Always Worth Saying’s Question Time Review

Question Time 27th February 2020


Nadhim Zahawi (Conservative)
Jon Ashworth (Labour)
Alison Phillips (Daily Mirror)
Ayesha Vardag (Divorce Lawyer)
John Bird (Founder of The Big Issue)

Venue: Middlesborough

The Question Time community was rocked earlier this week when Laurence Fox announced that he was taking a prolonged break from Twitter because of the negative comments that he is sent. Are we allowed to say ‘Don’t be so soft’? or would this be further bullying? Your humble author is fortunate in this respect as his fellow Puffins give him a very easy ride (apart from expressing mild disinterest in his collection of one-sided coins). Elsewhere, members of the public tend to insult me to my face, rather than on social media. Usually well deserved.

Also in the QT community news, audience producer Alison Fuller-Pedley who, despite waving through coach load after coach load of whooping Momentum retards, has been censured by the baying Twitter mob for allowing onto the programme last week’s blonde-haired lady star, who gave the panel both barrels over the immigration issue. I have spoken to Mrs Fuller-Pedley on the phone. She is very nice and so posh that I assumed her to be yet another of David Dimbleby’s BBC relatives. The BBC press office previously rushed to her defence claiming that she had ‘unwittingly’ re-tweeted from Britain First. Is she on our side? I may monitor her work. Given that Jon Ashworth is a guest this week, your humble reviewer is tempted to look at the audience instead of the panel.

The MP for Middlesborough is Andy McDonald of the Labour Party who I have never heard of. He replaced the entertaining Sir Stewart Bell in 2012. Sir Stewart was the one who, while charged with representing the interests of MP’s in the run-up to the expenses scandal, for the merriment of all, thought that Members of Parliament were exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. Gfawwwww.

I have never been to Middlesborough but have visited the football club’s training ground, embarrassing myself by asking if the practice pitches were the same size and orientation as at Ayresome Park (which they had left many years previously). Don’t be fooled by any mention of local food banks or poor nurses. While I was admiring the giant motors in the car park there was a chop chop chop noise as a Middlesboroughonian arrived in their helicopter.

Question one was about the coronavirus pandemic.

Jon Ashworth (Labour) praised the government’s response so far in order to soften us up for when he put the boot in. He said there was a health crisis and went on to blame ten years of Tory cuts and austerity. At the end of the last Labour Government, there were 61,000 people on hospital trolleys and now there are 800,000. Mentions of ‘pandemic’: 3.

Nadhim Zahawi (Conservative) assured us that there is a COBRA meeting every week. Seven thousand people have been tested. Mentions of ‘pandemic’: 0. Mentions of ‘best worst-case scenario’: Too many to count.

You all think that Kevin ‘Toilets’ Maguire (man of the people with a fake northern accent, blue blood wife and actress daughter), is the editor of the Daily Mirror. He’s the associate editor. The actual editor is Alison Phillips and she expressed concern about the elderly, those with existing health conditions and children. She said that at present containment was going well. It was no time for politics but, ‘Funding cuts.’ Mentions of ‘pandemic’: 0

John Bird (Big Issue Founder) saw this as part of a broader social crisis. There had been flu at the end of the first world war and it had killed more people than the war (he claimed). He suggested bringing in the army and nationalising everything, including private hospitals. The situation was so grave that his brother won’t stop in hotels in London. Which was silly, John conceded. Mentions of ‘pandemic’: 3

Incidentally, according to the guff, you don’t have to be homeless to be one of John Bird’s ‘Big Issue’ vendors, merely ‘vulnerably housed.’ In these difficult times, fellow Puffin, if you live within ten miles of a river, here’s your chance.

