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Spads: Moonshot

Ivory Tower: back by popular request, another episode of our Whitehall-based sitcom

A bench in St James’s Park, a man and woman in their mid-20s sit down with their packed lunches.

John: What have you got?

Helen: Sloppy leftovers

John: That’s no way to talk about the Department for Education.

Helen: I mean lunch, just pasta from last night. What’s that?

John: A vegan sausage roll.

Helen: You’re not vegan. The only thing plant-based that’s passed your lips is a packet of Silk Cut at the BEIS Christmas party. Does Dom eat vegan sausage rolls?

John: I don’t think Dom has lunch. He feeds off the emotions of terrified Spads.

Helen: Spad Bol, yum.

John: You know that Spad who called him out for being unkind is off. She’s thinking of suing the government, I’ve heard.

Helen: She’ll need to get in the queue, what with Philip Rutnam’s constructive dismissal case and Sonia Khan at the Treasury.

John: Government HR currently has more cases than Samsonite.

Helen: If only their cases were as robust. There are no Spads at the Treasury anymore, just Dom’s minions.

John: It’s like Despicable Me over there.

Helen: I always thought of him as Megamind rather than Gru.

John: Did you get the memo about dead cats?

Helen: I saw the one about the badger cull.

John: Number 10 wants lots of dead cats.

Helen: That’s inhumane.

John: No, they want lots of dead cat stories to have on file to throw out to the media any time a minister messes up or Boris takes another holiday.

Helen: Oh, I see. At the DfE we usually just rush out the standard op-ed about free speech.

John: Did you see the one this morning? Apparently, Boris is now in favour of building a tunnel between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Helen: Why?

John: Because no-one believes that you can build a bridge over a one million tonne ammunition dump with no maps.

Helen: But you can tunnel under it?

John: It’s a dead cat to distract from a government own goal.

Helen: Which one? The Home Secretary shouting at staff, or, Boris abandoning flood victims?

John: Boris not knowing what’s going on with coronavirus.

Helen: They could need a lot of dead cats then.

John: Over at BEIS we are calling it Project Pet Cemetery.

Helen: Any good ones?

John: We think there is a lot in space.

Helen: Yes, the universe is quite big.

John: Everyone loves a story about the UK space programme.

Helen: No one loves a story about the UK space programme. I thought that was one dandruffy professor in a shed at the edge of a field in Leicester. He powers his rockets with old Fairy Liquid bottles of something.

John: Not now, space is big.

Helen: It’s that sort of expert insight that sometimes makes me think Gove was right.

John: Space is a pillar of the industrial strategy and key to our technological ambitions.

Helen: So, you are going to cram Amanda Solloway into a space suit?

John: No, Boris is taking up space at cabinet level.

Helen: He certainly is.

John: When they have to quarantine Manchester for coronavirus or when the budget turns out to be an omnishambles, we’ve got plans to break ground on a rocket launch pad in Sutherland.

Helen: What does Dom say?

John: Live long and prosper.

Helen: I’m not sure that’s going to have the cut through you think it will. Mostly, because there are no rockets in Sutherland. Flybe isn’t even there anymore.

John: That’s the great thing about space, it’s all in the future.

Helen: Thanks Stanley Kubrick.

John: I mean, the delivery is all in the future, long after this lot has left office. It will be years before anyone realises the UK space programme amounts to the gift shop at Jodrell Bank and a link on the Virgin Rail complaints website offering people advanced bookings for Richard Branson’s private rocket.

Helen: Still don’t think it will fly.

John: They’ve done tests and everything. It’s crashed a few times though.

Helen: I mean your dead cat.

John: Dead cats don’t fly. Unless you fling them of course.

Helen: I object to promoting fake news.

John: You’re a genius!

Helen: Rude.

John: No, seriously, you are. You know how Kubrick faked the moon landings?

Helen: Allegedly, according to nutters.

John: I read it on Twitter.

Helen: Exactly.

John: Anyway, why don’t we get the British film industry to fake a UK moon landing?

Helen: One, because that’s crazy. Two, because most British media production is moving to Europe so it can continue to have broadcasting rights in 27 EU states.

John: Even better, that means whoever is left behind must be a patriotic Brexit-loving filmmaker. They ought to be more than happy to fake a moon landing for Boris.

Helen: I think that leaves Michael Caine.

John: Too expensive.

Helen: Mike Batt?

John: As in The Wombles and Bright Eyes?

Helen: Does he make films or records?

John: The Wombles in Space, it’s genius. Great Uncle Bulgaria plants a union jack on the moon.

Helen: Bulgaria? Sounds European to me.

John: One of the others then.

Helen: Tomsk, Orinoco, Madame Cholet?

John: Isn’t one of them called Wellington?

Helen: Didn’t the Duke of Wellington derail the Brexit Withdrawal Bill in the Lords?

John: Maybe not, what about Tobermory?

Helen: Nicola Sturgeon will be all over that.

John: What about John Cleese?

Helen: I don’t think he was one of the Wombles.

John: He voted Brexit.

Helen: He is a Womble then.

John: I’m not sure if John Cleese’s moon walk is quite right, wrong ministry.

Helen: Alright Dan Dare, back on planet earth I need to go to the department.

John: Anything good?

Helen: We are drafting advice on why universities should not close down during the virus outbreak.

John: Because it would have no clinical benefit?

Helen: Because no one would notice, most of them have been closed for a month of strikes.

John: We’ve got to do a press release about investment in science.

Helen: Is it new?

John: Well, it’s a new press release.

Helen: But it’s all old funding commitments?

John: Of course. The tricky thing is trying to write the quotes.

Helen: The secretary of state said…

John: I always have trouble trying to think of scientists he’s heard of to put in the quote.

Helen: “Not since Newton invented gravity has UK science had such a Eureka moment…”

John: “Not since Davros invented the Daleks has British science been so popular…”

Helen: Should be easy enough to think of UK scientists.

John: Thing is, half of British scientists turn out to be not that British, the other half turn out to have been eugenicists.

Helen: Davros it is then.

John: Yes, I think he drew the line at eugenics.

Helen: See you on Friday to be shouted at by the big D?

John: Davros?

Helen: I knew he looked familiar.

Terms of reference: this is a free email for fun on a Friday, it should circulate widely like a new vice-chancellor at a UUK cheese and wine. Want to suggest a dead cat story for project pet cemetery? Want to say hello? Email ivorytower@researchresearch.com