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

Home 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

The pride of pouring perfect concrete

In the summer of 2020 I was awarded a degree in history from Bristol University – the culmination of three years’ work, late nights and great expense – but it is my concrete pump operator licence which sits above the mantelpiece. My father considers my ability to pump concrete at a rate of one cubic metre per minute to be far more impressive than my knowledge of Henry VII’s foreign policy. At university I worked as a pump operator for my father’s piling company, making me a very unglamorous nepo baby. I helped bore the foundations for constructions all over the country. On a job installing disabled access lifts at