Ayshea Verdag (Lawyer), preferred to be cool. She had some statistics. 80% of people don’t contract it, 15% have a mild dose and only 5% really suffer. There was underinvestment in the NHS. We need emergency measures and she had an interesting idea. Better organise the care structure and free up blocked beds in hospitals. She seemed impressed with the government’s response and urged people to look after themselves at home. Mentions of ‘pandemic’: 0

By the way, if you think the spare room dwellers who hate Laurence Fox are a bit of a handful, wait until you hear lawyers on the subject of Ayesha Vardag. Your humble reviewer made the mistake of contacting his spies in the legal world for a couple of (very off the record) quotes. One of my be-wigged confidences even called her ‘a bit West End.’ Best of order please, ladies!

Fiona Bruce (Chair), too many mentions of ‘pandemic’ to count, insisted upon Nadim Zahawi where the extra NHS staff were going to come from?

Nadhim replied that there were 8,000 more nurses than last year. Bruce insisted again, to which Nadhim replied that extra staff can’t just be magicked up and it was a question of being organised. He accomplished this in between chanting ‘Best worst-case scenario’.

Jon Ashworth complimented the Chief Medical Officer as being a top chap giving good advice. Another mention of ‘pandemic.’

Make no mistake, the Labour Party and the BBC are going to try to hammer the Tories with bat flu. It is the lull before the storm, both medically and politically.

Question two noted a report into life expectancy and asked if austerity kills.

Alison Phillips was shocked, especially as it’s women in poorer areas whose life expectancy is dropping. She blamed it on the Tories and, drum roll, it was people in the poorer areas such as the North East that had voted for them.

Ayesha tried a bit harder. There are changing social roles. More women are working now. There can be loneliness, unhappiness, watching of TV (yes, she said that, I checked my pulse, just in case) which effects the health. According to a friend, ‘Ayesha works for £845 an hour, cobbling together divorce deals with boilerplated documents that have nothing to do with courts or real law.’ Hush, you’ll be depressing her in front of the telly.

Fifteen thousand pounds an hour Fiona Bruce’s heart broke. She wept as she read out that life expectancy amongst some of the poor had dropped by a year.

A lady contributor from the audience made a very important point. Her father had just died aged ninety-nine. During those ninety-nine years, there’d been plenty of austerity and a world war and yet he’d lived to be ninety-nine.

I must interrupt and make a couple of points. Firstly, what austerity? The government spends more than ever and taxes us to death. Secondly, why has nobody mentioned the effect of immigration upon the health care system? Thirdly, why aren’t people’s choices blamed for their bad health?

Back in Middlesbrough, Nadhim didn’t try very hard. He claimed that there were similar problems in 2010, before the Tory and coalition governments.

Fiona Bruce tried to pin Nadhim with a fib, claiming life expectancy was falling. No, it isn’t, just for certain groups. She began weeping again for the urban poor in the North East. Just what they need.

Here was my chance to ignore her and take a look at the audience. It was very small, cleverly camera angled to make it look bigger from the side. Many were tinged. Our ally Mrs Fuller-Pedley, down with bat flu?

Lord Bird of Notting Hill in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, John Anthony Bird, Baron Bird, MBE, rather modestly introduced as ‘John’, blamed Nick Clegg and Cameron, austerity, closing libraries and high streets. Yes, high streets. People feel as though there’s no future.

An audience member mentioned a job market effect, zero hours, the gig economy. The self-employed can’t call in sick. The jobs market was much better ten years ago. Somebody tell her it wasn’t. Unemployment is lower, employment is higher, the minimum wage is much higher.

Jon Ashworth ranted about children bin diving. An important point about John, he’s never had a job. He went straight from university to party political and union stuff. This has made him an expert on, erm, everything.

The take-home from all of this, is that for the next five years, reclaiming the Red Wall constituencies is going to be based on chanting about the NHS and cuts with an infantilised sense of victimhood being forced upon the voters. I think we knew that.

Here was Nadhim’s chance to hit back with some good lines. He could have mentioned the improved employment situation. He could have been optimistic for the future, for instance, the extra young people going to university. He could have said there is every likelihood that the next decade’s statistics for life expectancy, and everything else, will be better than the last.

But he didn’t. He said there was a Labour government in Wales, presiding over a worse situation than there is in England. This had no impact at all on the audience.

John Ashworth camped it up and started pointing.

Former Worker’s Revolutionary Party member Lord Bird, said when the economy crashed, we should have saved money by spending more of it. Like we did in the second world war, which we came out of as a great economic success. Does he mean post-war austerity? Somebody explain it to him.

Ayesha mentioned being sedentary and depressed and the abuse of substances, not austerity, as being a cause of poorer health.

Fiona Bruce told her she was wrong and changed the subject to the burning issue in Middlesbrough. The talk of all the pubs. The word down on the street. The burning issue of the Cleveland day: an extra runway for Heathrow.

Now, if you’re ever clearing tables in a restaurant after Nadhim and Prince Charles have dined there, then I suggest that you look through the napkins very carefully, and be prepared to sprint down to the patents office, if you see anything scribbled on them. I do not jest.

Nadhim has been to a dinner with Prince Charles and they have invented a new aeroplane. It can carry 180 people, 500 miles, which, Nahdim assures us, covers all of Europe. Oh, and it’s electric. I hope he has an extra set of batteries for the flight from Teeside back to his constituency in Stratford on Avon (yes, he’s one of the Warwickshire Zahawis).

Alison Phillips implored us to, ‘Think of the children.’

John Bird had lived under the flight path and didn’t like it at all. Spend the money on producing clean planes and on schools and libraries and take people out of poverty. Did somebody mention the minimum wage? Increase it to £50 an hour, shouted John. ‘Nurse,’ shouted the rest of us.

As an aside, I lived under the flight path when I was a little boy in the colonies. It was great. Televisions had valves in those days. That meant that programmes were interrupted by the pilot’s conversations with the ground. Mind you, there was only about one flight a week.

A number of audience members commented that Teeside airport had come back to life recently, benefited from investment and that this was a thoroughly good thing.

An audience member made an important point. Why not build the extra runway and, in the interim, allow the technology to develop and solve any issues that arise?

Ayesha had flown into Newcastle and it went very smoothly. Why not redistribute flights? Have more flights to more airports, rather than jam it all into London? Because it’s market-driven, Ayesha. It’s not about nicey feelings, it’s about demand.

Previously, Jon Ashworth conceded that, when the Trades Unions at Heathrow had his testicles in a vice, he’d been in favour of an extra runway. But now he thinks the exact opposite. A bit like when, candidly, before the election, he said Labour would lose, then he said they would win, then they lost.

As usual, carbonphobia remained unchallenged and nobody noted that CO2 emissions here don’t make any difference to anything.

The final question was about rough sleepers.

John Bird’s social entrepreneurship has created lots of empty rooms, albeit in Romania, as they‘ve all come here to trough benefits while standing next to piles of un-sold ‘Biiiig Issues’. He reminded us that he was an ex-rough sleeper, although he did concede that it was because he was on the run from the police. He suggested rough sleeping was a Human rights abuse. He would set up therapeutic communities. He blamed austerity, Accident and Emergency and universal credit. He knew these things.

He didn’t, and neither did any of the panel, appear to know that many of the rough sleepers are foreigners and the problem could be halved, over-night, by sending them back.

Alison blamed it on austerity, drugs and the housing crisis. Again, without any mention of immigration.

Ayesha conceded that she hadn’t quite been homeless but thought that she knew someone who might have been, plus she sometimes sleeps in first-class when flying back from Dubai. Quite.

Jon Ashworth wept for the poor. It was a shameful, shameful shame. He grappled with a desperate need.

Nadhim didn’t try to defend the government or counterattack at all. He wanted a wrap-around service, like they have in Leeds.

And that was it. Next week Tonbridge Wells.

© Always Worth Saying 2020

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