Posts Tagged 'peter hitchens'

Questionable Time #131


qt 131

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to another irrelevant edition of Questionable Time! Yes, seems like nobody cares about poor lil’ QT shambling on after the big, flashy Leaders’ debates…but that’s what I’m here for, to look after the muck nobody else wants to clean up. The debates themselves were as predictable as predicted: Cameron looked foreheady, no1curr about Clegg, Nigel Farage and Leanne Wood got into a fight, Nicola Sturgeon cried for FREEEEDOM, Natalie Bennett was Australian, and Ed Miliband did okay I guess, unless you’re reading the Sun or Telegraph, in which case he shat himself on stage.

But we’ll show those popular kids and their popular kicks. Let’s have a debate of our own. Let’s Questionable Time.

Are you sitting comfortably? No neither am I

Michael Gove starts off by dissin’ Ed too, although that technically is his job. He declares that because Ed Miliband is still a geeky dork then mean old Nicola ‘n’ Alex would be able to trample all over him with their big Scottish feet. A snarky beardy man in the audience points out that the Tories didn’t even win overall in 2010 so why should we believe that a prospective Tory government would be any more stable? Gove brushes this off in a Govey way while a Scottish lady also goes in for him and Dimbleby makes strange noises.

At this point, Anime Andy Burnham makes his move. The right-wing media are being proved wrong, he says, and Ed Miliband is actually “a man full of warmth and conviction” who he’d like to snuggle and play Manic Miner with. Not for the first time this night, it sounds like he’s about to burst into tears, which he does a lot. Oh, to be a living, eyelash-fluttering manga character!

A man in audience says they’re all fake except for lovely Nigel who is definitely not an ex-banker from a public school and is a MAN OF THE PEOPLE. Apparently. Peter ‘Jeremy Clarkson is a left-wing BBC conspiracy’ Hitchens agrees, aggressively tongueing Farage’s anus. Meanwhile, Danny Alexander/Brian the snail is back (already? Wasn’t he on only a few weeks ago?) and looking increasingly baggy and fleshy. “You need to have Liberal Democrats in the mix!” he says, like they’re a winning toy/stray rusty nail (delete according to political position) in a box of Coco Pops.

Somehow this all, mainly thanks to Peter, devolves into an argument about the break-up of the UK again. I had to deal with months of QTs about this in the run up to the #indyref, please don’t let me go through this hell again.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, thankfully, interrupts to practically scream UP THE WOMEN! The wimmins in the audience predictably cheer. This is great as I have been eagerly awaiting the feminist takeover of Question Time for some time now. Yasmin continues in this vein, basically shouting G’ARN NIC’LA at every opportunity. I mean, regardless of what you think of her policies, it’s nice to have a woman (Nicola Sturgeon) on the centre political stage who looks so much like a mum on the school run, but could probably punch you out (being Scottish, after all).

I’m not sure what’s going on now. Govey Wovey hates the SNP, Yasmin doesn’t, Andy’s making faces, Peter is making exactly one face for the entire duration of the programme (a mix between constipated/vaguely annoyed/braindead), and Danny is calmly staring into the abyss of the Lib Dems losing all their seats in Scotland and most of them in England. Uh…hooray?

Then something incredible happens. The subject of a Tory-UKIP coalition gets brought up, and Michael, squirming uncomfortably in his seat, can’t rule it out. Andy pounces.

The hysteria comes loud and fast. Can’t rule it out! Can’t rule it out! “We’re listening, Michael!” Andy squeals cutely. Gove panics and says something about rainbow coalitions but by this point it’s too late. Andy Burnham has transmogrified into his unstoppably manic alter ego: ANDY BURN ‘EM. And he is possibly the best source of reaction images ever. Goveing Tree, needless to say, is not amused.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

A man in the audience sums everything up with a question on why everything is breaking apart. The answer, of course, is that YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA!

Danny begins to actually answer this point but out of nowhere is interrupted by BURN ‘EM, who passionately starts to cry about collectivism. He just has a lot of feelings. Then even Gove gets #REKT by Hitchens. This isn’t a great night for the Govester! He sniffs, planning Hitchens’ method of death. Don’t worry Mike, you’ve got the entire second half of the show to make up for it…execution-style.

While Peter explains the difference between debt and deficit because, five years later, nobody still knows what they mean, and threatens to destroy both the Labour and Conservative parties in a bloody civil war (what is wrong with this man), there’s an equally absurd kerfuffle over what the hell a ‘formal’ or ‘informal’ agreement actually means. Andy struggles to make his voice heard while Gove tapdances away gleefully, because even though Labour ruled out a coalition with the scary Scots they might still play tag with them in the playground occasionally. Or whatever. This is getting so confusing that Dimbleby is now making the same face as Peter Hitchens. A worrying sign indeed. Let’s move on.

Fresh baked United Kingdom filled to the brim with jammy goodness

Is the country full? Well, Peter says yes – unless we clone Peter Hitchens, in which case things would be different around here. To summarise, immigrants are BRAVE but the EU is EVIL. Danny looks shocked and appalled. Hitchens adds another emotion to his grand arsenal: smug. However, Gove’s spirited defense of immigration seems to put the damper on a possible UKIP coalition, to the extent that Yasmin wants to hug him. Maybe they could form a coalition. Andy joins in and it’s all a big cuddlepile with Hitchens not invited to the party. Aww, this is nice. Even more coalitions!

But it can’t last forever. Andy breaks out of the cuddlepile by extremely subtly reminding us he’s werking-class with a reference to Auf Wiedersehn, Pet, and gets teary about the NHS as per usual. Dimbles sighs and has to intervene once again.

“We’re not talking about the NHS,” says he.

YES WE ARE, cries Andy, an unrepentant repeat offender of the Getting Emotional Brigade. Dimbleby reassures him that they’ve scheduled the NHS discussion for the last five minutes of the programme, but first they have to spend five minutes talking about ISIS, because both of these issues can surely be comprehensively covered in such a sumptuous amount of time.

Maybe if we didn’t spend so much time talking about debates then this wouldn’t have happened

Saudi Arabia suxxx, says Yasmin out of nowhere. And so do religious schools. Gove fights the urge to reply CALM DOWN DEAR and instead says something about spiritual nourishment. Mmmm…nourishment.

The others waffle some waffling crap but the crowd wants to know what they’ll actually do about these horrid scoundrels. Nobody knows as we only have five minutes and time is already up. Best…scheduling…ever. Next question!

