegrounds of economic policy but instead a cosy love-in as representatives from across the political spectrum bask in the warmth of consensus on boob jobs, HST and Leveson. Ok, so there was a bit of contention when it came to Scottish independence but I’m struggling to recall an episode of QT that was quite so dreadfully agreeable.

The upshot of all this is that it was actually a pretty dull affair last night that lacked any real juice and left me feeling a little short-changed. Take the train question for example: Literally every single political panelist held near identical views and this left the floor wide open for Kelvin MacKenzie to reap all the rewards in his role as Self Appointed Man of the People. Now, I’m no fan of MacKenzie but I have to admit that without him last night would have been little more than a well-heeled Woodstock without the acid and let’s face it, that doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs. So that didn’t exactly inspire me with confidence (you know things are bad when the highlight of a particular question is a gentleman of Scouse extraction getting a little over enthused about Watford Junction) but I held out a little hope that at least the question of Scottish independence could provoke some level of disagreement. And so it did, but in a ridiculously one-sided manner.

Our main protagonist in the only real point of contention in this encounter is none other than the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon and I must say that I did feel slightly sorry for her last night. For one, life can’t be easy when it looks like your hair has been borrowed from a Lego figure (see Fig. 1) and preaching Scottish Nationalism to a London crowd is a tall order but the main reason was that Dimbers seemed to have it in for her a bit last night. Sure, she didn’t do herself many favours as she deployed her usual tactics when in a tight spot (which is to just continue talking, regardless of whether the content makes any sense) but Dimbleby was really short with Sturgeon and seemed to relish any opportunity to clip her round the ear. Another weird by-product of this question was the part when Sturgeon and Danny Alexander got into a very surreal little tiff, ostensibly about something-or-other that an aide to Alex Salmond had said. Sensing danger, Sturgeon tried to wibble her way out of it but Alexander wouldn’t let it go and just sat there, quietly repeating the phrase “Was she wrong? Was she wrong?” like a shell shock victim lost in his own personal hell. This bizarre little charade went on for some time and it reminded me of that ‘You can’t handle the truth!’ scene in A Few Good Men… Except set in a particularly passive-aggressive PTA meeting rather than a court-martial and with Tom Cruise’s character being played by the little man in the bowler hat from the Homepride ads.

nicola sturgeon lego hair

Fig. 1

As for individual performances, well I think it’s fair to say that ‘fair to middling’ is just about the best that this lot could muster with Ashdown putting in the most impressive turn simply by alternating between his ‘Paddy Ashdown is tired of reasoning with you people’ face and his ‘You don’t know cuz you weren’t there!’ war-vet-who’s-seen-too-much routine. Poor old Justine Greening fared less well, chiefly because she seemed to have been relegated to a role in this episode similar to that filled by Dictionary Corner on Countdown and appears to have been there only for reference purposes only. And as for Wee Dougie? Well, I’ve got to say that he’s beginning to freak me out a little. It’s his delivery. Very slow, very soft and very deliberate yet also completely relentless. It’s like being force-fed warm milk at the most leisurely of tempos and that, dear Lemmings, is the sort of experience that I’d rather avoid.

So there we are: A less than brilliant start to the series and one in which the crowd could be at complete odds with the panel and yet still clap along with practised docility. Ok, I guess that’s a little harsh but last night did bum me out a little as I’ve just spent the last month doing the whole Peace on Earth/Goodwill to All Men thing and I was really looking forward to kicking the new year off with a right old gorefest. Alas, it was not to be and so I’ll just have to bide my time until this new-found unity amongst QT panelists shatters into a thousand tiny shards of spite laden hatred. My reckoning is that it won’t be the longest of waits.

