Good morning Lemmings and isn’t it just typical – you spend all series waiting for a screamingly self-obsessed bag of contradictions to turn up and then two come along at once. It’s just not bloody fair is it? Anyway, we should really get cracking as there was plenty going on last night as you might expect given the presence of the Gallowstarkey so let’s not shilly-shally about: To the first paragraph Lemmings…
For a horrible moment I thought Galloway might be losing his teeth…
I usually love opening shots in which George Galloway’s involved, particularly of late when he’s been going through his Bond villain phase – you know, with that collarless Scaramanga suit and the mad, mad staring eyes. Alas, it appears that he’s now stopped striking that pose, donned a pair of Meedja Glasses and is going for a much more restrained get-up, all of which robs that opening shot of its melodrama and me of a good chuckle with which to get the party started. It wasn’t just the way he looked either – there was something really odd about the way he was putting words together at the start of the show: His tone was subdued – a little timid even – yet the vocabulary was (as always) straight out of the Moscow Trials, all of which added up to a very weird presentation where statements designed to be screamed at the top of your lungs (like “REACTIONARY TOSH!”) sorted of squeaked their way out and lent his usual line of hyperbole a strange air of mundanity. At first I though this might be a case of ‘once bitten, twice shy’ since the last time he opined about rape he ended up in all sorts of hot water but this was clearly not the case given that he once again tried to go down the ‘husbands don’t have to ask for sex verbally’ route and was rewarded with a very awkward silence followed by a swift Moving On from Dimbers.
In fact, it took two full questions for George to hit his stride and in the meantime we had to watch the odd spectacle of him winding himself up. This happened on the public vs. private schools question when Starkey had just finished flouncing about on a hobby house called ‘You People’.
“I am absolutely furious” declared Galloway, except that he didn’t sound furious at all – mildly ticked off maybe, but certainly not ‘furious’ – so he gave it another go.
“I am absolutely furious!”.
Hmm, better but still not feeling it.
“THE RIGHT TO A FREE EDUUUUUUUUUCATION!!!!!!”
And that was it, the crowd cheered and he was off – off to spend the rest of the show bellowing about “TORY CONTEMPT!” whilst simultaneously stroking Matthew Hancock’s arm and gently patronising him to within an inch of his life. It’s odd though: This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed that Galloway needs a whole lot of runway to take off and I’m beginning to suspect that underneath all the bravado is actually quite a nervous man who needs to hear the audience cheer (or to see a fight he knows he can win) before he can shake the self-doubt off his back. There, I did it. I managed to get the words ‘Galloway’ and ‘self-doubt’ into the same sentence. Questionable Time’s slow descent into absurdism is now complete.
While George was winding himself up, Starkey was boiling himself down…
…Into a thick, viscous ooze of something really unpleasant. Of course, this shouldn’t really come as any surprise given his past form but last night really was a turning point: It signalled that he’s ended any pretence of being a Serious Talking Head and has instead bet the farm on becoming The Thinking Idiot’s Katie Hopkins. I mean seriously, everything he said last night was intentionally designed to wind up the maximum amount of people in the shortest possible time and on that front he did exceptionally well – for example, that line about the “the large female paw, hanging on one pan of the [Scale’s of Justice]”? That was Live Action Trolling at it’s very finest and he does deserve at least a little credit for the skill involved. However, it’s the way he gets personal that just makes the whole thing seem so bloody obnoxious – like when he started imitating an audience member and threw his pen across the table in a fit of faux indignity. It looked like a stroppy teenager doing a sarky impression of their parents after having been grounded and it was quite frankly wanky (as was the whole “Large, fat, red man” rant about ‘Bill’ Crow).
But – and here’s the rub – I have to admit that on a very nefarious level, it works. It’s like the Sidebar of Shame on the Daily Mail site: I may huff and puff and furrow my brow when ever it’s mentioned but you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll happily click away at it when no-one’s looking. Hey, wait a second, when did I suddenly become part of the problem? Damn you Starkey! You’ve even managed to pit me against myself!
And the others?
Alright, time is short so I’ll be brief. I’d totally forgotten who Matthew Hancock was until I remembered that he’s the plumby voiced Minister for Skills and Enterprise who is so hopelessly out of his depth on QT that I always end up feeling sorry for him. In his defence, it can’t be easy to keep all together when Galloway’s doing his best Hans Fritzl impression in your direction but still, looking like you’re not going to have a panic attack really is a basic level requirement for any QT panelist and it’s not one I’m convinced he’s met.
As for Jowell, well it’s a game of two halves here: On the one hand it was heartening to see her repeatedly call shenanigans on Starkey but it wasn’t the most assured performance and that spiel where she managed to cram just about every New-Labourism into one irritating package (‘Diversity!’, ‘Citizens!’, ‘Responsibility!’ Gah!) served only to remind me how stale the whole project got.
And finally there’s QT first timer Alison Wolf who somehow managed to glide above the whole grubby affair with an air of confident dignity and an absolutely splendid posture. I can’t say I entirely agree with everything she said but she has surfeit of poise and that must be worth a mark or two.
(Looked) Pale (and clammy)
(Seems to quite like “the large female paw” on the) Scale(s of Justice)
(Had much to) Rail (against)
(Was a cautionary) Tale (for all aspiring trolls)
(Did) Avail (us with some much-needed serenity)
The Crowd: 6/10
(Would be well within their rights if they chose to) Assail (Starkey after the show).
So that’s that and hard luck to anyone who – like me – thought the pairing of Starkey and Galloway might turn into some quirky-yet-heartwarming premise for a buddy movie. In fact, so convinced was I of this outcome that I even went to the trouble of producing promotional materials for it (see Fig. 1).
Right, I’m off to fully develop this cold I have brewing and I will be back in a fortnight as Elizabeth will be driving seat next week. Lucky girl, she gets to experience all the thrills and spills that Scunthorpe has to offer. In the meantime, please feel free to exchange money for this rather lovely t-shirt of Tony Benn…
Elizabeth next week Lemmings, Elizabeth next week…