The Spectator

Portrait of the week: A concrete crisis, Labour reshuffle and Gabon coup 


More than 100 schools were told to close buildings before the new term because they contained the wrong kind of concrete. The Health and Safety Executive said that reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) ‘is liable to collapse with little or no notice’. In total, 156 schools are affected, of which 104 require urgent attention and 52 have already received repair works. But in Scotland, where 35 council-run schools had been found to contain Raac, none had to close. In July, NHS Scotland had also identified 254 buildings that ‘have two or more characteristics which are consistent with the presence of Raac’, vulnerable to ‘catastrophic failure without warning’, but a Scottish government spokesperson said there was ‘no evidence to suggest that these buildings are not safe’. Laughing gas is to be categorised as a Class C drug by the end of the year, the government said, its possession punishable by two years’ jail.

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, appointed Grant Shapps as Defence Secretary in place of Ben Wallace; Claire Coutinho succeeded him as Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero. General Lord Dannatt said: ‘We have a new Defence Secretary who knows very little about defence, and it’s a complex portfolio. It will take him quite some time to get up to speed.’ Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, appointed the party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner as shadow levelling up secretary in place of Lisa Nandy, demoted to international development. Hilary Benn took on Northern Ireland and Pat McFadden became national campaign co-ordinator. Mohamed al-Fayed, who spent some years as the proprietor of Harrods and saw his son Dodi killed in the same car crash as Diana, Princess of Wales, died aged 94.

Birmingham city council, which is run by Labour, declared that it could not meet its expenditure commitments after spending £100 million on a botched computer system and £760 million on equal-pay claims.

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