Posts Tagged 'Vince Cable'

Questionable Time #132


qt 132

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to the green, green grass of Questionable Time! I apologise unreservedly for the unsightly delay due to being forced into drudgery at my university library all day, toiling without reward. Still, considering the (mainly) weak panel, I don’t believe I missed much. Things are bound to get more exciting as we approach the day of reckoning, however…and Dimbleby should break out his most outrageous tie to celebrate.

Ed Milibanter

I always mistake Elizabeth/Liz Truss for the author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Lynne Truss, but sadly she is not the author of a popular punctuation guide but rather the author of a book that I have no real desire to read named ‘Britannia Unchained’, which sounds like an X Factor winner’s debut song but isn’t. She begins, in response to a man in the crowd calling on politicians to stop slinging mud at each other, by immediately reiterating Michael Fallon’s criticisms of Ed Miliband being a bit dodgy-like…by slinging some more lovely mud. Comments about ‘stabbing the country in the back’, which definitely have no uncomfortable, sinister undertones to them, are super cool ‘n’ cute, apparently.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Wee Dougie Alexander looks agog, which is at least a step up from his usual expression/tone of voice – that of ‘gormless drone’. He even calls the comments “rubbish” and the Tories “desperate”, his surprise act of monotone passion garnering a round of applause from the audience. Unfortunately this leads to him being equally pressed about Labour mud-slinging (but dude, it was like, at PMQs, which is totes different yeah?).

Tim Stanley, the poshest man alive (of course he is named Tim) is, to his credit, pointing out that the Labour party does not practice primogeniture, possibly unlike the Stanley clan, and it is 99% unlikely that Ed Miliband is not a sleeper agent for the KGB out to kill us all. They said the same slanderous things about Harold Wilson, and look how that turned out! Well, er, he went mad, yes…but only after a while.

Vince Cable, once the country’s lovable, be-fedora’d uncle, but now a sad, tired shell of his former ballroom-dancing self, makes some reasonable points about Trident, but his affable mumblings are interrupted by that of Caroline Lucas, who the Greens are probably really regretting not having at the Leaders’ Debates now. Bristol is one of the places where the Greens are aiming to win another parliamentary seat, so Cazza Luzza goes full throttle on her party’s core pledge of getting rid of Trident and using the money on saving us all from Al Gore’s roving bands of PowerPoints (2006-era jokes! Timely!). Dimbles challenges her on the figures, but by that point Tim has started to go on about ‘submarines of death’, which is much more interesting. He doesn’t even care. I admire that in a man.

Then a beautiful thing happens – in response to people trotting out the old ‘they’re all the same’ line, a girl in the audience appeals for people to stop being such lazy schmucks and Google the party’s policies, dinguses. This will no doubt go over the majority of the electorate’s heads, who are perfectly content to continue playing Angry Birds while whining that politics is all the same. No differences whatsoever! Can’t be bothered with it! Wahhhh! I hope Joey Essex and his election crusade can show us all the light someday. That’s completely sincere, by the way – but we’re getting off topic.

Always use a non-dom

…Or not, according to Hunky Ed the Labour Lothario. Dimbleby interrogates Douglas about Ed Balls’ iffy support for the new Labour policy, to which Alexander responds that – conspiracy shock! – the Tories edited that one video and ya can’t trust nuffink. #staywokesheeple.

Liz snorts that it won’t make any money. Dimbles quotes Ed Miliband saying it’s a moral issue. BUT DEFICIT, replies Liz. Then Dimbleby, out of nowhere, references Caroline saying Vince could make “eating babies” sound palatable. (It was in a Guardian ‘Blind Date’ piece, and to be fair those are always weird).

Oh, no. Here comes Tim, riding in, defending the nondommers. I have begun to notice that he sounds somewhat like George Osborne, which is strange since apparently he was a member of the Labour Party in his youth. I’m going off him now, especially when he shows his immense love for trickle-down economics. A single tear now trickles down my face. Tim has been born into the wrong time period. He needs to be helping Ronald Reagan on his election campaign in 1980, not facing a manically grinning Caroline Lucas in the year of our Lord 2015. Poor Tim. Poor, loaded Tim.

A Blair scare to raise your hair

Next question: should Tony Blair have re’surfaced’, presumably from his coffin. Sinister.

Tim wants a referendum purely because Blair is terrifying. Vince, glowing Liberally, says a referendum would be an awful idea and we should, funnily enough, all listen to Blair because of that one time when he stepped down and Parliament applauded him. A lady in the crowd, who is a criminologist don’tchaknow, thinks it’s ~well dodge~ for Tonezone to come back, being as he is an (alleged, don’t sue me Tony) war criminal.

“Douglas!” exclaims Dimbleby brightly, why don’t you answer that? Douglas stammers but moves on hastily to make an impassioned (well, as impassioned as ol’ Dugs gets) defence of Europe. Innocent until proven guilty, he adds! (I wonder where the Chilcot Inquiry is now? Having a margarita in Barbados, most likely.)

Caroline wants to “CHALLENGE!” (her emphasis, not mine) the others on taking Euroscepticism for the left, flag aloft, presenting herself like a Joan of Arc who fights not with swords but with wind farms. To which the others respond with bickering about a possible referendum. She makes this face, seen below. I imagine it would be a very useful face for internet debates, and so I bequeath it to you all.

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

Why hasn’t there been a referendum already? Lib Dems, innit, says Liz. Nahhhh bro, you nasty, says Vince. Ain’t even bovvered, adds Dougie. I’m paraphrasing here. And then a man in the audience makes a simply stunning comment. Why weren’t the English and Welsh asked their opinions during the Scottish referendum? Because if anyone is really ignored in this Parliament, it’s the English. What? You mean the Scottish referendum should be for the Scots to decide? Pfuh – what a silly idea! Utterly laughable!

