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The lockdown diaries: crocus of hope edition


Ivory Tower: another peek at the journals of the great and grating

Boris Johnson, prime minister and interior designer

Spring is here and I am delighted to say that the kids are going back to school, all six of them, or is it seven, can’t remember. I am also delighted to say that the UK is on the road to becoming a science superpower.

That means every 23 March the politburo, sorry cabinet, will stand outside Millbank and wave at a parade of doctors and nurses as a giant syringe full of Covid vaccine is driven past on the back of a flatbed lorry. Then later on I can have Rishi Sunak air brushed from the photographs.

We are now on the path to the irreversible crocus of hope, but I have said that if the data changes I will not leave it too late to slam on the brakes. Carrie says it wouldn’t be the first time there has been a terrible accident by me withdrawing too late. I think she means when Theresa May became PM.

Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland

Ah didnae dae it so just shut yer yap, right. Ah’ve goat better things to be getting on way than listening tae that big eejit’s moaning.

Ah said tae the committee, ah cannie be coming here giving evidence aboot lying tae parliament, ah’ve goat tae deliver on what is important tae the people of Scotland, like letting fans back into football stadiums and membership of Erasmus.

This stushie way Salmond will not change the main reason people want independence. But we need to secure a referendum before 2024, just in case Boris isn’t prime minister anymore.

Mark Drakeford, first minister of Wales

As I told the Welsh Affairs committee this week my relationship with Boris Johnson is a distant one, but it wasn’t always like that. When he was on the backbenches, he used to contact to me every week, with his plans for a tunnel connecting the universities of Cardiff and Swansea, via Aberystwyth.

I once asked him if he knew where Aber was? He said that he thought Benny and Bjorn were writing musicals, but if I had an address for the blonde one could I pass it on.

Things are different now after Brexit. He never calls, never writes, never sends flowers.

Jonathan Van Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England

I said to my group the other day, you’ve all worked so hard it would be a shame to blow it now. After months of sacrifice and sticking to a rigid timetable we are only weeks away from release.

I’m no different from anyone else. It will be such a relief when finally we make our submission to the Research Excellence Framework.

Obviously, I’m the impact case study this time around. Apparently, I’m the first doctor of Vietnamese descent to have done the things I’ve done in the UK, but I’m pretty sure that anyone can apply for a Boston United season ticket.

Emmanuel Macron, president of France

I never zaid that the AstraZeneca vaccine was no good, just that I would ‘av preferred a French one. Who would not want a bottle of liquid from Burgundy or the Loire to something from England?

I ‘av approved it for use on the over 65’s, not because our vaccine rollout ‘as been a disaster, but because my wife won’t stop going on about it. She will be first in line for a jab, she wants to go on a Saga cruise this summer, which is romantic because it reminds me of how we met.

Rishi Sunak, chancellor and influencer

I can confirm the rumours that we have indeed torn up the industrial strategy. It was out of date and ran to pages and pages.

We will be replacing it with a series of videos on Instagram, with me looking wistfully across dockyards and building sites, in a figure-hugging tank top. It’s more of a mood board than a fuddy-duddy old industrial strategy.

People have been saying, where’s the detail and what’s the strategy, now? I tell them, to get me into Number 10, obviously.

Bill Galvin, chief executive Universities Superannuation Scheme

I know the figures are high but sometimes you just have to face reality. I’m well aware that at this price it is unaffordable and unsustainable, but there is a big hole in our finances.

That’s why I’ve decided to switch the heating off now that we are into March. Three months of working at home and my energy bills are through the roof.

Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union

It’s absolutely outrageous, I’ve never seen anything like it, I was spitting feathers when I saw it. But that’s the Question Time green room for you.

People sometimes ask me if any good has come of all these strikes and confrontation with employers? Well, I’m on the BBC a lot, I tell them. After lockdown, I’m scheduled to host the next series of Eggheads.

Amanda Solloway, science minister

We are on an irreversible road and I am really looking forward to getting back out there. I’ve put 12 April in my diary and will stick to it, that’s when I’m getting my roots done.

I’m also looking forward to getting out to meet scientists, this time without Dom standing over my shoulder telling me not to touch the lab equipment. By the time I’ve toured laboratories and universities I’ll be ready for a holiday.

We are planning a cruise this summer, apparently there is a free port opening up at East Midlands Airport, but I’m not sure how they are going to get the ships up the M1.

Kwasi Kwarteng, business secretary

It’s been a big week for us at BEIS. I have brought forward legislation for the Advanced Research and Invention Agency.

Some people say that given it will not be subject to freedom of information requests or Whitehall rules on procurement that it will be used as a cover for cronyism. That is plain wrong, it is for high-risk, high-reward research.

We have lots of great projects lined up, including experiments on wallpaper colours and kitchen installation in the Downing Street area, then we have Matt Hancock’s pub landlord lined up for a longitudinal study of grantmaking in hospitality settings. That’s just as soon as we find the spouse of a Tory MP to run it. Problem is they are all so busy at the moment with their PPE contracts.

Michelle Donelan, universities minister

Let me be very clear about this, decolonising the curriculum is whitewashing history. Wait a minute is that right? Is it colonising history is whitewashing the curriculum?

Whatever it is, I’m against it. I have a history degree from the University of York so I know that you cannot re-write history. Or can you? Isn’t that the point of being a historian? What were all those essays for then?

Statues, I’m against whitewashing them as well. Or am I? Hold on, decolonising history is whitewashing statues, is that it? You should just paint statues? Maybe there is something about it on BBC Bitesize.

Gavin Williamson, education secretary

I think I may be losing the confidence of the civil servants in the department. The other day someone put up a board to count the “Days since last U-Turn”.

I am pleased to say that with schools and universities re-opening on Monday we will be back on track for another summer A-level fiasco. Last August, Dominic Cummings came over to the DfE to say, “Gavin, the PM wants to know if you can you clear your desk?”

So, I gave it a go. I took a long run at it and jumped but landed on the desk, breaking it, leaving me flat on my back with both legs in the air. I’ve no idea why people think I look like Frank Spencer.

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