Always Worth Saying’s Question Time Review

Question Time 13th February 2020


Tom Tugendhat (Conservative)
Ian Murray (Labour)
Joanna Cherry (Scottish National Party)
Alex Massie (Journalist)
Val McDermid (Author)

Venue: Dundee

There is such a thing as a ‘dermoid’ cyst. Doctors will tell you that it is named after the outer layer of human skin (the dermis), which in this case forms into an uncontrolled, unpleasant and unwanted mass of hair, flesh and even teeth. I disagree. The medical consultants are wrong. For obvious reasons, these unpleasant and unwanted blobs are named after the Scottish lesbian crime writer, Val McDermoid. Am I being too hard on her? We shall see. But first, a note regarding support for Scottish nationalism which, across the last five national pubic votes, has amounted to:

2014 Independence Referendum 45%
2015 General Election 50%
2016 Scottish Election 46% (Constituency), 41% (Regional)
2017 General Election 36%
2019 General Election 45%

There has never been majority support for Scottish nationalism. Support is no higher now than it was at the independence referendum in 2014. If the Main Stream Media tell you otherwise, it is perhaps because of their, and Scottish nationalist’s, pro-EU agenda. With a Tory majority of eighty-six, the SNP have no influence in Westminster and the Scottish nationalists are best ignored. Starting now, with Val and Joanna.

Dundee is represented by three MSPs, two of who are SNP (constituency) and one Labour (regional). Dundee also returns an MP, Stewart Hosie, also SNP. In the EU referendum, Dundee voted 60-40 to Remain and in the 2014 independence referendum, the vote was 57-43 for Yes (ie pro-independence).

After a gap of a few weeks, your humble reviewer has actually lodged in the Question Time host city. There were bars on his room window. He preferred Dundee to Dundee United and would sit on a wooden bench at Dens Park, trying not to speak to anyone, while pretending to be invisible. Happy days. Cultural differences included square goal posts and team numbers on the shorts. Great care had to be taken before celebrating a goal, as sometimes it would be the home team that changed jerseys upon a clash of colours. At least you would only make the mistake once.

Will there be a question about topical current affairs super-hero, Phillip Schofield? A friend informs me that his fans have taken to vandalising the back of fifty pence coins by writing ‘Nine Bob’ on them in black ink. We shall see.

Question 1: Was Savid Javid right to resign as chancellor of the exchequer?

Interestingly Tom Tugendhat (Conservative) has actually done something useful outside of politics, having served in Afghanistan and Iraq in the Territorial Army. Presumably, he was on the intelligence side of things as he whispered his way through his first answer, as if passing on a secret message to our man in Kandahar, whilst disguised in a bourka at the souk. I think he said that politics was a team game and that it was important that Boris had the team that he wanted. Message ends.

Joanna Cherry (Scottish National Party) reminded the double O section that Savid Javid had a team too and that it had been altered about by Bond villain Dominic Cummings. The chancellor had been right to resign and Savid Javid had gone up in her estimations.

Alex Massie (journalist) arrived dressed as a bit of a cad, in a loud checked jacket, blue tie slightly slackened, top button undone, thick black hair swept back. Had he arrived in a sports car, with the top down, in Dundee, in February? Unimpressed by the re-shuffle, he claimed that Mr Smith (Northern Ireland Secretary) had been sacked for being too good at his job. Massie wasn’t quite sure what Boris’s government was about and he suspected Boris didn’t either.

If I may put words into Massie’s mouth, none of us are quite certain what ‘Johnstonism’ is yet and therefore we all find it difficult to second guess Boris’s intentions. Dominic Cummings got another mention, the audience joined in. Fiona Bruce wondered aloud if they could get Cummings onto a future programme, perhaps at the very end of the series, when he can monologue about how he will take over the world?

Val McDermid (author), bleached hair, lightly dressed, expensive specs, as though she’d just arrived back in Dundee after six months on a Saudi Arabian building site, believed that Boris was either insecure or a dictator. Beyond that, she had not much to say.

Ian Murray (Labour), claimed that politics was a team game and that he certainly relied on his team. Poor deluded soul doesn’t realise he doesn’t have one, Ian being the only Labour MP left in Scotland. He mentioned Dominic Cummings too.

There was a mild outbreak of Boris Derangement Syndrome from the audience with the Prime Minister being described as a maverick and a bully.

Question two, following the Brexit vote, can Scotland be denied a second referendum?

There was no mandate, said Ian Murray, for a second independence referendum. These things had been settled previously. He had decided Brexit would be bad, but it might not be. He preferred to concentrate his effort on public services in Scotland. At this point, he had an excellent opportunity to bash the SNP government in Scotland, which he missed. Surely, he could have learned a little laundry list of SNP failures before the program which could have been recited at this point?

No such missed opportunity by Joanna Cherry. Wearing a green blob broach in the left-hand collar of her jacket (live firing?), Joanna noted that Ian Murray had been in favour of a second EU referendum. Boom! She went on to make up an opinion poll claiming everybody agreed with her.