Tl;dr

Greening: Still in the waiting room

5/10

Ashdown: On the express train to Seriousville

6/10

Alexander: Lost his ticket

4/10

Sturgeon: Got tied to the tracks

5/10

MacKenzie: Has a season ticket to Smug City

5/10

The Crowd: Want to get off at Watford Junction

5/10

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #42


question-time-david-dimbleby-paddy-ashdown-yasmin-alibhai-brown-andy-burnham-beardsGood morning Lemmings and welcome the hell back. Before we get stuck in, let me take this opportunity to offer my sincere apologies for the recent lack of Post Question Time activity. After unilaterally declaring Easter and buggering off on tour it never quite crossed my mind that Question Time itself might take a couple of weeks off so sorry for the absence but rest assured that regular service has now resumed.

Anyhoo, it’s a good job that I’m all refreshed as it was a feverish episode last night that at times seemed more akin to a middle class version of the Jeremy Kyle Show and was all the better for it. Basically, it can be summed up as a game of two halves, both of which featured large doses of Paddy Ashdown and also contained within it one of the most dramatic reversals of fortune I have seen on Question Time to date. It started like this: After a small bout of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown sounding very concerned (she always sounds very concerned. It’s her thing) about the legality of Bin Laden’s killing, Douglas Murray nonchalantly stepped forth and instantly polarised the crowd by declaring in a very gleeful way that he was “elated” by the death of Bin Laden and that Yasmin should really just STFU. That on its own is a pretty bold statement, but when coupled with the fact that he looked like he’d only just sobered up from a week-long ‘Bin Laden’s Dead’ pub crawl (what do you wear to a ‘Bin Laden’s Dead’ pub crawl? A Bin Laden costume? Special Forces garb? Black tie? I have no idea what would be appropriate), it becomes positively incendiary and stunned Alibhai-Brown into some very concerned sounding “goodness me”-ing. This however, was just the beginning as waiting in the wings was Paddy Ashdown and not just any old Paddy Ashdown but Hard Bitten Ex-Instrument of Foreign Policy With Blood On His Hands Paddy Ashdown.

How old are you Douglas?” he asked, “because YOU SEEM TO YOUNG TO DECIDE ON AN EXECUTION!”.

ZING! The crowd loved that, but he didn’t stop to soak up the applause. Oh no, he had yet even more of the beat down to deploy and deploy it he did by striking a 1000 yard gaze (which is very impressive for a man who doesn’t actually have any eyes) and following it up with this little gem:

I have seen people killed. Some of them my friends, some of them my enemies… I cannot rejoice in the killing of anyone.”

BOOM! He might as well have just screamed “YOU DON’T KNOW CUZ YOU WEREN’T THERE, MAN!” at Murray and the crowd went totally bonkers (to be fair to Paddy, he really doesn’t pull the whole ‘I’ve killed men with my bare hands’ thing out of the bag often enough. Hell, if it was me I think I’d finish just about every sentence with “and by the way, did I ever tell you that killed a man with my bare hands?”. More tea Mr Loudribs? “Yes please and by the way, did I ever tell you that killed a man with my bare hands?” You see what I’m getting at.)

So yes, from that point on, the tone was set. This was going to be a fight to the death affair and one in which only the strong would survive. Sensing that things were getting pretty hairy, Philip Hammond and Andy Burnham quickly went to ground and ventured out only to big up the Arab Spring while Armando Iannucci correctly guessed that comic intervention probably wasn’t called for at this point and found a foxhole of his own to cower in. By now the whole show had swung to focus exclusively on the running battle between Ashdown and Murray and what a battle it was. For his part, Ashdown would start every sentence with some reference to his days as a shadowy bringer of death (“I’ve been interrogated/fighting terrorism most of my life”) and finish it with a reference to “the rule of law”. This certainly proved to be a very potent weapon and one which the crowd loved, but lets not forget who he was up against: Douglas Murray, The Mentalist Bastard In Town.

