Questionable Time: Forgiveness for Michael Heseltine and is Peter Hitchens a Meta-Troll?

Plus: Vince Cable and the knowing look and Diane Abbott, could you please stop name-dropping your constituency?

Jack Hurley
Friday 22 February 2013 12:29
Questionable Time 22nd February 2013
Questionable Time 22nd February 2013

Good morning Lemmings and if you like your Question Time with an ecclesiastical twist then you're in luck as this week finds us huddled amongst the pews of St. Paul's Cathedral with our heads bowed solemnly, kneeling before the Altar of Dimbers. Not only that, but we've also got a bone-fide man of the cloth (Fraser), Methuselah himself (Heseltine) plus a fellow whose world view makes the Old Testament look fresh and edgy (Hitchens). Holy holiness Batman, it's Questionable Time!

I think I've finally forgiven Michael Heseltine...

It's funny the things that stay with you: My parents spilt up when I was 7 and did so at a time when the then Tory government made it their business to pour scorn upon single-parent families. Being 7 years old, I really didn't care too much for politics but the memory – that these guys were having a go at my mum when we weren't exactly having the best of times – has never left me and from that day on all Tories were the same in my book: Mean, nasty and certainly not the type you'd want to swap stickers or Spokey-Dokeys with.

So how does Heseltine figure in all this? Well, simply by virtue of being one of the more recognisable figures from that period, he became a de facto hate figure in my mind, the living embodiment of a government that neither cared for nor understood those it governed. Gradually though, I've begun to mellow and I'm now beginning to think maybe, just maybe, he wasn't all that bad.

I can now look back on that period with a bit of distance and much to my surprise, Heseltine comes out of it looking relatively OK-ish. True, he - like everyone else in the Thatcher/Major administrations – has plenty of 'Greed (and Privatising Everything) is Good' blood on his hands, but he had did have ear to the ground when it came to the plight of the ordinary. He's the one who can take the most credit for doing away with the Poll Tax and on matters such as immigration (as demonstrated last night), he was well ahead of the Tory curve. But that's half the story: The rest is what the passage of time has done to Heseltine himself.

Cast your mind back to his political heyday: Heseltine was quite a dangerous-looking character, both in his physicality (that 'Now just you wait a moment!' posturing, those semi-crazed eyes) and his behaviour (thrashing the Mace about springs about to mind).

Last night, however, instead of coming across as a bull-in-a-china-shop with something to prove, he seemed comfortable with his place in the world. He even managed to generate a convincing head of steam during a to-do with Hitchens over whether soldiers are stupid. The moment when his mobile went off was also genuinely endearing: There's just something about a bashful looking old man with an inappropriately activated iPhone that makes my heart melt.

Oh Hitchens, you're so hard to score...

The case for the prosecution: Peter Hitchens is either a misguided blowhard who boils current events down into a hard-to-shift crust of absolutes on the saucepan of life or a Level 99 Meta-Troll who thrives on self-generated controversy and has taken on all the characteristics of a philosophical retrovirus.

The case for the defence: That delivery! It's so deadpan! 'We're all going to hell in a hand cart. It's your fault. Now if you'll excuse me I have less trivial things to pursue'.

My jury's verdict: We're wondering if we can just give him mid-range marks based on a reason that was not presented in court and has no facts or evidence to support it either from the prosecution or the defence.

Hello stranger...

I'm glad Diane Abbott and I had a break. I've got nothing against her but there was a time when she was on so regularly that I worried she was going to have to list the QT studio as a second home. Anyway, she's returned and is peddling the same wares that she was before, mainly by blending the familiar with the righteous. By and large it works and despite the fact she overplayed her hand a little toward the end, I'll still happily lap it up.... Even if that means listening to her name-drop her constituency like 10 zillion times.

Nice try Vince...

I usually give Cable a hard time for his Knowing Look – that little glint in his eye that says 'Just you wait until I'm in charge, then we'll show them!'. It's a viable QT play in the short term but Vince has rinsed this little tactical flannel so hard I now need to see some substance. Initially, I thought he'd found some in his point-blank dismissal of IDS's Child Benefit proposals but when he went on to insist that missing the target for the 4G auction was actually a textbook rendition of Keynesian economics, I gave up. Back to the drawing board Vince...

I think I've found my kryptonite...

God I love a wonky clergyman! Despite being a contented agnostic, there's something about an outspoken and left leaning vicar that just slays me. Rowan Williams? Boss. John Sentamu? Yo-diggity. The latest addition to the canon? Giles Fraser.

For more of this visit

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments