Friday, 10 May 2013

The Witty Review

Tarzan
When I first heard about the Witty Review I had images of a Wildean salon, with epigrams tinkling like a chandelier swaying in a light summer breeze.

At the very least I hoped for Laurel and Hardy slipping on a banana skin.

Imagine my disappointment when I found out it was a government-sponsored response to the Heseltine Review, looking at how universities could work with Local Enterprise Partners (LEPs) to support growth.

Where's the fun in that?

So, to make amends, I thought I'd go with my original vision, courtesy of (or apologies to) Oscar Wilde. And Monty Python.

THE PRINCE OF WALES: Ah, my congratulations, Heseltine. Your review is a great success. The whole of London's talking about you.
MICHAEL HESELTINE: Your highness, there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
(restrained and sycophantic laughter) 
THE PRINCE OF WALES: Oh, very witty, Heseltine ..... very, very witty.
HESELTINE:: There is only one thing in the world worse than being witty, and that is not being witty.
(Fifteeen more seconds of the same) 
SIR ANDREW WITTY: (keen to join in) No, no: there is only one thing in the world worse than being Witty, and that is being Heseltine.
(Silence)
WALES: (perplexed) No, not with you, Witty.
WITTY: I was being witty.
WALES: Yes? And?
WITTY: No, see, my name is Witty. And I was being witty. Witty Witty. See?
(Silence)
WITTY: (red faced): Look, you dullards! My name is Witty! It was a pun! A play on words!
HESELTINE: I can resist nothing but temptation. And Witty.
(laughter)
WITTY: Ach! Never mind. Now, listen Heseltine, I hear I am to review your review.
HESELTINE: I never read a book I need to review. It prejudices me so.
WITTY: Can't you talk normally? I'm talking about your review of UK growth. You know, the one with the inappropriate cover.
HESELTINE: You mean the hilarious caricature of me searching beneath a rock? Ah! How John Tenniel and I chortled at that.
WITTY: Yes, I am sure. So I am to look in particular at universities and growth.
HESELTINE: Ha! You won't find much growth there. The exquisite art of idleness, one of the most important things that any university can teach. So which university will you be looking at? Oxford or Cambridge?
WITTY: Both. And I believe idleness in universities is a thing of the past. Universities are the vital crucibles for growth.
(general laughter)
WALES: Ah Witty! Very good.
WITTY: No! I'm serious.
WALES: Honestly, Witty! Do you take me for a fool? What did the Fellows of All Souls do for the Industrial Revolution? Did Telford and Stephenson get inspiration on Parker's Piece?
WITTY: Well no...
WALES: Was the Spinning Jenny borne on Christ Church Meadow? Is Brunel a Professor of Engineering at Kings College? No Witty, universities will never be anything but nurseries of idle dreams. Imagine, sir, if we were to force our academics to explain the relevance of their research to society!
(unrestrained laughter)
WALES: Yes! And we set them against each other as in a race, and compiled the results in tabular form! We could give them a certain number of stars: the higher number, the better their research! Ha! What do you think of that, Witty?
WITTY: Well that's patently ludicrous, your highness...
WALES: Or, better still, we consult their students and let them decide which university is best based on what they thought of their tutors or beer halls! We would then publish the findings in national periodicals!
(sustained laughter)
HESELTINE:  (puts an arm around Witty's shoulder) Yes, Witty, education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth knowing can be taught. 

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