Posts Tagged 'Theresa May'

Questionable Time #8


questionable time 8 david dimbleby big benMorning Lemmings and apologies in advance for my mind is somewhat fractured today. Why? Well mainly because I spent all last night turning my 32-bit Windows into the slightly more splendid 64-bit version whilst sharing my living room with a cat who simply loves jumping on my computer’s on/off button (a process that’s not dissimilar to defusing a bomb in the presence of a curious toddler). As a result my sleep has been tormented by visions of my precious data howling in pain whilst if I close my eyes all I see is a giant progress bar that seems to be going backwards. In short, I’m feeling a little febrile right now. With this in mind, let us make haste and sally forth to what was a pretty good episode of Question Time, coming as it was from the hallowed innards of the Palace of Westminster.

Right, first up we have Home Secretary Theresa May who has been on something of a QT journey in the past couple of years and one which has mainly displayed an upward trajectory. Prior to being in government, May was pretty much a QT disaster on legs and it almost seemed as if her mouth were less a functional organ and more a portal into a world composed entirely of nonsense (see Fig. 1). However, upon assuming the mantle of Home Secretary she regained some of her composure and a new-found calmness started to peek through, something that I must say caught me off guard a little. Sure, she didn’t stop dressing like an astronaut and her capacity to get very Tory, very quickly was still much in evidence, but overall everything just seemed to be a little more measured. So that was then, but what of now? Well, to tell you the truth I think something’s really rattled May and what we saw last night was actually quite a faltering performance, almost as if she were walking on stilts whilst trying very hard to make it look like she wasn’t. Ok, so she didn’t do badly on the pensions question and largely held her own in the areas where she’d been properly briefed but there was still this lingering tinge of panic that coloured her responses, almost as if her mind was constantly telling her ‘Shit! They’re onto me!’. Her encounters with Balls were fairly instructive on this front and while she did get some claps for a pretty tawdry recital of ‘The Nation’s Credit Card’ you could still see her brain going like the clappers, trying to identify the myriad of threats she perceived to be bearing down on her. So yes, something has put the frighteners on her and if I were to take a wild shot stab in the dark, I may venture that this summer’s complete breakdown of everything law and order related may have something to do with it. I know, it’s a crazy theory but there you go.

theresa-may-gif-woah

Fig. 1

Talking of Ed Balls, after watching him last night I found myself coming to the conclusion that he is the person I would least like to be my doctor. It’s not the fact that he has no medical training, nor that my partner has an inexplicable crush on him that puts me off, it’s just that his face is so innately implausible. Seriously, with that permanent Cheshire Cat grin he displays I really can’t fathom whether he’s flat-out lying to me or just a little pleased with himself and this doesn’t commend him to the role of my GP.  “The test results are back Mr. Loudribs!” I can hear him say, “Everything is fine!”.Oh my God, I must have cancer!” would be my response.

So yes, Balls is a slippery customer and as is par for his course he spent most of the show splitting hairs and sounding like a snake oil merchant. However, there was a brief moment in the middle of the show when he did something I’ve never witnessed before: He sounded like he was genuinely telling the truth. This occurred on the Europe question and following a dithering response from May he launched into a passionate and actually quite searing critique of the government’s position. This caused May to start lurching all over the place and, unable to help himself in the presence of a wounded foe, Balls lapsed back into his more familiar mode of point-scoring one-upmanship. But for a brief moment there, it did actual happen: I actually believed something that Ed Balls was saying. Either that, or the stress induced by reformatting my computer had finally sent me over the edge and the whole thing was an illusion conjured up by a brain that had lost its footing. I hope it’s the former, but I really can’t rule out the latter.

Our final party-political bod this week comes in the form of Shirley Williams and I must say how struck I was by the mellowness she displayed. Usually Shirley can be counted on to rhetorically bop various panelists on the nose whilst thundering away about something that sounds very worthy, but last night she seemed much more at peace with the world and tended to stay out of the bigger rucks. Having said that, she did at one point unilaterally call for the removal of Berlusconi, an act that doesn’t sit well under the heading ‘Mellow’ so I’m not overly concerned that she’s going to hang up her spurs any time soon.

All of which leaves us with our two civilians, Peter Hitchens and Benjamin Zephaniah. Now, I have a confession to make when it comes to Hitchens: I have a horrible feeling I might actually quite like the guy. Sure, our opinions couldn’t be further apart and he does have the capacity to freak me out (like when he said the biggest measure of wellbeing was “faith in God” whilst staring so intensely at the camera that I worried my TV would explode) but I need a Peter Hitchens in my life. I need him because I require a counterpoint to my opinions and he provides that whilst being slightly more tolerable than the likes Phillips and Heffer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to charge off and join the Peter Hitchens Fan Club but I can co-exist with him quite happily, something which can’t be said for the bulk of his more rabid counterparts. Oh, and he does deserve an extra mark for his part in the magical little scene that unfolded when he declared that “the BBC don’t believe in God”.

Have a care, Hitchens” came Dimbers response.

Wonderful.

And what of Zaphaniah? Well, my fear was that his line would be a very ‘them and us’ sort of affair and there were times when his approach was a little too simplistic. However, he did have some good points in there and he made them well thanks to his generally pleasant manner. Ok, so he might not be up to speed on all the details and there’s only so many times you can invoke the name of “the people” before I get annoyed but he was never in any real danger of making a fool of himself and he generally came across as a pretty decent bloke who isn’t afraid to speak his mind.

Considering the above, it’s tempting to chalk this up as a bit of a damp squib of an episode as there were never any major fireworks and the questions failed to spark any incidents that held true drama, but there was plenty going on in the background that you could see from the corner of your eye. Granted, the audience weren’t the most exciting bunch (although I was into the young man who harangued Balls for making questionable gestures in the Commons) and the grand setting didn’t really live up to it’s billing but yes, I quietly enjoyed it.

Tl;dr

May: 4/10

Wobbled

Balls: 5/10

Cobbled (together any old rubbish to advance his agenda)

Williams: 6/10

Gobbled (too much Valium)

Hitchens: 6/10

Squabbled

Zephaniah: 6/10

Nobbled (May on a few occasions)

The Crowd: 5/10

Bobbled?

Right, that’s that done… I’m off to install the ten millionth update to my computer and get angry with drivers. My life: It’s a rollercoaster ride of action and adventure.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #31


Morning Lemmings. It’s going to be a super short QT Report tonight for two reasons: First off, remember how I said that last week has been completely mental? Well, somehow this week has cranked up the inexplicability by a fairly substantial number of notches. Seriously, I had moments this week where the world just stopped making sense and the only thing to do was either burst into tears or laugh like a maniac. Consequently, I’m conscious of the fact that for my own sanity I need a bit of downtime otherwise I will find myself writing a referral for my own services and talking myself into an inpatient unit. Secondly and in a rather more mundane vein, this week’s show was quite frankly crap and even if I was on top of the world right now, I’d still have trouble making much out of it. With this in mind, let us make haste and surge forth into the bowels of a rather non-episode.

 

The Menu:

Q1: Is yesterday’s riot the beginning of the public fight back against the cuts?

Q2: Are IDS’s welfare reforms an attack on welfare dependency or necessary to stop our culture of worklessness?

Q3: Is George W Bush right to say waterboarding saved UK lives? If so, does the end justify the means?

Q4: In the light of the backbench mutiny, are Labour MP’s right to back Phil Woolas?

Q5: Has the Prime Minister been spineless by putting profits before human rights in China?

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Theresa May, Home Secretary and fashion mentalist.

Prior to the election, I wrote many a scathing report about May and I stand by them as she was truly awful, repeatedly spouting shonky slogans with precious little regard as to whether they were relevant or not. As a result, I was a little surprised to see just how calm she was last night, especially given that oiky students had just smashed up her teams HQ and she’s the one in charge of ensuring that things like that don’t happen. It turns out that I’m not alone in this assessment and others have also noticed that May has so far managed to keep quite a steady hand on the tiller at the Home Office. That’s not to say that this was a brilliant performance, but it was certainly a world away from her previous form and she managed to look like she’s actually quite comfortable in power. I’ve also noticed that she has taken to wearing a top that looks like a space suit of late (see Fig. 1) and for reasons unknown, this pleases me. So well done Theresa, I believe you are at Junction 2 of the Road to Redemption, headed south but with a moderate prospect of congestion in the near future.

Ground Control to Home Secretary...

Fig. 1

An above personal par 6/10

 

In The Red Corner: Caroline Flint, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Shadow Minister for Fruitiness.

You’d be surprised how much traffic I get from the search term ‘Caroline Flint hot’. Clearly, there is many a man (and possibly many a woman) who hold a torch for Ol’ Snaggletooth and I think it’s only right that she now gets to bear the moniker Shadow Minister for Fruitiness. Anyhoo, aside from such implied innuendo I must also concede that Flint did quite well last night, especially in comparison to her pre-election form. Back then, while it was always clear that she’s a very able player, her performance was usually slightly marred by an innate crotchetiness and a rush to the offensive. Now that she’s in opposition, Snaggers seems to have mellowed somewhat and appears much more able to play the long game of giving the government enough rope to hang themselves. I think some of this is slightly incidental and down to the fact that Labour don’t really have a coherent policy base at present, but a lot of it is also down to her exercising a little more restraint of late. Sure, she’ll still get a little all up in your grill when anyone has the temerity to mention Labour’s record, but there was also a smidgen of contrition when she did admit that they could have done better on benefit reform in Q2. So not bad Snaggers… You’ve come a long way and it would be nice if you and May could hook up for coffee on the Road to Redemption Services. I believe it’s just off Junction 4.

 

A pleasingly mellow 6/10

 

In The Man Of The World Corner: Sherard Cowper-Coles, possibly ex-diplomat and ‘extended leave’ taker.

Diplomats can usually be divided into two categories: Your Fererro Rocher good times ambassadors (see Fig. 2) and your hard-bitten Graham Greene style shadowy instruments of nefarious statecraft. The reason why I find Cowper-Coles so interesting is that he manages to straddle both of these worlds with considerable aplomb. Take for example his name and the fact that he is referred in Bridget Jones’ Diary: The Edge of Reason (not that I’ve read it. Honest): Both of these are clearly points towards the Fererro Conjecture. But, if we take a closer look, we can also see that his postings (Afghanistan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan amongst others) and some of the things he said in memos that were leaked both paint a picture of someone who is very much a sharp end sort of guy and has probably seen/done things that belong in a netherworld that few of us will ever be able to comprehend. All of this makes Sherard a very interesting man and also as it turns out, quite the QT panellist.

...you are really spoiling us

Fig. 2

Of particular enjoyment last night was his ever so diplomatic chiding of the LibDems in Q1 and his sparring with Douglas Murray on the matter of waterboarding. What made it so interesting though was how understated it all was. There was no ‘on his high horse’ showboating or overuse of the ‘expert’ card, just a quiet yet assured performance that left you in absolutely no doubt that this guy really knows what he’s talking about and should be listened to. That’s a hard act to pull off, but he made it look easy, landing significant punches on other panelists whilst appearing to be totally non-threatening. So Sherard Cowper-Coles, I may disapprove of your name (as it makes keep flicking over to Firefox to make sure I’ve spelt it right), but I very much approve of your style. Have yourself an extra Rocher for your efforts.

 

A iron fisted yet velvet gloved 8/10

 

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Clive James, TV bod of yore and notable bald man.

I really don’t know what to make of this, just in the same way that I’ve never really known what to make of Clive James. One problem I have with him is that I’ve never quite understood what it is he does. I remember that he used to be on TV on a Sunday night in some ‘slightly more highbrow than Chris Tarrent’ context, but I’ve never been able to understand why as the shows never seemed to hang together properly. Anyhoo, this was a pretty ropey performance and it also resulted in two excruciating tumbleweed moments where the audience generated a deafening silence after points that I think he intended to be funny. It was also really hard to see what his angle was as on the one hand he seemed to be playing everything for laughs (he did get the odd chuckle here and there) but yet he could suddenly flip into quite snappy and very scathing criticism (usually of Labour) in the blink of an eye. That sort of left me feeling off kilter and as a result, I could never get behind him and almost ended up feeling sorry for him which is not something I want to do when I’m watching Question Time. Love or hate, mockery or acclaim, that’s the currency I like to spend on QT and as a result, I have to award him low marks. So sorry about that Clive, but do take heart in the fact that I didn’t mark you down for baldness.

 

A rather sad 3/10

 

In The Off His Tits Corner: Douglas Murray, Neo-Con headbanger and man with a permanently raised right eyebrow.

Usually, I’m fully behind Douglas Murray appearing on QT as he’s one of my favourite baddies, embodying both way-out-there extreme views and a ‘shut up, YOU ARE WRONG’ attitude. All of this usually makes for some ace fights, some suggestion to nuke a foreign nation and some stern rebukes, all of which are fun to watch. However, there was one vital ingredient missing last night and that was a suitable sparring partner who could give as good as they got and even though Cowper-Coles wiped the floor with him, it was done in such a low-key manner that we missed out on any real fireworks. As for the other panelists both Flint and May are too familiar with how QT works and have learnt to Never Feed The Troll while Clive James was so seemingly strung out that he couldn’t rise to the challenge. And that’s a shame because shorn of his talent for generating strife, all that Murray is left with is a clutch of unpalatable views and that doesn’t exactly make for good telly. So bad luck Douglas, but fingers crossed that next time you get a more appropriate adversary. Personally speaking, I’ve got my fingers crossed that it will be Gorgeous George Galloway or maybe the Ghost of Marx. Now that would be good telly.

 

A disappointingly neutered 3/10

 

The Crowd: London.

Ok London, just what in the hell is going on here? Sure, the panel’s chemistry wasn’t exactly brilliant, but at least try to make a fist of it and only a few isolated boos for Murray is just not cutting it in my book. There were a few good moments here and there and I thought it was pretty interesting that no-one was buying the tabloid Anarchy On the Streets line when it came to the student protest, but by and large, the crowd seemed to be largely mute and with the exception of a bearded guy who managed to make a point about China into a point about the Middle East, no one really seemed to get hot under the collar at all. That, frankly, is a bit of a poor show in a week when people have been taking to the streets and as a result, you are going to get low marks. You could have turned it around if you had heeded my advice from the past few weeks and inserted a bow tie wearer or two into the audience but no, you thought you were cleverer than that. Well, I’ve got news for you London, you’re not and here’s you prize for not being clever.

 

A largely rubbish 3/10

 

Well, that brings us to the end and I apologise for the brevity, but let’s face it, it was a bit of a clanger. Still, if you’ve made it this far then I am indebted to you and by way of reward I give to you another picture of Beefy. Revel in it’s majesty.

One Nation, Under Beef...

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 #11


Woking, yeah?

Is that a gang sign he's pulling?

Wtf Question Time?! Wednesday?! I haven’t yet got my head round the carnage caused by the bank holiday jiggering my week and now you go and throw another spanner in the works? It’s as if the International Date Line has somehow achieved sentience, given the mid-Pacific the old heave-ho and is currently pacing around West Yorkshire, confusing my fragile grip of the days of the week. Colour me unimpressed. Anyhoo, Wednesday or no Wednesday it’s still Question Time, brought to you this week by the good god-fearing folk of Woking. Brace thyself for some dormitory town action…

In The Red Corner: David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, erstwhile will-he-won’t-he Labour leadership maybe and apple of Hilary Clinton’s eye.

He’s a strange beast, David Miliband. His rather speedy trajectory through the ranks of the Labour party has been remarkable, but it also belies his fundamental weakness: He’s a purely political animal. Formally a think tank policy wonk, he worked his way from parliamentary researcher to Tony Blair’s inner circle, then onto parliament and then to some of the highest offices of state. Not bad for a 44 year old. The problem is that while this has made him an incredibly difficult and determined political adversary to anyone foolish enough to stand in his way, a life led in the political bubble means that he doesn’t quite have that knack for the common touch, unlike his brother who does seem to be a genuinely nice bloke. He also looks alarmingly like a teddy bear, what with that happy little fuzz of hair that sits atop his head (see above), although this seems to have gone down very well with Hilary Clinton. Eww. He got off to a rough start on this episode and faced an uphill struggle with the ‘Is Gordon Brown more qualified than business when it comes to the NI raise?’ question. Nevertheless, he went straight into ‘not one step back’ mode, pulled his ‘intense’ look and tried to make it all about the Tories (they’re “coming after your public services!”). That didn’t go down well and some moderate heckling developed (as well as some feisty little tiffs with Dimbleby and Daley), although another lunge at the Tories did bear some nearly ripe fruit. Further audience intervention aimed squarely at Big Gordy (to the effect that he was “economically illiterate”) soon followed, but again he kept driving at the same point, oblivious to the political shrapnel flying all over the place and scornful of any notion of retreat. At this point it’s tempting to say “Well done Mr Minister of Teddy Affairs. You stick to your guns sir! Hail fellow and well met!”, but it just didn’t seem to work. Sure, he looked cool as a cucumber, despite the apparent mauling, but it left you with the impression that this guy just doesn’t work on the same wavelength as everyone else and maybe in not such a great way. Question 2 was a much easier affair (‘is Chris Grayling and his gay B and B comments a sign that the Tories haven’t changed?’), so much so that he even had a set piece lined up for it. Again, looking very serious and intense, he took his time laying up his “Camera on. Camera off.” manoeuvre before a hearty bout of ‘same old Tories’ and ‘thin end of the wedge’-ing. That got a healthy response, but let’s face it, scoring points against gum flapping Tory with Victorian values is hardly rocket science. The third question caught him strangely off balance (‘what’s the point in voting Labour if they’ll have a new leader in a couple of years?’) and Dimbers took a personal interest in tightening the screws by reminding him of his own leadership ambitions. This did cause him to wobble but credit where credit’s due, he did do a deft little recovery with his “Lord Mandelson works in mysterious ways” gag before attempting a fighting withdrawal with ample use of words like “judgement “, “values” and “commitment”. It sort of worked, but his subsequent ‘I’m totally behind Gordon’ bluster didn’t look so great. The audience got in on the act later, slapping him about for some of his off camera comments about Brown and they did manage to draw some blood. However, being who he is, Miliband didn’t seem to notice the bleeding and looked totally unmoved. The next question (‘would the LibDems get in bed with a party who promised PR’) was less dicey, but he still took some flak for Labour’s piss poor record on all of their promised reforms and he had to resort to using the intense look directly against the audience which is always a risky strategy. Finally, with the end nearly in sight, he had a stab at the ‘Is Gordon Brown’s middle class act essential to politics these days?’ with another preplanned response (a Bevin quote about ‘it’s not where your from, it’s where your going’) before going straight back on the offensive and lashing out at inheritance tax. That confused the bejesus out of the audience who clapped and booed in equal measure. And so ended a rather belligerent appearance.

The thing that gets me about Miliband is that although it’s clear that he is bloody clever, very quick on his feet and properly knows his stuff, that does not translate into someone you’d want in charge. Sure, the Terminator-esque ‘hell or high water approach’ may work very well when employed against political opponents and scare the shit out of anyone who may have a beef with him, but to most people it just looks like he’s a bit of a weirdo with an obsession for pain, combat knives and air pistols. That, combined with the teddy bear look, is just far to much for my brain to take in.

A Blitzkrieg in a civilian area 4/10

In The Blue Corner: Theresa May, Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, token ‘stylish’ Tory.

It’s May’s second appearance on the old LCCPQTMR and I have to say that she didn’t do too well the last time (a paltry 3/10). So, was that just a bad day? Was I being overly unkind? Is there life in the old girl yet? Unfortunately, it seems to be a categorical ‘no’ on all three and if anything, I was being generous in my write up last time. The trouble with May is that she seems utterly devoid of independent thought and totally reliant on whatever line has been fed to her by Tory HQ beforehand (the same accusation can be levelled at Miliband, but you get the feeling that he created the party line in the first place so at least it’s original material). I say ‘fed’, but I think ‘pumped’ is a more appropriate term, as if they hook her up to a machine like the ones they use to milk cows, just reversed and fixed to her mouth. Once the nozzle is firmly in place, a high pressure stream of soundbites, platitudes and buzzwords are forced in, filling the vacuous caverns of her head with precious substance. This process isn’t particularly unusual and all political parties have people who need a thorough pumping before being let lose on the public, but May has one other fatal weakness that was all too evident on this episode of Question Time. The valve that she uses to release all this political slurry has only two settings: Full Blast or Not A Cocking Drop. Take the first question about NI for example. The Tories have had the initiative on this issue all week and the crowd seemed to be onside so it was a simple case of turning on the tap and drenching everyone in a torrent of party approved blabber. And so it was as she switched the valve to Full Blast and poured forth some “jobs tax”, “cut waste” and “kill recovery” (a line that keeps switching sides between Labour and the Tories with alarming regularity at present). Job done, the valve was switched back to Not A Cocking Drop and some audience love duly came her way. So it’s in the bag, right? Wrong. Despite Miliband taking it fully in the chops from the audience, Ming came to his aid and started to lay into George Osborne, much to the approval of the crowd. Maybe at this point it would be prudent to change tack, try a different angle or head for higher ground, no? Wrong again. Faced with a swiftly developing threat, she switched the valve back to Full Blast and out came a load of ‘threaten jobs, jobs, threaten, jobs jobs threaten jobs economy, jobs…..threaten’. Unconvinced, the audience decided that any lead she had was probably an aberration and took it upon themselves to have a pop at politicians in general instead. A brief glimmer of independent thought stuttered to life when she tried a ‘Labour will only save one pound in a hundred’ gambit, but the meagre glow was swiftly extinguished when it turned out that no one gave a shit. So that was pretty ropey. Question 2 (Grayling’s off message rascality) was a much more dangerous affair, but her tactics were the same as ever and she kicked off with a spurt of ‘we believe in the law’, ‘we love gays’ and bizarrely enough ‘we love the NHS’ hokum. Clearly, no one was buying this and Dimbers started to tinker about, stirring things up. Again, on went the valve and out came a load of ‘we believe in the law’. After that, it turned into a bit of a free for all, but not once did she offer a convincing defence, other than ‘we’re nice now’ and ‘we believe in the law’. Basically, it was a bit of a rout. Question 3 (‘will Gordy go after election?’) should have been a cake walk, but she wazzed away the opportunity with a slew of unconvincing ‘change’ stuff (although there was some minor applause for that) while the response to the constitutional reform question was entirely forgettable. Finally, as she limped towards the finish, she opened the valve for the last time on the middle class issue, but it seemed that she had exhausted all the good, high pressure stuff earlier on and all that was left was the vapour from the last question’s ‘change’ platitude. And with that she was wheeled back to the depot where she would be refilled and primed, fresh for whatever the next day may bring.

Ok, that all sounds really unkind as she didn’t receive the same sort of roughing up that Miliband did, but the point is that this should have been a walk over. The Tories have had a good week, the audience seemed largely sympathetic (except on the Grayling matter) and there was real potential to wipe the floor with the opposition. Instead, what we got was a whole bunch of boil-in-the-bag semi-opinions served with a glass of flat diet cola (not the real stuff, own brand) and that’s just not bloody good enough. I know that her whole footwear saga has helped bridge the gap between the two Tory tribes of Maillites and Telegraphios (spicy enough for the Mail! Not too brash for the Telegraph!) but seriously, is that a price worth paying for guaranteed mediocrity? I think not.

Again, a vapid 3/10

In The Yellow Corner: Menzies Campbell, MP for North East Fife, former Olympian and victim of Long Knives.

Oh Ming, what became of thee? Back in 2003, when parliament took complete leave of its senses and dashed headlong into the Iraq fiasco, Ming was the voice of reason. His opposition to the war was resolute, forthright and simply oozed gravitas, making him a natural figurehead for those like myself who had a really bad feeling about the whole clusterfuck (and there were millions of us). Thus it was that when he came to replace Chat Show Charlie as leader, I was quietly confident that he would bring some much needed oak and copper cladding to the otherwise balsa and string LibDem Ship of the Line. Oh how wrong I was. Teased mercilessly by all and sundry before being forced out to pasture, Ming’s stint at the helm will pass into history as a footnote that the LibDems would rather forget, like when Ashdown was caught shagging his secretary. That’s not to say that I don’t think he’s a wise, honourable and decent sort of guy, it’s just that he seems to be from another age and almost looks like a helpless innocent amongst the rough and tumble of the Westminster Ghetto. Having said that, he got off to a pretty good start on this episode with the NI question, natural offering prayers to St. Vince, calling shenanigans on efficiency savings and vilifying Osborne. As St. Vince is eternally benign, heaven opened and applause did poureth forth. Question 2 (Gayling…sic) also saw him on good form as he rightly pointed out that this isn’t the first time Grayling’s buggered things up, pointed out the Waffen SS venerating European company the Tories are keeping and capped it all off with a splendid “still the nasty party”. The crowd got right behind that and stayed with him as came back for a few further swipes at May. All good stuff. The next question (will Brown stay on?) saw him go a bit flatter, just giving a matter-of-fact ‘I know him and he won’t’ response while the PR issue had him skitting about, trying to say very little in a lot of words. Finally, he rounded the show off on the ‘middle class’ question with some pretty vintage LibDem ‘we want a tolerant society’, which was fairly warmly received and that was that.

Out of all the party political panellists, it’s safe to say that Ming was the winner and when he gets in his stride, he’s great. The problems arise when he’s not in his stride and he just looks a little lost and confused, as if someone’s has just told him that the popular beat combo, ‘The Beatles,’ have just split up. Stick with what you know Ming and you’ll be fine.

A mature 6/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Simon Schama, wobbly historian and dictionary swallower.

Seriously Question Time, before you put this guy on again please display a warning that watching him will likely cause motion sickness, disorientation and nausea. He simply can’t sit still, jerks about like a marionette being operated by a detoxing alcoholic and his joints are like those of an Action Man: Fully articulated and capable of traversing a full 360 degrees, head included. If that wasn’t enough, the stuff that comes out of his mouth takes an equally circuitous route, full of flowery, impressive sounding words but somehow skinny on the substance. Having said that, there is something oddly compelling about this otherwise incongruous combination and while most of the stuff he said can either be filed under ‘I’ for ‘Incomprehensible’ or ‘O’ for ‘Of No Great  Import’, you end up convincing yourself that because it all sounds so bloody wordy, it must be true and of great relevance. To illustrate, here are the notes I took for the NI Question, verbatim.

SS – la de dah

don’t know how I’ll vote

la de dah

[doodle of wobbly stickman to remind me that he looked like a bourgeois Thunderbird]

Labours are deficit hawks

Tories are Keynesians

[picture of upward arrow to indicate applause]

That first ‘la de dah’ bit went on for bloody ages and didn’t seem to make a lick of sense, but watching it was strangely captivating. The conclusion, on the face of it (having been completely baffled by the explanation) also seems fairly mad but like the audience, I was clapping in my head and I have no idea why. He was a little more rooted in reality for the Grayling question, busting out an epic phrase in the form of “homophobic hyenas” while the ‘will Gordy stay’ matter had him wetting his pants about how great democracy is. I was dying for a wee myself at the end of Question 4, so I only caught the last bit of his stint but he was back on ultra-elaborate form for the final act, merrily taking us through the backwoods of Gladstone, Sociology 101 and normality before leaving us with this: “leave circumstances of pedigree and swap it for political philosophy”. That sentence only just makes sense and the audience had to pause, perhaps to gather their senses after this whistlestop tour of goddamn everywhere before finally bursting into applause after concluding that it sounded clever, so it must be clever. Did I learn anything from Schama that night? Not really. Did I feel brainier afterwards? Yes! Yes I did! And I’ll never know why! Damn you, Schama!

A doesn’t-stand-to-reason 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Janet Daley, Telegraph columnist and scary haired lady.

I’m not familiar with Janet Daley and the only thing I can really say with any certainty is that her hair is absolutely mental (see Fig. 1), something which came as quite a shock as I thought the Telegraph only permitted bowler hats and tiaras.

FUCKING HAIR!

Fig.1

I haven’t got an enormous amount to say about her because she didn’t really make much of an impression on me, despite being quite combative at points and taking the fight to Miliband at regular intervals. That’s not to say it was a bad performance and her “economical illiterate” accusation that she aimed at Brown went down like a storm with the audience who then recycled it three times hence, it’s just that it wasn’t stellar. Maybe when I’m less distracted by trying to decipher just what the hell Schama is talking about I’ll be able to give her a fairer go, but for now she’ll just have top live with moderate marks.

A neither here nor there 5/10

The Crowd: Woking

I’ve only ever been through Woking on the train to Portsmouth but the very brief impressions I have of it are generally in the ‘leafy’ category. Given where it is, I was pretty sure that this would be a firmly Tory crowd and this seemed to be confirmed during the first question. However, it went downhill pretty quickly for the Conservatives after that and I must say I was pleasantly surprised by how much anger there was towards Chris Grayling and his being a totally div. As an audience they were a pretty vocal lot and as has become near compulsory of late, pretty pissed off with politicians in general. Can’t say that I noticed any real stand-out members, but in general they were a fairly solid crowd and made for a not bad episode. A sound effort, Woking.

A steady away 7/10

And that brings us to the end. Sorry it’s a day late, but as I said earlier this whole Wednesday thing (combined with a thorough Schamaring) has got my head swimming. Down is up, up is down, rivers flowing backwards, etc, etc. See you next week when I’ve rotated back to reality.

Loudrib’s Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #2


Leotards ftw

10 - Print "Lickspittle", 20 - Goto 10

Morning Lemmings. It’s been a week and I’ve received no booze so I can only assume that this charade must continue. You bought it on yourselves. Right, let’s get this thing under way.

The Line Up

In the Red Corner: Lord Falconer, erstwhile Lord Chancellor and noted chum of Tony Blair.

I don’t like Lord Falconer. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I have an instinctive dislike to lawyers and people who have been Tony Blair’s flatmate. The problem is that he’s a hard target to hit by dint of being a really good lawyer and this was on full display tonight. Kicking off with the expenses question, he deftly tacked straight down the middle, acknowledged people’s anger and softly imparted some eminently sensible stuff. Mild applause ensued, no one went mental and the world carried on. That’s not bad going considering the country think about the expenses issue in the same way they think about genocide and I must say I was mildly miffed at the way he got off the hook. However, I was heartened by the next question, the “was the cabinet mislead about the war?” one. Now surely, he’s going to get absolutely decimated on this one, right?. He’s one of Blair’s most prominent cheerleaders, is utterly unrepentant about the war and is sitting in between Claire Short and George Galloway. Surely, there’ll be blood, right? Well no (or at least not as much as I hoped) and here’s how he did it. He started by saying Robin Cook had loads of information to knock the government with, so we must have been open or honest as otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to have a pop at us. When he said that, I struggled to make sense of it, but he said it in such away that it sounded right. That’s a talent he’s got there and a bloody dangerous talent at that. Luckily, Dimbleby started getting mischievous and pointed out that Falconer and Blair are bessies and there were stories of him pinning Lord Goldsmith to a wall. Falconer, who must have seen this coming retreated into a “It wasn’t me guv, we was all in it together” defence and somehow managed to escape un-booed. However, the respite was brief as Claire Short charged on in, calling shenanigans on the whole shebang and was reward with robust applause. Undaunted by this turn of events, Falconer refuted all allegations of ‘Charlie and Tony, up the tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G’ and then went on the offensive by saying (in a mildly threatening manner) that all MP’s knew the score and that they should STFU. To cap it all off, he crowned his late rally with a very lawyerly statement: “It was a decision, not dishonesty”. I wouldn’t be surprised if Blair gets that scrawled on his headstone. The argument reignited a few minutes later when the crowd got their tuppence worth and accused him of arm twisting to which he did some courtroom acrobatics by saying that because some MP’s voted against the war, it’s all legit and kosher. The crowd didn’t buy this, but I must admit I was disappointed that he got away with it so lightly. There seems to be something fundamentally wrong about that. The rest of his performance was much blander but no less plastered in legalese, chuntering about privacy on John Terry and not criminalising people for assisted suicide (which, to be fair, did garner a moderate ripple of applause). A lucky escape in a show that could have been a complete trainwreck for him.

The votes are in: A shifty 5/10, awarded for proficiency in the dark arts alone.

In the Blue Corner: Theresa May, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Minister of State for Shoes.

I have a feeling that Theresa May is the Tories go-to MP for potentially ominous situations. It’s not that she’s a great debater or rhetorical wizard, in fact it’s for quite the opposite reason: She’s so on-the-fence about everything that you forget she’s talking. Whenever confronted with pretty much any issue, she goes down the “well it’s a bit of this, a bit of that” line followed by a brief affirmation that she does like Tory type things like “stable families are important, you know?”. In short, she’s good at hiding in the long grass. Given that it’s not been the best week for the Tories (minor poll wobbles, backtracking and the dreaded ‘spenses) and that they know they’re vulnerable on Iraq (the “we voted on what we knew” line can only hold so long) she was a pretty clever choice and wasted no time in diluting issues with half hearted platitudes. On expenses she bemoaned what a horrid business it all is and something really must be done about it, dodged the Iraq issue entirely by saying something like she ‘wasn’t in the cabinet so I couldn’t possibly comment, you know?’ and confessed to not give two hoots about John Terry. She did nearly get as far as an opinion with assisted suicide by saying she liked Terry Pratchett but what about all the poor vulnerable people playing mind tennis in MRI scanners, but nothing of any substance really passed her lips. In that respect it was mission accomplished, a no-score draw for Tory HQ but from the viewers point of view it was like browsing the internet on dial up: Only just-adequate and very much annoying.

The Numbers in the Boxes: A weak handshake of a performance…3/10

In the Yellow Corner (wait a second, there is no Yellow!. Great, a week in and the format’s already shot to pieces. Cheers, Auntie): Claire Short, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood, Overly Trusting Dissenter in Chief.

I always have trouble making my mind up on Claire Short. On the one hand, her ‘will-she-won’t-she’ act in 2003 wound me up, but when I see her on TV, I end up quite liking her. Her evidence at the Iraq Inquiry was belting and stopped the whole thing looking like a complete waste of time, but her past still vexes me. Clearly it also still vexes her. On the show, she muddled around the expenses issue, not quite making sense and generally seeming unenthused by the whole issue. However, that changed when Iraq come up and she was soon in back her stride, lambasting Blair, pointing the finger at Falconer and generally bemoaning the sorry mess that had transpired. Despite mounting a pretty robust offensive, she didn’t seem to have the same level of anger that she’s displayed in the past and if anything, her whole discourse was tinged with melancholy and regret. This was particularly apparent when an audience member asked her why she hadn’t resigned and she seemed to crumple a little. She explained how Blair had promised her this and that and how she believed him but she looked like someone who knew she’s been played. While she came came across as very genuine, she also looked a little haunted and I couldn’t help feeling a little sad about that. She was also clearly pissed off with Falconer and did mange to rough him up some, but she didn’t quite have it in her to press home the advantage and really take him apart. Later, she briefly flickered back to life by having a jab at the press for the John Terry question and delivered a quite firm “grow up” to all and sundry on the assisted suicide issue but I was left feeling like there was still some unfinished business and that justice hadn’t been done. However, there was some dignity in it.

What it all adds up to: A slightly unsettling 7/10

In the Independent/Brainy Corner: George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Champion of the Oppressed, Scourge of Tyrants.

Yay! Gorgeous George is back in the house! Ok, Ok, I know he’s a one trick pony blowhard who’s never too far from from something a little fishy, but I like the guy. He called the war right, tried to do something about it, has bought the word ‘lickspittle’ back to popular parlance and is exceedingly good value for money. Oh, and his evidence at Senate Committee was showmanship of the highest order. Anyhoo, I had high hopes for George. Iraq was bound to come up and Falconer amply filled the role of baddy/whipping boy. However, first he had to trundle through the expenses question during which he went off on one about some phone bill of his that sounded dubious but swiftly concluded that he was still awesome and that we should halve the number of MP’s. So far, so so. But then came Iraq and he kicked off by bad mouthing Falconer for his Blairlust, calling the Chilcot Inquiry “a bunch of establishment flunkies” and giving props to Claire Short. Following a small Phillips shaped interlude, George was back, berating Falconer once more, blaming the war for enabling terrorism to start “spreading like topsy” and asking why we hadn’t bombed North Korea. “Great!” I thought, “He’s winding up a full on frontal assault involving the use of arcane and cool sounding words!”. But I was wrong. He managed to make one more brief point in which he confused the old ‘for/against war’ divide and then shut up. No rousing demagoguery, no naming of “popinjays” and no calls to arms. Colour me highly disappointed. He got a few points later with the football crowd by defending John Terry as a player but quickly lost them by siding with Melanie Phillips on assisted suicide, over-flogging the ‘thin end of the wedge’ angle and muttering dire warnings of the “panel of Dr. Death’s”. Come on George, one-trick pony’s are only fun when they’re doing their trick. Do you trick George! Do your trick!

In the cold light of day: A left-wanting 6/10

Melanie Phillips hair is a weird swimming cap.

Fig. 1

In the Funny/I’m Just Like You Corner: Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail Columnist, Poster girl For The Hyperventilating Middle England Crowd.

Oh Question Time, with this helping of moral panic on legs, you are really spoiling us. Say what you will about Melanie Phillips (such as the fact that her hair looks like those weird old floral swimming caps that my gran used to wear…see Fig. 1) she also presents that most sought after value for money that Galloway does, but from completely the opposite end of the spectrum. True to form she got off to a racing start by decrying the whole “flipping business” as “disgusting” and wailing about “trust” as if none of us had ever stolen a biro from work. It was an easy point, duly rewarded with satisfactory clapping. However, she soon found herself on the other side of the fence when it came to Iraq, wearily invoking the spectre of 9-11 for the n-th time and reminding us that Saddam really was a cad. As is usually the case when trying to defend the indefensible, she was met with stony silence from the crowd and a brief outburst from George Galloway. So no surprises there then. Even fewer surprises emerged moments later when she got the first crack at Terrygate and launched into a sweaty rant about “This John Terry character” being “a mass public debaucher” who has been photographed “urinating into beer glasses”. Persisting down the ‘someone think of the children!’ line she wound it up by calling the England captain a “creep” and the obligatory call to “throw him out!”. Well done. Have an applause biscuit. However, the plan became a little unstuck when Falconer and Short had a few digs at the Daily Mail for being as much a part of anti-privacy brigade as anyone else and was forced to stage a ‘but they’re all at!’ defence and trying to make out that this was somehow in “the public interest”. The crowd must have got bored at this point and no more applause biscuits were offered. Unbowed by the waning mood, she saved her biggest guns for last and cranked the Sodom and Gomorrah-o-tron to max by rechristening ‘right to die’ to ‘right to kill’, hypothesisinging that we’ll be killing the mentally ill next and speculating at the emergence of shadowy “Death Panels”. She even managed to get the last word of the show in and warned in that ‘if only you knew what I knew’ way she has that if we decriminalised assisted suicide, we would be hurtling towards a “brutalised society”. Job done then. All-in-all, it was a fairly sedate performance by her standards, particularly considering the company she was keeping that night and I was disappointed that there wasn’t a single cry for someone to hung or tarred and feathered.

When all is said and done: An ambivalent 5/10

The Crowd: Coventry

I’ve only ever been to Coventry once. I was getting a lift with a friend of mine from Manchester to London and she wanted to stop off there to call in on someone she knew. The experience was most noteworthy for the trip itself as my friend has a form of narcolepsy where she falls asleep when bored. As the M6 is not noted for being a thrill ride we were forced to listen to the soundtrack of West Side Story at full blast whilst singing along lest she fall asleep and send us careening under the wheels of a death lorry. It was an odd four hours. The other only point of interest during that trip was that we stopped at a ‘Balti Pub’ in Coventry for lunch and were both thrilled by the possibilities that such an establish could potentially offer. Think about, a curry house that’s a pub, what’s not to like? As it was, the Balti Pub turned out to be crap, being a weird chimera of uninspiring pub and tepid curry house that ticked neither box with sufficient gusto to have either been exciting or worth the two and a half hours of Broadway-show-meets-plot-line-for-weird-low-budget-thriller terror we had just been through. I bring this up because the Balti Pub was this show. When I looked on the Qtime website on Thursday morning I was thrilled. The line up and the events of the past week seemed to conspire to make for an epic dust up and I was certain that it would be a complete hecklefest. As it turned out, it was just borderline OK. No-one totally lost their shit, most of the questions were mundane, softball affairs and the audience just didn’t seem to be able to get itself going. Even the known volatility of the panellists seemed to be cancelled out by the sloppy fug that seemed to shroud the place and what should have been an A plus barney slowly decomposed into a D minus wet play time. Sorry Coventry, I know it’s not the greatest lot in life being a city that’s only famous for being bombed and ugly, but your Balti Pub Qtime just didn’t cut the mustard.

As the clouds gather: A fully skimmed 4/10

Ok, so that’s it. Claire Short gets the Queen of Coventry crown while the rest of ’em should seriously think about bucking their ideas up. The beer offer still stands although I’m now lowering the bar to offers of cigarettes as well as it turns out that this is bloody hard work. Check back next week for more post-QTime banter.


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