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Ivory Tower: A special edition of the favourite armchair critic TV show

[Titles and Music]

Narrator: In the week of Dominic Cummings’ seven hours of evidence to a select committee, we’ve also been watching the Friends reunion, Dragon’s Den and the latest Corrie. Meanwhile over in central London Micky and Mandy are deciding what to drink.

[Michelle Donelan and Amanda Solloway are on the sofa]

Solloway: When did you stop drinking Lambrini?

Donelan: I’m just trying something more sophisticated.

Solloway: Cinzano Bianco?

Donelan: With bitter lemon.

Solloway: I think that’s what they are calling Dominic Cummings.

Narrator: This week we’ve all been watching the latest episode of Friends, the one in which they are all in their 50s.

[Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds on a garish red and gold chaise lounge]

Carrie: I don’t remember when this was on the first round, I was too young. My parents wouldn’t let me stay up that late.

Johnson: Gosh, it used to be on a Friday night. I was usually in bed by then too.

Carrie: Well, you must have had a lot of family duties at the time.

Johnson: I didn’t mean my own bed.

Carrie: Don’t be vulgar Boris, take your feet off the coffee table, do you know how much that cost?

Johnson: Sadly, yes.

[Patrick Vallance and Dominic Cummings are in La-Z-Boy armchair recliners]

Vallance: Chandler and Joey are just like us, besties forever.

Cummings: If you say so.

Vallance: Thanks for all those nice things you said about me at the select committee.

Cummings: You promised you’d destroy the WhatsApp messages afterwards.

Vallance: Of course I have, bestie.

[Alistair Jarvis and Jo Grady are in twin armchairs]

Jarvis: Which friend are you most like?

Grady: Monica

Jarvis: Why?

Grady: Because I think I combine leadership with ethical purpose.

Jarvis: I thought you’d be most like Phoebe.

Grady: Why?

Jarvis: Because Lisa Kudrow is the one who’ll be most concerned about her pension.

Grady: Which friend are you?

Jarvis: Ross, he works with academics.

Grady: I thought it would be Joey, he has been involved in a few car crashes.

Narrator: Over on BBC2 there’s a return of Dragon’s Den.

[Chris Whitty and Jenny Harris are socially distanced, in masks, at opposite ends of the sofa]

Harris: I’m glad to see that they are following Covid protocols.

Whitty: What, the BBC showing repeats?

Harris: I like Peter Jones.

Whitty: Yes, their leather goods are very reasonable.

Harris: What would you say if you were presenting to the dragons?

Whitty: Next slide please.

[Over in the Vallance—Cummings house]

Vallance: I do worry about the scientific validity of this vitamin shake he is pitching.

Cummings: He’s a charlatan.

Vallance: We agreed you wouldn’t talk about Matt Hancock tonight.

Cummings: I don’t mean him.

Vallance: You’ll need to be more specific.

Cummings: He’s not up to the job.

Vallance: Again…

Cummings: We should copy this for Arpa.

Vallance: Charcoal vitamin shakes?

Cummings: No, pitching hugely expensive ideas in a consequence free environment with a basic lack of scrutiny.

Vallance: You said you wouldn’t talk about Matt Hancock.

[In the Solloway—Donelan house]

Solloway: He’s having a laugh with his valuation.

Donelan: It’s just low quality. It will lead to nothing but a lifetime of debt.

Solloway: You wouldn’t have thought the director of the Royal Ballet would have to come on Dragon’s Den.

Donelan: Royal Ballet? He doesn’t even have a Union Jack.

Narrator: We’ve also been catching up with events on Coronation Street.

[In the Johnson-Symonds flat]

Johnson: Crumbs, my absolute favourite.

Symonds: You’re thinking of Coriolanus.

Johnson: No, I love Red Wall Street, full of real northern Conservative voters.

Symonds: It’s set in Manchester.

Johnson: Isn’t that where we go for the party conference?

Symonds: Yes, but we don’t have any MPs there. That’s where Andy Burnham is.

Johnson: I thought he was the one from Liverpool.

Symonds: He is, it’s confusing.

Johnson: Which one is Mike Baldwin?

Symonds: He hasn’t been a presence there for years.

Johnson: Just like the Labour Party. Gosh, is that what the north really looks like? Where is the giant inflatable me?

Symonds: Speaking of which, have you taken Dilyn for a walk today?

Johnson: No dear.

Symonds: When you’ve done that can you put one those ready meals in microwave?

Johnson: Yes dear. How do I do that again?

[Over on the sofa with Solloway and Donelan]

Solloway: People say I look a bit like Bet Lynch.

Donelan: If you say so, dear.

Solloway: At least I can relate to the characters in Coronation Street.

Donelan: Because you are a northern MP?

Solloway: No, because every day a cast of eccentrics with implausible motives and competing egos are involved in inexplicable plot twists.

Donelan: That’s no way to talk about BEIS.

Solloway: I was thinking about the University Research Sustainability Taskforce.

Donelan: Am I on that?

Solloway: Not sure, it’s one of those ones on Teams, I can usually only see Ottoline Leyser’s conservatory.

Narrator: And of course, everyone has been watching Dominic Cummings at the science and technology select committee.

[In the Vallance-Cummings pad]

Vallance: Look, Dom you are on the telly.

Cummings: The idiot box.

Vallance: It’s not the Downing Street press conference.

Cummings: What were the ratings?

Vallance: Not as good as your rose garden appearance.

Cummings: That was a bank holiday special.

Vallance: And everyone was locked down.

Cummings: I wasn’t.

Vallance: Yeah, that was the problem.

[Over in the Jarvis—Grady house]

Grady: I really can’t stand him.

Jarvis: Which one? You’ll need to be more specific.

Grady: It’s just one liar talking about another liar telling lies.

Jarvis: We agreed not to talk about the USS pension negotiations.

Grady: It’s a searing indictment of the entire political class.

Jarvis: It’s only discussions about a pension scheme.

Grady: I mean this ludicrous pantomime that is taking up all our attention.

Jarvis: So, do I.

[At opposite ends of the Harris-Whitty sofa]

Harris: He’s got it in for poor old Matt Hancock.

Whitty: There’s quite a queue on that one.

Harris: I’m doing the press conference with him tomorrow.

Whitty: Dominic Cummings?

Harris: No, the health minister.

Whitty: Oh.

Harris: Chris, why are you moving further away along the sofa?

Whitty: I’ve just remembered, I need to put the bins out…

Harris: Chris?…

[Over in the Downing Street flat]

Symonds: I can’t believe he just said that.

Johnson: Which bit?

Symonds: That I was obsessed with completely trivial things.

Johnson: Yes dear.

Symonds: There’s nothing trivial about little Dilykins.

Johnson: Can I have a cushion dear?

Symonds: No, Dily is sitting on it.

Johnson: That dog is getting more attention than me.

Symonds: No, I think Cummings has laid into you more than Dilyn.

Johnson: I can’t believe he says I’m not fit.

Symonds: After all those walks you’ve taken with Dilykins.

Johnson: And the cycling to Olympic Park during lockdown.

Symonds: Boris…

Johnson: Yes?

Symonds: Can I have a gold yacht?

Johnson: Dear God no.

Symonds: Boris…

Johnson: Yes?

Symonds: Can I have 10,000 people at the wedding?

Johnson: Please make it stop.

Symonds: There’s another six hours of evidence to go.

[Titles and music]

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