Liz finally gets a grip on things, and makes a good point about cases of direct democracy such as the #indyref getting people involved and actually debating about a certain topic. The problem is that particular topic drowning out everything else and getting other bad news swept under the rug. There needs to be a balance, although we’re not going to find it here. The melody of Questionable Time plays on…

Last up, why should students trust Labour’s pledge to cut tuition fees? Because they ‘won’t get fooled again’? Vince gets asked first, to much laughter, and says that Labour screwed it up first, so we’re all victims here! Douglas replies that this isn’t true, and that Labour will reduce fees by taxing the aforementioned rich because we don’t want the students on our back like rabid wolverines (any more than they usually are). Tim pooh-poohs this. Whatever happens, he says, we’re all “going to be living in a world of pain”. Except Tim, nice but dim. He’ll be swimming in his money bath.

Caroline rubs her hands with glee. She’s only got 10 seconds, but manages to shit-fling at everyone. An impressive result. Liz blurts out that awful ‘they’re all the same’ line in that same amount of time. Douglas shrieks about this being a lie, again, and Cazza shouts “anti-austerity party!” as loud as she can as the proverbial klaxon goes. Then she grins devilishly. She knows what she did.

She knows.

Time for the scores!

Truss: 5/10

(Up for a) Trussle Tussle

Alexander: 6/10

(On the) Plus (side, he was less boring than last time)

Cable: 6/10

(About to get his) Bus (pass)

Lucas: 7/10

(Eager to) Discuss (the merits of disarmament)

Stanley: 6/10

Rus(tled some feathers)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Not in the mood to) Trust

Next time: Piers Morgan. Oh God no.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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Questionable Time #119


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Good morrow lemmings and welcome back to Questionable Time! Now that we’ve all finished our annual Christmas bloat, I’m sure you’re practically dying to work off those pounds by angrily sweating out a storm while watching a ridiculous political panel show. I know I am! Sure, this may not have been the most classic episode in the world – but as the beleagured Tesco slogan goes, every little helps.

Free speech, £4 a barrel

New year, same story: after Dimbles predictably advertises the Twittersphere – yet still, no matter how many times he does it, with the look of a man who knows absolutely nothing about what he is blabbering about – we begin our humble harrumphathon. Unfortunately, due to the recent tragic events in Paris, the first question is a rightly sombre affair. This makes my job harder since there’s less to take the piss out of aside from tallying to see which panellist can be the most self-important about free speech. (Liz Kendall looks disappointed. She must have eagerly agreed to appear this week, perhaps with a cheery ‘Boy howdy! Gadzooks!’, thinking she could do a little dance about A&E statistics and leave. Now, however, she’s got to contend with Julia Hartley-Brewer threatening to get the whole show bombed by throwing Mohammad cartoon confetti everywhere. Pray for Liz. Pray for her.)

David Davis answers sensibly, quietly arguing that unforgivable acts of terror should not be used as an excuse for tighter controls on civil liberties. Then Julia kicks the door down and screeches that were she not peeing herself at the prospect of getting killed, she’d wear a comfy Mohammad t-shirt just to rub everyone’s noses in what a upstanding and fair-minded citizen she is. Julia, perhaps that would be a bad idea, not even because it’s not actually a triumph of free speech, but because it’s a dickbag thing to do. No you shouldn’t be killed for it, but you should probably be tutted at. Freedom to tut, that’s all I’m arguing for here. Less guns, more grumbling.

Meanwhile, Vince Cable also sensibly points out how it’s unfair to tar Muslims with the same brush when no white people were urged to apologise for the actions of neo-Nazis such as Breivik in Norway, and Liz herself – looking resplendent in taramasalata pink – drones out something boring. Jimmy Wales is just there to ask for a donation. Alles ist gut.

Empty chairs at empty tables

Next up, is David Cameron a chicken? A big old chicky-chicky-chick-chick? Buh-gawk! Buh-gawk! This is some intense and mature debate going on here. Even Jimmy Wales suddenly turned into a Sassmaster, accusing Cammers of being a closet Green, what with his newfound love for them. David Davis rubs his hands with glee at a chance to ‘ave a go at his fiercest enemy. Him, bitter? Nah, surely not.

Then everyone laughs at person who says that Dave merely wants the Greens there to show how fair he is. They guffaw at him. They howl at him. They chortle themselves to death. ANNIHILATED.

Apparently, Nick Clegg has called on his ex-BF to stop making excuses and get out there and slap him across the chops (harder, Dave, harder!). Vince blushes and shifts uncomfortably. I frickin’ hate Clegg, he no doubt thinks. Him and his demotions.

We end this round with audience calls for a no-holds-barred knockout competition between the small parties to see who can take their place amongst the big boys and give them the finger. Or they could just take part in a Super Smash Bros tournament, it would likely have the same outcome.

Sadly we then go from silly to serious, as the next question is on Ched ‘scumbag’ Evans. Liz Kendall doesn’t hold back in telling us how gross she thinks he is, and Julia responds by being even grosser. She’s a better judge of a rape case than a jury, don’tchaknow. I mean, that woman was ~drunk~. She can’t be taken ~seriously~. Not by ~media types~ like ~her~. Liz responds by glaring in a frightening way, threatening to vaporise all in her path with her furious stare.

Julia seems alone in this fight, though, as even David Davis thinks ol’ Cheddy should feck off. Jimmy Wales, likewise, is not really that bovvered if he can’t get a job. However, Kendall Mint Cake is getting annoyed with a blue-haired woman (another one?!) who has been yelling for the majority of the programme. Careful, blue-haired woman, or Liz will come down to your local Sainsbury’s and deliver Ched Evans there herself.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Ayyyy and E

After some more shouting, the next question is about, finally, A&E. Time to put on some Goldfrapp!

