Question Time 16th April 2020
Robert Buckland (Conservative)
Lisa Nandy (Labour)
Rachel Clarke (Medical Expert)
Lord Bilimoria (Businessman)
Your humble reviewer has many happy memories of Wolverhampton. Despite having time on his hands, he can’t be bothered to consult the record books, but if he did he might be able to prove that he has seen his local XI play Wolverhampton Wanderers in all four divisions of the football league, something no Manchester United or Real Madrid fan can ever claim. The old gold jerseys even, on occasion, limped away from our snow-capped terraces, defeated.
In the days when you were not only allowed to go out of the house but even to attend popular music performances, friends in Wolverhampton allowed a stopover on the way to the Bingley Hall in Birmingham, where popular music combos provided background while the main event, a battle between mods and skinheads, performed in the crowd. I can feel a fifty-nine episode series of ‘Postcard from Wolverhampton’ coming on. Quick, shoot me.
More recently, some West Coast Main Line services are routed via Wolverhampton, rather than directly on the Trent Valley line. Ticket prices are lower. More time is allowed on the train (eating, drinking and looking out of the window) and therefore less time in Londonistan. A temptation difficult to resist.
Good citizens from the neighbouring parishes tell me that I must call the good people of Wolverhampton ‘Yamyams’. Is this rude? Are they lining me up for a kicking? Wolverhampton returns three MPs, two Conservatives and one Labour. All of whom are dull, especially when compared to a former Wolverhampton South West MP, the patriot, visionary and political giant, the great John Enoch Powell.
Speaking of railway stations, being beneath the immense cantilevered roof of my local Debatable Lands stone Citadel (once the largest man-made enclosed space in Christendom) evokes steaming metal beasts, catching breath before hammering across the border, defeating the lowlands with spark and smoke, reaching for the gradients, searching for the infant river Clyde and, steel sinew screaming, persuing it towards the reeking Mean City.
Wolverhampton railway station, however, is somewhat nondescript, lacking any drama or sense of anticipation. A sojourn there is like being sat in the car at Aldi, waiting for the wife to put the trolley back. It is difficult to get excited about Wolverhampton. Was this also true of tonight’s Question Time? All was revealed.
Picture the scene, NHS worship has entered a new phase, a re-worded national anthem has replaced mention of the Queen with ‘NHS’. Lisa Nandy is up on the QT big screen, under a white healing pyramid, at home in Wigan. Fiona Bruce is in her NHS blue scrubs.
Question one, absolutely one hundred percent literally used the pandemic to score points. The questioner really did ask each of the panellists to give marks out of ten for this country’s record on social care.
Nobel Medicine Laureate, Professor Doctor Robert Peston MD FRCS ITV being unavailable, this week’s medical expert is Dr Rachel Clarke. She sees such things first hand, as a hospice palliative care doctor, and claims a grotesque underfunding for society’s most vulnerable. She claimed that social care has been run down across a decade, which suspiciously matches the Tory’s time in office. Dr Rachel is not a political neutral. In 2018 she was photographed by the Guardian, in Oxford, protesting against President Trumps’s visit whilst holding up a placard which read, ‘Keep your tiny groping racist hands off our NHS’. She introduced us to ‘Teh Badge’, promised by Mr Hancock to care workers, in lieu of better pay and funding.
Bruce demanded a score out of ten from Robert Buckland (Conservative) who declined. She insisted upon a categorisation of some kind, to which Mr Buckland replied, ‘More to do,’ especially with testing and reducing infection rates.
Lisa Nandy (Labour), from her attic conversion in Wigan, wouldn’t give a score out of ten either. Her roof lights were at a very precise and symmetrical angle to her head. Likewise, her two sunken light bulbs, which made it very difficult to take any notice of what she said. Also visible, were shelves of books along the back-gable wall and examples of clever storage along both sides. Is Lisa’s attic the best thing that a Labour politician has ever done? Yes.
Lord Bilimoria (Businessman), the founder of Cobra beer, called the care effort ‘extortionary’ and couldn’t understand why care home deaths hadn’t been counted. More about Lord Bilimoria ‘s counting later. Fiona had another go at catch-out, reading out a pre-virus communication about infection and PPE in care homes, which Robert flannelled through. Dr Rachel mentioned teh PPE. She didn’t say there wasn’t PPE, rather that it wasn’t to the WHO standard.
Question 2, addressed issues surrounding the leaving of lockdown.
Lord Bilimoria called this the worst possible crisis, a living nightmare. He looked forward with foreboding, like the Roman, he saw the Tiber foaming with much un-sold beer. Lord Bilimoria supplies thousands of restaurants with Cobra beer and those restaurants are now shut. Lord Bilimoria wanted cash, businesses need instant taxpayer guaranteed loans of up to £500,000.
Previously he has had an interesting relationship with the movement of money. Despite its founder’s great business acumen, Cobra beer never made a penny. It is now owned by Molson Coors. Previously, in 2009, it reported a loss of nearly half a million pounds but, Puffins will be relieved to hear, according to its accounts, it was still able to pay £203,000 in consultancy fees to Bilimoria & Bilimoria LLP as well as making a purchase on their behalf worth £218,000. Phew.
Puffins concerned about Lord Bilimoria’s connection to loss-making Cobra, may take comfort from his other shareholdings, including Mulberry Holdings Asset Limited. Weather Mulberry was good to him or not we may never know, as it exists as a legal entity as a company registered in the British Virgin Islands. This a difficult territory to extract company information from, unless it appears in a ‘Panama Papers’ leak. Since another of Mulberry’s shareholders are those very clever people at the Union Bank of Switzerland’s Private Banking Nominees, at least Lord Bilimoria will have been well advised.
For some bizarre reason, the cynics at the Guardian newspaper described the Panama Papers as ‘[showing] inside the firm that helps the super-rich hide their money.’ Obviously, since Cobra never made any money, Lord Bilimoria never had anything to hide.
Speaking from that perfect loft conversion, Lisa appeared to be sitting right at one end of the attic, on a seat in front of the Mac (that you paid for). Behind her, there was no sign of stairs or a hatch. Does she have to climb up the outside of the building? Was her extension, like socialism, just too good to be true?
Robert said that the government would do what it takes. Fiona Bruce quoted an anonymous emailer saying the opposite, that small businesses were getting no support. Robert blamed the banks, they must step up to the mark, the government was putting billions in.
Lord Bilimoria congratulated the government as they had been listening. They’d been listening to Lord Bilimoria. He had told them to do something about the self-employed and charities and they had. Do we need to know about Lord Bilimoria’s charity? I think we do.
The Cobra foundation of which Lord Bilimoria is founder and a trustee, via its website claims, ‘the primary purpose of providing health, education and community support for young people in South Asia, especially through the provision of safe water. Our charitable objectives include giving help with Disaster Relief in the Region.’
The region is defined as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In 2015 the Cobra Foundation managed to achieve all of this while spending less than £8,000. Perhaps the eight countries, with a combined population of one thousand, eight hundred and sixty-six million, shared a locum GP for a week?
In a Pythonesque touch, part of the campaign to ‘provide safe water’ includes promoting beer sales by distributing crates of the stuff through the charity. When Lord Bilimoria’s accounts are mounted, framed and hung in the accountancy hall of fame (and they surely should be) the following line must be embossed in gold:
“The Board acknowledges the ongoing advice of our lawyers Bates Wells that the provision of beer does not in itself constitute a charitable activity.”
Lord Bilimoria is a vice-president of the Confederation of British Industry.
Dr Rachel said we’re not out of lockdown, we’re not at an exit, we are at ‘testing in order to reduce transmission’.
Lisa Nandy wore her hair in a centre parting. Long and dark, it swept behind the ears and then was combed over the front of the shoulders and downwards, over a figure-enhancing red top. Your humble reviewer is only human. His mind wandered. Those sweet little lips were made for better things than talk of pandemic and loss.
When a politics undergraduate, Ms Nandys’ innocent whispers contributed to the continuing erudition of academe’s dreaming spires and glittering prizes, via her university’s Currier Newspaper. As if a nymph singing softly, while bathing in ambrosia, her words were immortalised as she authored her alma mater’s tasteful photo casebook which I feel blessed, via the miracle of the internet, to be able to quote:
‘Oh, my God! I’m not f___ing s____ing THAT!’
‘I’d love a stiff one! Actually, d’ya wanna come back to my place?’
‘His w___y was the smallest I’ve ever seen! I’m going back on the pull.’
‘There’s a lot of diversity in a university – virgins [and] slimy b______s.’
Oh, the romance. Back in a harsher modern-day, Lisa said that she had an open space. Strewth. Then she mentioned her garden. Filth. You can take the girl out of Wigan, or maybe you can’t? Especially if she’s trapped in the attic.
Question 3. Germany had tested, monitored and hospitalised with that Teutonic efficiently. Why hadn’t we?
Lord Bilimoria said that testing was the key and he has had an antibody test. Bruce then got all mixed up with the tests. She seemed to think that Lord Bilimoria had a test, whereas Lord Bilimoria had had a test. See the difference? She was about to order ten million of his non-existent tests (and, let’s face it, he might have sold them to her) when he explained that he’d sent some of his blood to Germany and that they’d done a test on it there. It showed that he’d had the virus.
Dr Rachel pointed out that lockdown had happened later here than in Germany and events such as Cheltenham races had continued. Health spending is also a lot lower in the UK. Perhaps it depends on what you spend it on, Doctor?
According to indeed.co.uk, jobs like Dr Rachel’s, in palliative care in the private sector (i.e. hospices) are being advertised at £75,000 a year. In the NHS, at £107,000 a year, some at £100 an hour. In my own humble northern outpost, nurse’s jobs are advertised at £160 a day and locum GP positions are advertised at £900 a day. Might I suggest cutting wages (and pensions) and spending the money on the patients?
Fiona Bruce had another historic catch-out quote. Public Health England had previously said that you would reach a point in the pandemic when you couldn’t test. Dr Rachel preferred the World Health Organisation strategy of ‘test test test’. She then turned to Lord Belinda and told him to be cautious about his test, especially if it had been one of the mass-produced ones.
At this point, a wide camera angle showed the three panellists and Bruce appearing to sit in a square, which, with Lisa being up on the wall, described a pentangle. In the middle of the pentangle was the large QT ‘Q’ shape. This all means something, paging David Icke.
From the top of the pentangle, instead of saying ‘wrong’ Lisa said, ‘ronk’. This is a sign of some sort. Is Henry Lincoln in a care home somewhere? Give him a call. Herd immunity, change of direction, complained Lisa. Fiona Bruce said that Labour had supported that. ‘What’s important now, is how important this is,’ Lisa told us, informatively. She then developed a bit of behaviourism theory, where people might deliberately get the illness in order to become immune to it and get on with their lives.
Question four noted that high mask-wearing culture countries have lower death rates. Should we wear face masks? They can be manufactured in Walsall and Wolverhampton, the questioner added.
Dr Rachel said that the WHO says ‘no’, because of touching of faces, also people may be less likely to socially distance if masked. Then why do they do it in other countries? Bruce asked. I’ll answer that. The clue is in the question, they do it for cultural rather than epidemiological reasons. Bruce then told us that Question Time is off air next week. In two weeks, the virtual questions will come from Leeds.
A quick look at the schedules shows that next Thursday, Comic Relief and Children in Need join forces for ‘The Big Night In’, featuring Lenny Henry and Matt Baker with a host of star names. The promotional photo also shows Davina McCall and two celebs so famous that I’ve no idea who they are. Please, dear Puffins, if you must watch, promise me that you will do so from behind weapons-grade personal protective equipment (with earplugs).
© Always Worth Saying 2020
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file