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Signoff: David Taylor

I WRITE this at a time of great uncertainty; when the inexorable unfolding of events beyond our control threatens to shatter our complacency and bring to a brutal end our pampered belief in our invulnerability.

I would not be surprised if, like me, many readers are too preoccupied with thoughts of imminent disaster to care very much about the trifling difficulties of the British construction industry.

The future of our rail infrastructure; the viability of the private finance initiative; the hollowness of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's 10-year transport plan; acute skills shortages; unfair competition from overseas they all pale into insignificance compared with the terrifying thought that T4-2 - the lone voice of reason among the quangos and ivory towers erected by the so-called 'rethinkers' - is about to topple and could soon be in ruins.

The unpalatable truth is that T4-2, of which I am founder and chief executive, has reached a crossroads.

Industry opinion seems to be moving towards a more favourable perception of Rethinking Construction and its emollient blandishments and has less time for our reforming zeal. And take it from me, reforming zeal takes it out of you - we're knackered.

Of course, the Rethinking types would have you believe that they are the reformers, partnering this and value engineering that, but from where I sit it's just another talking club.

Well, anyway Crunch time for T4-2 came when the cheque for our last electricity bill bounced. Faced with imminent closure, I called an extraordinary general meeting of the entire council, a body representing a broad cross-section of the industry, from the site to the boardroom.

We were all there - myself, the two Sirs (John Poncey and Michael De'Ath-Breath), Dr 'Nige' Spandrell of the Department of Construction Politics at Margate University (formerly The Whelks School of English), his colleague the Italian architect Renzo Porno, who is visiting professor of Conceptuals at Margate, Zeb Bippy, director of Ragga Roofing (Sydenham), Kev the plumber and T4-2 secretary Beverley Piecemeal.

I started proceedings on a sombre note - outlining the challenges and circulating photocopies of the electricity bill - and then, borrowing a phrase beloved by Mr Prescott (on reflection, a bloody stupid thing to do), I called for a 'step-change' in our attitudes.

I was immediately asked what I meant by a 'step-change'. But, of course, I didn't know.

Sir Mike suggested that perhaps I meant a 'sea-change', or maybe a 'key-change'? 'How about a gearchange?' asked Kev. Or a 'namechange', suggested Dr Nige. Beverley put the kettle on.

Discussions continued in this vein until someone pointed out it was almost time for lunch and we ought to come to a decision.

We eventually agreed on 'loose change', and the hat went round.

This will keep the electricity board off our backs for a while, but it's hardly a long-term solution.

THUMBING through the Sunday Times at the weekend, I turned the page to find a photo-montage of London mayor Ken Livingstone as a highwayman. Ah, yes - the congestion charge.

I was reminded of Mr Livingstone's remark last month that 'poorer people don't have cars'. It seemed odd at the time, but the Times informed me that not only does the mayor travel to work by Tube, but millionaire Capita boss Rod Aldridge, who collects the charge, walks to work from his riverside apartment.

And Transport for London director Derek Turner comes in from north Kent by train.

So if the poor don't drive and the rich don't drive, who are these people clogging up the roads?