Alas – we only have five minutes to discuss this important topic, a topic that dominated the headlines before a group of laughable tossers decided it would be fun in a bun to brutally murder some cartoonists. So in summary: Vince defends things, Jimmy the King of Wiki calls for calm, Liz-who-looks-a-bit-like-Rachel-Reeves-but-isn’t ignores this and goes in fightin’, and David Davis escalates the punch up. Dimbleby, in despair, finally pulls the plug.

Time for the scores!

Cable: 6/10

(Sitting in a pool of) Stagnation

Kendall: 6/10

(A&E) Fixation

Davis: 8/10

(Question number one’s) Salvation

Hartley-Brewer: 4/10

(Her head soon succumbed to) Inflation

Wales: 5/10

Citation (needed)

The Crowd: 6/10

(Let out their) Frustration

Next time: CHORTLES AND STARKEY. I need say no more.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #95


questionable time 95 david dimbleby propaganda starburst

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to Meta-Questionable Time, a blog based around the events that transpire in Meta-Question Time – a television show in which David Dimbleby chairs a debate between politicians that focuses on a debate between politicians that was chaired by David Dimbleby earlier on in the week. Confused? Well don’t come crying to me because you bought this on yourselves, what with your Twitterbooks and Myfaces and Pinstergrams. This is a post-modern nightmare of your own creation and I for one will have nothing to do with it other than the 1000 words I’m about to dump below this paragraph. There, is that meta enough for you? Good. Let’s get on with this.

Vince brings a new pathology to the table…

It’s fair to say that the experience of coalition has been a harrowing ordeal for the Lib Dems but some have fared better than others. For example, in between handing over his dinner money to Tory prefects and being jeered by those uncouth Labour plebs Danny Alexander can look back on the last four years and say ‘Well, at least I got these snazzy new contact lenses out of the deal’. Vince though, what’s he got to show for it? Nothing. In fact, he’s got worse than nothing – negative nothing if you will – because prior to entering government, he was the man of the moment, the All Knowing Sage of Financial Catastrophe whose every word we hung on as the world we knew crumbled before our very eyes. Fast forward four years though and what have we got? Vince, the Reluctantly Co-opted and Self-Loathing Bagman who has taken to insulting his own injuries by being the poster boy for the officially fishy looking privatisation of the Royal Mail. Oh what a fickle mistress coalition is.

Anyway, all of the above is clearly a bitter pill to swallow for someone like Vince so it’s reasonable to expect him to be a little grumpy when called to account for how he’s played a shockingly bad hand – except that he didn’t seem grumpy. No, in fact he didn’t seems to be anything in particular other than serenely detached as he very slowly walked us around the deal like an estate agent casually explaining away the lack of a roof with phrases like ‘outdoorsy ambience’. It was completely without guile – no-one’s to blame/just one of those things/stuff that happened – and reminded me of something you occasionally see as a mental health worker: He was displaying classic signs of dissociation.

To the uninitiated, dissociation is where you slowly start to become detached from reality (as opposed to wrenched from reality – that’s the territory of psychosis) and quite often this is because reality has become a thoroughly nasty place that you no longer wish to be a part of. Looking at Vince last night, the way he was just floating there – like he was viewing himself in the third person – it reminded me of cases I’d worked where people had folded the world into a box and shipped it to somewhere outside of their psyche.

So this should be a cause for concern right? Shouldn’t we be phoning someone up? Making him an appointment or something? Well, not quite. Had this been the case all the way through the show then yes, I might start rifling through my address book but right at the end he came charging back into his own skin with the rallying cry of “Pupil Premium!”. Now, let’s briefly ignore the fact that the Pupil Premium is a fig-leaf policy that has zero-recognition with the general public and just take it for what it was in this context: It was an affirmation that there’s still a part of Vince that has a stake in reality and for that reason I won’t be calling in any favours with colleagues of mine. Still, if I was Vince I’d see this trend towards detachment as nature’s way of telling me that I might need a new job and as it happens I know a place with a few openings right now (see Fig. 1).

vince cable postman

Fig. 1

Shock abounds as someone actually has a good idea on QT…

I didn’t think I was going to get on very well with Camilla Cavendish – she looks too hard-of-head/long-of-neck/smart-of-cookie to sit comfortably on the Ribs Train but I have to admit that her idea about putting the prices on the side of medications was actually brilliant and almost bullet proof in terms of counter arguments. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that her whole innings was pretty impressive and despite my instinctive twitchiness for black-and-white/wrong-or-right types she was the only person who managed to cut through what was otherwise a very blustery and choppy show. So yes, maybe she could fit on the Ribs Train although I’m not entirely sure she would want to as I don’t put the prices on my tickets and the view of this uninspiring siding wears a little thin after a day or two.

Kwasi’s slowly learning…

There was an interesting moment for Kwasi ‘Fair-to-Middling’ Kwarteng when it all could have gone wrong: The question about paying for GP’s appointments came up and you could see this little internal warning sign flick on – ‘DON’T SAY WHAT YOU’RE REALLY THINKING’. Granted, I can’t say with any certainty what he was really thinking but seeing how he’s one of the Britannia Unchained authors I think it’s fair to assume it was something along the lines of ‘Everyone should pay for everything’. Anyway, he caught himself before going off the deep end and gave an oblique answer peppered with pointed references to rising demand and life expectancy instead. It was a nice little dodge that more than enough made up for him saying “Really?” to Peter Hain at least a five times in a row. So this week he’s no longer Kwasi ‘Fair-to-Middling’ Kwarteng. No Lemmings, this week he is Kwasi ‘Middling-to-OKish’ Kwarteng. Try not to be dazzled by his mediocrity.

