Posts Tagged 'Yvette Cooper'

Questionable Time #133


qt 133

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to an undisclosed location in London (and by undisclosed I mean yer bog standard BBC studio), and yet another episode of Questionable Time: Debates Edition! A roomful of poor unfortunate souls have been specially picked to watch an hour and a half of the ‘opposition’ party leaders debate each other, and straight afterwards get served another steaming heap of hot sweaty debatin’! Mmmm! Them’s good debatings!

At this point the word ‘debate’ has lost all meaning, so let’s get started already.

Please pray for Dimbleby

First up, who is the most dangerous party in Britain? UKIP, the SNP, or another gratuitous acronym? Douglas Carswell is on stage first, talking up the Kippers and predictably preening that they’re the best/around/nothing’s ever gonna keep them down. As it happens, his leader and fellow MP may be having trouble winning their respective seats – this guy’s one to watch. It appears he doesn’t want a coalition, rather a pact to enact proper change. EU-related, one assumes.

Angus Steakhouse Robertson, looking radiant as an entire glazed ham, disagrees and argues for more FREEDOM for Scotland. He wants to stand up for a different kind of politics, and would be willing to work together with other forward-thinking parties in order to do this. Like, for example, not Yvette Cooper.

Yvette, resplendent as queen of the goths in one of her formidable collection of dark purple suits, boldly speaks up to pretty much make chicken noises at David ‘no show’ Cameron. She and Angus get into an argument about numbers or whatever (I am no maths whizz and switched off halfway through), with Angus heartbreakingly trying his best to ‘do a Paxman’. I’m sorry, dude. You simply lack the requisite patronising sneer to do so.

It is at this point that Grant Shapps, or Michael Green, or whoever he is this week, slithers in. Wheedling that DCam ~*~wasn’t invited~*~, he bemoans the chaotic state of the debates and their participants as they are now – if only we had a certain leader to whip them all into shape! #where’sdave, counters Yvette. Grant responds to this by electing to have a go at the Scots. They’re scary, after all – you wouldn’t want to see them doing any deals, right, Middle England? (Unless they decide to do a deal with the Tories, in which case they’re lovely! But they said they won’t, so VOTE GRANT SHAPPS.)

Ah, and here comes Piers ‘Morgan’ Moron to enlighten us all on what we’re doing wrong. Apparently everyone is wrong except him, and you also can’t trust anybody except him. Watch Good Morning Britain on ITV now that my show’s been cancelled! He then goes ‘well in’, as I believe the yoof say these days, for Nick Clegg, calling him irrelevant and that no1curr about his ridiculous bleatings. Coming from Piers of all people, that’s gotta sting.

“I’m hurt,” says Jo Swinson, making a sadface :(

Piers brushes her aside with a remark about tuition fees, any single mention of which burns Lib Dems like water does the Wicked Witch of the West. Haven’t you heard our Nick Clegg apology remix :((((? asks Jo. Or words to that effect. (Don’t worry, she gets better later. A bit.) If only Nick Clegg had been on the guest list for the debate and hadn’t been visiting a hedgehog sanctuary or whatever it is he does now! You know what, screw whether they were invited or not, maybe Dave ‘n’ Nick just should have just turned up and sat on the stage and refused to move until they got let in if they felt so strongly about it.

Dimbleby is expressing a similarly devil-may-care attitude, his eyesight and will to live equally failing, having just spent an hour and a half shepherding around a group of squabbling schoolkids and now having to look after a whole ‘nother class of fools. He doesn’t even care who the questions are coming from or what they are, just that they get this over with as quickly as possible and he can go home and put his feet up. This will be the last general election he’ll be covering, so let’s all wish our great lord and saviour the best! (Apparently he’s now very popular on Buzzfeed, but I always have a soft spot for fashionable 70s Dimbleby.)

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

“Unlike the Westminster establishment parties,” says the man who originally became an MP through being part of a Westminster establishment party, “we’ve got a costed plan blah blah blah.” Now even ‘costed’ is becoming one of the phrases I never want to hear again after the election ends. Along with ‘Barnet formula’, which unfortunately has nothing to do with hairstyles.

Angus Young Robertson is back in black, standin’ up for the poor and bashin’ Trident. Piers is mortally offended by this lack of support for our brave nukes. He takes issue with Ed Miliband perhaps being a teeny weeny bit hesitant to smash his meaty fist on the button that could potentially end all life on Earth. This is a foul embarrassment for Piers. What a wimp, not wanting to gratuitously nuke people. Pfft.

I am fairly sure Piers Morgan is planning a bloody coup and I am terrified.

Piggy bank responsibility lock

Grant smirks punchably as he continues to attack Yvette. While her long-windedness does make it easier for him, every time he is asked a question, or Angus – accidentally or not – encourages him (nae man! Ye daen’t knergh wut ye doin!), a little rodenty smile spreads across his face, freaking me out immensely. Grant is also a strong contender for one of the best and most gleeful trolls of Question Time at the moment (along with Andy Burnham and anyone from the SNP). I don’t like the man, but this is intended to be somewhat of a compliment. Look at it this way: he may be a weasel with no name, but at least he’s an entertaining weasel with no name.

Then everyone jumps on the electoral reform bandwagon. Remember the AV referendum? I sure don’t! Douglas is in favour, and to be fair, Jo does a good bit about the merits of the STV system, which would make everyone very happy and contented forever. But we’re moving on quickly to other matters: namely, the NHS, which didn’t get covered in the second debate as it was heavily discussed in the first.

Piers is attacking Douglas now over HIV treatment and “scaremongering” re: health tourism. First Jo, then Yvette, now Douglas and all their respective leaders…the other panellists are looking nervous and in thrall to Piers’ unstoppable dismissal of absolutely everybody. Dimbleby asks Douglas why ol’ Nige chose to use such unfortunate AIDS-related phrasing that seemed to blame victims. “You need to talk to Nigel about that,” says Dugz. Groans abound. Don’t worry, he’ll be interviewed about it approximately every thirty seconds.

Anyway, we’ve got the most money for the NHS! says Douglas proudly. Jo finds her chance, saying the other parties are all promising pretty pink ponies and only the Lib Dems would properly regulate the nation’s piggy banks. Grant takes issue with this, saying that, ACKTCHUALLY, the Tories have the bestest plan of all. Jo brushes him off – attempting to appear as a future Liberal Democrat leadership candidate, I’d reckon…if she keeps her seat.

Then Angus Deayton Robertson rails against privatisation, but Jo, really riled up now, takes him to task for funding commitments during the #indyref campaign which may or may not have been a big mess/lovely and great with no complaints here. Dimbleby calms matters by saying we don’t want to “refight the referendum”. Tell that to Twitter.

Right to cry (deeply and at great length)

Lastly/briefly, right to buy – just because it’s popular, does it make it right?

“Yvette Cooper, let’s not be too long-winded on this,” says Dimbleby, speaking for us all. Yvette says it’s bad, Grant says it’s great, bears eat honey in the 100 Acre Woods. The crowd asks where the new stock of social housing is going to come from, to which the only available answer right now is presumably ‘idk lol’.

“It’s not the right to buy, it’s the right to bribe,” nods Piers, obviously pleased with himself for that devastating retort. Angus has the answer, though, and it’s to move to Scotland. Douglas disagrees: move to Clacton. Clacton likes the new Tory proposal, and so does he. Why, it’s almost as if he used to be a Tory MP or something!

So remember, kids, in conclusion: what’s good for Clacton is good for all.

With that bombshell (Piers’ ears prick up), it’s time for the scores.

Shapps: 6/10

Sneer

Cooper: 6/10

Austere

Swinson: 6/10

Deer (caught in the headlights)

Robertson: 6/10

Veer(ing left)

Carswell: 6/10

Veer(ing right)

Moron: 5/10

(New presenter of Top) Gear(?)

The Crowd: 6/10

Jeer(ed at ’em all)

Next time: Natalie Bennett disguised as Caroline Lucas.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #117


qt 117
Good morrow lemmings and welcome to another splendiferous edition of Questionable Time, live from Doncaster! This, incidentally, is where Ye Greate Laboure Leadere Ed Miliband keeps his counsel and apparently was in danger of getting the boot but now isn’t, according to some Ashcroft dude you may have heard of. Whatever, I’m sure nobody actually cares. My goodness this was a boring episode, though, so I’ll just expand this little opening paragraph for as long as possible. Hm hm hm. Lalalala. Okay, that’s enough. We really should get started. Don’t worry, my friends – it won’t be like this next week [imagine foreboding music playing here].

The 1930s were like the 1920s only crappier and with the characters in Downton Abbey probably had to sell their house because of the recession. Tragic. Isis the dog didn’t die for this

Sajid Javid starts us off, with his weirdly disproportionate head, talking about ~*~the challenges~*~ of dealing with the deficit and how that happens to involve cuts, and you’re all just gonna have to get used to it, sry2say. I hope you like the 1930s ‘sack dress’ aesthetic! By the way, I can’t read his lapel pin. It looks like a pretty blue flower. Anyone with any insider info on what the heck it is, give me the deets.

Why don’t we ask the people where the cuts should or should not come from, says Omid Djalili. After all, we don’t trust folks who moo like they do in that there House. Having watched a great many PMQs in my time like a saddo, I can confirm that they do indeed moo a great deal. Just pad the benches with hay and they’ll be happy. Wait, do cows even eat hay?

Meanwhile, representing the red team, Yvette ‘pixie woman’ Cooper is up to bat. It’s strange, for the last few weeks we’ve had the most likely future Labour leadership candidates in quick succession: Burnham, Umunna and now Cooper. Feel free to debate amongst yourselves what their respective QT showings say about their chances, but for now let’s all concentrate on Yvette bellowing about the great unfairness of it all. So unfair! These cuts are just so unfair, mum, she cries, practically stamping her heel but in a much more boring way. We’ll balance the books…but…fairly. Sajid demands to know exactly how, but his interruption is interrupted by the arrival of Jill Kirby on the scene.

Looking like Theresa May’s older, even scarier sister, she makes a worryingly long diet-related metaphor and finishes it off with an order to ‘please clap’, which for a moment I thought was a frightening threat to the terrified audience. I can see how she was formerly head of a think tank set up by Maggie T.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Shirl the Pearl, one of the QT old guard (I am thankful, at least, that there is a QT old guard still remaining, who can remember the glory days of Robin Day and whoever it was that came after him) umms and ahhs, and the general public are not satisfied by her or indeed any of this nonsense. Tell us exactly what’s going to happen, they cry in unison. Yvette rattles off some Labour policies and the panel scoffs at her, or at least Sajid and Jill do, and presumably high-five under the table afterwards. Jill wants us to be exactly like the blessed USA. ‘They have a much more balanced economy’, she gushes, conveniently forgetting that they also have barely any truly public services and certainly no proper health service. But maybe that’s the best way forward, eh?

It seems that direct democracy is the way2go, even if it would probably end up in a huge screaming mess. Everyone wants referendums! You get a referendum! I get a referendum! We all get referendums!!

The next question is on the British Identity: what is it? We just don’t know.

Isn’t it all about being a jolly nice chap? asks Yvette innocently. Dimbleby is also somewhat confused. He corners the man who asks the original question – about the name ‘Mohammad’ and how it is scary – in his own, Dimble-ish way that makes you pee yourself but very quietly. However, it is the audience who really answer this question, by taking part in many people’s favourite pastime of all: dissing the Daily Mail. Now that’s what I call British Identity!

Gordon Brown, texture like sun

Now here’s a question about (guess who?) nail-chewer supreme, Grumbly Gords. Jill Kirby blames Gordy for everything except keeping us out of the Euro. Thanks Obama Gordon. But – wait, what’s this? It’s Shirley Williams, riding to the rescue! She passionately defends the departing ex-PM which takes everyone a little aback for a moment. However, the Eggman/Sajid has the master plan, and he fights back, claiming that while Gordon was a smart dude ‘n’ all he was also a complete dingus. Yvette disagrees, obviously (although doesn’t praise Gordo to the high heavens or anything either – Labour know he’s a liability, deserved or not. Isn’t it sad, Gordon?).

Then everyone gets into an argument about zero-hours contracts. We’re abolishing them! No, we are! No, we are!! A zero-hours contract is better than no contract at all, says Jill, to general uproar, and a man in the audience yells ‘go back to London!’. So say we all.

Question Time must be stopped

Our final question of finalness is finally about obese people and whether we should care about them and their lives. Jill is not in favour (surprise surprise) and wants people to help/heft themselves. The rest of the panel shake their heads with varying degrees of ferocity.

Omid, who so far this programme has been the only source of non-boredom by actually cracking a few jokes (which I hear is something he does for a job, imagine that) is grotesquely offended! I am also offended. My roast potato addiction isn’t going to go away on its own, you know. It’s terminal. And slathered in gravy.

Dimbleby closes the programme with a bombshell, but first:

Time for the scores!

Javid: 5/10

Tumbled (down the hill with his big egg head)

Cooper: 5/10

Fumbled

Williams: 6/10

Rumbled (in a stern grandmotherly sort of way for you young people to not be so gloomy)

Kirby: 5/10

(Was not) Humbled

Djalili: 6/10

Jumbled (his jokes all together)

The Crowd: 7/10

Grumbled

Well folks, it’s Nigel Farage and Russell Brand next time round – ‘if we survive that’ according to Dimbledore. The two greatest minds of our generation. Merry Christmas one and all.

And, by the way, another plug: I’ve created an Ed Miliband Adventure Game in my spare time. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a comedic text-based adventure game starring Ed Miliband. Because that’s just the kind of thing I like to do. Go play it if you’re interested – which if you’re reading this blog, you should be.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #97


questionable time 97 david dimbleby wolves moon native americanGood morning Lemmings and apologies for the pshop atrocity above – some men just like to watch the world drown in a tidal wave of Outer Glow blending options every now and then. Anyway, what’s it to you? Do you want me to come after you with a piece of “sharpened bone” because that audience member was right – that’s exactly the sort of thing we denizens of Leeds routinely carry around. Ha! Not so brave now, are you? Right, let’s get going…

D-I-V-O-R-C-E

How do you know when a marriage is on the rocks? Well, one of the more reliable methods is to see what happens when one half of the partnership gets in from work. In the case of Tim Farron’s union with the rest of the Yellow Team there has been a marked deterioration in the civility of the 6pm homecoming over the years but last night really did throw into stark relief just how strained things have become at Chez Farron.

Take for example the early years of the coalition: Here you got the sense that Tim – troubled though he was by the way his bride’s outlook and behaviour had recently changed – was at least trying to make it work. There was the obligatory peck on the cheek, the ‘How was your day?’ followed by that state of semi-listening and obligatory ‘uh-huhs’/’mmmphs’ before he’d plant himself in front of Pointless and try to push the awful thought that he may no longer be in love with the rest of the Yellow Team to back of his mind. As time has gone on though this act has self-evidently become harder to sustain and by the back-end of last year you could really see the wheels coming off:

Darling, did you manage to sort that redistribution of wealth out?”

Dammit Tim, I told you before – we’re not teenagers any more! Now for god’s sake put down that bloody SDP manifesto and help me raise these tuition fees!”

Last night though, well that was a different kettle of fish because for the first time he couldn’t even bring himself to step over the threshold, opting instead to stay in his car and listen to Born to Run on an endless loop while the neighbours looked on with a mixture of glee and anxiety (‘Hey, have you seen Tim from Number 3? He looks like he’s proper lost it! That’ll never happen to us, right darling? Right?’). Not once did he mention a coalition policy or even pretend to speak as part of a family unit, preferring instead to pretend that the wedding never took place and that he was still living the pre-2010 social democratic dream.

So what now for this unhappy household? Well, before last night I was happy to chalk Tim’s recent behaviour to a case of simply being on maneuvers (see Fig. 1) – you know, that sort of 7 year-itch posturing where he intentionally stays out late and switches off his phone in an act of measured defiance but now I’m not so sure. No, I think it’s deeper than that: I think he knows that divorce is inevitable and he’s laying the ground work to make sure that he gets his half of the house and access to the kids. What’s even more interesting is just how attractive (justified barbs about hypocrisy aside) this ‘I’ve Still Got It’ Tim was to the audience. They knew he was kind of living out a fantasy but it was a fantasy that they were more happy to indulge. Watch this space Lemmings because if the 2015 election pans out as badly for the LibDems as conventional wisdom would suggest then don’t be surprised when you get an invite to a housewarming at Tim’s new bachelor pad.

tim-farron-on-maneuvers-gif

Fig. 1

Bad news and good news with the Blue Team…

First the bad news: Nick Boles, the wobbly headed junior minister who I suspect will be absolute QT gold has once again stood me up and escaped a damn good Questionable Timing. He’ll keep, I guess. However, it’s not all woe and misery because his replacement – backbencher Conor Burns – has appeared from nowhere and pulled off perhaps the single greatest Response To Tragic Events in recent QT history. Seriously, his answer to the Corpus Christie question was exceptionally good – sincere, without schmultz and pitched perfectly in tone (it was actually like a really well executed sermon). The rest of his performance wasn’t bad either so keep an eye on this guy: If he can keep a lid on calling hecklers “spastics” he could be going places.

The Thwarting…

Last night should have been Yvette’s for the taking – after all she knows the turf around these parts, Leeds is genetically Labour and having a shiny new (and left leaning) policy in the bag never really hurts the cause – but she didn’t quite manage to seal the deal, largely because Tim At Number 3 was stealing a lot of her progressive thunder. That’s not to say it was a bad performance (it wasn’t) but you did get the impression that having to look both left and right threw her a little off-balance. Either that or the Ed Balls Day celebrations were really heavy this year.

Sighs of relief all round at UKIP HQ…

Watching Suzanne Evans last night reminded me of a PE report I got back in school:

Loudribs has done well this year despite himself”

And that’s because she did do ok – she didn’t seem too bonkers and gave the impression of being vaguely clued up by having a statistic for absolutely bloody everything. However, it was a close run thing that could have very easily gone sideways thanks to a) her permanently looking very pleased with herself and b) by claiming ownership of things that aren’t really hers (“my countryside”, “my beautiful rural school”). For a party that’s pitching itself as the bane of vested interests this probably isn’t the best semantic road to go down.

One ticket to Jenkoland please!

What would the world be like if Simon Jenkin’s ran it? Incredibly entertaining, that’s what. We’d all be free to do really stupid things in a land littered with lovingly conserved stately homes and sites of great cultural import. You want to drunkenly do handbrake turns in the grounds of Castle Howard with your hair on fire? Good for you! Go nuts! Just make sure you don’t damage the house. Fancy smoking PCP and racing diggers around Stonehenge? Then go, race diggers for it is your god given right! Just watch the stones ok? It would be like Downton Abbey meets Jackass.

Tl;dr

Cooper: 6/10

Thwarted

Farron: 6/10

Transported (himself back to 2010)

Burns: 7/10

Comported (himself well)

Evans: 5/10

(Would probably like to see a lot of people) Deported

Jenkins: 6/10

Snorted (at airport security in schools)

The Crowd: 6/10

(Were) Assorted

Hmm… pretty solid episode that (and I’m not just saying that out of fear of my sharpened bone wielding neighbours). Right, we’re done here. Go back to whatever it was you were doing and I’ll go back to figuring out just what I’m going to wear to Tim’s housewarming party…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #72


questionable time 72 david dimbleby kiss make up

Good morning Lemmings and let’s not tarry too long on this first paragraph because we have much to get through. Much, much, muchness. Right, let’s go…

Let’s twist again. And again. And again. And again…

Imagine you’re playing pontoon: You peek at your first two cards (in this case a pretty borderline article on the assumed sentiments of a politician’s dead father) and find that you’re in a bit of a bind as their combined scores tally up to 15. Dammit! “Oh well,” you say to yourself, “might as well go for it. Twist!”. The dealer peels another card off the deck in the form of a supremely ill-judged headline and throws it on the table for all to see. It’s a Jack and you’re bust – time to pony up and hope that your next hand’s not quite as dire… At least that’s what you’d do if you had even the slightest concept of sportsmanship/rules/general standards of human behaviour.

But you don’t play by the rules. You’re a maverick, a loose cannon who’s standing up for what you believe in and right now you believe that a five-card trick will magically negate the fact that you’ve cocked this hand right up to the point where you’re out of the game. The banker reaches forward to collect his winnings but you’re having none of it: “Twist!” you scream as the other players exchange bemused looks and an uncomfortable silence envelopes the table. A friend of yours, an ex-editor of The Daily Telegraph, leans in towards you in an effort to set you straight:

Now come along Daily Mail I think you’ve had enough to -”

I SAID TWIST!”

Not knowing what to do the banker produces another card – a Queen this time. Your current score is 36 and bemusement is turning to concern. But you’re not done, not by a long shot.

AGAIN!”

The banker lays out a King. 46 and counting.

AGAIN!”

Another King and by this point even your brother, the Mail on Sunday is looking worried.

AGAIN! TWIST!”

You get the picture.

So that was a very long way of explaining the circumstances that bought Quentin Letts into the QT studio but how did he do on a personal level? Not good. Not good at all. In fairness to him he didn’t quite end up being the screaming lunatic of the above passage – the difference being that rather than shouting everyone down he just woozily dragged them around the houses whilst calling for yet more cards – but the fact that he still insisted on playing the game just gave his performance this very surreal air. And the result? Mockery – and not just an odd titter from certain sections of the crowd but full-blown, out-and-out derision like the part where he foolishly asked the crowd if the Mail was “completely out of order?”. “Yes!” came the near-unanimous response. Still, at least he can take comfort in the fact that he had at least one ally in the audience – a Kipper with a fairly tenuous grasp of exactly how the political spectrum works.

TWIST!

Mehdi Hasan: My new favourite person in the whole world.

You will not be hearing my traditional pleas for Mehdi Hasan to lighten up today. Instead I’m going to let the man speak for himself by quoting what I consider to be probably the best QT set piece I have ever seen – a beautiful chunk of rhetoric that served as wish fulfillment for a sizable chunk of the population. Behold:

…when you talk about who hates Britain or who has an evil legacy, who do you think has an evil legacy? The man who sucked up to the Nazi’s, who made friends with Joseph Goebbels and praised Hitler in the run up to World War Two – the owner and founder of the Daily Mail Lord Rothermere – or the man who served in the Royal Navy, risked his life for his adopted homeland – Ralph Miliband? Who do you think hated Britain more? And this isn’t just about Ralph Miliband actually because it’s opened up a whole debate about the Daily Mail. You want to talk about who hates Britain… [minor chuntering from Letts]… This is a paper that in recent years said there was nothing natural about the death of the gay pop star Stephen Gately, who said that the French people should vote for Marine Le Pen and the National Front, who attacked Danny Boyle for having a mixed raced couple in the Olympic Ceremony, who called Mo Farah a ‘plastic Brit’. So let’s have the debate about who hates Britain more because it isn’t a dead Jewish refugee from Belgium who served in the Royal Navy, it’s the immigrant-bashing, woman-hating, muslim-smearing, NHS-undermining, gay-baiting Daily Mail.”

Be still my beating heart.

And the – oh who cares…

So there were some party political types on last night but let’s not pretend that they weren’t completely overshadowed by the slow motion train wreck that was Mailgate. Anyway, a few choice points:

  1. I’ve finally figured out who Grant Shapps (see Fig. 1) reminds me of: He’s that kid at school – and every school has one – who thrives on goading others into wayward acts before legging it when the consequences of those acts become apparent (that’s if he hasn’t dobbed them in already). He also has a tin ear for nuance. Remember when that woman in the audience made a very eloquent point about how she’s fed up with all the ‘Hard Working People’ schtick? Well what better way to follow that up than by starting your next sentence with the phrase ‘Hard Working People’.
  2. I’ve now concluded that Yvette Cooper is the Bic Biro of politics: Dependable, functional, readily available (I don’t mean it like that…) and something you never really think about until you need one. True, she’s no Staedlter ball point (in my opinion the Rambo of Biro’s) but she’s dependable in a humdrum sort of way and there’s much to be said for that. However I can’t let her get away with quite how searingly dull she was last night. Yeah, yeah, yeah we know about the “lost three years” but can’t we just get back to the far more entertaining pursuit of Mail-baiting?
  3. Poor old Kirsty Williams looks like she could be a dab hand at this QT game if she could just get more than 20 seconds of camera time and not be quite so obsessed with the pupil premium. Better luck next time Kirsty.
eau de grant shapps

Fig. 1

Tl;dr

Shapps: 5/10

(As slippery and slap-) Dash (as ever)

Cooper: 4/10

(Gave it a mediocre) Bash

Williams: 6/10

(Made a decent) Hash (of it)

Letts: 2/10

(Sounded like he’d been on the) Lash

Hasan: 9/10

Smash(ed that ball right out of the park)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Displayed a high percentage of mous)Tache (owners)?

Well, what can I say? Two great episodes in as many weeks… Are we heading into some sort of QT Golden Age? I sincerely hope so. Anyway, that’s enough from me and should you still happen to be at a loose end you can check what happened when I cut Boris Johnson’s brain in two earlier this week.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #43


questionable time 43 david dimbleby andy warhol

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to a very heavyweight line-up for this week’s Questionable Time. That’s right, after shilly-shallying about with the likes of Munt and MacLennan in last week’s episode we’re now back in the major leagues again. You want the Shadow Home Secretary? Done! How about Britain’s foremost Angry Young Man? Bang! Here’s Owen Jones! Maybe a former party leader? Shutuppayourface, here’s two! A suitably grand sounding venue? I see your generic location name and raise you a goddamn palace! And of course there’s Deborah Meaden. Oh.

Anyway, sky-high expectations aside, bitter experience has shown that a solid panel does not necessarily a good show make. Could this robust sounding blueprint for QT heaven deliver on its promise? Well let’s just see about that…

I think I’m one step closer to cracking the riddle of IDS…

There are a great many things that vex me about IDS but one has been particularly bothering me of late: How did he ever survive as a junior officer in the Scots Guards? I ask this because the Scots Guards and IDS just seem like two things that should never really go together. Here you have – on the one hand – a man whose face is always contorted somewhere between self-doubt, uncertainty and a very terrible appreciation of his own awkwardness whilst on the other we have not just an infantry regiment, but one of the stuffiest and ritualistic outfits in an organisation that prides itself on engineering situations that freak out the socially awkward. It just struck me as very odd and I often wondered how 1st Lt. Duncan Smith – with that face of his so visibly playing out some horrible conflict within his soul – could convince a bunch of hard-bitten enlisted men of why they should listen to him, let alone follow his orders.

Well dear Lemmings, now we know. He’s a classic Long Fuse/Big Bomb and last night was the perfect illustration of this. To begin with, he actually had quite a good ride, doing his best to escape unscathed on female bishops and the EU whilst actually coming across as quite thoughtful at points. However, there was something niggling him and that something was Owen Jones, what with all his voting prisoners and disestablished churches. ‘Troublemaker!’ said IDS’s face, but he managed to bite his lip and generally keep a lid on his growing sense of unease. Then the question about the proposed benefits cap came up and everything went mental.

In the general scheme of thing’s, IDS first response, a semi-rousing ‘It Just Isn’t Fair’, wasn’t bad but he was comprehensively out-roused by Jones’ crushing ‘You’re Damn Right It Just Isn’t Fair’ counter punch. Throw into that some sustained heckling that made Dimbers very cross and you could see it all getting just a bit too much for him. “HOLD ON YOU!” he bellowed, his face now a picture indignant certainty… and then it ended. Time’s up.

So yes, we didn’t get to see the full explosion (oh for another five minutes) but the early indicators were pretty telling. And that is how I reckon IDS survived in the Scots Guards: He’d take the ‘Kick Me’ signs, the backchat and name calling up to a point, but when that point was reached, boy did everybody know about it.

I’d love to shower Owen Jones with praise but jealousy prevents it…

If only I hadn’t spent the best part of my twenties looking like “a homeless wizard”, trying to drive ice cream vans into pedestrians on Grand Theft Auto and being sick in nightclub toilets then maybe, just maybe, I could have been some sort of proto-Owen Jones. Except that I didn’t and given that being Owen Jones seems to involve a level of passion, relevance and good-lookingness that I’d have great difficulty in summoning I guess I’ll just have to settle for what I’ve got. I’d totally beat him at any computer game though. Name your platform Owen, you will not win.

Yvette doesn’t ride for free today…

I usually go easy on Yvette, mainly because she has a lot to put up with. As Labour’s Appropriate Adult, she’s the one who gets dragged out to straighten out whatever unholy mess they’ve found themselves in and you can tell by that faint whiff of exacerbation she always carries that it’s got to her over time. However, she got so rattle by the matter of why Labour voted for the EU budget cut that she started talking really fast and getting a little over-eager with the maxim ‘the best form of defence is offence’, none of which peels my spuds. That, and I’m getting really fed up with Labour panelist trying to shoehorn ‘The Squeezed Middle’ and ‘One Nation’ into every damn sentence. Having said that ‘The One Middle’ or ‘Squeezed Nation’ would make perfectly serviceable boy bad names.

Chat Show Charlie may just be losing his magic…

I have a dream. It’s a bit of a weird dream but bear with me. I’d love to lie on my sofa, with my head in Charles Kennedy’s lap as he tenderly stroked my hair and told me that everything was going to be alright. Thanks to the terrifying power of Photoshop, that disturbing dream is now an even more disturbing reality, but enough of these things (see Fig. 1). Anyway, it’s that wonderful Soda-Stream of a voice he’s got, that voice that gurgles away all the bad in the world. Unfortunately, I am beginning to notice that while his voice is undeniably soothing, it is increasingly saying less and less whilst doing so in quite a round-the-houses manner. So c’mon Charlie, I know it’s hard adjusting to a world where the Yellow Team can’t look themselves in the mirror but that’s the way it is and dulcet tones alone won’t sustain me any more.

charles kennedy loudribs head in lap sofa

Fig. 1

I shouldn’t have been rude about Deborah Meaden in the first paragraph…

Ok, I confess. I thought that Meadan was going to be your standard I’m An Entrepeneur And There’s Nothing That Can’t Be Solved With A Tax Cut but she was actually really good and, shock horror, balanced. Granted, our views differ but at least she has views that aren’t exclusively dictated by a fear of red tape and NI contributions. Deborah, you have my apologies.

Tl;dr

IDS: 5/10

Ticking (like a bomb)

Cooper: 5/10

Picking (one too many fights for my liking)

Kennedy: 5/10

(Is welcome to stroke my hair but I draw the line at) Licking

Jones: 8/10

(Gave everyone a right good) Kicking

Meaden: 7/10

(Has been) Tricking (me into thinking she’d be rubbish when she was actually great)

The Crowd: 7/10

(Weren’t) Dicking (around)?

Well, there you have it: A slow start that gradually built into a head of total chaos. And that’s just fine with me…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #25


Good morning Lemmings and welcome to a very non-standard Questionable Time. Non-standard why? Well, I usually have a pretty set process for covering QT that involves settling down on the sofa at half-10 with a note pad in the hope of garnering enough material to cobble together something vaguely informative for the next day. This week though I have no such notes. And why don’t I have any notes? Well dear Lemmings, I have no notes because this time I was physically there. Yup, Operation-Blag-My-Way-Into-The Audience actually came good. Here’s what I learned:

The prospect of being on Question Time can seriously mess with your week.

Seeing how Operation-Blag-My-Way-Into-The-Audience has fallen flat on its face many-a-time in the past I decided to ditch the usual approach of going through the official channels and took it upon myself (with some able aiding and abetting from my brother) to get in touch with the production team itself. After a slightly nerve-wracking conversation with a producer I managed to secure a ticket and for a split second there I experienced the thrill of triumph. ‘Yes!’ thought I, ‘My hour has come! I’ve bloody won!’. However, that intoxicating whiff of victory was quickly dispelled as a new and ominous truth began to make itself known. ‘Oh Jesus, that means I’ve got to ask something’. That’s when things started going sideways.

The Question Time application process works like this: You apply and if you’re lucky enough to get through you will receive an invitation which states that you have to email the production team a question tout suite. The problem in this case was that despite being something of a news junkie, I could not think of a single issue in the last two weeks that has aroused even the faintest flicker of interest in me. I mean seriously, it was as if the news had simply decided not to bother turning up to work and editors across the nation were reduced to covering the sinking of the Titanic for the ten billionth time. Anyway, this complete and utter dearth of workable material combined with the fact that two years of covering QT has made me a little irrational about appearing on the show led me to get my knickers in a right old twist. I had to find something – anything – in the news that week (and the producers are quite insistent that your question must relate to an event that’s very fresh) that I had even a smidgen of an opinion on in order to have a shot at a question… Yet for the life of me I couldn’t find one.

So it was that my week was pretty much one of being glued to my phone and praying that the Spanish economy would collapse in the most spectacular of fashions, taking with it the entire Eurozone and plunging the world into a dark new epoch of chaos and woe. As it happens, that didn’t quite to come to pass and nor did my efforts to feign interest in the Abu Qatada (Qatada-Shmada!) case bear much fruit. I was stuck and for some reason being stuck really steamed my bean. Eventually Thursday arrived and I dejectedly handed in a question relating to something that happened three weeks ago. Defeat had been cruelly snatched from the jaws of victory. Loudribs had been vanquished by the news cycle. Irrelevance had become me. Or had it?

If the Question Time team had been manning the Titanic, the evacuation would have been slick as you like.

The upside of flunking the question test was that for the first time all day I stopped feeling nervous and could actually enjoy watching how an episode is put together. In many ways it’s like a well-heeled version of Gladiators as a room full of self-evidently confident and opinionated people are expertly herded through a logistical obstacle course. First there’s the security check, then the brief lull as everyone arrives before you have a warm up with Dimbers (who in real life comes across very much like an Uncle Bulgaria who’s developed a taste for brandy) and are corralled into the studio. Anthropologists would have a field day at that point as the spectacle of a mass of overly polite people all trying to scramble their way to the front of the line is truly something to behold. Yet somehow it all works and it’s to the production team’s credit that the whole process seems so effortless. That however is just a taster as the really bizarre bit is about to happen: The dummy panel.

In order to get the sound, lighting and cameras all sorted out they ask for members of the audience to volunteer to sit on the panel and to have a debate with the crowd. You thought politicians were odd on the show? Yeah, well audience members can out-odd them by a considerable margin, particularly if they have views on the fringes of the political spectrum as one gentlemen did. Another guy who wasn’t on the panel but put in his two-penneth worth anyway provoked some very sharp intakes of breath as he opined on “the gays” and “the things they get up to in the bedroom”. Anyhoo, that rather surreal turn of events went on for quite some time before a producer arrived and read out the names of the people who would be asking the questions. At that point my new-found aura of serenity evaporated in the blink of eye.

‘Oh shit. They just called my name’.

I’d love to tell you what actually happened on the show but I was too busy clutching a piece of paper in a sweaty death grip to take any notice.

Once your name is called out you have to stand up for a minute so that the cameras can find you and then you are taken backstage for the briefest of briefings. The long and short of it is thus: The very first question will not be filmed but will serve to warm up the panel and the audience. After that it will go straight into recording and when Dimbers calls your name you read out your question in a prompt manner whilst preparing for him to come back to you at the end of the topic.

At that point you are returned to your seat, the panel arrive and things get under way. It is also the point at which your whole world becomes exclusively focused on the printout of your question.

‘Oh crap oh crap oh crap is the Bradford Spring an unseasonable OH MY GOD WHAT ARE THESE WORDS I DON’T EVEN!’

Yeah, that’s sort of what was going through my head and for all I know they could have been debating whether fish have the right to get married for the first 15 minutes. Happily though the words did manage to leave my mouth in reasonably good order when my name was called but that was by no means the end of my silent meltdown. Oh no, then you have another desperate 10 minutes of trying to figure out just what in the hell you’re going to say next. As it happens, Dimbers never did come back to me, the danger passed and I spent the next 40 minutes feeling like my jammies had been rustled in the most profound way – which led to another weird phenomenon…

It matters who you are sitting next to.

My immediate neighbour on the night was a very jaunty and engaging guy named Jonathan who had an absolutely infectious enthusiasm for what was occurring in front of us. Given my somewhat shell-shocked state and the fact that I was no longer capable of independent thought I found myself becoming nothing less than a human extension of Jonathan’s will. If he clapped, I clapped. If he grinned and nodded, I grinned and nodded. Whatever he said, I agreed with wholeheartedly. Luckily for me, Jonathan doesn’t appear to be a howling mad extremist and to the best of my knowledge I didn’t give my involuntary endorsement to bringing back the birch/sending Qatada to the Moon/replacing the Cabinet with a Facebook group.

If you think being on the show is weird watching it back an hour later AND following the #bbcqt feed will blow your head clean off.

So I survived the show and then scurried home in a somewhat agitated, hungry and dehydrated state (the dehydration was my fault. Fear of needing a wee in the middle of the show had led me to forgo fluids for a frankly ludicrous period of time). Given how late the recording had gone on I literally got through the door just as it was about to start and never really got a second to collect my thoughts. So there we were, myself and my better half, the show starts and there I am! My phone starts making all sorts of noises as friends start texting. Then I ask my question and the camera cuts back to me for a response shot and all I can think is ‘JESUS CHRIST WHY DO I KEEP LICKING MY LIPS SO MUCH? I LOOK LIKE A TONGUE PERVERT!’. Then my phone goes absolutely mental and I check Twitter to see what’s going on. People, it turns out, have opinions about my beard and quite diverse opinions at that. And then I realise what I’m doing: I’m sitting in my front room, watching me an hour ago whilst simultaneously watching what a bunch of strangers think about my beard. It was at that point that my brain gave in and conceded that I had in fact become stuck in the Matrix.

And the show itself?

It was bloody good. Tim Farron is now totally my favourite person in the whole wide world, the venom between Galloway and Aaronovitch was both very real and very visceral, Warsi wasn’t bad and I am now forced to admit that yes, I do have a weird and slightly uncomfortable crush on the Labour Party’s Appropriate Adult, Yvette Cooper (I think it’s her long neck. See Fig. 1). In some ways it was a shame that I was too distracted to really pick up on any of the real substance but if you were in the market for political theatre last night, you got it in spades.

yvette-cooper-david-dimbleby-long-neck-gif

So there you go, that’s how my little adventure into the real-life world of Question Time went and I must say that it was a pretty grand experience. No scores this week as my head’s just a little too mangled to spend half an hour searching an online rhyming dictionary but rest assured that no-one would have scored below 6, such was the calibre of the panel. Anyway, thanks for reading and normal service will resume next week.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #13


By the power of Ann Lesley!

Morning Lemmings. OK, I have to admit that I totally underestimated just how much craziness these Leaders’ Debates would cause. Even when I was watching the first one, I thought it was so dull that it would probably drive the electorate to unheard of heights of apathy, but at is turns out they’ve pretty much turned post-war politics completely upsidedown. So I was wrong, but in a good way. Anyhoo, last night’s debate was Nick Clegg’s Tricky Second Album and he was the one with everything to lose. So did he do a Bloc Party and follow up the brilliant Silent Alarm with the lacklustre Weekend In The City? A categorical no. In fact, I would go as far as saying that he’s actually put himself on a Radiohead trajectory and followed up a nice little breakthrough Pablo Honey with a more assured and fleshed out The Bends. Whether he can stick to this course and bust out a genre defining OK Computer remains to be seen, but it’s safe to say that although last night was very close, his Round One performance was not a flash in the pan. As for Cameron, well I’m slightly annoyed as I had a great Scouting For Girls metaphor all lined up (awful, turgid, monstrosity of a record followed by an even more awful, turgid, monstrosity of a record) but he actual did quite well, coming off as less nauseating and hucksterish than the first time round and even gracing us with a rare appearance of Angry Dave. Don’t mess with Angry Dave or he’ll get jolly well upset. As for Brown, I’ve already fleshed out my New Labour/Weezer theory at length, but that doesn’t quite fit either as he also did quite well in that he stopped pretending to be a human. We love you just the way you are Gordon: A lumpen, constant and inevitable body of mass that Christ himself cannot bend to his will. So with all that in mind, I’m assigning Brown to the Metallica plan (most of this year has been St. Anger while last night was much more Death Magnetic), Cameron to the Van Halen template (all good times until Diver Down, but a return to form with 1984… don’t worry though, Sammy Hagar’s début is just round the corner) and that’s the end of that. Other points of note include:

  1. The set looked like some dystopian rendition of a future Krypton Factor where the contestants have to fight to the death.
  2. Boulton is a million times better than Mitchell but a million times less great than Dimbleby… and he looks like he has gills.
  3. Using the words “Afghanistan” and “blown away” in the same sentence isn’t the best plan, Mr Cameron.
  4. Nick Clegg did a lovely little saunter towards the audience at the end. I have lots of time for good sauntering and he saunters well.
  5. At one point Cameron managed to use the word “change” three times in the space of a single sentence.
  6. Less colouring-in took place than in last week’s outing.

Enough already. Time for some real debate. Take me to London or lose me forever.

The Menu:

Q1: Cameron presents himself as an agent of change but is his impression of Nick Clegg good enough?

Q2: Does Nick Clegg’s funny-money allegations mean that the LibDems are any different from the other two parties?

Q3. Will a hung parliament be bad for the UK?

Q4. With inflation and unemployment up, why should we trust Labour?

In The Red Corner: Yvette Cooper, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, MP for Pontecarlo and Cas Vegas, husband of Balls.

It must be hard being Yvette Cooper as every time she appears on TV she looks absolutely knackered. Actually, I guess this isn’t that surprising given that not only has she been working deep within the bowels of Brown’s Treasury (a place not noted for its touchy-feely, ‘take all the time you need’ work ethic) since time immemorial, she’s also married to it in the form of Ed Balls (who just happens to be one of the most unpopular politicians in the country). On top of this, she seems to be one of the few members of Brown’s inner circle who seems to have some sort of contact with reality and as a result, she always looks like she knows that whatever idea she’s been wheeled out to defend will probably go pear shaped, but she carries on regardless, possibly out of a misplaced sense of duty. I like that. It’s not the flashiest of traits, but her mixture of grim resignation and ability to sound reasonable is actually quite endearing. This episode was a slightly easier ride than she’s had on past Question Times given that Gordon didn’t do too badly but also because of the weird mood that’s swept through Labour in the last week. Prior to the debates, most of the Red Team were locked in a death grip with the Tories, knew things were looking terminal and you could sense their despair at the futility of it all. However, that was before Clegg completely trashed the entire scheme of things with his performance and now Labour look like they’ve found a diamond in a turd. Sure, the most likely outcome isn’t amazingly brilliant (a hung parliament and possible coalition), but it’s a damn sight better than it was (probable defeat or a short lived embarrassment of a minority government), they don’t have to do any of the heavy lifting and hell, the sheer stupidity of our electoral system may see them come out smelling of roses. This has put a bit of a spring in their step and their attitude seems a lot more carefree than it was.

