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Questionable Time #131


qt 131

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

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

Are you sitting comfortably? No neither am I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

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

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

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

Fresh baked United Kingdom filled to the brim with jammy goodness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time for the scores!

Gove: 6/10

(Missed an open) Goal

Burnham: 8/10

Troll(in’)

Alexander: 5/10

(For whom the bell) Toll(s)

Alibhai-Brown: 6/10

(Middle of the) Poll

Hitchens: 6/10

(Had a leisurely) Stroll

The Crowd: 6/10

(On a) Roll

Next time: [inaudible screaming]

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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Questionable Time #79


questionable time 79 david dimbleby tattooed woman

Good morning Lemming and before we get underway let’s just take a few moments to truly appreciate this first paragraph for I feel it has been taken for granted of late and deserves better. Go on, have a good poke around while I thank Elizabeth for the outstanding job she did on last week’s show. Marvel at the neat array of lines and the way the words follow on from each other as I confirm that yes, we had a tattooed Dimbleby as last week’s title but that’s ok because really, how often is that it David Dimbleby gets tattooed? Breath it in Lemmings, suck it up because honestly, this is as good as it’s going to get today and if you don’t believe me, carry on reading as I try to make something – anything – out of an episode so bad that two of the panelists didn’t even turn up. Mark my words, you’ll miss this first paragraph from the second we move on to the main section – which is just about to happen right now.

Yaah, call me Ribshmael…

We all have a White Whale – you know, some behemoth from the deep who breaches the surface just long enough for you to man the harpoons only to watch them slide beneath the waves before you can get a shot off – and Jeremy hunt is mine. I mean c’mon, just look at the guy: He’s the son of an Admiral who played fast and loose with expenses, upset the victims of Hillsborough and then got caught being a little too pally with the Murdoch Empire – but not before his tax arrangements raised a few eyebrows. Naturally, we would expect a politician who goes in for this sort of thing to be covered from nose to tail in barbed projectiles yet Hunt’s skin remains intact and unblemished. In fact, not only did he avoid being dragged to shore for a vigorous flensing, he actually ended up being promoted to Health Secretary instead. That puts Hunt in a different league from the more mundane prey that make up the bulk of the good ship Questionable Time’s catch, different to the point that I’ve been longing for the day when he’d be on QT so that I could lie in wait and finish the matter once and for all. This time my White Whale was not going to get away. This time I’d land the bugger.

Except that I didn’t. Why? Because Jeremy Hunt is scarily brilliant at fluking his way out of a tight spot. Actually no, that’s unfair. There’s skill to what he does and while the paucity of opposition on the panel was a matter of luck it’s the way in which he carries himself – you know, that weird Zen thing he’s got going on with the very calm speech luring you away from the very mad eyes – that really kept him out of harm’s way. It’s also what makes him so vexing because you know just by looking at him that this man is a True Believer – someone who has big, dangerous ideas and considers consequences as incidentals. You saw it very briefly when he got animated about the private sector and his arms prepped themselves for some flamboyant gesticulating (see Fig. 1). The missionary zeal started creeping into his tone and his eyes lit up but no, just as the crowd mobilised to take him to task he caught himself, went straight back to Zen-mode and slipped beneath the surface again.

jeremy-hunt-wave-your-hands-in-the-air-gif

Fig. 1

So here I am, once again shuffling up and down the shoreline muttering oaths about the One That Got Away and making outlandish predictions about what I’ll do the next time our paths cross. In the words of Ishmael – Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and Pagans alike – for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.”

I have two theories about Sadiq Khans performance…

The charitable one is ‘flu’ while the infinitely more entertaining one is ‘ketamine’. Seriously though, how else we can explain away such a cack-handed and downright confusing display from an otherwise steady pair of hands? I mean, it’s not like he was just fumbling a few lines, he was mangling 90% of them before suddenly remembering that if he acted a bit angry people wouldn’t bother listening to what he was saying and just clap along for the hell of it. I gave up taking notes within about five minutes because the stuff he was coming out with wasn’t just ropey – it was incoherent and with a dollop of grumpy irritability on top of it to boot.

