Posts Tagged 'Polly Toynbee'

Questionable Time #58


questionable time 58 david dimbleby margaret thatcher

Good morning Lemmings and welcome back from an Easter break that looked suspiciously like a rebranding of ‘Winter’. Given this grim state of affairs you’d be forgiven for assuming that Question Time would be half-heartedly dragging its way out of hibernation for another round of Yah-Boo-Sucksery but in fact, the opposite seems to have occurred and what we got last night was probably one of the best QT’s I’ve seen in a good long while. Say what you will about the late-PM, even in death she still has the capacity to wind up the citizens of this nation like no-one else. Alright, let’s get cracking.

Well… Someone’s firing on all four cylinders again…

Watching Ken Clarke over the last few years has been an unsettling experience and one that often felt like an exercise in concussion management. Let’s start with the initial blow to the head – the failure of the Tories to secure a majority and the formation of the coalition. For a man who was used to striding around a highly polarised political landscape with the weight of certainty behind him this must have come as a bit of a shock but credit where credit’s due, he weathered it well and showed few outward signs of lasting damage. However – as is often the case with head injuries – the symptoms of such a trauma were simply masked by the excitement of the initial incident and as time went on, I started to become increasingly concerned: Sidelined and stymied, the old boy seemed to be zoning out and if there was one thing that the doctors at A&E were emphatic about it was ‘Don’t let Ken nod off otherwise he may never wake up again!’.

Yet it seems that my worries were misplaced as the Ken we got last night was a million miles away from the vision of resigned defeat that we’ve seen of late. Suddenly taken out of the present and transported back to a time when he actually had shots to call the former Chancellor looked like a different man and one that I’ve still very much got a soft spot for. Lets start with his physical symptoms: Those heavy eyelids, those sloped shoulders and stifled yawns that had so long kept my fingers hovering over the number for NHS Direct had gone, replaced now by wide eyes, jutting jaw and animated limbs. As for his mental health, well that appeared to have been similarly transformed and where we once saw a man who knew he was on his way out, now stood a vision of boisterous vim.

Naturally, this return to form was of course accompanied by the re-emergence of old pathologies such as his endearingly crap attempts to bluster his way out of tight spots by talkingveryveryfast and ber-ber-ber-blurting things out (I’ve always loved the way his face visibly reddens with each ‘ber’) but in many ways this is a good thing: It’s proof of life, an affirmation that there’s still some fire in him and I for one have missed that. Whether he can keep this new-found vigour is a very different matter (I suspect that in a few weeks he’ll revert to his slow decline) but for the time being I’m just happy to see the return of someone who while far from perfect, did at least make politics a genuinely interesting place to be.

And it wasn’t just Ken…

Poor Polly. She really does have a thankless job, even if it’s one of her own making. In a nutshell, Toynbee’s place in the scheme of things is to try and alert us to the boring stuff that no-one really wants to know about but ultimately has a huge bearing on life – the mundane looking yet hugely consequential sub-clause, the penny on this, the percentage off that, these are the thing she has to make sense of and for the most part, she does it very well. The problem is that a life spent poring through the mundane in search of the malicious is a wearying business and quite often it can make her look a little – well – miserable. With this in mind, it came as a rather nice surprise to see her really fired up and making damn sure that the Tories rather starry-eyed version of the Maggie Narrative didn’t go unchallenged whilst also being the only member of the panel to try and root the discussion in the context of the future. So fair play Polly, for once it’s nice to see that frown turned upside down – or at least slightly modified with the Liquify Tool (see Fig. 1)

polly-toynbee-thatcher-gif

Fig. 1

In a similar vein, Ming Campbell – another long-tooth in danger of losing his purpose – also appeared reinvigorated and made himself a nice little niche as The Level Headed One who wasn’t afraid to ruffle a few Yellow Team feathers with his willingness to raise the vexing matter of ‘if she was so bad, why did we keep voting for her?’. The bollocking he gave Charles Moore at the back-end of the show was also rather good fun and wholly judicious to boot.

All three of the above – Ken, Polly and Ming – did well last night because they were finally back on ground they understood, a terrain composed of opposing ideas rather than the swamp of platitudes and managerialism that we’ve spent the last decade or so wallowing in. You saw it in the crowd as well: Not once did we hear the weekly refrain of They’re All As Bad As Each Other. Instead, there was a sense of people knowing which side they were on and making damn sure that their side clapped louder than the other. Seeing how it jazzed up the show so much, I propose that we start offing ex-PM’s at regular intervals, just to keep the mood alive.

What of the other two?

