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 Image: Grace Gay for Research Professional News

Ivory Tower: Rishi Sunak wears a vest in what is definitely a Christmas movie

1. Int. Business-class section of a flight from LA to London
Rishi sits, tense, with his eyes closed. The passenger in the seat next to him is curious.

Passenger: You don’t like flying?

Rishi: I’m not used to this.

Passenger: The secret of surviving air travel is, once you get where you are going, walk about on the rug barefoot, making fists with your toes.

Rishi: I mean, I’m not used to sharing a plane with other people.

Passenger: I was only trying to be friendly.

Rishi: I usually fly in a private jet, or a helicopter.

Passenger: Alright, I get it.

Rishi: Don’t call me tetchy.

Passenger: I didn’t.

Rishi: When I was brought in to do this job, inflation was high.

Passenger: It still is.

Rishi: And the small boats were at record levels.

Passenger: They still are.

Rishi: And don’t get me started on NHS waiting lists.

Passengers: Now that you mention it.

Rishi: And don’t call me titchy because that’s just a derogatory comment about my height.

Passenger: I didn’t.

Rishi: Tetchy Titchy Rishi, I know that’s what they call me behind my back.

Passenger: Look, we’ve landed. I really just want to get my things and…

Rishi: I’ve come all the way back from California for the joint science department and DfE Christmas Party. I’ve written a speech about why we should show more appreciation to people who take time out of successful careers in business to help sort out the public sector…

Passenger: OK, I’ve got to go now. You’re the last person on the plane.

Rishi: That’s more like it. Alone at last.

2. Int. 100 Parliament St, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (Dsit)
A staff Christmas party is in full swing. Secretary of state Michelle Donelan sits in her office, working. There is a knock on the door.

Gillian Keegan: Coming to join the party? The eggnog is particularly good, now that they’ve lifted the Whitehall ban on booze at work events again.

Donelan: I’ve just got to send out an ill-advised tweet about the slow creep of wokeism.

Keegan: That’s always done better after an eggnog. Will the PM be joining us?

Donelan: I don’t know. His plane from LA should have landed by now.

[Rishi enters, looking a little jetlagged.]

Rishi: I don’t know how people do it.

Donelan: Is this about sharing a plane with others, again? Because there are rules about that.

Rishi: No, it was the limousine ride from the airport. The driver kept on asking me to put my seatbelt on, and he wouldn’t stop talking to me. I tried to tell him that I was making a video for my social media accounts, but he kept going on and on about the cost of living. I wonder why he isn’t more grateful about the biggest tax cut in history.

Keegan: And I thought you were the drivers’ friend.

Rishi: Don’t call me tetchy.

Keegan: I didn’t.

Rishi: Or titchy because that’s just derogatory.

Donelan: He’s off again.

Permanent secretary: Sorry to interrupt, there’s been a mistake with the booking.

Rishi: Do you want me to do a press conference rather than a speech? I’ve written down some questions that the journalists should be asking instead of those ones about why Rwanda is impossible.

Permanent secretary: No, I’m afraid there’s been a mistake in the diary. The Labour Party are coming over for a pre-election visit. Keir Starmer and the opposition science and education teams will be here any minute.

Rishi: That’s OK, at least Sir Keir appreciates how difficult a job I’ve been brought in to do.

Permanent secretary: I’m afraid he’s bringing the Greek ambassador with him.

Rishi: I’m not having that. I’m going to take my jacket off and hide in the air ducts.

Donelan: Is he feeling OK?

[Rishi removes a vent from the wall and climbs inside; he is heard shouting “Yippee-Ki-Yay, income tax cutter!”]

Keegan: Right, someone will have to do the honours and host this visit. As a very successful businesswoman, I’ll just top up my eggnog…

Donelan: It’s my department.

Keegan: It’s my party.

Donelan: Our party.

Keegan: Yes, well, you should have come to my place, we’ve just had it decorated, you know.

3. Int. Upstairs in Dsit
Rishi has emerged from the air ducts and is pacing around an empty office space.

Rishi: Think, Rishi. Think. You need to call someone on the outside to let them know. Who do you have on speed dial?

[Makes a call.]

Rishi: Come on, pick up…Hello, is that Lord Cameron?

Cameron: Call me Dave.

Rishi: Lord Dave, I need you to tell people that the science department has been overrun by woke terrorists.

Cameron: I thought those Freeman and Scully chaps had left.

Rishi: It’s worse than that. It’s the Labour Party.

Cameron: I’m rather busy introducing Lex Greensill to some Chinese investors. Would you like me to send Esther McVey around to talk some common sense?

Rishi: Don’t call me tetchy.

Cameron: I didn’t.

Rishi: Look, it isn’t easy running around an empty office block, fighting woke terrorists, armed with nothing but an M&S vest and a Montblanc rollerball pen. The sort of question you should ask is, what is the Labour Party’s policy on Rwanda?

Cameron: Is it? I’m not sure that’s relevant here. Look, this phone is reserved for official calls only.

Rishi: Does it sound like I’m ordering pizza?

Cameron: Calm down, watch you don’t accidentally delete all your WhatsApp messages again. If you need me to step in as PM for a bit, just say.

Rishi: Hold on, I’ll call you back. I’ve got an idea.

4. Ext. The Dsit roof terrace
The tour has made it to the top of the building.

Donelan: And this is where I do a lot of my thinking. I sometimes come up here for a breath of woke air.

Peter Kyle: She’s obsessed.

Starmer: That is very interesting, but I think you mean fresh air.

Donelan: No, it’s London air after ULEZ—definitely woke air.

Kyle: I’m confused, that sounds like a budget travel company for Gen Z.

Bridget Phillipson: It’s ee reet bonnie lad, you’ll soon be back on by-election duty.

Keegan: Of course, it’s OK for a roof patio but it’s not as big as the one at Sanctuary Buildings. We’ve just had it decorated, you know. We’ve got a rooftop bar and hot tub. As perhaps the most successful businesswoman in the cabinet, I’m used to having the best outdoor spaces.

Starmer: But what about the aerated concrete?

Keegan: It’s made of bamboo, not concrete. I insisted.

Kyle: That’s odd, why are there two helicopters buzzing around?

Keegan: At the DfE we always have three helicopters buzzing around.

Donelan: That one is Sky News…not sure about the other one, looks a bit like…hold on, it’s getting close.

[The helicopter hovers around the edge of the roof. Rishi Sunak breaks cover, running towards the helicopter and leaps from the terrace into the chopper, shouting “Yippee-Ki-Yay, small-boat stopper!” The helicopter moves off.]

Starmer: Was that Rishi Sunak?

Keegan: At the DfE the helicopters actually stop to pick you up.

Phillipson: He’s a reet try-hard, that fella.

5. Int. Helicopter cockpit.

Rishi: Thanks for picking me up, could you drop me over at the Commons? Got to appear at the Liaison Committee.

Pilot: One of your longer flights today then, sir?

Rishi: Yes, and don’t call me tetchy.

Pilot: I didn’t.

[Flakes start to flutter in the air. Titles and music, Rishi sings, to the tune of ‘Let It Snow!’]

Oh, the weather outside is frightful
And the headlines all are spiteful
And since the growth is so slow
Maths to go! Maths to go! Maths to go!

The boats don’t show signs of stopping
And the waiting lists are whopping
The growth is turned way down low
Maths to go! Maths to go!

When voters finally say goodnight
How I’ll hate going out in the storm
But if I’ve still got a private jet
All the way home I’ll be warm

Universities are slowly dying.
And, my dear, we’re still goodbying
But as long as the growth is low
Maths to go! Maths to go!

Terms of use: this is a free email for fun at Christmas, it should be shared widely among colleagues like the university registrars mobile number for the holiday emergency contacts list. Want a sneak preview of the Christmas 2024 edition, ‘Try Hard Too, Keir Harder’? Want to say hello? Email ivorytower@researchresearch.com