T’was a torrid night for the left…

I feel bad being hard on Peter Hain but the whole Moral High Ground Followed By Obligatory Mea Culpa routine just riled me a little last night. It’s not that I think he’s without conviction (far from it in fact), it’s just you get the sense that he’s in the process of cashing in his chips and the fire you need in your belly to make that play work is just ebbing a little (the senior moments – like forgetting who Nick Clegg was – didn’t help either). Still, he didn’t rile me as much as Julie Bindel did by saying all the right things in a way that instantly makes them sound wrong. Yeah, yeah, yeah, someone needs to ‘tell it like it is’ but it would just be nice if they could do so without adopted the form of a giant wagging finger.

Tl;dr

Cable: 5/10

Eerie

Hain: 5/10

Weary

Kwarteng: 5/10

Nearly

Cavendish: 7/10

Clearly (won)

Bindel: 3/10

Dreary

The Crowd: 6/10

(Subscribe heavily to the Marginal Revenue Productivity) Theory (of Wages)

Woah, so that was all a little Vince heavy but hey, whatchagonnado? Nothing, that’s what – except possibly coming back next week where I will once again be trying very hard to like Billy Bragg and most likely failing.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #53


questionable time 53 david dimbleby horse meat lasagne

Good morning Lemmings and if you like your Question Time with an ecclesiastical twist then you’re in luck as this week finds us huddled amongst the pews of St. Paul’s Cathedral with our heads bowed solemnly, kneeling before the Altar of Dimbers. Not only that, but we’ve also got a bone-fide man of the cloth (Fraser), Methuselah himself (Heseltine) plus a fellow whose world view makes the Old Testament look fresh and edgy (Hitchens). Holy holiness Batman, it’s Questionable Time!

I think I’ve finally forgiven Michael Heseltine…

It’s funny the things that stay with you: My parents spilt up when I was 7 and did so at a time when the then Tory government made it their business to pour scorn upon single-parent families. Being 7 years old, I really didn’t care too much for politics but the memory – that these guys were having a go at my mum when we weren’t exactly having the best of times – has never left me and from that day on all Tories were all the same in my book: Mean, nasty and certainly not the type you’d want to swap stickers or Spokey-Dokeys with.

So how does Heseltine figure in all this? Well, simply by virtue of being one of the more recognisable figures from that period he just sort of became a de facto hate figure in my mind, the living embodiment of a government neither cared nor understood those it governed. Gradually though, I’ve begun to mellow and I’m now beginning to think maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t all that bad.

Part of this reappraisal is down to the fact that I can now look back on that period with a bit of distance and much to my surprise, Heseltine actually comes out of it looking relatively OK-ish. True, he – like everyone else in the Thatcher/Major administrations – has plenty of Greed (and Privatising Everything) is Good blood on their hands but what marks him apart was that he had his ear to the ground when it came to the plight of the ordinary. He’s the one who can take the most credit for doing away with the Poll Tax and on matter such as immigration (as demonstrated last night), he was well ahead of the Tory curve. But that’s half the story: The rest is more to do with what the passage of time has done to Heseltine himself.

If you cast your mind back to his political heyday, Heseltine was quite a dangerous looking character, both in his physicality (that ‘Now just you wait a moment!’ posturing, those semi-crazed eyes) and his behaviour (thrashing the Mace about springs about to mind). Now though? Now that nervous energy seems to have been replaced with an acceptance that he’s off the front line for good and with that comes the realisation that he doesn’t have to chance it any more. That’s important because despite the displays of supreme self-confidence, there’s a very strong thread that runs through Heseltine’s back story: He’s always had to sing for his dinner and with that comes the inevitable air of mania that permeated his public persona.

In terms of last night though, this new-found calm meant that instead of coming across as a bull-in-a-china-shop with something to prove, he now seems comfortable with his place in the world and is no longer driven by the desperation of ambition. That’s nice, because the last time he was on he just looked a little lost and out of it – like the world had moved on without telling him – but in this episode he was back on his game and even managed to generate a convincing head of steam when he and Hitchens had a to-do over whether soldiers are stupid (see Fig. 1). On top that, the moment when his mobile went off was genuinely endearing: There’s just something about a bashful looking old man with an inappropriately activated iPhone that makes my heart melt.

heseltine-angry-gif

Fig. 1

Oh Hitchens, you’re so hard to score…

The case for the prosecution: Peter Hitchens is either a misguided blowhard who boils the world down into a hard-to-shift crust of absolutes on the saucepan of life or a Level 99 Meta-Troll who thrives on self-generated controversy and has taken on all the characteristics of a philosophical retrovirus.

The case for the defence: That delivery! It’s so deadpan! ‘We’re all going to hell in a hand cart. It’s your fault. Now if you’ll excuse me I have less trivial things to pursue’. To pull that off you either need to have an insane tolerance to criticism or be a Level 100 Meta-Troll who has taken the Gentle Art of Making Enemies beyond the sublime.

My jury: Is wondering whether we can just give him mid-range marks based on a reason that was not presented in court and has no facts or evidence to support it either from the prosecution or the defence.

Hello stranger…

I’m glad Diane Abbott and I had a break. I’ve got nothing against her but there was a time when she was on so regularly that I worried she was going to have to list the QT studio as a second home. Anyway, she’s returned and is peddling the same wares that she was before, mainly by blending the familiar with the righteous. By and large it works and despite the fact she overplay her hand a little toward the end, I’ll still happily lap it up…. Even if that means listening to her name drop her constituency like 10 zillion times.

Nice try Vince…

I usually give Cable a hard time for his Knowing Look – that little glint in his eye that says ‘Just you wait until I’m in charge, then we’ll show them!’. It’s a viable QT play in the short-term but Vince has rinsed this little tactical flannel so hard I now need to see some substance. Initially, I thought he’d found some in his point-blank dismissal of IDS’s Child Benefit proposals but when he went on to insist that missing the target for the 4G auction was actually a textbook rendition of Keynesian economics, I pretty much gave up. Back to the drawing board Vince…

I think I’ve found my kryptonite…

God I love a wonky clergyman! Despite being a contented agnostic, there’s something about an outspoken and left leaning vicar that just slays me. Rowan Williams? Boss. John Sentamu? Yo-diggity. The latest addition to the canon? Giles Fraser.

Tl;dr

Heseltine: 7/10

(Not as) Mad (as he used to be)

Abbott: 6/10

(Not) Bad

Cable: 5/10

Had (at least stopped with the Knowing Looks)

Hitchens: 6/10

(Is an odd) Lad

Fraser: 7/10

(Is fair) Rad

The Crowd: 8/10

Gad(zooks)?

Well.. That was an envigorating little samalamadingdong wasn’t it? Good crowd, opulent surroundings and a heavyweight panel, all of which conspired to make the most satisfying show of the run so far. A special mention goes out to the Case Worker who made a lovely, rolling crescendo of a point that was backed up with some pretty thorough homework. If you’re reading Mr. Case Worker, tap me up… There’s some Questionable Time stickers with your name on them just waiting for an address.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #39


questionable time 38 david dimbleby the office david brent

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to Sluff, famous for Mars Bars, tragicomic depictions of the UK workplace and for a bloody great fictional crematorium that featured in Brave New World. In fact,I find it rather apt that Slough turned up in Huxley’s novel as it’s always given me the sense of a place where the utopian and dystopian rub uncomfortably against each other. On the utopian side of the coin it can proudly boast of having the most ethnically diverse population outside of London and although not a New Town per se, it certainly has echoes of that period in British history where we thought we had the future licked. As it happens, we didn’t and the future turned out to be a much more drab and roundabouty affair than we initially anticipated, an unhappy occurrence that leads us to the more dystopian flip side of Slough: Aberrantly high crime rates, ‘The Slough Stench’ and that unshakable feeling that everything is – well – slightly crap.

Still, it’s not my job to bum out the people of Slough, not that there seems to be a shortage of people willing to do just that. No, my job is to see how the people of Slough react to a damn good Question Timing and so without further ado let us bravely put our collective heads into the maw of the beast.

Am I still on the Vince Train? I honestly don’t know anymore…

Back in 2008 when the whole world looked to be collapsing around our ears, one man stood forth and boldly donned the mantle of The Voice of Reason. That man was Vince Cable and in 2008 the one place I and many others wanted to be was in the first class carriage of the Vince Train, a doughty locomotive of yellow livery powered by pure Keynsianism. At first the ride was great fun, speeding along while the Hayek Express was forced into the sidings and I felt vindicated in having purchased my first class ticket at the station rather than experiencing the potential ignominy of having to upgrade on board. This train, I thought, was going places… Next stop, Government Central!

That, however, was where the problems started and if you ask me, Government Central has a lot in common with Birmingham New Street in that it’s a cold, dark, subterranean place that’s awfully hard to find your way out of. The effect it had on the Vince Train was no less baleful and there soon developed an ominous sounding creak from the axles while the Tanoy spoke of inevitable delays, usually attributed to signal trouble in the vicinity of Wilmslow. Looking back, I probably think that I should have got off at the next stop when I had the chance but I didn’t. Why not? Because for all the disappointments and that entire year where Cable carried a pained expression on his face like someone had just jellied his stapler, he had this look that made me stay on board. And it was just a look. A glint in the eye, a tap on the side of his nose that said ‘Just you wait. The chips may be down, but let me assure you that I’ve still got a couple of tricks up my sleeve’. Well, it’s now four years down the line and I must confess that I’m leaning so far out of the window of the Vince Train that there’s a good chance the next tunnel will take my head clean off. Could his performance last night coax me back safely into the carriage? To put it bluntly, no.

Here’s the thing: I actually quite liked the content of what Cable was saying last night. He played it very cautiously on the GDP figures, made it very clear that he wasn’t going to lend a hand to some of the Blue Teams pottier ideas (like IDS’s new stance on breeding) and was generally pretty reasonable about the Savile scandal. Instead, the problem for me was that he looked absolutely knackered, spent to the point that he simply couldn’t bring himself to flash me that look. Well, dammit Vince, I need that took! So what if you never back it up by actually pulling a rabbit out of the hat, at least the look seriously implies that you might be thinking about it. Last night, that look was nowhere to be seen. Should this situation persist, consider me off at the next stop.

There’s a wonderful mismatched buddy movie just waiting to be made starring Emily Thornberry and Claire Perry…

I think it’s fair to say that Emily Thornberry and Claire Perry aren’t exactly bessies, what with all the blow trading and eye-daggers we witnessed last night. For Perry’s part, I suspect that Thornberry’s rather measured and deliberate responses jangle her How Dare You Patronise Me nerve whilst Perry’s very assertive presentation scratches some very long fingernails across Thornberry’s Why You Jumped Up Little blackboard. Anyway, Perry generally had the better of it and emerged the less bruised of the pair but there was a brief and telling moment that stopped me dead in my tracks. During the Jimmy Savile question Thornberry said, very sincerely in fact, that she agreed with Perry and Perry responded with a genuinely heartfelt sounding “Thank you”. Well that was it Lemmings, after that my mind was set adrift on what could be the UK legislature’s answer to Point Break: Claire Perry as Keanu’s fresh-out-the-academy hotshot, Emily Thornberry as Busey’s seen-it-all-before jaded veteran, a pair who will never see eye-to-eye but find themselves thrown together by fate and the quest for justice. The only unresolved matter is who would take the part of Swayze’s ‘you can’t cage me bro!’ adrenaline junkie. Jacob “I’ve never sworn in my adult life” Rees-Mogg could be quite fun but I’m open to suggestions.