So what was it then Sadiq? Has the cold snap laid you low with some mind fugging virus or have you been taking the Toronto/Co-Op approach to executive conduct? Please say it’s ketamine, please say it’s ketamine, please say it’s ketamine…

Things can only get better, right?

Erh, no. Things couldn’t really get much worse than they already were but Olly Grender did her level best to make sure that they didn’t improve any either. Now I should point that making the leap between cosy This Week punditry to the QT killing fields is a hard one particularly when you’ve only just landed in the Lords but still, that’s no excuse for just how dreary everything she said sounded. No oomph, no vim, just boil-in-the-bag policy chunter and a look of all-pervading fear. Still, at least she did supply the only laugh of the night when she enjoined the people of Manchester to rejoice about all those HS2 jobs that are coming their way… In twenty million years time. Ha! Good one Olly!

And the moral of this sorry tale?

QT doesn’t work without a civilian panelist. Yeah, they may wibble a lot of nonsense and generally clutter the place up but by God are they vital to stop politicians looking even weirder than they already do. In fact I would go so far as to suggest that the next time there’s a double cancellation they should just fish a couple of random – and preferably difficult looking – audience members out and put them in to wibble nonsense and generally clutter the place up instead. Anything to stop a repeat of last night. Anything.

Tl;dr

Hunt: 6/10

Jammy

Khan: 2/10

Clammy

Grender: 3/10

Gammy

The Crowd: 5/10

Miami

Hmmph…. At least I didn’t have to look up as many rhymes as usual… Small mercies and that. Anyway, let’s just erase this episode from our memories and pretend that none of this ever happened.

Right, I’m off but not before plugging a couple of new T-shirts I’ve got on the go. Anyone for Blackpool? No? Then how about this Red Riding/Battle of Orgreve number? Go on, it’ll make the perfect Christmas gift for the contemporary literature loving ex-NUM member in your life.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #5


questionable time 5 david dimbleby top hatGood morning Lemmings and welcome to what is likely to be a highly problematic instalment of Questionable Time, problematic because the show itself didn’t really turn out the way I envisaged. You see, I usually get a day or so’s warning as to who is going to be on the panel and that is usually just enough time to throw a few thoughts together before watching the show but not enough to have any real idea of how the cards the will fall. This week however, I had the luxury/curse of knowing exactly who was going to be on for an entire week and as the panel was full of repeat offenders I had more than enough time to elaborately wargame the entire scenario in my head at length. In theory, this should be quite helpful as it gives me time to rustle up a few set pieces prior to the show being broadcast, but this week I went too far: I’d pretty much written the entire report before the show had even gone on air. Thanks to this rather rash move on my part I am now faced with a glaring mismatch between the expectation and the reality, something that has led me to go about this write-up in a slightly different manner from the norm. Regardez vous…

Baroness Warsi

The Expectation

Say what you will about Warsi (for there is much to say) but at least you’ve got a pretty good idea of what she’s going to do and this usually involves cutting the most aggressive of stances before completely overplaying her hand and somehow trapping herself in a self-inflicted headlock (I’m not entirely sure how you perform a headlock on yourself but if anyone were able to perform such a physics defying feat it would be Warsi). In a standard outing, this tends to involve a trademarked rendition of her ‘pulled up by the bootstraps’ autobiography and a frantic assault on anyone who happens to be in the immediate vicinity followed by a complete mangling of the facts and a hasty retreat in the face of an audience who’ve suddenly turned hostile. Now, in the context of this week’s news, this seemed like an invitation to tragedy as the message emanating from the Tory party conference (aside from entirely avoidable blunders) has been largely one of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, but Warsi doesn’t really do ‘calm’ and in the pre-arranged version of events that I had in my head I could see her outdoing Theresa May on the gaffe front, possibly by claiming that the courts allow immigrants to stay if they have a Tesco Club Card. Heckles would follow, Warsi would carry on digging and by the end of it, I’d be sitting pretty and rather pleased with my new-found powers of precognition.

