Questionable Time: If the Welsh want X Factor's Chris Maloney, they can have him

Burnham and Maude make an awkwardly ambitious double act, Tim Farron's projectile trustworthiness and that odd fish Lionel Barber

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Fact File
  • 6.5/10 Francis Maude: Just (about beat Burnham)
  • 7/10 Tim Farron: (Is a picture of) Trust(worthiness)
  • 6/10 Leanne Wood: (Is very) Robust
  • 5/10 Lionel Barber: Must (stop for a few seconds on the middle of every sentence)
  • 6/10 The Crowd: (Displayed much) Gust(o)

Good morning Lemmings and rejoice, for we have a good episode on our hands – so good in fact that I'll accept it as a partial apology for Liverpool's behaviour of late. And what behaviour would that be? Well, a) they foisted The X-Factor's Christopher Maloney upon us and b) if my suspicions are correct they then engineered a rolling-foist by voting to keep him in the show every week hence. Seriously Liverpool, you've made your point. You've had your pound of flesh. Now please, can we stop this madness? Anyway, enough of this and let's do some Question Timing...

Burnham and Maude were a great pairing...

I was a bit nonplussed when I heard that Francis Maude was going to be on as he's one of those figures who, despite being around forever, just seems to flit in and out of the picture, never staying still long enough for me to really pin him down. Similarly, Burnham drew a vague 'meh' from me as while he's a very proficient QT-er who does a good 'local lad come good', he's so constantly 'on-message' that I can never really see past the bluster (or, for that matter, those shimmering, dazzling eyelashes of his. 'Fair to middling' was the best I hoped for. As it happens, these two turned out to be an inspired choice and we got a battle of wits that to'd and fro'd satisfyingly throughout the evening.

The key is that both protagonists are very ambitious but in different ways. Maude, with his hawk-like features and vulture-esque stoop, has the look of a Man Who Knows Too Much (although not about the safe storage of fuel ) while Burnham is a classic Set Piecer, the sort who hammers rhetorical points mercilessly, whilst always making sure he ends with a crescendo. Both can smell the other's ambition and both can't help but be vexed by it.

To start with, the Set Piecer strategy seemed to be a nose ahead and Maude spent both the health and economy questions fighting a rearguard action with only limited success. However, he regained his balance during the Leveson question and did so just at the point when Burnham began to falter. It went like this: Maude got the first shot and did a pretty reasonable Next Stop Zimbabwe take on press freedom that garnered a fair few claps. Burnham though, well he fluffed his opening and had to resort to stealing Tim Farron's answer almost word-for-word. As it turns out, the Set Piecer in him managed to blag it and parity was restored although not for very long. Out of nowhere, Maude suddenly turned to Burnham and sincerely thanked him for his part in uncovering the truth about the Hillsborough tragedy. That move was nothing short of inspired; not only did it earn Maude a metric tonne of applause, it left Burnham with nowhere to go. The Well Timed Compliment: It's the napalm of QT.

So then Mr. Farron, we meet again...

Following some extensive skullduggery, I was lucky enough to find myself in the crowd for the Leeds edition of Question Time that ran earlier this year. It was a pretty good show - one in which I thought that George Galloway was actually going to lamp David Aaronovitch – but the real revelation was Tim Farron. I automatically assume that politicians are up to something sketchy unless they can prove otherwise yet the moment Farron caught my eye, I remember thinking 'Oh my god, I implicitly trust this guy'. True, I was high as a kite on adrenaline after asking a question and the self-inflicted dehydration didn't help (I was terrified of needing a wee) but there was something about Farron that overruled my default cynicism. I rapidly developed an alarming political crush, a crush that remains in tact after last night's episode.

Tim Farron's secret – other than his projectile trustworthiness - is that he appears to live in a world where 2010 never happened. That whole coalition business? Nah, you dreamed it. Never happened. The Lib Dems are still in opposition, the Tories are still caddish yahoos and Social Democracy is still very much on the Yellow Team's agenda. Sure, he made the odd token defence of Blue Team/Yellow Team collaboration but it was never more than a routine patrol conducted without vigour and by the end of the show, I was happily set adrift on memory bliss. Ah, the pre-2010 world! A place where Lib Dems stopped short of breaking their knuckles when wringing their hands...

The Welsh appear to have quietly annexed Liverpool...

Alright, I'm a little confused here. Why exactly was Leanne Wood on last night? This isn't a dig at Wood herself, who I happen to rate quite highly, partly because I like her viewpoint, but mainly on account of her nonchalant delivery. Honestly, there could be someone running at her full-tilt brandishing an axe and she'd just quietly reel off a list of reasons why they shouldn't, until they eventually stopped dead in their tracks, perplexed by this barrage of dry reason. No, the reason I ask is that we were in Swansea last week and if you ask me, that sounds like a pretty appropriate venue for the leader of the Welsh nationalists. Liverpool though? Not so much...Unless of course we've somehow hoodwinked the Welsh into taking Maloney off our hands in which case I whole heartedly endorse this impromptu rearranging of borders.

Lionel Barber is an odd fish...

Hmm...Don't know what to make of this one. On the one hand, he didn't say anything massively stupid but the way his speech halts in the middle of every sentence is a little disconcerting, as was his bungled joke at the start of the Leveson question (it was memorable only for the uncomfortable parade of tumbleweed that followed). No, there's something about this guy that doesn't add up and I found watching him to be like using an elderly relatives computer: On paper, it should be a great machine but a combination of rashly installed toolbars, screaming demands from paid-for anti-virus software and the fact that the toolbar is now inexplicably at the top of the desktop just make it all a little fraught. I suggest we start with defragging but progress to a full format if that doesn't get us anywhere.

For more of this visit questionabletime.com

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