Everyone’s taking it on the chin this week, whether it involves Boris Johnson and dead sheep, macho fisticuffs or seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time facial hair

The great communicator

John Prescott’s grand vote-winning scheme to sell nationalised homes to key workers at £60,000 was one of the great surprises of this week’s Labour Party Conference – not least, I gather, to the ODPM’s head of sustainable communities, Richard McCarthy, who only heard about in on Sunday.

A politic exit

Construction minister Nigel Griffiths was looking very tanned at the conference after holidaying in Majorca. Tanned but not relaxed. The ever-frenetic Scot whizzed into a Construction Confederation fringe meeting, cut into a speech from CC president Roy Harrison, delivered some wisely prepared words and sped off. This could have slightly undermined the next speech by CC chairman Trevor Walker, in which he planned to lay into Griffiths’ government, but Walker ploughed on regardless.

Making a fist of it

I see the industry’s leading networking group Mingleminded (or is that a dating agency?), which brands itself “still the property and construction industry’s best night out” held another event this week, this time at a Covent Garden haunt. Apparently the group’s last outing stretched the meaning of the word “mingling” somewhat. Instead of the traditional handshake,

I understand two male work colleagues ended by trading punches, allegedly, after a contretemps over a member of the opposite sex. One hopes this week’s event went off a little more quietly.

Non-stop Snog-in

Speaking of networking, news reaches me of a new intriguingly named business meeting group – Sister Snog. It is described as a “networking club exclusively for women in business who are ambitious, adventurous and have a sense of fun”, and has a fancy website – www.sistersnog.com. Fun it may be, but etiquette rules are strict: “Don’t be the person who talks non-stop about themselves and their business. It’s a Big Hairy No! No! at a Sister Snog event.” Alas, no pictures.

Another big, hairy no-no?

Linking seamlessly, it has presumably been noticed by many in the trade that Rudi Klein, barrister and scourge of main contractors, has grown a beard. Was this a tough new image for those debates over changes to the Construction Act? According to the man himself, he couldn’t be bothered to shave while on holiday. Now I hear he is having second thoughts. “I think it will be off soon,” an insider tells me. You heard it here first.

Old funny bones

Tory MP and hack Boris Johnson may have been acknowledging his party’s declining vigour last week when he was seen in the company of another aged relic. Guest speaker Johnson appeared transfixed by a dinosaur skeleton in the the dining room at the HVCA centenary bash, held at the Natural History Museum. Leaving “extinction” gags to society heads, Boris chose to entertain guests with a description of a dead sheep instead. All good fun, even if nobody in the room had a clue what he was going on about.

Clouds with a $ilver lining

I hear a new service is being offered – catastrophe cost consultancy. No, it’s not related to Scottish-based public-sector work, but to the disastrous weather that’s been besetting our planet of late. QS and project manager Gleeds tells me that its US counterpart is jumping on the back of hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne. The firm’s Atlanta office apparently supports loss adjusters who report on hurricane damage. Pack your wellies and macs when you’re out there, lads.

Drop this one?

I was interested to pick up the news of former BBC property director Ian Robertson’s switch to helping out the flagging fortunes of the Paddington Health Campus PFI scheme, which is having something of an annus horribilis. He is heading discussions over a possible land deal with developer Chelsfield, which may see him sitting opposite former Land Securities man John Anderson, who has since joined Chelsfield. The fact that Robertson struck a huge property outsourcing deal with Land Securities when Anderson was there must surely be just a coincidence.

Cause for alarms
Cause for alarms
The signs are not good for the housing market if the launch of a scheme in the Isle of Dogs, east London, by developer the Cathedral Group is anything to go by. I hear a grand total of one member of the public attended the launch of the 174-unit block of flats designed by architect HLM Design. Perhaps the fact that the ground floor is taken up by a fire station had something to do with it.