Why not all work together on the NHS? Well, unimpressed audience lady, because people have very different plans for the NHS. Some people want to lovingly caress it, others want to hit it with a hammer.

Andy Burnizzle makes this exact argument to the extent that he is probably about to explode. His beautiful eyes are starting to pop out of his handsome skull as he clutches his trembling fist to his heaving breast, reinstating the main, most important point again and again: that he hates Tories. He frickin’ hates Tories. God damn does he hate them. Wait, what was the question again?

The others cycle through their equally predictable soundbites. Danny is moderately moderate and praises Holy Cleggus. Yasmin hates privatisation. Peter thinks the NHS is the only thing Labour hasn’t ruined and that they and the Tories are being squabbling babies about it. Both Andy and Michael then unite to pull a joint face of disgust. COALITION CONFIRMED?

I don’t think impressed woman was impressed, honestly.

Time for the scores!

Gove: 6/10

(Missed an open) Goal

Burnham: 8/10

Troll(in’)

Alexander: 5/10

(For whom the bell) Toll(s)

Alibhai-Brown: 6/10

(Middle of the) Poll

Hitchens: 6/10

(Had a leisurely) Stroll

The Crowd: 6/10

(On a) Roll

Next time: [inaudible screaming]

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Advertisements

Questionable Time #105


questionable time 105 david dimbleby dolly parton

Good morning Lemmings and ‘welcome’ to that time of year again. ‘Welcome’ to the dried up creek of political news, ‘welcome’ to that vague sense of unease at the overfriendly weather and more importantly, ‘welcome’ to the season where we get to show the world who’s the #1 nation when it comes to being comprehensively crushed in any number of sporting events. That’s right Lemmings, summer is here and what better way to herald its arrival than by watching 5 random busy bodies try to chug down the dregs of the political cycle without gagging on the futility of it all? None, that’s what. None more better.

Life’s one big exam…

I get this creeping sense of panic whenever I see Jo Swinson on QT, a sense of panic that’s horribly familiar and takes me back to around – ooh, let me see now – almost exactly 18 years to the day. As it happens, it’s also a sense of panic that’s rooted at exactly the same point in time for Swinson as we are but two months apart in age and consequently sat our GCSE’s simultaneously, both in bog standard schools and – I imagine – both in gyms that reeked of both Lynx: Africa and fear. The difference between us is that I’ve somehow managed to forcibly repress those memories into some subterranean strata of my brain so that I may lead a life that isn’t constantly plagued by terror. Swinson, on the other hand, hasn’t and every media appearance she gives just seems to be a rehash of those terrible summer days we both lived through a generation ago.

You can see it in the way she carried herself: There she sat, a little too alert, eyes just a little too wide as she carefully arranged her collection of lucky rubbers on the desk, just waiting for Dimbers to give the word to turn the paper. Then the moment arrived – “Swinson. What say you?”

Come on Jo, come on Jo, you know this stuff. You’ve spent the last 6 months boning up on it while all the cool kids were necking Cherry 20/20, purposely overfeeding each others Tamagotchis and insisting that you don’t need GCSE’s to work in the arcade. You know it, you’ve just to get it on the damn paper!

And so she did. She got it on the paper. All of it. Every last bit that she could think of, all going at a million miles an hour in an effort to impress upon the examiner that she really knows her onions. But there was also something else she was trying to impress the examiner with and it’s something that was very big in the mid-90’s: Giving an answer so balanced that there’s next to no room for an actual opinion in it. It looks like this:

So there’s this thing that some people think are ‘good’ because of X,Y, and Z but not everybody thinks it good and would even go so far as to say it’s ‘bad’ because of A, B and C but at the end of the day we can never really know so wouldn’t it be nice if could just all be friends and come up with a bland compromise that doesn’t really satisfy anyone?

That bit where she tried to point out that people shouldn’t have to move to Manchester but furiously backtracked with a spiel about how the North is actually a very nice place to live in and then name checked every major urban centre in turn? That’s what I’m talking about and had she been sitting a 1996 GCSE paper then it would be A*’s all round. But unfortunately she wasn’t: She was on Question Time and the marking regime around these parts is structured to reward confrontation, bloody-mindedness and a certainly level of skullduggery, not the high-velocity blancmange of sat fences that Jo gave us last night.

I however am a little more forgiving and inclined to cut her a some slack as it’s hard to describe just quite how hellbent the education system of the mid-90’s was in making sure that you never really believed in anything. You could know a great deal but to believe? Well that just wasn’t on.

So Jo, fair-to-middling marks for you although I suspect I’m in the minority on this front. Don’t listen to the naysayers though. They don’t know. THEY DON’T KNOW CUZ THEY WEREN’T THERE, MAN!

The promising backstory that never quite delivered…

I had high hopes for Bernard Jenkins last night, hopes based highly around the following:

  1. He’s a Tory back bencher of the nuttier, self-destructive ilk and they tend to make for QT fun.

  1. Being the MP who had to pay back more than £30k in the expenses scandal gives him a Kryptonite like vulnerability to pretty much everything.

  2. He is reputedly “the most famous occasional natureist in the Palace of Westminster” (see Fig. 1).

bernard jenkin nudist

Fig. 1

Sadly, this magical cocktail of potentiality failed to deliver any true displays of weirdness but did lead to a very disappointing moment of level headedness on all things housing. Bah. What’s wrong with Tory backbenchers these days? It’s almost like they don’t want their party to implode into a miasma of internal strife and recrimination.

T’was a night for the Old Boys…

Jo Swinson may well have been doing ten to the dozen last night but it was a wholly more relaxed affair when it came to Alan Johnson and Peter Hitchens, both of whom kept their blood pressures well and truly within the recommended limits. For Johnson this was largely achieved by not having to answer any question that bring out the ex-Home Secretary in him, but also because he just seemed to casually stroll through the show, occasionally trading the odd blow here and there but always on the ground of his choosing. As for Hitchens, well I can only assume that his late addition to the line-up didn’t give him sufficient time to fully spin up his Tizzy Circuits but he did at least paw gently at Jenkins from time-to-time.

In a word, ‘mellow’.

And Blower?

Hard to say really given how routine everything appeared. No major calamities, no shocking gains, just a by-the-numbers stroll through a park called Question Time. However, I am glad that a member of the teaching profession was there – even if only to add another layer of terror to Jo’s GCSE flashback.

