Posts Tagged 'Phillip Hammond'

Questionable Time #62


questionable time 62 david dimbleby by sardine tin

Good morning Lemmings and hold on to your hats because something really rather strange occurred on QT last night: There was actually a reasoned and thoughtful debate. Thankfully, this outbreak of high-minded civility was only a brief and temporary blip but I have to admit that it scared me for a second – I mean c’mon, what happens if this becomes a habit? What if future panelists decide that actually listening to each other and soberly weighing up the merits of an issue is the way forward? It would be the end of me and the end of Questionable Time Lemmings, that’s what would happen. Anyway, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here… Back we go to the scene of last night’s crime.

Phillip Hammond is cannier than he looks…

‘Really?’ is what your probably thinking right now. ‘Hammond? That monochrome guy who’s about as exciting as an international summit on the standardisation of photocopier toner? Canny? Have you lost your mind?’ to which I say ‘Yes!’ and then ‘No!’ when I realise that I’ve inadvertently admitted to losing my mind. Anyway, to get to the heart of this rash claim we need a little context and in this case it’s pretty clear – whoever the Blue Team put up last night was going to have a tough time explaining away their latest bout of Europe inspired collective self-harming, especially when their chosen representative has been playing a little fast and loose with the party line of late. Now, the standard Tory approach to situations like this usually involve a certain measure of defiant chest-beating and some good honest mouth foaming but Hammond just isn’t cut out for that sort of thing and played a different game instead: He paper-shuffled his way out.

It’s a pretty simple tactic really – when faced with awkward questions that have no easy answers simply respond like you were delivering the results of an office stationary audit and people will soon forget what you’re talking about. Given that I really don’t have a clue what he said about the Tory’s Euro woes last night, it’s fair to say that this approach worked marvellously and while it was by no means a victory (particularly when accused of being ‘powerless’ by an audience member), it certainly stopped matters becoming any worse for the Blue Team.

And what of the rest of his performance? Well, the gay marriage question didn’t work out too well for him (particularly when ambushed by Bryant) but again, just the unseasoned blandness of his delivery stopped him coming across as an out-and-out bigot and more like a man in a huff with a world that keeps changing without his permission. It’s also worth pointing out that his take on the Syria question (that it’s a very messy and complicated thing that we really need to think about) was music to my ears after a decade of overly bellicose Defence Secretaries and really deserved a clap. But that’s the downside of paper-shuffling: It may well shield you from harm, but it does little good in earning you credit.

Right, that’s him done. Enjoy this visual explanation of why Phillip Hammond is the least Defence Sec looking Defence Sec of all time (see Fig. 1).

defence-secretaries-looking-hard-gif

Fig.1

Bryant played a blinder…

It’s rare that I give out no-strings praise but this is one of those moments as Bryant finally found his balance last night. That opening broadside on reasons to stay in Europe? Great. Really well put and impassioned but without that missionary zeal that can sometimes make him look a little unhinged. Similarly on Syria: Here he blended justified outrage with hard-headed realism and got it just right.

However, his real triumph was on the gay marriage question and it’s here we encountered that Rare Moment of Genuine Debate that I mentioned earlier. It came in the wake of his pre-emptive strike on Hammond and involved a member of the audience who had genuine reservations about the proposed legislation. Now, this is one of those situations where Bryant can overplay his hand and really go to town on people but this time he didn’t – instead he actually listened to the man and treated his concerns with respect and dignity. The audience member – to his eternal credit – reciprocated in kind and what we were left with was a genuine We Can Work This Out moment that left me feeling embarrassingly optimistic. Factor into that the way he looked genuinely comfortable in his own skin (plus the nice little anecdotes about his time in the clergy) and we have a clear winner on our hands.

Now get out of here Chris, before I start welling up and looking like a cotton-picking hippy.

Let the right Charlie in…

I like Good Charlie. He’s the ex-Lib Dem leader who’s essentially given up on top-level politics and is happy to mooch about as an avuncular/jovial talking head. I like Good Charlie because I get the sense that Charlie likes Good Charlie and that makes hanging out with Good Charlie feel like a glass of warm milk and a good thumb suck. I don’t – on the other hand – like Bad Charlie. He’s the ex-Lib Dem leader who’s pissed off that he’s no longer playing top-level politics and is resigned to skulk about as a disinterested/embittered talking head. I don’t like Bad Charlie because I get the sense that Charlie doesn’t like Bad Charlie and that makes hanging out with Bad Charlie feel like a can of lukewarm Skol and a good eye poke.

Luckily we got Good Charlie last night.

Gillian Tett didn’t let me down…

There are two books that are worth reading about the Global Financial Crisis. One is John Lanchester’s Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay a wonderfully entertaining, ‘Explain Like I’m 5’ take on economics while the other is Gillian Tett’s Fool’s Golda masterful piece of forensic inquiry that really gets to the heart of how things got so badly buggered up. Anyway, I bring this up because if you liked Tett’s approach on QT last night – a picture of clarity and concision on the things she knows about whilst appropriately glib on those that concern her less – then you’ll get on well with the book. Furthermore, she’s also an anthropologist which are hands down my favourite sort of ologists. Take that, dendrochronologists!

Do you like bread? And circuses?

Because if you do, you’ll just love Peter Bazelgette, former head of Endemol and Emperor of the Lowest Common Denominator. Now, part of me really wants to give him a hard time as he was totally and utterly shameless in going for the low hanging fruit last night (‘Do you guys love breathing? Then I love breathing!’) but I’m going to let him off because a) this episode has got me weirdly loved-up and b) he’s very good at what he does and I love breathing too.

Tl;dr

Hammond: 5/10

(Cunningly) Bland

Bryant: 8/10

(Did a) Grand (job)

Kennedy: 6/10

(Looks pleased that he’s in) Demand

Tett: 7/10

(Had it all in) Hand

Bazelgette: 6/10

Rammed (us full of hopey-changey stuff)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Favour the use of the South African) Rand (should the Pound ever fail)

Whoa whoa whoa! Two ‘8’s and nothing below a ‘5’? Damn you Ipswich and your mellow vibes! Hmm… I’d better rectify this situation by playing Tropico 4 and engineering the most brutal and repressive of dictatorships possible… That’ll help me get my ire back. Anyway, that’s all for this week and it’ll be a fortnight until the next Questionable Time. My excuse this time round is that I don’t do the Northern Ireland episodes because I have no idea what’s going on and would most likely make a pig’s ear of them. Considering how much fun it was getting shouted at by angry Scottish Nationalists when I said that I didn’t really care/know a great deal about Scottish politics, it’s an excuse I’m sticking to. In the meantime, feel free to enjoy this little gem of vintage QT parody, brought to my attention by the esteemed @connordiver.

In a fortnight Lemmings, in a fortnight…

Questionable Time #17


questionable time 17 david dimbleby alan partridge

Good morning Lemmings and – assuming you haven’t all frozen to death – welcome back for what was quite the humdinger of a Question Time last night. Now, there are plenty of reasons as to why this was an especially zesty show but lets start with the obvious: The highly engaging spectacle of two very capable yet somewhat compromised panelists taking a big stick and applying it to the chops of the Daily Mail. I am of course talking about Dark Master of the News Cycle Alistair Campbell and the knowingly imperfect Steve Coogan. The beauty of this coupling lies not only in the fact that both men are masters of the invective who have every reason to despise the Mail but also because they themselves are in absolutely no way paragons of virtue who can claim that their integrity is beyond reproach.

Let’s start with Campbell: Now, here’s a man whose one goal while in power was to bend the media to his will and largely succeeded in doing so by dint of being the physical embodiment of terror itself. Seriously, every time I look at Campbell I think of that scene in Apocalypse Now when Willard gets on the boat for the first time and the Chief, alarmed by this turn of events, clocks him in an instant:

My orders say I’m not supposed to know where I’m taking this boat, so I don’t! But one look at you, and I know it’s gonna be hot.”

Yup, that’s Campbell all over: A man who’s been fighting a dirty, nasty and vicious war for so long that he’s actually become the war itself. A man who knows where the bodies are buried because he buried them there. In short, he’s no angel when it comes to media ethics.

Coogan by contrast is less straight forward and harder to peg down. Anyone who is a fan of his work (and I am) can’t help but feel a certain affection for him but he doesn’t always make it easy for us to like him – the whole Courtney Love thing being the example that sticks out in my mind. This always leaves me feeling slightly bemused when I see him as I really can’t fathom out as to whether he’s just a misunderstood soul who’s been given a raw deal in the press or whether he genuinely is a bit of a dickhead (a debate made no easier by the excellent yet frighteningly post-modern The Trip… My jury is still out).

Still, what cannot be doubted is that both of theses guys know how to handle themselves in a debate and were positively relishing the chance to stick the boot in to the Mail. Now, had the person fighting the corner for Britain’s Premier Hate Rag been the likes of Melanie Phillips, Jeremy Clarkson or Richard Littlejohn then this would have been a massacre: All these guys take is a cursory winding up and boom! Here comes the crazy! However, none of the above were present last night and instead we got QT veteran Ann Leslie. This turned out to be a very canny pick for the following reasons:

  1. She’s actually a proper journalists rather than a lurching tangle of jerking knees.
  2. She is tough as old boots.
  3. I never know whether she’s drunk or not.

All of the above conspire to make her a much harder target than some of her flightier colleagues and the result was a show full of crowd pleasing set pieces from Coogan and entertaining spats between Campbell and Leslie – both of whom clearly despised each other. In terms of who won, well lets just say that the Daily Mail doesn’t seem to be the periodical of choice for this particular crowd but Leslie does deserve some credit for looking like she couldn’t give a toss either way. I suspect that gin may have played a part in this.

The other big news on last night’s show was how well Philip Hammond did given that he was surrounded by some pretty big beasts. I say this because Hammond isn’t exactly the most charismatic of politicians and I reckoned it likely that Alistair Campbell was going to blow his head off using some satanic powers he acquired in trade for his soul (see Fig. 1). As it happens, Hammond managed to hold his own rather well and came out relatively unscathed in what should have been a fairly torrid week for the Blue Team. Ok, so he wasn’t exactly thrilling to watch and his attempts at humour were a little on the crap side but considering the amount of trouble he could have got into on the NHS question I think he did all right. However, the thing that really wins him points for me is his role in what has become a rather rare thing in QT: A Spontaneous Outburst of Collective Agreement. This occurred on the Syria question and Hammond won his spurs by doing something I’ve not seen from a Defence Secretary for years: He admitted that there really isn’t a whole lot we can do about Syria. Having spent the last decade listening to Defence Secretaries telling us that we can bomb this or shock ‘n’ awe that I was really pleased to hear the opposite sentiment for once. If that wasn’t enough to give me a warm fuzzy glow then imagine my surprise when the entire panel echoed that sentiment including Alistair Campbell, chief cheerleader of the Iraq calamity. I nearly fell off the sofa.

phillip-hammond-alistair-campbell-skulled

Fig. 1

So yes, Philip Hammond is still an unremittingly dull man who’s going to look terrible in body armour (I can’t wait for his first ‘In Theatre’ photo-op) but he seems pretty level-headed and that will do for me right now. And as for Shirley Williams? Well same-old, same-old really: The human personification of some of the 20th Century’s better ideas wrapped in the language of the Crimean War (it’s all “holding the line”, “powder kegs” and other such ironclad pronouncements). It also seems like she’s caused something of a sartorial stir with women of a certain age as I got a fair few search queries along the lines of ‘where did Shirley Williams get that jacket from?’ last night. Apologies to all those who were bitterly disappointed when they ended up here. I can photoshop the crap out public figures but fashion procurement is not this blog’s strong point.

Tl;dr

Hammond: Did well

7/10

Campbell: Gave ’em hell

7/10

Williams: Excel(led)

7/10

Coogan: “Ruddy hell, it’s Soft Cell!”

7/10

Leslie: Was a bit of a bombshell

7/10

The Crowd: Were perfectly acceptable clientele

7/10

Well would you look at that? Sevens all round. That’s it from me this week as I’m off to mentally steel myself for the prospect of the Ken Clarke/Prezzer face-off next week. You know when male Elephant Seals fight over a mate? Yeah, it’s going to be like that.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #28


Morning Lemmings and praise be: I finally feel better. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for my telly which has been afflicted by a nasty SCART (the most hateful connector ever devised by evil scientists) related disorder and consequently, everything I watch is now washed in an eery green hue, as if I’m peering through the sides of a dirty fishtank (I’ve rejigged this week’s title picture to try to convey just how unsettling this effect is). SCART related prattle aside, this week’s Question Time is somewhat of a biggy, what with all the Comprehensive Spending Review business going on and considering it was taking place in Middlesbrough (which I will from here on in refer to as MBro as I don’t like typing ‘Middlesbrough’… It makes me say ‘Middlesbruff’ in my head and that just sounds silly), I was expecting fireworks. Was this the case? Well, let’s just see.

The Menu

Q1: How can the government talk of fairness with cuts that’ll devastate the poor, the unemployed and the disabled?

Q2: Will the cuts push Mbro over the edge?

Q3: Britain used to rule the waves. Why are we now dependent on our NATO allies?

Q4: How come the banks are getting away with it when everyone else suffers?
In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Phillip Hammond, Secretary of State for Transport and multimillionaire.
Man, does Phillip Hammond look washed out. Seriously, I feel about 60 years old every time I look at him, what with that grey suit, that dishwater tint that hangs on him and those sad-looking, downward slanting eyelids. Not only that, but the way he presents himself is equally as soul sapping as he appears to be running a pretty hefty charisma deficit and seems to approach politics in a rather mundane, by-the-numbers sort of way. Obviously, there must be something going for Hammond as he’s managed to climb pretty high up the ranks of the Conservative party and has amassed quite the private fortune along the way. But whatever ‘that’ is, it’s a mystery to me and I was quite surprised to see him on tonight, given that there was a fair chance it could turn into a bloodbath. Then I thought about the alternatives: Lansley? His department’s had some good news which would give him a veneer of protection, but that timeshare spiv look that he’s got is too much of a liability given the circumstances. Gove? Again, good news for his department, but he’s a true believer and true believers can sound quite mad, which isn’t exactly great at a time like this. IDS? He’s a pretty good performer these days, but circumstances rule him out, what with benefits taking such a big hit. May? Nah, she’s a QT liability and 20% cuts to the police force are hardly going to endear her to the public. And Clarke? Ha! Not a chance! He’s way too capable of independent thought. So with all that in mind, maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to send Hammond on. After all, at least his department had some good news and while he’s hardly going to inspire the general public and put a song in their hearts, at least he’s dull enough to not cock anything up too majorly. So yes, I’m chalking him up as a counter intuitive canny pick.

Performance wise though, it was a really odd bag and one that can be largely summed as ‘Blame Labour’. Now, no one in their right mind would contest the fact that Labour did some pretty piss poor things in their time and it’s part of the game that any new government blames those that went before them. However, when it becomes the cornerstone of your narrative it starts to lose potency and very rapidly at that. This was clearly the case last night as every question Hammond answered on the night was loaded with huge quantities of ‘Blame Labour’ and at first, it worked, garnering some reasonable applause in the early stages. However, by Q2 it had started to sound like a mantra and there was even an outburst of booing when he wheeled it out again in Q3, making him look like a bit of a prat along the way. That said, he did have a few other tricks up his sleeve, notably his hammering of the ‘Fairness’ line in Q1 (describing the cuts as “the opposite of wicked”), but again, this didn’t hit the mark and felt much more like a regurgitation of spoon fed platitudes than any sort of heartfelt plea for understanding. Later attempts to highlight the positives of the North East’s economy in Q2 ended with mixed results as he got some crowdlove for mentioning Nissan, but this gain was later reversed when he said that Sunderland was growing strongly and everyone laughed at him (something which also happened in Q4 when he said in his ‘cross’ voice that the government were going to force the banks to sign the code of conduct). However, the real kicker for the night was when an enterprising member of the audience bought up the small subject of the Dispatches report that said he’d been a bit cheeky with his tax arrangements. Dismissing this as “unfounded inuendo”, he was then forced by Dimbers to admit that he had transferred shares to his wife. Jeering ensued and his dignity was the first casualty of the night.

