Posts Tagged 'shami chakrabarti'

Questionable Time #40


questionable time 40 david dimbleby statue of liberty

Good morning Lemmings and just who the devil are these people, swanning around with their fancy accents and elevated levels of dental hygiene? Ah, I see, they appear to be American’s which would sort of make sense seeing as they’re having an election next week. Quite what this has to do with the good people of London I do not know and I must confess that I’m a little upset that the wild rumours of Donald Trump appearing on the show have come to nothing but having said that, both me and my computer are counting our blessings now that we don’t have to cut out Trump’s hair in Photoshop. I mean c’mon, have you seen that thing? That’s a task of such magnitude and absurdity that it may well have driven us both to destruction. Anyway, enough… On with the show.

I can still hear the longing cries of New Labour romantics ringing in my ears…

So here he is, the Miliband You Could Have Won, the Slightly Better Looking Brother who still clearly has the capacity to make Blairites weak at the knees, the King Across the Sea. And how has his self-imposed exile been treating him? Rather well by all accounts. You see, the deal-breaker for me when Miliband D. was on the front line was this look he used to pull when someone caught him out. His face would momentarily harden, brows bearing down into a frown and teeth clenched as if to say ‘Well done buddy, you just made the list’. Granted, he’d stop short of pulling out a note pad marked ‘For Future Smiting’ but you could tell that he was deadly serious about it and did not like being made a monkey of. Luckily for him, it seems that a couple of years of bimbling around the edges of politics have served to mellow him out somewhat and what we saw last night was a man who’s still very potent at getting a message across but doesn’t seem as horribly consumed by the game as he once was.

My only real disappointment – apart from his getting away rather lightly with the matter of why exactly Labour traded principles for mischief on the Europe vote – was that I can’t help thinking Question Time missed a trick this week: They had David Miliband, they had Jerry Springer, all they need to do was wind up Dave about how his brother stitched him up before bringing on Ed at an opportune moment and leaving the two of them to duke it out. Should you have trouble envisaging this scenario then fear no for I have handily mocked it up using phototrickery. Behold Fig. 1.

Fig. 1

Speaking of Jerry Springer…

Fun fact: Back in 1999 I ended up in the audience of The Jerry Springer Show whilst visiting Chicago. It was all about transsexuals who were cheating on each other and although I have to admit that I wasn’t really convinced by the main event (not by the transsexuals you understand… They seemed pretty legit so far as I could tell. It was more the ‘cheating’ bit since they all seemed to get on rather well when they cut for breaks) I was totally sold on Springer himself. He just seemed to balance it all so well, letting you know that it was all bollocks whilst effortlessly signing you up at the same time. That was 13 years ago but I have to say he still comes across very much as he did and although he’s not quite as quick on his feet (not to mention his rather unsettling assertions that he will be dead in 20 years), he too has still very much got it. Alright, so the going was pretty easy for him, what with him being Obama Cheerleader-in-Chief in front of a crowd with a ravenous appetite for the hopey-changey stuff but even when he clearly he’s no idea what he was talking about he’s just got an infectious manner that carries you along with him.

My theory is this: Jerry Springer does well because he makes you feel like he’s letting you in on a secret. Other people do this too – Charles Kennedy is a good example – but Springer adds another layer of finesse to it by making it clear that in letting you to on this secret, he is somehow implicating himself at the same time. That’s a talent and one that works very well with British crowds. It’s almost enough to make you forgive him for being ultimately responsible for The Jeremy Kyle Show.

I got distracted by Kwasi’s voice…

Alright, I’ll level with you… Kwasi Kwarteng is not going to get a fair hearing because I noticed something that totally threw me early on in the show: Kwasi Kwarteng’s voice is exactly the same as Boris Johnson’s would be if you played it back slowly on an old tape deck or if you slipped him half a Valium. Seriously, the tone, the cadence, the accent, it’s all totally identical except that it’s two or three tones lower and a little slower. Well, I’m afraid that the voice thing did for me and whenever he opened his mouth I was unable to focus on anything else, other than the fact that he isn’t a fan of deficits. That said, Kwarteng didn’t appear to do too badly and he seems canny enough to play the I Am But A Lowly Backbencher card to stay out of any real trouble when needs be. That voice though… It’s totally uncanny.

I miss hating early/mid-2000’s Republicans…

It was all so simple back in the day: Bush was mad, everything was wrong and the cast of characters sent out by the US to serve notice on the rest of the world were so ludicrously unlikable that life was relatively easy to fathom. This doesn’t appear to be the case with Colleen Graffy as while I didn’t really agree with anything she said, at least she didn’t back it up with laser-guided munitions and teary-eyed renditions of The Star Spangled Banner. It’s progress I guess… In a way…

I can sleep easy tonight knowing that Shami Chakrabarti hasn’t come to a sticky end…

There was a time when I was having to write about Shami every other week (in fact, I was just waiting for the day when she’d fill the role of all five panelists simultaneously), but it seems those days are long gone. Maybe it’s because everyone’s got their knickers in a twist about the economy, maybe it’s because we’ve conveniently forgot that we’re a nation who are very much still at war where we probably shouldn’t be, whatever, Shami just seemed to recede into the background and I was getting a little worried: Did the Feds finally catch up with her? Was she wrongly detained by a Truancy Officer? I didn’t know and the suspense was killing me. Happily, I can now go to bed unmolested by concerns as it appears that she’s a) still very much alive and b) doing what she always did which is getting very passionate about stuff she cares about. And that’s just fine with me.

Tl;dr

Miliband: 7/10

(Appears more) Chilled

Kwarteng: 5/10

Filled (an hour adequately)

Springer: 7/10

Thrilled

Graffy: 5/10

Willed (Romney to win)

Chakrabarti: 6/10

(Hasn’t been) Killed

The Crowd: 6/10

(Would be able to breath underwater if they were) Gilled?

You know what? That was all rather fun, like a little holiday from the usual grind of domestic doom. We should do this again, say in four years time…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #44


question time david dimbleby jail 44Morning Lemmings and welcome to Bizarro Time, a strange twilight netherworld of exterior opening shots, audience members wearing wristbands that made the whole affair look like a giant, penal Glasto, Dimbers referring to the venue as ‘The Scrubs’ (has he served time there?) and a complete lack of the Yellow Team. That’s right, this week’s Question Time comes to us from the bowls of the prison system and given the topical backdrop and panel, a right old to-do was to be expected. However, as I mentioned at the start this wasn’t so much Question Time as Bizarro Time and all is not quite what it seems. So Lemmings, let us firmly grasp the soap, strip down and head to the showers.

Ok, first up is Ken Clarke who has taken a break from his busy schedule of sticking his foot in his mouth to take his licks in public and try to remove said foot from said mouth. Actually, I must confess to feel quite sorry for Ken on this one. Yes, it probably wasn’t the most sensitive use of words but let’s face it, a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old having consensual sex is a different kettle of fish from someone actually forcing themselves on another. That’s not to say that rape isn’t the most serious of crimes, but there are different shades of severity just as there are different shades of Ken (see Fig. 1).

ken clarke rape

Anyhoo, a vocal and belligerent segment of the population took umbrage with Ken’s less than perfect choice of words and a media shitstorm unfolded on Wednesday with a speed and rapidity that defied belief. Worse still, the outrage wasn’t confined to the group who had the strongest claim to a legitimate beef and soon Ken was getting it in the neck from pretty much everyone: The right (for being Ken and soft on crims), No. 10 (for being Ken and switching his phone off), feminists (for being Ken and looking like the sort of bloke who says ‘wimmin’) and Labour (purely for laughs and the fact that they’ve been down on their luck for last few weeks). So yes, the stakes were high for the old boy and anything other than some heavy-duty contrition would inevitably lead to him having to slum it on the naughty step with the likes of Laws, Huhne and Fox (although I get the feeling that Fox actually feels quite at home on the naughty step).

