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Worm, Inch

CERTAIN CALL: Just when you think things can't get any more uncertain, they don't. Or do they? Departmental Head of Intelligence Stephen is conducting an inquiry into how some of our think-tank ideas ended up in Michael Gove's dustbin. So far he has discovered that the axis of betrayal ran between our manager Scary Paula and her girlfriend Bryony Stamp, head of the Shadow Futures Delivery Taskforce. Both have been suspended by their respective employers and are demonstrating their nonchalance in an off-season Portuguese holiday villa. What I'm keen for Departmental Head of Intelligence Stephen NOT to find out is that I supplied much of the material in exchange for #163;500 in cash.

QUESTION MARK: I think I'm safe if Paula and Bryony keep quiet, as instructed by their lawyers. My colleagues Owen and Sandra, happily, are clueless. I think it extremely unlikely that Departmental Head of Intelligence Stephen will track down Brighton Al, the fixer who arranged everything. Meanwhile, my colleagues and I are suspended, still expected to be here and "available for questioning" although not allowed to do any work. God, I hope somebody notices the difference.

SHOWTIME: We're concentrating on the Departmental Christmas Musical. Mary Poppins. It's a biting satire on Tory education policy; taking the piss out of the Department is a bit risky at the moment. The main problem is finding someone to play Mary, a thinly disguised Gove dressed as an authoritarian nanny who arrives under a magical umbrella of initiatives to home-educate two posh kids, with hilarious results. Sandra's already bagged the part of the children's bolshie mother. She loves wearing the Edwardian clothes, swanning round the office and asking if her "Suffragette Mum looks big in this". The show contains the usual mix of pop culture references and in-jokes, like the Chimmerney Sweeps' song about a robust new broom of reform, the trainee ballet teacher's "minimum 2.2" and the Let's Go Fly An Uncosted Aspiration medley.

CHATROOM: The rest of the time we're just doing Sudoku and crosswords and chatting. Owen wonders if student fees should rise and fall in line with grade inflation. Sandra asks what Use Of Force Guidance is. I tell her it's a violent video game, like Modern Warfare 2. Yeah, says Owen, like Wet Lunch Call Of Duty.

TREADING WATER: All very jolly, but thought-seeking clients are piling up now. We've already had to park an urgent request for feedback on a school trips risk assessment consultation paper. The aim is to produce clear guidance for parents and teachers on how to cut red tape. Normally we would have spent an afternoon coming up with "blunt scissors, protective gloves". At the moment, we are keeping our thoughts to ourselves. Inchworm.

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