Tl;dr

Swinson: 5/10

(Appeared) Glued (to her exam paper)

Jenkins: 5/10

(Disappointingly not in the) Nude

Johnson: 7/10

(Bit of a) Dude

Hitchens: 6/10

(Was uncharacteristically) Subdued

Blower: 5/10

Exude(d teacherliness)

The Crowd: 6/10

Ballyhooed (and whatnot)

And so it was… A fairly unremarkable affair for a fairly unremarkable week enlivened only my some oddball bellowing about Batman and the Riddler to no obvious end. Right, I’m done – come back next week for the final of the series which sounds both unconventional and Scottish. Joy.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #75


questionable time 75 david dimbleby dimblescally

Good morning Energy Prices and welcome to Energy Priceable Time, a sideways look at Energy Price Time and the fascinating debates all the participants have about Energy Prices. The subjects we’ll be covering today include ‘Energy’ and ‘Prices’ but if we’re lucky we might have enough time to really explore what it means to Price Energy and I’m also hoping we can squeeze in a ‘fun’ final question where we all get to ask Vicky Pryce about her Energy. WHAT A FUN WAY TO SPEND OUR DAYS.

 

Alright, I’ve got that off my chest now… Let’s get down to business.

 

I had a little proud last night…

Screaming fishwives”. That’s what my mother texted me at precisely 11pm last night and aside from the numerous issues this statement raises (why did Caroline Flint and Liz Truss marry fish?) the sentiment appears to be valid: There was much fussing and fighting going on between our two lead protagonists that generated much heat but little light. However, my head was somewhere else at that point in the show because I was experiencing a strange sensation: I was starting to feel actually rather proud of Caroline Flint.

 

First of all a little context: I’ve been writing this blog for a few years now and during that time I’ve probably seen more of Caroline Flint than her fish husband has (I’ve just checked and she’s been on 10 times since Questionable Time started). For the bulk of that time we’ve been used to seeing the tooth-and-nail Flint who had a very straight forward approach to QT: Go in fast, go in aggressive and for God’s sake just keep moving. Sometimes this would work but more often than not it would result in pell-mell scuffles where she was going at such a rate of knots that she’d inevitably trip up on her own rhetorical shoelaces and go flying across the studio head first. To her credit though, she’d always dust herself down and be back a few weeks later to repeat the exercise with similar results.

 

Fast forward to last night and what have we got? Well, in many respects this was the same Caroline Flint – combative, quarrelsome and up for a scrap – but something in her demeanour’s changed in that she’s learned how to ride the tempo. For example, the Flint of Yore would have probably started well on the energy prices question but then got carried away by the thrill of the chase and talked herself into a corner. The Flint of Now knew better and gave Truss just enough room (and it really wasn’t much) to do all the corner talking herself.

 

So what’s brought on this change? Aside from the obvious (sheer practice plus the advantage of being a Shadow Energy Secretary who’s stolen a march on the government) I think this may all come down to one man: Grant Shapps. Now I know that sounds odd but cast your mind back about a year and you may remember a very weird period when both Flint and Shapps were always appearing on the likes of QT and The Daily Politics together. At first this seemed like quite a fair fight but after a while Flint clearly gained the upper hand and was regularly running rings around him. Why? Because she finally twigged that if you spend the whole time talking over Grant Shapps, Grant Shapps won’t have the opportunity to do what he does best – come across as a total blagger and self-hoisting petard. It seems that this lesson has now been thoroughly learned by Flint and in a weird way I’m kind of proud of her: We took a long time getting here but got here we did. Well done my Fishy Wife, have a gif of you riding various things to celebrate (see Fig. 1).

 

caroline-flint-riding-things-gif

Fig. 1

In Liz we Truss…

…Actually no we don’t given the torrid time she had last night but it was such a good headline that I felt obliged to go with it. Anyway, Liz… Not such a great performance and one that came across as very rigid as she doggedly tried to march her way through all the many obstacles in her path. In some ways this isn’t surprising as Truss is chiefly driven by ideology – never the most flexible of blueprints – but the rolled eyes and halting delivery didn’t do much to further her ends. I will say this though: She’s tough and I like her name. Truss… I bet she’s great at holding walls together.

 

hey pete, u ok hun? X

Just when I was growing grudgingly fond of Peter Hitchens he has to go and spoil it all by putting in possibly the most melancholic QT performance I can recall. Energy? It’s all a swindle to diddle me out of my dreams of coal-fired autarky. Education? That was abolished in the 60’s. Britain? Get out while you can. What a ray of bloody sunshine.

 

Stop fighting boys!

I’m beginning to dread Owen Jones being on because it’s become increasingly hard to find things to say other than ‘well done’. However, I do have a legitimate bone to pick this week because he started getting all leary with Tim Farron who, as regular readers will know, I have been hopelessly in love since our eyes first met across the QT studio. Come on now Owen, play nicely. Apart from that it was business as usual from these two who were more than happy to baste a sympathetic crowd with the goose fat of social democracy before roasting them in them in the oven of Things The Crowd Want To Hear. Job done, now lets all be friends and go for milkshakes and have a sleepover and make a den in the woods and build a rope swing and…

 

 

Tl;dr

 

Flint: 6/10

(Has) Learned (much)…

 

Truss: 4/10

Churned (her way through)…

 

Farron: 6/10

(Was) Burned (by Jones)…

 

Jones: 6/10

Spurned (Farron)…

 

Hitchens: 4/10

(Clearly) Yearned (to be elsewhere)…

 

The Crowd: 6/10

(Think – just like my Rhyming Dictionary – that) Zurn (is a legitimate word)…

 

Well, I guess it was better than the last couple of weeks but it’s all still a bit doldrummy in QT-Land right now. If only someone would give Godfrey Bloom a ring. Go on QT Production Team, you know it makes sense…

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #53


questionable time 53 david dimbleby horse meat lasagne

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

I think I’ve finally forgiven Michael Heseltine…

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

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

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

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

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

heseltine-angry-gif

Fig. 1

Oh Hitchens, you’re so hard to score…

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

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

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

Hello stranger…

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

Nice try Vince…

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

I think I’ve found my kryptonite…

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

Tl;dr

Heseltine: 7/10

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

Abbott: 6/10

(Not) Bad

Cable: 5/10

Had (at least stopped with the Knowing Looks)

Hitchens: 6/10

(Is an odd) Lad

Fraser: 7/10

(Is fair) Rad

The Crowd: 8/10

Gad(zooks)?

