Questionable Time: Chuka Umunna can dance with Will Smith, but is he the real deal?

Plus, a grudging respect for Francis Maude and why watching Leanne Wood on Question Time is the most fun you can have with your clothes on

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Fact File
  • 4/10 Chuka Umunna: :-/
  • 6/10 Francis Maude: :-I
  • 6/10 Leanne Wood: ಠ_ಠ
  • 7/10 Theo Paphitis: :-)
  • 5/10 Kirsty Williams: :-p
  • 6/10 The Crowd: =^_^=  ?
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Good morning Lemmings and let us summon our last ounce of gumption for we are nearly there: One more show after this and then QT's Winter Term is over. However, before we get all giddy with dreams of double-digit temperatures and gambolling lambs I'm afraid to say that The Cruellest Month (“Oh, you liked that hour of sunshine did you? How about I follow it up WITH SOME HORIZONTAL SNOW?!”) is not yet done with us and the grizzly business of last night's episode still requires dissection. So tuck in those thermals and double up on those socks Lemmings – we're going in.

What's wrong with this picture?

He's young. He's ridiculously good-looking. He can dance on stage to the theme from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air with Will Smith without looking like a totally prat, yet something just isn't quite right. You can usually count on something being not quite right with politicians, but in the case of Umunna I find it particularly galling because at this moment in time, I'm desperately looking for someone to believe in and that someone should be Umunna.

So where's he falling down? At first I thought that it might be a bad case of Professional Politicianism but having poked around a bit I'm not convinced: His back story, while not exactly the Bog Standard Bloke yarn that we all seem to crave, is different and interesting enough to give him a residual veneer. No, what's killing the feeling for me is that he still hasn't learnt when to let go.

Take the second question for example, the question that, by rights, he should have skinned the most cats on. It was about growth and thanks to Maude choosing to dig in rather go on the offensive, he had an open field. In QT terms this is a doozy as while you'll always have the Previous Labour Government Flank to worry about, the weak point in the Blue Team's lines (the We've Totally Stacked The Economy Gap) is wide open.

Instead, what we got was the horrifying spectacle of a politician trying to talk in a rational manner to an electorate he believed to be rational creatures. A big mistake. While I sympathise with his inclination to reason, it won't do him much good in the long run. We're not in the market for 'facts' and 'evidence'. What we want is jabbing fingers, cocks that are sure and jibs that are cut. We want blood that we can spread on the bread that you so kindly provided along with the circus.

Instead of charging hell-for-leather at the Tory trenches Umunna got thrown totally off-balance by Leanne Wood's assertion that Darling would have cut more than Thatcher. A QT-pro would have seen this for what it was – an interdiction tactic to stall an offensive – and powered on regardless but Ummuna went into a defensive posture and fell back on technicalities. Well, that was it, I'm afraid. I zoned out and what could have been a textbook rendition of a QT Blitzkrieg Done Right ended up bogged down in the Quagmire of Factuality.

I'm developing a grudging respect for Maude...

...because he's a wily sort who knows how to play the game. Now, I realise that's a fairly ludicrous statement to make about a man who single-handedly managed to instigate a highly flammable round of panic buying, but on QT at least, he's a steady pair of hands.

Maude's strength is that he knows when he's in a losing fight and isn't afraid to seek more favourable terrain, even if that means ceding territory. Again, it was the growth question that really brought this out. His response was darting eyes, a thin skirmish line of accusations and a whole lot of backing away slowly. None of that sounds particularly gallant or glorious, because it wasn't: The Tories are in a bind when it comes to the economy and no amount of chest thumping is going to change that. However, he did stop a tactical retreat turning into a rout and by the end of the show obviously felt secure enough to venture into no man's land and seize a few prisoners. Considering my usual aversion to Big Vision Tories, that's not bad going.

Leanne Wood is really rather fun...

...Fun in the same way it is to watch the playground misfit unsettle their more popular peers just by existing. In my day this was achieved via the means of West German army jackets (that's right kids, WEST Germany... Now get off my lawn!), Clipper lighters on shoelace necklaces, lurking and band t-shirts with swear words that showed through your school shirt. Wood, however, takes a more robust approach and spent most of the show picking fights in a wonderfully deadpan manner whilst stopping only to shoot the odd mucky look. Are my horizons broadened by this wanton display of stick-in-muddery? Not really. Was it entertaining to watch? Why yes, I believe it was.

And the other two?

Props to Paphitis, he had a great show. It's really easy for the Entrepreneur Panelist to drown themselves in a puddle of laissez-faire sermons but he kept it mostly grounded whilst applying just the right level of Couldn't Give A Toss. As for QT noob Kirsty Williams, well her bright eyes and bushy tail were a forgivable encumbrance but she does show a certain level of resilience. A little more breaking on the Wheel of Dimbleby and she may be in with a shot.

For more of this visit questionabletime.com

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