Under Thirties Question Time 9th December 2019
Robert Jenrick (Conservative)
Angela Rayner (Labour)
Humza Yousaf (SNP)
Jo Swinson (Liberal Democrats)
Adam Price (Plaid Cymru)
Jonathan Bartley (Green)
Nigel Farage (Brexit Party)
As we stand on the shoulders of giants, so it becomes my high honour and distinct privilege to introduce to you, my friends, my first Going Postal Question Time Review, since accepting the mantle from my predecessor, the legend that is Roger Ackroyd. Now I know why David Moyes was shaking as he passed Sir Alex Ferguson in the corridor at Old Trafford as (a de-mob happy) Sir Alex whistled, winked and held up the contents of his desk in a carrier bag, as David trembled past. Best wishes Roger and thank you.
Leningrad in the nineteen twenties being unavailable and difficult to reach from Islington in the twenty-first century, the BBC Question Time team has de-camped to York. As a mirror image of England outside of London, York voted 60 – 40 Remain in the EU referendum. Likewise, in the local council elections earlier this year, the city of York returned 21 Libdem councillors, 17 Labour, 4 Greens and only 2 Conservatives. The Tzar will be turning in his grave anyway. Is York posh? Yes, it is. It is part of a Golden Triangle, the other points of which are North Leeds and Harrogate. It has a university. A new reviewer might assume in advance that there’d be no shortage of whooping loons, either local or bused in from afar. However, dear reader, your reviewer might be in for a shock, while the Tzar might ponder a counter attack.
The first question was whispered by a little girl who complained that she had no political voice, as she lived in a safe seat. There followed a debate on electoral reform. A very dull start. All the parties except the Tories have promised some kind of electoral reform. Even the Brexit Party, although there is a suspicion that Nigel intends to improve the House of Lords by joining it. He certainly claims to have been offered a peerage.
Humza Yousaf (SNP), reminded us that Scotland already has proportional representation but omitted to tell us at the last election (the EU ones) the SNP only got 38% of the vote and yet now claim a mandate for a second independence referendum.
Angela Raynor (Labour) ducked the issue by saying that they had more important priorities, such as ending poverty by taking the bottom 4 million out of the bottom 4 million. The problem with obsessing with relative poverty is that there’ll always be 4 million in the bottom 4 million.
Adam Price (Plaid Cymru) got himself all bothered and started waving his hands about like a cross teacher scolding a dim 15-year-old (Angela Raynor?) who doesn’t realise they’re not supposed to spit on the floor. He told us that the present set up in Westminster was ‘a gentleman’s club’ and, for no purpose at all, went on to tell us that he used the term ‘advisedly’, as though it proved that God agreed with him. His alter ego, back at school, arms akimbo, would no doubt intone, ‘Don’t spit on the floor, Angela, and I say that advisedly’.
Robert Jenrick (Conservative) droned on telling the (rather subdued) young people that it was important to vote, even if it was meaningless. Jenrick was very nicely dressed, reassuringly earnest but went on for a little bit too long, as if a GP going into too much detail while telling you that your wart is harmless.
Nigel Farage (Brexit Party) told the story about his being offered a peerage and got a decent bit of applause for his trouble. Which makes one wonder what’s happened to Teh bus? Not that bus, the Momentum one full of whoopers.
The other bus arrived on time during the next question, regarding a second Brexit referendum. The line was delivered by Raynor, to an almighty lack of response from the audience. Raynor went on to sound fairly keen on actually voting for her own party’s Brexit agreement, as long as it didn’t affect jobs and the economy in her own constituency. Unlike, according to Emma Barnett (chairperson) 94% of the shadow cabinet whose public statements Barnett had been sifting. Likewise, during the first question, Emma had some good and pointed supplementary lines, which she delivered to effect.
Swinson (Libdem) was enthusiastic about the EU to the point of promising that she wouldn’t take any notice of a second referendum, in the same way that she hadn’t taken any notice of the first. Pulled up on this by Jenrick, she became very screechy and started waving her arms about, as if dissatisfied by the GPs diagnosis.
‘I don’t want a harmless wart. I want something that will kill me. Just because.’
