Odd business, public speaking. This week it raised Boris Johnson to the zenith of glory and cast a Mail man into the abyss of ignimony, while Caroline Flint used her special powers to evade the press

Boris exposed!

Boris Johnson’s speech to the massed black polonecks of London’s architectural community turned out to be a roaring success. The mayor, who was there to open the London Festival of Architecture, was received with cheers and shouts, not to mention a half-strangled chorus of Happy Birthday (he was in the process of turning 44). But would the cheers have been so great if people had known Johnson’s architectural views were actually those of Peter Bishop, the Design for London chief? One insider said the speech had been thrust into BoJo’s hands just minutes before the event, and that Bishop was the chief scribe. Presumably, the references to Marcus Agrippa and Corinthian columns were added to give that authentic Johnsonian colour.

That joke isn’t funny anymore

Speaking of public speaking, I hear that Sebastian O’Kelly, the Mail on Sunday’s property editor, got the British Homes Awards off to an awkward start. “Due to the credit crunch, next year’s ceremony will be held in a cardboard box outside Marble Arch,” he wisecracked. Lead balloons looked positively buoyant compared with that remark. Fortunately, the iron-clad optimism of housing minister Caroline Flint soon lifted the spirits of the largely middle-aged male audience – though this might have had more to do with her strapless dress than her anodyne speech.

Catch her if you can

Caroline Flint, current housing minister and the former minister for fitness, displays a certain reticence in front of the press. This may have something to do with those pesky newspaper snappers recently exposing her somewhat flimsy prep notes on her way into a Cabinet meeting. Either way, it meant that hacks at last week’s annual social housing extravaganza in Harrogate, one of whom had got up at 5am to get to the press briefing in time, were a little miffed to be told the minister would allow just seven and a half minutes for questions. Actually, that was a generous estimate: after just five she got up and left. Then again, she still seems to think the government’s target of 3 million new homes by 2020 can be met – maybe figures aren’t her strong point …

Currying flavour

Currie & Brown was out to prove its Scottish heritage last week at a whisky-tasting session at whisky specialist Milroy’s of Soho. Members of the consultancy – once headquartered in Glasgow – spent much of the evening scoffing at the tutor’s pronunciation of Scottish place names. When pressed about their whisky tastes, however, they were less confident. “I’m a gin and tonic man myself,” said one, while another confessed he prefers Armagnac. Trebles all round!

Facing Meca

The long-running saga of the will-they-won’t-they (oh please just make a decision!) merger between the Electrical Contractors Association and the Heating and Ventilating Contractors’ Association took a decisive twist this week. Word has reached me that the proposed new body has a proposed new name: the Mechanical and Electrical Contractors’ Association, or Meca for short. Will workers allied to the newly merged body need to make a pilgrimage – or hajj, if you will – to the head office to call themselves true members? We can only hope not.

Local colour

Times are tough; we all know that. But I did feel more than a pang of sorrow for Mott MacDonald when I saw that its chosen venue for a recent staff meeting was Doggett’s pub by Blackfriars bridge in central London, co-incidentally the haunt of Building’s journalists on more than one occasion. How shall I put this? Its proximity to the Tate Modern is more geographical than cultural, but why break the bank with fine wine when you can buy three WKDs for a fiver? In my opinion, curly fries are probably a good accompaniment to a PowerPoint presentation, anyway.