Questionable Time: Anna Soubry gives her Spads another fat headache

There was no let up in Weymouth for the advisers to this hamfisted MP. Plus, Ming Campbell seems to have finally realised the jig is up

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Fact File
  • 4/10 Sourby: Combust(ible)
  • 4/10 Epstein: (Left me a little non) Plus(sed)
  • 4/10 Bradshaw: (Not entirely) Trust(able)
  • 5/10 Campbell: (Is looking increasingly) Disgust(ed with everything)
  • 8/10 The Crowd: (Were all high as kites on angel) Dust?
  • N/A Hislop: (Is no longer entitled to rhymes)
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Good morning Lemmings and yes, it's that time again. Those on the right, prepare to howl in anguish at perceived left-wing bias. Those on the left, prepare to gnash your teeth angrily at perceived right-wing bias. And those in the centre? I don't know... Just carry doing what you're doing and try not to make a mess. That's right Lemmings, it's Questionable Time.

Anna Soubry's slow decline was rather good fun...

If I'm having a really bad day and feel a little down in the mouth, I often like to cheer myself up by imagining what it's like to be a Spad for Anne Soubry. Think about it for a second: As tasks go, ensuring that Anna Soubry makes it through a working day without alienating a large section of the population must like defusing a bomb that's strapped to a greased cat with a taste for methamphetamine. Want proof? Then look no further than the past week. Wednesday: Manages to wind up half the country by implying that the poor are disproportionately prone to tubbiness. Thursday: Succeeds in vexing the remaining half of the country by castigating them for eating lunch at their desk. Thursday night: Goes on Question Time and reaps a rich harvest of boos. Should you happen to be travelling a between Dorset and London today, keep an eye out. You may just see a broken, weeping figure by the roadside begging for a lift to anywhere that isn't Westminster. That person will be Anna Soubry's Spad.

Tragically for the aforementioned Spad, last night was especially cruel as she didn't have a bad start and emerged from the Europe question reasonably unscathed. I could feel the Spad's relief: “Thank god for that. Maybe for once, just for once, I won't end up calling the Samaritans tonight”. Oh silly Spad. Stop lying to yourself. You know as well as I do that the rest of the show is merely a build up to the inevitable question about portly poverty and that you've got to weather a good 40 minutes of gradual attrition before we reach that final, fatal juncture.

So it was that things slowly unravelled. Reports of Nick Clegg's latest economic policy naysaying were met with a wonderful display of playing for time whilst joyous tidings about employment figures were quickly pooh-poohed as part-time codswallop. “Oh god, just end it now” murmured the Spad, but no, there was to be no reprieve as she tangled with an audience member on public sector cuts and was rewarded handsomely with opprobrium. And then it dropped. “Are poor people fat?”.

To be fair to Soubry, there was a moment when it looked like she might just get away with this and if I'm completely honest, I do have a little sympathy with her position. She's right to raise the questions about the food industry's role in the Great Plumpening but it's just a shame that she did so in the most hamfisted way possible. Anyway, despite an ok-ish attempt at a Took Me Out of Context defence Soubry managed to throw away any chance of a clean getaway by accusing Ben Bradshaw of not acting like a former Health Minister should when the crowd was clearly behind him. It was at that moment I heard that distinctive crunch: Another delicate Spad broken on the Soubry wheel. If you happen to pass them on the A35, have a heart. Spads are people too.

1997 seems like a very long time ago...

I have a bit of a personal problem with Ben Bradshaw and it's to do with symbolism. Allow me to get misty eyed for a second: It was 1997. I was doing my A-levels and like much of the nation, I was pretty sick of 18 years of Tory rule. A couple of days before the election, Bradshaw happened to cycle past me in Exeter and I was transfixed: Here he was, this fresh-faced, handsome, openly gay Shape of Things to Come and you know what? I liked that shape because it felt like a breath of fresh air from the stifling greyness of the Major era. Labour duly won that election and for a time, Ben Bradshaw came good on his promise - Things Can Only Get Better and all that – but it didn't last long. The wars kicked off, the filthy rich were relaxed with (intensely) and Ben changed too: He seemed crotchety and impatient. He moved up a couple of notches. Bikes eventually became ministerial cars and The Shape Of Things To Come looked increasingly like The Shape Of Things We'd Rather Forget. Fast forward to last night and what do we find? A man who looks like he's just a little above it all, a man who's in a hurry and a man who just can't quite be bothered to reason with you any more. Sorry Ben, it just personal...

Has Ming just seen his own fate?

There was a telling moment last night: Ming mentioned that despite the fact he was but a lowly backbencher, he still gets invited on the show because he has influence with the Chancellor. The silence that followed was horrible, but not quite as horrible as the look of realisation that final dawned on his face. The look said "Oh bugger. The jig is up". Personally, I hope it isn't because Ming's been quite good fun this week - what him pouring cold water all over Cameron's referendum speech - but maybe that's just me. Weymouth, it appears, remains unconvinced.

Angela Epsein says a lot...

…Not much of which makes any sense. It's forgiveable I guess, I'm sure I'd wibble all sorts of nonsense if I was on the panel but I'm fairly confident I'd draw the line at claiming that 'steal the iPad' was the number one game in UK playgrounds.

Ian Hislop is hereby excluded from the scoring system...

...Because it's just not fair. He appears on a panel show every week, he knows where all the bodies are buried, and he's just too bloody good at what he does. It's just not cricket and I for one will have nothing to do with it.

For more of this visit questionabletime.com

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