Word reaches me of fevered speculation over Tony Blair's upcoming Cabinet reshuffle, which may embrace Brian Wilson, construction minister and composer of seminal 1960s rock album Pet Sounds. My spies in Whitehall tell me that the role of deputy prime minister and CITB-baiter John Prescott is under scrutiny.
It seems there is some frustration that the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has yet to get a grasp on its brief. A Whitehall insider tells me one idea is to slim down Prescott's responsibilities, which include planning, regeneration and housing. The other option is to move him back to the Cabinet Office. "They want to find something to justify him still being deputy prime minister but without much responsibility for policy," he tells me. With a shuffle of policy responsibilities imminent, does this mean the industry will have to learn yet another blessed new departmental acronym to add to DTLR, DEFRA, DETR, DTI, ODPM … ?
Earning the fare home
Cabbies usually exchange celebrity gossip with their passengers, but in one corner of west London the conversation has taken on a rather more architectural slant. With Foster and Partners, Will Alsop and Assael Architecture among its clients, one taxi firm has gained a unique insight into the architectural world … such as the news that Fosters has changed its policy of allowing staff to get cabs on expenses after 9pm. Now they have to wait until 11pm – so burning midnight oil could well become part of the Foster experience.
Pray silence, please
I was promised a surprise ending to this year's Construction Confederation annual dinner, which usually climaxes with long, laborious speechifying. The function, held in swanky surroundings in Holborn last week, was going as planned, with speeches from chairman Peter Elston and president John Gains. Eyebrows were raised, however, when three supposed members of the confederation's female staff announced the result of a charity auction. One of the trio then extorted extra money with a painful rendition of Waltzing Matilda before they broke cover as the Three Tenorettes and blasted out opera classics and Abba favourites to the bemused audience.
They seek me here...
Speaking of functions, I am indebted to QS Robinson Low Francis for a personal invite to a champagne and tapas reception in the delightful city of Glasgow. The firm's national marketing co-ordinator, Charlotte Steedman, writes that she is particularly keen "to discover the rest of your identity". As I am man of many faces, and a master of disguise, I fear your quest is a hopeless one, my dear Charlotte.
Take my wife, take my wife
I must extend my heartfelt apologies to one Kathleen Morris, a reader who has voiced a complaint over my reference last week to a type of glove "most commonly worn by housewives and serial killers". She picks me up on my patriarchal tone, an unfortunate trait that survives my formative Victorian years. Still, even the Victorians had a sense of humour...
Where your fees are going
News arrived last week that may further wind up enraged RICS members, who have been venting their wrath in our letters pages over the proposed fee increase, designed to pay for the RICS' plan for global dominance. The surveyors' body has now signed a partnership with the Australian Property Institute with a view to eventual merger.