Question Time 30th November 2023
Esther McVey (Conservative)
Steve Reed (Labour)
Layla Moran (LibDem)
Andrew Neil (Journalist)
Zoe Lyons (Comedian)
As a first appearance on QT in 1985 suggests, Andrew Neil (fellow of The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) is a London media bubble lifer – albeit latterly via private jet from his villa in the South of France. A native of Paisley, ‘Buddy’ Andrew was educated at Paisley Grammar School and graduated from the University of Glasgow before embarking upon a career in journalism.
By 1983, aged only 34, Neil was already editor of Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times and was to become founding chairman of Murdoch’s Sky TV. From 1995 to 2020 he worked for the BBC, gaining a reputation as a fearless and exceptionally well-prepared interviewer. More recently, after a brief and bruising stint at the then-fledging GB News, the 74-year-old has hosted ‘The Andrew Neil Show’ on Channel Four and pens a regular column in the Daily Mail.
Zoe Lyons is a comedian and television personality. According to her agent, exciting, fresh and hilarious. Born in Haverfordwest and raised in Ireland, Lyons started her comedy career after winning the sexist and exclusionary ‘Nivea Funny Women Award’ in 2004. In 2008 she was awarded a ‘Dave’ for the funniest joke at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, albeit a vile comment about self-harm. Since then, Lyons has been ever-present on a Cook’s tour of un-funny, anti-comedy, leftie mainstream TV dross.
The 52-year-old is married to ‘wife’ Sindy De Jong, a native of the Netherlands who works as a theatre nurse. The couple live in Brighton, surprise, surprise. After graduating in Psychology at York University, Ms Lyons moved to London and studied at The Poor School and Workhouse Theatre. Perhaps more of a capitalist than her material suggests, Zoe’s agent also informs us, ‘Her mixture of real-life anecdotes and whimsical skits make her the perfect after-dinner speaker or corporate event host, ensuring an unforgettable experience for the whole audience.’
Puffins who drive vans or work in warehouses may already be aware Zoe, who specialises in equality, diversity and inclusion, hosted this year’s Supply Chain Excellence Awards at the London Hilton On Park Lane. At the ‘biggest and most exciting Supply Chain Excellence Awards yet’, ‘thrilled’ organisers served up Zoe’s ‘natural energy and sharp observations’ as well as ‘a stunning drinks reception and three-course dinner.’
Her recent appearances have also included ‘Laugh Till You Drop’, a Lambeth Age UK production. Host Babatunde Aleshe introduced Ms Lyons between other household names and side-splitting comedy legends such as Darren Harriott, Slim and Kyrah Gray.
Steve Reed OBE is Labour MP for Croydon North and Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs. Reed has been a Member of Parliament since winning his seat in a by-election in 2012. The 60-year-old, who is fond of boasting of his working-class roots, grew up in the mean streets of St Albans where he attended the local boy’s grammar school.
After university (English Language and English Literature, BA and MA at the University of Sheffield) and a year as a trainee chartered accountant, Mr Reed moved into publishing. Not quite the gritty proletarian kitchen sink drama end of the market, Steve specialised in the (very profitable) legal, healthcare, finance and education sectors.
Esther McVey, (not her real name – Esther Louise Davies) is the current and first-ever Minister of State for Common Sense. The Liverpool-born 55-year-old began her political career in 2010 when she was elected as the Member of Parliament for Wirral West. Later she became MP for Tatton.
Privately educated at the Belvedere girls’ school in Liverpool, Esther continued her education at Queen Mary University of London and City, University of London where she completed a postgraduate course in Radio Journalism. Show business becconed! While gambling along the Yellow Brick Road, fresh-faced Esther presented ‘But First This’ alongside BBC Somerset’s Simon Parkin. On ‘How Do They Do That’, toothy Esther appealed to her co-presenter’s inner Jimmy Saville. And at the 2001 TRIC awards, for the entertainment of the gentlemen of the land, La McVey stood in a draught.
Keeping it in the family, husband Philip Davies is Conservative MP for Shipley.
As well as working full-time for the good people of Tatton, Ms McVey also works full-time for the Daily Express who have paid her £20,764 over the last 12 months. As well as working full-time for the good people of Tatton and the Daily Express, Ms McVey also works full-time for GB News who have paid her £88,704 over the last 12 months. Yes, £88,704, more than her parliamentary salary. If there were any mystery over the success of GB News, it is for one reason and one reason alone – they are good payers.
As for husband Philip, besides working full time for the people of Shipley he also receives similar payments as his wife from both the Daily Express and GB News. Is there an Esther and Phil Show I should know about? Added to this, Mr Davies receives £1,500 per month from the National Pawnbroking Association.
Despite a combined annual income of at least £408,936 the McVey-Davies still have the gall to accept jollies and freebies. A badge for life from Arena Racing. A £1,000 hospitality package at Cheltenham Races. £2,758 hospitality at Royal Ascot. £3,200 from the Qatar Ministry of Sports and Culture for a jollie to Goodwood.
While you pay for Mr Davies’s London living expenses, he rents out a flat in the capital and receives ‘more than £10,000’ per annum (a lot more, I’ll bet) in rent. Make that well north of £418,000.
Coincidental with her appointment at GB News, Miss McVey set up a company called Blue Collar Productions Limited into which, no doubt, her media fees will have been paid as a tax dodge.
Why is any of this allowed?