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

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #8


questionable time 8 david dimbleby big benMorning Lemmings and apologies in advance for my mind is somewhat fractured today. Why? Well mainly because I spent all last night turning my 32-bit Windows into the slightly more splendid 64-bit version whilst sharing my living room with a cat who simply loves jumping on my computer’s on/off button (a process that’s not dissimilar to defusing a bomb in the presence of a curious toddler). As a result my sleep has been tormented by visions of my precious data howling in pain whilst if I close my eyes all I see is a giant progress bar that seems to be going backwards. In short, I’m feeling a little febrile right now. With this in mind, let us make haste and sally forth to what was a pretty good episode of Question Time, coming as it was from the hallowed innards of the Palace of Westminster.

Right, first up we have Home Secretary Theresa May who has been on something of a QT journey in the past couple of years and one which has mainly displayed an upward trajectory. Prior to being in government, May was pretty much a QT disaster on legs and it almost seemed as if her mouth were less a functional organ and more a portal into a world composed entirely of nonsense (see Fig. 1). However, upon assuming the mantle of Home Secretary she regained some of her composure and a new-found calmness started to peek through, something that I must say caught me off guard a little. Sure, she didn’t stop dressing like an astronaut and her capacity to get very Tory, very quickly was still much in evidence, but overall everything just seemed to be a little more measured. So that was then, but what of now? Well, to tell you the truth I think something’s really rattled May and what we saw last night was actually quite a faltering performance, almost as if she were walking on stilts whilst trying very hard to make it look like she wasn’t. Ok, so she didn’t do badly on the pensions question and largely held her own in the areas where she’d been properly briefed but there was still this lingering tinge of panic that coloured her responses, almost as if her mind was constantly telling her ‘Shit! They’re onto me!’. Her encounters with Balls were fairly instructive on this front and while she did get some claps for a pretty tawdry recital of ‘The Nation’s Credit Card’ you could still see her brain going like the clappers, trying to identify the myriad of threats she perceived to be bearing down on her. So yes, something has put the frighteners on her and if I were to take a wild shot stab in the dark, I may venture that this summer’s complete breakdown of everything law and order related may have something to do with it. I know, it’s a crazy theory but there you go.

theresa-may-gif-woah

Fig. 1

Talking of Ed Balls, after watching him last night I found myself coming to the conclusion that he is the person I would least like to be my doctor. It’s not the fact that he has no medical training, nor that my partner has an inexplicable crush on him that puts me off, it’s just that his face is so innately implausible. Seriously, with that permanent Cheshire Cat grin he displays I really can’t fathom whether he’s flat-out lying to me or just a little pleased with himself and this doesn’t commend him to the role of my GP.  “The test results are back Mr. Loudribs!” I can hear him say, “Everything is fine!”.Oh my God, I must have cancer!” would be my response.

So yes, Balls is a slippery customer and as is par for his course he spent most of the show splitting hairs and sounding like a snake oil merchant. However, there was a brief moment in the middle of the show when he did something I’ve never witnessed before: He sounded like he was genuinely telling the truth. This occurred on the Europe question and following a dithering response from May he launched into a passionate and actually quite searing critique of the government’s position. This caused May to start lurching all over the place and, unable to help himself in the presence of a wounded foe, Balls lapsed back into his more familiar mode of point-scoring one-upmanship. But for a brief moment there, it did actual happen: I actually believed something that Ed Balls was saying. Either that, or the stress induced by reformatting my computer had finally sent me over the edge and the whole thing was an illusion conjured up by a brain that had lost its footing. I hope it’s the former, but I really can’t rule out the latter.

Our final party-political bod this week comes in the form of Shirley Williams and I must say how struck I was by the mellowness she displayed. Usually Shirley can be counted on to rhetorically bop various panelists on the nose whilst thundering away about something that sounds very worthy, but last night she seemed much more at peace with the world and tended to stay out of the bigger rucks. Having said that, she did at one point unilaterally call for the removal of Berlusconi, an act that doesn’t sit well under the heading ‘Mellow’ so I’m not overly concerned that she’s going to hang up her spurs any time soon.

All of which leaves us with our two civilians, Peter Hitchens and Benjamin Zephaniah. Now, I have a confession to make when it comes to Hitchens: I have a horrible feeling I might actually quite like the guy. Sure, our opinions couldn’t be further apart and he does have the capacity to freak me out (like when he said the biggest measure of wellbeing was “faith in God” whilst staring so intensely at the camera that I worried my TV would explode) but I need a Peter Hitchens in my life. I need him because I require a counterpoint to my opinions and he provides that whilst being slightly more tolerable than the likes Phillips and Heffer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to charge off and join the Peter Hitchens Fan Club but I can co-exist with him quite happily, something which can’t be said for the bulk of his more rabid counterparts. Oh, and he does deserve an extra mark for his part in the magical little scene that unfolded when he declared that “the BBC don’t believe in God”.

Have a care, Hitchens” came Dimbers response.

Wonderful.

And what of Zaphaniah? Well, my fear was that his line would be a very ‘them and us’ sort of affair and there were times when his approach was a little too simplistic. However, he did have some good points in there and he made them well thanks to his generally pleasant manner. Ok, so he might not be up to speed on all the details and there’s only so many times you can invoke the name of “the people” before I get annoyed but he was never in any real danger of making a fool of himself and he generally came across as a pretty decent bloke who isn’t afraid to speak his mind.

Considering the above, it’s tempting to chalk this up as a bit of a damp squib of an episode as there were never any major fireworks and the questions failed to spark any incidents that held true drama, but there was plenty going on in the background that you could see from the corner of your eye. Granted, the audience weren’t the most exciting bunch (although I was into the young man who harangued Balls for making questionable gestures in the Commons) and the grand setting didn’t really live up to it’s billing but yes, I quietly enjoyed it.

Tl;dr

May: 4/10

Wobbled

Balls: 5/10

Cobbled (together any old rubbish to advance his agenda)

Williams: 6/10

Gobbled (too much Valium)

Hitchens: 6/10

Squabbled

Zephaniah: 6/10

Nobbled (May on a few occasions)

The Crowd: 5/10

Bobbled?

Right, that’s that done… I’m off to install the ten millionth update to my computer and get angry with drivers. My life: It’s a rollercoaster ride of action and adventure.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #46


Morning Lemmings and as the title picture indicates, I am still without internet, hence my having to fall back on sticking pictures of my cat’s head on Dimber’s face. Actually, this situation could change at any moment as I’m currently waiting for the BT engineer to arrive and hook me up with some of that sweet, sweet data. I hope he comes soon. It’s been a hard week. I’ve had to ‘talk’ and ‘read’ and other such antiquated activities that have no place in the fast lane that is my life. The whole experience has been distressing to say the least so hurry Mr BT Engineer… This situation cannot persist.

 

Enough of that and on with Question Time, brought to us this week by the good people of Norwich. First on the stump we have Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development and all-round interesting guy. I say this not only because he’s at the liberal end of the Tory party and looks like his hair was borrowed from a Beano character but also because he pulls a neat trick: He appears to be a True Believer but not in a way that scares me. Most True Believers (politicians who look really, really into what they’re doing) fill me with horror as they have a habit of taking their pet ideas and running with them with wild abandon whilst giving nary a thought for the consequences (Blair and Thatcher being the textbook examples with the likes of Gove and IDS propping up the second rank). In short, not only have they drank the Kool Aid, they are also attempting to drown everyone else in it as well. Now Mitchell certainly has the look of the True Believer as his default posture seems to be one of alert engagement and he certainly seems convinced that his little corner of policy is a matter of life and death but there also seems to be something else going on with him that makes me think that he probably isn’t a nutter. I’m not quite sure what that thing is but should I find out, you’ll be the first to know.

 

In terms of performance he did ok last night although it was quite a scrappy start as he went through the compulsory ‘Labour inheritance/grasping the nettle’ stuff that neatly divided the audience into Booers and Cheerers but you could tell that he wasn’t really into making a big deal out of this subject. His responses to the Libya and sexualisation questions were also pretty standard and without excess vim, but serviceable enough nevertheless. Where he did do well was on his home turf of International Development and here he let rip with a well thought out robust defence of the concept of aid whilst also acknowledging that there was still a lot of work to do. Personally, I thought it was great as it combined a moral imperative with a hearty dose of realpolitik but unfortunately for Mitchell it just seemed to pass the crowd by and left them in a state of blank silence. That’s a shame as I thought it was a rare moment of clarity in an otherwise very scrappy show and I think he deserved a little more for his efforts. Oh well, at least he won the top prize in Parliament’s Westminster Dog of the Year award back in 2009. Norwich may be fickle but at least he can always hark back to that crowning glory.

 

Moving on and we are soon confronted by none other than Charles Clarke the fourth ex-New Labour Home Secretary in as many weeks who also seems to have a big hairy bollock in place of where his head should be. Now I’m not really not a fan of Clarke, partly because of the standard charge list I associated with New Labour Home Secretaries (see LCCPMQTR passim), partly because he’s one of the most inept plotters that parliament has seen for a good few years but mainly because he always reminds me of an imbittered Deputy Head who has a burning resentment for both the students and the staff for not appreciating him quite as much as he thinks they should. To be fair to him, he wasn’t that bad last night as he refrained from using Question Time as a forum to pour scorn on his own team but also because he had quite an easy ride (lets face it, dishing out additional beat downs after the Archbishop of Canterbury has righteously smote you foes is hardly rocket science).Having said that, he did annoy me a slightly as he appeared to be gunning for the world record of how many times he could use the word ‘incoherent’ in one sitting. I totally agree Charles, the coalition’s policies are wildly incoherent but I, like the rest of the country, somehow managed to arrive at the conclusion myself and I really don’t need to learn it by rote. However, I am inclined to slip him an extra point for coming to Mitchell’s defence of the foreign aid issue. Very big of you Charles, very big.

 

Right, next up is our final politico of the day, Jo Swinson, Deputy Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and frighteningly young (frightening in that she’s younger than me) MP. I feel bad for what I’m about to say next as I get the feeling that she probably has genuinely good intentions, but she really could crank the perkiness down a notch or two, if only to stop her delivery sounding like that of a BBC Breakfast News weather reporter (a la Carol… “Good Mooooooooooooooooooooooooourning!”). The other thing that slightly irked me was that all of her answers reminded me of one of those nightmare job interviews where you’re really not sure what answer your prospective employer wants to hear and you end up hedging your bets by attempting the ‘balanced argument’ approach in the hope that you’ll come across as a well-rounded and thoughtful individual. In fact, what tends to happen is that you end up getting tangled in a mess of self-generated contradictions that make you look like an indecisive prat or worse still, an Apprentice candidate. Now, to be fair to Jo, she never outright contradicted herself but her whole line of being scrupulously fair and reasonable combined with a dose of youthful optimism (I really did think she was going to end every sentence with a ‘Yay!!!!!!’) was just a little too odd for my tastes and actually made me feel old (which is even odder as there’s only a few months between us). As I said before, I feel a little bad for saying this as she does seem like a nice person but I’m not in the market for nice on Question Time. I’m in the market for blood and stomach pills, sturm und drang, Sodom and Gomorrah, that sort of thing and I’m afraid that affable young whippersnappers just don’t cut that kind of mustard. So sorry Jo, I have no doubt your intentions are good but we all know what the road to hell is paved with.

 

So that was the party political crowd and to be honest, they weren’t exactly electrifying. Good job then that waiting in the wings we have salty old figurehead of Wimminism Germin Greer and Eeyore of the right, Peter Hitchens. Given the fairly placid reaction of the panel to the Archbishop question, I was pretty much relying on Greer to spice things up a little only to be let down by the fact that she had absolutely no intention of addressing any matter directly. No, instead we were treated to a round-the-house spiel about presidential politics and her own record-breaking attempt involving the word ‘fiat’. ‘Oh well,’ thought I, ‘at least she’ll be able to sink her teeth into the child sexualisation question’ and sink teeth she did…. into a big fat sandwich of crazy. It started with a slightly odd grumble about how it was impossible to buy “non-tarty” clothes for little girls and then rapidly descended into a Freudian hell hole in which girls learn to flirt by kissing their fathers goodnight. An audience member understandably took the hump at this and demanded an explanation but was instead treated a lengthy, wordy and utterly impenetrable academic tract about culture and a bunch of stuff I couldn’t really work out. That pretty much spelt out the shape of things to come and after yet more interminability on the foreign aid question she made ready for a coup de grace concerning Libya. The question had originally been about whether the rape allegations warrant sending in ground troops, but it was the ‘rape’ bit that Greer homed in on and what came next was utterly bizarre. First of all she stated that “rape is always present with slaughter” a point I largely agree with but then it got weird as she started ranting about why the Libyan soldiers need Viagra to rape (as well as mentioning the word ‘fiat’ again) before demanding that they be given loads of the stuff as our troops would rape everyone anyway.

 

W

 

T

 

F

 

?

