Posts Tagged 'Tristram Hunt'

Questionable Time #137


qt 137

Good morrow lemmings, and welcome to the…UKIPocalypse? Or perhaps not, considering that Fightin’ Farage seems to hold on by the skin of his increasingly yellowing teeth every time. I must say, it’s rather admirable! Also on this show: Brian May. Because why not, right?

You’ve got to UKIP a pocket or two

Our first question is out of the gate and boy is it a doozy. “Is there a place in today’s politics for ‘snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive’ leaders?” – an obvious reference to Farage, who has dramatically unresigned in a daring twist of fate or perhaps existential crisis. I had one last week, and now Farage, faced with the prospect of not being everybody’s favourite pint-poser, scrabbles back to the leadership and the only thing he knows he’s good at. Naturally, opinion in UKIP is split – especially if you’re the ambitious sort looking to take up the cigar and pint glass yourself.

Lord Tristram McSnooty is first up to bat, sporting his outrageously hedge-like pile of hair and strange, bread loaf-like square face, and messes up in about five seconds. A new record! He ignores the question and goes on to his pre-prepared leadership pitch, although at the time of writing still hasn’t officially declared he’s standing. Dimbleby gently reminds him that he’s getting confused again. Meanwhile, Nigel Farage’s pointy-toed foot is twitching beneath the desk, ready to disembowel any who dares cross him.

Ol’ Nige throws his hands up, as if to say WHAT CAN YA DO. Not like I can help it, guv’na, just an ‘umble servant like m’self, ooh no. Dimbles asks him about possibly having a leadership election – would it “clear the air”? Nigel pooh-poohs the idea. Frankly, he franklies, it would increase the amount of hot air being dispelled by about 200%.

“Surely you’re in the Nick Clegg group now?” says grumpy audience man, referring to Oh-Nicky-You’re-So-Fine’s conspicuous habit of breaking promises, apologising, and crying a lot about it. B-but muh national executive, replies Nigel valiantly.

Then Jeremy Hunt enters the fray, still staring manically and wearing his little NHS pin as if that will make everybody spontaneously like him.

“We’re all human underneath…we’re pretty good at disguising it,” he whispers, in his soft, quietly menacing tones, like Norman Bates from Psycho talking about his mother. He continues with equally worrying lines like this which sound suspiciously like something an alien would say. Tristram Hunt, Hunt 2, chorfs and horfs and flails around trying to rebut Hunt and land a blow on Farage, but honestly I have more confidence in Hunt 1 (Jezza) being competent than Hunt 2 (Trissy), and that’s not a compliment.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

A wild woman appears! What will you do? >Fight >Bag >Poke >Run…I mean, ahem. This is Zanny Minton Beddoes, from the Economist, and she’s exactly what you’d expect from someone who writes for the Economist. I almost don’t need to write down anything she says, and instead throw copies of the Economist into people’s faces while they scream. It has the same effect. Anyway, she’s here to comment on how ridiculous this whole kerfuffle is (as does Brian May, in a slightly different way, hey-hey). True dat, Zanbabwe. True dat.

We need to discuss the future of our politics…starring me, says Loafy. “There’s an awful lot up for grabs,” he continues, for example, say…the leadership. Which leads us to:

Miss Labour Party 2015 World Tour

“Who is the best person to make Labour electable again?” comes the cry, and Tristram rises bumpily into the light like a drunken angel. Nigel smacks him down to terra firma by saying that Labour needs someone not from the metropolitan elite to lead them. Like Nigel! This is reasonable, except when you consider Nigel used to be a City banker, which isn’t metropolitan at all, of course.

Zanny Economizzle says that Labour needs to be in the centre. What the ‘centre’ means is a mystery, but to her it probably means taking baths in a big room full of MONAYYYY like in those old Scrooge McDuck comics. Everybody then rounds on Loafy, pestering him on his intentions: is he going to run, or is he just desperate for attention and love? Tristram explains that he’s not ruling myself in, he’s not ruling himself out, and neither is he shaking it all about.

Brian May sadly shakes his 18th century Georgian wig. ‘Aspiration’ is focused too much on monetary gain, he says, and Labour should become ‘the party of the working man’ again. Jeremy Hunt stares at him, uncomprehendingly, and explains otherwise. It’s frightening. Everyone, even Brian May, on this panel is a little frightening, actually.

Can you not tell house from electronica?

Next: “what concessions should the Prime Minister try and get for Britain from other EU member countries prior to the referenSHNRZZZZZ”. Sorry, fell asleep halfway through.

Zanny, the weird skinny woman, argues that she likes Europe – not the red tape, but rather the MONAYYYY it provides us. Jeremy merely mentions the word ‘benefits’ in the most mouse-like of whispers, and is drowned out by furious applause. It’s time for change in Europe, he says, and then makes this emoticon face: 0_0

Brian May is confuzzled. Why are we discussing this issue and not the far more adorable one at hand: fox hunting? Why not allow a referendum on that?

Jeremy Hunt continues to stare, programming his death. Foxes do not matter. 0_0 They are not humans. 0_0 They cannot hold the pencils in the voting booth. 0_0 Duh.

Farage suddenly explodes, bellowing about a “European army” ready to brainwash your children with fiendish Eurobeat music. When the topic of trading difficulties is brought up, he begins to yelp like a dog with a thorn in its paw. “NO! NO! NO! NO!” he yells, turning into Margaret Thatcher. Up yours, Delors!

Tristram bumbles and fumbles on, making his increasingly muddled pitch. He says that Labour overspent, and, shockingly enough in the constituency where Boris Johnson was elected, is greeted with a big cheer. He looks satisfied. Finally, people are beginning to appreciate him! The British people will decide, he grandstands, with new confidence – with help from the media, of course, and big donations of MONAYYYY!

Zaffy…Daffy…Dappy…whatever her name is, argues in favour of reform from within, to which Nigel is not satisfied and starts actually making some surprisingly decent points about Roy Jenkins’ valiant attempts to slap around the voting system a bit. Suddenly we’re on to another question about electoral reform, which is popular now apparently – the subject has been coming up all throughout this episode, so it’s somewhat difficult to know where to begin with such a complex issue. How about we begin with Tristram squareface breadhead messyhair parachuteseat poshguy talking about history and boring everyone? (Thought not.)

A man from the crowd, possibly an electoral reform hipster, asks where all these posers were during the AV referendum way back when. Nigel sighs and shrugs again, and then…makes the best burn of the night.

“Why Nick Clegg, after the Lib Dems campaigned for 40 years for PR, sold out for AV, I’ll simply never know.”

OOOOH, goes the crowd. OOOOOOOOH! GET IN! (The answer is, of course, because of coalitioneering, but nobody needs to know that.)

So it ends. For what appears like the 23rd time this year, Farage has gotten away with it. Or has he? Stay tuned, lemmings. Maybe we haven’t seen the last of this story yet…

Time for the scores!

Hunt (Con): 6/10

(Weirdly) Clean

Hunt (Lab): 5/10

Preen(ed and fell over)

Farage: 7/10

Keen (for this leadership stuff to just go away)

Minton Beddoes: 5/10

(Weirdly) Lean

May: 7/10

(Played for) Queen

The Crowd: 6/10

(Weirdly) Mean

Next time: not Farage.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #123


qt 123

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to Finchlayyyy, Maggie T’s old seat! Since I imagine you’re all eager to squabble over this edition in a manner that would make Officer Dimble piteously appeal for calm, let’s – to quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail – GET ON WITH IT.

Get thee to Monaco

Tristram ‘bread loaf face’ Hunt hasn’t had a very good week, and it’s about to get worse. It seems that he simply cannot keep his mouth shut and prevent his foot from getting jammed up in there. The first question is clearly not loaded at all: is Labour ‘Billy No-Mates’ when it comes to business-type chums? Christina Odone, representing the thinky-tank wing of a private investment firm, is first out the gate ‘n’ ready to hate. She licks the milky teat of business, praising this vague concept (business! As in, all business ever! No distinction between the types or individual examples of business, just…business, innit?) out the wazoo. Jonathan Freedland, from the Grauniad, who looks like every geography teacher to ever live rolled into one human being, thinks Labour has…some mates. A few. For some unknowable reason. Like the weird kid in your class at school who eats glue.

Then Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary who surprisingly isn’t Michael Gove (although denies that he’s still sitting in her office with his feet up watching Game of Thrones) trots out the party line in a predictable and boring fashion. “There’s a clear choice -” is her very first sentence, and I automatically fall asleep. Her eyes are big and staring, like a squid. She and Christina also seem to perform an effective double act, acting as twins to jab Tristram in the face some more.

Anyway, let’s see what he has to say for himself. Breadhead rambles on about productivity, and George Galloway’s face visibly twitches. “I have a rather old-fashioned view about this! Call me old-fashioned but that’s my view!!” Tristram says, and I just know – with joy in my heart – that he’s about to go into a historical lecture, and sure enough he brings up the (of course!) American Revolution. Nicky Morgan looks confused and repulsed, but Tristram’s inherent nerdiness is my favourite thing about him. He may be useless when it comes to everything else, but he’d probably be a good history teacher so long as his students didn’t gang up and pelt him with paper aeroplanes because I feel like he would be very easily overwhelmed in that situation.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Then everyone gets into a kerfuffle about why the heating is off. This is extreme drama. It’s broken, assures Dimbles, but George ‘Top Cat’ Galloway, who has been wearing some fetching hipster glasses up until now, assures us that it is all a conspurracy.

Turn to page 394

Next question: aren’t zero-hours contracts terrible? I imagined, at first, that this would be a dull question with everybody agreeing with each other. However then I bear witness to the merry sight of Tristram getting annihilated by a man in the audience who is literally laughing himself to death over prissy Trissy’s hypocrissy. I’m sure many adulatory Tory Twitter graphics have been made about him by now. Go look it up, I’m too lazy to.

Then it happens again. And again. And again. Tristram looks constipated. Blimey, Finchley is pretty anti-Labour. Who would have thunk it! (Meanwhile, is it just me or have Tristram’s vocal inflections, when he speaks slower, begun to sometimes sound like William Hague?)

This is all due to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown being bum-kissers, concludes George…cattily.

Next up, is David Cameron right to say skewls are mediocre? ‘lmao ya lol’ says Nicky, like it’s her job or something. Schools can apparently be mediocre and amazingly improved at the same time! Wow! It’s all thanks to Michael Gove. Tristram, whose job is to dispute this, assure us that Nicky is wrong…because…uh. Dimbles asks him what his plan is. Tristram says to give it two weeks, with a nod, wink and a nose tap. The audience aren’t pleased with this and begin to heckle like they’ve never heckled before (it’s only going to get worse from here, folks!). Confused and frightened and chewing his lip into fleshy ribbons, the Yeast Beast starts lashing out at anyone and everything, even going so far as to tut about Christina’s nun-too-shabby education. You know, by nuns. This has caused mass Twitter outrage which is a phrase I use in these reviews depressingly often.

(Also, Nicky Morgan, I know he’s embarrassing but please stop tutting and moaning. It’s annoying. More annoying than squarebonce himself.)

And we will build Jerusalem

Finally, a question that will no doubt be answered with the respect and sensitivity it deserves. Why is antisemitism rising in the UK, and does a ~*~CERTAIN MEMBER~*~ of the panel bear some responsibility? Audible ‘ooooh’s abound.

A tense argument erupts tensely. Jonathan Freedland says that…occasionally…just sometimes…GG can be a teensy bit inflammatory. Galloway inflammatorily responds and compares himself to Daniel among the lions. Is that really the best comparison to make? Then things descend into chaos. People are screaming and possibly wetting themselves. Dimbleby has to scold them to quieten down. This isn’t helped by Galloway claiming that he’s being oppressed and recoiling in horror from Christina Odone attempting to tussle with him. “Take your hands off me!” he snaps, like an offended medieval maiden confronted by a leper. Are you feline okay, George?

At least Tristram somewhat redeems himself with a good answer to the last question, sensibly pointing out that it’s perhaps not the best idea to blame innocent people living thousands of miles away for the actions of an ultra right-wing government. Galloway has certainly not redeemed himself (if this is how he defends himself from accusations of being an antisemite, then I don’t know how he’d react to people pointing out his creepy comments on rape), but regardless I don’t like the sour note this programme has ended on, e.g. with that one guy implying that Muslims are routinely going around whacking Jewish people with baseball bats – white Neo-Nazi groups are also growing at worrying rates. Pitting Jewish and Muslim people against each other for televisual sport just doesn’t sit well with me.

I need a stiff drink. Time for the scores.

Morgan: 5/10

(Trod) Water

Hunt: 3/10

Slaughtered

Galloway: 3/10

(Ooh, says the crowd, what a) Rotter (Rawter? idk)

Odone: 5/10

(Would rather be on a) Yacht(…er)

Freedland: 7/10

Sorta (okay I guess)

The Crowd: 8/10

Shorter (tempers then most crowds)

Next time…something. More importantly, don’t forget to check out Noobminster, Ye Olde Webmastre’s new, cool, newcool webzone! Or I’ll ‘ave yer.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #112


qt 112

Good morrow lemmings and a very Happy Halloween! We’re in the Wild West this week – Taunton, that is, but I don’t see any cool zombie cowboys roaming around (or even any sheep farmers). Later this evening my house will inevitably get mobbed by screaming children, so let’s enjoy a moment of calm before the storm…or not, because this is Questionable Time, Questionable Time night, and no-one’s gonna save you from the beast about to strike.

I also heard hemp makes great shampoo

The first question is appropriately scary, at least if you’re a politician: drug legalisation! Caroline Lucas has an open goal today, what with Labour imploding in Scotland, faced against a Tory ex-Cabinet minister with an obsession with badgers moving goalposts, some random Lib Dem and some other guy who’s written a series of good children’s books at least. Not to mention the Beeb refusing to put the Greens in the Leaders’ debates because nyeh nyeh pfffthblflfbh. Sadly, none of these points actually come up on the show. She could have raised them herself, of course, but that would just be gauche.

So, the Green mean protesting machine is up to bat, this being one of her specialist subjects (and who knows, it might get her votes from the stoner demographic, if they can manage to lift themselves out of their Dorito nests to get to the polling station). Incredibly, she’s wearing not one but two paper flowers, one being a #swaggy white peace poppy. Whatever your view on the gratuitous use of poppies, surely you must agree that’s a pretty swagalicious flimsy flower thing. Anyway, Caroline wants the personal use of drugs legalised and isn’t a fan of Dave and co sticking their fingers in their ears and screaming “JUST SAY NO! JUST SAY NO!”

Owen Paterson, who wants to position himself as Caroline’s nemesis even though she probably wouldn’t lower herself to that level, rattles off some statistics. Dimbles has already mentioned he was sacked (not reshuffled, sacked – damn Dimbleby, that’s cold) from Cabinet and Owen is extremely eager to play the martyr figure in this edition. If there’s a question about wind farms, it’ll happen. At the moment, though, he’s bombarding the panel with facts and figures until they all die of an overdose.

Now for the appearance of the man with a face like a loaf of bread: Tristram Hunt! Wearing the exact same tie as Owen. Worrying. He’s a shower of charisma as usual: “this is an interesting piece of work”, he drones, and shakes his head at how bad the drug problem in prisons is and rounds up by concluding that Labour saved everything. I think. I’ve already forgotten what he said. ‘Yeah, the poors can’t handle it’, Owen nods along. Tristram and Loaf-face are performing a nice little double act here. Ooh yeah baby, you be the bread…I’ll be the baker.

Then Baroness Kramer interjects that we should be targeting the traffickers and kingpins, which is a sensible if blindingly obvious point. Similarly Anthony Horowitz points out the cost to the state from drug-related offences that could be more easily tackled with better treatment in a different system. Woah, things are getting a little too smart around here! Can’t have that. Time to descend into anarchy again.

Can’t pay, won’t pay

Next question! Should Britain pay up? Nope, we’re broke! Seems like that’s really the case, as there’s a lot of shrieking about how unfair the whole situation and that the poor deprived little UK needs that money to buy jumbo sausage rolls at Greggs. Tristram has the explanation, of course: Dave shouldn’t have thrown all those darn wobblies. Now you’ve broken all the posh china and the EU wants us to pay them back. The ‘No Daves Club’ strikes again. Incidentally, doesn’t Loaf-face sound like the ‘Gap Yah’ guy? It’s not just me, right? Right…? Then he gets pissy with Susan Kramer, as you do. Maybe he’ll chunder all over her.

Owen Paterson isn’t going to take this lying down. He’s already machine-gunned statistics at a terrified audience – time to put his mastery of cliches into action. It’s all Labour’s fault! The mess Labour made! Labour trashed the economy! Even the audience is getting sick of it by this point, groaning out a decisive boo, and they already looked pretty sickly to begin with what with the drug problems and all.

A question arises on ISIS/ISIL/IS/DoYouReallyLikeItIsItIsItWicked, and Owen is already off pointing fingers at ‘alien entities’. I’m not sure what he’s been up to since he left Cabinet, hopefully it’s not like when Robbie Williams took some time off to go hunt UFOs in the desert. Caroline wants to rehabilitate the penitent, and Loafy doesn’t want to glam the sitch up by using the word treason. Then he says something about the Spanish Civil War because Tristram can’t resist an opportunity to be a history nerd.

Suddenly, Anthony Horowitz kicks the door down. Stop them from leaving in the first place, ffs! Dimbleby is shocked that anyone would be so blunt and just…unrambly on this programme. How dare you. Go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done (which also happens to be the current treatment scheme for drug users!)

Down on the wind farm

A question on benefits, and Baroness Kramer concludes that that Calais mayor woman was a right cow. Owen thinks lack of free trade is the problem, like when teachers ban kids from swapping Pokemon cards in the playground. Yeah, says Caroline Lucas, but that’s no reason to ignore immigrants drowning to death. Owen explodes and accuses her of “grotesque” distortion. He uses that word approximately 10,000 times. I am falling asleep. Meanwhile, Loaf-face drones on about whatever. I’ve given up on listening to him, unless as a sleep aid, and I’m already feeling snoozy.

One last quick question on blackouts! Are we facing a three-day week? Probably not, says Caroline, because luckily we have…guess what…wind farms! Owen snorts in derision. Pshh, the Climate Change Act. Who needs it. Caroline is indignant and plants her flag firmly on the table. Unlike nuclear, which, as you will all know if you have seen The Simpsons, is the cause of mutated three-eyed fish, you can store wind and solar – but Owen shoots back with an enraged roar. We generated so much energy that we had to turn the wind farms off! he bellows, sending Caroline flying. …Wait, hang on, you’re saying it was so effective, that we had to stop it? I thought we needed ninety thousand new wind farms, Owen! Ninety! Thousand! New! Wind! Farms! Maybe the Jolly Green Giant has had the last laugh after all.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

While Horowitz shrugs noncommittally, Loaf-face leaves us with a lovely, droning anecdote of the Stoke-on-Trent ceramics industry and Dimbleby winds up the programme pretty hastily after that. Thank you, Dimbles. For all our sakes, thank you.

Time for the scores!

Hunt: 5/10

Yeasty

Lucas: 6/10

(Would rather be back in the South) East(y)

Paterson: 6/10

Beastly

Kramer: 5/10

(The Lib Dems’ poll ratings have) Decreased(y)

Horowitz: 7/10

Last but not least(y)

Nobody knows who’s on next time. It is a mystery.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #100


questionable time 100 david dimbleby photoshop montage

Good morning Lemmings and no, your eyes do not deceive you – Questionable Time is 100 posts old today and yes, you should all be very excited about this. What? What’s that? Why should you be excited? Well I don’t bloody know – I’m 100 now and easily confused so unless you’re the dispatch rider with my telegram from the Queen I’ll be asking you to take your leave now thank you very much indeed.

(Incidentally, due to arbitrary changes in naming schemes, this isn’t the 100th post at all. No, it’s actually the 149thor the 151st if you’re being particularly thorough. Either way though, Questionable Time is now officially old).

Anyway, to celebrate this ‘exciting’ turn of events, QT has got all giddy with excitement and sent us not 5 but 6 flesh bags to play with which works out as 20% extra ire to vent. Best get on with it then…

The sum of Tristram Hunt’s parts…

Cast your eyes on Tristram Hunt and what goes through your head? Well, if your answer is something along the lines of ‘A jaw line that says ‘rugged’,a pre-politics profession that says ‘bookish’, a voice that says ‘plumby’ and a constituency that says ‘authentic, grinding poverty” then not only are we on the same page but we’re probably both experiencing that weird sensation of witnessing something that shouldn’t really be. That sounds harsh – particularly as we often consider some of these traits to be positive things when dealt with in isolation – but when we take them as a combined whole they make this odd melange that just doesn’t quite cut it and leaves him in this strange netherworld of unconnected dots and verses that never quite make it to the chorus.

Take for example his response to the question about whether the UK is inherently racist: Here’s where he pitches his voice down to just shy of ‘solemn’, dons the look of a man wracked with concern, and gravely intones that maybe the Red Team took their eye off the ball when it comes to the worries of the great unwashed before swiftly concluding that it’ll all be ok in the end because Labour understand the cost of living – providing it doesn’t have to go into specifics about the price of milk, bread or any other essential component of this whole ‘living’ business. On paper, this is a perfectly reasonable play which, if deployed properly, should naturally segue into a soaring crescendo of Labour being the best placed party to right these wrongs but with Hunt it never quite does: Instead it just sort of judders along, never quite finding biting point as the listener tries to match the incongruous vision of this clearly clever and privileged man trying to ‘engage’ with people who might as well have grown up in a completely different universe.

The sad thing is that we caught a fleeting glimpse of the authentic Tristram this week. This was Historian Tristram who when asked about the comparisons between Hitler and Putin suddenly became enthused, animated and coherent. It was a good answer as well, robustly delivered and neatly tying up his specialist interest with a sly pop at The Daily Mail – a confluence of factors that made him (for a brief moment at least) a thing that was supposed to be. The problem is that these moments are not only so few and far between, they also tend to be sandwiched between those awkward encounters like the race question or the bluster he hid behind when Labour’s education policy was put under the spotlight. Oh Tristram, if only there were such a thing as a Minister for History…

…And the winner of this year’s Panelist I’d Never Thought I’d Like But Actually Have A Lot Of Time For is…

…Ladies and gentlemen, the Rt Hon. Jeremy Browne MP! Woop woop! So yes, Jeremy Browne is in the house and for one I am delighted because:

A: He’s the polar opposite of Tristram Hunt who knows what he is (a veritable trouser press of a man who is probably insufferably enthusiastic during any event that involves the words ‘Team Building’) and gives not a hoot if you don’t care for his ways.

B: The whole panda thing makes him ridiculously easy to photoshop.

And C: I think he got a really raw deal when he was thrown under a bus for the whole ‘Go Home’ debacle.

However, I must admit that it was a fair to middling performance last night where he never quite hit his stride and I suspect I know why: He got rid of his beard. To those who may not have spotted it, Browne spent much of this year with not only a beard attached to his face, but a majestic one that dominated everything within a 100 ft radius. Seriously, (and I say this as a bearded man) it was a thing of utter beauty that made him look like a Special Forces operator who’d just rolled in from the hills of the Hindu Kush with a clutch of sexy superficial wounds and a haunted look that says “I’ve seen things no man should see” (see Fig. 1). Alas, he now appears to be sans beard and as a result we’re back to plain old Vanilla Browne – not the worst thing in the world but certainly not a patch on Jeremy ‘Instrument of State Sanctioned Murder’ Browne. I really got on with that guy.

jeremy browne panda special forces beard

Fig. 1

Grayling and the love/hate of the game…

Hmmmm… A quiet one from the Justice Minister last night but one that was not without its own story to tell. Basically, the key to Grayling is not what he says – that’s usually your standard boilerplate ‘the mess Labour made’ stuff – but the way he reacts to things. For example, whenever an opponent is getting it in the neck you can always hear this little laugh come from Grayling and it’s not a nice laugh. No, instead it’s one of those ‘Fade away, jerk!’ laughs that you get when you ask a bus driver if they have enough change for a tenner and on top of that it’s usually packaged with a subtle sneer.

And thus is the problem with Grayling: Satisfaction for him comes not from the furthering of The Plan (whatever that may be) but from the game itself and, more precisely, the smiting of one’s enemies. Now, as a political tool this is certainly a handy disposition to cultivate but, in the wider battle of winning hearts and minds? Nah, it just reminds people of that look that Kevin McCloud of Grand Designs fame pulls when the amateur developers tell him that they’re project managing themselves and funding the job on their credit card. Schadenfreude: It’s a double edged-sword.

And the rest?

Time is short and so is this paragraph.

Allsop – Likes saying “ought to” a lot, talks about the property market in a very ’round the houses’ sort of way, conflates fertility with housing status.

Hamilton – Real life panto villain who represents the truly terrifying nexus of UKIP, bent Tories and bow ties.

Monroe – The only logical outcome of putting both Lily Allen and Owen Jones into the Large Hadron Collider, pressing the big red button and hoping for the best.

Tl;dr

Hunt: 5/10

(A right old) Jumble (of a man)

Browne: 5/10

(Not much to) Grumble (about)

Grayling: 4/10

(Would laugh long and hard if he saw you) Tumble (down some stairs)

Allsop: 6/10

Bumbles (amiably about in a twee sort of way)

Hamilton: 5/10

(Does the sinister) Mumble (quite well)

Monroe: 6/10

(Reputedly makes good) Crumble

The Crowd: 6/10

(Made for a perfectly serviceable) Fumble (in the dark).

Gah, I can never get my head around these six-for-the-price-of-five episodes but then again, I am 100 so just getting to the end of this piece without major incident is an achievement in itself. Right, that’s me done and next week we return to bog standard, non-celebratory Questionable Time, hopefully with the more traditional compliment of five panelist. Until then, that’s your lot and GET OFF MY LAWN YOU BLOODY WHIPPERSNAPPERS!

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #74


questionable time 74 david dimbleby passed out

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to Energy Prices Time, a live debate show where members of the audience spend at least half an hour getting animated about oldsters swapping heating for eating while the Blue Team keep repeating the word ‘tariff’, the Red Team keep repeating the word ‘freeze’ and the Yellow Team don’t bother to show up (what happened to Charles Kennedy this week? Must have ‘missed his plane’ again). This brave new broadcasting venture started three weeks ago with a rather promising pilot but has subsequently gone to seed and left me yearning for the good all days of Euro Crisis Time – a similar show that ran for at least two years before finally being put out of its misery by Phone Hacking Time. Those were the days…

 

I’ve been Reverse Afriyied!

So last week I ended up in a bit of a bind by a) not doing my homework on QT virgin Adam Afriyie, b) jumping to conclusions based on a Wikipedia article/Google Image search and c) having all those conclusions rubbished by a rather good QT performance. Clearly there’s a lesson in all of this and had you been dealing with a diligent blogger you may have expected me to learn it. But you’re not dealing with a diligent blogger – you’re dealing with a slipshod Internet Goon who takes a perverse delight in never, ever learning anything the first (or second… or third) time around. As a consequence I’ve done exactly the same thing to QT virgin Mark Harper although this time the results were somewhat different. Observe the process.

 

Step 1- Homework: A brief glance at his Wikipedia article...

Ok, so what have we got here… Comprehensive kid turned Oxbridge grad, grown-up job upon leaving… Blah blah blah… On the Tory front bench since 2005 – wait, 8 years? Where’s he been hiding all this time? Whatevs – blah, blah, blah – hates Europe, loves Israel – blah blah blah – oh hang on, what’s this? Ended up in hot water for some borderline insinuations about disabled benefit claimants? Central protagonist on the wrong side of the ill-fated forest sell off? And the brains behind the So Tory That Parody Has Turned In On Itself ‘Go Home’ vans? This could be interesting…

 

Step 2 – A Google Image search for ‘Mark Harper MP’…

Alright, so in goes his name… *Click* – WOAH! CHECK OUT THAT SMILE! It’s… It’s… Well I’m not quite sure whether it’s ‘winning’ or ‘shit eating’ but it’s certainly ‘something’. This changes everything.

 

Step 3 – Make rash assumption based on adding Step 1 to Step 2…

This guy must be a live wire, a maverick – maybe even a bounder! I mean c’mon, the combination of way-too-close-to-the-bone-remarks/policy initiatives and that Something Smile (see Fig. 1)? He’s going to be a riot!

 

mark harper go home teeth

Fig. 1

The result: Being wrong. Again.

There was no live-wirery, negative mavericknessnous, inverse bounding and a complete absence of the Something Smile. Instead we got a Should Work On Paper performance where he tried to do all the right things (e.g. someone says ‘you’re not doing enough’ and you then list all the things you’re doing) while neglecting the fact that we don’t really care about what you’re going to do – that’s what the news is for. No, this is QT and QT cares not for matters of the head. It does however care very much for matters of the gut – you know, the knot in the stomach, the smell of fear, the twitching of the eyes – and that’s the bit that Harper completely bypassed by doggy paddling his way through the show, trying very hard not to get into trouble. Did he make it to shore alive? Mostly. Do I feel like I have a better sense of who Mark Harper really is? Not in the slightest.

 

He’s a Doctor don’t you know?

Every time I’ve seen Tristram Hunt on QT I’ve always been left with the sense of a man who’s deeply uncomfortable at after work drinks. Everyone else – all half cut by half six – are living it up but Tristram can’t settle: The music’s too loud, Wetherpsoon’s always sets him on edge and while he’s fond of his co-workers they simply don’t know enough about 19th century social history to make him feel at ease – that, and he’s fretting about whether or not he set The Culture Show to record. The result of this has always been a slightly jerky, overly self-aware QT style which always makes him seem a little off kilter. However it now appears that if you make this man Shadow Education Secretary and then ask him questions about education you get a very different outcome: Suddenly he becomes fluid, assured and – dare I say it – impassioned – all of which is a marked improvement over the usual spectacle of him queezily nursing a pint of Fosters and explaining to his colleagues that he doesn’t watch football. True, we may have to leave aside the fact that he sounded scarily like Michael Gove when it came to content but apart from that it was nice to see him look so comfortable. So go on Tristram, The Macarena’s on and the last bus has already gone… Don’t fight it, feel it…

 

Someone in UKIP is wasting their time…

I bring this up because there was a little giveaway at the beginning of her first two responses: She started both answers with a very stilted ‘Thank you [audience member name] for bringing this up’ as if she’d been told to do so. Now, why UKIP are bothering giving her press training I don’t know because she’s a) pretty capable of handling herself and b) is probably the only member of the party you can put in front of a camera and have a better than evens shot of it not being a complete train wreck. Anyway, she dropped the PR act about midway through and did a half-decent job of appearing to be a functioning human being. Not bad given the company she keeps.

 

Stated Intentions vs Actual Outcome:

 

Bonnie ‘Germaine’ Greer:

Stated Intention – “I don’t have a strong, long, comprehensive answer”

Actual Outcome – Didn’t have a strong, long comprehensive answer.

 

Peter ‘Grumpy Pants’ Oborne

 

Stated Intention – ‘All these guys will lie to you and talk codswallop for the next hour’

Actual Outcome – Aggressively nuzzled Tristram Hunt with tender

affection for the duration.

 

I guess one out of two ain’t bad…

 

Tl;dr

 

Harper: 4/10

Flighty

 

Hunt: 6/10

Brighty

 

James: 5/10

Blighty

 

Greer: 5/10

Fighty

 

Oborne: 6/10

Alrighty

 

The Crowd: 5/10

Good nighty

 

Well, that’s that then… Oh wait, I almost forgot about announcing the winner of this year’s Most Applause For A Meaningless Platitude competition. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you the bloke who said “I feel for the kids” and was rewarded with a torrent of approval. Well done sir, you must be very proud. Right, that’s me done but if you’re suffering from a bad case of idle thumbs then please feel free to check out what happened when I cut Paul Dacre’s brain in half.

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #61


questionable time 61 david dimbleby space marine warhammer 40k

Good morning Lemmings and to all those Games Workshop nerds looking at the above pshop and having kittens because “Dimbleby is wearing Ultramarine livery yet those are CLEARLY Blood Angels behind him” I say a) shut up and b) I have a girlfriend. Socially awkward critics silenced? Good. Let us proceed with all due haste to the matter in hand. To Coventry we go…

Did David Davis have a nervous breakdown about half way through last night’s show?

Despite his politics being waaaaay to the right of mine I have all the time in the world for David Davis and not only because he’s an unrelenting pain in the arse for the Tory High Command. No, what I like about Davis is that he’s a true Lone Wolf who is certain of his ends, uncompromising in his means and still looks like he could kill you with those dark black marbles he calls eyes. Take the question on Europe and the Queen’s Speech for example: This was the one that left Hunt and Swinson all butterfingered and knock-kneed as they tried to transport the fragile china of not-really-wanting-a-referendum through the frenzied bullring of freshly UKIPed public opinion. Davis though? He wants out and doesn’t care how many Blue Willow plates get shattered along the way. As it happens, public opinion seems to be marginally with him on this one at the moment, but it wouldn’t have mattered either way because David Davis doesn’t really care what you or anyone else thinks. David Davis just cares about his Lines In the Sand and who’s crossing them.

What’s really interesting though is when those Lines In The Sand run perpendicular to each other and on this point the rape question was instructive. Here we have a situation where there is no easy solution and someone – whether they be a victim of sexual assault or a wrongly accused party – is going to come out terribly damaged. More importantly from Davis’ point of view, the fate of both of these parties is dependent on one of his most cherished Lines In The Sand – The Fair and Proportionate Rule of Law – and who gets the benefit of the doubt when crossing it. As soon as the question landed Davis screwed his face up into a ball and clutched the bridge of his nose as if stricken by some sort of existential neuralgia. ‘Gah!’ said his face, ‘Get behind me, Satan!.’

Granted, this may have been a reaction to Greer making some very strange noises about how rape victims should be all up in everyone’s grill rather than displaying entirely appropriate human responses to the most awful of traumas (just as the weird, grunt-cum-tortured-howl he let out later was a direct response to Jerry Hayes’ even stranger and slightly disconcerting to-do over rape statistics) but I suspect it was about something more profound: It was about what happens when two absolutes collide in a mind that only has room for one. To his credit, he actually talked a great deal of sense on the subject and did the best out of the bunch in arriving at a reasonable compromise but still, it does show that despite his outward projection of unshakable clarity, even a seasoned purveyor of Incontrovertible Truths such as he can become unstuck by humanity’s tendency towards the ambiguous.

There are two time travellers in Parliament…

One is Jacob Rees-Mogg, the living embodiment of Interbellum Toryism while the other is Tristram Hunt, the present day’s answer to the Genuinely Sincere Yet Too Clever For Its Own Good Fabianism of the 1930’s. It’s all there really – the pained frowning at the injustice of it all, the wordy appeals to do Good Things and the sort of rugged good looks that would look entirely fitting in a Republican trench on an Andalusian hillside – and on the whole, it sort of works. Ok, so he’s a little overeager in some of his exhortations and his scholarly good lookingness makes it difficult to ignore the accusation that he’s been parachuted in but at least there is a genuine sense that he believes in something and at least he’s trying despite the lingering guilt that life may have sent a disproportionately large amount of Good Things his way.

That, and I’d love to watch him and the Mogglet play Risk. Oh, to be a fly on the wall…

Swinson’s turning into a bit of an operator…

The knowing grin that came along with “It wasn’t in the manifesto”? That said it all. No Teather-esque lip chewing, no Hughes-like hand wringing, just an unapologetic acceptance that politics is a messy business in which you play the hand you’re dealt, all delivered with a touch of coyness to soften the edges. Watch this one. She’s going places.

Greer provides further proof of the Primacy-Recency Effect…

It’s a very straight-forward theory: When presented with a list of things to remember you’re most likely to recall the items at the beginning and the end rather than the stuff in the middle, all of which must be very comforting for Germaine Greer as the old ratbag’s a right bugger for losing her way mid-show.

It all started promisingly with a nice little spiel about UKIP but it quickly got lost as she did a round-the-houses crawl of all things Commonwealth before a circuitous trip down Etymology Lane and the aforementioned weirdness of rape victims being totally cool with staring down the perpetrators. Luckily though, she reeled it back in with some rather good stuff about the burden of proof and once again our inbuilt tendency to forget the middle had her coming out of it all looking rather good. Germaine, you owe the vagaries of cognition a big one.

Now here’s a photo of a back-in-the-day Greer draping herself sensuously around what may or not be David Davis (see Fig. 1)

germaine greer david davis norks

Fig. 1

Jerry Hayes: For and against.

For:

Nice turn of phrase (“Spittoon for angst” anybody?)

Nervous energy

Flailing arms

Beard

Totally batshit rant about the Lord Chancellor that I didn’t understand but looked fun

Against:

Shameless self-promotion

Nervous energy

Flailing arms

Highly dubious interpretations of rape figures and willingness to pick a fight about them

Verdict:

I have no idea.

Tl;dr

Davis: 7/10

Hard

Hunt: 6/10

(Might have) Starred (in Land and Freedom)

Swinson: 6/10

(Plays a tight game of political) Card(s)

Greer: 5/10

(Is not quite as) Avant-Garde (as she used to be)

Hayes: 4/10

(You’re) Barred!

The Crowd: 6/10

(Clearly thought Jean-Luc) Picard (was clearly the best Captain in the Star Trek canon)

In the words of Atlanta rap duo Tag-Team, “Whoomp! There it is”: A straightforward affair where a man with a beard got overly animated and Tristram Hunt described Nigel Farage as “attractive”. Now, I know some of you were a little bummed that I missed Starkey last week so by way of recompense, here’s a link to a piece I did for Culture Kicks about QT. It’s good so give it a read. Culture, innit blud…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #12


questionable time 12 david dimbley wedgewood

Good morning Lemmings and let us start by asking ourselves a simple question: Just who in the hell are these people? Ok, so we know Medhi Hassan as he’s a Question Time

requent Flyer and Tristram Hunt has also been on once before but the rest of them? Your guess is as good as mine.

In the case of Simon Wolfson this point is particularly pertinent as according to what little I can glean from the internet he is a man who goes out of his way to lurk in the shadows. What we do know is thus:

  1. He’s the CEO of Next.
  2. He has a lot of love for the Conservative party and is rather partial to chucking money in their direction.
  3. He’s mad keen on austerity.

Other than that the guy appears to be a complete mystery and despite being exposed to him for a full hour last night I have very little to add to the list. Ok, so we can throw in the fact that he really isn’t a fan of Europe (which isn’t exactly a revelation given his background) and that despite his love of cuts he isn’t adverse to the government spending piles of cash on the Olympic opening ceremony (again, not quite the surprise of the century as he happens to be sponsoring said ceremony), but apart from that we are left none-the-wiser. And this, dear Lemmings, is why I can’t help but find him a little sinister: His bearing, his squared-away posture and the innate confidence in his voice all speak of a man who is very much used to getting his own way yet doesn’t have to abide by the constraints that seem to apply to most other mortals. In many respects he reminds of the Koch brothers in America – a pair of walking question marks who you just know call more shots than they should – and that isn’t really much of compliment. People like that give me the jibblies and that’s exactly what Simon Wolfson left me with last night. Jibblies everywhere. Still, should he ever need any new marketing ideas for Next, I have a few of my own (see. Fig. 1).

david dimbleby next

Fig. 1

So Wolfson appeared to be the main event on the Blue side of the line but he was not without backup as Tory backbencher Claire Perry also turned up for the ride. Now, I’m having a fair amount of trouble pinning this QT n00b down as she has a slightly confusing approach when it comes to televised debate. This usually starts with a cheery example of how normal she is (“I’ve been on a train!”, “I have daughters!”, “”I eat food!”) but then descends into an argument with herself as she tries to balance the pro’s and con’s of various arguments in real-time. Technically, I should be commending this tendency as an outward manifestation of a rational mind but in actual fact I found it all to be a little confusing and I had trouble trying to divine exactly what it is she believes in. Do you like Europe? No, but then again I’m not going to urge Cameron to do anything specific about it. What about benefits? Well, it’s all Something for Nothing innit, but JSA is too low. And the Olympics? Too much money but it’s good for the economy. If we factor in her eagerness to jump into arguments foot first (as she was constantly doing with Hunt and Hassan) we’re left with quite an odd melange that left me all a little ‘¿Qué?’… And that’s before we even get to the bizarreness of her calling for the government to blag the Olympics on the cheap in an Apprentice stylee.

Still, none of this proved to be a major tactical disadvantage as the Red Team’s Tristram Hunt also suffered from a rather vexing handicap although one of a very different nature. Part of this is down to the fact that he just appears slightly incongruous: You can tell he really wants to be a Man of the People (as is usually required from an MP for Stoke) but can never quite get away from the fact that he’s the son of a Lord who went to a fancy school. On top of that, his background as a historian doesn’t stand him in the best stead for fast-moving debates as he seems to need a lot of time and space to develop his arguments. Sure, it would be lovely if he could nurture those little historical anecdotes into a fully fledged broadside against his foes but things move quite rapidly on Question Time and never did he really get in a position where he held the initiative. Instead it was a juddery performance where he never looked entirely comfortable and often seemed in danger of losing his balance.

Luckily for him though Medhi Hassan was more than up to the task of doing the heavy left-wing lifting and had no such trouble in throwing his rhetorical weight about, even if it was at times done in a rather breathless manner. I’m not going to go on too much about him as he’s had plenty written about him in previous Questionable Times but let’s just say I’m glad he was on as the show would have otherwise been nothing more than a right-wing circlejerk.

Speaking of right-wing, here comes Constance Briscoe and boy was I not expecting her. The thing that rattled my cage with Briscoe was the huge gulf between tone and content that was apparent from start to finish. You see the thing is that she has a lovely way of speaking. It’s a gentle, measured timbre that’s actually quite soothing to the ear but when you start to pick apart what she’s saying you find nothing but absolutes (and some fairly right-wing absolutes at that). For example, she was scathing when it came to the benefits culture in the UK and clearly has little time for those on the dole yet she delivered this tirade and in the gentle tones of a kindly aunt. Ok, fair play to her, she was pretty funny when she took a sideways sweep at Dimbers for being a man but on the whole I found her to be just plain scary.

And that was the thing with this episode: It was an utterly polarised affair, what with the LibDems being entirely absent (probably quite fortuitously given the prominence of Europe on the agenda) and the two Westminster candidates painting themselves into semantic corners. That left the field wide open for a straight forward Right vs. Left clashing of horns from the remaining panelists, all of whom seemed more than cut out for the task. However, there is still something missing from this mix and that’s the audience.

Now, these guys were probably the most interesting thing about the show and that’s because they appeared to be in the market for only one thing: Jobs. Sure, they made it abundantly clear that they are no fans of Europe, nor for that matter do they hold a candle for either Cameron or Miliband but one thing they were certain about was that Stoke is getting shafted. Again. I have sympathy with them on this because Stoke, (much like Middlesbrough) is a town that de-industrialisation has wrecked absolute havoc on and in the wider scheme of things it serves as a depressing warning for what may be in store for the rest of the country if the economy continues on its current trajectory. That the crowd seemed disinterested (at times contemptuous) of the Westminster panelists is not surprising and the overall impression I got was of a town that feels forgotten, neglected and slighted. Did that make for a fun show? Not really. It was too scrappy and visceral to contain any real moments of joy but it certainly was instructive: We could all be living a Stoke-esque existence in the not too distant future and from the evidence on display, it’s not exactly a barrel of laughs.

Tl;dr

Wolfson: 5/10

Stood on high

Perry: 5/10

Was by-the-by

Hunt: 5/10

Did well not to cry

Hassan: 7/10

Is not shy

Briscoe: 5/10

My oh my

The Crowd: 5/10

Like…. pie?

So there you go, the West Midlands have spoken and they are not happy bunnies. Mind you, I can’t really blame them… I think I’d get a bit down in the mouth if my town’s only claims to fame were plates, Bruno Brookes and Slash.

Next week Lemmings, next week…


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 109 other followers

February 2017
M T W T F S S
« Oct    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728  

RSS Feed


%d bloggers like this: