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Ivory Tower: National service comes to the battalion of Westminster-on-Sea

Titles and theme tune: Budd Flanagan sings, “Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Sunak?

Who do you think you are kidding, Mr. Sunak
If you think we’ll do natty serv?
We are the gen who will stop your little game!
We are the gen who will make you think again!
’Cause who do you think you are kidding, Mr. Sunak,
If you think the election’s done?
Yasmin Rooney goes off to uni on the eight twenty one,
But she comes home for the week’nd, and she’s ready to have fun.
’Cause who do you think you are kidding, Mr. Sunak
If you think we’ll do natty serv?

1. INT. Back room of the headquarters of the Westminster-on-Sea battalion of the Home Guard (the vestry of a local church). Captain Sunak is doing some paperwork. There is a knock on the door. Sergeant Dowden enters.

Sunak: Ah Dowden, are the men assembled?

Dowden: And the women, sir.

Sunak: Right, I’ll be out in a minute—just as soon as I’ve finished these pension tax credits reforms. I’m calling it the octuple lock.

Dowden: How lovely.

Sunak: Is everything alright, Dowden? You seem worried.

Dowden: It’s this election, sir. I’m not sure it’s a very good idea.

Sunak: It’s my idea.

Dowden: Quite sir. It’s only that some of the men are bit worried we might lose.

Sunak: Let me speak to them. Call them together.

2. INT Church hall, enter Sunak and Dowden.

Dowden: Would you mind awfully just falling in, in your own time?

[The battalion mutters but eventually shuffles into formation]

Sunak: Now, listen up men.

Keegan: And women.

Sunak: And women. Now listen everyone, I have some important news.

Cleverly: We’re doomed, doomed I tell you.

Sunak: Are you alright Cleverly?

Cleverly: Doomed, doomed, have you seen the polls?

Sunak: There’s a lot of rumours flying about and I just wanted to reassure you.

Griffiths: It’s alright for him. He’ll be straight back to California in a private helicopter.

Sunak: Did you say something Griffiths?

Griffiths: Nothing, sir. Just got you some of that inward investment you were after.

Sunak: We’ll talk about that later, Griffiths.

Cameron: My sister Dolly has some investments and a nice upside-down cake.

Sunak: What’s the old fool talking about?

Dowden: I think it’s the foreign office summer garden party.

Cameron: We had some lovely cucumber sandwiches.

Sunak: I think I’m losing the will to live.

Dowden: You were going to tell them about the election, sir.

Keegan: Permission to speak, sir?

Sunak: Go on.

Keegan: Don’t panic!

Cleverly: It’s mad, quite mad.

Sunak: Now, settle down men. You may have heard a lot of talk and seen a lot of rum-looking polls, but the only poll that really matters is the one on election day.

Cleverly: Doomed.

Sunak: I’ve been working on some top-secret policies that will see us right come polling day.

Donelan: Are you going to tell us then, or are they secret like the election date?

Sunak: Pipe down, Donelan. I’ve got them right here. I’ll read them out. First, reintroduce national service for all 18-year-olds.

Dowden: Do you think that’s wise, sir?

Sunak: It’s a bold plan that’s right for Britain.

Cleverly: We’re doomed, I tell you.

Sunak: Now, this policy is obviously aimed at young people.

Donelan: Like a loaded gun.

Keegan: The wokie doakies don’t like it up ‘em.

Sunak: Quite so. That is why the youngest member of the platoon will be leading on this for us. Where is he?

Dowden: I think he’s parking his bike, sir.

[Enter Luke Hall, slightly flustered wearing a knitted scarf over his uniform]

Hall: Sorry, Captain Sunak, it’s not my fault.

Sunak: Alright, settle down. [To Dowden] What’s the boy’s name again?

Dowden: Luke Hall, sir.

Sunak: There’s no need for that language, Dowden.

Dowden: He’s the apprentice minister, sir.

Keegan: We all call him Pike.

Sunak: Very well, Pike, I have an important mission for you.

Hall: You mean like in a Tom Cruise movie?

Sunak: You stupid boy.

Dowden: I think you had better explain, sir.

Sunak: We’re reintroducing national service.

Hall: But I don’t want to do that. Mum says I need to be home for tea at half past six on the dot.

Sunak: Oh, do be quiet boy. Not for you. Some 30,000 school leavers will spend one year in the military, while the rest do compulsory volunteering for 25 weekends.

Shapps: Have you consulted the army?

Sunak: No.

Keegan: Will students on full-time courses and apprentices be exempt?

Sunak: No.

Donelan: Have you consulted the voluntary sector for all these placements?

Sunak: No.

Cleverly: What if they don’t do it? Will there be a criminal sanction?

Sunak: Err…they won’t be able to apply for public sector jobs.

Dowden: Like being in the army?

Keegan: Or a maths teacher?

Donelan: Or a university researcher. We’d have to bring in foreigners.

Griffiths: I could get them a letter or something for a couple of quid. That would get them out of it.

Sunak: There will be no exemptions. The volunteering will be compulsory.

Dowden: Have you really thought this one through, sir?

Hall: Mum won’t like it Uncle Oliver.

Sunak: This is a bold policy that will teach young people the sort of resilience you have all learned serving on the front line in this cabinet.

Shapps: Feels more like shell shock.

Cameron: My sister Dolly calls it survivor guilt.

Cleverly: Where did this policy even come from?

Griffiths: It fell off the back of a lorry.

Dowden: Isn’t it a contradiction to force people to volunteer? Isn’t it rather un-British, sir?

Sunak: Just testing you, Dowden. I wondered how long it would take you to work that one out. That’s why a Royal Commission will answer all these questions.

[The platoon starts to murmur again. Enter ARP Warden Starmer, the vicar Phillipson and the verger Western].

Starmer: You ruddy hooligans.

[The platoon turns its murmuring and discontent to Starmer]

Sunak: Settle down men. What do you want Starmer? We’re rather busy with some important policy announcements—not something you would know about.

Starmer: I know about it alright. What’s all this about a teenage Dad’s Army?

Sunak: National service for 18-year-olds is a fine idea.

Starmer: Listen here Napoleon, that’s the most authoritarian policy designed to pander to the prejudice of pensioners that I’ve ever heard.

Sunak: And?

Starmer: Why didn’t I think of it?

Sunak: National service for 18-year-olds will give our base hope that we can win this election. It will be our beacon policy, a shining light.

Starmer: Put that light out!

Western: The reverend won’t like that.

Phillipson: Be quiet, Mr Western. I need to tell Captain Sunak to vacate the hall. We have a youth group coming in.

Western: For a democracy workshop to discuss plans to extend voting rights to 16-year-olds.

Cleverly: We’re doomed!

Keegan: Don’t panic!

Cameron: Might I be excused sir?

Hall: [Singing] Whistle while you work, Sunak is a twerp, he’s half-barmy, so’s the natty army, whistle while you work!

Starmer: It doesn’t look like your own side has much faith in you. I’m making a list of all those who want to defect and have a safe seat for the election.

Hall: Can I be on the list?

Starmer: What’s your name?

Sunak: Don’t tell him Pike.

Hall: To you, it’s Luke Hall.

Western: Cover your ears vicar, there’s no need for that language.


You have been watching

…the last days of Conservative government. The members of the platoon are seen stumbling forward onto the election battlefield.

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