Political backlash over the Grenfell fire

17 June 2017 11:46 am

People have died in an entirely preventable fire that engulfed a 24-storey Grenfell tower block in west London 100 are feared dead.

The bottom line is that landlords clad it in flammable material and council chiefs, together with MPs, failed to review safety.

It’s significant that Grenfell Tower, in Notting Hill, is in the Kensington Parliamentary constituency that was taken by Labour in last Thursday’s election.

Members of the local Conservative-held Kensington and Chelsea Council, their officers, and government ministers knew that the tower block was dangerous. But they did nothing about it.

The Evening Standard reports:

Residents had warned that the building - which has around 120 flats reportedly served by a single main entrance - was a fire hazard last year when rubbish piled up in a communal walkway.

The Grenfell Action Group raised their concerns in a blog post last January, saying: “The potential for a fire to break out in the communal area on the walkway does not bear thinking about as residents would be trapped in the building with no way out.”

Journalist and broadcaster Sonia Poulton provided more details on Facebook:

The Grenfell Tower fire is 'unprecedented' in scale according to a London fireman with almost 30 years experience.

"We have been shouting on social media for years about how unsafe it is," say the action group who tried to get real support from the local council, Kensington and Chelsea.

I don't need to tell many of my friends on here that it was going to inevitably end in catastrophe. And it did last night.

Huge fire. People dead. People in hospital. People changed for life.

That tower block is in one of the wealthiest areas in the UK and, in these increasingly gentrified times, it would've been earmarked for 'development' - almost certainly by private landlords - years ago.

Councils around the UK - cash-starved by Government - are, in turn, cash-starving local services, including social housing, and mostly until they fall apart - In one way or another.

Here is the unpalatable truth: those casualties - mums, dads, baby bear, pets, etc. - are cheap to those who are running our public services. Truly, they are collateral damage. There is no sugar coating this. The wealth divide has seldom been bigger. Enough is enough.

As a result, the Grenfell fire and its aftermath have become a focal point for political rage.

The Financial Times reports:

“For local residents, and for activists drawn to the area, it has already become a focal point of rage: at greedy developers, at an inattentive council, at austerity that has fallen hard on the poorest and at a Conservative prime minister — Theresa May — who did not initially visit the victims. Rage also at the mainstream media for rendering them invisible, and outsiders for “classing” them and patronising them.

“Above all, rage at whoever would house people in a 24-storey building with a single entrance and exit and no sprinklers, then wrap it in cladding banned in the US and Germany because of its flammable properties.”

The Guardian says the Grenfell tower is Theresa May’s Hurricane Katrina.

“Leadership requires courage, imagination and empathy. In the two long days since the first flames licked up the newly fixed cladding on Grenfell Tower in West London, the prime minister has failed to show any of these qualities. On Wednesday, the first day, she said nothing at all until 6.30 that evening. On Thursday morning she ventured out to the scene of the disaster, where she rightly congratulated the emergency services on their inexhaustible efforts. But she made no contact with the shattered survivors, nor the faith workers and volunteers who have poured in to the area with such compassion. Less than an hour later Jeremy Corbyn arrived. He listened to people, he hugged them, he promised to find out the truth and told them he would speak for them. Theresa May could have said and done all of those things, but she did not.

“The inferno at Grenfell Tower in which 17 people are now known to have died begins to look like Britain’s Hurricane Katrina. Mrs May is President George W Bush, off the pace, inarticulate, seemingly uncomprehending – a leader failing the great ordeal by disaster that is the ultimate test.”