Posts Tagged 'Paul Nuttall'

Questionable Time #134


qt 134

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to the last Questionable Time before utter armageddon hits next week. I speak, of course, of the Cameron/Clegg/Miliband threesome that will no doubt draw a lot of special attention to this blog and win it squillions of awards and so on. Or perhaps not. In the meantime, though, we’ve got a panel where bald men outnumber women three to two. Put your shiny heads together and let’s get started.

How do you solve a problem like migration? How do you stop a boat and let it drown?

We begin with the grim affair of hundreds of immigrants dying horribly in the Mediterranean. Cheerful! One would rightfully assume that this isn’t the best material for topical humour, so we’ll have to take the piss out of the panel instead. Thankfully, each and every one of them is a rich source of comedic gold.

Paul Nuttall from the UKIP zone starts us off. He’s wearing a St. George’s Day pin, and a frankly horrible tie. I know it’s the colour of the UKIP logo, purple and yellow, but it just reminds me of an ugly school uniform, and therefore of sitting in school eating lumpy mashed potatoes and ‘mystery gravy’. That’s what you are, Paul, to me. Mystery gravy.

Anyway, he states that to tackle this crisis the Med should become the most heavily policed piece of water in the world. Clearly he’s never been on Brighton beach on a Saturday night. To sum up, we must sort out them there migrants, separating those that are “true asylum seekers” and those we can just throw back in the water. Because #yolo. (Disclaimer: I am not alleging Paul Nuttall spends his spare time playing water basketball with immigrants.)

Nothing’s worked, shrugs William Hague. We did something once, then we tried something else, so, like, shruggie.

Harriet Harman interrupts to practically weep with sympathy. Think of all the proto-feminist women that are dying! By the way, why is she wearing an entire gigantic rose on her jacket? This is what Labour politicians used to do in the 1980s when they changed their logo as part of Peter Mandelson’s rebranding plan. I think this is a moth-eaten 1987 vintage jacket that Harriet’s taken out of her wardrobe and forgotten to take the twenty-five-year-old rose off of. At least it’s not her giraffe jacket.

(In the spirit of gender equality, I’d also discuss the male panellists’ wardrobe choices, except that I physically cannot tell Paul Nuttall and John Swinney apart. Only Hague’s caveman brow prevents confusion with the others. One has a slightly uglier tie and that’s about it.)

But what happens to the immigrants when they get asylum in Italy, Dimbleby asks. Will they make their way elsewhere? Because, like, who’d want to stay in a shithole like that, am I right? The panel does not know, but a hero emerges to cut through the nonsense. That hero is John Swinney, who may look generic but is actually Paul Nuttall’s good/bad (delete as appropriate according to political allegiance) Scottish alter ego like in that episode of Star Trek but with no evil beard. He pledges to restore the cut rescue services somehow and gives everyone else the middle finger.

The audience are not satisfied, though, and at this point Natalie ‘not Caroline Lucas but isn’t she great?’ Bennett finally gets her turn. I’m sure as an Australian immigrant who constantly has to hear about ‘Strayan PM Tony Abbott’s mysterious points-based system all the time, she takes grievous offence to being compared to that weirdo onion eater. She blusteringly repeats the word ‘rescue’ approximately one hundred and forty seven times and concludes that the Tories are evil. Nailed it, Natalie. Slow clap.

Hague is shocked and appalled at her gumption. It’s not true what you say, NatBen. We’ve been excellent at being Baywatch.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Barnett formula: for dry and greasy locks

Would the SNP be a catastrophe for Britain? Three guesses how this one’s going to go…

William grins cheesily and agrees enthusiastically. Hoho, laughs John, and indeed the audience, who are all amused by the frequency of this question. I am too, except I have to write about it. Harriet’s face is stony as Wllm excitedly says that the election of a Labour government would signal the end of the world as we know it, not only of the union but of other beloved-by-all institutions such as the Queen and Waitrose. The only thing to prevent it is a Tory majority. Yes! Vote for our posters of Alex Salmond nicking your wallet! It took five whole minutes in Photoshop to do, much like most of what I post!

