All posts from: March 2011
Amazing what a quick Twitter trawl will reveal.
Last week Closed Circuit spotted Peabody media relations officer Neil Young tweeting that the association had replaced its teabags with a disgusting cheap alternative as part of cost-cutting measures. BME National chair Lara Oyedele revealed her appreciation of ‘the edible’ Idris Elba, Hackney-born star of The Wire. Then at the weekend Labour’s shadow housing minister Alison Seabeck tweeted: ‘Don’t you just hate Sundays spent cleaning out the oven!’
Meanwhile, Peter Shanks, a housing lecturer at University of Ulster tweeted that he’d had ‘the worst haircut ever!’.
Last week’s Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland conference in Glasgow saw a man called Sumo (Shut up and move on) Guy teach delegates how to ‘prevail over adversity’.
Sumo Guy, real name Paul McGee, encouraged his audience to repeat various Norwegian words to their neighbour. He then revealed the words meant, ‘I love you, sugarbuns’ tempting several people to demonstrate another sign of affection - the Glasgow kiss.
One man apparently not keen on shutting up and moving on is Professor Duncan Maclennan.
The housing finance expert from the University of St Andrews told delegates he’d rather not have the job in the first place when asked what housing decisions he’d make were he Scotland’s first minister. And why? It’s a ‘short-term position’ he suggested.
Doesn’t say a lot for St Andrews’ graduates’ career prospects, who include, you guessed it, first minister Alex Salmond.
Labour has drafted in advertising guru Andrew McGuinness to help develop its social action forum, the party’s answer to David Cameron’s big society.
‘He came in and compared the big society to bottles of tomato ketchup,’ said forum chair, former Labour communities secretary Hazel Blears. ‘He was saying at the moment the big society language is absolutely toxic and you wouldn’t want to go anywhere near it.’
Speaking at a private breakfast put on by contractor Mears last week, Ms Blears also declared her support for Tory MP Chris White’s private member’s bill on social enterprise. ‘He’s only about 5’2”, which is probably why I’m supporting him,’ said the famously diminutive MP.
Coalition reform is causing a fair amount of resentment, but the hate figure at one session at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s south east conference was not Grant Shapps or Eric Pickles, but bizarrely property programme television presenter Kirstie Allsopp.
Oliver Kamm, Times columnist, told delegates in Brighton that more should be done to encourage people to rent rather than buy. He said: ‘Television schedules would be healthier - they would not be clogged up with rubbish. Kirstie Allsopp, she would not be there.’
Later, journalist Rod Liddle also stuck the knife into Allsopp, who the Tories appointed as a housing advisor in 2009. He described her home improvement advice as ‘grasping and pretentious’.
Whatever has Allsopp done to upset journalists?
Elsewhere in Brighton Sarah Webb was offering an alternative big society vision.
The Chartered Institute of Housing’s chief executive reckoned she could improve on the government idea of tenant panels. ‘My advice to tenants is to tweet Grant Shapps five times a day’, she told delegates.
‘Seriously, he’s a big tweeter. You might not know this, but he is obsessed - the best way to effect change is for every tenant in the country to tweet him every day.’
The housing minister this week celebrated reaching 19,000 Twitter followers. Will Ms Webb’s comment’s boost this figure further - or will it leave PM David Cameron’s warning that ‘too many tweets make a tw*t’ ringing in his ears?
To another seaside resort and ‘Spot the (almost) Apprentice’ was the name of the game at Mipim this year.
Visitors to the international property knees-up, sorry, conference, in Cannes last week kept flagging energy levels up looking out for Liz Locke.
The former candidate on TV’s The Apprentice was out in force after finding gainful employment at an investment company founded by property developer Nick Candy.
Closed Circuit shared a flight back with Ms Locke who, it turns out, is as orange as the budget carrier she was travelling on.
Accountants have a somewhat unfair reputation as being a bit dull, but Closed Circuit believes this to be an act and suspects they might be having more fun than they let on.
Following a visit to auditor Baker Tilly in London, Closed Circuit emerged from the meeting room to sounds of laughter and the clinking of wine glasses. A receptionist sheepishly hid her wine glass, saying ‘we don’t usually drink at work’, while in the lift another employee let slip, ‘there’s a hell of a lot of booze up there’.
When Closed Circuit asked what the occasion was he just shrugged and said ‘drinks’. Closed Circuit immediately applied for a job.
Closed Circuit was excited to attend ‘A Conversation with Alan Sugar’, or Baron Sugar of Clapton in Hackney as he is now known, in London’s swanky Mayfair last week.
Lord Sugar was in fine form, railing against the Daily Mail, investment bankers, business secretary Vince Cable and ‘happy people who work for him who wear torn jeans and silly hats’.
The breakfast event proved so popular that the organiser, property networking club Movers and Shakers, had to squeeze 515 people into the ballroom of the Dorchester Hotel - a venue that usually holds 500. The result was a bit too cosy for some, with attendees knocking into each other while trying to enjoy their full English.
The size of the event meant most attendees ended up watched Lord Sugar on a big screen. ‘Conversation’? More like a video conference. Perhaps Lord Sugar should hire a bigger venue next time.
There were rows aplenty at last weekend’s Liberal Democrat spring conference in Sheffield.
But anyone expecting anything controversial to come from Richard Kemp, chair of the Local Government Association Liberal Democrat group, should think again.
Before the event Mr Kemp told Closed Circuit that he was ‘going to keep very quiet this year. My plan is to leave conference with Nick Clegg still liking me for once’. Perhaps he feels that, after co-ordinating an open letter from Lib Dem councillors complaining about the ferocity of cuts to local government, and calling housing minister Grant Shapps and communities secretary Eric Pickles ‘Laurel and Hardy’, he has already done enough to irk his leader.
Housing minister Grant Shapps has done a pretty good job of making a name for himself since taking office last May.
But despite his many, many television and radio appearances, it seems he’s struggling to make his surname clear, even to parliamentary colleagues.
Mr Shapps (the sixth most influential tweeter in Westminster, apparently), recently struck up a Twitter row with shadow communities secretary Caroline Flint. But Ms Flint settled upon a rather unconventional spelling of the housing minister’s surname. ‘Sneaky Schapps tries to hide rising homeless figures,’ tweeted Ms Flint. Perhaps she is confusing the ‘sneaky Schapps’ with a sneaky glass of schnapps liqueur?
Closed Circuit thought it had seen the back of Phil Woolas, the disgraced former Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, after a special court ejected him from parliament in November.
But last week, Mr Woolas was spotted outside a Westminster pub.
Eagle-eyed Richard Kemp, leader of the Liberal Democrat Group at the Local Government Association and Inside Housing columnist, said: ‘The last time I saw Phil, he was standing outside a bar with a fag hanging out of his mouth and a pint in his hand, and today I saw him with a fag hanging out of his mouth and a pint in his hand and I thought I’d find out what on earth he was up to’.
The answer? Apparently Mr Woolas is selling feed-in tariffs to councils and social landlords. However, no renewable energy firm has seen fit to list him on their website, and he wasn’t contactable to discuss his new job. Odd, that.
MPs on the work and pensions select committee take their job very seriously.
Four members have flown to the US, all in the name of welfare reform. Committee chair Anne Begg, fellow Labour backbencher Kate Green and Tory MPs Oliver Heald and Karen Bradley have been visiting welfare to work programmes in Wisconsin and New York.
The committee clearly believes in the political equivalent of shoe-leather journalism: just before Christmas some of its members also caught the Eurostar to Brussels to find out more about the EU’s green paper on pensions. A spokesperson for the committee would not divulge how much their taxpayer-funded flights cost.