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Questionable Time #9

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Good morning Lemmings and welcome back? If that greeting doesn't sound particularly resounding it is because last night's episode was so dull that I'll be genuinely surprised if anyone who watched the whole thing can summon the will to actually get out of bed today, let alone operate a computer. Seriously, I had to check my wrist to see if I still had a pulse about twenty minutes in and even this morning I still feel as if I'm on the edge of lapsing into a coma. Still, here we are so lets at least make the pretence of a go at it.

Ok, so the first indication I got that this wasn't going to be a particularly riveting affair was when I saw the line-up and noted that none of the panelists had even the remotest connection with Newcastle. Granted, this isn't necessarily a kiss of death but when combined with the fact that the civilian panel members were a neuroscientist and the editor of a Jewish newspaper in a week which has been neither very neurosciencey nor Jewishy, things start to look a little ominous. Still, there was a glimmer of hope that there may be some fireworks and that dull flicker came in the form of the ever-excitable Nadine Dorries. Surely a woman who is basically a moral panic generator (that is when she's not too busy fibbing on her blog or crashing mini-tractors) can spice things up a bit? Wrong! To my shock and consternation, Dorries turned out to be pretty much a picture of restraint last night and despite wearing the largest poppy known to man she still managed to fall far short of her usually howling mad presentation.

That was a bitter pill to swallow but I still had one iron left in the fire, a position filled by sad-eyed and harsh-voiced Labour treasury bod Rachel Reeves. Tipped as one to watch and a woman whose star is presently on the rise, I was very much hoping that she could drive an armoured division of economic arguments straight through the coalition's rather wobbly front line and on to the wide open plains of Question Time glory. However, what I wasn't prepared for was quite how annoyingly good Michael Moore (a man whose head appears to be clamped into a permafrown by an invisible vice) is in defence. Now, when I say 'good', please don't take that to mean anything in the realm of 'exciting' or 'interesting' because he wasn't: In fact, Moore's strategy seems to largely consist of checking the opposition by dragging the fight into the Tangled Thicket of Policy Detail and thus pin them into a very a narrow and frankly boring debate about how many Border Agency devils you can fit upon a pilot scheme gone wrong matchhead. To the extent that it denied Reeves the room to manoeuvre this little play was a resounding success but in terms of entertainment it was the equivalent eating Weetabix with no milk (or sugar).

So with Reeves unable to gain any real traction and Dorries on her best behaviour the only remaining hope that any good could come of this episode was left to Professor Colin Blakemore and Steven Pollard, both of who I considered to be long shots given that their day jobs weren't exactly laden with topical potential. Ok, so it was occasionally entertaining to see Pollard get a little frothy about imagined terrorists in our midst/the virtues of Rupert Murdoch and Blakemore seems a reasonable enough bloke, but neither seemed that relevant to the debate and both were unable to provide anything more than a brief respite from the otherwise grindingly dull main event.

But it wasn't just the panel that were the problem: It was also the nature of the questions that were at fault. Now, I was pretty sure that Italy was going to be the pressing issues in this episode. And well I may have as the present woes of our Latin cousins marks the point at which this Euro crisis starts getting very real, very quickly and while I accept that the run up has been formidably long and drawn out, we're now at the stage when the roller coaster stops its click-clack ascent and plunges us several hundred feet downwards at an eye-watering rate of knots. Remember when the world lost its head in 2008 and everything seemed to be seconds away from falling apart? Well that's like the teacup ride compared to what this bad boy could have in store for us. Yet when this issue did finally raise its head it was wrapped up in the context of regional development and what should have been a serious discussion about impending economic doom turned into rallying point for the champions of that most totemic of causes, The dualling of the A1. Ok, so there was a semi-interesting moment when some woman started calling Michael Moore a liar but seriously guys, do we have not slightly more substantial fish to fry? As for the rest of the questions, well the Borders Agency row could have gone somewhere if anyone had the slightest clue what's going on with that at the moment while the whole poppy affair largely turned into a 'don't we love the troops?' circlejerk. All-in-all a pretty ropey affair.

And the crowd themselves? Well, I suppose they did have the odd outburst every once in a while and watching a guy who was clearly doing his Movember best ask a question about computer games was fun in the sense that it reinforced just about every stereotype one could hold about checked shirt wearing do-gooders but in the main it was a pretty flat and tepid affair. Not that it was entirely their fault... I mean what exactly do you ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when you happen to be sitting in Newcastle? Please don't annex Berwick-upon-Tweed?

Tl;dr

Dorries: 5/10

File under 'S' for 'Sedate'

Reeves: 5/10

File under 'T' for 'Thwarted'

Moore: 4/10

File under 'U' for 'Uninspiring'

Blakemore: 5/10

File under 'P' for 'Personable'

Pollard: 4/10

File under 'I' for 'In Constant Fear of Terrorists'

The Crowd: 4/10

File under 'D' for 'Downbeat'

Hey, that spells 'STUPID'! That's an acrostic. Stephen Pollard knows about acrostics.

Next week Lemmings, next week...

For a full version of this article and many others like it, please go to QuestionableTime.com.