Morning Lemmings. A while back I wrote about how I’ve considered doing post Question Time match reports but never got round to it, mainly for reasons involving drunkardness. Well, today I’ve finally bitten the bullet. Welcome to Loudrib’s Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #1. So without further ado, let’s get this party started…
The Line Up.
In the Red Corner: Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
Me and Ben Bradshaw go back a long way. Not in any personal sense, but mainly because he was elected in my neck of the woods (at the time) in the first election I was really paying attention to. And what a heady day that was. I was 17 at the time, had known nothing but Tory governments and like most people, was desparate for a change of government. Ben Bradshaw himself pretty much epitomised the optimism of that period and the halycion days of New Labour. Not only was he relatively young, but he was also rather dashing in his looks, rode about on a quaint looking push bike (very Exeter darling, very Exeter) and was openly gay. Given that the majority of MP’s at that point were either Tory Cads, Tory Bores, Labour Hacks or Generic Greysuits, his being elected (among others) really added to the feeling that things were changing and that we were heading towards a brighter, more ‘can do’ age in politics. Alas, his career after this point has pretty much mirrored New Labours trajectory and as time has gone on, he seems to have morphed into some sort of mini-Blair, both in looks and substance. On the face of it, he should be pretty good at this Question Time lark. He speaks with confidence, isn’t afraid of getting in a scrap and is quick to push home any advantage. However, he carries around the air of a man who has been super-briefed and that doesn’t play with the QT audience. He also has habit of making the cardinal sin of slagging off the BBC on their turf. In some ways, this is to be expected, after all, his is the Secretary of State for Culture and if anyone should be in a position to slag off the Beeb, it’s him. On the flip side though, I don’t think he quite understands the high esteem that the Corporation is held in. I was trying to think a while back about stuff the British public would riot for. The list was surprisingly sparse and all I could come up with in the end was the NHS and the Beeb. For a man who comes from the New Labour school of touchy-feely, ‘don’t stray too far from the mainstream’ politics, this is a massive vulnerabilty and one that’s led to his undoing on previous episodes. So how did he fare this time round? Luckily for him, Auntie was off the off the agenda. However, there were a few sticky wickets to face, namely the Afghan Clusterfuck, cutting the defecite, climate change and the perennial Brokun Britun question. In fairness to him, it was a tough crowd last night who were clearly spoiling for a fight and being the Labour meatpuppet on QT these days is a pretty shitty deal. His answers are pretty much what we’d expect from someone who’s been caught up in the New Labour machine for so long, being largely a mixture of hedged bets, pleas of ‘Come on guys, this is, you know, complicated stuff’ and earnest brow furrowing. However, what let him down is that tinge of spin that seems to coat everyone who was in close contact with Blair. This game is old and the public have no time for it anymore. He also got into a bit of a kerfuffle when trying to pull Douglas Murray on whatever batshit crazy point he was making about climate change and fumbled the ball by going on about how George W. Bush is both stupid and right at the same time. Dimbleby, who clearly stills hasn’t forgotten about his Beeb baiting, jumped all over this and toyed with him for a while like a cat with a cornered mouse. It was a little unfair, but then again if you are stupid enough to take a dump on the coffee table in the Beebs living room, you have to expect them to be less than forgiving.
All-in-all: A ‘meh’ of a performance. 4/10
In the Blue Corner: Lord Lawson of Blaby (seriously, Blaby), Father of Nigella.
When I think of a Tory Chancellor, I think of the Nigel Lawson of Yore. He’s the first Chancellor I have any memories of and he totally looked the part. Fat, opulent and pinstriped, he perfectly fitted the role of Chancellor to the Rich and didn’t look a million miles away from Steve Bell’s fat cats. Alas, time and excessive dieting are a harsh mistress that have rendered this once perfect caricature of The Unacceptable Face Of Capitalism into what appears to be a maudlin panto dame. Satirists the country over must have quietly wept. I also question exactly why the Conservatives put him on the show at this stage in the game as while they’ve done quite a good job of decontaminating the Tory brand per se, no amount of caustic soda, DDT and carbolic acid are going to erase the memories of Thatcher’s more excessive reforms. Lawson is like a living reminder of those days. Having said that, I do quite like it when the Tories wheel out a big beast as it harks back to simpler days when there was a yawning chasm between the two sides in the political spectrum and you knew exactly where everyone stood. This was most apparent in the Afghan question and Lawson quickly reverted to type, invoking tales of the Great Game and getting very Geo-Political about everything (as well as muttering something daft about airstrikes). The fact that the 21st century has rendered the business of Britain blighthly shunting countries around the map from the safety of the Foreign Office obsolete, seems to be entirely lost on him but the nostalgia did have somewhat of an infectious quality. However, whatever limited capital he managed to accrue there was quickly squandered by his claims that the Tories were the shit when it came to his stint at the Treasury. Cue audience grumblings, bitter memories and a mini Poll Tax riot. To top it all off, he also fell into the climate change trap. The Tory party are now claiming to take all of this very, very seriously, but quite clearly the party isn’t convinced and as soon as the question was raised you could see his blood pressure hit the roof whilst collective groans filled the air at the Conservative HQ. Dashing aside any semblance of being ‘on-message’, Lawson threw caution to the wind and dived head first into a rabid denounciation of all things green. He may be completely wrong, but it was fun to witness.
The Assessment: 6/10 for the memories alone.
