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BREX FACTOR: The surreal political debate taking place on daytime Channel 5

Jeremy Vine on his Channel 5 show. Photograph: Channel 5. - Credit: Archant

Jeremy Vine recently claimed his daytime Channel 5 show is ‘better than Question Time’. STEVE ANGLESEY takes a look at what it entails.

A few days after government officials were banned from going on holiday until Brexit is fixed, one of the Brexiteers actually in charge of getting it fixed managed to slip out of the country on holiday. This very literal reading of his new job title by foreign secretary Dominic Raab provides an important clue to how the government will deal with the sacrifices which lie ahead: tutting sympathetically from their sunloungers while the rest of us suffer.

Raab’s team refused to say where he had gone, citing “security reasons” – a useful phrase to remember for any reader planning a jolly away from home with the girls/lads/pets/etc.

But unless, like Dom, you’re one of the instigators of this whole wheelie bin fire, don’t feel guilty about taking a break at this time of the year. The New European itself did so last week, and the heavy hitters of Brexit TV coverage – Marr, Rigby, Kuenssberg, Peston, Boulton, Ridge – are all currently away. Which means those of us who have become addicted to televised Brexit bantz have had to seek our fix down different, more dangerous alleyways.

Step forward Jeremy Vine On 5, a surreal cross between Any Questions and Celebrity Squares, where you might discover Sam Allardyce musing on the leadership lessons of Ronald Reagan, or Anthea Turner pondering the influence of her campaigning family on young Greta Thunberg (“they are the Kardashians of the Swedish environmental scene”, apparently). Or Owen Jones, in the week before he was attacked by mouth-breathers on his birthday, confessing that a dog ate the slippers he stole from a posh hotel. “I think this is a better show than Question Time,” said Vine last year, and who can disagree?

People who claim that Once Upon A Time In Hollywood has secured Quentin Tarantino’s status as the screen’s number one purveyor of weird dialogue and jarring plot twists have clearly not seen what goes on on Five between 9.15-11.15am each weekday morning. Only here can you hear someone muse that, to counteract the negative effects of cattle on the environment, someone should invent “Alka Seltzer for cows”. Only here will you get Allardyce, 64 years old, claiming to be suffering a midlife crisis. Only here can someone discuss the G7 summit and say, in pure tabloidese, “Boris Johnson, in his boxer shorts in Biarritz, will be trying to chat up trendy Trudeau”.

And surely only here or on This Time With Alan Partridge will you get anything like this exchange between host and guest on the topic of foxhunting:

Owen Jones: “I just don’t like the idea of torturing or murdering animals.”

Jeremy Vince: “What, not even for sport?”

Inevitably the B-word comes up, and that is why Jones found himself arguing with Lizzie Cundy, cat-eyed former wife of footballer Jason Cundy and a former host of Wag’s World on the prestigious Wedding TV channel. She told him: “I am just saying, 17.4 million voted to Leave, do we forget? 16.1 million voted to stay. That is still a difference of 1.3 million.” Yes, it still is. That’s how mathematics works.

Yet Cundy was equally scathing about Nigel Farage and his criticism of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. “What a fool… he’s straddling one foot in the celebrity world and one foot in the political world and it’s diminishing his credibility,” Lizzie said, with no hint of irony. “Don’t mess with our future king,” she added, passionately if inaccurately.

In fact, if the evidence of a fortnight’s avid viewing is representative, it is the political amateurs on Vine’s show who seem most dismayed by the turns Brexit is taking and the most likely to complain about its overselling by the Brexiteers in government and the media. None other than Maura Higgins from Love Island pointed out that back in Ireland, “some people think Brexit is just the English thinking they’re better than everyone else.”

Meanwhile, with a few exceptions, the journalists on his panel seem to be right-wing true Brexit believers. When Vine went on holiday, stand-in host Anne Diamond welcomed veteran columnist Carole Malone, who recently wrote in the Daily Express that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell were “too thick” to lead the next government. Malone soon displayed her own intellectual chops by referring to a pollster called “Professor Richard Curtis, who is the fountain of all knowledge”. Has the Love Actually writer/director been moonlighting, or did Carole mean Professor John Curtice? Perhaps we should ask Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

Mike Parry, the thirsty former Talksport presenter who recently called Boris Johnson “the brightest man in Britain”, objected to Caroline Lucas’ plan for a single-sex cabinet of national unity on the grounds that, “I don’t think single-sex things work. Have you ever seen a group of women out on a hen night or a group of men out on a stag night? Single-sex things don’t work because there is no restraint for men and women to put the brake on without the presence of the opposite sex.”

An interesting viewpoint, given that in May the Mail On Sunday reported Parry was part of a large group (also including DJ Chris Evans) who were asked to leave the excellent Wheatsheaf pub in London’s Borough Market after it was claimed an inappropriate comment was made towards a female member of staff. There is no suggestion that Parry, Evans and friends were involved in the alleged incident, but it does show the dangers of large single-sex groups acting without the restraint of the opposite sex.

The pantomime villain of the show, however, appears to be Lowri Turner, a 1990s TV regular who is now a celebrity nutritionist/hypnotherapist. Earlier this year on Vine, you might recall, she told a tearful bank clerk whose job was being outsourced to Ireland not to worry as “I went into my local bank recently and all the people behind the counter were not British. Many bank jobs are not held by British people anyway.” This was not much comfort to the bank clerk, who continued to weep.

On her most recent appearance Turner outed herself as an anti-vaxxer (“I don’t trust big pharma”) and backed no-deal (“is six months of hell worth it? I think it is… British people are very resourceful”) despite the Operation Yellowhammer leaks. When talk turned to the attack on Jones, she said, “It comes from both sides, I get quite a lot of abuse from left-wingers.”

However, Turner clarified, she had never been physically attacked in the street. So why even mention it? Perhaps she should take a long holiday…

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