 

So Greer certainly set the bar high for crazy but at least she had a worthy challenger in the shape of Peter Hitchens. By rights, I should hate Hitchens, embodying as he does pretty much the purest form right wingery that runs completely contrary to my own political tastes but I must admit that I do have a certain level of grudging respect for him as at least he seems to think about stuff a little, unlike Melanie Phillips who simply has a direct link between that megacity of irrationality that lives in her skull and her mouth. Anyhoo, it all started standard enough with Hitchens adopting the Anti-Everything line on the Archbishop question (he hates Williams, hates Cameron, hates the Libs and most probably hates you) but it was in on the sexualisation question that he really got going, denouncing sex education and labelling it as “propaganda for promiscuity”. That really got the audience wound up but he wasn’t through with them by a long shot and went on to accuse them of actually wanting to sexualise kids. Brave move Pete, brave move. He managed to wind it back in briefly when it came to the aid question (although his reference to “teaching Africans to dance” was a little…odd) but what happened next was quite the sight to behold.

 

It started when a young, well-spoken audience member with ginger hair got a go on the mic and in her best ‘Dear Sir, Imagine my concern’ voice tried to set up a fairly ropy ambush. Following a slightly annoying “in my gap year” preamble she then went on to ask if Hitchens had ever been to a developing country in the hope he’d say ‘no’ and look like a right stuffy old pillock. Unfortunately, she didn’t contend with the fact that Hitchens is one of those rare commentators who actually bothers to bone up about the subjects of his blatherings and was right back at her with a “Yes. Loads. Somalia for one.”. That really knocked the wind out of her sails and she had to resort to a not entirely appropriate outburst of “LET ME FINISH!” before waffling on about Nepal. According to the crowd, her little turn was a triumph but I’m afraid I have to disagree with that assessment. She got pwnd. By Hitchens. That has to suck.

 

Given the above, you’d expect the rest of the audience to be shying away from prodding Hitchens in future but a little later on another member of the crowd got a similar taste of the PH Treatment after trying to make the point that Libya looked like a just war. “You’re about the right age” said Peter, “Go ahead, sign up.”. BOOM!I have to admit that was pretty cool and even the otherwise unapproving audience also had to agree.

 

All of which pretty well sums up Hitchens: His ideas range from the abhorrent to the plain old barking but he’s a tough cookie who gives as good as he gets and doesn’t care who he tangles with. As howlingly mad as he is, I have to doff my cap to the fact that he’s very good at being howling mad and he certainly makes a better fist of it than Greer does. Were he ever to end up on my caseload, I think I would be quietly pleased.

 

That’s the panel done so on to the audience and I must confess that this lot really were an odd bunch who may or may not have had complete control of their faculties. For one, the applause/heckles were all over the place and at times seemed to be divvied up on a completely random basis. Crowd member gets too big for her boots and gets mauled by Hitchens? Everyone goes nuts and the girl’s a hero! Mitchel makes a well-reasoned yet passionate appeal to the benefits of foreign aid? Tumbleweed. However, I can forgive them this as Greer and Hitchens had already made the atmosphere so weird that it became less of a topical current affairs show and more of a bad acid flashback. The other thing I picked up was that although the crowd seemed fairly even split in terms of ‘for’ and ‘against’ the coalition, you could sense real anger in the room and that seems to tally with the felling in the country in general. So far, the recession has unfolded as thus:

 

1. Headless Chicken Phase: Lehman’s goes under, the world and his wife predict imminent apocalypse, people get in flap yet life in the real world continues apace.

 

2. Impending Doom Phase: Osborne delivers Comprehensive Spending Review, people predict imminent apocalypse, some start losing their job’s and life starts getting harder but is still relatively normal.

 

That’s what’s happened so far, but right now we’re about go into the third phase, the Actual Doom phase where all the nasty stuff that was in the CSR starts to feed through to everyday life and shit gets real. It’s taken two and a half years to get here (two and a half years where every news bulletin is telling us that we only have minutes before we’re all destitute) and I must say it’s been a surreal experience: You know you’re angry, you know that a bunch of insanely rich people have just seriously screwed your life up, yet the actual evidence on the ground doesn’t tally up with the vision of desolation that you see in your mind’s eye and it leaves you feeling rather discombobulated. Well, the good news is that pretty soon that feeling of discombobulation will be a thing of the past as we’ll all have plenty of actual, tangible and real stuff to be angry about (which is, as you’ve probably guessed, the bad news). In essence, this is where the actual recession begins for the bulk of the population, with everything up to now being little more than a phoney war. Now, somewhere in the frenzied nightmare that was this episode I could sense that feeling beginning to bubble up. It’s not that people are angry as people (myself included) have been angry from the start of the crash but I got the feeling that the anger is now taking on form and direction and as soon as the real world starts to tally up with that bleak portrait of the future we’ve all been gazing at for the last two and a half years, the coalition will be in trouble. In short, things are about to kick off.

 

Oh, and just before we finish up on the crowd, the Best Name of the Series So Far Award goes to Jodie Shanahan-Prendagast. Stirling work there sir.

 

Tl;dr

 

Mitchell: Natty

6/10

 

Clarke: Fatty

5/10

 

Swinson: Chatty

5/10

 

Greer: Ratty

3/10

 

Hitchins: Batty

6/10

 

The Crowd: Scatty

5/10

 

 

Ok, we’re done. Since I started writing this, the BT man has been so I now have the internet and by rights, I should be beavering away, scouring Google Images for fresh material with which to further distress my victims but you know what? I’m not going to do that. I’ve got 35mb line, a Steam account full of all sorts of chostiness and a fridge full of beer. Nope, tonight I pick up my love affair with online gaming where we left off and to hell with the pshops! This is our time!

 

Next week, Lemmings… Next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #20


Ye Gads!

Morning Lemmings and rejoice! Summer has finally started looking like summer ought to after what seems to be decades, we are still tentatively in the World Cup and Civ 5 is set for release in October. Enjoy that rejoicing? Good, because that’s all the rejoicing you’re going to get to from here to eternity according to our new masters. Remember that state you loved so much? Gone. Kaput. Can’t afford it any more. And that pesky VAT that you didn’t love? Well, it’s now gone meta and is all up in your face, raining on your parade. So kiss goodbye to all you hold dear and beckon forth that last remaining vestige of days gone by. Welcome, once more, to Question Time.

The Menu:

Q1. Is it right to describe the budget as ‘fair’ with the increase in VAT and whatnot?

Q2. If the cuts are ratified, is it the beginning of the end for the LibDems?

Q3. Will we have to work until 70 to protect someone else’s gold plated pension?

Q4. Is Obama’s ego dictating ISAF military policy?

Q5. In a week of cuts, do you think Free Schools are a wise use of funds?

In The Yellow Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and performer of epic U-turns.

The Heresy of St. Vince


And so it was that in the year of our Lord 2007, a great calamity befell the earth and the gold lenders rained hellfire upon the heads of men. Through the fire and smoke emerged a man of great wisdom and humility who said unto the people “Behold! Your market! It is knackered!”. His name (for it is the name of a man) was St. Vince of Cable (seeeth Figeth. 1eth) and although without power, he had the ears of the people.

Figeth. 1eth

“You’re banks. Give them unto me and I will make a heaven on earth!” said St Vince and the people cheered, for it was good.

“You’re taxes. Let me spendeth them on infrastructure and createth jobs!” said He, and this too was good… So good that even Jerramiah of Paxman could not harsheth his buzz.

And lo, it was that he laid out his vision in the Gospel of St Vince and the people cheered for in this Gospel they saw their salvation.

Yet dark forces were at play and in 2010AD he madeth a pact with his sworn enemies, The Toryites of Homecountia. The people, confused by this cruel twist of fate tugged at their forelocks and cried to the skies for they did not know the nature of the Chimera before them. Maddened and harried by Boy George of Osbonia’s Plague of Cuts, they knelt before St. Vince and beseeched him to temper Osbonia’s fury.

“Verily, I hath” said St Vince unto the huddled masses, but convinced they were not.
“I would protecteth you more so, but I have a terror over the plight of the Grecians and the Spaniards” spake St. Vince, but still, the people doubted his word and thusly did they turneth on him and ripeth up their membership scrolls for the Liberals of Democratia.

To be thusly continued…

So that was fun, but within lies a serious point: Does Vince Cable actually believe what he’s saying these days? He’s certainly struggled to look like he’s totally signed up to Osborne’s Brave New World and in recent media appearances, he’s been wearing this slightly guilty/hangdog expression like a puppy who’s just shat in your bed and is aware that this is a very bad thing to do. However, after this episode, I’m not so sure.

Q1 pretty much set the tone of the evening and after a by-the-numbers roughing up from Balls, St. Vince responded with a by-the-numbers defence (‘we are protecting everyone/Labour left everything in a bloody mess’). This earned mild applause, but not half as much as when Balls got very personal about his rather dramatic change of economic heart and forced Cable into a now weary “firestorm running through Southern Europe” defence. Pretty much everyone bundled in after that and in terms of audience response, he very much found himself on the wrong side of the fence. However, he did appear to look quite steadfast in his convictions and I got the sense that he either does genuinely believes this stuff, or that Osborne had a sniper watching him. Much the same followed in Q2 as he gingerly picked his way through the minefield that is Simon Hughes’ recent comments and then unfurled the banner of “national emergency” once more. But again, it failed to find much warmth from the crowd and he seemed to cut a lonely figure (although that Brent guy… more on him later… seemed to have his back). Q3 saw him scolding Balls’ “wilfully misleading answers” quite effectively, but it wasn’t long before he started muddling about and resorting to talk of ‘proposals’ and ‘consultations’ with regards to pensions, none of which was carried off that convincingly. However, there was a reversal of fortunes in Q4 as he cunningly sidestepped the issue by choosing to invoke the “illegal” Iraq war instead of Afghan war and did so with a very gruff looking face. That went down a treat and for a brief moment, he bathed in the fuzzy warmth of audience acclaim. However, it was not to last and he trailed off on Q5 by asking “what’s wrong with pushy middle class parents?” and then looked a little blank when nobody bothered dignifying that with an answer. All in all, a rather fraught affair.

Going back to the original point, is Vince being straight with us when he says he really has had a change of heart? Well, I have to say that I really don’t know. He certainly doesn’t look particularly comfortable in his new role as Bearer Of Shit News, but he seems less knackered and a little more resolute in his delivery than he was a few weeks back. Whether this is a byproduct of a genuine Damascene Conversion, or a fairly impressive turn of ‘needs must’ deception I honestly couldn’t tell you, but considering both outcomes are pretty bad news, I can’t say it fills me with hope. Watch this space for further developments in the Parable of St. Vince.

An unholy 4/10


In The Red Corner: Ed Balls, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Labour leadership contender and electoral hemlock.
Ah Balls, still ploughing relentlessly on, eh? From his previous outings, we’ve already established that he’s pretty rubbish at telling convincing porkies, but now he’s in opposition (and thus might not have to lie with such regularity) has anything changed? In a word, ‘no’ and if this episode is anything to go by, he’s just as clumsy as he ever was, much like a burglar who dresses in black and white stripes, carries a bag that says ‘Swag’ and leaves signed photos of himself along with all his pertinent details at the scene of every crime he commits. Now I don’t mean to say that he’s stupid, as everything he did on the show was pretty much Politics 101 and if I was in his shoes, I’d be pressing the same buttons, but the way in which he does it is just so overt and blatant that it totally lacks finesse.

Take Q1: This pretty much added up to ‘divide and rule’ with a special focus on St. Vince and his new found belief system. This is the angle that any opposition MP worth their salts would take (after all, the Libs are the weak link in the coalition chain), but a more sophisticated operator would have at least indulged in a spot of Damning With Faint Praise. Not Balls, oh no. Instead, he just went for the sledgehammer approach and might as well have just started shouting “YOU’RE GOIN HOME IN FACKING AMBULANCE” at Cable. Q2 wasn’t quite as brutal and he did show some nouse in bringing up the Orange Book divide within the Libs without getting too rabid while Q3 failed to provoke any major scuffles. Later on, there was nearly an outbreak of nuance as he started off quite even handedly on the Afghan issue, but luckily for fans of Schoolyard Politics, he traded any intellectual high ground he might of gained for a grubby little swipe at Liam Fox. Finally, with the end in sight, he got very hot under the collar about Free Schools, called the Libs “stooges” and then completely overreached in his final sentence by calling the scheme “unfair, uncosted and deeply… deeply… erh”. That’s right Ed, you wanted to say ‘unfair’ again, but realised at the last minute that you’d already said it. n00b!!!111!

So yes, that was Balls and it was all pretty standard, given his past form: Thoroughly pugnacious and belligerent. However, I will give him this: He does have remarkable tenacity. Despite being one the most tainted politician in Britain and one who’s associated only with the bad bits of New Labour, he still seems to believe that he can pull it all back and finally get his hands on the leadership. Clearly, this is not going to happen, but I have to admire his either remarkable capacity for absorbing punishment and complete disconnection from reality.