Was this reflected in Cooper’s performance? Pretty much. Q1 was a straightforward affair, with some standard Tory bashing at the start, a few doffs of the cap to Clegg and then a surprise swipe at him on Trident (which went down surprisingly well). Much the same followed in Q2 where, after a bout of waffle, she chided the Tory press for ganging up on The New Boy and then landed a himdinger on journalists in general (a brave thing to do in front of Ann Leslie) for treating the public “like idiots”. That was all very well received, much to absolutely no-ones surprise (accusing someone else of treating the audience like idiots never fails… Unless you’re Nick Griffin). Q3 wasn’t so easy as Labour can’t really come out and say ‘we love hung parliaments now’ without looking poisonously cynical, so she reverted to orthodoxy and wheeled out the standard ‘First Past The Post Is Well Cool’ arguments but did manage to fold in a nice little dig at Ken Clarke. Muted applause followed. Finally, she gave Q4 a fairly dull blathering of Treasury-speak before making sure that she gave the Tories one more slap for their economic policy. Sorted.

All-in-all, it was a fairly good performance and for once, she didn’t look like she’d only had half an hour’s sleep in the last month. I’m pretty sure that this is down to the sudden change in circumstances and the fact that most Labour MP’s seem to be in end-of-term mode. Seriously, most of them look like they just don’t give a shit anymore and not necessarily in a bad way. It didn’t all go her way and she took a lot of stick in counter-claps from the audience when it came to the NI rise, but by and large it was perfectly serviceable outing.

An easier than usual 6/10

In The Blue Corner: William Hague, Shadow Foreign Secretary, former election loser and Mekon impersonator.

I don’t know why, but there’s something about Hague that I actually quite like. Actually, let me rephrase that: There’s something about Hague that I actually quite like providing I know he’s nowhere near the levers of power. I think it’s because deep down, he knows he shouldn’t be where he is as he’s a manbaby (see Fig. 1) with a wobbly head, blighted by the oddest of Yorkshire accents and with enough embarrassing stock footage of him to last a lifetime (the 16 year old fawning over Maggie, the ‘Hague’ hat, the 15 pints or whatever it was, etc, etc). On top of that, he always looks out of sorts with the rest of the party and terrified of being found out as a fraud (you know when he’s feeling like this because his voice starts to wobble mid-sentence in a very Alan Partridge sort of way). That all sounds pretty sad, but there’s another, more cheery side to him when he sometimes looks like he’s only just realised he’s a frontbench MP and can’t believe his luck. When this happens, he can actually bust out some pretty funny stuff, have a good knockabout with whoever he’s up against and actually appear semi-human (you know when he’s feeling like this because he delivers every line like a punchline, his voicing rising slightly at the end of every sentence). Luckily for Hague, tonight’s Question Time was an easier prospect than last week as Cameron had managed to get his act together in the debate, but still, the onus is on the Tories to convince the public right now, not the other way round.

avert thine eyes...

Future Foreign Secretary?

So which Hague did we get tonight? Sad Hague or Happy Hague? A bit of both really. Kicking off with Q1, he did his best his best to chalk up Clegg’s recent run of form as “novelty factor” stuff, but came off looking a little shifty and worse still, Cooper nicked his Trident point seconds after he said it and came away with all the applause. Gah! Sad Hague is sad. Q2 was more fun though and Sad Hague was displaced by the much more forthright Happy Hague who wasted no time in whipping out the “holier than thou” stick on Clegg and getting perhaps a little too much applause for demanding that all parliamentary spending goes online. Happy Hague is happy. Q3 saw some nice banditry from Dimbers as he casually tinkered around with some insinuations about Ken Clarke and Hague looked like he’d been busted and reverted to Sad Hague. This went on for some time and ended with a very shaky sounding “right behind” Osborne and a weary defence of First Past The Post that not even a makeshift offensive against the NI raise could save. Sad Hague is sad. Finally, Q4 saw the late re-emergence of Happy Hague when he got very giddy about the private sector and the audience went with him, giving him a nice round of applause to finish the night with. Happy Hague is happy. Yay!

So yes, neither Happy nor Sad Hague dominated and we are left with a curious Yin-Yang Hague, composed equally of both factions and locked in a sublime celestial ballet. I think I just got a bit carried away there.

A curious reflection on the duality of man 5/10

In The Yellow Corner: Menzies Campbell, MP for North East Fife and former didn’t-get-close-enough-to-an-election-to-lose-it Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Dammit Ming! You were only on two weeks ago! Just how the buggery hell am I supposed to come up with new material in that time?! Truly, this is merciless, Ming. Actually, I have a theory as to why he’s on again in such a short space of time and that’s because he got lost on his way out of the studio last time. For the last fortnight, he’s been wandering the corridors of the BBC, politely asking uncaring members of staff where he might find the tramstop and a copy of Punch magazine until he finally gravitated back towards the studio and dozed off in a chair, only to be woken by Dimbleby stubbing a cigarette out on his forehead. Alright, that’s enough of that. I’m being wantonly cruel to poor old Ming and he doesn’t really deserve it because despite his sometimes frail demeanour, his intentions are always resolute and he can put on a great display of gravitas. In many ways, he’s like a less-than-well looked after vintage sports car (a Triumph Stag, let’s say) that appears to go bloody well on the motorway, but gets into all sorts of trouble in the city because it’s clutch has gone. That’s Ming’s problem, his clutch. When he’s dealing with something he knows about, has plenty of time to build up speed and no difficult corners to make him change the tempo, he’s great. But if you start throwing a few sharp turns or other obstructions, he has to change gear. This causes all manner of grindy/crashy noises, the car jolts and stutters and sometimes even stalls, making him look pretty goofy. Usually, this isn’t a major problem as the LibDems simply haven’t been in the spotlight and that’s given Ming an empty motorway to show off on. That, unfortunately, is no longer the case. Now that Clegg’s completely put the zap on everyone’s heads, both parties are wilfully constructing roadblocks and pouring oil about the place, making what is usually a jolly jaunt up the M5 into a hellish Central London gridlock. Looking back on my notes, there was only one time when Ming got any decernable applause and that was off the back of ‘let’s change the subject’ sideswipe at Ashcroft in Q2. The rest of the time he just failed to get in his stride and kept juddering away, never really getting enough traction to carry the audience along with him. None of what he said was inherently wrong and this wasn’t a disaster, but you’d think the Libs would be in a commanding position tonight. I guess that’s what happens when you hit the big time, kiddo.

A non-Synchromesh 4/10

In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Elfyn Llwyd, MP for Meirionnydd Nat Conway (?!?), current frontrunner on the LCCPQTMR Scoreboard.

Elfyn’s back! Hooray! The last time Elfyn Llwyd was on, he had an absolute belter of an episode, so much so that he still reigns supreme on the infrequently updated Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report Scoreboard. However, that was to a home crowd and as regular readers will know, Loudribs 2nd Law of Question Time Dynamics dictates that “all regional parties get a +3 saving throw on their own turf “. Is Elfyn Llwyd about to bring my meticulously researched scientific theories crashing down about me? Of course not. I wrote the theory and bloody well give out the scores so there’s absolutely no chance of that happening. Having said that, he again put on a really good show, basically reminding everyone that there is a different way of running a country and that’s what we used to call ‘social democracy’. We’re often told that there is no appetite for the left (and by that I mean the traditional left) in this country, but if the response to Elfyn is anything to go by, this is patently wrong. The bulk of his answers drew solid applause and there was genuine support behind him for his ‘living pensions’ line on Q1. Ok, so he didn’t really appear to be as relevant as he was on his last appearance and there were a couple of moments where his ‘impassioned criticism’ face looked a little too much like his ‘grumpy’ face, but generally speaking, I can’t knock it. Not good enough to break my own rule though, OK?

A theoretically contiguous 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Dame Ann Leslie, Mail Hack-of-Note and Phlegmatic Institution.

I really should take umbrage with Ann Leslie, what with her being so intrinsically associated with the Daily Fail but I have to admit that this isn’t the case and if anything, I really quite like her. It’s not out of agreement with her views that I say this and in terms of outlook, we couldn’t be further apart but there’s a certain breed of rightwinger that I’ve always had a great deal of respect for: the gin soaked, Sobranie smoking, blood and stomach pills, ‘to hell with the lot of them’ type of rightwinger (think Alan Clarke). Not only does Ann Leslie tick all the above boxes, but she also has the added advantages of looking like Skeletor (see main picture), a razor sharp tongue and a complete lack of interest in anyone else’s opinion of her. That makes for a fun combination. As is usually the case with the 5th panellist, I won’t go into detail, but here are some pearls of wisdom/turns of caustic wit she left scattered about the place:

  • Cameron was “limp” last week while Clegg is “not the messiah, but a very pretty boy”.
  • LibDems are “sandal wearing” and “self righteous”
  • “Diddums”
  • When asked about LibDem policies she responded “They suck, frankly.”
  • She voted for a “lap dancing madam” in the last election.
  • Gordon brown is “always saving the country after half ruining it”.

What I like about people like Ann Leslie is that you know where you are with them. If they were going to bring in some crazy eugenic policy or sell all the council estates to Tesco, they wouldn’t bother dressing it up with euphemisms and would probably even take the time to come and personally laugh in your face. They are comfortable with sin, make no apologies for their own and have none of that puritanical streak that less colourful strains of the right have. In short, they’re honest bastards. As for her performance, I liked it, the audience liked it and that gets points.

A Bloody Mary for breakfast of a 7/10

The Crowd: London

So this is second post-Debate crowd and they certainly seemed a little more awake than the last lot, not needing a full quarter of an hour to emerge to merge from their slumber. They were also genuinely without a favourite, treating all the parties in similar fashion and giving no-one an easy ride. If ever you needed confirmation that this is now a three horse race, this was it. Two things that did strike me were just how anti the NI rise they were and just how much love there was for private sector growth as opposed to public sector growth. Both of these issues drew the biggest applause and they are still a potential weaknesses for Labour (not that they seemed that bothered right now). The other thing that struck me were how cool the names were of the people asking the first two questions: Jack Warrior and Otto Balsagar. I wish I was called Jack Warrior. Or Otto Balsagar for that matter. But yes, they were a pretty lively bunch that adequately reflected the mood in the country: The cosy two party relationship is dead and the game has changed. That’s exciting stuff.

An sturdy weather vane of a 7/10

Alright, that’s your lot. Check back next week for the last Question Time report before the election…Yikes! Oh, and by the way, if you like what you’re reading, there’s a Facebook fanpage you can join. It’s like being in a gang. A rubbish gang with no obligations or responsibilities, but a gang nevertheless. Anyway, it’s here and if you’d care to stroke my ego, my ego won’t complain. Next week, Lemmings, next week…

Morning Lemmings. OK, I have to admit that I totally underestimated just how much craziness these Leaders’ Debates would cause. Even when I was watching the first one, I thought it was so dull that it would probably drive the electorate to unheard of heights of apathy, but at is turns out they’ve pretty much turned post-war politics completely upsidedown. So I was wrong, but in a good way. Anyhoo, last night’s debate was Nick Clegg’s Tricky Second Album and he was the one with everything to lose. So did he do a Bloc Party and follow up the brilliant Silent Alarm with the lacklustre Weekend In The City? A categorical no. In fact, I would go as far as saying that he’s actually put himself on a Radiohead trajectory and followed up a nice little breakthrough Pablo Honey with a more assured and fleshed out The Bends. Whether he can stick to this course and bust out a genre defining OK Computer remains to be seen, but it’s safe to say that although last night was very close, his Round One performance was not a flash in the pan. As for Cameron, well I’m slightly annoyed as I had a great Scouting For Girls metaphor all lined up (awful, turgid, monstrosity of a record followed by an even more awful, turgid, monstrosity of a record) but he actual did quite well, coming off as less nauseating and hucksterish than the first time round and even gracing us with a rare appearance of Angry Dave. Don’t mess with Angry Dave or he’ll get jolly well upset. As for Brown, I’ve already fleshed out my New Labour/Weezer theory at length, but that doesn’t quite fit either as he also did quite well in that he stopped pretending to be a human. We love you just the way you are Gordon: A lumpen, constant and inevitable body of mass that Christ himself cannot bend to his will. So with all that in mind, I’m assigning Brown to the Metallica plan (most of this year has been St. Anger while last night was much more Death Magnetic), Cameron to the Van Halen template (all good times until Diver Down, but a return to form with 1984… don’t worry though, Sammy Hagar’s début is just round the corner) and that’s the end of that. Other points of note include:

  1. The set looked like some dystopian rendition of a future Krypton Factor where the contestants have to fight to the death.

  2. Boulton is a million times better than Mitchell but a million times less great than Dimbleby… and he looks like he has gills.

  3. Using the words “Afghanistan” and “blown away” in the same sentence isn’t the best plan, Mr Cameron.

  4. Nick Clegg did a lovely little saunter towards the audience at the end. I have lots of time for good sauntering and he saunters well.

  5. At one point Cameron managed to use the word “change” three times in the space of a single sentence.

  6. Less colouring-in took place than in last week’s outing.

Enough already. Time for some real debate. Take me to London or lose me forever.

The Menu:

Q1: Cameron presents himself as an agent of change but is his impression of Nick Clegg good enough?

Q2: Does Nick Clegg’s funny-money allegations mean that the LibDems are any different from the other two parties?

Q3. Will a hung parliament be bad for the UK?

Q4. With inflation and unemployment up, why should we trust Labour?

In The Red Corner: Yvette Cooper, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, MP for Pontecarlo and Cas Vegas, husband of Balls.

It must be hard being Yvette Cooper as every time she appears on TV she looks absolutely knackered. Actually, I guess this isn’t that surprising given that not only has she been working deep within the bowels of Brown’s Treasury (a place not noted for its touchy-feely, ‘take all the time you need’ work ethic) since time immemorial, she’s also married to it in the form of Ed Balls (who just happens to be one of the most unpopular politicians in the country). On top of this, she seems to be one of the few members of Brown’s inner circle who seems to have some sort of contact with reality and as a result, she always looks like she knows that whatever idea she’s been wheeled out to defend will probably go pear shaped, but she carries on regardless, possibly out of a misplaced sense of duty. I like that. It’s not the flashiest of traits, but her mixture of grim resignation and ability to sound reasonable is actually quite endearing. This episode was a slightly easier ride than she’s had on past Question Times given that Gordon didn’t do too badly but also because of the weird mood that’s swept through Labour in the last week. Prior to the debates, most of the Red Team were locked in a death grip with the Tories, knew things were looking terminal and you could sense their despair at the futility of it all. However, that was before Clegg completely trashed the entire scheme of things with his performance and now Labour look like they’ve found a diamond in a turd. Sure, the most likely outcome isn’t amazingly brilliant (a hung parliament and possible coalition), but it’s a damn sight better than it was (probable defeat or a short lived embarrassment of a minority government), they don’t have to do any of the heavy lifting and hell, the sheer stupidity of our electoral system may see them come out smelling of roses. This has put a bit of a spring in their step and their attitude seems a lot more carefree than it was.

Was this reflected in Cooper’s performance? Pretty much. Q1 was a straightforward affair, with some standard Tory bashing at the start, a few doffs of the cap to Clegg and then a surprise swipe at him on Trident (which went down surprisingly well). Much the same followed in Q2 where, after a bout of waffle, she chided the Tory press for ganging up on The New Boy and then landed a himdinger on journalists in general (a brave thing to do in front of Ann Leslie) for treating the public “like idiots”. That was all very well received, much to absolutely no-ones surprise (accusing someone else of treating the audience like idiots never fails… Unless you’re Nick Griffin). Q3 wasn’t so easy as Labour can’t really come out and say ‘we love hung parliaments now’ without looking poisonously cynical, so she reverted to orthodoxy and wheeled out the standard ‘First Past The Post Is Well Cool’ arguments but did manage to fold in a nice little dig at Ken Clarke. Muted applause followed. Finally, she gave Q4 a fairly dull blathering of Treasury-speak before making sure that she gave the Tories one more slap for their economic policy. Sorted.

All-in-all, it was a fairly good performance and for once, she didn’t look like she’d only had half an hour’s sleep in the last month. I’m pretty sure that this is down to the sudden change in circumstances and the fact that most Labour MP’s seem to be in end-of-term mode. Seriously, most of them look like they just don’t give a shit anymore and not necessarily in a bad way. It didn’t all go her way and she took a lot of stick in counter-claps from the audience when it came to the NI rise, but by and large it was perfectly serviceable outing.

An easier than usual 6/10

In The Blue Corner: William Hague, Shadow Foreign Secretary, former election loser and Mekon impersonator.

