The interior decor of No.10 (as you’d expect lots of chintz, 1980s uplighters, a few too many landscapes and Blackpool Ballroom-style chandeliers) might have offended the sensibilities of many of his uber design audience, but the message Gordon Brown delivered couldn’t have gone down better.
“British design and architecture are second to none,” he swooned as he thanked the profession umpteen times in five minutes for creating a cleaner and greener environment and their utter creativity and talent in creating buildings in the UK and round the world.
“It is because we are leading in so many of the creative industries, of which architecture and design are so fundamental, that I believe the future of Britain is very secure and I believe that people around the world look to Britain for new ideas and to see how new talent is creating a better future for us." Nowhere are we better placed than in architecture and design," he purred.
Not a bad heap of praise for an audience that until he walked into the reception room at 7.45 weren’t sure whether he was going to turn up or not. But it wasn’t just the eulogy he heaped on the profession that went down well. It was the way he delivered it. Warm, natural without notes and with wit and some self-deprecating humour … "Hope the wine’s ok – I brought with me from the Treasury and you know what their reputation is like …" and "Downing Street – a spec building after all – wasn’t a terribly practical place to work. With better design maybe the Cabinet would make better decisions when they meet on Tuesdays” and to the schoolchildren from Eastbourne college who won a RIBA national competition to redesign parliament he quipped: "Great – but I don’t think we can afford it."
Sceptics, opponents (Robert Adam aside) went away happier than they’d arrived it seemed – posing outside No.10 while colleagues took their photos.
What Gordy said is not going to change a thing today. But no doubt about it. A real love-in for architects. A feather in the cap for the RIBA who pulled off the event as part of its 175th birthday celebrations. We all like a bit of praise after all.