A relentlessly average 5/10

In The Green Corner: Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavillion Leader of the Green Party and elfin soy champion.
So, it’s Caroline Lucas’ Major Label Début! No longer slumming it in the 4th panellist position, she’s now a fully paid up member of the political classes and thusly entitled a stab in Seat #3. Now, I know that I tend to hammer the music analogies rather frequently, but you’ll have to forgive me this time because a) it was just too hard to resist, b) coming up with different analogies every week is bloody hard work and c) I still think my New Labour/Weezer rant is the best damn thing I’ve ever written. Anyhoo, it’s her first time as a proper MP and with that comes risks. Will she be able to hold onto her indie cred and keep things subterranean enough to hold on to her fan base (a la Jawbreaker’s Dear You), or will the demands of mass marketing dilute her sound and lead to accusations of selling out (a la Against Me’s New Wave)?

Well, the first track in her new EP started promisingly enough with fierce attacks on both Labour and the Coalition (plus use of “a plague on both your houses”. I love that phrase) and an attack on the bankers to wrap it off (which is the political equivalent of a key change). A good opener and well received by all. However, as is often the case with new musical directions, tracks 2 through 4 didn’t really hit the spot and sounded distinctly like fillers. There was a bit of an uptick when she got in a fight with Brent Whatshisface, but generally speaking, it was pretty mediocre. Luckily, she had managed to save a little something for the last track, which had a great “it will further segregate the system” chorus, but I have to say that the verse could have been better. Still, not bad for what could have been a very tricky record.

So yes, Caroline did ok and when she did get in her stride, it was easy to get behind her. Next time though, a slightly more consistent record would be nice.

A Less Than Jake of a 6/10

In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Peter Hitchens, Mail columnist and general purpose sourpuss.

Peter Hitchens is a paeleoconservative and I bloody love the word ‘paeleoconservative’. Go on, say it out loud… ‘pay-lee-o-con-serv-ativ’. See how it positively slides off your tongue? That’s some good linguistic shit you’ve right got there. Aside from liking the word, I’ve also got a bit of a softspot for paeleoconservatives and this largely boils down to the fact that you can be completely sure where you are with them. Unlike neoconservatives (or ‘neos’ of any ilk…liberal, fascist, Marxist, whatever. All ‘neos’ tend to be dangerous nutters), paeleoconservatives wear their intentions on their sleeve, see the world in slightly more complex terms and are pretty forthright when it comes to being angry about pretty much everything. In a nutshell, their beliefs can be summed up thusly: If it’s new, it’s probably bad while if it’s old, it’s probably good. That’s somewhat of a simplification, but you get the gist.

So anyway, Hitchens is a paeleoconservative and as a result, he hated everything everybody else stood for and didn’t try to disguise this in anyway, shape or form. Right from the get-go, he laid into all the parties and mourned the fact there wasn’t an “exaggeration contest in the Olympics” because we’d win. Very drole Peter, very drole. Q’s 2 and 3 contained little of note, but he got very irate in Q4, frothing about the fact that neither Monty nor the Duke of Wellington knocked about with the dirty cotton hippies who write for Rolling Stone. Hot on the heels of this was some assorted humbuggery about the war in general, a bizarre little tangent about opium poppies in Oxfordshire and general ‘pull your socks up’ type rantings, all of which was very well received. Finally, he got to bash the “pushy middle class” and big-up grammar schools in Q5 and that was that… everyone got a telling off.

The slightly more tribal part of me always wants to mark Hitchens down, mainly because I rarely agree with a word he says. However, what separates him from the slightly more turgid contributors to The Mail is that he’s not shrill with it. Yes, he’s a grumpy, misanthropic dark cloud who hasn’t got a good thing to say about anything, but there seems to be a fatalistic acceptance in him that this is because people are shit and that you can’t really change them. The important bit in that sentence is the ‘change’ bit, because it means that people like Hitchens tend not to do anything too apocalyptic or completely batshit crazy, unlike their ‘neo’ brethren who are fully signed up to apocalyptic batshit (check out John Gray’s brilliant Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia if this sort of stuff sounds up your street It will twist your mind inside out). He’s also got a pretty good way with words, even if all the words are doom laden harbingers of woe and misery. For that, he gets a decent mark.

A hell in a handcart 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Brent Hoberman, joint founder of lastminute.com and WhoTheFuckExactly.AreYou?

So this is Brent… Brent Hoberman to be precise and you know what? I don’t like him. Let’s start with the obvious: He’s called Brent. In my book, ‘Brent’ equates to one of three things: Some place in Essex, crude oil or geese and since I’m not a particular fan of any of these entities, that’s already a black mark against him. Apparently, Brent warrants a QT appearance because not only did he co-found lastminute.com with Martha Lane Fox (MLF, dontchaknow?), he also advises the Tory party on business type things. Now I know that you can end up in Seat #5 on the ropiest of pretexts, but for the above? Srsly? It’s not like he invented the bloody internet or anything. Finally, I don’t like him because he was rubbish. Pretty much every answer he gave during the show can be summed up as ‘Aren’t the Coalition a wonderful bunch?’ and ‘Isn’t the free market just so chuffing great?’. Fine. We get it. You’re one of these shiny New Tory types who knock about in Notting Hill and wax lyrical about how ‘totally amazing’ Glasto was but come on, get some more opinions man (other than “people love working when they’re older!”)! Enough. I’m getting annoyed just writing about him.

A failed start up of a 2/10

The Crowd: Canary Wharf

Yes! The game’s back on! After a fairly mixed bag of episodes where people were agreeing with each other far too much, the Budget has propelled Question Time back to it’s natural habitat: The dark, satanic jungle that’s red and tooth and claw. As always with the Canary Wharf audience, they were an odd, rootless bunch, but they were also pretty vocal and the weight of opinion seemed to just about fall on the ‘this Budget was unfair’ side of the line. That’s not to say it was all one-way traffic and the Coalition did find some friends in their ranks, but by and large, the mood was largely anti. Audience members of note include a guy with a beard who did some lovely chin stroking, the woman who set Brent straight by pointing out that most people really don’t want to work when they’re old and a goggle eyed Sting lookalike who rightly pointed out how weird it is to see St. Vince tacking to the right of Hitchens. Good show Canary Wharf, good show.

A return to form of a 7/10

Ok. I’m done. I hear it will be sunny this weekend. Enjoy it before it’s subjected to 25% cuts.


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 109 other followers

November 2017
M T W T F S S
« Oct    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

RSS Feed


%d bloggers like this: