Posts Tagged 'Ruth Davidson'

Questionable Time #139


qt 139

Good morrow lemmings and I don’t really have an excuse for the extreme lateness of this edition, other than being at my wizened old Nan’s all day and forced to eat many a water biscuit. Without further ado, let’s kick off. Soccer!

Clapping at my chamber door, only this and nothing more

We’re coming from Aberdeen, in, as Dimbleby puts it, “a country now dominated by the SNP” and also sweet jazz-funk grooves, allegedly. To that end, our first question is likewise about the yellow-‘n’-blacks (if I knew more about football I could make a joke about these team colours): apart from “musical chairs and clapping”, what do the SNP plan to achieve at Westminster?

John Nicolson, a new SNP MP (love the subtle rhyming going on there that sadly not enough people have translated into rap format), swells with pride. He launches into a speech about how the SNP are breaking boundaries by sitting wherever the hell they like in the chamber, clapping, and taking many a selfie, and that what are ye wee English ponces gonnae dew aboot it? Actually, that’s unfair – he does state that the SNP have been given a mandate to campaign for the issues that the people of Scotland have bombastically brought to public attention. Such as wanting control/wanting One Direction’s ‘No Control’ as a single. He also insinuates he spends his dinner parties clapping every time the food is brought in, which everybody finds a little weird.

Meanwhile, Ruth Davidson, leader of that most impressive of professions, Scottish Conservative Leader, is in a sombre mood. During the election campaign, perhaps knowing that her party didn’t have a hope in hell of getting any more than the one MP it ended up with north of the border, decided to have fun and just be herself for the duration. She fed Soleros to journalists. She posted pictures of herself singing in her car. She didn’t give a single, glorious shit. It was quite admirable, in a way.

Sadly, none of that devil-may-care attitude is on show tonight. Instead we have Serious Ruth, the stately politician, one of the last Bluecoats standing in the Wildlands. She launches into her pre-rehearsed spiel: while the SNP and Labour were being silly-billies with seating plans she’s doing the hard work in the less glamourous, more ugly Scottish Parliament. A tough beat for a tough cop.

Lord Charlie ‘Chazza’ Falconer speaks up. He looks at the flaming wreckage of the Scottish Labour Party and sighs. The Tories did this, he says, because of their superior dosh and their posters of Alex Salmond’s Shrek-like face leering down at you and/or Ed Miliband in a suggestive manner. But you know who helped them to triumph? Those wasp-coloured wankers over there.

John Nicolson looks horrified. A soft and judgey ‘ooh’ing emanates from the crowd. They didn’t like that at all. In fairness, those posters were really terrifying, weren’t they?

John, Ruth and now Alex Massie, Scotland Editor at the Spectator (what a job!), object. Alex points out the maths, saying that even if Labour won every seat in Scotland they still would have lost. He’s dressed up like an ancient country lord, however, which probably isn’t the best way to win round the crowd in these parts. Then he goes on about how the SNP would do anything or sacrifice anything as long as it advanced their main goal of independence.

Lesley Riddoch says that, whether they’re working for independence or not, the SNP can’t win either way. Except in elections, that is. Poor SNP. She then goes on to recite one of her own columns at length.

A lady from the crowd points out the baffling fact that the House of Commons simply can’t fit all of its MPs inside the debating chamber. Isn’t this a bit counterproductive? On the plus side, John says, I do have a sword hook. You know. To hang your sword up.

The SNP should accept that they lost and get on with it, screams a man in the crowd, like God from Monty Python. You sir, sound like a Unionist to me, John implies (or rather outright states). The man explodes and yells that he just said that he voted Yes in the referendum. This exciting back-and-forth goes on for about ten hours thus somewhat undermining the point of ‘getting on with it’.

Can Scottish Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats stop sucking so hard so there’s more of a debate, says another audience lady. Meanwhile, Lesley is going full throttle. She attacks certain people who say that SNP/pro-independence voters are ‘greedy’, when in reality the ones being greedy are those mean old Tories…greedy for Soleros, that is!

…I’m sorry, Solero jokes are probably passé by now. I’ll quietly give this well-loved meme a fitting send-off.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Next week we’re going to be in Plymouth, Dimbleby interjects, and, to show you just how far we are into penetrating the fetid wastes of hell, this triggers raucous laughter in the studio. Plymouth! Oh that Dimbleby, such a card!

Football’s coming home (to die in a ditch)

Should we all stick two fingers up to the Fifa World Cup? What, you mean the fact of zillions of Qataris dying wasn’t enough to raise a few eyebrows? I don’t know anything about football, so haven’t really been following this story – merely enjoying a distant chuckle at seeing a cluster of rich ugly white dudes get their arses kicked. Always a pleasure.

Alex Massie makes a sweet burn by saying that Scotland has been leading the way in boycotting the World Cup for many years now. Such Wildeian wit! Lesley is still outraged, and cries that this ‘beautiful game’ has been sullied! Sullied forever! Forever! Truly, she has no chill. At least all the dead Qatari slave labourers have finally been mentioned. In addition, John, Charlie and Ruth finally agree on something: Sepp Blatter sucks and won’t get away with this! He’s just been re-elected as Fifa president, by the way. Question Time: always predicting the future.

I leaked a leak in time gone by

After that brief interlude, it’s time for another dose of Scotlapalooza! Round one: if Scotland votes to stay in the EU, but the rest of the UK votes to leave…will all hell break loose?

Alex, positive as always, shrugs that the people mumbling and grumbling such things are gunning for #indyref2. Nah, says John, the ‘No’ campaign said we’d be stronger together, so it’s not fair. P.S., let the 16-year-olds vote. They can Photoshop flower crowns on pictures of Angela Merkel or whatever it is they do.

Ruth squawks out reform, reform, reform multiple times like a parrot on amphetamines. The others join her and soon it’s a cacophony of voices spluttering out platitudes but no concrete plans. Lesley almost rips her shirt off as she bellows her love for Scotland, which continues on into…

Round two: should Alistair Carmichael resign? Lord Falconer is being very careful about this one. The last thing he needs or wants is another SNP MP taking AlCar’s place in the House. Although, I guess it would be kind of funny that if, after all this, he resigns and they just elect another Lib Dem in his stead. The yellow team (the original one, not the yellow-and-black one with the kilts) needs to fill up all the seats in its minibus, after all!

“It is impossible right now to know how the people of Orkney and Shetland feel!” Lesley cries. You’re telling me, mate. I don’t even know if they have Wi-Fi up there.

Should every MP who’s lied resign? Then we’d end up with a pretty empty House, hahahaha! Hahahahahahahaha! Original joke! No, we’re all nice really, says Ruth. While she decries any attempt at a “witch hunt”, honestly it looks like she doesn’t much care about the welfare of the Lib Dems, it’s not like her party is in coalition with them any more. Now the blue team can truly break out the hard liquor in the secret Downing Street stash. John, meanwhile, claims that it’s “a matter of honour” so we clearly need to cut off Alistair Carmichael’s head.

Last: should we have the right to die? A rather heavy subject for the last five minutes, one that all the panellists have but one response to: there needs to be, like, a truckful of safeguards for this shizzle. Maybe we could have a new referendum on it? asks another audience lady. Alex Massie visibly recoils.

Time for the scores!

Davidson: 6/10

(Not a) Lot (going on)

Falconer: 5/10

(Scottish Labour’s a) Dot (on the map)

Nicolson: 7/10

(Proud) Scot (and won’t hesitate to tell you at length)

Riddoch: 7/10

(Will) Slot (Her opinions absolutely everywhere)

Massie: 6/10

(Missed his) Shot

The Crowd: 8/10

Got (what they came for, maybe?)

Next time: PLYMOUTH!

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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Questionable Time #127


qt 127

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to a very deep-fried edition of Questionable Time! Now I don’t know much about Scottish politics, aside from the fact that everybody currently seems terminally pissed off at the Labour Party, like a cat that’s thrown up on the rug. With this flawless understanding of the political climate in hand, let’s dive straight in. What could possibly go wrong?

It’s a piece of cake to debate a pretty cake

“Here we are in Glasgow”, begins Dimbledore with an air of desperate finality. For some godawful reason, we have six people on the panel instead of five. Why this nightmare is happening to me is never adequately explained, so I’m going to guess that it’s a trial run for the election debates (if they ever happen). Judging by this showing, it’s going to be a clusterscrew.

Speaking of the debates, our first question is whether everyone should start making chicken noises whenever David Cameron walks past. The Scottish Conservatives lady does not think so, but she has to be a bit mad (being a Scottish Conservative) so it’s safe to ignore everything she says. I don’t understand how anyone can look at David Cameron weakly wriggling out of a debate with Ed Miliband and not think he’s the biggest scaredy-cat to ever hawk a hairball. The same Ed Miliband who, the media will tell you, cannot eat a bacon sandwich unaided, and yet is too threatening an opponent for Fave Dave to match up to. Poor show David. Poor show. And poor show Ruth, thinking anyone is going to fall for this nonsense. Oh wait…looks like some of them have. Like Toby Young, who is here for some reason instead of down South in the warm. Well, takes all kinds!

