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The isolation diaries strike again


Ivory Tower: more extracts from the journals of the great and good

As the coronavirus risk levels drops along with the government’s approval rating, our comedy column has once again secured previously secret extracts from the diaries of the powerful, and not so powerful.

Boris Johnson, prime minister

Can I just say how relieved I am that the Premier League is back. I don’t watch it, prefer the egg-shaped ball myself, but it gives Marcus Rashford something to do other than campaign about free school meals.

I wish him and his Manchester Rovers colleagues well for the rest of the season. As a team they’ve not done very much for the last three months, a bit like the cabinet.

But we continue to follow the science. And I’m confident that soon we’ll have it cornered in a back alley and can wrestle it to the ground, steal its lunch money and give it a good old wedgie. That’ll teach upstart science, the grammar school oily tick.

Michelle Donelan, universities minister

When I said that English universities had asked us to extend a numbers cap for England-domiciled students to universities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. What I meant was UUK had proposed a voluntary code of conduct on admissions, we turned it into a number cap policy and applied it to the whole of the UK.

Universities UK is more than just English universities? Come on! The UK is basically just England, isn’t it? I know you can’t rewrite history, but you can definitely rewrite geography.

Amanda Solloway, science minister

We’ve had great successes during this lockdown period, and I am extremely proud of the work we have done. First there was my hair cut competition and then there was my pampered pets competition.

But this government is not satisfied and wants to build on these achievements. That’s why I am delighted to announce my new Britain’s Best Dressed Professors competition—send me your pics on Twitter.

Best dressed prof wins a prize. Maybe the Newton Prize, I think that’s being got rid of, so we can use the trophy.

Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser

There are no easy answers at the moment. It’s all about trying to find consensus when there is so much disagreement.

The other night at Downing St, Boris wanted to send out for fish and chips, but Dom wanted a curry. I said I wasn’t prepared to support Dom on this and advised an alternative of some healthy fruit.

I was overruled, again. But the food didn’t arrive, apparently there was something wrong with the app.

Chris Whitty, chief medical officer

We keep all these things under constant review, and we adapt according to what we know at the time. Sometimes it’s me and Paddy V at the press conference, sometimes it’s a bloke from the Rotary Club or a spokesman for Pizza Hut.

I’m afraid that Jonathan Van Tam won’t be back any time soon. He’s very busy doing an audit in the department of health stationery cupboard.

It’s his own fault. I told him how important it was to keep his distance from anything that looked like a straight answer.

Ottoline Leyser, chief executive UK Research and Innovation

Some people are asking why the government appointed someone to an important science brief who has had limited experience of running anything. But I think that’s very unfair on Amanda Solloway.

I’m looking forward to working with the minister and Downing St on rolling out our new plan for making science and innovation central to the UK. It’s called Dom-I-nation. At least, I think that’s what Amanda said about it, that the UK was now a Dommy nation.

Kim Hackett, REF manager

It’s great to be back on track. The announcement today means that the whole thing will finally be finished by March of next year—but enough about the football season.

We’ve extended the census date for impact case studies in the REF because we’ve been told to give salaried researchers time to get out there and make a difference, or at least to visit a garden centre or spend money on the high street.

Matt Hancock, health secretary

You think you’ve had a bad week? Well, I suppose the daily U-turns and not knowing that footballer’s name is an improvement on laughing at the death toll.

I don’t feel under pressure at all. I’m very much into my mindfulness techniques. I’ve got an app for that. Oh hold on…

Dominic Raab, foreign secretary

Yes, I’m delighted with the creation of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and we will make great efforts to unite all staff and make sure that together they are all wholly FCDOff.

I have to admit that I don’t know that much about the Newton Fund, but I think it’s got something to do with that comedy show The Big Bang Theory.

It seems that universities use it to do research to help parts of the world, some of which are extremely poor and under-developed. I had not quite understood the full extent of this.

Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union

It’s been a great week for our Fund the Future campaign. We’ve got posters up in all the bedrooms of our branch representatives, so we’re really getting the message out there.

Our voice is making a big difference with so many universities furloughing workers and announcing severance schemes. When we started this campaign, higher education was teetering on the edge of catastrophe but thanks to our uncompromising stance I think we are over that now.

Mark Walport, former chief executive UK Research and Innovation

No, not gone yet. I’m helping with the transition and then with our response to coronavirus. I’ve said I’ll do whatever it takes to see off Covid-19.

My best estimate is three, possibly four years. Then we’ll need to start thinking about the transition to the next chief executive or maybe there will be a new pandemic by then.

I’m in this for the long haul, but to be honest at the moment I’d be happy with just a flight to Europe.

Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland

We are totally different from Boris Johnson and his English nationalist government, but it is now time to start easing lockdown restrictions in Scotland.

I want to stress that the science has not changed. What has changed is that people are starting to ask questions about my decisions in the early days of the pandemic, and so we all need to move on.

As of next week we’ll be opening garden centres and Primark, and other non-essential retail will be available such as buying wee kiltie drummer girls in a plastic tube at Gretna services. See, totally different from those English politicians.

Mark Drakeford, first minister for Wales

In Wales, we have been quick to do things that London is now only catching up on. For example, some English universities are now on the verge of bankruptcy, but in Wales they’ve been like that for years.

I haven’t spoken to a member of the Westminster government for three months. Every time I phone Downing St, a man with a Newcastle accent asks, “when will the takeaway be delivered?”

I tell him that I usually deliver my takeaways at the daily press conference. He says he doesn’t eat that early and hangs up.

Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party

There can be no greater priority for the nation than the education of our young people. Well, perhaps, having a haircut comes first but then education.

That’s why I’ve written a letter to the prime minister expressing my disappointment on the government’s failure to unlock education. He’s let his country down, he’s let our schools down, but most of all he’s let his hair down.

Donald Trump, president of the United States

Sad that I had to close Trump University. So sad. We could have done a deal with the coronavirus.

Our science faculty had a great programme, it was called The Apprentice. Best ratings ever.

We would have been doing research into disinfectant and hydroxychloroquine, which some guys in Oxford Englandshire say has no health benefits. But have they tried mixing them together with a club soda? Just the best.

Terms of use: this is a free email for fun on a Friday, it should be shared widely like the open source software for a track and trace app. Want to place an order with the Welsh government for takeaway? Want to say hello? Email ivorytower@researchreserearch.com