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The Boris Johnson column II


In another tumultuous week for the country, the prime minister writes exclusively for Ivory Tower

Greetings boffins and lady boffins, it is marvellous to be back once more in the pages of Ivory Tower to give you my thoughts on education, science and research. These are topics dear to my heart and to the heart of my brother Jo, although obviously Jo is no longer with us.

He hasn’t died, he’s just left the government. In fact, soon he will no longer be an MP, and it is doubtful whether he will even be a member of the Conservative Party. But I think we can all agree that my record as prime minister has inspired many to back my stance on Brexit.

That is, if you exclude members of my own family, the people of Scotland, the Democratic Unionist Party, that bit of the Conservative parliamentary party who have joined the Lib Dems or had the whip withdrawn, the Supreme Court, and Her Majesty the Queen. But let me promise you this, we will be leaving the European Union on 31 October or my name is not Alexander Hasenpfeffer Boris Johnstone.

Let me say unto you boffins that you are our top priority and you really must believe me when I say that.

This week the government has unveiled plans for tonnes of new PhD students in our universities. Soon, we will have literally zillions of great scientists walking around our hallowed quadrangles all thinking big thoughts about robots.

We’ve made £370 million available for artificial intelligence—and there’s more where that came from. There is a lot of artificial intelligence in Downing Street, what with Dom Cummings’s briefings to the press and I’m pretty sure Dominic Raab and Priti Patel are part android.

Sixteen centres for doctoral research into AI have been funded by the government this week. When I first saw the memo, I thought it said research into AL, which is me, but that’s the job of the London Assembly and the police watchdog.

While I’m on the topic boffins, may I just say that I have nothing whatsoever to say about the afternoons I spent in a flat in Shoreditch having technology lessons with a young friend. But if it wasn’t for the hours spent there I wouldn’t now be so fascinated with computers and all that malarkey.

Dom gave me a documentary to watch called AI, it was presented by Jude Law and directed by Stephen Spielberg, about robots who act like real people. When we were on the sofa, Carrie said she was reminded of the story of Pinocchio.

I told her that was a bit harsh, it is completely untrue that when I lie my nose grows bigger. My nose is a perfectly normal size. Dom says every time I lie my majority grows bigger, but that’s just our little joke because obviously I do not lie [fingers-crossed].

Veritas vitae magistra, as they say at the University of Puerto Rico. Truth is the teacher of life, or, as my learned friends in Oxford will know that it could also be translated as truth is the mistress of life. But telling the truth to your mistress is not that good an idea, as I have discovered.

Anyway, back to those robots. Not Michael Gove, the Turing Fellows we’ve just appointed. Dom Cummings was played by Alan Turing in a film, or was it Sherlock Holmes who played Dom? It’s bally difficult this science stuff.

And we’ve put a shed load of cash into biology, or, bio-science or something like that. We’ll be funding research into climate change and better healthcare. I’ll be doing my bit by cycling everywhere.

Well, it’s actually a bit tricky now to cycle anywhere as prime minister, what with all these extinction rebellion people everywhere. Or is it extension rebellion? No that’s Oliver Letwin.

The other day I saw this figure in a dirty body warmer and beanie hat shuffle up to me in the Commons and I was about to shout for a special branch sniper to take him out when I realised it was Dom Cummings. He was doing his bit for the environment by carrying state papers around in his re-useable Waitrose bag for life.

I told him I didn’t think that Alan Turing used a plastic bag like that but he just snarled and walked off.

Excitingly, we have also put £13 million into postgraduate conversion courses for people with arts backgrounds to get into artificial intelligence. I did say to the science minister Chris Skidmore that I knew plenty of people with an arts background who had artificial intelligence.

Both Dom and the J-Dog were history students and the Govester has an English degree. When the UK is the Singapore of the north Atlantic, Dom says that our two main exports will be artificial intelligence and fake news. I’m not sure if he is kidding.

I did say to Skidders that if he was looking for a company to deliver the £13m worth of AI courses, I know this cracking girl, called Jennifer, who is a whizz with technology and has a flat in Shoreditch. I’m sure she could turn her hand to anything. Oddly, he said he’d give me a rain-check, which funnily enough is also what she said as well.

On other matters, let me bring you up to speed on Brexit. I will do anything to get Brexit done, except, of course, allow my Brexit withdrawal bill to pass through parliament.

I was as surprised as anyone on Tuesday when MP’s supported the Withdrawal Agreement Bill at second reading. I thought that most of them hadn’t even had time to read it through once.

But yet again we have more dither and delay as the MPs said that they could not agree to my timetable. I said to them, who do you think I am Chris Grayling? No one laughed, the sour pusses.

So, if I can’t pass my bill in three days with people paying scant attention to it and voting along partisan lines following a string of threats from the whip’s office, I’d rather it didn’t pass at all. It’s come to a pretty pass with these Remainer MPs when an unelected PM can’t mislead the monarch, unlawfully suspend parliament, introduce a fictitious Queen’s speech, call for an election he says he doesn’t want, hold a Saturday sitting to bounce people into voting for a deal he said no British prime minister should ever sign, and then try to compress 12-month’s parliamentary scrutiny into 3 days. Honestly?

It’s all the fault of the Remoaners, I tell you. Someone said to me the other day that I should now be a new statesman and allow the bill to be amended by parliament.

I told them I was with the Spectator not that Marxist rag and we didn’t do scrutiny or detail when I was the editor. What’s more Dom’s wife is still at the magazine and on that topic I definitely did not squeeze her knee under the table at a boozy lunch. Dom says he believes me as he believes everything I say, so at least someone does.

But those who say allow the bill to be scrutinised—like the DUP—are just not true Brexiteers. I passionately believe that Brexit must now be pursued to the very end for the good of the nation or at least for the sake of a Conservative majority government. It’s hard to tell the difference.

Finally, after my previous column for Ivory Tower, I would like to thank all the members of the University of Wessex archaeology department who sent me a list of Britain’s top ten ditches to die in. Aut vincere aut mori, to conquer or to die, as I believe they said during the War of the Roses, or was that Game of Thrones?

Few people realise that the phrase “die in a ditch” comes from William III who said of Britain, “there is one way never to see it lost, and that is to die in the last ditch”. I told the DUP that my Brexit deal was inspired by King Billy but there is really no pleasing these people.

Ave atque vale, hail and farewell, as Catallus said of his lost brother. I think mine is on the Orpington ring road at the moment, better go and check. Laters.

Terms of use: this is a free email for fun on a Friday, it should circulate widely like anonymous briefings from a Downing Street source. Want to apply for a conversion course in Shoreditch technology lessons? Want to say hello? Email ivorytower@researchresearch.com