When will Paul Hyett get the recognition he surely deserves from a grateful government? Not a week goes by now, but we are regaled by Tony's representative in architectural journalism.
After Blair and Blunkett's latest pronouncements on education, we had Paul postulating that the riba and they should be 'at one' on the matter, while taking the opportunity to slag off the pitiful last vestige of public accountability in architecture, the arb. Then, only days after the great leader testified to the weals on his back earned from trying to force change on a time-serving moribund public sector, we have Paul pronouncing, 'People now believe that the ... way to deliver...services ... is through private enterprise.' Thatcher's entire decrepit menagerie of orthodoxies staggered onto the page - unions are to blame; state provision is discredited; public-sector architects are rubbish; markets best match supply and demand; privatisation with a public face - yes, even the Sun got a look-in. I swear I heard Wham as I read.
Except, tragically, these Tebbitisms are not consigned to the darkest 1980s. The remaining swathes of the welfare state are to be handed to big business, so as to reduce the public-sector borrowing requirement and pave our way to the Euro. No matter that a pfi hospital will cost us between 10 and 20 times more for 25 per cent less beds, and have less space, worse staffing and working conditions and more private beds; or that, across the country, New Labour councils are happily balloting their tenants till they get the right answer, and transferring them to private associations without even the pretence of democratic control.
Any public-opinion survey you care to mention, from the government's British Attitude Surveys to Mori polls, confirms an unshakeable and increasing belief that health, housing, education, social services and transport should remain in public hands. Even the most Blairoid broadsheet has voiced deep misgivings about pfi. That bastion of Bolshevism, the bma, recently described it as 'perfidious financial idiocy'. Most of us, and that must include architects, are worried and insulted by what the new Tories have in store for our services.
Yet hardly a whiff of dissent stains the pages of your august organ, and has apparently not even occurred to Paul. The sort of 'people' who actually benefit from privatisation - directors of ex-public utilities and the companies which live on their largesse, like those of architectural practices - will be delighted.
As for Paul? Well, I'm sure the knighthood's in the post.
Nick Domminney, Glasgow
letters Wake me up before you go-go for Thatcherism