It's easy to see why one Fleet Street diarist described Nigel Griffiths as a "pocket Gordon Brown".
He has a similar haircut, dark suit and Edinburgh brogue, and at his first press conference on Tuesday he also revealed another Brownian habit – avoiding eye contact while fluently evading the point of a question.

The only sense in which he does not resemble the chancellor (a "tax genius", he cooed) was in his grasp of detail – hence the references to construction's £82bn contribution to the economy (that's £66bn); to 30 site deaths in the last quarter (er, 26), and to his old buddy Bill Brumwell (George, to you and me).

In fairness, Griffiths has only been in the post for a month and his initial charm offensive has got industry leaders purring. His late arrival at the briefing conjured the shade of Brian Wilson but in the lavish surroundings of Lancaster House Griffiths lavished praise on the industry.

He would be an "unofficial ambassador for construction", he declared.

Griffiths spoke passionately of the need for safer sites, to tap the talents of immigrants and to exploit fresh construction methods in housing.

Encouraging stuff, except that he has no control over any of those matters. "Ah, but I have always been a great networker," was his riposte.

Evidently, but hopefully to more effect than the other character to whom the diarists compare him – Dill the Dog, who chased his own tail in the 1970s children's television show The Herbs.