In other news, why does Danny Alexander look so weird now? He’s suddenly not ginger, and his eyes are all bulgy! Ever since he gave up his glasses he hasn’t been the same and has been slowly morphing into some kind of frog person, perhaps in anticipation of losing his seat and returning to his previous life of living in a pond. He remains as dull as ever, though, the only man in existence to have both a non-sexy/non-hilarious Scottish accent.

Just put a plate of Eton mess there instead, says Humza Yousaf, and nobody will be able to tell the difference. If you have it next to a tape recorder repeating the phrase ‘long term economic plan’ that really would be eerily similar. But judging by this bite-sized nonsense it won’t be a very good debate anyway, no matter who decides to turn up. Humza and Kezia Dugdale are fighting, Val McDermid is appealing for an energised electorate, and the audience is responding in kind by mainly yodelling. I’m tired out already, but the fun is just beginning.

This is what happens when you remind Scottish people of the magic of voting

What will the result of the SNP pwning j00 n00bs be? The floor is open for screaming and crying. Kezia, the Scottish Labour deputy leader (what a job!), bravely climbs into the shame pit first. Kezia says it’s good news for DCam, but would rather not think about what it means for Labour. Meanwhile, Ruth Davidson tries not to seem smug.

Humza, akin to an angry and unstoppable robot, gleefully tears into anyone and everyone and disses Trident to great cheers from his posse. In response, Kezia huffs angrily about the SNP’s tax policies, but she is too boring to strike a fatal blow! Humza has her cornered before triumphantly making a mighty gaffe. “We’ll look at an issue-by-issue basis of working with the Tories – I mean the Labour Party!” he squawks. Yet more mass yodelling in the studio follows, as Dimbleby tries in vain to calm everyone down. But it is no use. This is merely the first step on the audience’s pub crawl tonight. Danny tries to intervene in his monotone voice, before being smacked down by a frustrated Dimbles, who reminds him that he probably won’t even have a seat after the election, so nyah nyah. Also he looks like Brian the snail. Double nyah nyah.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

After the right-wingers nod sagely amongst themselves about the break up of the union and the coming heat death of the universe, Val makes a point about dragging Labour to the left somehow. We don’t know how. By not voting for them, maybe? Yeah, that’ll work! Nevertheless, I think Kezia (and Jim Murphy, by extension) could morph into Tony Benn right then and there and Scotland would still act like a wronged wife whose husband has forgotten their anniversary, as evidenced by the audience grumbling at everything she says. Though she isn’t helping by being so terribly uninteresting. Still, as the old saying goes: you made your bed, now you’ve got to lie in it. And it’s got itchy crumbs everywhere so, like, eww.

Toby Young isn’t being horrible enough, this displeases me

Next up, do we need stronger laws to prevent hate screeching/preaching on university campuses?

This question actually gets a pretty reasonable response from the panel. I beamed in pride, watching over them like an attentive mother hen. It’s so nice when people are advocating freedom of speech but not apologising for war crimes! It’s so great when even Toby Young surprises you! Indeed, banning these jackasses could just make them seem like a delicious cake, a cake that you are not allowed to eat. We need to have an open conversation about how shit they are, and how bad the cake tastes.

Incidentally, Dimbles mentions a spat between David Cameron and Grant Shapps – when pressed, Brian the snail says nothing about this important issue. I was disappointed. This is clearly what the people most want to hear.

Next: why is Scutlernd missing its targets? Well, it’s not a political issue says Ruth Davidson. Convenient! Suddenly, Kezia is squealin’ and reminds us that Labour is the bestest. And has a cool mansion tax. Dimbleby interrupts again (seriously, man? This is, what, the sixth time?), asking “how much will you raise in Glasgow?” Burn! As if Glasgow is so impossibly awful that OF COURSE one couldn’t raise any money with a MANSION tax, har har har! The audience hates Labour so much, however, that they’re willing to put up with David Dimbleby dissing their own city for a cheap laugh.

After a skirmish where Humza derides ‘creeping privatisation’ in the NHS while ignoring SNP flirting with Weightwatchers (which sounds like a much funnier story than it really is), and Toby claiming that Labour’s mansion tax must be magic while doing his best Paul Daniels impression (‘how much will it raise? Not a lot!’), Val, detached, wraps everything up the way only she knows how, presumably. This country has its own ‘historic health problems’, says she. The spectre of deep-fried Mars Bars looms large.

This gets the biggest applause of the night. I’ve given up trying to understand this edition.

I’ve given up in general, actually.

Time for the scores!

