CONTRAST the conduct of our two main parties’ leaders as they visited the area around the stricken Grenfell Tower this week

While Jeremy Corbyn mixed with locals, meeting people, expressing sadness and solidarity and, above all, listening to what they had to say and committing himself to getting to the bottom of the tragedy, Theresa May paid a cursory visit, surrounded by top brass, ignoring a community in mourning.

May has conceded the public inquiry demand made by Corbyn and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, but vigilance is essential over its terms of reference.

An inquiry that drags on interminably, enriching a few lawyers, reiterating past inquiry recommendations and failing to nail those who cut corners to make the rich richer and the poor less safe will be worse than useless.

That would tell the people of the other Notting Hill that they are expendable.

It is noteworthy that many Grenfell survivors voiced real fear that Kensington & Chelsea council might take advantage of their expulsion by fire from their homes to decant them elsewhere while refurbishing/replacing their tower with a luxury block for private tenants.

This suspicion is soundly based on observing a co-ordinated policy by Tory councils, ex-London mayor Boris Johnson and national government to redistribute poor people outside London.

Tightening restrictions on housing benefit, which is effectively a government handout to private landlords enabling them to continually raise rents, forces the poorest people into substandard private accommodation, often at risk from inadequate fire safety provisions.

A similar mindset of regarding residents of Grenfell and similar blocks as the undeserving poor colours the attitude of councils such as Kensington & Chelsea, intent on holding down council tax bills.

As little as possible is spent on upgrading local authority properties, with day-to-day supervision handed over to arm’s length management organisations (Almo) that pay hundreds of thousands of pounds a year to senior grades.

These highly paid managers ignored or rejected tenants’ representations on security, especially regarding fire dangers, as did the council.

Tottenham Labour MP David Lammy is not usually given to radicalism, but his charge of corporate manslaughter and his demand for arrests are incontrovertible.

Dozens of poor people — the exact total is not yet known — have perished in horrific circumstances and they didn’t have to.

Grenfell wasn’t a bolt from the blue. It was foretold by the tenants’ organisation. People in authority took fateful decisions that made mass loss of life inevitable.

They should be identified and made to answer for those decisions.

May’s cowardly preference for hiding from the people who escaped Grenfell, those grieving, hoping against hope to find missing family and friends or supporting their neighbours betrays a guilty conscience.


The PM is aware that her party’s penny-pinching policies — at least towards working people — lie at the heart of the tower block tragedy.

She knows that the public services personnel, from NHS staff to police and firefighters selflessly risking their own lives to enter the blazing block, who now attract deserved public adulation are the same people the Tories decried as selfish wreckers when they demanded a living wage and opposed government cutbacks.

May’s government is morally bankrupt. Rather than cobble together an unprincipled parliamentary majority with the DUP, she should accept that the game is up and let Corbyn head an honourable minority government.

 

This article ( edited here ) appeared in The Morning Star, Thursday 15th June 2017

Here is the link to the festival programme, http://www.tolpuddlemartyrs.org.uk/festival/programme

Hope to see you there!