The civil war at the RICS is in its fifth year.
It started, you may recall, with a peasants' revolt in October 1999, when QSs with saucepans on their heads gathered outside Great George Street waving cricket bats and garden rakes and calling for the arrest of Simon Kolesar, the then president. Well, in reality they just voted against plans to confine them into one of 16 "faculties", but in such an august and dignified institution the effect was similar. That revolt was put down the following December, but since then a state of cold war has existed between many QSs and their professional body. This became an open insurrection after last year's fee increase, after which the RICS' position has become increasingly difficult.

To placate the rebels, president Nick Brooke asked Paul Morrell, a partner in Davis Langdon, to review and report on the situation. If he was hoping for a second Hutton, he must be a disappointed man. Morrell's speech to the RICS' governing council on Monday afternoon was a public dressing-down (page 12). In a blunt and straightforward fashion – not at all the usual style of conducting internal debate at the RICS – Morrell laid into the institution for its lack of respect for construction and its self-obsession. His description of the institution's "Byzantine structure and lack of accountability" will ring true with its 30,000 QSs, a good proportion of whom have been writing regular feather-spitting letters to Building. Morrell spoke for many of these when issuing a veiled threat that members, and possibly their firms, will resign unless the RICS becomes more transparent, accountable and representative.

That speech, from a universally respected figure, is an unequivocal message to the RICS that it has to come to terms with its opponents, most of whom are still deeply committed to its wellbeing. Even Jeremy Hackett, the unlikely Che Guevara of the revolt, says his aim is to "reform the RICS, not wreck it". But speed is of the essence. Internally, the RICS must give a bigger voice to the QSs who make up one-third of its membership; externally it must be seen to be defending the interests of those QSs at a time of fast and far-reaching change. Above all, it must make its members happy that they are receiving the service they deserve for a mere 32% hike in their fees.

Cheers, Keith

What a breath of fresh air to find an industry chief executive with a sense of humour. Keith Clarke, the new boss of Atkins, has a lot of significant things to say about the future of Britain’s biggest consultant, and the best way of tackling PFI and the City, but he clearly doesn’t take himself too seriously (pages 26-29). Has there been a funnier “Personal effects” column in Building? How fitting that it comes in the week that one of the finest wits of the past century, Sir Peter Ustinov, sadly departed. As Ustinov once said of himself: “I was irrevocably betrothed to laughter, the sound of which has always seemed to me the most civilised music in the world.”