John Swinney is mortally offended and is definitely about to post an indignant article on his blog about it and about how much he hates austerity. Harriet explains that the only way to get rid of the Tories to have a Labour majority. What the SNP claim and what their plans actually are is another matter. John is even more offended and we go round and round in circles forever until we die.

Natalie cites a total lack of respect for voters as the cause of all our ills. In response, the beleaguered crowd vow to show our hardy panellists absolutely no respect either. “Talking about getting rid of austerity is all very seductive,” says a man in the audience, which I was rather terrified by. The topic is abruptly changed, however, by Paul Nuttall roaring into action and loudly declaring that the only way to sort all this out is 1) English votes for English laws and 2) reforming the BARNETT FORMULA (yes, it’s that again!). Sounds like something Russell Brand puts on his hair.

Hague rattles off the Conservatives’ plan for an ‘English Manifesto’, but sounding like he’s either having too much fun or not particularly caring to make it as passionate as he’s capable of. He’s got two more weeks of this, and then he’ll be free. Forever. Away like a leaf on the wind.

With the topic hastily devolving into talk of devolution, the crowd grow even more restless. Talk about something more interesting, a guy in the crowd heckles! Like welfare spending plans! And funnily enough, that is exactly what the next question is about. Well, whaddya know! Employ this guy to predict the election outcome!

Money money money, must be funny, it’s a Dimbles’ world

Harriet patiently explains, for the twenty-thousandth time, Labour’s entire manifesto commitments. It’s online. You can read the whole thing. Nope, it’s still too vague!, responds Dimbles. Harriet’s voice wavers in exasperation. She has officially Given Up (in capitals so you know it’s serious). To be fair, literally no political party or indeed anyone ever would advertise themselves with the bad stuff they’re going to pull in office. That’s how they get elected, so appealing for transparency is pretty naïve.

Hague shrugs again and rattles off some examples of cutting benefits. That’s what you like, right? You like that? Mmmm, delicious welfare cuts. You want more of that? Well, how about this: Labour won’t tax squijillionaires: they’ll tax you, Joe Bloggs! William leans back and knows that it doesn’t matter if he gets away with this or not, soon he’ll be sipping margaritas in a hammock.

Slash foreign aid! adds Paul. And HS2! And…wait for it…THE BARNETT FORMULA!

Natalie, with a lead-in from the crowd, rounds on Hague. Your benefit boasting is illegal and gross, she says sternly, with the air of a substitute teacher who nobody listens to telling off a naughty, unapologetic child. You have a choice this election, she recites by rote: austerity, or Austerity Lite Max Protein Shake™. Harriet is still too despondent to whump her one, but claims there is a “trust deficit” among the public anyway, and if you don’t like it, she’ll run you over in her pink bus.

The panellists then try and fail to have a go convincing separate members of the audience to their cause, but nothing really changes until the klaxon sounds and we can all go home. As the last regular Question Time of this government, you’d think they’d go out with a bang, huh? Sadly not – except for Paul Nuttall merrily proclaiming the UKIP manifesto has been verified by an independent think-tank. Don’t worry, lemmings. Questionable Time is not one to be outdone. Next week, we’ll be the most verified ‘news’ organ in town. The mostest.

Time for the scores!

Hague: 7/10

Cheeky

Harman: 5/10

Peaky

Nuttall: 5/10

Cliquey (and the Scots and their Barnett formulas and not allowed in the treehouse)

Swinney: 7/10

Squeaky (wheels but thankfully didn’t crash)

Bennett: 5/10

(A) Freaky (Friday with Cazza Lucas would’ve been better)

The Crowd: 7/10

Leaky (with excitement for next week’s champion match, no doubt)

Next time: the big guns are unloaded.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #121


qt 121

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to a saucy edition of Questionable Time, now with extra sauce. Apologies for the horrible lateness, but I have a stomach ache (possibly due to ingesting all that sauce) and my motivation for analysing this very D-list edition was not exactly stratospheric. I mean, Dimbleby doesn’t even have an interesting tie on. That’s not a good sign. Let’s trudge on, shall we?

