The Socialist 6 November 2019 |
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Grenfell fire inquiry spin deflects blame from establishment
Grenfell Tower, photo James Ivens (Click to enlarge)
North London Socialist Party
Press coverage of the Grenfell Tower inquiry's first report emphasised criticisms of the fire brigade rather than the important fact that it found that the cladding on the tower breached building regulations.
This finding opens the way for future prosecutions of building firms. These irresponsible outfits should be nationalised.
The press spin deflected opinion away from the establishment on the basis of a leak, while some of the bereaved and survivors were bound by a non-disclosure agreement, and others had not had the chance to read the report.
Grenfell United, representing survivors and the bereaved, has expressed disappointment at the "lack of respect." Unfortunately, lack of respect is a repeated feature of the inquiry, adding still more pain for the community.
The firefighters' union, the FBU explained, "It's disgraceful that over two years since the fire there has been no major review or assessment of the 'stay put' policy.
This could have been done within months of the fire and we have raised this with government ministers on numerous occasions.
Concerns about the 'stay put' policy were raised with central government years before Grenfell. The government must stop dragging its heels and recognise the urgent need to act."
The FBU points out that the report actually acknowledges that there was no-evacuation strategy available to firefighters and refute the idea that it, "would have been possible or safe to evacuate more than 150 people via a narrow smoke-logged stairwell with just 30 firefighters."
Ministers failed to act on findings of inquiries into earlier fires before Grenfell, such as the fire at Lakanal House.
As London mayor, Boris Johnson was responsible for a £29 million cut in fire service funding in 2013 and the loss of ten fire stations, 14 fire engines and 552 firefighters. When challenged about this in a committee meeting, he angrily told his challenger to "get stuffed".
After Grenfell, thousands still live in unsafe buildings while the government still fails to act, and some landlords - including housing associations - still fail to share fire risk assessments with residents.
Labour councils should act now to ensure safety and demand that the government coughs up. And, in the general election campaign, Labour should pledge to ensure safety work is funded.
The report questions the fire brigade's ability to learn, but what have the Tories learnt?
Any criticism of decision making by the fire service must be placed in the context of the failures of the building and its management.
While focusing on criticisms of the fire brigade, the mainstream media have not placed emphasis on the reports finding that the building was not compliant with existing regulations.
Jeremy Corbyn commented: "Thousands of people are still at risk because of the government's failure to remove similar cladding from other tower blocks.
"Given the huge strain on our fire service after years of Tory cuts, the next Labour government will increase resources going to the fire service and recruit additional firefighters."
That must be translated into concrete campaign pledges during the election campaign.
Residents must be guaranteed access to risk assessments and enough money committed to resolve safety issues around the country.
Labour should also commit to a revamped inquiry, led by the local community and labour movement, to reveal the underlying reasons for the terrible events at Grenfell and the roots of the fire safety crisis that has been revealed nationally.
Grenfell showed the depth of class inequality in Britain and the contemptuous way that the Tories deal with working-class housing.
Jacob Rees-Mogg's insensitive, insulting and callous comments about it being "common sense" for Grenfeel fire victims to ignore advice and flee the burning building shows the Tories utter contempt for ordinary people.
These out of touch, arrogant representatives of the elite and privileged have no understanding of the lives of the working class.
We need to boot them out.