Angus Take House

Worst Take of the Week: Theresa May's a Ravenclaw vs Dimbleby's Last Stand

Dimbleby was seen off from his final 'Question Time' in a truly spectacular way.

by Angus Harrison
14 December 2018, 12:57pm

Welcome to Angus Take House – a weekly column in which I pit two of the wildest takes the world's great thinkers have rustled up against each other. This is your one-stop shop for the meatiest verdicts and saltiest angles on the world's happenings. Go and grab a napkin – these juicy hot takes are fresh from the griddle.

TAKE #1:

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What’s the story? This week Theresa May was faced with a motion of no confidence in her leadership.
Reasonable Take: I have no confidence in Theresa May, but I have even less confidence in the people who have no confidence in her.
Bertie Bott's Every Flavoured Yas Queens: I might not like her politics, but you HAVE to respect her. Now: whose name will emerge from the Goblet of Fire next?!

This week has not gone well for Theresa May. In case you haven’t heard about it every day for your whole life, she’s spent the last few weeks preparing for a meaningful vote on her proposed Brexit withdrawal agreement, which was supposed to take place on Tuesday. Only, when it became clear the agreement was on course to get less votes than Noel Edmonds in cargo shorts, she pulled it, pissing everyone off. Then, as if things couldn’t get worse, enough backbenchers in the Conservative party declared they had no confidence in her leadership to trigger a vote, which she won by a less-than-convincing margin. TL;DR: she’s still Prime Minister but nobody really knows how or why.

Throughout the week many people have expressed pity for May’s situation. Others have gone further, saying they admire her sense of duty in the face of a seemingly impossible challenge. This is a very silly take. This is a problem of her own making: her decision to pull parliament’s vote on the agreement has only served to elongate an already impossible mess. (Never mind that her anti-immigrant policy-making over the past decade set the national mood music in the lead up to the referendum, as Gary Younge has pointed out for the Guardian.)

Only… you know what’s worse than a Pity Theresa May take? The Hogwarts edition. Writing for the i, Daisy Wyatt reckons that "in an era where political buffoonery reigns, her measured approach has been refreshing". She concludes: "In her dogged pursuit of the task in hand, she has shown great tenacity, dedication and courage. This head girl has been more Gryffindor than Ravenclaw. And now we await to see whether a Slytherin will replace her." And all over Twitter the words "Read Another Book" rang out like a chorus of angels.

The popularity of Harry Potter as a tool of political analysis exploded in 2016. The Brexit vote, the election of Trump and the rise of populism across Europe saw many a grown adults resort to describing Steve Bannon as a Boggart, or comparing the fall of Aleppo to the Battle of Hogwarts. Look, I am of age. I read the books – dare I say it, I may have read a few of them more than once back in the day – but there’s got to reach a point when you say: this is no longer a productive way for me, an adult, to understand the world. When your only way of denouncing the far-right is to call them Squibs, the time has come to search for new forms of resistance.

What this i piece really taps into, though, is how closely the Harry Potter crowd cling to the establishment. The magical world is never used to argue for radical new futures, only the soft comfort of the present. JK Rowling herself even stepped in when too many people compared Corbyn to Dumbledore. If the most magical realm your imagination can discover is a support of Theresa May on account of her grit, then stop the Hogwarts Express… I want to get off!

TAKE #2:

What’s the story? David Dimbleby’s final ever Question Time.
Reasonable Take: A chance to reflect on the wildest hotbed of terrible takes on the telly!
Questiondellas: Dimbleby didn’t retire for this!

Last night ushered in the end of an era for UK hot takes. After 25 years peering over a pair of reading glasses at flustered middle-Englanders with very important opinions on things, Dimbleby is hanging up the boom mic and heading for "pastures new". At the end of the show he thanked his crew and audience, only to receive a heartwarming standing ovation from the audience and this week’s panelists, who included David Davis, Angela Rayner, Caroline Lucas and Jo Brand.

Now, it wouldn’t be Question Time without an outlandish "Brexit means Brexit" take, and last night was no disappointment. In fact, as if in tribute to D Dimble-B's last stand, this might be the greatest Question Time audience question ever. Anyway, a brief look at the actual hot take, which is great:

As he builds the sentence closer to his final point, you’re thinking… he can’t be? He’s not going to say "did they die for nothing", is he? Then he does, he absolutely does! There’s a moment of silence after he stops talking, his words lying there, pregnant, like a lobbed grenade. Then the first bemused "no" breaks and chaos reigns. There’s isn’t much to be gained from deconstructing this one. In fact, it would suck all of the poetry out of it. Of course it’s completely untethered from reality, but actually, with the People’s Vote mob on the march, it’s sort of nice to know there are still honest to God, poppy on the sleeve, one World Cup and two World Wars-Brexiteers out there.

This take speaks to everything that’s been terrible about Question Time over the years. What’s the question here? The question is: would a second referendum on EU membership mean the British soldiers who died in WWI and II died for nothing? That is to say, it’s not a question. It’s a statement of ossified political leaning articulated in the shape of a question. He wants his moment under the mic, the studio lights toasting his face as Dimbleby’s finger prods in his direction. He doesn’t want an answer, because it’s not a question. It’s a waving wanker hand out the window of a moving car.

For now, though, all that remains is to say #Dimblebye to the moderator of the worst of Britain’s political conversation. A programme that’s consistently given a platform to far-right speakers in the pursuit of "representing a wide range of voices"; a show so repetitive and unhelpful, the only issue it’s effectively raised is the nation’s collective blood pressure. Let’s hope the Fiona Bruce era continues in the same vein!

PRIME CUT: If you need me I’ll be in the Leaky Cauldron waiting for all this to blow over!

@a_n_g_u_s