Girls just wanna have fun

Dimbles begins with an unexpected load of feminism, praising Question Time for its increased percentage of female panellists. Good work, QT. This isn’t Mock the Week. Women should have the same right to be equal parts boring and inane just like the boys. Then we go on to a question about Page Three. Ah, society!

Esther McVey goes out of her way (there’s endless limerick potential there) to point out how dated the feature is. There’s a-clamourin’ for a new style of Page Three, you see, filled with pictures of Simone de Beauvoir. At least there is in the fantasy kingdom ruled by myself. Paul Nuttall, Nigel Farage’s right-hand slaphead, looks piteously at the silly wimmins getting in a fuss over nothing and mansplains that there are more important things to be concerned about, e.g. FGM, because apparently feminist activism can only focus on one thing at a time. Diane Abbott, meanwhile, says that she is concerned as a parent about the example it sets, and Amoj Rajan, the Independent guy, plugs the Independent. This is getting off to a good start.

It’s ~*~cool~*~ that feminists came up with a hashtag, warbles Amol, wearing his cool sparkly earring and using words that the older half the audience probably don’t even recognise. Tim Farron, your next Lib Dem leader, says that Page Three was never cool and that everyone hates it, but sadly there’s nothing they can do about it because #jesuisjordan.

Well, that was pointless. Diane ‘n’ Paul predictable argument count: #1.

Ruff ‘n’ tuff choices

Next up, Chicken Cottage. I mean Chilcot. The inquiry. Yeah. I’m not hungry or anything.

There’s a lot of knowing looks about ‘Mr Blair’ and ‘Mr Straw’ which sounds like they’re gangsters in fedoras with machine guns working for Big G Bush or something. I hope those are the exact words of the inquiry whenever it finally gets published. Also, can we please not make the phrase ‘sexed down’ a thing? Thanks.

JUST PUBLISH IT, Amol half-yells to no avail. Diane is in her element, gleefully dissing Tony Blair and his civil servants. Paul too, funnily enough. Maybe they’ve finally made up and are about to kiss.

Oops, wait, the next question is on Ol’ Nige’s comments about the NHS (they just keep on comin’!). So I guess not! His deputy thus sombrely steps up to the pulpit. Apparently, the NHS is too large. Large and in charge. The only solution is to kick it about a bit. I mean – have a mature discussion. Involving UKIP, and large private companies. Large. I just like typing the word large.

Diane is Not In Favour, of course, and says so although in many more words. Dimbleby is constantly trying to get her to shut up, but Diane will not be silenced. Diane ‘n’ Paul predictable argument count: #2.

Apart from that, however, this particular NHS debate is dull. Maybe it’s just the medication talking but I was tuning out – which I usually don’t do when it comes to NHS debates. However, there’s only so many times you can look at Esther McVey’s boring face and boring voice and boring words and hear the words “tough choices” before you start to nod off. Get Jeremy Hunt and Andy Burnham on the programme and have them duke it out, possibly Gladiators-style with big foam spears and obstacle courses. I’d pay good money to see that.

By the way – uh, Tim, social care is in a state because you, um. Cut it. Oopsie.

Snerps

Our final question is on the SNP. There isn’t an SNP representative here. That seems a bit unfair, like when the popular girls in your school get together to giggle about you behind your back. Or is that just me?

Anyway, Nuttall goes the heck in.

“THEY’RE TAKING YOUR TAX!” he bellows, pointing out all the cool stuff they have and all the nasty stuff they don’t have while we, the poor, beleaguered English, suffer in silence with nary a badly-designed modern parliament of our own. This is some top scaremongering. Like the SNP are a race of bloodthisty beetledemons from space.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

I for one welcome our new Scottish overlords, although that is mainly because I am a little terrified of the so-called ‘CyberNats’ massing upon my ass and tearing me a new one. Digitally. A digital new ass.

Thankfully, Tim Farron is here to calm the tensions between the nations. He wuvs Scotland. He will hold it close, to his breast, and never let it go. Never. (Finally: Diane ‘n’ Paul predictable argument count: #3. We did it! We climbed this whole mountain.)

Time for the scores!

