Tony Blair's slash-and-burn reshuffle is dismaying for the industry.
Cabinet heads and most of their ministerial teams have been dumped and replaced with a new squad, all of whom must now grapple with strange new portfolios. Miliband, who after less than a year at the ODPM was beginning to show some of the fresh thinking he's renowned for, has been moved to Defra before he could apply any of it. Then we have the gratuitously cruel dismissal of our own minister, Alun Michael. He was kicked out - for no apparent reason - a few days after going on television to defend the government in the wake of the Clarke affair. Who knows? Maybe his ties were too close in shade to the chancellor's. Elliot Morley, the minister championing sustainability, is out, and Angela E Smith takes over the Building Regulations.
The whir of revolving doors has brought with it a pervasive sense of uncertainty. This is caused by the break in continuity, but also by the sense of everything falling ever so slightly apart. Clearly, we're in the endgame of Tony Blair's premiership. He's unlikely to last more than a year, during which ministers will spend much of their time jostling for a slot in a Brown cabinet - if Brown doesn't call a snap general election, which is also being mooted. In the meantime, the media's feeding frenzy will grow ever more frenzied: what other sexual peccadilloes will be served up to us? What other incompetencies will come to light? And what politician can really give a jot about the Construction Act or changes to Part L while all that is going on?
So what certainty can we hope for in these interesting times? Let's turn first to Ruth Kelly's empire, the Department for Communities and Local Government. The key to this portfolio is the introduction of the word "communities". What's happened is that a host of touchy-feely units, covering issues such as equality, volunteering and "community capacity building", have been grafted on to the old ODPM. Kelly needs to convince housebuilders that her department is not going to replace policies to improve planning and housing output with group hugs. She has, to her credit, already launched an attack on nimbys. Mind you, how the Building Regulations fit into the department at this stage is anyone's guess. The tea leaves here don't look good.
But now to the new construction minister, Margaret Hodge. She's highly regarded, but she's also the fifth minister to take the job in five years. Like Michael, she has dozens of industries to deal with but unlike him she does not have a senior civil servant running construction - at least until a replacement is recruited for Elizabeth Whatmore.
With so little time and so much to do, the industry has no choice but to focus Hodge's attention on a few key issues. If we had to pick three, how about pushing hard to make the government a better client - and that means not allowing the Treasury to put cost savings before best practice on the Olympics? We also need well-planned policies on sustainability. And come the summer, when the next Comprehensive Spending Review begins, she must shout as loudly as she can for spending on schools, hospitals and housing - and, of course, sort out the unholy procurement messes in these areas so the money can actually be spent.
Denise Chevin, editor