Questionable Time in Corby: Chris Grayling, Nigel Farage and not a trouser press in sight

What's with all these 5th panelists and their one-track minds? Why don't they just stay in and watch some bad TV once in a while?

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Fact File
  • 5/10 Harriet Harman: (Has been on Question Time since I was about) Seventeen
  • 5/10 Chris Grayling: (looks a little like a baked) Bean
  • 3/10 Tessa Munt: (Could use a little) Caffeine
  • 6/10 Nigel Farage: (Should never be allowed near) Gasoline
  • 4/10 Moray MacLennan: (Probably talks about work in the) Canteen
  • 6/10 The Crowd: (Regress towards the) Mean?

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to Corby, a town, which, as I recently discovered, has absolutely nothing to do with trouser presses, but does harbour an enormous number of Scottish people. Who knew? Anyway, the other big thing about Corby is that it's a classic bellweather constituency that happens to be holding a Mensch-induced by-election. Now, conventional QT wisdom would suggest that this would make for a solid show, one riven with partisan bile and political rowdiness but somehow that just didn't happen last night. Here's why:

Chris Grayling was surprisingly tolerable...

He's been an irksome thing of late, has Grayling. It's not the fact that he does the whole puff-chested, 'Tuff On Crims' thing – I expect that from Tory Justice Ministers who aren't Ken Clarke – it's because he seems to enjoy it so much. However, he really didn't wind me up that much last night and that's mainly because the questions were a bit duff. With the exception of the obligatory Who Will Win The By-Election question (in which he put in a reasonable effort at damage control), the rest of them concerned matters where there isn't a huge gulf between the parties. Sure, minor blows were traded on matters pertaining to paedophiles, Abu Hamza and Israel but there was no great set-piece where he had the opportunity to really wind me up. That's a problem because I need a baddy in my QT line-up just like I need 'Ride of the Valkyries' as my alarm clock tone: I don't particularly like either Wagner or waking up, but the combination has an air of drama. Grayling was my best shot for a baddy last night and on that front he failed. However, I suppose I can take solace in the fact that he appeared a little slippery when questioned about why he didn't frequent Starbucks. “I don't like coffee” came the just-too-quick response. Slippery. Like his head.

I almost ended up making Harriet Harman a cup of tea...

There are some constants in this world like cycle of life and death, the turning of the seasons and automatically flicking over the channel whenever you hear The One Show theme. Harriet Harman appearing on QT is one of those constants and it's now so routine that when I went to the fridge for another beer I caught myself saying “Can I get you anything Harriet?” out loud. So yes, this was another problem as every time she started talking I just sort of phased out and nodded along politely, like you do when a friend tells you a long and involved story that you've heard a million times before. It's not that it's a bad story, nor can I find particular fault with her recounting of it, but seriously Harriet, we need to spice things up a little. How about going on I'm a Celeb? At least it'd give Dimbers another excuse to talk about “eating testicles”.

I didn't feel fully Faraged by the end of play...

Here he is, my forbidden fruit, my furtive fumble in the dark, my sordid little crush. Yes, Nigel's back for those who are not aware, I have all the time in the world for the UKIP leader. It's not his politics – I find them to be little more than drunken scrawlings on the political toilet wall – it's the fact that he seems never more than two steps away from slipping on a banana skin that he himself just dropped. With this in mind, I can't help feeling a little short-changed by last night's show. Fair enough, he did come across as quite potty when he started yelling “THAT'S HOW IT WORKS” as he desperately tried to frame Europe as the source of all tax avoidance but he could have gone so much further. In fact, my dream scenario was that he'd get so giddy about UKIP's frighteningly good prospects in the Corby by-election that he'd prematurely call the whole deal an outright win for the Red, White and Blue Team before spending the next couple of years living down endless VT footage of him erroneously bellowing 'IT STARTED HERE, IN CORBY!'. Alas, it was not to be and while he was quite mad, he could have been madder. Dammit UKIP, you've really got to stop with all this We Might Actually End Up Being Something Resembling An Actual Political Party business. It's getting scary.

Tessa Munt has a way to go...

I usually give out good marks for talking slowly as it makes a nice change from the usual frenetic babbling, whilst also fostering a feeling of solidity and trustworthiness. Unfortunately, Tessa Munt took the whole slow talking thing just a little too far and found herself deep within Playing For Time territory. The paedophile question was particularly instructive: She embarked on what looked like a nice little warm-up about how she'd been talking to some lad about something or other and there was a moment where she could have segued seamlessly into an actual point... Except she didn't. Instead, she just kept going and going, eventually ending up exploring all the permutations of how children and adults could do violence to one another. The feeling I was left with was 'you don't really have a point, do you?'. Still, great name. Munt. Muuuuuuuuunt.

Moray MacLennan could use a hobby...

What's with all the 5th panelists they trawl on from the world of business, finance and, in this case, advertising? They all seem so consumed by the game they're in that I want to grab them by the lapels and yell “WHY NOT JUST STAY IN AND WATCH CRAP TV ONCE IN A WHILE?!?!” Alright, MacLennan does have a sick note in this department, as the subjects of the corporate tax question happened to be his clients (Google and Amazon) but still, when he started going about 'value crystalising' and 'the customer experience' I honestly thought he was going to whip out a PowerPoint presentation and talk us through some focus group findings. Except that he's the sort of jagged looking advertising guy who wouldn't use Power Point. He'd use whatever the Apple version is. iDon'tTheseGraphsLookEdgy or something.

For more of this visit questionabletime.com.

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