Questionable Time: Will Self and Peter Hitchens keep each other honest

In the last QT before Christmas, we spare a thought for Justine Greening, sandwiched between two of the most antagonistic gum-flappers this country has ever produced

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The Independent Online

Good morning Lemmings and can you find it in yourselves for one last push? One last hellish dash down the Trail of Current Affairs Tears? One last desperate grapple with the monster that is Question Time before Christmas comes and snatches it all away? Sure you can. Come Lemmings, let us get Bristol-ed...

Something's not sitting right with me when it comes to Greening and Creasy...

I shouldn't like Justine Greening. As a beardy, bleeding-hearty type, the Tory frontbench isn't my usual go-to place for spiritual companionship – particularly Tory transport ministers who get unceremoniously thrown under buses for scuzzing up rail franchises – but Justine Greening tends to get a free pass with me. Why? Because she's Grudgingly Diligent. Leaving the small matter of the West Coast mainline fiasco aside, I always got the impression that Greening would turn up to work on time, come what may, clock in even if she was on death's door and - despite some minor passive aggressiveness – would take on whatever futile endeavour was thrown her way, because that's what the Grudgingly Diligent do. It's not glamorous, it's not sexy but the world needs people like that - even if they happen to be a bit rubbish at what they're supposed to be doing.

Anyway, I bring this up because I felt quite sorry for Greening last night. 2012 hasn't exactly ended in triumph for her yet here she was, having to go through the motions of defending a party at war with itself whilst simultaneously being sandwiched between two of the most antagonistic gum-flappers this country has ever produced. In short, she couldn't win, she didn't win but at least she didn't make matters any worse.

By contrast, Stella Creasy is someone I should like. As a beardy, bleeding-hearty type, campaigning backbenchers who rightly call shenanigans on the likes of Wonga should be right up my street yet there's something that just doesn't lick my stamp when it comes to Creasy. In her defence, this was – on paper – a solid outing and much more assured than her slightly wobbly maiden appearance earlier this year. However, there's just something a little of the Too Good To Be True about her, a few too many references to food banks she works in and the way she says 'compassion' in bold type. I'm not doubting her sincerity, it's just that I'm rather a fan of human frailty and I can't quite peg where Creasy's frailty is yet. Maybe it's payday loans. I bet she's got hundreds of the buggers on the go...

Will Self and Peter Hitchens keep each other honest...

There are two Will Selfs: One is the louche, brainy one with the sythe-like tongue who annihilates his foes with words such as “ontological” while the other is the sullen, mean one who tries to make people look stupid. Similarly, there are two Peter Hitchens: The strident hammer of admittedly batty conservatism who gives no quarter and the bored, grumpy one who thinks he's above it all. As luck would have it, we got the first Will Self last night and although we didn't quite get the first Hitchens, at least we didn't get too much of the second one.

And how did this all happen? Well, the brutal truth of the matter is that Self got to Hitchens, sometimes wankily (“Take a chill pill, Peter!”), but mainly with skulking malevolence and by making sure that he never had the space to gain the initiative. Eventually Hitchens spat the dummy out and by the end of the show he was deep into I'm Not Going To Play Your Silly Bloody Games territory, a move that served only to reinforce the feeling that he'd been bested. I will give Hitchens this though: His accusation that the left is composed of “fat, bourgeoise, bohemians” who are only in it for the “cheap mayonnaise” certainly does raise some interesting question about how reasonable priced condiments intersect with communism.

Lord Bilimoria has a lovely name...

Lord Bilimoria...What I wouldn't give to be the Lord of Bilimoria. Alright, so I don't know where Bilimoria is or even if it is a 'where' (more likely a 'who' or 'what' I suspect), but you can't blame a guy for wanting to rule over a possibly fictitious land with an enchanting name can you? Anyway, Lord Bilimoria:

1. He seems pretty affable.

2. He totally broke the record for how many times you can say “I love this country” in one hour (although he didn't – it should be noted – break the record for how many times you can say 'Britain' in one sentence. That goes to the audience member who declared that “the people in Britain make Britain Britain”).

3. He pulled off some jaunty footwork when Will Self pointed out that he got a peerage “for flogging beer”. “Fantastic beer!” came his sharp-as-a-tack response. It got him 74.6 per cent off the hook.

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