Questionable Time: Dimbleby ventures north of the border to tackle Scottish independence

Something about Nicola Sturgeon's bearing just really reminds me of a generic 6th-former from a late-80's run of Grange Hill.

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Fact File
  • 5/10 Ruth Davidson
  • 5/10 Margaret Curran
  • 5/10 Nicola Sturgeon
  • 6/10 Mark Serwotka
  • 5/10 Alan Cochrane
  • 8/10 The Crowd

Good morning Lemmings and if I'm not mistaken we appear to be in Scotland. For some of you this will be a Good Thing (I suspect that this will be the case if you happen to be Scottish) but from my point of view, this is less of a Good Thing and in actual fact may even qualify as a Bad Thing. Now, before a be-kilted rabble come crashing through my door, hellbent on upholding the honour of their proud nation let me state categorically that I have no problem with Scotland or the Scottish. There is no beef of any import between us and I see no obstacle to our continued co-existence. I do, however, have a problem when Question Time is in Scotland. Why? Because I don't have a clue who anyone is, what they're on about or why I should really care one way or another. Okay, so I guess there would be some sort of tangible effect on my life should the Scots take the nuclear option and divorce themselves from the Union, but outside of that? Nah. They could be sending wee bairns down haggis mines or pouring Irn Bru into the water supply for all I care... I won't be losing any sleep. Having said that though, last night's show did have one potential saving grace for me: It was coming from Easterhouse, a particularly hard corner of a very hard city. Would this be enough to offset my ignorance-induced disinterest?

The first question was the most cruel of false reprieves...

Let's face it, we all knew this episode was going to be about the independence referendum and as I explained above, this isn't the sort of thing that butters my current affairs parsnips. With this in mind, imagine my delight when the first question was not concerned with some exclusively Caledonian affair but was actually about the rapidly unfolding 'Combi-Shambles'. Yes! I was saved! This was about Westminster! This was about stuff that has a vague relevance to my life! Unfortunately, this fleeting sense of triumph was dealt a mortal blow when it dawned on me that I have no idea what exactly is going on with this latest governmental face-plant other than assorted ministers seem to be running around with their hair on fire and there's a faint whiff of panic wafting ominously from Downing Street.

Luckily it appears that I am not alone in this predicament and pretty much everyone on the panel decided that it was probably safer to turn some rhetorical tricks instead of actually trying to make sense of the unfolding chaos. In practice, this took the form of the three political panelist (Deputy First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party Ruth Davidson and Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran) assembling themselves into a circular firing squad, counting to three and shooting each other in the back of the head whilst Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the PCS trade union called for a plague on all their houses. Has this left me any the wiser about just what in criminy is going on with our nation's energy policy? No. Was it fun watch? Yes, it was rather...

Scottish politicians are a tough bunch...

Ok, so the accent helps but I think it's also fair to say that both Margaret Curran and Ruth Davidson have pretty thick hides. For Davidson, this partly comes with the territory: Being a Tory in Scotland is not noted among the most relaxing of vocations and I'm sure she's pretty used to being verbally bashed about on a daily basis simply because she exists. However, what Davidson doesn't do is let it get to her and, I must admit, that whether I agree with her or not, she does remain very steady under fire. Curran also cops a lot of flak (thanks to Labour largely having taken Scotland for granted) but her talent is that she endures. Sure, she talks too fast when her feathers are ruffled and the fact that she's played this game so long has led to a certain level of attrition, but Curran's still just about in the game and played a reasonably solid hand last night.

The interesting one is Nicola Sturgeon. Now, she does a very good initial line in the forthright, storming into questions with lashings of 'Dear Sir, imagine my concern...' before cobbling together some scheme whereby Scotland has cakes for both storage and immediate consumption. All of this is fine and dandy, particular if the going's good but she does have one glaring vulnerability: She rattles easily. It happened a few times last night. Sturgeon would open with a broadside about how Labour let everyone down, the Tories - well, they're just Tories – and wouldn't it all be much better if we simply had our own country to mess about with? However, the problems begin when people start pressing for detail. You can see a little shudder develop and her eyes starting darting from side-to-side, sizing up the potential exits. Unfortunately, these exits have a nasty habit of being obstructed by irksome things such as 'facts' and 'realities' and this tends to lead her to double down on the offensive, a risky tactic made riskier by the fact that Sturgeon's never quite as good on the second pass. That's not to say I don't think that she's capable, because she clearly is. It's just that she can't quite keep her fear under wraps and once you spot it, it's hard to ignore. That, and something about her bearing just really reminds me of a generic 6th-former from a late-80's run of Grange Hill.

What about the other guys?

Last time Mark Serwotka was on, I was pretty mean to him. Mainly because he came across as rather smug. Luckily for him, this wasn't the case last night as he had little time to display any emotion other than pure scorn for both the Tories and Labour, a move which paid off handsomely with the crowd. Actually, it was quite interesting to watch as while he's never been shy of criticising the Red Team, he was really out for them last night. I'm guessing that part of this was playing to the gallery (which seemed to work splendidly) but the really telling thing was how he Goldilocksed the SNP, making sure the signals he was sending were neither too hot nor too cold. If I was in the Red Team, I think I'd be keeping a very close eye on that.

And what of Alan Cochrane? We'll I've never come across him before but I will say this: His beard and voice match perfectly. He didn't really get that much of a look in and when he did it was the sort of thing you'd expect from the Scottish editor of The Telegraph but I've got to say, that beard-voice combo really did it for me.

 

Is 'Crazy Levels of Crowd Participation' a compulsory part of the Scottish Curriculum or is Easterhouse just a bit special?

As expected, I had very little idea what was going on last night. Ok, so the drugs question was kind of interesting but it didn't really bring anything new to the table and was simply a repeat of the merry little dance that Question Time periodically engages in (crowd + entire world conclude War on Drugs has failed. Politicians conclude that they can't say its failed because they'll get the blame for its failure). However, despite my complete inability to fathom anything, I must admit I actually really enjoyed this episode and the lion's share of the credit for this should go to the crowd. Why? Because they were feisty as hell. They booed, they cheered, they booed and cheered at the same time. Quite what they were booing and cheering about, I honestly couldn't tell you, but the fact that they did was enough to keep my head in the game. So points for sore palms and horse throats and extra points for the following gentlemen: Mr 'A Lot Of My Friends Smoke Cannabis” (or as I like to call him, Mr 'My Employers Might Be Watching This') and Mr 'Because Of The Type Of People Who Frequent This Area'. Sir, you're bravery is beyond question... Your wisdom? Not so much.

The Scores...

Sturgeon: 5/10

Flighty

Curran: 5/10

Fighty

Davidson: 5/10

Bitey

Serwotka: 6/10

Incitey

Cochrane: 5/10

Alrighty

The Crowd: 8/10

(Can't decide if they want to remain a part of) Blighty

 

For more of this, please visit questionabletime.com

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