Tediously omnipresent on QT, Layla Moron is the 41-year-old pan-sexual half-Palestinian Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon. Not quite the stone hut and three-legged donkey-owning type of Palestinian, Layla’s father was a high-ranking diplomat. As a young woman, the exotic Ms Moran grew up in Egypt, Belgium, Jamaica, Jordan and Ethiopia and attended the £44,000 per annum Roedean boarding school near Brighton. Prior to entering politics, public school opposing Layla worked as a teacher and head of year at the exclusive British School of Brussels (fees €42,000 per annum).
Ms Moron’s partner is Rosy Cobb, a Liberal Democrat press officer suspended from the party following a scandal involving selling voter data. There’s a joke in there somewhere about making Layla’s cobb rosy – work it out for yourselves.
Fun Fact. Svelt Layla weighed 20 stone at age 23. Not the tallest, her BMI touched 40. Following gastric band surgery La Moron lost half her body weight and, her confidence restored, decided upon a career in politics. Time machine. Check. Hospital porter disguise. Check. Gastric band sabotage kit. Check.
Besides working full-time for the good but politically suspect people of Oxford West and Abington, Layla is a member of the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians. Hmm. In order to combat the evils of air travel, she has recently accepted jollies to Palestine (worth £1,631) and Nairobi (£2,225).
Question one, Donny is like a ghost town. How are you going to level it up?
Esther said nothing besides mentioning the pandemic and say she was pleased with the autumn statement and its tax breaks. Donny has had £60 million in grants but over £100 million less in local authority funding, pointed out Steve Reed. He also referenced Rushi Sunack’s comments about altering the rules to give more money to Tonbridge Wells at the expense of the likes of Doncaster. Fair enough. But then he decided the answer is ‘the green economy’, this mythical land the search for which has so far resulted in nothing other than unbelievably expensive energy, crucifying places like Doncaster.
As per last week, QT seems to have given up on local photos for the panelists’ desk. A pity, as your humble reviewer was hoping to be reacquainted with the car park, the plant and the lawn. Extra homework for Puffins who don’t know what I’m on about.
An audience member referenced ‘Minster For Common Sense’. McVey preferred ‘Minister Without Portfolio’. Having said that, pausing the ban on petrol and diesel cars was common sense as was cancelling the HS2 extension from Birmingham to Manchester.
La Bruce played a silly game of catch-out by asking if present ministers therefore don’t have enough common sense.
Zoe Lyons found common sense, or at least a minister for it, irksome, as if the Ministry For Funny Walks.
Our hotels are all full of immigrants, noted an audience member.
Andrew Neil took the side of the audience, saying they knew more than the London panel about the differences between regions. Levelling up is a great idea but nothing has been done. Could Esther point to a metric which shows the North has converged with the South? He had lots of good ideas regarding transport, clustering universities and founding elite STEM schools in every town and city. Esther and the government have done nothing.
In terms of transport, Zoe found it difficult to get out of Brighton. Keep trying darling.
Layla Moron, dressed in parched Middle Eastern stoney-field cammo light green, announced she was from Oxfordshire but sympathised with the people of Donny.
Next question. Should we allow cheap foreign labour to fill jobs British people don’t want? Hmm. But British people do want. Will any of the panellists say that? Steve Reed said immigration has tripled with immigrants filling hotels at great expense. He also suggested training British people. But what limit would a future Labour government put on immigration? He wasn’t asked and he didn’t say.
Getting British people back to work is heavy lifting compared to bringing in immigrants, observed Andrew Neil. He suggested looking at sickness benefits, something the Labour Party never mentions. He also claimed many of the immigrants are students. He referred to the great universities but omitted to mention the non-courses at near-enough non-universities used as immigration scams.
Esther said herself and Doncaster voted Brexit to close the borders not open them. But it’s Esther’s government who are presiding over record levels of immigration.
An arse in the audience wanted to re-join the EU.
Question three was about Gaza. Layla was dreading the question. She blinked and struggled for words. The LibDems think it’s time for a permanent ceasefire to stop the killing. One member of her family over there had died because he couldn’t access medical care. Hamas have to go. There must be a two-state solution. Note – Layla and her family are Palestinian Christians. Her perspective may not be widely shared in that place.
Esther said the Israelis had a right to self-defence and Palestinian civilians were being killed because they were being used as a human shield by Hamas.
Layla contradicted her. Her family have nothing to do with Hamas. Her relative had worked for the UN and taught people to fish. You don’t have to take sides.
Zoe hid behind ‘it’s complicated’.
An audience member conceded Israel has a right to self-defence but what’s happening isn’t self-defence. Another pointed out the lack of proportionality in the Israeli response to October 7th. Does Gaza have a right to self-defence, another asked.
It won’t make any difference. There’s no solution, said Andrew Neil. No political or military solution. The Palestinians elected Hamas. And he’s right. Israel exists, and this is my view, because it’s able to restrain its various hostile neighbours through force, and the threat of force. Hamas found a way through on October 7th. After a period of IDF bloodletting the barriers will be rebuilt and a rocket-attack-laden lower-intensity conflict will return.
Steve Reed thought the present ceasefire was cause for hope. There is a space for negations that may one day lead to a two-state political solution.
Layla wanted to move away from the extremes. Netanyahu’s career depends on keeping the conflict going. Let’s use our influence and especially our influence over the USA to move closer to peace now.
Layla asked Andrew what he was offering.
I’m trying to point to the realpolitik of the situation, he replied.
© Always Worth Saying 2023
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