Paul Nuttall actually makes UKIP a little scary…

I’ve got all the time in the world for UKIP in the same way I’ve got all the time in the world for Made In Chelsea: If taken in isolation, they’re both a toxic mess of things I’m no great fan of but this is balanced out by their inherent absurdity, a factor that renders them ultimately harmless yet mildly entertaining. Well, this was the case until Paul Nuttall somehow managed to become the only other UKIP member allowed off the compound unsupervised… Now I’m just plain scared. You see, I can happily dismiss UKIP as a slightly dotty group of people with too much time on their hands when they’re fronted by the likes of Farage, but Nuttall? No, he has an edge and a hard one at that, what with all the talk of punishing people in death and “lunatics” having the vote. What’s worse is that he comes across as a guy who might actually hang out with some vaguely ordinary people. It’s at this point that UKIP stop resembling a harebrained cult that recruits exclusively at village fêtes and starts to become something a lot more worrying. Still, you know what makes Paul Nuttall slightly less worrying though? A nice .gif of him with Gareth Keenans hair (See. Fig. 1).

gareth-keenan-paull-nuttall-resized-gif

I was going to tell Mehdi Hassan off for not smiling enough…

I spend a lot of time looking at QT panelists on Google Images, mainly because I need to photoshop them into ridiculous scenarios but also because it’s good to have a hobby. Anyway, the reason I’m telling you this is that I’ve had to do quite a lot of staring at photos of Medhi Hassan and one thing that’s struck me is that you rarely see him smiling and that this is a shame because it makes him come across as A Very Serious Man. Now, I like Hassan, I think he’s generally on the money but the Very Serious Man thing can get a bit much and I thought a gentle chiding was in order to get him to lighten up a little. As it happens, I need not have bothered as the first thing out of his was mouth a joke and not a bad one at that (he said the government’s Plan B was “Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis”). So what did this get him? A slight titter and nothing more. Gah! What more do you people want?! Unperturbed by this lack of audience reciprocation, he had another go during the question on IDS’s new wheeze and once more, it was a serviceable little number (“Tough on babies, tough on the causes of babies”) but yet again, nothing. So fair play to you Mehdi, you tried but maybe you were just born to be A Very Serious Man… Them’s the breaks kid…

Tl;dr

Cable: 5/10

Tired

Thornberry: 4/10

Acquired (a role in a fictional movie)

Perry: 5/10

Wired

Nuttall: 4/10

Conspired

Hassan: 6/10

Retired (any hopes of being a stand-up comedian)

The Crowd: 5/10

(Were suitably) Attired?

As those numbers imply, I can’t really chalk this up as triumph of of an episode, yet can I write it off as a total defeat. So quite a lot like Slough then…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #23


questionable time 23 jack ruby david dimbleby

Good morning Lemmings and praise be, spring is here. How do we know this? Well, the lack of near perpetual darkness is one give away but I prefer to use Mother Nature’s most reliable of yardsticks to herald the end of winter: The sudden appearance of a genuinely zesty episode of Question Time. Here’s what we learned last night.

1. The budget was crazy… Crazy like a fox.

So this was the budget episode and traditionally, these tend to be slightly more rambunctious affairs than your more run-of-the-mill shows. However, this year we get an added twist as this was probably the craftiest budget I’ve seen for quite a while and one that’s caught me (and everyone else) slightly on the hoof. And why was it crafty? Well, for one it came with numerous health warnings well ahead of time and almost invited people to get their anger in good order by trailing the 50p cut so heavily prior to the day. With this in mind it was reasonable to expect the post-budget debate to be a fairly straightforward ‘the Tories helping out their well-heeled chums’ knockabout where the focus would be on the traditional battle ground of Monocle and Dickie Bow Wearers vs. Everyone Else. For the most part this seemed to be the case – that is until it emerged that buried in the fine print was an audacious little raid on pensioners. At face value this seems like madness as Rule Number One of politics is that you don’t piss off people’s grandparents as they have an alarming habit of actually voting and it allows you to be painted as the most villainous of villains. Similarly, our brains’ seem to do weird things when asked to process information pertaining to the finances of our elders: Every figure seems to get automatically multiplied by a factor of around 100. For example, if Osborne would have announced that working age taxpayers stand to lose £200 a year, people would rightly grumble and chunter that losing £200 a year isn’t really a desirable thing and then go back about their business. However, should he say that pensioners are in line for a £200 a year squeeze then you end up in a much more serious mess: “Pensioners stand to lose £20’000 a year?! Darling, hand me my pitchfork!”. It’s not our fault, it’s just how we’re wired.

With this in mind I was pretty sure that the harrying of those of more advanced years would be an absolute invitation to tragedy but after watching last night’s show I’m beginning to think that it might actually have been a minor stroke of genius. Why? Because it’s a Sedan Moment – the point where you realise that the Panzers aren’t actually going to come tearing through Belgium where you’ve stacked all your crack units and are in fact emerging from the Ardennes – and if Chuka Umunna’s performance is anything to go by, it worked a treat.

Here’s where things went wrong for Umunna: Certain of the fact that the 50p cut is where the decisive battle would take place he marshalled all of his firepower into that sector and did manage to score some minor tactical victories. However, this meant that he had precious little in reserve to exploit what was actually the issue that wound people up the most and simply couldn’t get any traction on the squeezing of pensioners (in fact, he didn’t even directly address it when it came up, preferring instead to carry on with his frontal assault against the top rate tax). Add into that some shilly-shallying over what Labour would do in 2015 and he comes out of what should have been a very easy fight looking quite badly mauled. And that, dear Lemmings, is why this was a crafty budget.