Now, on paper, that looks terrible, but I have to admit that it could have been much, much worse. Yes, there was nothing to really commend his performance, but he did stick in there and there was some support for the Tory viewpoint, despite the fact that they’ve just announced cuts that sound even worse than the ones that originally gutted the North East in the first place. So, although I’m giving him a fairly crap mark for being generally nondescript and lacklustre, I’m also going to chuck one more on purely for the fact that anyone clapped him at all. Given the circumstance, that has to be worth something.

A dingy 4/10

In The Red Corner: John Denham, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Iraq War resigner of note.
Whilst I was doing my prefunctory google of tonight’s panelists, it occurred to me that John Denham is something of a conundrum. On the one hand, he’s been about for ages, sitting in government (and heading up some pretty hefty departments) since 1997 and he’s also been a regular face on our TV’s. Yet for the life of me, I can’t remember a single thing that he has said or done and I even needed reminding about his resignation over the war (which is the sort of thing I would remember). So what’s going on here? Is he a forgettable person? Well no, not really. He speaks well, looks comfortable in his own skin and smiles rather a lot, although not in a disingenuous sort of way. Does he have a history of buggering things up? Not really. Sure, he was a member of a government that ended up being wildly unpopular, but his credentials are pretty clean, doubly so as he at least he had the gumption to resign over the Iraq. So what is it? Well, it might just be that he’s a congenital klutz. It’s not his fault, it’s just that whatever he does and no matter how hard he tries, it just ends up not working quite as expected.

This tendency was apparent right from the start last as he attempted quiet a deft little maneuver in Q1. Faced with Hammond’s ‘Blame Labour’ line of attack, he didn’t go straight for denial and tried to reframe the argument around the fact that things would be an awful lot worse if Labour hadn’t borrowed money. The execution seemed fine, but somehow a sneaky little line from Hammond about Labour borrowing before the crisis derailed it and he was suddenly on the defensive again, flailing about quite badly until he managed to cobble together a half-hearted stab about growth being downgraded. That seemed to knock his confidence and he then took a backseat for most of the show, although he did land a good Forgemasters related punch in Q2 and also came across as quite genuine in Q4 when he admitted Labour hadn’t exactly been angels.

In many ways, Denham represents the flip side to Hammond’s performance in that he should have done really quite well tonight, but only just about managed to hold it together. Like last week’s Red Team outing, some of this is down to Labour not really knowing where they are right now, but I also can’t help thinking that Denham is in some way cursed. In theory, he’s got all the attributes that were required to make last night an easy win, but yet he didn’t and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. Highly puzzling.

A strangely lacking 5/10
In The Green Corner: Caroline Lucas MP, leader of the Green party and Link (of Zelda fame) lookalike (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Poor old Caroline. The Greens have spent an eternity trying to get someone into parliament and were no doubt hoping to play on their novelty value to advance their agenda as best they could. Unfortunately for them though, they didn’t reckon on a coalition government sending the novelty ratings into outer space and as a consequence, the Greens are now even more of a sideshow than they were in the first place. Bad luck there Caroline, bad luck. However, she did get to cash in some of her hard-earned democratically elected chips tonight as the LibDems are nowhere to be seen. Whether this was by their design, I do not know, but they must be breathing a collective sigh of relief as I can hardly envisage an eager queue of yellow tied volunteers, champing at the bit to be bollocked by the general public.