Yeah, not so great. In Blunkett’s case it all goes back to his metamorphosis from Rough Hewn Man of the People to New Labour Uber-Bastard who managed to assimilate all the wrong lessons from both the Old Labour and Thatcher years. It just makes him look compromised beyond credibility as illustrated by his inability to face up to quite how Thatcherite New Labour became, not to mention a rather scary moment when he looked like he was about to end up in deep trouble with feminists. He pulled it back, but is was touch and go.

As for Moore, well he’s an entirely different kettle of fish and quite a mad one at that. Some of this is forgivable – after all, he’s a very sympathetic biographer of Thatcher who’s had to spend every last second of the past week eulogising his idol. Sooner or later, that’s going to skew your sense of reality and towards the end of the show the wheels really started to come off. It started with an alarmist rant about a BBC conspiracy to send Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead to the top of the charts and ended with a truly weird spiel about how she couldn’t be the Wicked Witch of the East as she single-handedly defeated communism. I bet this sort of thing doesn’t happen to John Major’s biographer.

Anything else?

Yes! Special mention to the man who referred to himself as ‘one’ at least three times in the same sentence and then claimed he wasn’t a Tory, the gentleman with the thick German accent who kept his arm raised at a historically provocative angle throughout his answer and the lad who looked like the long-lost twin of That Guy From The Inbetweeners (see Fig. 2). Well done all of you.

inbetweeners question time

Fig. 2

Tl;dr

Clarke: 7.5/10

(Had a) Spring (in his step)

Blunkett: 5/10

(Is the) King (of nothing)

Campbell: 7/10

(Is often referred to as) ‘Ming’

Toynbee: 7/10

(Did her bit for the left) Wing

Moore: 5/10

Cling(s to Thatcher’s memory in an unhealthy sort of way)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Are all avid fans of) Sting?

Well, that was exciting wasn’t it? In all seriousness I found this episode fascinating because while I was never a fan of Thatcher, I do miss the sense that at least people knew what they believed in when she was at large.

Now, before I disappear, a little bit of housekeeping. The Indy and I have gone our separate ways so from now on this will be the only place to get Questionable Time. It is also likely to lead to the following:

Tardier deadlines!

Longerness!

Increasingly absurd photoshops!

More oblique references to mid-90’s Southern Californian punk acts!

A body clock that doesn’t hate me!

Oh you lucky things!

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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Questionable Time #26


questionable time 26 david dimbleby wonderbra

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to a somewhat more straight-forward instalment of Questionable Time than last week’s rather narcissistic little jaunt. Yes that’s right, I’m back in the cheap seats and in some ways I’m glad: Thrilling as last week was I’m just not sure that I was built to sustain the levels of excitement/terror that come with being a part of the audience. Anyway, here we are and there’s a lot to get through so let’s crack on. Here’s what we learned:

The news is back and this time it means business.

One of my biggest beefs with being in the audience of Question Time last week was that it occurred on a week when pretty much nothing of any import happened and the news appeared to have beached itself on the Sandbank of Uneventfuness. Sure, there was the whole Abu Qatada vs. the Gregorian Calendar affair and the preliminary stages of the Omnishambles, but lets face it, a couple of soggy sky rockets does not a fireworks display make. This week however stands apart from its immediate ancestor in that wherever you turn something spectacular is happening and from whatever angle you view it one can only conclude that all of these spectacular things are spectacularly bad for the coalition government, particularly the Tories. Here’s the jist of it:

      1. The economy has basically given up and called it a day.
      2. The Murdoch clan have put on their own production of Gotterdammerung and invited the entire world to attend.
      3. Having a name that lends itself to accidental profanities is now the least of the Culture Secretary’s worries.
      4. Nadine Dories.

Clearly this wasn’t going to be a week laden with promise for the Blue Team but as is the way of the world, someone was going to have to cop for it. And just who would that lucky soul be? Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together for Minister of State at the Department of Work and Pensions, the Rt Honourable Chris Grayling MP! Whoop-whoop!

Now I actually think that Grayling did quite well last night and the reason he did quite well was that he was totally unremarkable: No heroics, no soaring oratory, no impassioned call to arms, just plain old ‘unremarkable’ and in my book that’s quite alright. Why? Well because despite outward appearances the very last thing you need in a situation like this is a hero. Heroes are great when you need that last bit of umph to really carry the fight to your enemies or to stage a decisive counter attack but they are not cut out for situations where there is simply no prospect of a win’ No, what you need at times like that is someone who can simply endure, hack off a pound of their own flesh and present it to the assembled mob with silent ambivalence. Granted, there’s not much glory to be had in being a human punch bag and Grayling did end up resembling a washing-up sponge that’s seen better days but at least he left things in a state that wasn’t that much worse than they were an hour before. In the grand scheme of things I’d be happy with that outcome.