2. Watching Vince Cable next to David Davis was like watching a ‘here’s what you could have won’ moment on Bullseye.

Whisper it lest either man takes umbrage with me but I suspect that Vince Cable and David Davis probably have more in common with each other than they would care to admit. After all, they are both figureheads for a certain section of their respective parties (Cable with the left leaning, more economically interventionist end of the Lib Dems, Davis with the wing of the Tory party who care about civil liberties), both have a pretty good USP (Cable as the guy who saw the crash coming, Davis as the council-estate-lad-turned-stone-cold-killer) and the pair of them are long enough in the tooth to command a certain level of gravitas. However, the chief difference is that despite the fact that they are both evenly matched in both reach, mischievous intent and ability, one is a cabinet minister while the other is a backbencher. On the basis of last night’s outing it certainly seems that Davis got the sweeter deal. Why? Because Davis was having a whale of a time, being able as he was to duck out of most of Pensionergate whilst simultaneously making loopy unilateral pronouncements about halving the cost of petrol. Cable by contrast had to sit there and suck it all up whilst getting nothing in return for his pains. No crowd love, no mansion tax, no nothing. Ok, so he got to be a little rebellious later on when he poured not quite cold but at least tepid water on regional pay scales but for the most part he looked like a man who had just been forced to drink a pint of brine. So here you go Vince, here’s what you could have won: A similar level of influence without the need to rend your very soul to shreds every time you’re put in front of camera and having to look on impotently as every suggestion you make is quietly taken out the back and shot.

3. The supporting cast was solid.

I have no idea who Melissa Kite is (and neither will I as she doesn’t have a wikipedia article… Three cheers for laziness!), nor am I more than tentatively familiar with Marina Lewycka but truth be told, this matters not a jot as I have nothing in the way of bones to pick with them. Both of them seemed pretty reasonable, both made some good points and neither of them said anything stupid. However, I find myself slightly more inclined towards Lewycka, purely because she seems like the sort of person it would be fun to get drunk with. Similarly with the crowd, I have no complaints as they seemed an amiable enough bunch who could go any-which-way come the next election and there also appeared to be a refreshing absence of flat-out stupidity in this episode. Oh, and there was a guy with a beard so big that it could probably count towards next years GDP figures. Extra points for majestic beards.

4. That whole NHS thing? You probably dreamt it…

I seem to recall that at some point earlier in the week one of the most controversial and potentially risky pieces of legislation in recent history somehow managed to blag its way in to law. At least I think I did as it seems that the QT production team are either unaware of this development or are genuinely more concerned with royalty, ransom and roads. Seriously, wtf?

Tl;dr

Cable: 5/10

Drained

Umunna: 5/10

Sprained (something in his head).

Davis: 7/10

Rained (on Umunna’s parade)

Kite: 6/10

(Seems quite) Sane

Lewycka: 7/10

Gained (my respect)

The Crowd: 7/10

(Contained a man with a glorious) Mane

So there we go, an enjoyable little spring jaunt that kept me entertained for an hour. Nowt wrong with that. Before I go there’s just enough time to squeeze in a quick pshop. This came about when I discovered that there is in fact another David Davis at large, famous only for being arrested with half a haircut. I have tried to simulate the consequences of a chance encounter between the two David Davis’ (see Fig. 1).

david-davis-david-davis-gif

Fig. 1

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #3


questionable time david dimbleby pot smoking hippy

Morning Lemmings and welcome to what really should have been the Question Time special on the Lib Dem conference but actually turned out to be just a plain old, common garden episode and not a great one at that. The fact that it wasn’t really focused on the conference is a shame as for once, it has actually been a semi-interesting autumn jaunt for the Yellow Team and one that could have made for an interesting show. Usually, the annual Lib Dem get-together is an exercise in wanton kookiness where a bunch of hemp clad peaceniks compare the bushiness of their beards, debate the merits of tax breaks for yurts and put forward motions to outlaw bad vibes. This year however they’ve gone all ‘spike’ and it was all the better for it, what with actual ministers making all sorts of thinly veiled threats to their partners in government while the rank-and-file puffed out their chests for a collective hollering of ‘Don’t Tread On Me’. It was almost as if the school chess club was in open rebellion. Anyhoo, that was the backdrop but going on this episode, you would have hardly known and what we actually got was a pretty random clutch of questions backed by what was the most easily led audience I’ve seen in years. But more on that later.

Ok, to kick off last night’s proceedings we have Vince Cable, Business Secretary and Fearless Dissident/Sullen Looking Lickspittle (who, incidentally, occasionally likes to dress like Gandalf… See Fig. 1). Now, I don’t know about you guys but I’m pretty much Vinced out at the moment, what with having spent the last 18 months living in the hope that all of his treasonous chunterings might actually turn into some form of action and yet having to cope with the reality that with every call-to-arms also comes a through-gritted-teeth-climbdown. Thus it was that he started the night on thin ice and if he were to have any hope of keeping a dim flicker of hope alive in me he’d damn well better come out fighting. So did he? In a word, ‘no’. The areas where Vince had an opportunity to win me round were on the IMF and Palestine questions, both of which would have allow him to demonstrate that he hasn’t been entirely consumed by the mirage of coalition. The pre-show portents for the IMF question in particular looked promising as much of his conference performance was dotted with lines to be read between and looks of the knowing variety. Last night’s show presented him with a chance to come good on that implied mischief by at least hinting that he wasn’t entirely in agreement with driving the economy off a cliff but in the end, he didn’t. Instead, Vince did what he’s done for his last few Question Time appearances and sat on the most splintered and jagged part of the fence possible whilst trying to pretend that he was actually incredibly comfortable. It didn’t work and his insistence that we can have our Deficit Reduction Cake whilst gorging on Slices of Growth just didn’t look credible and amounted to nothing more than a feast of crumbs.