It’s easy (and often entirely appropriate) to bash Murray given that he has fashioned an entire career from simply blabbing the most intensely crazy brand of ultra right-wing interventionism, but the man does deserve some credit for being utterly, utterly fearless. Sure, Paddy may well have had the monopoly on harrowing war stories but as powerful as they are, they are still given a run for their money by Murray’s insane capacity to soak up punishment and carry on as if nothing had happened. So it went that for every haymaker that Ashdown landed, Murray simply got straight back up, dusted himself off and then went on to say something even more potty than the last thing that left his mouth (“Killing terrorists is a good way to keep us safe” springs to mind). Neither would it be fair to say that he was without support from the crowd because he also had some fairly vocal cheerleaders, a few of whom also decide to get stuck into the ruck themselves (a special mention is warranted for the guy who objected very strongly to Paddy Ashdown referring to Bin Laden as a ‘man’. He was a special type of crazy, that guy). Anyway, whilst these two slugged it out and the other male panelists did their best not to soil themselves in the heat of combat we were also treated to the spectacle of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wandering in an out of the Danger Zone like a hippy who had inadvertently stumbled into a riot police convention. In a way, I feel slightly sorry for her because she did make some valid points but in the face of such sustained firepower, it was pretty much impossible for her to stand her ground without being beaten to a bloody pulp. Sorry Yasmin, but this ain’t the Wright Stuff (which, by the way, is totally the best thing about sick days).

So that was the first half: An almighty clash of arms in which the crowd decreed Ashdown the winner while Murray never seems to have received this message and just carried on regardless. Emboldened by this triumph in the face of insanity, Ashdown thought himself to be in the perfect position to drive his offensive home and marched on to the sound of gunfire (which actually turned out to be a question about the coalition) with his back ramrod straight. Little did he know of the calamity that was to befall him and what appeared to be the Wide Open Plains of Imminent Victory actually turned out be the Hellish Quagmire of Crushing Defeat, but for the most unexpected of reasons: Andy Burnham. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s unexpected because I think Andy Burnham’s a crap politician. He’s not, but by the same token I wouldn’t exactly describe him as the world’s greatest orator AND he’s never killed anyone before. However, he is quite canny and while the whole Ashdown/Murray bunfight was going on, he had the nouce to find a place of relative safety and keep his powder dry for a fight he was more suited to. His opportunity came with the ‘will Clegg be blamed for the AV defeat’ question. After being given the first bite of the cherry by Dimbers, he moved into a more offensive disposition and warmed up with a hearty round of Lib Dem baiting that made much use of the word “betrayal”. At this point he was joined by Iannucchi who had been also waiting for more benign circumstances to prevail and lost no time in unleashing Teh Funneh along with a further side dish of “betrayal”. Sensing that this new alliance could quite possibly harbour the seeds of his destruction Ashdown attempted to defuse the situation with a light-hearted appeal to talk about torture some more, but the crowd didn’t bite. Worse still, those audience members who had only minutes earlier been cheering him as if he were the Second Coming now started to hurumph and appear positively restive. Faced with a heckler calling him a “sell-out”, Ashdown retreated to the only place coalition members seem to know when the going gets tough: The Bunker of Blame Labour. That really didn’t work and Burnham was right back in there, giving him what-for with regards the NHS, fees and anything else he could find to be semi-convincingly outraged about. A kerfuffle ensued but this time the action was very much one-sided as Ashdown kept tripping up as he tried to retreat and mangled his account of the coalition negotiations. The result was pretty ugly and despite a fairly spirited (if misguided) attempt at a last stand it all ended up with the hero of the Bin Laden question becoming the Bin Laden of the coalition question. Oh London, how fickle you are.

So that was that: Paddy Ashdown was Icarus, Murray was mental, Alibhai-Brown pained yet impotent, Iannucci had his moments and Burnham was a bolt from the blue. But wait! Aren’t we forgetting someone? Oh yes, there was Philip Hammond as well. You may be wondering how we’ve got so far with his name barely being mentioned but in actual fact, the explanation is pretty straight forward: The man is so intrinsically dull that he could well have been replaced with a stack of Readers Digests and no one would have noticed. Take for example this picture (see Fig. 1).

philip hammond grey

Fig. 1

Here we have Philip Hammond in front of Monet’s Venice Twilight. As we can see, the power of Hammond’s congenital greyness is actually leaching the colour out of the painting and rendering the area immediately around him devoid of hue (although interestingly, his tie appears impervious to this effect. I hear it was crafted from materials as yet unknown to science). Such is the power of his all-pervading insipidness that it actually has the power to cancel out excitement. Sure, he has a reputation as a steady pair of hands but in this episode he appeared like a supply teacher who had given up trying to actually teach anything years ago and instead just reads out loud from a textbook as the class run amuck and set fire to each others hair. Even when he was being quite spitefully needled by Dimbers (who had props in the form of posters Hammond had given the OK to) I still found it hard to muster any emotion beyond pure ambivalence and if I hadn’t spent a fair bit of time knocking up that photoshop on Thursday, I doubt I’d have anything to say about him at all. I never thought I’d say this but thank god for Douglas Murray.

Tl; dr

Hammond: 100% Grey

3/10

Ashdown: 50% Man of the Hour, 50% Whipping Boy.

6/10

Burnham: 25% Shirker, 25% Politician Trying to Sound Convincingly Angry, 50% Smiter of Ashdown.

7/10

Iannucci: 50% Sidelined, 50% Funny.

6/10

Alibhai-Brown: 33% Bleeding Heart Peacenik Commie, 33% “Dear Sir, Imagine My Concern”, 33% First Casualty of War.

5/10

Murray: 110% Sectionable.

7/10

The Crowd: 25% Andy McNabb Wannabes, 25% Well Rounded Individuals, 1000% Not Fans of the Lib Dems.

8/10

So there you go… An absolute belter of an episode that satisfied some deep-seated lust for blood that has haunted me for years. Now, as is customary from time-to-time, here’s a quick reminder that you can follow these reports on Facebook and Twitter and if you’re into these reports, do us a favour and pass ’em on to people who might like them. Oh, and just in case anyone was remotely interested in how the tour went, let me tell you that it was bloody ruddy great… until our other guitarist trapped his thumb in a taxi door and we had to cancel half the dates. Here’s the thumb in question:

'That' thumb...

I hate that thumb.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #32


Morning Lemmings and welcome back to LCCPQTMR, now skippered by a year older (although probably not a year wiser) Loudribs. Ok, so this week we’re in Maidstone and I had high hopes for this episode as it contained not one, but two panelists for whom I have a perverted political crush: Step forward Ken Clarke and Nigel Farage. Anyhoo, did this episode deliver the goods or leave me wanting? Did Farage finally just flip out and start goosestepping through the audience or did serenity reign? More importantly, am I going to get this finished before the new series of Peep Show begins? Let us stop with this time-wasting and find out.

 

The Menu

 

Q1: In the light of the Greek and Irish bailouts, is the Euro doomed?

 

Q2: Do today’s comments by Howard Flight really show us what the Tories think of the citizens of this country?

 

Q3:Does this week’s immigration cap match the Prime Minister’s rhetoric?

 

Q4: In view of the current climate of austerity, is it ludicrous to spend £2 million on a happiness survey?

 

Q5: Is it OK for the PM to take part in a joke that calls the Speaker a dwarf?

 

 

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Kenneth Clarke, Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Chancellor and all round good times guy.

It struck me today that Ken is like one of those kids at secondary school who should, by rights, be bullied absolutely mercilessly but for some reason isn’t. Let’s take a second to ponder the evidence. First off, it’s always been abundantly clear that Ken doesn’t go with crowd. Whilst all the other kids are listening to N-Dubz or whatever ‘Urban’ sounds constitute ‘cool’ for the teenage demographic these days (or in the case of the Conservative party, pathological Euro scepticism), Ken isn’t. So surely he’s part of a catch-all subculture that provides a veneer of social acceptance for his fellow misfits and instead listens to My Chemical Romance and paints his nails black (or in the case of the Tory party, hangs out with Phillip Blond and the rest of his bleeding heart Red Tories)? Well no, he doesn’t do that either. In fact, no one knows what Ken Clarke is into because the one time someone was brave enough to sneak a peek at his iPod, they were confronted a list of bands that no-one had ever heard of. Imagine a contemporary teenage Slint fan, that’s where Ken’s at. On top of this, he gets good grades but is never accused of being a swat, he smokes behind the bikeshed but no-one ever nicks his fags (mainly because they’re Gitanes or Sobraini Black Russians) and he always manages to avoid PE without ever being tarred as wimp. How the hell does he do this?

 

Part of this is inevitably down to his record: All the kids remember how he managed to sneak a ‘teenth into his bag for the Year 9 Residential (or in parliamentary terms, how he was one of the most successful Chancellors of modern times) and there’s also universal (if grudging) respect for the way he always gets served at the offy whilst even the kids with beards are turned away (or in his case the way in which he commands a certain level of respect from all parties in Parliament). But that’s not the whole story and to piece together the rest of the puzzle it’s worth taking a look at how he operates.

 

I’ve already highlighted a fair few Kenisms in past Post Match Reports, such as his trademark Damning With Faint Praise routine, but I noticed something else this time his round: His ability to milk a good lie. For more orthodox politicians, getting out of a politically sticky situation is usually an exercise in the deployment of either Mobility (the art of convincingly brushing a subject under the carpet before anyone notices) or Sincerity (no matter how faux that sincerity may be). Blair was very good at the Sincerity thing and manage to squeeze just about every ounce of utility out of his “Look…guys…” shtick for a good few years before everyone got wise to it. Brown, on the other hand, always knew he couldn’t do Sincerity (although he was quite adept at Gravity) and would try to go for Mobility instead. Unfortunately, he also sucked at the Mobility thing and we all know how that ended up whilst Cameron seems very good at both of these aspects and if I’m honest, that rather worries me. What makes Ken special he is that he spurns both of these methods and instead concentrates on turning his own lies to his advantage. Take Q1. Here, he was ambushed by Dimbers on his long and extensive history of Euro Lust and asked whether he still wants in on the whole Eurozone deal to which Ken replied “I have no idea”. Clearly, this is a lie. A big, fat, stinking whopper of a lie, yet it was delivered in that ‘nudge-nudge, wink-wink, read between the lines’ sort of way that left you in absolutely no doubt what his true opinion was but never being explicit enough to land him in trouble with his own team. Now, that’s harder to do in practice than it seems (just look at Ed Balls and his distinguished track record of Rubbish Lying) and goes a long way to explaining how Ken has managed to keep this unimpeachable air of independence about him despite being a high-ranking front bencher. Plausible deniability: It’s the name of Ken’s game.

 

Aside from that, other notable turns by Ken this week include his zinger of a line on Q2 (“people breed for other reasons”), a chosty little scrap with Gloria de Piero and even a brief outburst where he ‘shhhed’ Dimbers. He even got to cram a nice bit of vintage Damning With Faint Praise on Q5 (John Bercow is “very good… Can be a little School Masterly”) so in general, it was your usual Ken. However, the thing that got me was just how far removed from government he seemed. Seriously, I needed reminding that he is actually Secretary of State for Justice and the by-product of this ability to distance himself from his role is that he managed to avoid taking any serious flak from the crowd. Ok, so it wasn’t an incendiary performance by any measure, but in terms of showing off a political larder that’s stocked with the most exotic of goods it was all good stuff. MOAR PLZ KEN.

 

A crafty 7/10

 

In The Yellow Bit of the Blue/Yellow Corner: The Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, ex-Lib Dem Leader and one time de facto ruler of large swathes of the Balkans.

Paddy Ashdown has no eyes. I have suspected this since being a small child but there has been no means of verifying this assertion as the place where his eyes should be lie so deeply recessed within his skull that you would need one of those probes they send to Venus to actually find out for sure. At least that is what I thought until I came across a piece of shocking photographic evidence that I have displayed below (see Fig. 1).

 

Fig. 1

 

You see? No eyes! Just a pair of obsidian sink holes that appear to exert their own gravity and are probably composed of anti-matter. Shocking, I know but you can’t argue with the facts.

 

Anyhoo, Paddy’s in town and he, much like Ken, also has this air of separation from the mainstream world but in a different way. Whilst Ken seems very comfortable in his oddness and carries it well, you get the sense that with Paddy, separateness is something that was inflicted on him rather than something he chose to wear. I say this because he always seems very detached from the rest of his peers, but in a way that’s hard to pin down. Part of it may be that he’s lived quite an extraordinary (and probably at times horrific) life, what with being ex-SBS and effectively ruling Kosovo for a period but there’s something else there that just makes me think that he walks in a different world to you or I. For example, his performance tonight was a pretty by-the-book affair where most of the stuff he said was reasonable enough (although he did get pulled up by the crowd for claiming that it was the Lib Dems who were stopping the Tories from being Uber Tories in Q3), but never was he able to really carry the audience with him and I was left with the impression of a little boy who was trying desperately to impress his parents whilst simultaneously striving to appear like he wasn’t trying to impress anyone. I know that sounds all very Freudian and hyperbolic, especially as there were moments (like when he seemed to have a genuinely good laugh at Cameron’s dwarf joke) where he seemed authentically human but I still think there’s something about him that makes him look a little, well, haunted. Mind you, he did have to go up against Thatcher at the Dispatch Box for a couple of years and if that doesn’t send you a little plumb loco, god knows what would.

 

An emotionally orphaned 5/10

 

In The Red Corner: Gloria de Piero, Shadow Minister for Culture and Media and former GMTV hackette.

Move over Ol’ Snaggletooth, there’s a new contender for Shadow Minister for Sauciness in town! Yes, that’s right, de Peiro has upped the Fruity Pictures Stakes to the point where you could probable get into quite a bit of trouble for running a Google Images search on her at work and I fear that Flint may have quite the fight on her hands. However, before I get too stuck into a raging torrent of misogyny there’s another issue at stake when it comes to de Piero and that’s what would have happened if she had entered parliament in 1997? I asked this because she seems to the manifestation of what pure New Labourism would have ultimately developed into if it had not been so rudely interrupted by a crushing electoral defeat. I don’t mean this in the sense of her beliefs (in fact I can’t really tell you about her beliefs as this is the first time she’s crossed my radar), but in terms of pedigree and posture, she appears to be pure NuLab. For a start, she’s from a media background and not just any media background but from the weird half touchy-feely, half uncompromisingly authoritarian netherworld that is GMTV but she also seems to travel very light when it comes to such trivial matters as beliefs. Seriously, in terms of her answers to last night’s questions, it’s very hard to get a sense of what bricks her political house is made of and all of her responses relied very heavily on the potency of her delivery (and it was potent at times) rather than their content. Take Q2 for example: Here, she started off with a slightly hot under the collar telling off about what a nasty man Flight is that eventually resulted in applause after a brief and slightly bewildered silence, but then spent the rest of the question biting off any head that dared to question this and generally looking for any reason to have a go. Similarly, Q4 was just a lunge at the obvious (politicians should “talk to people”) and never was there any danger that the wider issue (which was ‘should we care about happiness?’) should creep into the frame.

 

This is why I can only see her through New Labour lenses: Pretty much her whole performance was based around the use of single, sweeping and simplistic statements and then a fall back position of combative reactiveness in much the same way that the governments of both Brown and Blair were based on a larger version of this principle. That’s not to say that her delivery wasn’t good (it was) and I have a feeling that I may be being a little unfair here as a) it’s her very first time on and I don’t really know that much about her, b) I missed her response to Q5 as I was too busy scribbling down the name of a dwarf activist group that Dimbers mentioned (Walking with Giants. Catchy name!) and c) she was up against some very seasoned veterans, but the original question still stands: What would have happened if she was in Parliament in 1997? She’d be Leader of the Labour Party by now, Jeremy Kyle would be Home Secretary and Question Time would be hosted by Fern Britton, that’s what.

 

A well delivered but paper thin 4/10

 

In The Red, White And Blue Corner: Nigel Farage, MEP, Leader of UKIP (again) and all-round comedy demagogue.

