Questionable Time: Charlotte Church vs. The Old Lady and the intentionally difficult Simon Jenkins

Just in case you hadn't heard enough about Leveson, last night's Question Time panel delivered a special on the Inquiry's report, and what a panel it was

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Fact File
  • 7/10 Charlotte Church: Yay
  • 4/10 Patrick McLoughlin: Nay
  • 4/10 Neil Wallis: (Should really go) Away (for a while)
  • 6/10 Chris Bryant: (Did) Prey (remorseless on McLoughlin)
  • 6/10 Simon Jenkins: (Couldn't give a monkey's as to what you've got to) Say
  • 5/10 The Crowd: (Are heavily invested in the) Nikkei?

Good morning Lemmings and if, like me, you're feeling a little over-inquiried after being exposed to dangerous levels of Leveson then I have some bad news: You're about to get yet another hefty dose. That's right, Question Time has gotten a little giddy with all things pressy and regulatory so you will find no respite, no safe harbour and no refuge from the tireless onslaught of quasi-judicial developments here. I will, however, try to make the whole experience as painless as possible. I am nothing if not merciful.

I never thought I'd hear Charlotte Church say 'statutory underpinning', let alone three times in under a minute...

First off, where the hell has this phrase appeared from? It sounds like the sort of thing Kevin McCloud of Grand Designs fame gleefully warns people about five minutes after it's already gone catastrophically wrong (“Oh, I see you decided to do the statutory underpinning yourself. Yes, it's a bugger isn't it? Have fun clearing the rubble! Tra-la-la!”). Right now everyone is banging on about it so much that I keep thinking I should get a survey done just in case. Anyway, as the heading suggests, Charlotte Church is deeply into statutory underpinning and I must confess that she actually made a pretty good go of getting me into it as last night progressed. Now, some of this is down to me feeling a little guilty for indulging in some pre-QT snobbery – in my defence I had only just learned of Church's efforts to rebrand herself as a 'serious' indie artist – but mainly it was because she made a very good case for the prosecution during the Leveson section of the show whilst knowing when to fold on questions that weren't quite as relevant later on.

However, the real kicker came about halfway through when an innocuous-looking lady of advancing years decided to scold Chris Bryant for being “a young man with little experience”. 'Hello,' I thought 'we've got a live one here'. She went on to explain that while it was terrible that people like the Dowlers had been caught up in phone hacking skullduggery, celebs pretty much had it coming. Church, to her credit, very politely interjected with a heartfelt story about the appalling treatment her mother had suffered at the hands of the News of the World and I thought that would be the end of it. Sadly, it was not and the seemingly sweet old lady shot back with this corker: “Stronger people would have weathered that storm better”. Charlotte, you get an extra mark for not physically showing her the door.

Patrick McLoughlin was a busted flush...

I had high hopes for this guy. I mean c'mon, how often do you get a panelist who's not only an ex-member of the National Union of Mineworkers, but a Tory frontbencher as well? That's like a member of Slayer jacking in the thrash metal to lay down some mortgage rock with Keane. Anyway, I thought that this fish-out-of-water background would be a rich seam to mine but alas, we never got beyond the spectacle of him not really knowing what was going on. It all hinged on 3.15pm and Cameron's 'crossing the Rubicon' comments, a matter that McLoughlin appeared uniquely ill-equipped to deal with. First came evasion and then bluster, a development that was not lost on the ever-predatory Chris Bryant who swiftly moved in to badger him to death. That was it. He was done by half time and we have yet to see the man behind all the flapping. Maybe next time Patrick, maybe...

Neil Wallis looked a damn sight better than he did the night before...

I caught Newsnight on Wednesday and was presented with a picture of what can only be described as a broken man. There was Wallis, slumped and knackered, awaiting the inevitability of his fate while Paxo circled lazily, toying with him before gorging on what remained of his blackened soul. Yet fast-forward 24 hours and what have we got? A surprisingly chipper Neil Wallis who would very much like us to know that the press have this all under control. Yup, all that phone hacking and what-not, it was a bit sketchy, but hey, at least we're not MPs so don't you go worrying your sweet bippy. Nice try Neil, nice try...

I still love watching Chris Bryant...

Should I ever become unfeasibly rich, I would very much like to hire Chris Bryant for a year before purchasing several hundred square mile of tropical rainforest and releasing him in it with nothing more than a pair of Y-fronts. That sounds like the sort of treatment you'd reserve for your worst enemy but that couldn't be further from the truth. Why? Because there's something about Bryant that makes me believe he'd thrive in a Darwinian battle of annihilation and that he'd soon come to treat his year in my pay as a liberation of sorts. Maybe it's the way that those eyes are constantly scanning for weakness, maybe it's the way he relentlessly chases every point, maybe it's the way he views other panelists as if they were prey to be hunted, I'm not sure. Whatever it is though, it's very compelling and adds that much-needed whiff of instinctual brutality to the QT mix, all of which scores points in my book.

Jenko is Intentionally Difficult...

There are two types of people in this world, the Unintentionally Difficult and the Intentionally Difficult. The Unintentionally Difficult are the ones who slowly suck all the colour out of the world with their flaky-yet-plausible excuses, aversions to things you like and passive-aggressive fence-sitting. Basically, they're jerks who gum up the wheels of life with a mixture of good intentions and fear of conflict. Simon Jenkins though, well he's cut from a different cloth and it's an Intentionally Difficult cloth. Now, that sounds like a bad thing and sometimes it is - like when David Starkey picks a meaningless fight just so he can perform a panto swoon followed by a sustained bout of faux indignation – but in the case of Jenkins it's not. And why would that be? Because he's so assured of the veracity of whatever difficult viewpoint he's taking that you just kind of have to accept it and carry on. Sure, you can argue with him, you can try to point out the flaws in his argument but you won't win because Simon Jenkins cares not for your trifling concerns. No, all Jenko cares about is not agreeing wholeheartedly with anyone and that's actually not such a bad thing. Say what you will about the Intentionally Difficult, at least they add a slug of vodka to the lemonade of life.

For more of this visit questionabletime.com

Watch last night's episode of Question Time here.

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