Anyhoo, back to Lucas. As always, it was a very straight forward but largely good performance that I’m not going to dwell on too much as she’s already had plenty said of her in previous Match Reports. By and large, it was pretty textbook ‘to the left of [insert party here]’ stuff that was well received and harvested much applause. The one thing I did notice that was slightly different from usual was that she was really going at a rate of knots last night, reeling off huge lists of the potential harm in the cuts and even going so fast that her voice got squeaky at one point. Still, it was fairly assured sounding stuff and out of all the party political opponents, she clearly won. So good marks for you Caroline and I’ll see you the next time the LibDems can’t be bothered/aren’t allowed to show up.

The standard 6/10
In The Khaki Corner: General Sir Richard Dannatt, former Chief of the General Staff and meddlesome soldier.
I think it’s fair to say that as a breed, generals are pretty odd. Some of this I put down the fact that they spend most of their time devising ways to kill people, whilst the rest is probably due to having to spend your life in fancy dress, hardly something that promotes sanity. But yes, in the main they are an odd bunch. However, there is an even odder breed and those are political generals. Some countries absolutely beam off them, like America for example. They’ve had their Washingtons, their Grants, Eisenhowers and may someday have a Petraeus, but on the whole, we’ve spurned them as being simply too odd and even a little bit dangerous. Dannatt however, appears not to have received the memo stating these facts and last year, he made all sorts of noises about becoming a Tory advisor (with an eye towards a peerage and a seat in the cabinet) only to discover that Brown was going to everything in his power to stop this. And stop it he did, but Dannatt, although somewhat out on a limb, is still about and is pretty much the go-to guy for the media should they ever wish to indulge in some defence related mudraking… or Question Time appearances just after the Strategic Defence Review.

In actual fact, Dannatt turned out to be a bit of a damp squib, fudging his response to Q3 into an exercise in fence-sitting, whilst his response to all the other questions seemed well-meaning, but with a hint of unspoken paternalism that stopped people from getting behind him. And that’s the problem with political generals: They only really get anywhere if they win something big. As it stands, we’re as about as far away from a ‘win’ in Afghanistan as we ever were and trying to paint Iraq as any sort of victory is just self evidently wrong, so I’m afraid your out of luck on that front, General Sir Richard Dannett. I’d stick to the fancy dress and killing people if I was you.

A very middling 5/10

In The Brainy/Independent Corner: Polly Toynbee, Head Girl of the left leaning commentariat and bete noir of the right leaning commentariat.
Oh Polly, Polly, Polly… Back in 2007, everything was looking so good for you. Blair (who you warned us was up to no good) finally got the boot, your man Brown (who you told us was up to some very good things) got in and we could all look towards a gilded future of flying cars and Post Neo Classical Endogenous Growth Theory. Unfortunately, things started going very sideways, very quickly after that as it turned out that Brown wasn’t quite the political whizz you made him out to be and before long, you too were calling for his head on a plate. The unfortunate effect of this was that all that credibility you built up over the years started to ebb and it wasn’t long before you yourself were considered to be politically damaged goods. Sure, you never really had any fans on the right but after ‘Brown FTW!/Brown Sucks!’ saga, the left also began to turn on you and things started looking a little dicey.

Actually, I think that this turn of events is a bit of a shame as I do have time for Toynbee. She does genuinely care about fairness and while she’s been sort of bracketed as the left’s version of Melanie Phillips (albeit with a little more going on upstairs), I don’t think that’s entirely justified, as was in evidence last night. Take Q1: Here, she tried to get the point across that these cuts will be very damaging for Mbro but got ambushed by Dimbers asking whether it was Labours fault. When she said that this “wasn’t entirely true” the crowd turned on her and she started looking rattled, aware that she is seen as a cheerleader for the party and that this is not a good thing. This is where she’s different from the big name right-wing commentators because they would have ploughed on regardless, oblivious to the notion that they could be wrong. Toynbee sort of attempted that, but you could see doubt and hesitation in her, as if she knew and was bothered by the fact that people didn’t believe her. Would this happen to Phillips? Fuck no! Phillips would have barely broken a sweat and would be right back at the audience, shouting at them until they were too shell-shocked to offer any resistance and would then move on to call for someone (probably in the public sector) to be tarred and feathered. Toynbee though, is more vulnerable than that.

That’s not to say that she didn’t have good moments and points were made that the crowd liked, but when they were they took a long time to get going and any moves in the right direction always appeared slightly fraught and wobbly. As I said before, I think this is shame because there’s a lot to like in Toynbee’s views and I think she does what she does for the right reasons. But something is just not quite right with her at the moment. I don’t know if it’s that she feels genuinely haunted by her relationship with New Labour or that she’s just sick of always getting it in the neck, but yes, it’s an odd thing to witness. Then again, she has probably been exposed to quite toxic levels of Peter Mandelson back in the day and that really can’t be good for you.

A troubled 5/10
In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: George Pascoe Watson: Former Murdoch man and ex of Kate Burley.
I don’t know much about Pascoe-Watson except for the fact that it’s nearly impossible to say his name without sounding really posh. Try it: “Hellooooooooo…. my name is George Pascooooooooooe-Watson”. See? Posh. You can, if you try quite hard and throw in a few words here and there, jiggle it over to an almost Westcountry type lilt (“A’right moi luver, George Pasco-Whaaaatson ‘ere!”) but it’s a bit of a stretch and there’s far more mileage to be had in ridiculing the rich. Anyhoo, George Pascoe-Watson. I don’t really know much about the guy except that he used to be political editor of The Sun and seems to hold News International approved views on most things in life. Consequently, most answers were along the lines of ‘private good/public bad ‘ and ‘stuff that could potentially hurt sun readers is bad’, but he did manage to sneak a little fib into Q1 by saying that our national debt was just basically paying foreigners (when actually 80% of it is held by British people and institutions). In terms of audience response, he did OK, getting a fair old portion of the crowd behind him, but you know what? I just got the feeling that I didn’t like him that much. In my mind’s eye, I can see us sitting next to each other on a plane, heavily engaged in an undeclared but very real battle for the armrest. Neither of us would back down, nor we utter a single word. Instead, we’d just sit there, quietly fuming under a tidal wave of rage that was building in us both. For 23 hours. We’re flying to Australia for some reason. I’ll shut up now.

A forgettable 5/10

The Crowd: MBro

As expected, this was a lively episode, but not for the reasons I had anticipated. I was pretty sure that given it’s location and scale of the cuts, there would have been a very heavy anti coalition feeling in the air. However, it wasn’t that clear-cut and if I had to sum up this episode in a word, it would be ‘messy’. Yes, arguments from the left did seem to go down a better than the ones from the right, but not by the margin I had predicted and no one got a free ride on the night. There was also a sense that Labour have an uphill battle in getting people to forgive the mistakes of the last 13 years and that the Tories are succeeding in framing the debate around Labour’s ‘deficit denial’ (a clever bit of politics and one that Ed Miliband really needs an effective counter to). However, the coalition also have a big problem with the plan for growth and if this episode was anything to go by, people are less than convinced that private sector is going to ride to the rescue and rather frightened by the seeming absence of a Plan B.

As for the crowd themselves, they were very vocal and there was some genuine anger in the room, especially from some guy with a side parting who looked like he’d spent the last 24 hours winding himself up so that he could be super angry on the show. Audience Member of the Week however, goes to the gentleman with the bow tie. I haven’t got a clue what he said as I was too busy writing down ‘OMG! GUY WITH BOW TIE!!!!!!!’ but he was a welcome addition to the show and I hope very much that others will emulate this look on future episodes. I like seeing guys with bow ties. I always think they’re either going to perform a magic trick, cure cancer or bring me something really nice to eat, all of which I approve of. More of this, plz.

A fractious 7/10

Ok, that’s you’re lot. Please feel free to get back to fearing for your jobs. Good times!


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