Here he is, Inexplicable Political Crush #2, Nigel Farage! Yes, that’s right, my favourite Amateur Cad/Cheater of Firey Plane Death is on again and boy did I have high hopes for him tonight given that not only is Europe in a whole heap of trouble but also because one of his colleagues had just this week thought it prudent to shower a German MEP with a mouthful of Nazi slogans. Thus thought I, the scene would be set for a perfect example of the Farage Trajectory and I could have a good laugh as he lurched from The Giddy Highs of Victory to the Crushing Lows of Defeat. However, I was to be disappointed and while we did get to see him being fairly mental about Europe (although only mental by normal standards, not by Farage standards), no-one mentioned the whole ‘ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer’ incident and as a result, there was no real opportunity for the whole Crushing Lows of Defeat scenario. All of which is a double shame as I spent ages on Wednesday night messing about with stuff I don’t know how to operate in order to make an animated picture that perfectly encapsulates the Farage Trajectory in all it’s glory (see Fig. 2).

 

Das Trajectory

Fig. 2

 

 

So yeah, I’m a bit miffed, particularly as I have to credit Farage with quite a lot of applause and not very many boos last night. Still, at least I can take comfort in the fact that he will inevitably be back on in less clement circumstances sooner or later (providing that UKIP hasn’t imploded under the weight of its own absurdity) and when he is, that animated picture will have at least three frames in it. Three frames, Nigel, THREE FRAMES. You have been warned.

 

A not nearly mental enough 5/10

 

 

In the Independent/Brainy One Corner: Kate Mosse, author and QT n00b.

Ok, so here we have a very interesting approach to being a Question Time panelist. I’m guessing that by and large, when people know that they’re going on QT they probably try and bone up a bit on stuff that’s going on and how they feel about that stuff because if you don’t, you’ll probably end up looking like a bit of a tit. Kate Mosse however has chosen a slightly different approach and I must say, not a fully functional one at that. Take Q1. As soon as it came to her turn, rather than make any attempt to answer it herself, she violated The Protocols of Dimbers by simply asking the guy who asked the question what he thought the answer was and then lifted that as her own. Genius! No wait, actually it wasn’t genius and no one bought it. At this point, I’d probably try and rethink my tactics and to her credit, she did. However, her new tactics weren’t so great either and Mosse’s response to Q2 was “I agree with everyone here”. Ok, I’m being cruel now as she did eventually cobble that into a semblance of a platitude, but still, it was fairly shonky. Q3 was also quite confusing when she recited a big list of things that could be good or bad about immigrants and then gestured to the audience to carry on going (which they didn’t) and at this point I thought the game was pretty much up for her. However, what I hadn’t counted on was her response to Q4 and that totally blindsided me for it seemed that she had been boning up, just on one, very specific subject. As soon as that happiness question landed, she was all over it and even went to lengths of throwing in references to the relevant literature as she went before finally petering out and calling for libraries not to be shut. Stunned, the audience clapped in an effort to comfort themselves in the face of information overload.

 

So yes, a very odd appearance that encompassed some very peculiar tactics with wildly varied results. It wasn’t terrible but if there’s one tiny bit of advice that I might impart it would be ‘spread your boning up butter on your Question Time toast a little more evenly next time’. That is all.

 

A slightly head scratching 4/10

 

The Crowd: Maidstone

My my, they’re a well turned out lot in Maidstone and with the exception of one old man who looked like he lived in a house made of coal, everyone looked rather dapper. Politically, it was an odd show as their didn’t really seem to be a representative of the government there (despite there being two coalition members on the panel, one of whom is on the front bench) and most of the argy-bargy tended to be Europe related (I think the Euro Sceptics made the most noise all-in-all). What particularly struck me about the Maidstone crowd was the names of the question askers, two of which had very confident monikers: Mark Power and Mark Everest. I so wish my last name was ‘Power’ or ‘Everest’. Loudribs Power. Dr Loudribs Power. Who the hell wouldn’t be impressed by that? No one, that’s who.

 

An odd but enjoyable 6/10

 

So there we go. A bunch of oddballs yacking in front of a very dapper crowd. Here’s a picture of Beefy.

 

...and lo, there was Beef.

 

Next week, Lemmings.


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