Those witnessing last week’s debate on the future of construction (there were about 25 members of public who came and, amazingly, stayed for the full three hours) were treated to a chummy affair. A bit of a disagreement in the junior common room rather than the Blair-baiting frenzy of prime minster’s question time.
This was due in part to the location – a snug room in Westminster Hall – and the amiable style of Nick Raynsford. Three years in office has not dulled the minister’s ebullience – he still sports the permanent grin of an enthusiastic and studious schoolboy. One of the few criticisms thrown at Raynsford Minor – by former construction minister Tony Baldry - was that it was impossible to get a decent fight going with him. Baldry was also a little nonplussed by the debate format. “It lulls you into a false sense of consensus,” he said.
Baldry at least went through the motions of battle – even attempting to hit the minister with a copy of Building magazine at one point. After being spotted earlier in the debate flicking through a recent issue, he then quoted from our cowboy builder news piece and described us as “compulsory bedtime reading”. “People say I must have a very sad life reading Building at bedtime,” he added, inexplicably.
Swotty Raynsford had, of course, done his homework. To the scoffs of fellow New Labourites, he reminded Baldry of a report published by the Tories back in 1988 on proposals to deal with cowboy builders, which never got off the ground So much for Baldry. The Conservatives’ new construction spokesman Robert Syms strode on to the floor and pugnaciously agreed with pretty much everything the minister had said. There wasn’t really any way to stop the non-adversarial rot after that. One almost yearned for the aggressive Yorkshire banter of William Hague. Almost.