This week our fearless iconoclast takes on Eric Clapton, the British state and the England football team, yet is strangely sympathetic with Richard Bowker

Mini Cooper

I hear that one leading housebuilder got off on the wrong foot with Yvette Cooper. Senior directors at the firm have recently been rolling their eyes at the performance of the planning minister, who is 38 but looks decidedly fresh-faced. "It's bloody ridiculous," snorted one. "This is the most important part of government for us but it's like talking to a sixth-former." In fairness, housebuilders are hacked off with the government in general for PPS3, PGS and many other iniquitous abbreviations. So we can only wait with glee to find out what they'll make of the similarly fresh-faced (and similarly on-message) Ruth Kelly …

A clue in the name

Speaking of which, wags have already sized up Kelly's new department, the Department of Communities and Local Government, or DLCG. "In light of the current regeneration situation, maybe it should be called DECLOG," says one. Sadly, with the PGS on the horizon, it's more likely to be RECLOG.

The curse of Wembley

So the England football team have made their first visit to Wembley, clad in the new injury-proof national strip of high-vis jackets, steel boots and hard hats. The project's workforce responded to the occasion by giving the lads a rousing send-off - except one guy who took the opportunity to yell "Losers!" at the top of his voice. With all due respect, the England team has yet to fail to meet its targets. Whereas Wembley, by comparison …

Bye-bye Bowker

So, farewell then, Richard Bowker. The man brought in to turn around the government's failing schools programme has dropped this weighty task to become head of National Express. In his defence, the job comes with a doubling of salary to £450,000 - and which of us would turn that down? He also might have seen he had to deliver three secondary schools every seven seconds (or whatever it is) and yearned for an easier life. Either way, it's unfortunate, given that morale among consultants is falling almost as fast as costs are rising. So how much longer before we see a "retrenchment" in Tony Blair's education plans?

The Pension Provider Blues

One of my colleagues joined pensions provider B&CE for a night of Eric Clapton at the Royal Albert Hall. I'm not sure how flattered the 61-year-old axeman would be to learn that his audience was partially made up of pensions providers. But while most people remained seated sedately, one balding fan in the front row treated guests to a 20-minute display of air guitar. A few more like him and Eric, and no-one need worry about the pensions crisis again.

Brad the dad

The birth of Brad and Angelina's daughter, Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, has raised an intriguing question mark over the allegiance of her father. Pitt is best known, of course, as Frank Gehry's tea boy, but his daughter's middle name could be read as a switch of allegiance to Jean Nouvel. Which is a shame - Frank being such a pretty name for a girl and all …

Tough at the top

How about helping my old Caledonian compadre Scott Lawrie? The PRP director is to scramble up Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon with his charming wife Pamela at the end of July. Lawrie is raising money for the Meningitis Trust; if you want to contribute, or would like to corporately sponsor Scott's T-shirt (he says himself he has an "ample frame" so it is prime advertising space), email

Noises off

Mr Justice Jackson may have presided over a fair fight between Multiplex and Cleveland Bridge in the High Court, but foul play appeared to be afoot as Cleveland Bridge's silk summed up its case last Monday. In the middle of m'learned friend's presentation, a loud banging sound began outside that all but drowned out his closing statement. Rumours that Ashley Muldoon was seen leaving the area with a pneumatic drill were unconfirmed as Building went to press.

"Sorry M'lud - I can't allow this case to continue unless you're wearing ear-defenders..."

Credit: Colin Wheeler