The BBC’s Nick Robinson relives his embarrassment over a saucy seventies rock classic and a concrete leak causes havoc on the Victoria line, but can anything bring Unite’s Bernard McAulay to a halt?

hansom for i pad

Vicky leaks

There were red faces at Bam Nuttall last week, I’m sure, after it emerged that concrete being poured by the contractor as part of the construction of the new Victoria station had leaked into a signal control room for the tube line, flooding the floor. The incident, photos of which were plastered across the internet, led to the suspension of services on the Victoria line. London Underground engineers worked through the night to clear away the concrete and repair the signalling systems in time for the morning commute. The Victoria station project is an exemplar BIM scheme, which just goes to show that there are some risks that even a fully collaborative model can’t design out.

Ask me another …

Bernard McAulay, the national construction officer at the Unite union, sure can talk. Giving evidence to MPs on the Scottish Affairs committee last week, alongside three union colleagues, he was asked to explain the new industrial agreement struck with EDF on the £16bn Hinkley Point nuclear power plant. McAulay began speaking, spoke some more … and some more, almost without pausing. When he finally stopped 15 minutes and 20 seconds later, chairman Ian Davidson MP remarked: “That is the longest single answer we’ve ever had in the entire history of this committee. It was also done in one breath … I hope your three colleagues don’t feel obliged to try to compete with this record.” Thankfully, none of them did.

Fleshing out the argument

The annual British Council of Offices dinner is one of the few big events in an otherwise sober January. This year’s do, at London’s Grosvenor hotel, was hosted by BBC political editor Nick Robinson, who was on entertaining form. He admitted to being embarrassed recently when, live on the Daily Politics show, his iPad started blaring out Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” at full volume during a debate between MPs Caroline Flint and Shailesh Vara. Luckily the phone signal in the Grosvenor is rubbish, so Robinson could be sure his gadgets wouldn’t interrupt him again.

My kingdom for a housing site

The war over Britain’s countryside continues. Fittingly the latest battleground between campaigners and developers is itself the site of a historic battle. The Gastons in Gloucestershire was where the Duke of Gloucester - later Richard III - beat the Duke of Somerset in the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. Campaign group the Tewkesbury Battlefield Society is opposing a local school’s plans to put the site up for sale and this week succeeded in persuading the council to list it as an asset of the community. This means it cannot be sold for six months, giving the society time to raise the cash for its own bid to ward off developers. Swords have been put aside for now.

A life belt for Haiti

Four years on from the devastating earthquake in Haiti, 145,000 people remain homeless. This is partly because the authorities lack a cheap and simple way of repairing earthquake-damaged buildings. Thanks to research by the University of Sheffield, a solution could be at hand. The technology involves wrapping a “belt” of metal around each floor of a damaged concrete building, which is then tensioned by hand or using compressed air tools. It does not require expensive materials or a high level of expertise, making it ideal for use in the developing world. Clearly the method merits further investigation.

Big Issue vendor booth

Making a stand

The Big Issue, the magazine which raises money for homeless people, has been running a competition asking readers to design a stand, kiosk or booth for vendors who sell the title on the high street. You can see an example of a design already sent in by a reader pictured. The deadline for the “Build Your Vendor a Shop” competition is 10 February so there is still time for construction to put forward submissions. Send ideas or ask questions by emailing or post your ideas to The Big Issue Editorial Office, 2nd Floor, 43 Bath Street, Glasgow G2 1HW. For further information, visit

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