Barnett tried very hard to blame the Tories and Jenrick for the three-and-a-half-year delay to Brexit. He, rightly, pushed the blame onto a Remain parliament. Farage wasn’t keen on Boris’s deal and saw it, unamended, as another crisis in the making. Price wondered at the lack of preparation. Plaid Cymru’s carefully prepared position being to ignore the uncomfortable fact that the Welsh people vote to Leave.
Bartley claimed that ‘The Poster’ (breaking point) was the lowest point in his life, which got a laugh from this reviewer. Raynor and Farage then shouted over each other on race and racism which did raise the temperature in the audience – briefly.
If we may continue the football analogy it was all a bit dull. There was none of the urgency usually suggested by a number of Christmas matches, close together, with lots of points to be earned in a few short days. It was more like an end of season match, where all the promotions and relegations have been decided and they’re just going through the motions, running the season out. Do the politicians, out on the doorstep, seeing the party canvassing returns, know something we don’t? Is it all over bar the shouting, with a decent Tory majority expected, no matter what?
Yousef was allowed to monologue on the awful and unique suffering of the Scottish situation. I shall refer him to the above, only 38% of Scots are voting SNP.
The next question was about climate and meat. Is that what they mean by ‘vegans’? Farage wasn’t keen. Jenrick is on a journey but, when challenged by Barnett, one that doesn’t appear to have started yet. Raynor decided that the poles melt and glaciers shrink because 83% of cuts have been taken from schools. I think. Jenrick called her a ‘looney’, which was ‘offensive language’, according to Raynor. God help her when she tries to make small talk with her party leader’s friends in Hamas and Hezbollah. Although maybe not, as she then began to rant about ‘the banks’ and ‘big banks’ and the Labour Party not being the ones who rule the world.
Bartley (Greens) outlined his Green New Deal which will solve everything, even mental ill-health. Yousef and Price then fell into a spell of assuming that if you say something out loud then it must be true, with commitments to silly, unachievable targets which they think sound good on the telly.
The final question was about affordable housing. All of the panellists agreed that there wasn’t enough house building, and that there should be more, and that it would just appear from nowhere, if it hadn’t appeared from nowhere already. Jonathon Bartley announced a land value tax. Yes, if you increase taxes on something it will make it more affordable.
‘They’ll all be talking about it in a few years’ time,’ Mr Bartley promised optimistically.
While we’re on the subject of expensive property, Mr Bartley went to Dulwich College, the same school as Nigel Farage, who took this question as an opportunity to drop a truth bomb. He pointed to the ‘population explosion’, with eight million extra people residing here compared to a couple of decades ago. Again, there were none of the expected hoots of derision from the audience, just from Humza Yousaf who was bigly triggered. He claimed that immigrants contributed more than they cost. At which point there was some applause and the threat of a ‘whoop’, but this reviewer did notice that, in true Question Time style, you couldn’t hear the sizable proportion of the audience who didn’t appear to be making a noise.
Yousaf decided that stopping ‘right to buy’ and forcing people to live in social housing was a better way of doing it, as that’s what they do in Scotland. Emma took the opportunity to throw in the 7 % Scottish deficit, which Yousaf blamed on the rest of the UK (where the money isn’t spent). Did I hear a sneer from the audience? And it didn’t count anyway because of Hungary and Poland. Quite. Plenty of empty houses in urban Hungary and rural Poland, I wonder why?
As for winners and losers, the audience did well, as did Emma Barnett. Farage was good but it was too easy for him. The winner by a mile was Boris Johnson, by not being there, these things are a waste of time. Jenrick was as dull as a safe pair of hands has to be. Raynor was as dull as someone who’s a bit thick, even blaming Swinson and the coalition for the Poll Tax. Bartley and Price were pointless. Swinson, pointless and a bit silly. Yousef made no contribution beyond repeating, ‘Scotland says no’ (along with two or three ‘Fffatchers’), like the girl in the building society who chants ‘the computer says no.’
Roll on Thursday, and more to the point Friday when, with the easy over-confidence of the new chap in the office, I predict Question Time will be all about Boris’s big win and the Labour Party’s unfolding self-inflicted blood bath.
© Always Worth Saying 2019
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