The other person who had the most to lose last night was Simon Hughes and I must say that I wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of him being on. It’s not that I don’t like the man (in fact I’d go so far as to say that I have somewhat of a soft spot for him) it’s just that there’s only so much lip-biting, hand-wringing and self-flagellation I can witness before I start feeling sad. And that’s what Hughes has been like over the last couple of years, a tortured soul who rationally knows that he’s committing mad acts in response to a mad world but somehow can’t convince his soul that this is the case. Happily though, he seemed much more at peace last night and actually appeared to be a proper human being as opposed to a totemic whipping boy for the Lib Dems’ collective self-loathing. The way in which this manifested was that he was much better at picking his fights and managed to suppress the urge to dive on grenades that were clearly intended for the Tories, something which has been a problem in the past. Instead he stuck to the things he knew and cared about – like housing – whilst also making quiet overtures to the Red Team (“It wasn’t all Labours fault”), all of which was a refreshing change to being the principal apologiser for his party’s self-harming tendencies. I guess the big question is ‘does this mean that he thinks that coalition is toast?’, the answer to which only he knows but it’s certainly nice to seem him looking a little less spiritually broken.

The people with the most to gain didn’t gain that much.

By rights this should have been an episode in which both Diane Abbott and Polly Toynbee cleared up – what with all the fruit hanging so low – but somehow it didn’t quite turn out like that. I guess the main reason for this is that Romford voted very strongly for the Tories in 2010 (they had a clear 26.5% lead over Labour) so there’s clearly some loyalty there but it’s also down to the fact that while the Left’s critique of the current government is pretty robust, its alternative solution just doesn’t hang together as well as it should. Apart from that it was business as usual for these guys, what with Toynbee talking ever-so-seriously about ever-so-serious things and Abbott doing that ‘Dear Sir, imagine my concern’ face that she is wont to do. Both got some solid applause but neither really managed to find that killer angle of attack without exposing their own flanks. Had this been up t’North or a few miles to the west then things could have turned out very differently but as it stands they emerged much like their counterparts: In no better nor worse a situation than they started.

So no revelations there, but hang on, aren’t we missing something here? Damn straight we are! Nigel, Nigel, where for art thou Nigel?

Nigel Farage is still my favourite prat.

Yes! After what seems like an eternity (it’s actually only been five months) he’s back and if the papers are to be believed, he should have been soaring like an eagle last night. And soar he did as he socked it to the government for being a bunch of “college kids” and eulogised sole-traders as “heroes of the nation”. The crowd roared their approval as he seemed to levitate out of the studio. Fly Nigel, fly! Go on son, slip these earthly shackles! And upwards he went, propelling himself by cackling at the IMF loan, high into the night sky from where he rained down thunderbolts on Jeremy Hunt. But wait! What’s this? He seems to be stalling! What’s that he just said? ‘Immigration’? No Nigel, no! His rate of climb slows and then suddenly reverses. Oh god, he’s saying he’s spoken to “several people” and what they’ve told him is that it’s just too ruddy easy for Jonny Ruddy Foreigner to get a ruddy council house in this sceptred isle. Missiles are unleashed from the crowd and one from a housing worker who appears to know what he’s talking about scores a direct hit. BOOM! He’s falling now, falling fast! The crowd look on aghast as certain death looms and then CRACK! His fall is broken by a freak question about teen sex! Battered and bruised, he picks himself and limps off to lick his wounds. Nigel, you flew too high. You tried to touch the sun only to be dashed to earth like the mortal you are. Bad luck. You’re still my favourite prat though. Here’s a little something I made for you (see Fig. 1).

nigel farage hope poster absurdity

Fig. 1

Vince Cable still has a fan.

And not just any old fan but a super-fan by the looks of it. So well done Mr. Yellow T-Shirt And Suit Jacket, well done for being supremely unfashionable in every sense of the word! A cheer for Mr Yellow T-Shirt and Suit Jacket!

Tl;dr

Grayling: 5/10

Soaked (it up)

Abbott: 5/10

Poked (at Grayling)

Hughes: 6/10

(Seems pretty) Stoked

Toynbee: 6/10

Provoked (a few claps)

Farage: 6/10

Joked (about this and that)

The Crowd: 7/10

(Should have been) Revoked (since I wasn’t in it).

So there we go: A pretty solid episode where everyone except Farage ended up pretty much where they had started. Now, if you’ll excuse me I must get back to my busy schedule of not being recognised on the street and my phone not ringing off the hook. Ah, the perils of QT fame…

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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