I have been sent what is entitled the "unofficial" guide to MIPIM, the property fair being held this week in Cannes. It is fairly harmless, except for a reference to "Ladies of the Night" in the entertainment section. I would normally skip over this kind of material, but for the benefit of Building readers, I forced myself to read on. There is advice on where to find a fille des rues, how much to pay her (€70 – down from last year, I'm told) and a warning about transvestites. You can have "straight or erotic massage" in your hotel room from either Elodie or Harmony or make your way to a number of lap dancing barns. And you thought the industry didn't get out much.
I'm Sir John two
One of the questions vexing construction minister Brian Wilson is the choice of a successor for Sir John Egan when he steps down from the strategic forum in June to become top banana at the CBI. Privately, DTI officials have mooted Sir John Fairclough, the government's former chief scientist, for the role. He has just completed a review of the industry's rather dismal attempts at research and development, and he's certainly experienced, although industry leaders – who've rather got used to Egan's cajoling manner – are concerned at his somewhat bland recommendations. Still, at least it suggests that the DTI is keen to keep the strategic forum going – and with another Sir John at the helm, its status could be secure.
Excellence takes time
One of the great successes of the Egan revolution was to make the government take seriously its responsibility as the industry's biggest client. In 1999, the Treasury launched Achieving Excellence, a drive to Eganise Whitehall by setting targets for each of the spending departments – including getting a 90% approval rating from its contractors (not hard). So, how is it going? Well, the Treasury is conducting a review, and the results so far haven't been encouraging. Expect an announcement shortly that the scheme will be extended by three years – and perhaps renamed Achieving Excellence (Eventually).
The smutty and creep show
Even protest groups are worried about their image in these spin-obsessed times. The campaigners against development in east London's Spitalfields Market – Spitalfields Market Under Threat – have been hitherto known locally as SMUT. Now, its merger with a similar group opposing development in the nearby Bishopsgate goods yard means it can drop the dubious acronym. Unfortunately, its partner's moniker hasn't much more gravitas. It is called the Campaign for a Real East End Plan.
I'm great: it says so in Builders
Here's a turn-up for the books. Ken Livingstone, the man who described contractors as "the worst scum of modern capitalism", is a regular reader of Building. In a speech at a recent conference on key workers, the mayor quoted from two articles to show how his requirement that housebuilders provide 50% social housing in their developments has become accepted in the industry. But the poor nurses and teachers who so desperately need the accommodation in the capital will be hoping that the great man is better on percentages than he is on names. He refers to the magazine as Builders, which has, of course, never been its name. It was once called The Builder, but we dropped that in 1966 – when London had no trouble housing its key workers.
The threat from above
The wobbly bridge may have got the all-clear to accept pedestrians, but I hear that there is a new problem on the horizon for the London landmark – guano. The bridge is apparently rather a magnet for pigeons. Surely a clean-up is required? After all, the bridge has now been up for nearly two years – even though it's been open for less than a month.
Tony 'one Jag, one Bentley'
Berkeley managing director Tony Pidgley is famous for being whisked around sites in a Bentley (pages 28-30). Unfortunately, I hear the legendary car was temporarily out of service last month, after receiving a dent to a side door. This left Pidgley suffering the indignity of being chauffeured in a top-of-the-range Jaguar.
The dangers of go-karting
Poor Peter Bowe. The Citex director is incapacitated at the moment after crushing his ankle in a go-karting accident last year. But although the sharp-witted scouser is resting more than usual, he's taking the matter forward. Lawyers have told him that he may have a case against the race circuit, whose safety record appears comparable to that of construction's.
That's just sooo last century
For 100 years, the modernists had the clinching argument in the battle of the architectural styles. There's, they said, was the style of the century. But now I hear the traditionalists have been turning the tables. "Modernism," they ask, "isn't that last century's style?"
Working with children
I hear that Preston-based contractor Eric Wright (page 48-50) is not the only boss keen to ensure that his staff have time for their families. At the RIBA last week, John McAslan threw a party for key contacts and staff, many of whom brought their children. Very sweet – although that may not have been McAslan's view when his speech was interrupted by a wailing infant.