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The tier three diaries


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Boris Johnson, prime minister

As I said in my press conference, universities are doing a great job of handling the coronavirus pandemic. Students have been locked up, the views of academics have been ignored, and the economy has been kept open for private landlords. It’s a win-win-win.

I also spoke of the adverse psychological effects of closing universities from Land’s End to John O’Groats. I am not prepared to do that. Who do people think I am, the University and College Union?

Speaking of defined benefits, I have to confess to be struggling on my £150,000 salary, cramped house, and not having a cook. To help make ends meet I’m thinking of applying for a job as a vice-chancellor, some of those blighters have nearly as much money as Rishi Sunak.

I’m also very pleased with how our campaign for the unemployed to retrain in cyber is going. Now the whole country can get a free technology lesson. It’s just a shame that after Brexit we’ll be getting rid of all the Poles.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester

This is not right. They should not be doing this. This is no time for an Oasis reunion.

The priority has to be helping small venues being forced to close, like the Manchester Academy in the student union, and the Deaf Institute next to Manchester Met. I asked Boris Johnson if he was prepared to backdate the government’s support package to cover those who have been struggling for some time, like Inspiral Carpets and the Happy Mondays.

Anyway, I’ll have my say this Sunday when I appear on the Marr Show. That’s the Johnny Marr Show on XS Manchester.

Mark Drakeford, first minister of Wales

As a former professor of sociology I fully understand the pain that academics are going through right now, as Wales begins its 17-day firebreak. Everyone will be asked to stay and home and many will have to put their work on hold.

That’s why I’ve told universities to remain open. That will teach them all for the times they rejected my papers from the All Wales Sociology Conference. You’re not laughing now, Jones the Sociologist!

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students

I am delighted to announce with our colleagues at Research England a new £8 million fund to tackle white privilege in postgraduate research, which is a serious problem that is holding back people and science. Hold on, what’s this note from the equalities minister, Kemi Badenoch? Stating that white privilege is a fact is illegal?

Err…I am delighted to announce our new £8m fund looking into so-called “white privilege” in post-graduate research, which might not exist and might make absolutely no difference to anything. Maybe someone might like to write a PhD on it.

Patrick Vallance, chief scientific officer

Speaking to the nation on a regular basis is all about building trust. People get to know your face and associate you with values that they would like to emulate. As chief scientific adviser, I have a lot of reach at the moment, you could say I’m an influencer.

That’s why after long and exhaustive trials we plan to roll it out for Christmas. My new scent Vallance, by Patrick, will be available in Boots and via Amazon. We are still working on the messaging. Chris Whitty suggests, “Vallance: the smell of government”, but I think he’s just jealous.

Gavin Williamson, secretary of state for education

The important thing now is that we get our priorities right. We have to have a laser-like focus on the most important things.

That’s why I’ve asked my officials to bring forward plans to legislate for free speech on campus, to defund universities that do not adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism, and to scrap the Union Learning Fund.

Some people will say that I’m not listening and that my Campus Warrior Bill is divisive, but I don’t care what they think. As a proud Yorkshireman, I have emblazoned a new motto above the front door at the department: “ Education: you can’t get there from ‘ere”, and I think we can all agree on that.

Amanada Solloway, science minister

Reform is long overdue. For too long we have had a culture of competitive individualism that has failed to value everyone’s contribution.

There has been too much focus on stars and how much money they bring in. We value all the wrong things: international travel, appearances on television, and large salaries.

But enough about the government, I’ve got to start this review of the Research Excellence Framework.

Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour Party

Although I am no longer shadow education secretary, I still keep a close eye on the brief. But let me be clear, this party is under new leadership and we will, where we can, be a constructive opposition.

That’s why I’ve written to all the Tory scum who run the DfE to tell them they can rot in hell with Thatcher’s charnelled bones if they think they can get away with what they are doing in universities. Taking impact out of the REF, it’s an outrage.

Kirsty Williams, Welsh minister for education

I have been speaking with my counterparts in Scotland and Northern Ireland about a unified approach to getting students home for Christmas. We have unanimously agreed to build a wall around England and stop students passing through that Saesneg plague pit.

Students travelling from Cardiff to Edinburgh should do so via Paris. Students travelling from Belfast to Swansea should go via Amsterdam. Students domiciled in England will be offered full citizenship in an independent Celtic nation of their choice, excluding Cornwall.

Before our 17-day firebreak begins, students will be allowed to visit England only to pick up essentials that are unavailable in Wales, such as t-shirts, sunglasses and espresso coffee.

Marcus Rashford MBE, footballer and hunger campaigner

I’ve been really touched by the response. I’m really feeling the love right now. But that’s the second time in a year, I’ve scored late on against Paris St Germain.

I was over the moon to accept an honorary degree from the University of Manchester. They said it was in recognition of my achievements and leading from the front, but they obviously didn’t see my performance when I was subbed for England against Belgium.

I’ve asked the vice-chancellor if she will support my campaign for free school meals. She says she’ll look into it but she thinks that the buffet at the School of Engineering away-day was definitely free, and the dental school offers fresh fruit and water.

Dominic Cummings

Just got the car back from the garage. Its MOT and a service were long overdue. With London headed for a tier three lockdown in about a month, I’ll need it to drive to Durham, and I wouldn’t want to do anything illegal.

I’ve been one of those arguing the loudest in government for heavy fines for students who have house parties. Well, the treasury has got to raise money to cover all this furlough spending somehow.

Dido Harding, chair of the national institute for health protection

Some people say that I have no experience of making public health decisions. I categorically reject that.

I was responsible for a major track decision that impacted public health in March. As a member of the board of the Jockey Club, I was responsible for letting the Cheltenham Festival go ahead.

That’s the sort of expertise I’ve brought to the test and trace system. Having been out in front early on, it’s now lagging behind, and is a longshot to win.

Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland

There are no tiers like Scottish tiers. Those English think they know about tiers, but we’ve got five tiers: keep the heid; am no tellin’ ye again; help ma boab; hell slap it intae ye; and ye might as well be England.

I am very pleased at the leading role Scottish universities are playing in this pandemic. Our universities were the first to lockdown students in their halls of residence, and the first to ban going to the pub in student towns.

Morrisey, musician and patriot

Following an appeal for help from the Mayor of Manchester, the prime minister has asked me to serve as his cultural ambassador in my home city. Boris wants me to work with universities and music venues to get the creative economy back on track. But I told him all the venues are open in Los Angeles.

Michel Barnier, EU chief negotiator

The future relation with the UK is still not settled, and the British will not say if they want to join Horizon Europe. David Frost says he wants access to our markets, but I say, “every week I bring you cheese and saucisson, is that not enough?”

I tell him that universities and scientific cooperation is being held to ransom over fish. He agrees and says that if I bring him some bouillabaisse next week then we have a deal.

Donald Trump, president of the United States

The last debate was in Belmont University. Is that even a place? In Nashville? Who knew? The first one was at Utah University, with the Mormons. Great people. Except Mitt Romney, sad.

I’ll only debate ‘Sleepy Joe’ again if it’s at Trump University, which hasn’t been wound up after a lawsuit. That’s fake news.

We are thinking of opening a campus in London, England. It’s easy, the easiest new university ever. England Trump, Boris Johnson, great guy, tells me he knows someone who gives technology lessons there. I ask what is the tax situation like? He says, he didn’t pay but she got some kind of a business grant in the end.

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