The Reality

Ok, so I wasn’t a million miles from the truth on this one but still, it was more muted than my pre-show machinations would have led me to believe. For example, she did start pretty aggressively on the Catgate question and went through her usual Immi-Crims motions before retreating under a hail of boos following an ill-timed Blame Labour play, but she wasn’t quite as frothy as she has been in the past. Granted, she did managed to get herself entangled in a trap of her own design when she strenuously tried to blag her way out of the Fat Tax question (which went something like this: Tax isn’t the solution > Got to change behaviour > Don’t know if we can do that > I had a burger once! > Big up Dewsbury Market! > Two full bags of shopping! > Costs less than a burger! > ??????) but I’ve seen her flail about in far more entertaining ways and I felt a little cheated when she wasn’t chased out of the studio by pitchfork wielding audience members. In short, the version in my head was way more fun.

Andy Burnham

The Expectation

I must confess that I didn’t have the clearest idea of what Burnham was going to get up to tonight as I find him to be a very difficult man to pin down. On the one hand he’s a slick operator who’s good on telly, can summon up some semi-convincing righteous indignation and generally has a knack for not putting his foot in it. However, there is also something about him that I find a little unsettling in that I have real problems in figuring out his intentions. Some of this is down to the fact that he’s quite deft at seguing between bosses without breaking much of a sweat but I think the real problem is that Burnham’s got his foot in quite a few ideological camps (in that he can sound very Old Labour on some issues while also being incredibly New Labour on others) and that makes it very hard to ascertain exactly what it is he believes in. Consequently, I reckoned that we were on for a polished display, but one that left you not quite fully satisfied that you had actually seen the real Andy Burnham.

The Reality

And lo, so it came to pass… Yes, this was pretty straight forward, off-the-shelf Burnham with some fairly impressive offensive play on the economy question, some nice Dear Sir, Imagine My Surprise indignation on Catgate and a dollop of fairly successful hedge betting when it came to Europe. But still, it niggled me. It niggled me because I wasn’t sure if I was being spun a line or if he really meant all of this stuff and that just leaves me feeling a little out-of-sorts, even if I can’t quite pin down what sorts-I’m-out-of. Still, top marks to clever old me for seeing into the future with such skill and deftness. Loudribs: 10/10

Charles Kennedy

The Expectation

How hard can it be to figure out what Charles Kennedy is going to do? After all, he’s been about for ages and during that time he’s taken on (in my head at least) all the virtues of a kindly uncle who your mother doesn’t entirely trust but you adore, largely on account of all the sly tenners he slips you with a knowing wink. Given the above, I was pretty sure that this would be a by-the-numbers exercise in Kennedyism: An overt display of believable humanity (nothing makes you appear more human than the knowledge of a life coloured by vice) that would probably feel akin to being tucked into bed with a glass of warm milk (that may or may not contain a thimble’s worth of whisky). Job’s a good ‘un right?

The Reality

Well, the job’s partially a good ‘un in that everything was delivered in that gentle way that makes his voice seem like auditory Calpol but what I wasn’t prepared for was just how mutinous Kennedy has become. Sure, he’s been muttering about how he’s really not taken with the coalition for some time now but watching him last night was like rewinding the clock by a good two years. The Tory stance on the Human Rights Act? “Nonsense”. Who’s right on the economy? “Ed Balls”. Who would he have preferred to go in coalition with? “Labour”. Sedition I say! So yes, that caught me slightly unawares but I also found it to be quite comforting as it took me back to a time when there were certain constants in politics and just keeping up with the news wasn’t the nausea inducing white-knuckle ride that it’s become of late. So Mr Kennedy, continue to be a “dispassionate voice from the backbenches” because I rather like it. And keep slipping me those tenners. I like that as well.

Billy Bragg

The Expectation

I hate Billy Bragg. I hate him in many ways but mainly because people assume that I should love him. I’m a bit of a lefty, right? I play guitar, right? So I should love Billy Bragg, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong! No, I have problems with Bragg, some of which are philosophical, others of which are more visceral. On the political/philosophical front I just find him to be like some sort of ideological Maginot Line that Thatcherism’s panzers’ outflanked 30 years ago. Since then they’ve been living it up in Paris while Bragg continues to grimly face east, pouring fire into an empty field that the enemy has long since vacated, seemingly unaware the Third Republic is now but a footnote in history. In a way I should admire such stubbornness but the futility of it all renders that impossible. The miners’ strike is over Billy and no amount of Woody Guthrie covers will ever bring it back. So there’s that but I suspect the biggest problem is that there’s something about the man himself I can’t abide and that’s his mirthlessness. Now I know he’s highly devoted to his cause and feels a certain weight of responsibility upon his shoulders but for Christ sake man, lighten up now and then, ok?

So yes, that’s how I was approaching Mr Bragg’s appearance and in my head I had it all figured out (to the point where I’d put together a photoshop of him duetting with Donald Rumsfeld in the hope it may annoy him. See Fig. 1). However….

bill bragg donald rumsfeld duet

Fig.1

The Reality

He really wasn’t bad. His arguments were pretty well-reasoned, there was even the odd attempt at humour and the crowd genuinely seemed to like him (as well as the bizarre spectacle of Warsi claiming that she had a “huge amount of time for [his] campaigns’”. Pull the other one, m’lady). So there we go, Eggs Benedict all over my face. However, instead of taking back all my spiteful words I am instead going to chalk this up as an aberration as to do otherwise would be to imply that I am somehow wrong. And that’s just plain old not going to happen.

Jane Moore

The Expectation

Here’s another one that I totally thought I had pegged and well I may as the last time she was on she was absolutely abhorrent. With this in mind I was utterly convinced that last night’s show would turn into a flat-out hecklefest as she plumbed the depths of knee jerk tabloidism and dragged the already tarnished name of The Sun into an even deeper circle of hell. But…

The Reality

She wasn’t that bad either! Ok, so her grasp on economics isn’t exactly the firmest (Quantitative Easing is something to do with a “computer button” dontchaknow?) and of course there was the familiar mashing of the terms of ‘immigrant’ and ‘criminal’ into a stick to beat people with but it was quite restrained by her standards and I don’t think I was ever driven to physically shout at the telly as I usually do when she’s on. This is not to say that I’m the newest member of the Jane Moore Fan Club but as potential train wrecks go, it could have been much, much worse.

The Crowd:

The Expectation

That they would be… crowdy?

The Reality

Yes, they were crowdy so hooray for me. Apart from that, they weren’t the most electrifying bunch but I’m inclined to forgive them this as it’s been such a weird conference season that it’s hard to know what to think about politics at the moment. Still, a mention is deserved for the lady who described herself to be a “scarlet woman” whilst looking about as scarlety womany as Anne Widdecombe and also for the girl who suggested that the government should get the hell out of lives and not impose fat taxes whilst simultaneously demanding that the nation be subjected to a “compulsory exercise regime”. That’s an… interesting…. position you’ve got right there.

Tl:dr

Everybody gets 5. Except Kennedy who gets 6 on account of my fondness for him and Moore who gets a 4 on account of my lack of fondness for her.

So there we have it: An odd and less than thrilling show that never managed to live up the expectations I had created for it. Still, at least I won’t have that problem next week as it’s pretty hard to engineer a mental scenario that only contains Andrew Lansley (who at this point is the only confirmed panelist). I suppose I could have him in solitary confinement. Actually, that’s not a bad idea… At least the NHS would thank me.

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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