Always Worth Saying’s Question Time Review

Question Time 2nd April 2020


Matt Hancock (Conservative)
Yvette Cooper-Balls (Labour)
Donna Kinnair (Royal College of Nursing)
John Sentamu (Clergyman)

Venue: Rugby

This week’s Question Time panel is in London but the questioners are from Rugby, which is one of those places that I have flashed through on the train but never actually visited. It is where the line divides and you find out whether you’re going to Euston via Northampton (or not). These days, West Coast Main Line services tend to run non-stop after Warrington but previously some did call at Rugby. There, they filled up with those strange things called ‘commuters’. Not travellers, shoppers, farmers, factory workers, school children or tourists, no, ‘commuters’. Therefore, without fear of contradiction, I can state that Rugby is where the South East of England starts.

Those of you devastated to hear of my Royal Bank of Scotland shares, will be upset when I inform you that my HSBC dividend has been cancelled. Not postponed, mind you, cancelled. This would have been a previously retained profit being distributed to shareholders. It has nothing to do with the present set of circumstances and nothing to do with the government. If HSBC were short of cash, they could issue shares in lieu. Since such things are based in Hong Kong and paid in US dollars, it has even less to do with the government. And given that the pound has gone down in comparison to the dollar, I should be getting paid more, not nothing. I shall make a claim under this 80% lark. Try and stop me. *Very angry face*.

Rugby returns a Conservative MP, Mark Julian Francis Pawsey. Very sound on so-called same-sex ‘marriage’, he is the founder and chair of the all-party parliamentary group for the packaging manufacturing industry. Previously they have concentrated their effort upon trying to keep cigarette packaging bright, colourful, free of health warnings and visible to shoppers. Mr Pawsey’s package includes hospitality at the Rugby World Cup, paid for by Japan Tobacco International. A wiser investor than myself, I doff my hat to Mr Pawsey.

Question Time started with a carer’s round of applause from the panel, suitably distanced from each other. Dr Sentamu was even up on a big screen. The first questioner asked, why are the Germans doing so many more tests than us?

Matt Hancock (Conservative) told us that Germany is the European centre of diagnostics. They’ve already got it all set up. He almost made it sound as though the Germans were cheating. Matt has hit his own target of 10,000 tests a day and has set a target of 100,000 per day (of all the different strands of testing) by the end of the month.

Mrs Yvette Cooper-Balls (Labour, wife of the odious Ed Balls) has a respiratory tract problem of her own, her voice. Not just what she says but how she says it. When she’s up the north, in her Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford constituency, she talks with a northern accent. For some reason when in London, she talks like a very posh girl from a pretty village in Hampshire. Is there a test? She sounded enthusiastic about all these other tests but wondered about a community immunity test, which she decided was a South Korean strategy. She asked Hancock if the object of all this was ‘immunity’ or ‘suppression’?

We’re bending the curve, call it what you will, he replied.

Do we come out of the lockdown by more people getting it (i.e. herd immunity)? She queried.

No, we have another goal, said Hancock, 250,000 tests a day. Broad community testing. Firstly, NHS staff and vital workers, then everyone else.

After a couple of disappointing outings with ‘Doctor’ Xan Van Tulleken and ‘Professor’ ‘Doctor’ Horton, Question Time Review is proud to announce that one of tonight’s panellists is actually registered with a professional body (The Nursing and Midwifery Council) as a medical practitioner. Dame Professor Donna Kinnair DBE RGN HV LLB MA, as well as all of those other things, really is a nurse.

‘Yes’, she agreed, we need to test everyone as you don’t want to be a spreader or to be quarantined unnecessarily.

Fiona Bruce read out a twitter feed of criticisms of the government’s strategy so far. These went unchallenged as she brought non-politician Doctor (of theology) John Sentamu into the conversation. From the big screen, Dr John acknowledged the NHS staff’s efforts and said they should get those tests first. He seemed to say that the present set of circumstances had become unavoidable. He quoted Kitchener, ‘Your Country Needs You’.

‘We are at war with this invisible danger’, he continued. His sentiment was that you should do as you’re told to save lives. The government were a bit late. They should have put somebody in charge of the logistics, a ‘great’ Brigadier or a Major. The archbishop has a point. Thinking back to foot and mouth, Brigadier Birtwistle might not have been everybody’s cup of tea, but he did grab the thing by the scruff of the neck and provided a clear and consistent strategy which was seen through, right to the end.

Matt Handcock did know a good Brigadier and said the army had been great. He named a few in the private sector who had been quick off the mark too. Dare I buy their shares? Bishop John, Skyping from his crucifix room in York (more of this please) told Handcock that he should have started all of this two weeks ago. Hancock claimed he had. Pull together, a national effort, church and state agreed.

Yvette was forced to agree with Hancock and the Archbishop but then had to try to score a point. She wanted Hancock to admit to being slow off the mark and tried to claim that there was an original confusion of strategy (herd immunity), which Hancock denied. Speaking of long delays, it emerged during the MPs expenses scandal, that it took Mrs Cooper-Balls twenty years of having her windows cleaned before she was able to ask for a receipt. Meaning that she received £12,480 in expenses, unsupported by any documentation.

Question two asked about the truth of a lack of PPE (personal protective equipment). Was it because of an incorrect initial strategy? Purely by chance, the questioner was taking the same line of attack as Yvette Cooper-Balls.

Donna Kinnair said her nurses had been saying the same thing. PPE provision needed ramped up, every health care worker needs this, not just those in intensive care. Don’t we have enough or is it just the logistics?

Speaking of logistics, Mrs Cooper-Balls was a Kennedy scholar at Harvard and was under Bill Clinton in Arkansas during the American presidential campaign in 1992. Perhaps it was the constant travelling which led to ‘flipping’ virus? The main symptom of which is not knowing where you live and constantly having to flip your main and second homes whilst claiming second property allowances. An infectious condition, her husband caught it too, leading to a suspected build-up of capital gains tax avoidance. Mr Ball’s political career ended in the general election of 2015. This caused a relapse, during which he claimed an £88,000 relocation allowance as he moved from London to, erm, London.

Back in the modern-day, Matt Handcock claimed that coronavirus was a mammoth logistical exercise. Is it really? Does the private sector not do that kind of thing all of the time? There were plenty of supplies in a massive warehouse in the North West. The challenge was getting it to every member of staff, both medical and care.

Dr Sentamu advised Hancock to promise less and deliver more. What does Dr Sentamu deliver? Much. John Tucker Mugabi Sentamu is one of the Yorkshire Mugabi Sentamu’s and is currently Archbishop of York. He is also very sound on so-called ‘same-sex’ marriage. Although not in the same Dantean circle of nepotistic torment as the Cooper-Balls’s, last year he did ordain his wife as a deacon. We shall keep an eye on him. Originally from Uganda, he practised law there and was tortured by Idi Amin’s thugs before fleeing to England in 1974 and studying theology at Selwyn College, Cambridge. Since then, he has been elevated, both academically and socially, by becoming the Chancellor of the University of Cumbria where, in Carlisle Cathedral, he is known to play drums (rather well) during graduation ceremonies.

Meanwhile, Fiona Bruce set up a nice easy attack for Yvette Cooper, why is there no PPE for carers? Yvette rambled and missed the opportunity. Her local hospice was running short of PPE, so other health service outlets nearby had provided it to them. She made this sound as though it was some kind of great shock.

Cooper-Balls wanted all the factories to do the same. Burberry are making medical gowns, she gasped, amazed. Of course they are, Yvette, they’re going to sell them for a profit, and rightly so. For someone so clever, she sounds a bit thick. Mrs Cooper-Balls was awarded a first in PPE at Balliol College, Oxford. She also gained an MSC in Economics from the London School of Economics. Perhaps her great financial knowledge is only put to use when calculating her expenses?

Fiona Bruce read out an excellent catch out question. The World Health Organisation advises a 14-day quarantine for those infected. Infected Matt Hancock had only done seven before appearing on this programme. Was she leaning away from him and reaching under her chair for her PPE as she spoke? Matt Hancock claimed that he’d got through it and was thinking about wearing a wristband to prove it. An unconvinced Nurse Kinnair leant even further away from him. Was Dr Sentamu safely up on that big screen because a higher power had advised him so?

Yvette Cooper-Balls asked Hancock that sarky question, beloved of lawyers and politicians, did he think that the experts were wrong? Hancock replied that he was following expert medical advice, that of our own chief medical officer.

The third questioner had a vulnerable mum she can’t see. Can you tell me when I can see her again? A second third question was asked (if you see what I mean) regarding those grieving in self-isolation.

Fiona Bruce said ‘life partner’, instead of husband, wife or spouse. Bishop John started to tell us about the Rabbi at the funeral. Unfortunately, not the start of a good joke, but a sad tale of a wife who’d been married for sixty years but couldn’t attend her husband’s interment. Matt Handcock said that he’d lost two people that he’d been ‘fond of’. Close family members can go to a funeral, he said. There was guidance, ethical as well as medical. Maybe the wife was in the shielding category in order to protect her?

Bishop John suggested more testing would allow those in the clear to attend funerals. Fiona Bruce quoted contributor Portia T’hilla, who had a very good idea, why not provide PPE for family members, in order to stop people from dying alone? Then Fiona Bruce claimed that she’d cried when she learned about a 13-year-old who had died alone. Archbishop John suggested iPads and iPhones for the ill to communicate with loved ones. He also suggested, getting in touch with clergy and hospital chaplains to ask how patients are doing.

Nurse Kinnair reminded us that patients don’t die alone, as there are nurses there. Yvette Cooper tried to show empathy. Her head swung back and forwards, her hands sat on her lap, palms upwards. Her own respiratory problem returned. She began to talk in a northern accent after saying, ‘Normanton’. I think it was ‘Normanton’ but it was such a bad northern accent it was very difficult to tell.

In the final question, a retired police officer wondered about how the police are doing in imposing the lockdown.

Yvette continued with the empathy, hands open on her lap, earnest look. She definitely said, ‘Knottingley’, like Alan Bennet might. Bishop John encouraged his fellow citizens to do as people in authority tell them. Do no wrong. As if a bishop being instructed by God, which, let’s face it, he is. The hour was up, next week Uxbridge.

Shall we cough, sneeze and wipe our noses all over Yvette Cooper-Balls one more time? In the days before such things as lock-downs and quarantines, the Cooper-Balls’s made 375 expenses claims for journeys made by their children.

* * *

In these terrible days, let’s end with a happy memory of Eddie Large. Many moons ago, Little and Large were doing a summer season in Bournemouth (I think). They recorded their radio shows there in the afternoons. Was a retired Tommy Trinder the warm-up man? I think he was. There was a Musician’s Union strike, surprise, surprise, so we had to pretend that Victoria Wood was there as well. In between times, Eddie delivered one of my favourites lines, nicked and often used. When a member of the public plucked up all of their courage and asked Eddie if there was any chance of a free ticket, he replied, quick as a flash,

‘Absolutely sir, give ‘as ten pounds and I’ve give yer a free ticket.’


© Always Worth Saying 2020

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