Always Worth Saying’s Question Time Review

Question Time 30th April 2020


Grant Shapps (Conservative)
Anneliese Dodds (Labour)
Jeane Freeman (Scotish National Party)
Sir Paul Nurse (Medical Expert)
George Osborne (Journalist)

Venue: Leeds

Surgeon General, and inventor of the syringe, Nobel Prize for Medicine lauraiate Professor Doctor Robert Peston MD FRCS FRS ITV being unavailable, tonight’s medical expert is geneticist Sir Paul Nurse.

In a crushing blow to members of the reviewing community, this week’s Question Time is back in its old slot of a quarter to eleven at night. Please stand at your front doors banging saucepans and bin lids to keep me awake for the duration. At least your humble reviewer will be spared the 8pm NHS worship. Through the week, and I had to look away quickly just in case, was there a Spitfire with NHS logos where its roundels should have been? Surely not.

Many moons ago, I boarded a train at Leeds City railway station. It departed full. As it crept through the station throat, in the general direction of Shipley, I was tempted to the buffet car for a light refreshment. As a precaution, I placed my luggage on my seat. Upon my return, only a few moments later, a large woman was sitting in my place. When pleasantly challenged, she replied, in a very loud voice from a face reminiscent of a bag full of spanners, “Bums reserve seats in Leeds lad, not bags.” I had to stand all the way to Hellified Junction. We shall approach the good people of that municipality, and their MPs, with caution.

Leeds is served by eight MPs, three Conservative and five Labour. Given the provenly awkward nature of Leedsonians, the political parties have taken care to avoid selecting candidates who are local. One who is, is the ludicrous Richard Burgon, who brings harmony between communities by being filmed yelling, “Zion is the enemy of peace” at his constituents. Fortunately, in this case, none of the assembled looked likely to be able to understand English. The ridiculous hereditary MP, Hilary Benn, represents Leeds Central, from his million-pound house in London. Mr Benn’s father was the second Viscount Stansgate, the honourable Anthony Neil Wedgwood-Benn MP. Mr Benn’s grand-father was also a Member of Parliament. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mr Benn MP III has never had a job.

Rachael Reeves represents Leeds West and appeared on the last edition of QT, two weeks ago, talking like a cockney. A special mention should go to London born MP, Mr Fabian Hamilton, who originally won his seat in Leeds Northeast despite his consistency party voting for an all-woman shortlist. Quite an achievement. Unfortunately, during the scandal of 2009 he was unable to achieve an honest filling out of his expenses.

The other MPs are Bromley (in Kent) born, Alec Shelbrooke, Anglesey born Stewart Andrew and two other nonentities, one of whom, slipping through the net with Burgeon, is also Leedsonian.

At first glance, Puffins might be tempted to say, “Good God, there are two Conservative panellists, Shapps and Osborne, and just one Labour, Dodds". Further enquiry will show that geneticist Sir Paul Nurse has been a member of the Labour Party for over 40 years and that Jeanne Freeman was previously, not only a Labour Party member but prior to that, a member of the Communist Party. However, Puffins will be pleased to hear that subsequently, Ms Freeman has become a very enthusiastic convert to capitalism. More of which later.

In the first question, video contributor Hanna mentioned ‘ten years of austerity’ and ‘the worst death toll in Europe’. She is wrong. Shapps (Conservative) tried to contradict her but was interrupted by Bruce (Chair). Sir Paul (Medical Expert) also disagreed with the questioner but added we’re ‘not doing very well’. He said that we hadn’t been prepared and were playing catchup with the pandemic. I must say, Sir Paul looked a bit worn. If it hadn’t been closed for the last five weeks, I might wager that he’d just been dragged out of ‘Spoooons. Sir Paul reminded us that he prefers to be called ‘Paul’, as he just uses ‘Sir Paul’ for fundraising purposes. Yes, he’s a Wetherspoons type of guy. As well as a Nobel prize and a knighthood, Paul has also been awarded more than seventy honorary degrees. Memo to Sir Paul, nobody likes a smart arse.

Anneliese Dodds (Labour) engaged in political point-scoring via testing and PPE, two attack points that Bruce and the BBC hadn’t mentioned. She then weighed in with social care and a pretend lack of funding, claiming wrongly that health funding was higher previously.

All of the panellists were in the studio, that is, they live in central London, except Jeanne Freeman (Scottish National Party), who seemed to be sat on the floor in the function room of a Travel Lodge after a sales pitch had gone terribly wrong.

George Osborne (Journalist) said that we were similarly positioned to many other countries and assuming a sense of uniqueness is a political trap. He is correct. He outlined tax increases or public spending discipline as a necessity. He is wrong. De-regulate, cut taxes and print money for a V-shaped recovery.

Fiona Bruce then asked Jeane Freeman, “How’s it going to be paid for?” Speaking of money, Hatchet faced toxic quango queen Jeane Freeman’s appointments have included; the Parole Board for Scotland (£205 a day), the fundamentally flawed Scottish Police Services Authority Board (£300 a day), the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland (£290 a day) and the National Waiting Times Centre Board (£185 a day).

How is the pandemic going to be paid for? Bruce persisted after Freeman had rambled incoherently. She no idea about what to do, apart from pretending that there could be a universal income.

Speaking of income, with the zeal of a convert to capitalism, when Freeman stood down as an advisor to Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell, she was re-hired through Freeman Associates at £500 a day. Freeman Associates was wholly owned by, erm, Jeane Freeman. By an astonishing coincidence, Freeman’s total remuneration was the exact limit allowed before a tendering exercise must be carried out. Freeman Associates accounts suggest that the same manoeuvre has been used on more than one occasion. If you would like to find out more via FOI then read on.

According to The Scotsman, Freeman was alleged to have stood down after clashing with a senior civil servant, John Elvridge, over,

“his failure to re-appoint her partner, Susan Stewart, to her post as Scotland’s representative at the British Embassy in Washington.”

As well as being Freeman’s civil partner and a would-be diplomat, the busy fellow quango queen Susan Stewart was also the company secretary of Freeman Associates.

Jeane Freeman denied the allegation, citing that she had stood down in order to move on to another challenge. That other challenge proved to be her re-appointment to her old job through her newly created consultancy company. As for learning more about Freeman Associates relationship with Holyrood Ministers via FOI, don’t bother. Freedom of Information requests are turned down. The Scottish Information Commissioner has deemed that it would be too expensive (costing in excess of £600) to ask “Have you used Freeman Associates?” in an email to all of Holyrood’s 28 Ministers.

Speaking of expense, previously, under a false name, Shapps sold a get rich quick scheme whereby buying his ebook could land you $20,000 in 20 days by, erm, re-selling Shapps’s get rich quick ebook. Was he now trying to plug something similar to help the economy recover? Goodness knows, he appeared to have no idea how the economy is to be brought back to life.

Paul reminded us that this could drag on for quite a while and any talk of recovery might be premature.

The second question was ignored by Bruce who made up her own, saying that many people had fallen through the furloughing net. Bruce says that many of those furloughed won’t have jobs to go back to. Wrong. It’s about demand. People still have wants and needs, no matter what. These things are driven by demand not by spending organisations like the BBC churning out stuff that nobody wants (while being taxed to death). Does anybody in the bubble realise this? This humble reviewers suggestion would be, put money into people’s pockets and de-regulate the businesses that supply the goods and services that customers want.

Question three was about testing and lifting the restrictions on movement. Paul said that the only weapon we have is testing. There is no cure or vaccine for the coronavirus. We need to test, test, test. There are mega labs, but lots of other pieces in the jigsaw need to be in place, which has been difficult to do. He plugged his own Francis Crick Institute, of which he is Chief Executive and Director. Testing would have been better done at local hospitals rather than mega labs.

Jeane Freeman said that they were doing a lot of testing in Scotland. She then claimed that her medical advice was different from Paul’s, regarding how infectious non-symptomatic coronavirus carriers are. And that’s the rub, there is conflicting medical advice. On this issue, and many others, the science isn’t certain and worship of the experts is premature.

Bruce read out two tweets, both were from health professionals and criticised the government’s strategy, or lack of it. Bruce and Shapps haggled over Ukrainian tractor production style numbers relating to teh tests. He suggested an app, available in the middle of May, which would Bluetooth the medical status of those nearby. Osbourne mentioned the bureaucracy, a slow start and hinted at criticism of Public Health England. He said that targets were important and worth setting up and aiming for.

The next question was about putting people into quarantine when they arrive in the UK. Jeane Freeman said it wasn’t a devolved issue but it was something that should be considered. Freeman doesn’t try to answer the questions, neither does Dodds. Things have to be considered, taken into account, made transparent. They never actually conclude anything. Maybe if the rest of us were getting paid £500 a day, we’d drag it out a bit too?

Paul and George thought that the public hadn’t been treated like adults. Drones have been barking at lone walkers in Derbyshire. The next two Question Times come from Newcastle and Oxford. Bruce pretended that she’d prefer a studio full of plebs in an audience. She said that she couldn’t wait until it happened again. The rest of us can. This week’s programme was awful.

© Always Worth Saying 2020

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