There are three explanations for this: too few deserving individuals; a lack of respect for the industry; and ineffectual lobbying. The first of these is easy to dismiss. In an age of skills shortages, the industry might yearn for more talent. But it doesn't lack stars, and it wouldn't struggle to find the equal of the MBE-winning England rugby fitness trainer. For potential nominees, how about the project managers of the new Bullring, which enriches the lives of those in our second city? Or the geniuses behind Swiss Re and Selfridges? Among the bosses, one could make strong cases for the likes of Ray O'Rourke (transforming Laing) and Keith Clarke (galvanising the majors over safety). And in housebuilding, isn't it time to say: Arise Sir Tony?
The documents leaked to the Sunday Times confirmed what we always suspected. Mandarins are inherently uncomfortable with honouring wealth creators (unless that wealth is channelled in the direction of political parties, for which ministers must show due gratitude). They are more comfortable acclaiming their own kind. Thus, in the surveying world, there is a CBE for Louis Armstrong, chief executive of the RICS – despite his little local difficulty (page 16) – but none for leading practitioners Paul Morrell and Richard Clare. Who, may one ask, contributes more? That doesn't explain, though, why construction fares worse than other industries. So shrouded is the honours system in secrecy, we'll never really know. But it's more than likely a reflection of the same denigration of the industry in Labour's eyes that resulted in the role of construction minister being demoted to the most junior rung of government. To invert the Millwall chant, "no one likes us, but we should care". The paucity of gongs doesn't just do a disservice to the individuals who merit them. It deprives the industry of ambassadors who can command respect in society at large. Motor-racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart made a similar point recently when he argued he could have done much more for his sport if he had been knighted before his 60s.
Which brings us, finally, to the industry's own lobby. Does anybody know who is responsible for nominating recipients? And how widely they canvass opinion? Whatever the process, it isn't working. With ministers promising a more open and fair honours system, it would be opportune for the industry to cast its net wider than ever in the hunt for suitable candidates. This is where you come in, and Building can help. Who do you think deserves a gong? They don't need to be a prominent figure; perhaps the guy who's spent the past 10 years organising site visits for local schools. And don't be shy – you can even nominate yourself! Please just tell us who and why. Email your suggestions, marked "Building Honours", to firstname.lastname@example.org (or fax 020-7560 4080, or text 07786-200117, prefixing your message with "COMMENT") by 16 January.
Adrian Barrick, editor