It’s that time of year again...

...the last bank holiday of the year is over; politicians are back from holiday and already sniping at each other ahead of the party conference season; and diaries across the construction sector are once again bulging with dinners and dos to go to – not least the Little Britain sailing regatta this weekend. So far so familiar. However, this autumn could bring stormier waters with it, and here’s why.

For a start we could well be pitched into a general election in the next few weeks. Prime minister Gordon Brown is still keeping us guessing as to his real intentions, but new RIBA president Sunand Prasad’s blitz on all three party conferences (news, page 15) seems wise. All parties are busy honing their policies on housing, health, transport and education at the moment, and the election, when it comes, looks likely to be the tightest since 1992. Exciting times.

The wider construction world may point to the fact that we are busier than ever, and with projects such as Renzo Piano’s Shard in London kicking off (page 38) and the Olympics looming large on the horizon, many will argue that the long-term outlook is set fair. That’s a mite optimistic. The continuing global credit crunch has yet to run its course, and in October Brown will unveil his well-trailed tightening of the purse strings in the Comprehensive Spending Review. There is nothing to be complacent about.

One issue that is worth a concerted effort over the next few weeks is to settle the protracted dispute over changes to the Construction Act. There is a good chance that parliamentary time will be found to update the act, but the industry’s representatives seem unable to reach agreement as yet over precisely what should be amended (page 32). It is vital that they do so, as the fair wind that is now favouring the proposed bill won’t blow forever.

Prepare to make some enemies …

Rugby has never commanded as much fervour as football in this country, much to the annoyance of its die-hard fans. But as the Rugby World Cup kicks off in Paris this evening, it’s likely to become an office event like never before in construction firms up and down the land. Old rivalries between England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and France have always simmered, but there’s been such an influx of talent from the great rugby playing nations over the past four years – South African QSs, Kiwi planners, Aussie architects – that the outcome of every match is likely to cause an international incident by the water cooler.

As a means of forearming those UK fans and newcomers unaccustomed to defending themselves against such a torrent of rugger-related banter, we’ve compiled a helpful dossier on the opposition on page 34. Of course, it would help if the home nations won a few games, too …

Stuart Macdonald, deputy editor