To this end, Ken did pretty well by fully admitting he was a bit of a klutz for saying things in the way he did and that he compounded this by allowing the media to run rings round him, but he didn’t back down on his original point and the crowd were largely with him (although not cheering. I think everyone was a little nervous about how that response would go down). Eventually he settled down into a policy argument with Straw and the rest of his performance was fairly standard Ken fare, but he does seem to have got himself off the hook and that is something I’m largely glad about. For one, I think that this was a pretty wanky “media brouhaha” (to use Ken’s turn of phrase) and he was a victim of people looking for a fight but the second reason is slightly more important: Ken is a flawed character and politics needs flawed characters. One of the reasons we seem to have lost so much trust in politicians is that they spend so much time trying to impress us with how trustworthy they are and that is something that sets alarm bells ringing. By contrast, Ken’s never really pretended to be anything other than he is: A boozy semi-rogue who listens to jazz, nods off in the Commons and can’t really be arsed with the managerialism of modern politics. There are many aspects of him that I’m not too keen on (being knee-deep in Big Tobacco for one), but that’s the thing about human beings in general, they are not perfect and that’s not necessarily a bad thing (on a very tenuously related point, if you too happen to be a fan of flawed character’s, I highly recommend boning up on the American Civil War. I’m reading this utterly fantastic book on it at the moment and rough diamonds/tragically doomed characters are two-a-penny in that conflict, especially on the Union side. Seriously, check it out if you’re a fan of human frailty and the beauty of our failings).

Right, next up we have Jack Straw who has taken a break from his busy schedule of being a too-wiley-by-half, hard-bitten New Labour ex-Home Sec who might as well have been a proper Tory ex-Home Sec to, erh, carry on doing just that. As I mentioned last week, I have a real problem with previous Labour Home Office bods as this particular ministry seemed to do crazy things to their brains and I’ve never been a fan of Straw in particular. Having said that, I do have to admit that while the cloak of nefarious cunning he wraps himself in isn’t the most becoming of garments, it does suit him down to the ground and fits like a glove. Say what you want about his views and motives, at least he has the decency to look the part. The Demon Headmaster’s main contribution to last night’s show was to send my understanding of where everyone should be on the political spectrum into a flat spin as he embarked on a flanking march so far to the right that he nearly fell of the map and at times made common cause with Melanie Phillips, thus conjuring up the possibility of a love that dare not speak its name. That was one mental image I really didn’t need to see.

For the most part, Straw’s line of attack was pretty much based on the ‘I’LL SHOW YOU HOW TOUGH I AM!’ blueprint so beloved by New Labour but that didn’t seem to have as much traction with the crowd as it may have had in the past. However Straw is no dummy and in-between bouts of pounding his chest he found the time to chip away at the rich little seam of Justice on the Cheap. That proved far more effective, especially with the prison officers and went a little way to negating the excesses of his more truculent episodes. Also, he did mellow a little when it came to the matter of foreign aid and I must confess to being mightily relieved as there was an outside chance that he and Phillips may just start rutting like deranged elk had their opinions not diverged at that point. So yes, it was a pretty standard affair from Straw and while I still don’t particular like the guy, I do have to give grudging respect for his talent for survival and other related dark arts. My one piece of advice? Maybe it’s time to update your glasses Jack… I mean c’mon, Lennon’s been dead for 30 years now. Just sayin…

Ok, Panelist #3 coming up and this week it’s Shami Chakrabarti who has taken a break from her busy schedule of appearing on Question Time at least 200 times a year to appear on Question Time. Naturally, this was an opportunity for Shami to do what she does best (i.e. clip politicians round the ear in a firm but reasonable manner) in a very appropriate environment. Now, Shami’s been done to death in these Post Question Time Match Report’s (mainly by dint of appearing on Question Time 200 times a year) so I won’t go into too much detail other than to say that this was a solid performance that balanced the practical (giving life sentences to rapists means that they are more likely to kill people) with the ethical (telling Phillips to STFU on overseas aid because it’s the right thing to do), all delivered by a charming little boy with lovely manners. Very good Shami, see you next week.

Finally we have Melanie Phillips who has taken time out of her busy schedule of calling the Moon an Islamic conspiracy and accusing the Nanny State of making children drink monkey milk to give a bunch of lags what-for and generally spread the hate. I came up with that line earlier in the week and I must admit that I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to use it as she was fairly (by her standards) restrained when it came to the first question on rape. Like all the other panelists, she gingerly picked her way round the subject as if the monolith from 2001 had just risen from the studio floor and no-one was quite sure whether to fear or worship it. “Bugger” thought I, “this is going to make the write-up a little tricky”. Happily though, this new-found sensitivity was short-lived and she proceeded to crank up the Bile-o-Tronand let slip the dogs of crazy on both the ‘does prison work’ and foreign aid questions (“Close down the Department of International Aid!” Nice one Mel). Overall, it was your standard outpouring of wide-eyed monkeyshine but this time with added weird thanks to the temporary blossoming of romance between her and Straw. However, I will bung her an extra mark for exercising a smidgen of restraint in the first 20 minutes.

By the way, I discovered this week that Phillips tweets. Since my day job as a mental health worker doesn’t quite provide the levels of insanity I need to sustain me, I’ve signed up as a follower and now have the luxury of being assaulted by 140 tiny little fists of madness every couple of days. Seriously, I’m impressed by the density of the derangement she is capable of generating. It’s like mental plutonium.

So that was panel and bully for them. However, the main reason why this was going to be a Bizarro Episode was that it was in prison and prisoners were part of the audience (well done to Dimbers for saying “thanks for coming”. It’s not like a three-hour journey or anything). On the whole, they were fairly tame (although the guy who asked for more money for cons and guards was quite entertaining) but one did stand out. This was the guy at the end with the plumby accent and suit. To be honest, I can’t quite remember what he said (although everyone seemed to like it) mainly because my mind was doing somersaults trying to figure out a)what he was in for (ram-raiding Laura Ashley?) and b) whether he walked about the prison wearing that suit. That provided a brief respite (or “respit” as Straw pronounces it) from some fairly dense stuff so I doff my cap to thee, O Lord of D-Wing. As for the rest of the crowd, well they partially restored my faith in my fellow-man. For one, I was glad that most people seemed on board with the idea that justice needs to be about rehabilitation as much as it is about punishment but also because they showed that they completely saw through the media’s (and Labour’s… to shame, Ed. You’re better than that) attempts to make something out of not very much at all. I also liked the fact that the guy who was most vocal in support for Clarke was wearing a shirt so pink that if it were shade of paint, it would be called ‘FUCKING PINK’ (Caps-lock mandatory).

Clarke: 7/10

Redeemed

Straw: 5/10

Schemed

Chakrabarti: 7/10

Beamed

Phillips: 3/10

Screamed

The Crowd: 7/10

Esteemed

So there you go. A good, if slightly weird show that probably vexed everyone who hoped Clarke would break down like a turd in the rain. Next week Question Time will be in Exeter and I (oddly enough) will be writing it on a Megabus to Exeter. I suffer for my art.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #30


Morning Lemmings and why don’t we start with the traditional parade of dog-eared excuses and semi-plausible sick notes? Why not indeed. Ok, first up, sorry for the paucity of the photoshop effort this week. Basically, they didn’t announce who was on until Thursday evening and due to other commitments, I only had 15 minutes to slap something together, hence the reliance on recycled images and shonky comic ploys. I ain’t happy with it, but whatchagonnado? Secondly, I’d better point out that the only thing keeping my eyes open right now is the cat’s incessant whining to be let out and the packs of feral youths, roaming streets with fireworks who are preventing me from letting the cat out. In short, I’ve had a pretty mental week (literally) and have spent all of today embroiled in incidents of the distinctly dicey variety. I’m currently chugging industrial quantities of cola in a bid to attain some sort of state of alertness, but if the writing seems a bit off this week, look no further than the above.

 

Right, that’s any form of personal responsibility dealt with. Let’s crack on.

 

The Menu

 

Q1: Does the panel think that Sheffield Halham will decapitate Nick Clegg at the next election on account of tuition fees and Forgemasters?

 

Q2: Should prisoners be allowed the vote, especially if they have committed heinous crimes?

 

Q3: Does the recent Anglo-Franco treaty mean the end of independence and sovereignty?

 

Q4: Is fear around the air freight bombs being used to justify further restrictions of our liberty?

 

Q5: Will Obama end up like Blair: Trying to please everyone and satisfying no-one?

 

In the Yellow Bit of the Blue/Yellow Corner: Jeremy Browne MP, Minister of State at the Foreign Office and QT Virgin.

Boy, am I going to have fun with this guy, but in the interests of fairness, let me quickly make a case for his defence. First off, being a LibDem in Sheffield at the moment must be like being an underweight nerd at the International Bully and Victimiser Conference. Pretty much every promise that the LibDems have had to go back on of late has hit Sheffield particularly hard and I think it’s fair to say (just look at Q1) that whoever was on the stump for the Yellow Team was going to get a bit of kicking. Secondly, this is his first time on QT and he’s part of a panel that contains no less than three seasoned Question Time veterans which again is hardly the most comfortable place to be. Lip service to fairness paid, let us now engage in the far more pressing business of ripping poor Jeremy to shreds.

 

Ok where, to start? Well, I guess the first thing that struck me was his voice. It’s just so damn jaunty and un-LibDemmy. If I was listening to last night’s show on the radio and didn’t know who was speaking, I would swear to god that he must be some Tory backwoodsman of the Old School who was campaigning vociferously for a cull of something or other, but he’s not. He’s a LibDem minister. As well as being thoroughly merry, his voice is also characterised by having only one volume setting and this appears to be ‘loud’, something which again is far more Tory territory than LibDem. Sure, his vocal chords aren’t exactly his fault and can be forgiven, but what can’t is his general approach to answering questions. At best, this tends to involve some plumby variation on the “Yes but no but yes but…” routine, something that doesn’t really cut it when you’ve got a blood soaked brawler of the likes of Straw in close proximity and at worst, it’s a straight-forward case of him wedging his foot so firmly in his mouth that medical students will puzzle over how he managed to do this for years to come. A case in point: After being asked for his take on Q3, Browne gaily frolicked into a nice little tract about how the treaty wouldn’t mean we have to “speak French, wear onions round our necks and stripy T-shirts or ride bicycles.” Dammit man! What in the hell do you think you’re doing?! Sure, the crowd want a little red meat from time to time, but times and places fellah!

 

So yes, that didn’t go down too well and he was in fact heckled at this point, much to no-one’s surprise. As this was truly his lowest ebb, I guess it’s only fair to counter it with a high point, but the truth is that I can’t find one. Going back over my notes, most of his answer really didn’t say much about anything and the vast majority of them are summed up by the word “BLAH” in capital letters, a trend that doesn’t bode well for his political future. But here’s the thing though: I actually quite enjoyed his performance and not just in a sadistic ‘let’s watch the new boy give up his dinner money’ sort of way. No, the impression I was left with was of a Labrador driving a train: There’s Jeremy, miles out of his depth, yanking on random levers for the sake of yanking on levers, hurtling towards certain death but utterly oblivious to this eventuality and actually somewhat enjoying the experience. I like that mental image. It makes me smile and for some reason, so did Jeremy Browne’s performance. Ok, so the fact that he is actually a Minister of State is a little unsettling, but that weird inability he has to see that he’s neck-deep in shit and sinking fast is actually rather endearing and for that reason, he gets a slightly better mark than the technicalities of his performance merit. Oh, and he rather aptly looks quite a bit like Jeremy from Peep Show (see Fig. 1).

 

Fig. 1

 

An enjoyably crap 5/10

 

In the Blue Bit of the Blue/Yellow Corner: David Davis MP, stone cold ex-SAS type and general man of principle.

I like Davis and always have, mainly on account of you know exactly what he stands for. Yes, he’s sort of a one trick pony in that his platform is built almost entirely out of civil liberties timber, but that’s not a bad thing in itself and parliament needs people like him to make a hullabaloo when the likes of New Labour get totally carried away with the whole power deal. The other thing I like about Davis is that he looks hard as nails and you know that it’s not an act. Like Paddy Ashdown (also former special forces), his eyes seem to be recessed several inches into his skull and he has the look of a man who could quite nonchalantly kill you but wouldn’t even bother mentioning this to his wife because it seemed like such a mundane occurrence. So yes, I’m on board with Davis in a kind of ‘fear and respect’ sort of way. I don’t agree with him on a great many things, but I will always give him the time of day.

 

In terms of performance, it was stock Davis in that he was beholden to no man, not afraid to criticise his own side if he thought they were playing fast and loose with civil liberties and wonderfully bullshit free. Whilst he said nothing that’s particularly worth repeating at length, his responses were all very consistent and managed to pull off the very difficult trick of splicing self-evident common sense with a very strong helping of principle (especially around Q4 where his arguments for intercept evidence but against Control Orders won him a great deal of sincere applause), all of which led me to wonder why he isn’t running the country. Then I remembered that the Tory party turned him down and instead went for a PR man who looks a little like a boiled ham, which in turn made a something inside of me die a little.

 

An uncompromisingly rugged 8/10

 

In the Red Corner: Jack Straw MP, former warmonger-at-large and perennial survivor.

I don’t like Straw, never have, but by god is he interesting. In many ways, he’s like Davis’ evil twin and they even have similar upbringings in that they both grew up on council estates and suffered family tragedies in their early years. However, this is where their paths diverge and while Davis spent 17 years with Tate and Lyle going from the shop floor to the upper echelons, Straw took the default New Labour route of briefly practising law before going down the career politician route. In outlook, they are both polar opposites, what with Straw being the man who laid most of the foundations for some of New Labours over zealous authoritarianism, but it is in the way that they operate that the differences are most glaring. I mentioned before that Davis looks genuinely tough and tends to do things in a very straight forward, no compromise sort of way. Straw, by contrast, looks anything other than tough (in fact, he looks the Demon Headmaster from the eponymous Children’s BBC show of yore… See Fig.2), so much so that I reckon I could have him and instead has to rely on cunning, an area that he utterly excels in. The other key of difference is that Straw has legacy to defend whilst Davis has nothing of the sort since he has never been in government, all of which conspires to make watching the two of them together rather interesting.

Fig. 2

 

Ok, so getting down to his performance, it was largely what we’ve come to expect: Combative, emphatic, but also slightly twitchy. Take Q1 for example: Early in that question, he got to make a lot of hay by opening both barrels on the coalition, threw around words like “deceit” and “laughable” and generally played to a receptive gallery. Then things got tricky as people bought up his own past as leader of the NUS and his support for tuition fees whilst in government. Some politicians get derailed by moves like this, but Straw is way too grizzled and started to dig his heels in, refusing to give ground to the opposition and making sure that he had the last word. Now, this isn’t a pretty tactic (in fact, it borders on being disingenuous) but it is effective if you know what you’re doing with it and Straw does. Yes, it doesn’t look entirely convincing, but it’s better than the alternative of looking like a numpty who’s been caught out. A slightly different ploy was on display in Q4 when he did his ‘solemn’ look and then cast a smokescreen of technicalities, but the intent was still the same: Never go down without a fight, never give an inch, not one step back unless it’s to lead the enemy into a trap. Again, not entirely edifying but always purposeful. However, what did surprise me was his reaction to Q3 when he flat-out condoned the government’s policy on the Anglo-French treaty and gave it two resounding thumbs up. Now, I’m pretty sure that this is a sign of a slight mellowing now that he’s out of government as I really can’t remember a time when Straw has done anything other than just relentlessly attack anyone who happened to be sat opposite him in the Commons. I could be wrong on that one, but I suspect that I’m not.

 

So that’s the bulk of Straw’s performance and as I’ve already mentioned, I’m generally not a fan (particularly given his involvement in the Iraq War and his role in slowly grinding my post 1997 optimism into a fine powder). However, he is a survivor and with good reason: He knows where the bodies are buried and isn’t the least bit frightened of disinterring them with a mind to reanimation. Is this a noble calling? Probably not. Is it interesting to watch though? Most certainly.

 

Finally, how can I leave Straw without mentioning his little comic turn in Q5 where he asked Dimbers if he remembered FDR’s 1938 election victory and then called him “sweetheart”? Straw, I may question your motives, but I sure as hell admire your chutzpah.

 

A hard-bitten 6/10

 

In the Independent/Brainy Corner: Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty and furthest thing away from a Question Time Virgin possible.

Cripes, it’s been months since we’ve seen Shami, that endearing little boy who always ends up with more applause than Christ himself could garner and I briefly feared that she may have been sent away to boarding school and thus couldn’t partake in her usual schedule of at least ten appearances per series. As that last sentence suggests, Shami is no stranger to LCCPQTMR and as result, I’m going to keep it brief. Needless to say, it was the usual potent mix of impassioned calls to reason, breathless exhortations and non party political latitude that also had the usual result of driving the crowd wild and inevitably leading to victory, so no surprises there (although it has to be said that she shares this week’s victory with David Davis so sorry Shami, but this can’t be claimed as an outright win). All of that sounds like a rather begrudging endorsement and in a way it is because if I’m totally honest, I just get slightly bored with the fact that Shami winning is usually a forgone conclusion. However, I will try to not be completely po-faced about this as I am glad that there are people like her about and I agree with the majority of what she says.

 

One thing that did mark this performance out from some of her other appearances was the weird interplay between her and John Gaunt, a man Shami made an unlikely ally of when she threw Liberty’s weight behind him in the whole Nazigate business. You could tell this left both of them somewhat bewildered as to how to react to each other as they clearly still retain the ability to grind each others gears but aren’t quite sure whether formal hostilities have resumed (her was-it-sarky-was-it-witty “my old friend John Gaunt” quip being a case in point) and this added a little extra flavour to an otherwise standard Chakrabarti outing. Oh, and her performance is also responsible for Least Deserving Outburst Of Wild Applause In The Series So Far Award when the crowd went absolutely batshit after she spoke a little French in Q3. She could have said “Let’s lock up all the children in the land and make them eat coal” and they would have still slapped their hands together in unquestioning adoration, so blinded by the wildly improbable feat of someone actually knowing a few words in a foreign language. Has it come to this, Britain? HAS IT?

 

An inevitable 8/10

 

In the I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: John Gaunt, former TalkSport Radio presenter, Sun columnist and Nazi accuser.

I’m having trouble here. By rights, he should be my perfect Bad Guy by dint of holding a wide and varied array of right-wing views that are delivered in the most belligerent of tones. But wait! What’s this? We’re only into Q1 and we’re hearing an employee of News International knocking the government for being full of millionaires? Something ain’t right here. But there’s more! Here comes Q4 and if I’m not mistaken, I’m hearing the self-same Sun hack having a pop at Control Orders! Ok, so he tempered that by making it clear that he would still like to see Muslim extremists locked up and he did have the compulsory rant/wild speculation of doomsday scenarios whenever Europe was mentioned, but I must say that this turn of events has left my head spinning because dammit, I want to able to categorically hate the Bad Guy and I can’t do that if he’s talking about things I agree with. I can semi hate him, if only for talking a little bit LIKE THIS, turning every sentence into a crescendo that Godspeed would be proud of and his general knack for demagoguery also steams my bean (“this is Great Britain not GREAT BURMA!”), but I just can’t give him thoroughly horrible marks. Neither, it seems, could the crowd who were right behind him, especially in Q1 and thus we witness the strange spectacle of a Sun man cleaning up in a Mirror city. What with Glasgow refusing to tar and feather the nearest available coalition candidate last week, I now no longer know anything. Down is up, up is down, rivers flowing backwards, etc, etc.

 

An annoyingly not entirely awful 4/10

 

The Crowd: Sheffield

This was always going to be an odd show, mainly because three of the panelists were ‘we like liberty’ types whilst the other two were either too cunning or just too completely off the planet to really buck the consensus. Throw into this mix a list of question that hinge heavily around a civil liberties agenda and what you get is an episode that’s much more about the Y axis than the X of the wonderful Slomp Projection. I guess that’s quite nice for a change but I hope it doesn’t become a habit because I’m a sucker for the X axis. In terms of working out whether Sheffield is approving of the coalition it was also a little odd as they weren’t really represented. Yes, there were members of both parties there, but the LibDem panelist was so far removed from reality that he didn’t really count and the Tory member sounded so distant from government that he couldn’t really act as gauge either. Still, I must say that it was a fairly lively affair and if anything can be drawn from the crowd’s input it is that Nick Clegg should be seriously worried about his prospect for re-election and that no one really felt like defending Europe. Furthermore, I’m sad to say that the glorious run of two bow tie wearers in a row has come to an end. Bad move, Sheffield, you could have got some easy points there.

 

A slightly different but regrettably un-bow tied 6/10.

 

And that’s that. Right, I’m knackered and sober so I’m out of here but I will leave you with a small something by way of apology for this week’s poor pshop effort. Behold, Beefy (the bassist in our band) looking massive and chasing all sorts of crap.

 

Run. Just run.