She was not keen on a ‘wildcat’ referendum but was keeping her options open by awaiting legal advice. By ‘wildcat’ she means a private referendum, one that really would only be advisory. There was a previous one in Scotland in which the people of Scotland voted overwhelmingly to keep their version of clause 28 (outlawing proselytizing in Scottish schools) which, erm, the Scottish politicians took no notice of.

At this point, may I pause and make a note about the audience? Your humble reviewer couldn’t help but notice the numerous lady Dundonians of about his age (previously known as ‘burrds’). Suffice it to say, those bars on his room window were meant to keep something out, not in.

Back at the top table, Tom Tugendhat remained awfully ‘muttery’. He stuck a few pins on his map, at Queensferry Bridge, for no apparent reason. He pushed his little tanks towards curing cancer rather than constitutional issues.

‘I’m not a foreigner in Dundee,’ he said. Well, they’re Scottish and you’re an English / French dual national, Tom, so you are.

In a much more animated manner, Alex Massie decided that it was inappropriate for another referendum. He was a bit keener on Brexit and thought that only five years since the last independence referendum wasn’t long enough. The reason the SNP did well was because of the calibre of their opposition, he guffawed. Nobody got the joke. He returned fire towards Joanna. Opinion research showed that even those in favour of independence didn’t want a referendum anytime soon.

Joanna Cherry’s front line crumbled. She got all mixed up, claiming the SNP don’t want to separate from the UK, which seemed odd. Scotland wasn’t leaving. Odder still. Forgetting that Scotland has its own government, she claimed that Scotland is always held random by the English.

Val rode to the rescue, like the very Heavy Brigade on Scot’s Greys (with spikey hair). It was not binary. Scotland would become independent then decide whether or not to join the European Union. Yet another referendum, cheering in the ranks? Perhaps not.

Ian Murray, rightly, reminded us that there are no answers to the questions about an independent Scotland’s currency, borders, and deficit. Then the panel all talked over each other for quite a while, with no one sure what was going on.

Val made herself heard, Holyrood had done a lot more than Westminster. Val omitted to add, ‘With Westminster’s money.’

Question 3. Would a bridge to Ireland be a bridge too far?

Yes. End of. But we have to go through the motions. Impractical, said Ian Murray, too deep and too tough. Did he mean the Irish or the bridge?

Tom Tugendhat wanted ways to connect different peoples but building a bridge was probably impractical. We should be ambitious. The Channel Tunnel is very useful. Just if you’re MP for Tonbridge, Tom, it’s not much use in Dundee.

Cherry told us that this was a Boris distraction to take attention away from him throwing his chancellor under a bus. Joanna had forgotten that Savid Javid had resigned, not been sacked.

She then let her imagination run riot, saying that an imaginary bridge would link an imaginary united Ireland to an imaginary independent Scotland, linking to the EU. How? Are these people stupid? A bridge from Kirkcaldy to Latvia?

An audience member had a better plan, well applauded, spend less on more (but better) improvements elsewhere. For instance, the road between Carlisle and Port Patrick (which connects with the ferries to Northern Ireland).

Val wasn’t at all keen on a bridge, as it would pass through an area where munitions had been dumped after the war. Building a bridge would disturb the explosives. And she’s right. If I remember correctly, previously laying a cable there did just that and lots of nasties were washed up along the coast.

Alex Massie though it not possible to do.

Tom Tugendhat returned to the fray, mentioning ambition and opportunities, after which we found out why he’d been scouting Queensferry Bridge. It is often closed. He’s such a mumbler that we will have to work this out for ourselves. Presumably, it was the SNP’s idea and it hasn’t been successful. Joanna got all mixed up again, claiming that it’s often closed but, as a huge relief to stranded motorists, not because of the weather.

At this point, your humble reviewer was distracted by two things and must confess that he’s not sure what was said next. Number one, happy memories of going back and forward from Dundee to Edinburgh (for want of something to do after tea time) behind Class 27s over the Tay and Forth bridges. At the time, licencing laws were odd and you could always get a drink on the train.

Point two. A very BBC moment. The cameras now seemed to be scanning the audience (rather than pointing at the panel) and stopping in strange places. I might be wrong, but judging how they lingered, I honestly think they were trying to put a ‘same-sex couple’ into shot. In Dundee.

Question four related to the local drugs problem and drugs deaths.

None of the panellists had a clue, either to what caused it or what the solution might be. They didn’t know why it was higher in Scotland than in England, other than ‘poverty’ and ‘poverty of opportunity’. They had no idea what to do about it other than ‘multi’ (faceted, agency etc). I think Joanna blamed the English, certainly Westminster. Somebody said, ‘Cuts!’. Val suggested legalising drugs, depressingly applauded. Drugs dealers would not be challenged, users not stopped, an unlimited amount of drugs could enter Dundee and the drugs problem would get less. Really? It looks as though the good people of Dundee are just going to be left to stew.

And that was it. No mention of media superhero Phillip Schofield. Next week’s Question Time comes from Weymouth, which also promises to deny us any possible mention (with one panellist already announced, Michael Portillo) of famous TV personalities with a particular type of scandalous private life.

© Always Worth Saying 2020

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