McVey: 4/10

Drone(d on)

Abbott: 6/10

(Had a good old) Moan

Nuttall: 6/10

(In the) Zone

Farron: 6/10

(That bird has) Flown

Rajan: 5/10

(I want to eat a) Scone

The Crowd: 7/10

(Had a) Bone (to pick)

Wrexham next time. Hopefully for our panellists, it WRECKS ’em. Dohoho!

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #104


questionable time 104 david dimbleby streaker wimbledon
Good morrow lemmings, Elizabeth here, filling in for Ye Webmaster, with one eye on the tennis, another one on Dimbleby’s horrendous blue toad-patterned tie, and another on my extensive 50,000 word text document ‘dedicatedtoandycoulson.txt’ which consists only of the words HA HA HA HA HA repeated over and over again.

I think we can all agree that it’s been a long ride, but finally the wait is over: journalists across the country have stepped blinking into the light as the trial of the century is finally over. No mention of the gloriously vindicated Madame Curly Wurly in this edition, but plenty of hand-wringing and harrumphing nonetheless.

Not-so-jolly hockey sticks

Last night Chortles was back and more Head Girl than ever. She shook her head at John Prescott in the manner of a disappointed sixth form prefect telling off a naughty new bug. She rigorously defended David Cameron from any abuse hurled his way, whacking great unanswered questions about Essex boy Andy back at the audience with her metaphorical hockey sticks of terror. Based! On! The! Knowledge! He! Had! At! The! Time! A perfect volley, which despite Prezza’s best efforts he was not quite able to break through.

Speaking of terror, was she deliberately channelling Maggie Thatcher or what? The pearls, the hair, the dead-eyed stare…the only difference was her choice of a red jacket, no doubt stained in the blood of visiting netball teams.

Later on, on the extremism question, she seemed to have calmed down. But then, out of nowhere, Paul Nuttall suddenly decided to go for her. “NUT ‘ER, NUTTALL!” the spirit of Nigel Farage, which permanently haunts the Question Time set, roared in a drunken stupour. From then, all bets were off. From testing out her variety of withering looks to artfully breathing the words “six hundred thousand?!” in disgust, Nuttall, despite having tried out the ‘no really, I’m a reasonable guy, please believe me’ tactic pretty well for most of the show (the ‘not-Roger Helmer’ approach, it’s no doubt called, complete with lack of spectacular moustache and more of a bargain bin Al Murray’s Pub Landlord aesthetic) was so thoroughly sent flying that Dimbleby had to stop the programme briefly to remind everyone to tweet in or whatever it is these young folks are doing these days.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Despite all this, the highlight of her performance was still the understatement of the century: “I don’t agree with Ken [Clarke] on this one”, referring to yet another edition of Ken-says-whatever-he-damn-well-likes. Not many Tories do, Anna. Not many Tories do.

‘Connecting’ with the public

Everyone’s out to get John Prescott. I am, you am, your mum probably am. But most of all, the bloody newspapers am. Prescott is always entertaining on Question Time, partly because his entire being bobs up and down in his seat like a boat wobbling in the harbour. Neil Wallis attemped to push the great beast back, but could only get into a yelling match over who was the most, and I quote, ‘bloody incompetent’, which basically went like this: “No you!” “No, you!” “Noooo, yoooou!”

It doesn’t matter if he was Deputy Prime Minister or President of the World, Prezza has passed the point of caring and can shake his head at Ed Miliband posing with the Sun all he likes. He also spent a lot of the time grinning as Soubry and Nuttall had a fight, like an excitable toddler waiting for his puréed banana at dinnertime. So really, in conclusion, he didn’t score any knock out blows, and indeed missed more than he hit last night. And yet I don’t mind purely because he still says the word ‘bloody’ on camera much to David Dimbleby’s general exasperation with everything.

Also, could Prezza take Suárez in a fight? Even if he is getting on a bit, I’m betting yes, and would pay gratuitous amounts of money for this epoch-making event to be televised.