 

 

Next week, Lemmings…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #16


Let us pray...Morning Lemmings. As you may or may not have noticed, there is still a gaping void where the oft-mooted ‘Awards Ceremony’ should be, largely on account of me being back at work and the highly clement weather. Speaking of the weather, I’m going to try and keep it short tonight as I’m presently semi-naked, sweating bullets and wanting very much to have nothing to do. That, and I’ve noticed that not many people go searching out for Question Time dorkery when the sun’s out. Well done everyone, you have lives. Anyhoo, back to the task in hand.

So, last week was the first outing for the ConDemocrat chimera and sweaty confusion was the name of the game. Will this trend last? There’s only one way to find out. En garde!

The Menu

Q1: Was Nick Clegg right to defend Pakistani terrorists under the Human Rights Act?

Q2: Clegg and Cameron seem happier with each other than their own parties’. Have they betrayed their core vote?

Q3: Will Liam Byrne’s ‘there’s no money left’ letter be New Labour’s epitaph?

Q4: How can the country move forward when the Equalities Minister is anti gay adoption and against transsexuals from changing gender?

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Theresa May, Home Secretary, Minster for Women and Equalities and out-of-the-fucking-blue minister of state.

*sigh* May’s back. Actually, everyone on this episode is a repeat offender when it comes to LCCPQTMR, but I was especially deflated to see her return, given how life drainingly crap her last outing was. Furthermore, listening to her being introduced as “the Home Secretary” caused my brain to suddenly crash as I’ve still not got my head around the complete wtf?!?-ness of her appointment and I spent the first five minutes wrestling with a spiritual Blue Screen Of Death. If you didn’t catch her last appearance, it was like listening to a scratched spoken word CD of Tory election soundbites (“Change!”, “We’re All In This Together!”, “Brokun Britun!”, Shut Up!) that had been set on infinite repeat and piped directly into your brain. Even more concerning was the fact that her first big public outing (her speech to the Police Federation) was exactly the same, an endless roll call of squawked crapitudes that rolled on into eternity. So no, I didn’t have high hopes for her on this show.

Anyhoo, this episode started on a sticky wicket with Q1 so lots of flapping about and trying to look even-handed ensued, but largely failed to convince anyone. Commissions and reviews were promised, uncashable cheques were signed and the first evidence of the Crapitude CD being updated for this brave new world of consensual politics emerged: “5 Years of Stable Government!” Ha! After having so successfully put the ‘lack’ into ‘lustre’ with Q1, Q2 took a turn for the worse as the CD skipped back to some pre-election tracks (including such classics hits as “Deficit!”, “Strong and Stable Government!” and a new entry for “The Tory’s are for Freedom, Fairness and Responsibility!” That one even got some mild heckles) while Q3 contained basically nothing of note. However, Q4 was the real doozy and as soon as it was uttered, she was pretty much doomed. It did, briefly look like she might be able to squirm out of it when she muttered some ‘it was a long time ago and things have changed’ guff but that was before it all went south in a welter of incoherent ramblings (including a weird reference to “careers advice” as a panacea for all our equality woes). So that was pretty shit.

I’m really struggling with May as I go out of my way to try and find some redeeming features for the unwitting subjects of these reports, but I simply can’t find them her. Try as I might, every time she’s on I’m left with the impression of some self important local dignitary who’s trying to impart some arbitrary advice to a stationary rabble whilst on the back of a horse that won’t behave and keeps wandering off. It doesn’t matter what they’ve got to say, it’s just too distracting to listen as they wind in and out of earshot and writhe in the saddle, desperately trying to stay facing the crowd. That’s fine when you’re just another body on the opposition benches, but it actually starts to get frightening when you get some real power and the ability to mess about with people’s lives. So expect the entire Police Force to be in kitten heels by this time next week.

A habitually superficial 3/10

In The Yellow Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Menzies Campbell, MP for North East Fife and high mileage elder statesman.

Poor Old Ming, it’s not been his decade. Not only was he rather callously deposed from his position as LibDem leader (largely on the grounds of being a bit old and a bit knackered), but now the Libs finally do have a taste of the power action, Poor Old Ming is nowhere to be seen on the frontbenches and is instead sent out for repeated Question Time floggings. There’s gratitude for you. Anyhoo, Ming’s Question Time form is well documented and as I’m pushed for time, I’m not going to go into the nitty gritty and instead confirm that it was a pretty standard affair for him: Good on open water with a gentle breeze but not exactly the most stable of vessels when things start to get choppy. Actually, tonight he did a little better than usual, picking up some much deserved plaudits for his stand on the Human Rights Act in Q1 and indulging in some ‘read between the lines’ Tory baiting in Q2 so he’ll get an extra point or two for that. There’s also a question that occurred to me when watching him that warrants further examination: Is Ming a Big Beast?

On the face of it, he must be as he ticks all the right boxes. For one, he’s old, which is not a prerequisite for Big Beastery (take Mandelson, for example), but something that certainly helps and he’s also held the top job in his party (again, not a compulsory qualification, but one that lends extra credibility). On top of that, he’s a pretty good orator on certain matters and he’s got an interesting enough background (what with all his Olympian claims to fame and whatnot). However, I cannot in good conscience declare Ming to be a Big Beast and here’s why: He’s just so damnably innocent. Look at this way, Big Beasts come in many different shapes and sizes. At one end of the spectrum you’ve got your Tory Rogues whose very mention impart the sensation of brandy-on-stomach-lining (such as the late, great Alan Clarke) while at the other end you’ve got your Principled Firebrand types like Shirley Williams and (had he lived long enough) Robin Cook. In between, there are all sorts of randoms such as your Jazz And Good Times Ken Clarke types, your Balls Out Nutter Michael Heseltine types and your Craggy Faced Killer types such as Ashdown and Davis. The one common strand that links these disparate groups is they all seem to have the measure of humanity, viewing it as a creaking edifice of tangled imperfection that require either spirited leadership or damning to hell and back to stop the whole thing from crashing to the ground. Ming doesn’t have this and seems to be genuinely shocked when confronted with man’s inhumanity to man, aghast that people could be anything other than altruistic Good Samaritans, hell bent on all just getting along. In many ways, his wide eyed school boy enthusiasm for his fellow man is both refreshing and commendable, but it can also be a weakness and it certainly keeps him out of the hallowed ranks of the Big Beast’s for now. Maybe if kicked a puppy on live TV or spent an afternoon writing hate mail to the Pope, people would get a bit more on board with him, but until then he will stay as Poor Old Ming. Poor Old Ming.

A cut above the baseline 6/10

In The Red Corner: Caroline Flint, MP for Don Valley and female window dressing (her words, not mine).

Ol’ Snaggletooth’s back! Hooray for Snaggletooth! Actually, I thought she was quite interesting to watch tonight as being in opposition seems to suit her quite well. Back when she had to go out and defend the government, she reminded me a lot of the Red Army prior to Stalingrad: She was always fighting hopeless battles that she could never win, but through sheer dogged resistance and a remarkable capacity to sustain punishment, she would survive just long enough to trade territory for time and keep the sinking ship afloat. Now, she’s much more reminiscent of the Wehrmacht circa 1943-44: Although bruised and strategically on the retreat, she’s still a force to be reckoned with that is skilled at fighting withdrawals and ferocious local counter attacks. Don’t pity me, pity my better half.

