Friday, 21 December 2012

Confirmation tonight that Diane Abbott is quite possibly the most deeply ignorant woman on the planet

I tuned into Christmas University Challenge on BBC Two this evening to relax after a day spent wrestling with tax returns and buying presents. The Yuletide version of the quiz features distinguished alumni of various universities, rather than the usual selection of confidence-dentingly brainy undergrads. (You can watch it here.)

I enjoy this format, because the questions are markedly easier than they are in the junior version, and I feel roughly on a par with the contestants, knowledge-wise. Apart, that is, from the Labour MP, Diane Abbott, who confirmed one’s suspicions that she knows nothing whatsoever about anything, despite having attended the finest university in the world. To be on an intellectual par with her, one would have to be in a coma.

I first became aware Ms Abbott’s almost heroic lack of intellectual distinction while watching her on some TV book quiz hosted by Julian Fellowes on BBC Four a couple of years back, during which she failed to answer a single question correctly. Not one. (I seem to recollect that James Delingpole was on the same team – the mind boggles – and did rather well, as one would expect.)

Tonight, representing Newnham College, Cambridge against a team from Nottingham University (which included ex-England rugby player and sports journalist Brian Moore and author and clinical psychologist, Oliver James), Ms Abbott almost repeated her literary “nul points” triumph. To be fair, she may have given The Great Gatsby as a correct answer, but only because the title had been incorrectly offered as the answer to the previous question, and even my cat would have known it was the right answer this time. She may also have given her team captain The Peasants Revolt as a correct answer – but I imagine it’s hard to be a Labour MP for several decades without having at least heard of it.

She spent the show nodding in agreement with the women on her team who actually knew stuff, or shaking it to indicate that – yet again – she was stumped, or just looking blankly dim, or leaning forward a lot in a supportive, caring, engaged sort of fashion, as if – despite not knowing anything about anything – her air of puzzled supportiveness might somehow prove a help to her three infinitely brighter team-mates rather than simply irritating the hell out of them.

Diane Abbott spent three years at Cambridge reading History. Her tutor was Simon Schama. How can you spend three years studying history under such a distinguished practitioner and end up knowing absolutely sod all? I mean, I was quite suprised she actually managed to remember her own name when she had to introduce herself at the start of the programme (I expect it was on autocue).

It begs the question – and I fear it may already have crossed your mind – as to how in the name of God she got into Cambridge in the first place!

I have no idea. Can anyone help? Without breaking the law? 


  1. Not without breaking the law - on several counts.

    Paxman asked for the identity of an Italian Natural Philosopher who made some pronouncement in 1623.
    Abbott: "Einstein".

    I mean, even I know that it was Galileo who danced the fandango with Scaramouche [have I got that wrong?]

  2. Talking of the intellectually gifted, while ambling gently through the Christmas Spectator, the temperate weather suddenly turned arctic when I found this:

    'There's foul weather ahead for all universities, but particularly for Oxford colleges,' warned the senior fellow as he welcomed the appointment of the former Observer editor Will Hutton as Hertford College's principal last year.

    But if Will Hutton is the solution, what is the problem? ...

  3. Tangentially, since I didn't watch this particular episode, it's noticeable how unchallenging the questions on Celebrity UC are, compared with those set in the real UC. Even so the celebrity contestants appear to make heavy weather of them all the same.

    As to Abbott, the Italians have a wonderful expression which roughly translates as Abbott "rejecting the opportunity to remain silent" (no matter what idiocy she spouts thereby). But, after all, she is a politician and very few politicians, given the opportunity to hear the sound of their own voice, can resist the temptation.