I’ve covered Nuttall already, damn

Meanwhile, Neil Wallis had a bit of a tough job on his hands. He was there as the representation of all that is evil in the world – he knew that, and he hated it. He was greatly offended when Paul Nuttall declared that, rejoice rejoice, newspapers were SO OVER. He huffed and puffed as the audience, that judgemental bunch of fools, attempted to imply that Andy Coulson was anything less than a lovely chap who just lost his way, the poor love. He delicately described Damian McBride as ‘an interesting person’. He was everything you expected him to be and nothing less and/or more.

Maajid Nawaz, who I must say has some great hair, was much the same. Maajizzle was here as an outlier, an extremist, a dangerous ideologue – that’s right – …a Liberal Democrat. So for the first two thirds of the programme he adopted his party’s fail-safe tactic of sitting on the fence and being pretty dull. Let’s be reasonable here, guys. Everyone hates us already, so it doesn’t matter if we slag off Murdoch!

He also took the time to remind us that Muslims generally aren’t evil soul-sucking monsters. Thank you for this information. It is a sad world we live in that we have to be actually reminded of this fact.

I was hoping for more arguments but then the programme devolved into a pun-off. So here’s the scores.

Soubry: 6/10

Kept score

Prescott: 5/10

At one point almost swore

Nawaz: 5/10

Decent if a bore

Nuttall: 4/10

Euroscepticism galore

Wallis: 3/10

Please, no more

The Crowd: 5/10

Who cares about Juncker anymore?

Now clear off or I’ll hack yer phone.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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…

Questionable Time #39


questionable time 38 david dimbleby the office david brent

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to Sluff, famous for Mars Bars, tragicomic depictions of the UK workplace and for a bloody great fictional crematorium that featured in Brave New World. In fact,I find it rather apt that Slough turned up in Huxley’s novel as it’s always given me the sense of a place where the utopian and dystopian rub uncomfortably against each other. On the utopian side of the coin it can proudly boast of having the most ethnically diverse population outside of London and although not a New Town per se, it certainly has echoes of that period in British history where we thought we had the future licked. As it happens, we didn’t and the future turned out to be a much more drab and roundabouty affair than we initially anticipated, an unhappy occurrence that leads us to the more dystopian flip side of Slough: Aberrantly high crime rates, ‘The Slough Stench’ and that unshakable feeling that everything is – well – slightly crap.

Still, it’s not my job to bum out the people of Slough, not that there seems to be a shortage of people willing to do just that. No, my job is to see how the people of Slough react to a damn good Question Timing and so without further ado let us bravely put our collective heads into the maw of the beast.

Am I still on the Vince Train? I honestly don’t know anymore…

Back in 2008 when the whole world looked to be collapsing around our ears, one man stood forth and boldly donned the mantle of The Voice of Reason. That man was Vince Cable and in 2008 the one place I and many others wanted to be was in the first class carriage of the Vince Train, a doughty locomotive of yellow livery powered by pure Keynsianism. At first the ride was great fun, speeding along while the Hayek Express was forced into the sidings and I felt vindicated in having purchased my first class ticket at the station rather than experiencing the potential ignominy of having to upgrade on board. This train, I thought, was going places… Next stop, Government Central!

That, however, was where the problems started and if you ask me, Government Central has a lot in common with Birmingham New Street in that it’s a cold, dark, subterranean place that’s awfully hard to find your way out of. The effect it had on the Vince Train was no less baleful and there soon developed an ominous sounding creak from the axles while the Tanoy spoke of inevitable delays, usually attributed to signal trouble in the vicinity of Wilmslow. Looking back, I probably think that I should have got off at the next stop when I had the chance but I didn’t. Why not? Because for all the disappointments and that entire year where Cable carried a pained expression on his face like someone had just jellied his stapler, he had this look that made me stay on board. And it was just a look. A glint in the eye, a tap on the side of his nose that said ‘Just you wait. The chips may be down, but let me assure you that I’ve still got a couple of tricks up my sleeve’. Well, it’s now four years down the line and I must confess that I’m leaning so far out of the window of the Vince Train that there’s a good chance the next tunnel will take my head clean off. Could his performance last night coax me back safely into the carriage? To put it bluntly, no.