Davidson: 6/10

(Had her lines rehearsed down to a) Tee

Dugdale: 4/10

Plea(ded)

Yousaf: 5/10

FREEEEEEEE(dom)

Alexander: 4/10

(Crawling gooily up a) Tree

Young: 6/10

(Did not go on a killing) Spree

McDermid: 6/10

Gee, (what’s a left-winger to do?)

The Crowd: 9/10

(Will) Knee (you in the groin)

Next time, Ian Hislop gurning.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #85


questionable time 85 david dimbleby loader aliens

Good morning Lemmings and hold on to your hats because there’s just too much excitement going on here. Dundee. Four panelists. Half a show on Scottish independence and a man who got slightly confused as to whether you really do get £500 pounds if you vote one way or another – it truly is a thrill-seekers manifesto. So brace yourselves for impact Lemmings, this is going to be one wild ride.

 

Did I say ‘wild ride’? I think I actually meant ‘a slightly more subdued rehash of every Scottish independence episode we’ve ever had’….

…You know the deal: The Yes camp paint a picture of the sunlit uplands awaiting a newly independent Scotland, the No camp retaliate with a bleak canvas of the fog drenched lowlands that lie in store for a mutinous Caledonia while both side’s fan clubs clap obediently on command and use the word ‘scaremongering’ a lot. Yup, pretty exciting stuff!

 

Still, at least there was a subtle variation to the formula as the usual question of ‘Will it be Salmond or will it be Sturgeon for the SNP’ was rendered moot by the debut appearance of John Swinney, head of all things monetary and economic in the Scottish Parliament. Now so far as I can tell, Swinney takes most of his cues from the classic Salmond playbook (which basically means promise everyone everything and move quickly when the details get irksome) and he mostly does ok on this front – except for one thing: He can’t do The Knowing Look.

 

To the uninitiated, the Knowing Look is the thing that makes Alex Salmond so special and it all seems so simple on paper – you make pledges that sound completely unobtainable but instead of just releasing them into the wild and hoping they make it to safety in one piece you send them on their way with a twinkle in your eye that says ‘I know. Everything I just said sounds completely mental but trust me, I’ve got this covered’ (and in fairness to Salmond he usually does have it covered – or at least partially clad). John Swinney’s problem is that despite having an air of general likability and making a decent fist of bigging up the positives in independence, he just looks a little skittish when the facts start getting awkward. Take the part when some of the questions regarding the White Paper were raised (i.e. where’s the money?): This is the sort of situation where Salmond flutters those ‘Trust me, this is so crazy it might just work’ eyelashes at the crowd and everyone ends up going along with it because it just feels right. Swinney on the other hand simply doesn’t have that magic and when things start getting tricky his eyes suddenly begin to dart about, the tempo increased and it all just felt a little – well – wrong. Was it a deal breaker? Not really but by the same token it wasn’t a case of unalloyed triumph either.

 

We nearly had a proper good fight in the No camp… Nearly…

So both Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale managed to set their tribal differences aside in the face of a common foe (no doubt aided by the main recipient of political woe this week being the absent Lib Dems) but it was a close run thing and there was a split second where it looked like it could all go very wrong. The pretext was about the recovery and both were bashing away at their party lines until their eyes met briefly then locked together for just a little too long, each set inviting the other to come and have a go if they think they’re hard enough. Alas it came to nothing but I reckon it would have been a good scrap as they’re both able panelists who are more than capable of fighting their own corners. Personally, my money would be on Davidson as I imagine being a kickboxing lesbian Scottish Tory involves quite a lot of standing up for yourself but I wouldn’t rule Kezia out either: For a QT first-timer she did well and she’s got a clear height advantage over Davidson. Anyway, it’s a shame it never came to pass but should either panelist feel like they need to satisfy their honour in the arena of single combat, I will more than happily officiate.

 

A Nearly Fight and some darting eyes? Is that it? Please tell me this gets better…

It does, thanks largely to Jim Sillars and not just because I couldn’t quite tell if he does genuinely believe that money grows on trees. No, while the impassioned tales of imperial decline and the zero tosses given about the Lord Rennard case were happy little affairs, I liked watching Jim because it reminded me that we used to have people like him in England – you know, authentic, unabashed socialists for whom politics is less of a game and more of an ache that they feel in their bones. I guess we still have a few of them kicking about – Dennis Skinner springs to mind – but most were either co-opted or quietly shuffled out of the spotlight by a Labour party that was desperate to impress the cool kids and couldn’t abide the thought of its cranky old uncles turning up at the disco. On the evidence of last night the reverse is true in Scotland as not only was Jim a hit with the crowd, the panel also showed him a great level of deference when it would have been very easy to dismiss him as a pedlar of last century’s monkeyshine. I’m into that. I’m into that almost as much as I’m into how Jim’s face looks like a blissed-out version of Alan Sugar’s (see Fig. 1).

 

jim-sillars-alan-sugar-gif

Fig. 1

Tl;dr

Swinney: 5/10

Slim

 

Davidson: 6/10

Prim

 

Dugdale: 6/10

Vim

 

Sillars: 7/10

(Full to the) Brim (of old school socialist thunder)

 

The Crowd: 6/10

(Would really help with the rhyming process if they were all called either) Jim, Tim (or) Kim…

 

Alright, so it wasn’t quite as dreary as I made out in the intro but still, I can’t say I’m in a terrible hurry to watch another Scottish independence episode, particularly if they’re going to run with the 4-on-the-panel format. But hey, what do I know?

 

Right, Norwich next week and you’ll pleased to know that I’ll still be in the dark on all current affairs thanks to Celebrity Big Brother being extended. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of CBB, remember how I said last week that one of the male contestants would end up pregnant? Well Lee Ryan from Blue ended up lactating last week. A coincidence? I think not…

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

 

 

Questionable Time #65


questionable time 65 david dimbleby hipster

Good morning Lemmings and gah! Who are all these young whelps with their dubsteps, Nintendoboxstations and soaring rates of unemployment? Oh Jesus, they’re the crowd and not only do they have all of the above, they also appear to be in possession of ‘opinions’ and much more scarily, the vote. Quite how this all happened I am not sure but here we are anyway… Let’s see if we can’t Questionable Time some sense into the little buggers.

It turns out that first impressions don’t count for very much at all…

Having recently been to a few gigs where I was acutely aware of being That Guy (you know, the conspicuously old-looking bloke who’s trying to mask his confusion behind an air of vague condescension, a pint of snakebite and a Dillinger four T-shirt) I thought I knew what I was getting into – yet within seconds of that opening shot where the camera pulls back to reveal the audience I realised that I was barking up the wrong tree. Where were all the neck tattoos and Zelda hair? How come no-ones sporting dayglo trainers and plunging necklines? Why aren’t my senses being assaulted by Lynx Africa and overly contrived synth-led breakdowns in the middle of otherwise serviceable metal songs? WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?

Well, as it happens, they were the sort of young people who don’t knock about at the same venues as embittered thirty-somethings who are desperately clinging on to the illusion of youth. No, instead they all looked like rather well-adjusted types who decline invitations to get pissed in bus shelters on the grounds that their course work is due in six months time and to be honest, that didn’t sit well with me. “Great.” I thought as I desperately scanned the crowd in the hope of at least locating a solitary goth or maybe a Citizen Smith type. “The Chess Club have finally triumphed. Roll on the Snooze Fest”.

As it happens, my fears were misplaced and as the show unfolded I actually started to find myself getting a bit starry-eyed. It started with the guy who used the first question on internet surveillance as a vehicle to demand Blair be tried for war crimes. “Yes!” I thought to myself. “That’s exactly the sort of tenuous leap into the realms of absolutes that I would have made at your age! Go on son!” Then came the moment when the independence question dropped and neatly divided the audience into two equally belligerent opposing camps. From here on in everything went into panto overload with claps and boos drowning each other out – and it wasn’t just your standard ‘Hummener-hummener-hummener’ type chunterings that you tend to get with adult audiences either. These were proper boos, proper cheers, the sort of noises that people make when they actually believe in things and can envisage what a better world would look like. Lemmings, I hate to admit it but I think I may have experienced an emotion not a million miles away from ‘hope’ by the end of the show.

So that was all rather lovely but before moving on a pair of special mentions are in order.

1. The lad who had a pop at “Glorious England” and our routine persecution of Scots: It was a dumb move that saw him receive a righteous beat down but I will say this: There was an odd dignity in the way he took his licks. It was all in that look of resigned defeat that I like to call Opinors Remorse.

2. And who can forget the young man who posited that Scottish independence would bring us “one step closer to finding aliens” only to be rewarded with a volley of incredulity from none other than Dimbers? There’s a lesson in all this fellah, a lesson that I learnt the hard way: Those little scenes that play out in your imagination, you know, the ones where you get all Carpe Diem and dazzle everyone with your audacious whackiness? Yeah, they rarely work out like that…

Guess we’d better do some panel then…

I’ll keep it brief for the main three: Angus Robertson did The Big Man thing and did so with varying degrees of success, Ruth Davidson gave us another rendition of the Plucky Underdog and more-or-less got away with it while Anas Sarwar basically mulched his way through but did display a few rare moments of something-or-other.