The above was reflected throughout the episode, but especially in Q1 when she got to fool around with some gleeful knife twisting at the expense of the ConDemocrats and also in some rather deft little retreats on Q3 that managed to avert a potentially disastrous bout of Labour bashing from turning really sour. Towards the end, she even managed to pick up some praise from Shami Chakrabarti and that, my friends, is no mean feat. Sure, the crowd didn’t go wild for her, but she’s never been a favourite with the audience, what with being so jagged around the edges (although her “grubby speed dating” line went down very well with them) and Labour are very much in the background at the moment so I’d say that it was a pretty good performance. However, there is a caveat to all this and it’s a big one: She has Warsi Syndrome (the propensity to overplay one’s hand after initial success). It’s not a terminal case and she looks treatable, but there were times in the evening (such as when she went too far with the Labour Rollcall of Past Triumphs in Q3) when earlier gains were gravely jeopardised by reckless lunges and this slightly tarnished what was otherwise a pretty good innings.

A definite signs of improvement of a 6/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Shami Chakrabarti, tiny Liberty boss and perennial QT crowdpleaser.

Another week, another Shami and as always, it’s what we’ve come to expect: A pretty impassioned (although sometimes bordering on ‘overwrought’) knockabout that everyone liked and clapped along to. As you’d probably expect, Q1 was fertile ground to get hot under the collar about Liberty type stuff so she hit the ground running and then remained fairly combative throughout, bloodying noses here, there and everywhere. The thing is though, I get a little bored of watching Shami win all the time. That’s not to say I don’t think she’s good to watch or that what she does isn’t important (the world could use a few more Shami Chakrabarti’s), it’s just it all seems a little unfair, like when a sport gets totally dominated by a single player or team for years on end. For example, when exactly are Liberty going to be in a position where it has to deliver bad news (“Erh, sorry, but we just accidentally ended up lobbying parliament for a network of secret torture camps and now they’ve gone and passed a bloody bill to that effect! Our bad!”)? Never, that’s when! And asking people to go along with having more freedom is hardly rocket science is it? It’s like saying “who likes having a good nights sleep?!” and getting a bag of sweets every time someone says “yay!”. However. I do concede that in terms of applause, she was clearly on top and who the hell I’m to bugger about with peoples right to bash their hands together? No one, that’s who.

An inevitable 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Douglas Murray, intense young man and rightwing nutjob.

True, dat...

Fig. 1

Are you obviously scarily brainy? Do you stare at things with such focused ferocity that the objects themselves turn to dust? Do you think the state should be no bigger than a cornershop? Do you consider laser guided bombs to be the solution to most problems? Did you write this book (see Fig.1)? And do you really not like terrorists? If you answered ‘yes’ to all of these questions, you are Douglas Murray and if that is the case, I’d advise you to stop reading this now. Actually, I never end up being that nasty to Murray because even though he is quite, quite mad, he does make for ace telly and I’m a fan of ace telly.

As always, it was suitably rabid stuff from Murray tonight, damning all those pot smoking, peacenik, coalition types who refused to blast the terrorists into outer space or some other crazily draconian measure. “Any society that wanted to survive would not do this” he seemed to say through the foam that had formed in the corners of his mouth before damning Britain for being “a retirement home for would-be jihadis.”. Subtle as ever then. He did get some applause on stuff in Q2 (although it was usually a few people applauding very, very loudly. Comes with the territory) and there was even an outburst of reasonableness in Q4 when he had a pop at the Tories for their record on homophobia. Generally though, it was wild eyed and batty enough to hold my attention and that’s a good thing. One thing I did notice tonight though was that I felt differently about what he is than I had on his previous appearances and I think this has something to do with the death of New Labour.

Even towards the end of their tenure, when neoconservatism was totally discredited and had pretty much died in the US, I still got the feeling that this guy was somehow relevant and that in itself made him seem a little scary to me. It wasn’t that Labour were neocons or anything like that, but the views that Murray espouses belonged to the bit of history that occurred on their watch. Now they’ve gone, I can mentally bookend that period and put Murray on the shelf next to MySpace, Ali G and “the end of boom and bust”. As a result, I now feel a bit sorry for Murray when I see him, as if he were a member of the Flat Earth Society or one of those people who get angry about fluoride in water. So I’m afraid your time has passed Douglas and I, for one, will greatly miss your trademark brand of lunatic interventionism. Godspeed Dougie, Godspeed.

A newly obsolete 6/10

The Crowd: Richmond Park.

So things seem to have settled down this week. People are still a little confused, but that freefall, ‘stop the world, I want to get off’ sensation that permeated last week’s show has certainly been cranked down a notch or so. We’re still in a position where the lines of defence and attack are only just being drawn and no-one’s quite sure how things are going to pan out, but you get the sense that initial shock of the hung parliament is giving way to the reality of a coalition government. In terms of the this show, it was a pretty scrappy affair and no-one (excluding Shami) seemed to have an overall advantage. As for the crowd, they were pretty noisy, but you got the feeling people aren’t quite sure to how to react to this new government, straddling, as it does, two very different camps . As a result, I felt that this was quite a fragmented episode where no single section of the audience could build a sufficient head of steam to deliver a knockout blow to another. Instead, it was an uncoordinated scuffle where no one quite knew what side of the line they should be standing on and ran about screaming instead. In a word, ‘odd’.

Only one audience member of note tonight and that was an Australian woman who looked quite a lot like Kath from Kath and Kim although it might have just been her accent. I’m not good with faces.

A neither here nor there 5/10

Ok, that’s your lot. It’s half 10, I’m still roasting and I’ve still got to bugger about with the internet and all that. So much for doing nothing, See you next time.

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #12


Ol' Big Neck and Wonky Eyes

Morning Lemmings. Ok, so I guess I’d better pay lip-service to the Leaders Debate as it provided the backdrop to last night’s Question Time and the world seems to have got its knickers in a twist about it (except, strangely, the Mail and Express, who are going with volcanogeddon on their front pages today… Your boy not do too well then?). I’m not going to get too deeply embroiled in it all as we’ll be here all day, but here’s a few choice titbits for you:

1: The format is super weird, like an episode of Blind Date where the audience couldn’t be bothered to turn up, Cilla’s been at the catnip and the girl who does the picking is in a comma. I know that everyone’s bleating about what a revelation it all was but I have to confess that I found it half stultifyingly dull, half mindbendingly bizarre (at one point I began daydreaming about how cool it would be if Cameron’s head just exploded, showering Clegg and Brown with blood and propelling fragments of skull into Stewart’s face. See what it’s done to me?) Debate without a feedback mechanism is an odd puppy indeed.

2: Alistair Stewart is a tool and a very staccato one at that. I know it was hard brief, given the Byzantine rules involved, but constantly barking “MR BROWN! MR BROWN!” does not a Dimbleby make.

3: Clegg did do well. I’ve been very scathing about him of late, mainly because he comes across as the political equivalent of skimmed milk: Sensible but life drainingly limp. However, he did manage to look like someone with two, possibly three dimensions last night and clearly stood apart from Brown and Cameron as a person who may have some non-crap tricks up his sleeve. So well done Cleggers, your stock’s just risen in my book.

4. Brown wasn’t that bad. Yes, ‘the big list’ is a very worn and dull tactic and desperately shoehorning shonky jokes into places where you shouldn’t isn’t exactly edifying, but he did win some points on the ‘steady pair of hands’ scale. If I was him, I’d knock these efforts to humanise himself on the head because it isn’t fooling anyone. We know he’s a creature who dwells in a netherworld of abstract numbers and ethereal statistics, but that’s actually part of his appeal (in an odd sort of way). Stick with what you know, Gordy. Oh, and watching him try to bum Clegg was pretty entertaining.

5. The biggest revelation for me was just how bad Cameron was. I was fully expecting him to walk this, but it was not to be. The main problem is that his ‘reduce hugely complex and nuanced issues into a happy little tale of how cocking normal I am’ tactic that works so well on soundbites and news bulletins simply can’t sustain 90 minutes of scrutiny. Seriously, if he had tried to boil the global economic crisis down to some anecdote about how he was hanging out in a Spar shop, buying something excruciatingly normal amongst excruciatingly normal people one more time, I swear to god I would have forced lit cigarettes down my ears, hot end first. The flakiness of the Tories latest wheeze (power to plebs, yo?) also began to look suspiciously flimsy after a few minutes and I can’t help but think that they are really going to have to up their game to stop the other debates going sideways.

6. The set looks like is was borrowed from a daytime telly gameshow, possibly involving William G. Stewart.

7. When the candidates weren’t talking they looked like they were messing about with colouring-in books.

8. 90 minutes is a bloody long time.

So that’s that: A rather disorientating experience that left me salivating for the fillet steak of Dimbleby after the gruel of Stewart. Waiter!

The Menu: This is a bit of format tweak, largely to curb my tendency to waffle about the finer points of the various questions. So, from now on, the questions go up first, I get to have a bath and read the New Statesman a bit earlier while you don’t have to trawl through quite as much blabber. Everyone’s a winner, kapeesh? So, what’s on tonight’s menu?

Q1: Who won tonight’s debate?

    Q2: The debate is being described as “historic” but will it make a difference?

    Q3: Does the Tories ‘people power’ wheeze represent an abdication of the state in providing services?

    Q4: Does Gordon Brown’s omission that he should have supervised the banks more closely mean he’s not fit to lead?

Q5: Is a hung parliament the political equivalent of volcanic ash (topical!)?

In The Red Corner: Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and somewhat boss eyed (see above) brother of David.
Another week, another Miliband, although this time we get the slightly more human of the pair. I’ve got quite a lot of time for Ed as he does seem to genuinely think about what he says and has an air of conviction that doesn’t spill over into sounding desperate. His career path hasn’t been quite as meteoric as his brother’s, mainly because he’s always been on the Brown side of the Labour fence, but to be honest, that seems to work in his favour as I’m natural suspicious of high achievers and their ilk. He also has much softer edges than David, mainly because he trades less in pure politics (which the younger Miliband excels at…. excels at far too much in fact) and more in ideas. That gives him a little more depth and a little less jaggedness. It was an easier show than it could have been for him tonight, considering Brown managed not to completely faceplant himself into the pavement while Cameron didn’t manage to live up to his own hype. Q1 was a pretty chushty affair that simply involved giving the obligatory props to ‘how great for democracy’ the whole shebang was, a few nods in Brown’s direction and a nice little crack at the Tories for Cameron’s China faux pas. Nothing of revelationary significance, but steady enough. Minor applause was the order of the day for Q2 as he needled the Tories again for Cameron’s weak effort and declared Gordon Brown to be a “man of substance”, but he overplayed this hand when he went back for a second bite and no-one would play with him. Q3 provided a rich seam to mine as it was pretty clear that the crowd weren’t on board with the whole ‘Big Society’ flakery and they dished out some love when he managed to big up the state without badmouthing the voluntary sector and generally harried Gove on some education do-dahs. Things could have got pretty difficult on Q4, but it seemed that the audience had made up their mind that this was going to be a fairly anti-Tory night and despite wheeling the standard issue ‘global recession line’ (this time working in references to “houses in Mississippi”… go on Ed! Paint a picture!) things did get sticky when an audience bought up that weird story about some department that had a “contemplation suite”. Miliband did the honourable thing in the face of this and dropped Ed Balls right in it (if in doubt, blame Balls) while the final question had him making some ‘we love constitutional reform now that the LibDems look like they might have a fighting chance’ gestures that didn’t look entirely heartfelt. So, all-in-all it was a pretty good turn and at the end of play he looked entirely unscathed. Some of this is down to circumstance. I’m guessing that the Leader’s Debate went way better than most Labour bigwigs hoped and the inevitable hammering he expected to take never materialised. Instead, all he had to do was not get over-cocky and just go with the audience, which he did and it worked. The other part of this is down to Miliband himself and the fact that he’s good at getting the pitch right. While his brother plays a very impressive offensive game, the political equivalent of Shock and Awe, Ed seems much more well rounded and flexible. He’s good in defence without appearing conceited and has the umph to take the fight to the other side as well, all of which goes in his favour. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m saying that this was some earth shattering display of statesman like qualities, but it was quite a nice, measured bit of play that sounded mostly convincing.

An above par 6/10

In Blue Corner, Michael Gove, long neck having (see above) Shadow Secretary for Children, Schools and Families and man made entirely of Play Dough
I have a hard time pegging Gove down. On the one hand he’s clearly bright, tougher than he looks (and he does look like his face was made by a three year old potter who’s been at the E-numbers…See Fig. 1) and tends to do quite well on the likes of Newsnight.

Zoinks!

Fig. 1

Like Ed Miliband, he’s more on the ‘ideas’ end of politics and he seems to be a lot better at nuance than most Tories are. Having said that, I have reservations about the ideas he comes up with (being mainly of the vague and woolly variety, dressed up to sound much more solid than they actually are), his body language points to a squirrel based ancestory and his ‘angry’ face is really irritating. It was a tough deal for him on this episode, considering he had only half an hour’s thinking time after watching his leader do a less than great job and the lack of feedback from the Leader’s Debate audience probably had him making wild guesses about how it went down with the public. The lack of response he got to Q1 (‘of course I love Dave but politicians “shouldn’t pass judgement” on this’…wtf?) was pretty much the shape of things to come while Q2’s little pop at LibDem immigration policy also failed to find it’s target. However, it was Q3 where things started getting messy and when he tried to explain why the whole ‘Big Society’ thing was so great (and he has his fingerprints all over this policy), he was treated to a full blown tumbleweed moment. Sensing that things were looking ominous, he rashly declared that he “loves” Shami Chakrabarti, only to have the subject of his affection turn around and call him a liar. Bad move. Q4 was a safer affair and a recitation of the standard Gordon Brown charge sheet and a sly little swipe at Law’s for being a banker back in the day seemed to do the trick. Moderate applause was his reward, along with a slight respite from the growing anti-Tory sentiment. Finally, he conjured up some thinly veiled warnings about a hung parliament for Q6 and then shuffled off, bloodied but not entirely unbowed.

Truth be told, he didn’t do so badly as the crowd were most certainly not in the market for the regular Tory line and as I said earlier, events conspired against him. If that had been May, Osborne or Lansley, I could see it degenerating into rout, but he did pretty well to keep a semblance of a defence up and although he comes across as quite odd, he isn’t totally unlikable. So bad luck Michael, that was a choppy crossing but you can take comfort in the fact that you didn’t throw up all over yourself.