Here’s the thing: I actually quite liked the content of what Cable was saying last night. He played it very cautiously on the GDP figures, made it very clear that he wasn’t going to lend a hand to some of the Blue Teams pottier ideas (like IDS’s new stance on breeding) and was generally pretty reasonable about the Savile scandal. Instead, the problem for me was that he looked absolutely knackered, spent to the point that he simply couldn’t bring himself to flash me that look. Well, dammit Vince, I need that took! So what if you never back it up by actually pulling a rabbit out of the hat, at least the look seriously implies that you might be thinking about it. Last night, that look was nowhere to be seen. Should this situation persist, consider me off at the next stop.

There’s a wonderful mismatched buddy movie just waiting to be made starring Emily Thornberry and Claire Perry…

I think it’s fair to say that Emily Thornberry and Claire Perry aren’t exactly bessies, what with all the blow trading and eye-daggers we witnessed last night. For Perry’s part, I suspect that Thornberry’s rather measured and deliberate responses jangle her How Dare You Patronise Me nerve whilst Perry’s very assertive presentation scratches some very long fingernails across Thornberry’s Why You Jumped Up Little blackboard. Anyway, Perry generally had the better of it and emerged the less bruised of the pair but there was a brief and telling moment that stopped me dead in my tracks. During the Jimmy Savile question Thornberry said, very sincerely in fact, that she agreed with Perry and Perry responded with a genuinely heartfelt sounding “Thank you”. Well that was it Lemmings, after that my mind was set adrift on what could be the UK legislature’s answer to Point Break: Claire Perry as Keanu’s fresh-out-the-academy hotshot, Emily Thornberry as Busey’s seen-it-all-before jaded veteran, a pair who will never see eye-to-eye but find themselves thrown together by fate and the quest for justice. The only unresolved matter is who would take the part of Swayze’s ‘you can’t cage me bro!’ adrenaline junkie. Jacob “I’ve never sworn in my adult life” Rees-Mogg could be quite fun but I’m open to suggestions.

Paul Nuttall actually makes UKIP a little scary…

I’ve got all the time in the world for UKIP in the same way I’ve got all the time in the world for Made In Chelsea: If taken in isolation, they’re both a toxic mess of things I’m no great fan of but this is balanced out by their inherent absurdity, a factor that renders them ultimately harmless yet mildly entertaining. Well, this was the case until Paul Nuttall somehow managed to become the only other UKIP member allowed off the compound unsupervised… Now I’m just plain scared. You see, I can happily dismiss UKIP as a slightly dotty group of people with too much time on their hands when they’re fronted by the likes of Farage, but Nuttall? No, he has an edge and a hard one at that, what with all the talk of punishing people in death and “lunatics” having the vote. What’s worse is that he comes across as a guy who might actually hang out with some vaguely ordinary people. It’s at this point that UKIP stop resembling a harebrained cult that recruits exclusively at village fêtes and starts to become something a lot more worrying. Still, you know what makes Paul Nuttall slightly less worrying though? A nice .gif of him with Gareth Keenans hair (See. Fig. 1).

gareth-keenan-paull-nuttall-resized-gif

I was going to tell Mehdi Hassan off for not smiling enough…

I spend a lot of time looking at QT panelists on Google Images, mainly because I need to photoshop them into ridiculous scenarios but also because it’s good to have a hobby. Anyway, the reason I’m telling you this is that I’ve had to do quite a lot of staring at photos of Medhi Hassan and one thing that’s struck me is that you rarely see him smiling and that this is a shame because it makes him come across as A Very Serious Man. Now, I like Hassan, I think he’s generally on the money but the Very Serious Man thing can get a bit much and I thought a gentle chiding was in order to get him to lighten up a little. As it happens, I need not have bothered as the first thing out of his was mouth a joke and not a bad one at that (he said the government’s Plan B was “Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis”). So what did this get him? A slight titter and nothing more. Gah! What more do you people want?! Unperturbed by this lack of audience reciprocation, he had another go during the question on IDS’s new wheeze and once more, it was a serviceable little number (“Tough on babies, tough on the causes of babies”) but yet again, nothing. So fair play to you Mehdi, you tried but maybe you were just born to be A Very Serious Man… Them’s the breaks kid…

Tl;dr

Cable: 5/10

Tired

Thornberry: 4/10

Acquired (a role in a fictional movie)

Perry: 5/10

Wired

Nuttall: 4/10

Conspired

Hassan: 6/10

Retired (any hopes of being a stand-up comedian)

The Crowd: 5/10

(Were suitably) Attired?

