Questionable Time: James Delingpole fails to impress, but that's no thanks to Zoe Williams

Plus: A friendly reminder from Alan Johnson that he still exists and a cowed post-shuffle Baroness Warsi has nothing on the pre-shuffle version

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Fact File
  • 5/10 Baroness Warsi: (Appears) Hush (ed)
  • 6/10 Alan Johnson: (Is the subject of a minor political) Crush (for me)
  • 4/10 James Delingpole: (Was in an awful) Rush
  • 6/10 Dom Joly: (Got dealt a straight) Flush
  • 6/10 Zoe Williams: Brush(ed off the cobwebs at the end of the show)
  • 5/10 The Crowd: (Fear) Thrush?

Good morning Lemmings and I imagine you have some questions about the above picture. Why, for example, is David Dimbleby shirtless? Well let me tell you, I have it on good authority that this is his usual off-screen attire and a common sight around Dimble Towers. What about the burning church? And the kitten in his hand? What's the deal with that? Ah, that's because the kitten set the church ablaze and Dimbers is merely conveying the perpetrator to the appropriate authorities. And the shark? Err, the shark's...Lost?

Alright... I confess. I have absolutely no idea what's going on in this picture but sometimes a man just needs to fire up his computer and place tenuously related visual elements against an apocalyptic background. If that is a crime then hang me. Anyway, enough of this, here's your precious Questionable Time.

Delingpole let me down...

Another week, another lingering sense of opportunities lost as a Great On Paper panelist turns out to be Not So Great On My Telly. Now, I'd better qualify 'Great On Paper' as I don't want to give the impression that the things he writes on paper are that great (they're all just a bit "Hey guys, it's not just my politics that are crazy. I'm ZANY as well"), but in terms of QT potential, this guy is solid gold.

Does he have a clutch of suitably outlandish views that could animate some of the audience's more febrile elements? Why, yes he does. An ability and willingness to wind up people just for the sake of it? Roger that. How about an unshakable belief in the veracity of his own claims and a tendency towards self promotion? That's a big 10-4, good buddy. This, combined with the fact the fact that he managed to enrage most of Twitter with some very ill advised comments just hours before the show bade well in my book. There would be blood and I intended to submerge myself in it.

Yet here I am, a scant hour after the event, conspicuously clean and unsullied by blood. How the hell did this happen? Well, in all honesty it's not entirely Delingpole's fault as his natural adversary, Zoe Williams, didn't really clock in until the final question, but the fact of the matter is that he was really nervous. And how do I know this? Because loath as I am to admit it, Delingpole and I share some similarities: We're both tall, we're both skinny and our anxiety is kinetic. This means that if we're bricking it, not only do our eyes start darting but our limbs start fidgeting and because of our gangly frames, this tell gets amplified in a cartoonish sort of way. That's not how I knew he was nervous, though. No, the real give away was that he tries to hide anxiety in exactly the same way that I do - by conscientiously attempting to lock his frame and spit out responses as fast as humanly possible in the hope that no one will notice.

So it was that despite the promise of unrestrained provocation I left last night's episode felling a little cheated. Sure, he touched base on some of his more out-there ideas (“Fracking, yah...”) but every time you thought he was going to get properly busy with the crazy, his body seized up while his mouth just wibbled. I don't know, maybe his earlier Twitter balls-up put the jibblies on him, but I must say, I'm a little disappointed. Delingpole has all the form to be a properly off-his-mash 5th panelist – almost like some sort of Reverso-Galloway - but what we got last night was just an overly twitchy blow-hard who was too distracted by his own jitters to foster any real conflict. Money back plz.

I never thought I'd say it but I feel a little sorry for Warsi....

You could say many things about the pre-reshuffle Warsi – overly headstrong, a little rash, prone to overplaying her hand – but at least she paid dividends in the entertainment sector and lent the show an air of unpredictability. The post-reshuffle Warsi though? Meh, I'm not so sure. She just seems a little muted, a little timid, a little too afraid of her own mouth to embark on those wild little hidings-to-nothing that made her so fun to watch in the past. Mind you, I have to admit that despite her rather transparent habit of hiding behind a garbled narrative (Rather than actually answer a question on Mali, why don't I just blurt out a rough chronology of events AT A MILLION MILES AN HOUR?), she didn't stick her foot in it once last night and I guess that has to be worth something. I believe five points is the going rate.

A quiet reminder from Alan Johnson...

...I'm still here. I've held one of the big offices of state, I'm strangely untainted by New Labour's less glorious episodes and I've still got that potent mix of humble origins and endearing self-deprecation. Just sayin' Mr Milband, just sayin'...

And of the others?

As I said earlier, Zoe Williams didn't really hit her stride until the end of the show but I think she can be forgiven in this respect, as it was an odd clutch of questions in areas that she doesn't particularly hold a candle for. However, when it did get on to her turf (Nick Clegg sending his kids to private school in this case) she came up with the goods and lo, the crowd did clap. Talking of clapping, the biggest winner on that front last night was Dom Joly who niftily maneuvered himself into the yawning gap left by a nonplussed Williams and a freaking out Delingpole. While I was disappointed that none of the claps were the direct result of either swan dives or oversized mobile phones, I can't really argue with the people of Lancaster. Well, I could but bitter experience has shown that picking fights with entire municipalities rarely ends my way.

For more of this, visit questionabletime.com

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