Go back

My week, by everyone


Ivory Tower: after a turbulent few days, we gain exclusive access to Westminster diaries


Suella Braverman, home secretary (until 8.30am)

Just leaving the house. Keys, handbag, hate beads. Just checking my Twitter feed to see how my weekend comments on the Met Police are doing… Oh. That’s unusual. I’ve been sacked from the government—don’t think that’s ever happened before…

Vivienne Stern, chief executive, Universities UK

We are delighted. Again. Hold on… are you sure she’s definitely, definitely gone this time?

George Freeman, science minister (until 2.30pm)

Dear Rishi,

As agreed with the chief whip, it is with a heavy heart that I have decided to stand down as minister for science, innovation and technology. I entered government as someone who had a reputation for knowing something about science, and as I leave this omnishambles I would like to keep it that way. When I reflect on my five ministerial roles under four prime ministers, I think, what was all that about? There’s been more consistency in the VAR room at Stockley Park.

As prime minister, you have had a transformational impact on science in this country. By establishing the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, you have taken R&D from the quiet and unglamorous pursuit of experts in laboratories and accelerated it up the political agenda, placing it at the forefront of the government’s number one priority, the culture wars.

As I take my leave of government, the task of which I am most proud was being asked by Michelle Donelan to identify any woke clusters—I think she was talking about breakfast cereal. I was particularly pleased that the government has agreed to align with Copernicus. Maybe that will help in explaining to Lee Anderson that the Earth is not flat, and that mathematicians had proved it a while back.

When I told him that Copernicus was Polish, and that his work was in all of our universities, then he just went off on one. I’ll leave that for you to deal with.



Paul Scully, minister for technology and minister for London (until 8.30pm)

Cor blimey, luv a duck. I’ll go to the foot of the apple and pears. I’ve only gone and ’ad a complete mare, ain’t I. There was me standing in the pleasure and pain waiting on the Uncle Gus when I gets a text from Number 10 telling me I’ve got the old tin tack.

So, I’m straight on the dog and bone to ask what it’s all about. Some geezer says it’s to do with the marches. But I ain’t been anywhere near ’Ackney I tells him. “No, it’s to do with Suella,” he says. “Yeah, I’m glad she got the Spanish archer,” I say.

He explains that Number 10 saw me on the Liza Minnelli sayin’ that Suella should mind ’er Dicky Birds and that the PM thinks this was “unauthorised media”. I tell him Rishi should stop his bleedin’ boat and the geezer says, “precisely”.

Gillian Keegan, still education secretary (somewhere around 10pm)

Is it safe to come out from behind the sofa? Is this the new one that we ordered from the office supplies catalogue?


Suella Braverman, once and future failed Conservative leadership candidate

…And another thing. You promised to clamp down on international students. If there is one thing I learned on my time abroad on my Erasmus+ master’s degree in European and French law at Pantheon-Sorbonne University, it’s that no one likes international students.

When I was there, they spent the whole time speaking foreign so I wouldn’t understand anything. Even on the underground and in shops, it was quite deliberate. We need to be more like the French and be less hospitable to visitors to our country.

Have you ever been to a restaurant in Paris? That’s the way to do it. They ignore you for ages, make you wait endlessly. In the end they provide a half-hearted service and just shrug when you say you are not happy. These are the values I have tried to introduce into our own migration process…

Andrew Griffith, minister for science and hedge funds

Add to basket, Bio-Science for Dummies. 101 Experiments You Can Do at Home. What’s next? People who bought this also bought this… Britain Beyond Brexit: A New Conservative Vision by George Freeman and Ruth Davidson… not sure about that… Edward VI: The Lost King of England by Chris Skidmore… “expert storytelling by a former science minister,” sounds as if it might be useful… anything else that can help me fit in at the department?… Weird Science, Volume Two… Stranger Things: the upside-down parallel universe… sounds ideal, click, click, buy…

Esther McVey, days since last accident 2

The first thing I’ve done is to send a memo to all departments to bring out their woke. I’ll be starting with the DSIT, where Michelle says they have a particularly bad infestation of woke science. Although I was told by a civil servant it is being kept in a pressurised containment unit behind an invisible forcefield in the basement. I think it must be leaking noxious fumes or something because the guy couldn’t stop laughing when he said this.


The Supreme Court Judges

We unanimously find the government’s Rwanda policy unlawful. If they do not like the ruling, we suppose they could always appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Gillian Keegan, secretary of state for education and future celebrity apprentice candidate

Dear prime minister,

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute ideas on how to stop the boats. It has come to my attention that every year, when the weather improves in March, there is a race between two small boats, sponsored openly by universities no less, up the Thames. I understand that these boats are not popular. One vice-chancellor told me they would rather serve on a UKRI equality advisory board than watch the boat race again. I have told the chair of the Office for Students to jump in the river, if needs be. I think he might have taken that the wrong way.

Keir Starmer, disappointment-in-waiting

I’ve done some early Christmas shopping and bought Junior an Arsenal kit. I’m so pleased that, unlike other teams, our boys are not sponsored by betting companies. They have wholesome sponsors with great human rights records. On the front there is an advert for the government-owned airline of the United Arab Emirates, and on the sleeve “Visit Rwanda”… hold on…

David Cameron, Baron Greensill and supply prime minister

I look forward to doing my bit for educational exports. My first briefing is with the British Council, who tell me about a points-based system for enrolling international students from far-flung places, which is much-loved by vice-chancellors. Apparently, it’s called Admission Incentives and Rewards, or AIR miles for short. Looking forward to that, Rishi says I can use one of his private jets.

Saqib Bhatti, minister for technology and one of the last Conservative MPs not under investigation

First day in the job and I’m answering questions in the house on artificial intelligence. “What is the government doing to keep us safe from the robots?” asks an angry backbencher. I look over at Michelle Donelan and Andrew Griffith, who just stare at me blankly. “Good luck with that,” I tell the MP.


Volodymyr Zelenskyy, president of Ukraine and dad T-shirt model

Today we had a visit from UK foreign secretary David Cameron. He told us that British experts on quality and regulation stand ready to help rebuild our universities. Have we not suffered enough?

Andrew Griffith, still science minister

Been trying to clear out the office now that George Freeman has left. They’ve taken away the whiteboard with the weird pyramid diagrams, but on the desk is a giant pile of mashed potato carved into the shape of a mountain. He left a note saying, “the clusters are out there”.

Michelle Donelan asks if I’ve been sent by the mother ship to spy on them? I say, “Do you mean the Treasury?” She says, “sure” and wanders off, muttering something about “doing it for the little people”.

Grant Shapps, secretary of defence and sock puppeteer

There’s been a reshuffle? And I’m still here? Are you sure?


Rishi Sunak, prime minister and wishful thinker

After such a long week, I finally get the tech outcome that I’ve been waiting for. My copy of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom has arrived. I’m still trying to work out how to play online with Elon. He asks how things are going with the liberal wokies. I tell him I haven’t seen much of David Cameron since he was appointed.

Michelle Donelan, secretary of state for science and pronouns

Finally get round to unpacking my case after a trip to the United States, but the fizzy Halloween candies I bought are missing. I go into the office next door and ask Andrew Griffith if he’s seen my Flying Saucers? He looks alarmed. “I think they might have been abducted,” I tell him. He says he should probably phone Rishi to see if it’s not too late to go back to the Treasury.

Suella Braverman, small boats consultant (now available for hire)

…And another thing, being a student is a lifestyle choice. Sleeping in all day, watching daytime telly, staring at social media before going down the pub to bang on about politics to people who aren’t really listening. You’d never catch me doing that. Right, better switch off Loose Women, got to meet Andrea Jenkyns in Strangers bar…

Terms of use: this is a free email for fun on a Friday. It should be shared broadly like the unanimous opinion of Supreme Court judges. Want to apply to the Make a Wish Foundation to become a science minister before this parliament is out? Want to say hello? Email ivorytower@researchresearch.com