As those numbers imply, I can’t really chalk this up as triumph of of an episode, yet can I write it off as a total defeat. So quite a lot like Slough then…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #19


questionable time 19 david dimbleby marilyn monroe

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to a fairly inconsequential episode of Question Time but one that does contain a few points of interest worthy of further examination. They are as follows:

1. Tunbridge Wells cares not for the NHS.

Assuming you haven’t spent the last week living under a rock or reading The Daily Express (these activities are pretty much one-and-the-same so far as I’m concerned) then you will doubtlessly be aware that the nation has its collective knickers in a twist over the seething cauldron of electoral cyanide that is the NHS reforms. It’s been everywhere and even those who couldn’t usually give two hoots for matters political can’t have failed to notice this train wreck in the making looming ominously on the horizon. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that instead of the NHS being the question at the top of last night’s bill, it didn’t even get a mention during the course entire show. Nothing. Zip. Nada. And how did this strange anomaly come to pass? Well I suspect that it may have something to do with The Cast Iron Law of Town Naming Conventions which can be summed up in two handy bullet points:

  • If a town has a double-barrelled name there’s a better than evens chance that it will be quite posh. Think Chipping Norton, Boston Spa and Alderley Edge.
  • The same odds are also applicable to triple-barrelled town names but in the opposite direction. In this case I called to the stand Messrs Stockton-on-Tee’s, Burton-on-Trent and Southend-on-Sea.

Granted, there are plenty of exceptions to this rule (like the wilfully uncooperative Royal Wootton Bassett. They tired of lending weight to my theory and deliberate bolted on a ‘Royal’ in order to make me look stupid) but for the most part it’s a pretty solid thesis and if one takes a cursory look at the polling data for Tunbridge Wells (and leaves aside the inconvenient matter of the ‘Royal’ that its inhabitants occasionally flirt with), it’s safe to say that Tunbridge Wells is itself pretty posh. And what does that leave us with? Questions about bankers, Europe, Syria, the Work Programme and Murdoch but nary a whisper about the NHS – a point that leads us neatly on to this:

2. Ed Vaizey is a blagger of the highest order.

You may have noticed a strange new development in the Tory party over the last few years and that’s the emergence of contemporary hairstyles amongst some of its newer members. In the past, male Tory MP’s (assuming they had hair) were permitted to wear one of two hair styles: The straight-as-a-die side-parting that reached it’s apex under the stewardship of John Major or the more caddish swept back bouffant favoured by the likes of Alan Clark and Michael Heseltine. This state of affairs held true for a good half-century and it has not been until very recently that frontbenchers such as Ed Vaisey, Jeremy Hunt and Grant Shapps have challenged this natural order and bought forth a third option, The Trendy Barnet. Now, I’m bringing this up because it serves as a handy identifier for this new intake and sits well with their other shared characteristic: They are all absolute blaggers.

In the case of Vaizey’s performance this didn’t really become apparent until the second question as he seemed to handle the bonuses issue rather well. Sure, he nearly got caught out with some old quotes that Dimbers threw at him but for the most part he managed to dance his way out of trouble and presented himself as a likeable and very human guy. However, it was downhill from there and the rest of the show was mainly spent with him trying to affably bluster his way out of situations that he clearly hadn’t prepared for. Take the Work Programme question for example: Here he tried to extricate himself from a tight spot by admitting that he only really knew about one very tiny aspect of it and wouldn’t it be nice if we all talked about that rather than the far more foreboding issue of why the whole scheme is going to hell in a handcart. In the end he got away with it but let’s put this into context for a moment: This was a Tory MP playing to probably one of the safest Conservative crowds in the entire country and this should have been his day in the sun. It wasn’t and at times his performance started to look like an episode of The Thick of It, a state of affairs that was in no way helped by trying to shut down the argument with the line “I’ll tweet about it later”. And that’s the problem with these guys – they all work on the basis that the detail isn’t really that important and that if you look the part, you’ll probably get away with it. Given what we witnessed last night, I’d suggest that the detail probably does matter and that unless this new crop of Bright Young Things start boning up on the dull stuff, life will get very tricky for them in the next couple of years. In short, they call it ‘pragmatism’, I call it ‘shenanigans’.