A spirited, if not entirely successful 5/10

In The Yellow Corner, David Laws, Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and slightly David Caruso-esque ex-banker.
I haven’t been impressed by laws to date, mainly because there’s something a little jobsworthy about him (“pleeeeease let us have power”) and he can be a little over assertive, but he was in a great position tonight, given Clegg’s out-of-fucking-nowhere turn. Naturally Q1 was a love-in with Nick and a fall-out with Dave, all of which went down with predictable well while he continued to keep the pressure on Cameron in Q2. Q3 saw him do really well as he managed to knock Labour for the nanny state whilst also bashing ‘Big Society’ as being deeply divisive, something that clearly resonated with the audience and made him a whole stack of hay. I have to confess that I missed him on Q4, having to both go to the toilet and find a bottle opener, so no searing insights from me there while Q5 saw him quietly fade out, chuntering about this, that or the other . On the face of it, he seems to have won the political argument but I can’t really put that down to any particular personal trait. Ok, so he seems competent enough and there was nothing I didn’t particularly dislike about his performance, but I still can’t quite get behind him yet. Maybe that will come with more exposure and there’s every possibility that I’m just being a mardy old hack, but for now I am going to suspend opinion on him. Laws: Make me like you.

A technically victorious but not-quite-there-yet 6/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Nigel Farage, ex-leader of UKIP, ventriloquists dummy (see Fig. 2) and wearer of naff suits.

gogtle of ginglish gere?

Fig. 2

I’m going to say something rash now: Politics is a better place with Farage in it. Now hold on there, don’t phone the duty mental health team and arrange a sectioning just yet because this doesn’t mean that I agree with him about…well…pretty much anything, it’s just that he’s a genuine character . A demented, small minded demagogue of a character, yes, but a character nevertheless and characters add much needed spice to what can otherwise be a dull and overly dry subject. He also looks like a cad who’s just a little bit too dorky to be a proper cad and I imagine him being stuck at Cad HQ, doing the accounts while all the real cads are out shagging emotionally vulnerable countesses and swindling impressionable young nobles out of their fortune. That thought cheers me for some reason. Sadly, I was kind of disappointed with tonight’s effort as there was nothing he could get really off his tits about and he kept having to invent reasons to be crazy, usually by making totally unrelated topics somehow link to the EU. Calling the LibDems “the modern day CND” and a brief seizure about Gordy selling the gold looked like they could have developed into some awesomely batty tirades, but alas, it was not to be. Instead, what we mainly got was ‘blah blah referendum, blah blah throwing the doors open, blah blah”. Now I know that UKIP’s main (and only) selling point is the whole Eurobashing thing, but come on, you have to bolster that up with obnoxious opinions about other things as well if you want my continued tolerance of your outlandish worldview. So step up your game, Farage. Next time your own, I want to at least see some hair on the palms of your hands.

A disappointingly flat 3/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: John Sergeant, reassuringly un-handsom ex-journo and buggerer-up of Strictly Come Dancing.

Ahh, John Sergeant… while nature may have given you a pretty ropey deal in the looks department, it more than made up for it by blessing you with the most soothing voice in Britain. Seriously, it’s like swimming in a pool of Ovaltine and if ever anyone has to break some bad news to me, I’d like it if they could contact Sergeant first and get him to do it instead. He’s also one of the most reasonable sounding people on telly, taking his time to softly impart little nuggets of considered wisdom that seem to waft out of his mouth in a fine, sweet smelling mist. Tonight saw him being incredibly sympathetic towards Brown, swimming against the tide a little but getting away with it because it’s just impossible to be angry with someone who looks that much like a comedy cartoon sidekick. Worthy of note was his rather wonderful lambasting about the ‘Big Society’ issue, but unfortunately this got taken the wrong way by an overly eager audience member who thought he was being nasty about the voluntary sector and he had to crank his voice from ‘soothing’ to ‘ultra-soothing’ in order to extricate himself. Mostly though, it was good, thoughtful stuff and while I didn’t agree with it all (I, for instance, really want a hung parliament), it was said in such a way that it came across as it should: an opinion, not an existential threat to my beliefs system. Given that the prevailing wind in politics seems to be a very reductionist, with-us-or-against-us hurricane, it’s really refreshing to listen to someone who actually bothers to look at things in depth. So well done John, now come over to mine and gently lull me to sleep with some Beatrix Potter and Winnie the Pooh. And some warm milk. And tuck me in. That’s enough now. You can go.

A wonderfully contented 7/10

In The There Goes The Format Corner: Shami Chakrabarti, OO gauge defender of Liberties and formidable Question Time performer.

If there’s one person who you can safely bet on to wipe the floor with everyone on Question Time, it’s Shami Chakrabarti. In some ways it’s a little unfair because pretty much no one would disagree that having their door kicked down by the police is something they’d rather avoid, but for the most part it’s down to the fact that she’s passionate, eloquent and doesn’t pander to anybody. She also (as my better half spotted some time ago) looks a lot like a school boy and I’ve often wondered how she’d look in traditional cap and blazer (not in a pervy way, you understand?). Well, thanks to the judicious use of commercially available photo manipulation software, that moment has now arrived. Behold, Middle School Chakrabarti (see Fig. 3)!

Fig. 3

Ok, so it was a little weird having to type ‘boy in traditional school uniform’ into Google Images, but I feel that the end justifies the means. As always tonight, she did a sterling job, going with Clegg on the Leadership Debates, pouring scorn on ‘Big Society’ and generally making sure that none of the politicians got a free ride. The crowd were on board with her as they always are, even as she performed a fairly risky manoeuvre in which she implicated every one of us as a culprit in the credit crunch. That’s an important point right there and one that doesn’t get aired enough, mainly because people are too afraid it won’t go down well. Thankfully, Shami has no such qualms and will routinely point the finger, no matter how much of a holy cow the culprit is. I won’t get too carried away in praising her to high heaven as she does have a blessed position on the show, beholden to no-one and peddling an idea that’s almost universally agreed upon as ‘a good thing’, but there’s still an awful lot to like. So that was pretty much her lot and as usual, it was a very good lot which leads me to conclude that should ever the facility to gamble on Question Time exist, always go with Chakrabarti. You’ll be rich in no time.

A fully great 8/10

The Crowd: London

I had the deepest sympathy for the audience tonight, enduring as they did the full 90 minutes of Leaders Debate but without access to booze, fags, internet and things to throw at the screen. The strain was evident during the opening question and it took them a while to shake off the torpor that seemed to envelop the studio. However, once they regained consciousness, they proved to be a great crowd and one that was very much into Nick Clegg. The other interesting thing was that they were probably one of the most anti-Cameron audience we’ve seen all series which is saying something given that we’ve already been to Scotland and the North East. That’s not to say it was all one way traffic, but if I was in the Tories right now, I’d be seriously looking for that thinking cap of mine. One final thing that struck me about them: this was one of the first shows in a long time when expenses and ‘all MP’s are crap’ didn’t form the backbone of the audience argument. I’ve been quite negative about the Leaders Debates tonight, but if Clegg has somehow managed to drag the argument out of the Swamp of Culpability and into the Savannah of Possibilities, then that is good thing. A very good thing. But yes, generally they were a good bunch and made for a lively show. Members of note this week include a women who made a sentence out of seemingly random words (“more slightly a bit like a puppet show”), a guy who’s shirt looked like a tube of Cresta toothpaste and a women who forgot what she was saying before she said it. I fucking love it when that happens.

A refreshing and zesty 8/10

So Chakrabarti and the crowd carry the day. Well done to them and a ‘not a bad show’ to everyone except Farage. Come on Nigel! Stop with the non-crazy!

See yers next week.


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