As for the other’s, well the sight of seeing the UK’s two leading providers of demagoguery (one – Galloway – who sincerely and profoundly believes his own hype while the other – Farage – can’t believe his luck that others sincerely and profoundly believe his own hype) temporarily setting aside their mutual hostility and making common cause against the Tartan Peril was both entertaining and perplexing. It sort of reminded me of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact although I should point out that it (the Pact, that is) really didn’t turn out to be all that entertaining in the long run. Oh, and while we’re on the matter of Galloway, see Fig. 1.

george-galloway-rula-lenska-cat

Fig. 1

And Lesley Riddoch? Bloody good. So bloody good in fact that it rekindled this latent jealousy that I have for Scotland: Things like social justice and equality are treated as something to proud of there, not like in England where they’ve come to be regarded as some sort of pie-in-the-sky fairy tale. Damn you Scots, damn you and your faith in the collective good.

Tl;dr

Davidson: 5/10

(Is) Small

Robertson: 6/10

(Wants sovereignty north of Hadrian’s) Wall

Sarwar: 5/10

(Made it feel like a long) Haul

Galloway: 7/10

(Still has the ability to) Appall

Farage: 6/10

(Is ever the goof) Ball

Riddoch: 8/10

(Was up for a right good) Brawl

The Crowd: 9/10

(Should treat themselves to a pub) Crawl (but only when they are legally old enough to do so).

See that? 9/10? I must be going soft in my old age. Anyway, good episode and next week looks like a total belter as well…. Come on Brand, make sweet love to Melanie Phillips in front of a live studio audience. Right, that’s your lot – apart from a minor nag to go and visit my other site at some point. It’s weird, but… you know…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #38


questionable time 38 david dimbleby braveheart glasgow

Good morning Lemmings and if I’m not mistaken we appear to be in Scotland. For some of you this will be a Good Thing (I suspect that this will be the case if you happen to be Scottish) but from my point of view, this is less of a Good Thing and in actual fact may even qualify as a Bad Thing. Now, before a be-kilted rabble come crashing through my door, hellbent on upholding the honour of their proud nation let me state categorically that I have no problem with Scotland or the Scottish. There is no beef of any import between us and I see no obstacle to our continued co-existence. I do, however, have a problem when Question Time is in Scotland. Why? Because I don’t have a clue who anyone is, what they’re on about or why I should really care one way or another. Ok, so I guess there would be some sort of tangible effect on my life should the Scots take the nuclear option and divorce themselves from the Union, but outside of that? Nah. They could be sending wee bairns down haggis mines or pouring Irn Bru into the water supply for all I care… I won’t be losing any sleep. Having said that though, last night’s show did have one potential saving grace for me: It was coming from Easterhouse, a particularly hard corner of a very hard city. Would this be enough to offset my ignorance induced disinterest? I wonder…

The first question was the most cruel of false reprieves…

Let’s face it, we all knew this episode was going to be about the independence referendum and as I explained above, this isn’t the sort of thing that butters my current affairs parsnips. With this in mind, imagine my delight when the first question was not concerned with some exclusively Caledonian affair but was actually about the rapidly unfolding ‘Combi-Shambles‘. Yes! I was saved! This was about Westminster! This was about stuff that has a vague relevance to my life! Unfortunately, this fleeting sense of triumph was dealt a mortal blow when it dawned on me that I have no idea what exactly is going on with this latest governmental face-plant other than assorted ministers seem to be running around with their hair on fire and there’s a faint whiff of panic wafting ominously from Downing Street. Luckily it appears that I am not alone in this predicament and pretty much everyone on the panel decided that it was probably safer to turn some rhetorical tricks instead of actually trying to make sense of the unfolding chaos. In practice this took the form of the three political panelist (Sturgeon, Davidson and Curran) assembling themselves into a circular firing squad, counting to three and shooting each other in the back of the head whilst Mark Serwotka called for a plague on all their houses. Has this left me any the wiser about just what in criminy is going on with our nation’s energy policy? No. Was it fun watch. Yes, it was rather…

Scottish politicians are a tough bunch…

Ok, so the accent helps but I think it’s also fair to say that both Margaret Curran and Ruth Davidson have pretty thick hides. For Davidson, this partly comes with the territory: Being a Tory in Scotland is not noted for being the most relaxing of vocations and I’m sure she’s pretty used to being bashed about on a daily basis simply because she exists. However, what Davidson doesn’t do is let it get to her and I must admit that whether I agree with her or not, she does remain very steady under fire. Curran is also one who cops a lot of flak (thanks to Labour largely having taking Scotland for granted) but her talent is that she endures. Sure, she talks too fast when her feathers are ruffled and the fact that she’s played this game so long has led to a certain level of attrition, but Curran’s still just about in the game and played a reasonably solid hand last night.