3. I don’t know who Emily Thornberry is but she’s definitely one to watch.

In stark contrast to the fast-and-loose approach adopted by Vaizey, QT n00b Emily Thornberry turned what could have been a stinker of an episode for the Red Team into a quiet triumph and achieved this mainly because she seems to have a knack for tempo. While it may not seem like a big deal getting the right rhythm in debates is a really hard thing to master and she’s found herself right in the sweet-spot: Measured enough to sound like she’s really thought things through but not so slow as to allow others to butt in. Now, if we combine this with her ear for tone (everything was delivered with a comforting firmness that leads me to suspect she might be a Northerner trapped in a Southerners body) then you’ve got quite a potent mix. Did this mean that she trounced the opposition? No, but what it did do was allow her to retain the initiative and that is absolutely vital when you’re on hostile turf (remember that Labour only got 10% of the vote in Tunbridge Wells in the last election). So well done Emily, you have caused me to take note. Consider yourself on the list. The Good List that is, not the other one.

4. There is another member of UKIP.

And if that’s not enough to blow your socks off, hold on to your hats because it also turns out that Paul Nuttall hails from Liverpool, a city not known to be a bastion of cockeyed, twitching Europhobes! I know, I know, it’s all a little much to take in and I must say that I thought I might have had a little too much to drink when he came across as a paragon of social justice on the question about bonuses. Happily though it soon returned to UKIP business-as-usual when we got on to the matter of Syria (he even managed to shoehorn the Falklands in to that one) and by the end we were back on the familiar turf of how Europe will spell the end of everything for everyone. Phew! Anyway, enough of the cruelty as he actually did pretty well and while UKIP are easy to mock, there did seem to be genuine sympathy for his position in Tunbridge Wells. Oh and there was one other thing I noticed about him: His head is so wonderfully, pristinely shiny that it appears to be entirely unmarked by the trammels of existence and the only explanation I can come up with for this is that he secretly retracts it into a hidden cavity in his chest when not in public (see Fig. 1). It’s just a theory but I’ve yet to see any evidence to the contrary.

Paul-Nuttall-head-gif

Fig. 1

5. Christina Odone cannot out-gesticulate Simon Schama.

Silly Christina. I know what you were up to. You thought that you could out-gesticulate Schama simply by flapping your arms about a little and occasionally deploying the ‘inverted comma’ gesture. Well Ms. Odone, I hate to break it to you but you can’t out-gesticulate Schama. No one can. The man’s like a rag doll in a washing machine and I have it on good authority that even his spine is double jointed. So next time, don’t even bother. It’s not worth it. That man will gesticulate you into a fine powder and then disperse the resulting dust high into the atmosphere with the jerk of a flailing limb. Now be off with you for I have to use the remaining space to reproduce some of the rather lovely Schama-isms that occurred last night. Here they are:

My historian’s nostrils…”

Handsome, deep rose-coloured suit”

A dagger in the throat of capitalism!”

Egregious acts of monstrosity!”

I don’t give a toss”

Oh Schama, you are a card…

Tl;dr

Vaizey: Blaggy

4/10

Thornberry: (The opposite of) Raggy

6/10

Nuttall: Flaggy

5/10

Odone: Daggy

5/10

Schama: Waggy

6/10

The Crowd: Craggy?

5/10

So there you go, not much of import but enough to keep me occupied. Right, I’m off but before I disappear there’s just enough time for me to engage in the periodical reminder that you can follow Questionable Time on both twitter and facebook. Quite why you would remains to be seen but if it’s good enough for Ed Vaizey, it’s good enough for me.

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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