In the Yellow Corner: Jenny Tonge
OK, I’ll fess up. I have no strong recollections of Jenny Tonge’s past performances on QT (she’s been on twice before) and I don’t really have that much familiarity with her full stop. On the face of it, she’s got the easy deal. Despite their piss poor poll ratings, the Liberals always do pretty well on the show. That’s the beauty of being the third party, in that you usually have plenty of leeway as it’s a very outside chance that you’ll actually have to put your ideas into action. However, now that we’re in election territory, the scrutiny has been cranked up a couple of notches and a lot of the more crowd pleasing points are now tempered with a modicum of reality. As for her performance, well it was a bit skittish. The crowd was largely hostile to politians in general so no-one was getting a free ride on the night. Most of the stuff she came out with made sense and sounded fairly grounded but the crowd weren’t in the mood for sensible. They just wanted a scrap. She also got into an entertaining bout of fisticuffs with Douglas Murray on her meeting with Hamas members a while back, but that seemed to be a private affair that didn’t really capture the imagination of anyone in particular. She also got wrong footed by her support for the Kosovo intervention but not for Iraq war. Again though, this seemed to be an in house brawl between the political factions rather than something that conjured up genuine interest from the assembled rabble. I wish I could say more about her, but at present she’s somewhat of a blindspot in my QT knowledge. Will try harder in future. Promise.
The final verdict: An ambivalent 5/10.
In the Minority/Brainy Corner: Douglas Murray, Director of the Centre For Social Cohesion and full time right wing nut.
By rights, I should hate Douglas Murray. On nearly every issue, we are diametrically opposed and he has the dubious distinction of writing a book called “Neoconservatism: Why We Need It.” as well as endorsing pre-emptive nuclear strikes against states developing WMD’s. The first time I saw him on QT I was absolutely appalled and I recall shouting at the screen a number of times that night. In a nutshell, he’s not my kind of guy. However, he is great to watch, mainly because he doesn’t give a shit and has an absolutely unshakable belief in everything he says. True to form, he came to the show with a clutch of positively mental views and a near psychopathic disregard for anyone else’s viewpoint. Say what you want about his outlook, at least he’s unnervingly honest about it all. So what did he pull out of his bag of crazy this week? Well, on Afghanistan his position can be pretty much summed up as “Kill ‘em all before they kill us” and went as far as to imply that airstriking the crap out of civilians is fine as long as you’re honest about it. On the economy he managed to pick a fight with everyone, including the Tories as he felt that their proposed cuts don’t go far enough. That’s a pretty bold position to take and I imagine that his view of a perfect government is one that you could fit in a garden shed (apart from the folks involved in killing terrorist/civilians…they’d get a palacial residence of their own). He also poo-pooed global warming, poured scorn on Brokun Britun and generally rubbed everyone up the wrong way. Does he hang out anywhere near the vicinity of sanity? No. Is he a hoot to watch? Absolutely.
And the bell tolls for he… A resoundingly unhinged 8/10
In the Funny/I’m Just Like You Corner: Jane Moore, Sun columnist and Loose Woman
Jane Moore has been on Question Time a fair few times, but it does’nt show. Being a Sun columnist, her default position can be summed up as ‘Lowest Common Denominator/Shrill Dog Whistles/Hell-In-A-Handcart” type posturing. By rights, this should have gone down a treat with the Basildon crowd who were thirsty for blood and unimpressed with reason. However, it didn’t turn out that way. She had some early gains with the “paying the Taliban to stop killing us” issue but she came unstuck when advising on how she would save Britain from the impending economic apocalypse we hear so much about. Apparently if we get rid of the British Potato Council it’s all gravy. This was followed by a rash lunge to condemn Britain as the worlds leading hell hole and have a pop at the government for the Eddlington case. That didn’t go down too well and not only did the other panellists take her to task but she also looked in danger of losing what should have been a dream audience for her. Unnerved by the fact that her plan had not survived first contact with the enemy, she then spent the rest of the show trying to dig herself out of the hole which made it look even worse. She ended the show looking shellshocked and ragged around the edges. Not her finest hour.
The sum of all these parts: A woeful 3/10
The Audience: Basildon
Apparently, Basildon is a weathervane constituency that has an uncanny knack of picking the winning party. In that case, colour me shit scared. The paying off the Taliban issue was probably the most frightening as there was absolutely no market for nuance going and the crowd plunged in a headlong race to the bottom, decrying it all as ‘a bladdy disgrace, guv!’. Cuts in public services got a big thumbs up whilst the Brokun Britun fuss veered dangerously towards the ‘it’s the bladdy immigents innit’ angle but managed to just stop shy of it. There was also a women with a weird hybrid Italian/Essex accent that span me out a bit and a very self satisfied “student of law” who seemed to be besotted with Douglas Murray. Each to their own, I guess. What this audience were really missing were pitchforks and burning torches. Maybe next time.
At the final count: A somewhat scary 4/10.
So after all this gum flapping, I’m shocked to announce that against all the odds, Douglas Murray is the undisputed champion of this week’s question time. I find it hard to believe that I arrived at this conclusion, but there you go. I hope in future to keep a running tally of each weeks scores (although this will involve some mastery of the dark art of Excel, something that is above my pay grade right now) so stay tuned and pray I don’t get too drunk next week. If, however, you thought this was a pointless exercise and wish never again to be burdened by such an ordeal, feel free to send me some booze. I like Tyskie. It’s good beer.