Grenfell Tower: ruling class criminal negligence

June 15, 2017 at 9:55 pm (campaigning, capitalism, class, Conseravative Party, crime, hell, Human rights, Jim D, Tory scum, tragedy)

“People were waving scarves, flashing phones, torches, flapping their windows back and forth, crying for help … At first people [on the ground below] were trying to help them, pushing at cordons. I could see the smoke billowing behind them and in some cases I could see the flames, until they disappeared … [by 4am] there was no sign of life. Everyone was in a resigned state of shock. We couldn’t do anything and we were coming to accept the fire brigade couldn’t do anything either … I’ll never forget the sound of those screams: the screams of children and grown men” (would-be rescuer Robin Garton, quoted in The Times).

The faces look out from the newspaper, smiling in happier times. Many of them black or Middle Eastern with names like Khadija Kaye, Jessica Urbano  and Ali Yawa Jafari. But also Sheila Smith and Tony Disson. Then you read about people throwing their children out of high windows in the hope that someone would catch them, people jumping (some on fire) to almost certain death (shades of 9/11) and mother of two Rania Ibrham sending a Snapchat video to a friend who described it: “She’s praying and she’s saying ‘Forgive me everyone, goodbye’.”

This all happened in 2017 in one of the wealthiest boroughs in London, under a Tory council and a Tory government. But these people weren’t wealthy: they were amongst the poorest in the city, living cheek by jowl with people of enormous wealth.

It turns out that the local residents’ group, the Grenfell Action Group, had repeatedly warned the council and the so-called Tenant Management Organisation (ie the landlord) that a disaster was coming. In November of last year Edward Daffarn published a post on the Grenfell Action Group blog, entitled Playing with Fire, in which he warned that “only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the Kensington and Chelsea Management Organisation (KCTMO) and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders.”

Local (Labour) councillor Judith Blakeman attempted to raise concerns with council officials and the management body “ad nauseam” since refurbishment of the block began in 2014: “They kept reassuring us that everything was fine” she said.

The refurbishment involved encasing the building with cladding that fire safety experts have long warned compromises the safety of tower blocks whose original “compartmentalised” design had incorporated rigorous fire safety standards (it also meant that advice to residents to “stay put” in the event of a fire was fatally inappropriate). An “external cladding fire” had caused the death of six people in Lakanal House tower block in South London in 2009. At the inquest into that disaster, the coroner had recommended that the government should review fire safety guidance to landlords and, in particular, the danger of the “spread of fire over the external envelope” of buildings (ie the use of external cladding). She also recommended that sprinkler systems be fitted to all high-rise buildings. None of this happened.

So why were the warnings ignored? Why did Gavin Barwell, who was housing minister until he lost his seat last week (and is now Theresa May’s chief of staff) fail to act on the warnings prompted by the Lakanal House fire? Why did his predecessor Brandon Lewis, tell MPs that it was “for the fire industry”, not government, to “encourage” the installation of sprinklers rather than “imposing” it? Why did then-communities secretary Eric Pickles treat the Lakanal House coroner’s recommendations as “advice” to local authorities rather than as instructions?  And why didn’t Grenfell Tower even have a building-wide fire alarm?

The answer is as simple as it’s shocking: these residents are poor working class people, many of whom are also ethnic minorities and migrants (in an especially tragic twist, the first body to be identified is that of a Syrian refugee, Mohammad al-Haj Ali). Such negligence and cost-cutting would never be tolerated in the luxury high-rise flats and offices peopled by the rich: these are built to the highest standards, using the safest materials.

This is ruling class contempt for the poor – also exemplified by May’s refusal to meet with local people during her brief and tightly-policed visit to the scene earlier today.

Let no-one tell you this was simply a “tragedy” as though it was some sort of natural disaster. This was criminal negligence by the ruling class and their political party, the Tories. Our response – and the only response that will truly honour the victims – must be to pursue the class struggle with renewed vigour. Starting by kicking out the Tories as soon as possible.

11 Comments

  1. Len McCluskey said,

    Dear friends,

    The full horror of the fire at the Grenfell Tower is yet to unfold but we do know that there has been fatalities, serious injuries and hundreds of people are left destitute and in despair.

    Once again our emergency services have been called upon to display the selflessness and heroism we are sadly becoming all too accustomed to. Unite will be sending its solidarity to our colleague unions to express our very deep thanks for all that they do to in the name of public service.

    But we also need your help. We need you to donate to the fund to support the residents of Grenfell Tower.

    Unite has members who live in Grenfell Tower. We are doing our utmost to locate them, and to offer every support to them and their neighbours. Our community members are already mobilising collections for essentials such as clothing, food and toiletries.

    Clearly there are very many questions to be asked about the cause of last night’s blaze, and when the time is appropriate this union will be redoubling its efforts to put decent, safe social housing back on the political agenda. There are thousands of such towers around the UK. We must ensure that they pose no risk to human life.

