But Jarvis' joint acceptance with Network Rail last month of liability for the Potters Bar rail crash in May 2002 has surely upped the pressure on Hyde, who personally presented to the media the firm's theory that sabotage was a potential cause of the crash. Hyde may have apologised for the gaff – unlike Morgan after he published faked pictures of British army brutality – but investors may feel that the damage to the credibility of the firm has been done.
The pressure for further change is particularly intense in the run-up to Jarvis' year-end results, which are expected to be unveiled next month. But this is where it gets really messy. The results will fall just after the London mayoral elections, where one Steve Norris will be vying for supreme political power in the capital. Can he really run a strenuous election race against Ken Livingstone while ensuring the future health and stability of the company he chairs? The current two-pronged career path of Norris – a very peculiar form of public–private partnership – is heaping even more pressure on the company. The Mirror under Morgan would have known just what advice to give to Hyde and Norris: Achtung! Surrender!
The buyer: A regrettable necessityIn its heart, the housebuilding industry has never really believed the customer was king. Often it has treated them as more of an irritation. And sure enough, the love–hate relationship that builders have with buyers is on display again in another TV series, this one called New Homes from Hell. Firms will complain that it is biased and unfair – which it may be. They will also say that customers have become more demanding – imagine! – and are playing to the compensation culture. But buyers like Angie Skuse believe that trial by media is the only way to get the builders to take notice (Letters, page 41). When housebuilders start providing more homes than there are buyers, then perhaps the market can be left to promote improvements. In the meantime, as Kate Barker demands in her report, it’s time housebuilders began to put their own houses in order. Simple as it is, better communications wouldn’t be a bad place to start. Buyers might be more ready to accept imperfections if they felt they were not being dismissed by the builders. So, congratulations to Miller Homes, which has started texting customers to keep them informed (see next week’s Homes).
Phil Clark, deputy editor