The interesting one is Nicola Sturgeon though. Now, she does a very good initial line in the forthright, storming into questions with lashings of ‘Dear Sir, imagine my concern…’ before cobbling together some scheme whereby Scotland has cakes for both storage and immediate consumption. All of this is fine and dandy, particular if the going’s good but she does have one glaring vulnerability: She rattles easily. It happened a few times last night. Sturgeon would open with a broadside about how Labour let everyone down, the Tories – well, they’re just Tories – and wouldn’t it all be much better if we simply had our own country to mess about with? However, the problems begin when people start pressing for detail. You can see a little shudder develop and her eyes starting darting from side-to-side, sizing up the potential exits. Unfortunately, these exits have a nasty habit of being obstructed by irksome things such as ‘facts’ and ‘realities’ and this tends to lead her to double down on the offensive, a risky tactic made riskier by the fact that Sturgeon’s never quite as good on the second pass. That’s not to say I don’t think that she’s capable because she clearly is. It’s just that she can’t quite keep her fear under wraps and once you spot it it’s hard to ignore. That, and something about her bearing just really reminds me of a generic 6th-former from a late-80’s run of Grange Hill.

What about the other guys?

Last time Mark Serwotka was on I was pretty mean to him, mainly because he came across as rather smug. Luckily for him, this wasn’t the case last night as he had little time to display any other emotion than pure scorn for both the Tories and Labour, a move which paid off handsomely with the crowd. Actually, it was quite interesting to watch as while he’s never been shy of criticising the Red Team, he was really out for them last night. I’m guessing that part of this was playing to the gallery (which seemed to work splendidly) but the really telling thing was how he Goldilocksed the SNP, making sure the signals he was sending were neither too hot nor too cold. If I was in the Red Team, I think I’d be keeping a very close eye on that.

And what of Alan Cochrane? We’ll I’ve never come across him before but I will say this: His beard and voice match perfectly. He didn’t really get that much of a look in and when he did it was the sort of thing you’d expect the Scottish Editor of The Telegraph but I’ve got to say, that beard-voice combo really did it for me.

Is ‘Crazy Levels of Crowd Participation’ a compulsory part of the Scottish Curriculum or is Easterhouse just a bit special?

As expected, I had very little idea what was going on last night. Ok, so the drugs question was kind of interesting but it didn’t really bring anything new to the table and was simply a repeat of the merry little dance that Question Time periodically engages in (crowd + entire world conclude War on Drugs has failed. Politicians conclude that they can’t say its failed because they’ll get the blame for its failure). However, despite my complete inability to fathom anything, I must admit I actually really enjoyed this episode and the lion’s share of the credit for this should go to the crowd. Why? Because they were feisty as hell. They booed, they cheered, they booed and cheered at the same time. Quite what they were booing and cheering about I honestly couldn’t tell you, but the fact that they did was enough to keep my head in the game. So points for sore palms and horse throats and extra points for the following gentlemen: Mr ‘A Lot Of My Friends Smoke Cannabis” (or as I like to call him, Mr ‘My Employers Might Be Watching This’) and Mr ‘Because Of The Type Of People Who Frequent This Area’. Sir, you’re bravery is beyond question… Your wisdom? Not so much.

Tl;dr

Sturgeon: 5/10

Flighty

Curran: 5/10

Fighty

Davidson: 5/10

Bitey

Serwotka: 6/10

Incitey

Cochrane: 5/10

Alrighty

The Crowd: 8/10

(Can’t decide if they want to remain a part of) Blighty

So there you go… The televisual equivalent of trying to drink a 6-pack of Super-T whilst sitting in a washing machine that’s halfway through its spin cycle. Speaking of somewhat discombobulating experiences, I’d best share with you the fruits of an experiment I conducted earlier in the week. Using cutting edge photo manipulation software and a part of my brain that I really shouldn’t listen to, I tried to determine whether Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon would make for convincing Krankies. The result speak for themselves (see Fig. 1)…

alex salmod nicola sturgeon krankies

Fig. 1

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #22


questionable time 22 david dimbleby audry hepburn

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to Questionable Time which this week is brought to you from my death-bed. Ok, so ‘death bed’ might be a slight exaggeration as it’s more like my ‘moderately hungover and groggy bed’ but there is a commonality between the two phrases in that they both contain beds and that these beds contain me. So, why am I hungover? Well, I’ll level with you, I just couldn’t quite bear the thought of approaching a Scottish episode involving Janet Street-Porter, a bunch of no-name Caledonian politicos and a clutch of issues pertaining to our northern cousins without something to take the edge off it. In fact, the only thing that kept me from unilaterally declaring this week a holiday was the prospect of Charles Kennedy being there (he’s like my secret QT hip flask… Even with the most God-awful panels he somehow manages to make my insides feel all warm and fuzzy) so upon receiving the news that he had ‘missed his flight’ I thought ‘Cobblers to it, I’m getting sauced’. As a result, this likely to be a short and less-than-accurate account.