    But for today we need to rally around our fellow members and this devastated community.

    Can your branch make a donation to help those affected by this horror through these very dark times?

    If so, please donate to

    London Fire

    Account 33201148

    Sort code 60 83 01

    With very many thanks,

    Len McCluskey, General Secretary, Unite the union

  2. vichara0 said,

    Am with you re the class struggle, but Barwell’s first name is Gavin, not George.

    • Jim Denham said,

      Thanks: will correct.

  3. petrel41 said,

  4. Radical Housing Network said,

    Hi folks,

    You will all have seen the unfolding tragedy at Grenfell Tower. We are organising solidarity for our member group the Grenfell Action Group, which became part of the Radical Housing Network about 3 years ago. They have been pressurising the local council for its failings throughout that time, and it’s horrific to see the implications of the council’s intransigence now.

    I hope to see many of you at the demonstration at DCLG tonight (Friday), 6pm by Victoria.

    As well as that demonstration, we have called a solidarity meeting tomorrow morning at 9.30am, at Maxilla Social Club, 2 Maxilla Walk, London W10 6NQ – we will walk down from the meeting, to the demonstration we’ve called at midday tomorrow.

    https://www.facebook.com/events/114542675817274

    Action outside Kensington Town Hall to demand that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea are held accountable for the deaths and tragedy of Grenfell, and that the residents’ and housing movement’s demands are met. This atrocity must never happen again.

    Saturday 17 June, Midday

    Kensington Town Hall

    Hornton Street

    LONDON

    W8 7NX

    Please can you forward this about – this has to mark a turning point in British housing policy, and it might well do.

    The meeting and action will focus on ongoing solidarity for the residents and the Grenfell Action Group. This means supporting them in achieving their demands and ensuring their voices are heard in the oncoming political debate. Here’s some lines from an RHN member about the feeling on the ground:

    I’ve spoken today with Eddie and also David Collins, who worked closely with Eddie on the campaign. They are clear about their immediate demands – they want all the residents to be housed locally and together in the aftermarth as well as long term. And they want a full inquiry into what happened and into the Tenants Manangement Organisation.

    Even straight after the fire the council were trying to break up the residents – Eddie was allocated a single, emergency accomodation flat and had to fight to be put up in a decent hotel with other Grenfell families. He is organising to make sure this is the same for all residents. Therea May might have promised an inquiry but today said that “the government will make every effort to make sure that they are rehoused in London and as close as possible to home.” NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Also, yesterday, the head of the council refused to give a straight answer when questioned if the land would not be privatised.

    I have been down at Grenfell today, coordinating with Grenfell Action, dealing with press, speaking to journalists, organisers, survivors and those at the site. There is a lot of anger, and desire to hold the council to account. The action today is focussing on the government, but no action is yet being organised against the council. From what I’ve heard the community would be incredibly supportive of this. Chalking the town hall would enable people to literally write large their demands and anger on this symbol of local governance.

    JUSTICE FOR GRENFELL
    ***

    Grenfell Action Group demand that no stone is left unturned in investigating what led to this horrific event, and that those responsible are held to account.

    Residents must not be broken up in the immediate aftermath of the fire. In the long term are must be offered local, secure and affordable housing. The community must be allowed to heal together.

    ***

    Radical Housing Network demand that the estate is fully rebuilt so that not a single unit of social housing is lost – this must not be an opportunity for the council to privatise homes, or for someone to make quick cash.

    Gavin Barwell, Conservative Chief of Staff and ex-Minister for Housing, who sat on a report warning that tower blocks were vulnerable to fire, must resign immediately, along with anyone else whose actions or neglect led to Grenfell. Criminal proceedings must be brought against those responsible.

    Bring banners and noise. Open mic and other action.

    Called by Radical Housing Network and our member group, Grenfell Action Group

  5. Glasgow Working Class said,

    The Tower Block was built by the working classes and there was no moaning at the time. The Block was refurbisbed by the working class and there was no moaning about construction problems!

    • Jim Denham said,

      Have you not been reading the papers (even the Tory ones) or watching the telly? Or following this blog? The Grenfell Action Group made repeated protests about safety standards in the building. They were ignored – except when the management and council threatened them with legal action.

      • Glasgow Working Class said,

        So who was to blame then? Theresa May! If it was so bad why did the punters not camp out en mass. I think sensible people will wait for the investigation results and if their was deliberate negligence then those responsible will be held to account.
        The mad leftie protests are typical of the left bandwagon wanting heads without evidence.

      • Jim Denham said,

        “If it was so bad why did the punters not camp out en mass”: you really are a fucking asshole, aren’t you? In fact you can just fuck off now. Goodbye, you piece of shit.

  6. Glasgow Working Class said,

    Silly man you are Denham.

  7. Political Tourist said,

    Bigot

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