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!
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.
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.