Right, where to start? How about with the SNP’s Humza Yousaf, a jaunty fellow who’s got a good line in prattling enthused claptrap about all things Scottish and independent? Initially I was quite taken with him because he seems to have quite the talent for rabble rousing but as time went on the penny started dropping that there wasn’t a great deal of substance in it all and that he may just be the latest honours student from the Alex Salmond School of Jiggery-Pokery. Then he said something that suddenly joined all the dots together in one fell swoop: “I was 16 when we went into Afghanistan”. ‘Come again? 16? And you’re a… politician? No wonder you’re a little rash and over-exuberant! 22 year-olds are rash and over-exuberant by their very nature!’. Then another penny dropped: ‘Wait a second, if you were 16 in 2001, that means you’re now 26 which in turn means we’ve been in Afghanistan for over 10 years!’. Now, don’t get me wrong, I already knew this to be true in the semantic sense but it’s only at times like this that a fact creeps up on you takes you off guard that it really begins to sink in. 10 years. We’re going head-to-head with Vietnam for the accolade of Most Long-Winded Tragedy of Modern Times here and that’s not the sort of accolade you proudly display on your mantelpiece. Anyhoo, where does all this leave young(ish) Humza? Well neither here-nor-there really. On the one hand, he should be old enough to realise that operating on pure bluster will only get you so far but on the other hand I do find his lean and hungry disposition to be rather fun to watch and he does possess more than a smidgen of charisma. In light of this, I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt…. For now.

Talking of charisma, lets say hello to our other Scottish panelists – the Conservative’s Ruth Davidson and the Lib Dems last-minute stand-in Willie Rennie – as this seems to be a department in which they are both lacking. In the case of Davidson I think this stems from the fact that she looks like the third Krankie who somehow managed to escape and is now doing her level best to lead a relatively ordinary life, even if this involves constantly repressing the brutal memories of being forced to dress as a little boy in the name of ‘comedy’. As a result she just seems a little nervous, a little wary and despite not messing anything up too spectacularly, I must confess that I was left feeling a little nonplussed. Similarly, Rennie also failed to set the night ablaze and that’s because he seems like a nice, reasonable man who enjoys outdoorsy things and would just like everyone to get along. Is that a bad thing? Not particularly. Does it make for good QT-ing? Again, not particularly.

So that’s the natives dealt with, now we come on to the one person who did fully hold my attention for the entire show, Frank Field. Now, Field’s a funny character, sort of like a weird mash-up between Eeyore and Dr. Strangelove (an observation rendered doubly valid by his outpouring of love for nuclear power at the end of the show) who exists only to cause sullen trouble for his nominal party from time-to-time and that makes him fascinating to watch. True to form, Field spent the best part of last night lining up sacred lefty cows before unceremoniously massacring them one by one. Youth unemployment? The kids need a clip around the ear. Wind turbines? The greatest swindle in history. The audience? “Scrubbing about on the floor”. Now, at face value that sounds like the sort of pugnacious hucksterism that we’d expect from the likes of Melanie Phillips but somehow Field manages to deliver these sentiments in a way that doesn’t make my skin crawl. It’s not the fact that he clearly believes these things to be true as I’m pretty sure that Phillips also fully believes in whatever she’s ranting about it, it’s the fact that these things make him so self-evidently sad and sadness is a very human quality. So yes, well done Frank. I can’t say I agree with much of what you say but I do admire the fact that you voluntarily live in thicket of ideological brambles. Good stuff.

And Janet Street-Porter? Yeah, still like sticking scrunched up balls of sandpaper into your ears and vigorously rotating them back and forth…

Tl;dr

Yousaf: 6/10

Wiley

Davidson: 5/10

Shyly

Rennie: 5/10

Highly (unremarkable)

Field: 7/10

(Un)Smiley

Street-Porter: 4/10

(Jesus Christ) O’Reilly

The Crowd: 6/10

Stylee?

Aaaaaaaand we’re done. Nearly. The one thing I forgot to mention was the lack of topical photoshops in this week’s Questionable Time. Well, I had a great Charles Kennedy one all set up and ready to go but ‘he missed his plane’ so that will just have to bide its time in the holding pattern. However, as luck would have it my brother Tom has sent me this little gem: Behold, a God-awful painting of David Dimbleby as an Eastern European peasant woman.

david dimbleby peasant woman

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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