Thursday, 10 May 2012

A guide to appearing on Question Time

This satire of QT was in the Yorker May 2012

About to appear on QT? Worried, nervous, and scared of the baying hordes of democracy mocking you're every word? Not sure how to respond to Dimbelby? Fear no more, this guide will explain exactly how to survive the most contrived and tired formate for a political debate show on TV, so long as you follow these simple rules;

-The 'sit back' manoeuvre. Any question or retort on QT can be answered using this method of delivery. Lean forward when speaking, point and raise your arms at the peak of the answer and then sit back to finish. Regardless of what is said, sheer fear of awkwardness will lead many members to clap even the most bland, meaningless answers. Take this example from one of the great doyens in this field, Yvette Cooper;
"We need to stand up for them, we didn’t do enough to stand up for them in Bradford at that particular election but we will do so and are doing so at the moment across the country."

By using this technique she has managed to get anyway with saying absolutely nothing. She has masterfully spoken a sentence devoid of all meaning, a candidate for the most vacuous statement of the 3rd millennium, on any sane show this would be pointed out and she would sent to fight the rancor. Yet still she gets clapped by simply sitting back at the end. For some inexpiable reason sitting back on the magical QT chairs generates applause, no matter how spurious the response. Vaguely democratic noises like “stand up for them” will always succeed.

-Quote Churchill, always quote him, all the time. Because Churchill is God, Allah, Vishnu, Zeus and Flying Spaghetti Monster, rolled into one. Never forget that. In fact quote him regardless of context. Make up quotes- “As we all know Churchill liked to say “quantitative easing is wrong”, quote casual phrases; “as Churchill once said 'I disagree'”, “in the words of Churchill 'no'”. Just make sure that you appear to be to somehow be related to him. No scrap that, actually be Churchill, dress like him, talk like him, smoke and drink like him (probably see your doctor first) but above all remember Coogan's law; YOU+CHURCHILL=GOOD.

-Be funny. It is vital that in a serious panel show that you must appear funny at all times. This is best achieved by joking with Dimbelby. However it is a scientific fact that the only possible joke that can be made with him is when he mentions twitter at the start of the show; “do you even know what trending is David?” Although this is done EVERY DAMN TIME it never ceases to be funny because mildly being ageist and accusing all elderly people of technophobia is infinitely hilarious to the extent that it defies the fundamental principles of chronology. Alternatively you can use the famous Farage tactic of laughing excessively at any pro-UKIP (or whomever you support) joke from the crowd.

-Assume that the audience is full of complete idiots with no understanding of basic political notions and a desperation to make a certain point or case regardless of context. Roughly every audience will have the following members;

-Random royalist. “I’m very much in favour of having a royal yacht and very uneasy of private naff is that, poor queen” (19/01/2012). This is easily defeated by pointing out the obvious fact that anyone who has sympathy for an unelected monarch who lives a life of luxury off millions of tax pounds and who is still technically capable of upending British democracy, on the grounds that her free mega-yacht might be funded partly by the private sector, should be immediately executed for crimes against every logical notion of justice ever conceived.

-The 'lets clap at everything' gang. 26/04/12- Farage “We need cuts and deregulation” (Mass applause). Audience member “I support TUSC, we need to stop cuts now!” (Mass Applause). As you can see QT has evolved beyond logic. It is apparently possible for the audience to support two opposing positions at once without any hint of irony or confusion. Use this to your advantage. Do not fear extolling views completely the opposite to those just applauded. Someone wants us to get rid of trident? Demand we nuke France! Another gets applause for praising democracy? Demand a Platonic state ruled by philosopher kings! In QT the extent of applause is directly proportional to the illogical nature of what was said.

-And a bunch of baby-faced young libertarians in suits who've just fapped off to their first Milton Friedman video. “You know people should really leave the innocent bankers alone...” (03/05/2012) The advantage here is that only the 0.0000000001% of the population who find libertarian economics sexually arousing and for whom the “invisible hand” is a form of hands-free masturbation, will ever agree with these sentiments.

Generally these rules if followed will at least help you survive a QT appearance. However, the big potential slip up is the wild-card panel member. This person is apparently meant to represent “civil society” but this is used to justify putting anyone and everyone on. The latter part of this guide will deal with how to tackle these modern Ciceros.

-Galloway. Easily defeated by making unsubstantiated links to “Arab dicktators”. It does not matter whether these are true or whether you are committing a gross act of hypocrisy as a golden rule of QT is that any negative point will always be lapped up by the crowd because “all politicians is liars, innit?” Unless of course, like David Aaronvitch, you are a former communist, in which case it means someone is actually more left wing than Galloway and the universe collapses under the weight of such a paradox.

-The Taxpayer's alliance (TPA). By calling itself the TPA these guys can claim to know exactly what taxpayers want and what they are thinking on every issue. No doubt they have chips in all our brains or something, how else would they know what everyone wants and how it just happens to be the interests of their organisation's tax-dodging owners. Also, their frequent appearances must be due to some forgotten referendum where they won a massive majority of everyone declaring that they should represent our views on every issue. I mean why else would they be on every other week? Only by doing exactly what these infallible arbiters of public opinion want you to, do you, the humble elected politician, have a chance of survival. In fact apply the Dacre formula here; Unelected, obnoxious, unrepresentative right wing organisation funded by millionaires=public opinion.

-Julie Meyer. Although only appearing once on QT (16/02/2012) Julie Meyer was easily the best panel member ever. In what, for the purposes of my sanity and general faith in humanity, must have been a brilliant satire, this random US businesswomen was deemed acceptable as the representative of British civil society. Constantly answering questions with words like “Digitisation! Entrepreneurship!”, she pulled off the greatest coup in QT history, doing what Cooper and Miliband could only dream of, by not even trying to answer the question. When asked her views on police commissioners she simply said “I don’t know much about this issue”. That's it. Having been asked to go on a UK political debate show where we would hope that one would prepare for by researching current affairs, she simply refused to answer the question. Avoid her at all costs. Until then I did not think it would be possible to actually defeat Question Time itself....

With this guide you should now be well on your way to upholding the illusion of British democracy via its most popular televisual outlet. Never again shall you fear the cries of Galloway or the sneers of the TPA. Never again shall you forget not to sit back in your chair or fail to quote Churchill. But above all remember this; the more implausible your answer sounds, the less like it seems you've answered the question, the more likely it is you will get applause.