 

gandalf vince cable

Fig. 1

Similarly, the Palestine question was one where he could at least have given a nod in the direction of his Lib Dem providence but instead chose to play dumb by insisting that he’d have to see the resolution before venturing an opinion on the matter. Now, I do have a smidgen of sympathy here as he is in the Cabinet and has to walk the line to a certain extent, but a nudge and wink to the effect that he’d like to see the government support the Palestinians really wouldn’t have killed him. So come on Vince, stop pratting about because I’m tired: Tired of having my hopes raised by off-the-record whispers of conspiracy only to have them dashed by on-the-record and repeated use of the phrase “It’s very complicated”. Buck up your ideas Mr Cable as there’s only so far a halo can slip before it becomes a Health and Safety hazard.

Alright, next up we have Harriet Harman, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and bête noire of the Daily Mail. Now, prior to the show, I was prepared to cut Harriet a little slack as while I’m not exactly a fan, I do think she’s had a raw deal at the hands of the mid-market papers and I tried very hard to give her a fair innings. On the face of it, this didn’t prove too difficult as her actual answers were all pretty decent and the crowd seemed to agree with her on most subjects, but there was still something niggling at me. At first, I thought it was down to her faux shock when an audience member took her to task about the deficit figures but I later discovered that it was actually something else: Her posture. Now, Harman’s a pretty tall woman and when this is combined with her commendably straight back, she tends to have several inches on the other panelists and consequently has to look down her nose at them. I caught this in a wide-angle shot when Justine Roberts was saying something and Harman was looking in her direction. While her facial expression was pretty neutral and innocuous, the very fact that her head was slightly tilted back gave her an air of condescension that wasn’t exactly flattering and made her look like a bit of a pious snob. Ok, so I know it sounds petty, but it’s things like this that inadvertently work their way into people’s brains and tarnish what was otherwise a perfectly reasonable appearance. So Harriet, if you want my advice, carry on saying what you’re saying but for god’s sake, slouch.

Slouch woman, slouch! Sorry for shouting. I get that way sometimes. Anyway, moving on and we come to Priti Patel, MP for Witham and Question Time virgin. My first impressions of Patel were that she isn’t exactly the most cuddly politician, what with her forthrightly bandying about debt-per-second figures as if they were going out of fashion, but this feeling was soon superseded by a suspicion that something fishy was going on, a state of affairs prompted by the asking of the death penalty question. Now, I know that Question Time have a policy where only the audience get to submit the topics for debate, but I was struggling to believe that the burning issue this week has been the Troy Davis case as it’s only been marginally covered in the news and the water coolers of the nation haven’t appeared to be rife with clamour over the matter. No, I have a feeling that this question was cherry picked and the reason behind it is that the only thing anyone knows about Priti Patel is that she bloody loves the death penalty. Questionable Question Time ethics aside, I am sort of glad it happened as it’s rare that you get someone going quite so off the hook about their desire to see people killed in the face of overwhelming opposition and to be fair to Patel, she is a tough cooky who gave it a decent shot. However, I can’t get away from the fact that people under 40 who support the death penalty with such dogged vigour frankly scare me and it’s also fair to say that her relative lack of political experience did rear it’s head from time to time. Oh, and the way she draws out random syllables also irks me a little: “What about the raaaapists and paaaaaaedophiles”. Hmmmm.

Right, time for the civilians, this week represented by Ian Hislop and Justine Roberts. In the case of Hislop, I’m inclined to arbitrarily knock a few marks off as I always think it’s just a little unfair to let a man whose job is basically to gather enormous piles of mud to sling at politicians on to the show. That’s not to say I don’t like him or disapprove the fact that politicians need mud slinging at them, it’s just that the dice seem a little loaded. So yes, Hislop did well at holding power to ridicule and it was a good performance, but only in the way that lions tended to put on a good show when they had Christians thrown at them. It’s just what they’re built to do,the outcome is never in any doubt and the overall effect is one of amusement accompanied by a twinge of guilt.

Moving on to Justine Roberts and I find myself pleasantly surprised by an appearance that I had every reason to fear. I say this because Roberts’ day job is to be Commander-in-Chief of what I consider to be possible the most frightening entity the internet has spawned to date: Mumsnet. While some may welcome our new cyber-matriarchs with open arms, I for one find the idea of a digital phalanx of organised sharp elbows to be the stuff of dystopian nightmares and have lived in near constant terror since its inception. Happily though, Roberts went quite a way to quell these fears by putting on a well-rounded performance and while I won’t be setting up a fake Mumsnet account so that I can get in on the action, I will sleep easier in the knowledge that the internet probably won’t be overrun by a tutting horde of Dido fans.

Ok, that’s the panel, now time for the element that I hold to be largely responsible for a sub-par show: The audience. My first and biggest beef with these guys is that no matter what a panelist said, they would clap as if their lives depended on it. Seriously, the only way you could tell if a point was contentious was to try to pick out the boos in the sea of applause and this lent the show all the validity of a Stalin era Party Congress. Second beef: The guy with the wig who whittered something about how “we need to grow more food”. The food thing is by-the-by but what most certainly isn’t is the wearing of a jet black toupee over near-white hair. That, sir, simply isn’t good enough. And finally, just what the Dickens happened to the black guy wearing a full suit and bowler hat? I caught him in the opening shot, slap bang in the middle of the crowd and decked out as if he was on his way to sell a large quantity of bullion. “Hello”, I thought “here comes trouble” but alas no! Trouble never came and we heard not a peep from him. In my opinion Birmingham, this was an inexcusable mistake and one you pay dearly for in the final reckoning… The final reckoning which is just about to happen NOW!

Tl;dr

Cable: 3/10

Pah!

Harman: 6/10

Ha!

Patel: 4/10

Gah!

Hislop: 7/10

Rah!

Roberts: 7/10

Ta-dah!

The Crowd: 3/10

Bah!

So there you go. A roundly rubbish episode of which we shall never speak of again. My only hope is that next week’s crowd come all dressed in bowler hats and suits. I would consider that to be adequate compensation.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

 


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