While Dominic Raab’s secret power was his vitamin volcano, Alok Sharma can actually remember people’s names – and Rishi Sunak even knows how to say hello. A cabinet of wonders, indeed

Hansom new 2008

What a Pret

I had the pleasure of speaking to an ex-civil servant recently who used to work for deputy prime minister Dominic Raab when he was housing secretary a few years back. She reminded me of his strangely regimented lunch habits. It emerged a few years ago that Raab requested the same chicken sandwich, fruit pot and “vitamin volcano” smoothie every day. His former underling told me that after news got out, Raab decided to vary his lunch choices in order to pour a vitamin volcano, I mean cold water, over the story.

Top of the pops

The same former civil servant also gave my hack a steer on which ministers are most liked. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is, apparently, the “nicest guy” and has no problem with stooping to such selfless acts of charity as saying hello to his staff when he passes by. COP26 president and former business secretary Alok Sharma is a firm favourite in the corridors of power, respected for his work ethic and known for even remembering people’s names. Extraordinary stuff. Whatever next? Politicians telling the truth?

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is, apparently, the ‘nicest guy’ and has no problem with stooping to such selfless acts of charity as saying hello to his staff when he passes by

Tunnel vision

Talks between the construction products sector and housing secretary Michael Gove over funding contributions for cladding remediation costs went somewhat awry last month. No deal was done, leaving Gove to mutter darkly about “reputational consequences”. My hack hears that one meeting – held virtually – saw Gove sat at the end of a very long Putin-style table with the camera at the other end. “It was like staring down a tunnel,” one attendee observed. Or the barrel of a gun, perhaps.

Whisper it …

My hack flew out to Germany recently for a visit to the new Stuttgart HQ of consultant Drees & Sommer, which snapped up UK rival AA Projects earlier this year. Showing the group around the firm’s new home, the project’s interior designer was at pains to emphasise the building’s peace and quiet, telling the tour party that “Germans are very sensitive to noise”. This claim elicited some surprise among the bleary-eyed hacks, who had been kept up most of the night by a noisy party of revellers returning from a local beer festival.

Tell it like it is

Another one of my scribes was in Vienna last week for a conference on green construction. He says pedestrians there take road crossings extremely seriously, waiting patiently next to an empty road for the light to turn green. The trade body that organised the trip also took architects from AHMM around the city a few years back. Their guide did have to question their taste in architecture, though, when they stopped to marvel at a David Chipperfield department store in the city. “It just looked like a shop,” the nonplussed guide said. Sign him up for a critic’s gig.

On the move

Word reaches me that Lendlease is swapping its Regent’s Place home for new premises at Paddington. I understand it’s moving to a WeWork space over the summer, which some might find surprising given it helped build the IQL business space project at Stratford. Perhaps Paddington is considered better connected, as next week it will be one of the newly opened stations on the Elizabeth line.

Cool it

My Australian colleague has been rolling her eyes more than usual recently. The weather is warming up – it is May, after all – and enthusiastic PRs, keen to spot a hook, have been bombarding her with tips for construction workers on how to cope. She says she is somewhat surprised that temperatures of 24ºC are being described as a “heatwave”. As am I.

Friends of Maggie’s


Team Sheriff complete (1)


Staff at Sir Robert McAlpine have completed raising £1m for cancer care charity Maggie’s in a little over six years. In March, 180 staff ran, walked, swam and cycled nearly 15,000 miles to raise the final £12,600. Covering 2,000 of those miles were Team Sheriff from McAlpine’s Battersea Power Station project who raised £7,800 in memory of colleague Sheriff Abu, a section engineer who died from cancer earlier this year. From left to right: Jo-Anna Robinson, Julie Burton, Paul Jeffrey, Julia Glover, Carly Moore, Richard Lambert, Amarjit Singh and Jonathan O’Gara.

Send any juicy industry gossip to Mr Joseph Aloysius Hansom, who founded Building in 1843, at hansom@building.co.uk