I don’t know why, but there’s something about Hague that I actually quite like. Actually, let me rephrase that: There’s something about Hague that I actually quite like providing I know he’s nowhere near the levers of power. I think it’s because deep down, he knows he shouldn’t be where he is as he’s a manbaby (see Fig. 1) with a wobbly head, blighted by the oddest of Yorkshire accents and with enough embarrassing stock footage of him to last a lifetime (the 16 year old fawning over Maggie, the ‘Hague’ hat, the 15 pints or whatever it was, etc, etc). On top of that, he always looks out of sorts with the rest of the party and terrified of being found out as a fraud (you know when he’s feeling like this because his voice starts to wobble mid-sentence in a very Alan Partridge sort of way). That all sounds pretty sad, but there’s another, more cheery side to him when he sometimes looks like he’s only just realised he’s a frontbench MP and can’t believe his luck. When this happens, he can actually bust out some pretty funny stuff, have a good knockabout with whoever he’s up against and actually appear semi-human (you know when he’s feeling like this because he delivers every line like a punchline, his voicing rising slightly at the end of every sentence). Luckily for Hague, tonight’s Question Time was an easier prospect than last week as Cameron had managed to get his act together in the debate, but still, the onus is on the Tories to convince the public right now, not the other way round.

So which Hague did we get tonight? Sad Hague or Happy Hague? A bit of both really. Kicking off with Q1, he did his best his best to chalk up Clegg’s recent run of form as “novelty factor” stuff, but came off looking a little shifty and worse still, Cooper nicked his Trident point seconds after he said it and came away with all the applause. Gah! Sad Hague is sad. Q2 was more fun though and Sad Hague was displaced by the much more forthright Happy Hague who wasted no time in whipping out the “holier than thou” stick on Clegg and getting perhaps a little too much applause for demanding that all parliamentary spending goes online. Happy Hague is happy. Q3 saw some nice banditry from Dimbers as he casually tinkered around with some insinuations about Ken Clarke and Hague looked like he’d been busted and reverted to Sad Hague. This went on for some time and ended with a very shaky sounding “right behind” Osborne and a weary defence of First Past The Post that not even a makeshift offensive against the NI raise could save. Sad Hague is sad. Finally, Q4 saw the late re-emergence of Happy Hague when he got very giddy about the private sector and the audience went with him, giving him a nice round of applause to finish the night with. Happy Hague is happy. Yay!

So yes, neither Happy nor Sad Hague dominated and we are left with a curious Yin-Yang Hague, composed equally of both factions and locked in a sublime celestial ballet. I think I just got a bit carried away there.

A curious reflection on the duality of man 5/10

In The Yellow Corner: Menzies Campbell, MP for North East Fife and former didn’t-get-close-enough-to-an-election-to-lose-it Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Dammit Ming! You were only on two weeks ago! Just how the buggery hell am I supposed to come up with new material in that time?! Truly, this is merciless, Ming. Actually, I have a theory as to why he’s on again in such a short space of time and that’s because he got lost on his way out of the studio last time. For the last fortnight, he’s been wandering the corridors of the BBC, politely asking uncaring members of staff where he might find the tramstop and a copy of Punch magazine until he finally gravitated back towards the studio and dozed off in a chair, only to be woken by Dimbleby stubbing a cigarette out on his forehead. Alright, that’s enough of that. I’m being wantonly cruel to poor old Ming and he doesn’t really deserve it because despite his sometimes frail demeanour, his intentions are always resolute and he can put on a great display of gravitas. In many ways, he’s like a less-than-well looked after vintage sports car (a Triumph Stag, let’s say) that appears to go bloody well on the motorway, but gets into all sorts of trouble in the city because it’s clutch has gone. That’s Ming’s problem, his clutch. When he’s dealing with something he knows about, has plenty of time to build up speed and no difficult corners to make him change the tempo, he’s great. But if you start throwing a few sharp turns or other obstructions, he has to change gear. This causes all manner of grindy/crashy noises, the car jolts and stutters and sometimes even stalls, making him look pretty goofy. Usually, this isn’t a major problem as the LibDems simply haven’t been in the spotlight and that’s given Ming an empty motorway to show off on. That, unfortunately, is no longer the case. Now that Clegg’s completely put the zap on everyone’s heads, both parties are wilfully constructing roadblocks and pouring oil about the place, making what is usually a jolly jaunt up the M5 into a hellish Central London gridlock. Looking back on my notes, there was only one time when Ming got any decernable applause and that was off the back of ‘let’s change the subject’ sideswipe at Ashcroft in Q2. The rest of the time he just failed to get in his stride and kept juddering away, never really getting enough traction to carry the audience along with him. None of what he said was inherently wrong and this wasn’t a disaster, but you’d think the Libs would be in a commanding position tonight. I guess that’s what happens when you hit the big time, kiddo.

A non-Synchromesh 4/10

In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Elfyn Llwyd, MP for Meirionnydd Nat Conway (?!?), current frontrunner on the LCCPQTMR Scoreboard.

Elfyn’s back! Hooray! The last time Elfyn Llwyd was on, he had an absolute belter of an episode, so much so that he still reigns supreme on the infrequently updated Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report Scoreboard. However, that was to a home crowd and as regular readers will know, Loudribs 2nd Law of Question Time Dynamics dictates that “all regional parties get a +3 saving throw on their own turf “. Is Elfyn Llwyd about to bring my meticulously researched scientific theories crashing down about me? Of course not. I wrote the theory and bloody well give out the scores so there’s absolutely no chance of that happening. Having said that, he again put on a really good show, basically reminding everyone that there is a different way of running a country and that’s what we used to call ‘social democracy’. We’re often told that there is no appetite for the left (and by that I mean the traditional left) in this country, but if the response to Elfyn is anything to go by, this is patently wrong. The bulk of his answers drew solid applause and there was genuine support behind him for his ‘living pensions’ line on Q1. Ok, so he didn’t really appear to be as relevant as he was on his last appearance and there were a couple of moments where his ‘impassioned criticism’ face looked a little too much like his ‘grumpy’ face, but generally speaking, I can’t knock it. Not good enough to break my own rule though, OK?

A theoretically contiguous 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Dame Ann Leslie, Mail Hack-of-Note and Phlegmatic Institution.

I really should take umbrage with Ann Leslie, what with her being so intrinsically associated with the Daily Fail but I have to admit that this isn’t the case and if anything, I really quite like her. It’s not out of agreement with her views that I say this and in terms of outlook, we couldn’t be further apart but there’s a certain breed of rightwinger that I’ve always had a great deal of respect for: the gin soaked, Sobranie smoking, blood and stomach pills, ‘to hell with the lot of them’ type of rightwinger (think Alan Clarke). Not only does Ann Leslie tick all the above boxes, but she also has the added advantages of looking like Skeletor (see main picture), a razor sharp tongue and a complete lack of interest in anyone else’s opinion of her. That makes for a fun combination. As is usually the case with the 5th panellist, I won’t go into detail, but here are some pearls of wisdom/turns of caustic wit she left scattered about the place:

  • Cameron was “limp” last week while Clegg is “not the messiah, but a very pretty boy”.

  • LibDems are “sandal wearing” and “self righteous”

  • Diddums”

  • When asked about LibDem policies she responded “They suck, frankly.”

  • She voted for a “lap dancing madam” in the last election.

  • Gordon brown is “always saving the country after half ruining it”.

What I like about people like Ann Leslie is that you know where you are with them. If they were going to bring in some crazy eugenic policy or sell all the council estates to Tesco, they wouldn’t bother dressing it up with euphemisms and would probably even take the time to come and personally laugh in your face. They are comfortable with sin, make no apologies for their own and have none of that puritanical streak that less colourful strains of the right have. In short, they’re honest bastards. As for her performance, I liked it, the audience liked it and that gets points.

A Bloody Mary for breakfast of a 7/10

The Crowd: London

So this is second post-Debate crowd and they certainly seemed a little more awake than the last lot, not needing a full quarter of an hour to emerge to merge from their slumber. They were also genuinely without a favourite, treating all the parties in similar fashion and giving no-one an easy ride. If ever you needed confirmation that this is now a three horse race, this was it. Two things that did strike me were just how anti the NI rise they were and just how much love there was for private sector growth as opposed to public sector growth. Both of these issues drew the biggest applause and they are still a potential weaknesses for Labour (not that they seemed that bothered right now). The other thing that struck me were how cool the names were of the people asking the first two questions: Jack Warrior and Otto Balsagar. I wish I was called Jack Warrior. Or Otto Balsagar for that matter. But yes, they were a pretty lively bunch that adequately reflected the mood in the country: The cosy two party relationship is dead and the game has changed. That’s exciting stuff.

An sturdy weather vane of a 7/10

Alright, that’s your lot. Check back next week for the last Question Time report before the election…Yikes! Oh, and by the way, if you like what your reading, there’s a Facebook fanpage you can join. It’s like being in a gang. A rubbish gang with no obligations or responsibilities, but a gang nevertheless. Anyway, it’s here and if you’d care to stroke my ego, my ego won’t complain. Next week, Lemmings, next week…


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