Grenfell: How The Tories Got Away With Murder
It was three years ago today that one of the greatest British tragedies rocked the nation.
On June 14th 2017, the Grenfell Tower lit up in flames and burned for three days as the world watched on.
Three years later, the spectre of what was once a block of homes filled with families, friends and community haunts the London skyline. A stark reminder of how a government betrayed its people...
The Price of The Priceless
For years, the government has been scaling back on what David Cameron referred to as the "health and safety monster" - yes, you read right. The government has been hard at work, ice-picking away at legislation designed to keep people safe. Not to mention the cuts to public services which directly affect fire department's ability to respond in a crisis.
The economy, it seems, is far more important than public safety.
It's absolutely heartbreaking to consider that those many lives lost three years ago, are now gone as a direct result of the local council's decision to save money on cheaper, flammable cladding.
23,000 homes in the capital are still covered with the same type of flammable cladding that lead to the death and destitution of over 200 families. 90% of the people living in these homes are suffering from severely worsened mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
And what about governmental responses to public outrage?
Well Boris told us to 'get stuffed' and Theresa's magic money tree apparently appears and disappears when convenient.
Negligence Towards The Most Vulnerable
"I feel angry that after everything we have been through, we still have to fight: we still have to apply pressure to the government for them to implement changes and listen to us."
- Grenfell Survivor
The Grenfell Action Group (GAG) had been running a community blog where all resident safety concerns were being logged - they warned of a fire months prior to June 14th. The Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) and the local council continuously ignored every warning.
Would you believe me if I told you the following two extracts were published on November 20th, 2016 - eight months prior to the Grenfell Fire?
"It is our conviction that a serious fire in a tower block or similar high density residential property is the most likely reason that those who wield power at the KCTMO will be found out and brought to justice!"
"The Grenfell Action Group predict that it won’t be long before the words of this blog come back to haunt the KCTMO management and we will do everything in our power to ensure that those in authority know how long and how appallingly our landlord has ignored their responsibility to ensure the heath and safety of their tenants and leaseholders. They can’t say that they haven’t been warned!"
The local council were deliberately negligent in ignoring the concerns of Grenfell residents.
This callous attitude toward the most vulnerable in society is, unfortunately, a characteristic of UK Government institutions. We saw it before and after the fire and we see it now, in government reluctance to address the spread of coronavirus in care homes.
The One-Size-Fits-All Approach
Due to their height and in order to avoid chaotic mass-evacuation which might cause more harm than good, when attending to tower block fires, the fire department adopts a 'stay put' policy.
This means that residents are not alerted by fire alarms (they are systematically designed to not emit a warning sound) and are instructed by fire fighters to stay within their flats while the fire is attended to.
But does this one-size-fits-all approach always work?
Unfortunately, Grenfell is just one example of the major failures of this protocol.
In 2009, a very similar catastrophe occurred at the Lakanal House estate; a row of the building's flats was set ablaze. The same 'stay put' strategy was used by the fire brigade and this operation ended with the tragic deaths of six residents.
Considering that years before Grenfell, an eerily similar situation had already occurred, there should have been a clear contingency plan in place for tower block fires. This, however, was not the case.
We can't blame public services that are already thinly stretched - we must demand accountability from the people who are cutting the funding that allows for training, personnel and structural change.
Three years have passed, and thankfully, we've seen gradual change.
There was a significant reform to the 2005 Fire Safety Order which now sheds light on procedure surrounding cladding fires. The majority of Grenfell survivors have been permanently rehoused and many of those who lost loved ones have received significant compensation.
But no amount of money will make up for lost lives.We are still miles away from justice.
The Grenfell Fire was a direct result of negligent decisions on the part of the Government and local council. Those deaths came off the back of capitalist decision making. Until somebody is held accountable, there is no justice for Grenfell residents.
The verdict of the Public Inquiry into the Grenfell fire will not be heard until 2022.
As time passes, it's convenient to those who failed Grenfell that we forget. But we cannot forget.
Justice can only be found through unity. We must fight. We owe it to those that are no longer with us.
Grenfell United: Online Remembrance & Reflection.
Join At: youtube.com/grenfellunited