The devastating loss of human life and homes in the Grenfell Tower fire is a dire consequence of the politics of self-interest which have been emboldened by the political system for too long. The politics of self-interest, disinterest and inaction are a toxic combination of values that have guided the ruling Conservative party and brought pain and poverty to the most marginalised sections of our society.
Such a disaster brings to light just how vulnerable we as human beings are to our government’s fixation on big business and capital over local community and social provisions. It exemplifies just how vulnerable families and individuals are to the economy, the whims of government and a self-interested elite; vulnerable to policies which discriminate or neglect those who most need it and vulnerable to the inaction and greed of politicians and developers.
“It exemplifies just how vulnerable families and individuals are to the economy, the whims of government and a self-interested elite”
On the doorstep of Grenfell Tower in the neighbourhood of Kensington the contrast couldn’t be starker. Developers have been working to squeeze every penny out of new residential developments whilst Grenfell Tower and its residents have been ignored. It seems that big money is not interested in the working class.
A damning blog post entitled KCTMO – Playing with fire! from 2016, by a resident action group, warned of the potential for “major disaster” at Grenfell Tower. Residents stated they feared that a fire would break out and that “only a catastrophic event” would expose the issues by their housing management.
Despite a supposed investment programme Grenfell’s residents and the place they call home have been left lacking the basic provisions for safety that anyone should have in a place they call their home.
This government’s fixation on austerity, its damaging rhetoric and greedy prioritisation of big business over local needs has punished normal working class families and continues to do so in its disinterest in ensuring that tower block safety is properly regulated.
After a fire in a Camberwell tower block in 2009, in which six people were killed and many more injured, an initial inquest concluded in 2013 that “regulations were not sufficient”.
Since then, according to a former Chief Fire Officer and secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Fire and Safety Rescue Group, ministers have had “damning evidence” on their desks. Despite this, there has been no further attempt at investigation. In the years since 2013 a succession of ministers have continued to say that they are still looking at it but have provided no evidence that this is the case.
Theresa May recently appointed a new Chief of Staff, the former Housing Minister Gavin Barwell. Only eight months ago he refused to provide a date for when reviews of fire regulations in tower blocks could take place.
Barwell had previously promised to review part B of the Building Regulations 2010 act relating to fire safety, however yet again no evidence of this has materialised.
“A general disregard for the working class means that once again we see the devastating impact of greed”
Years of inaction on the inquiries’ recommendations, and a general disregard for the working class mean that certain demographics suffer. The state has had plenty of opportunity to act on recommendations that tower block fire safety be investigated but it simply has not been interested. Big money, it seems, has triumphed.
There are people who say it is too soon to discuss the politics of this human tragedy but we cannot allow inaction to continue. Our politicians and council leaders must act immediately to put into place provisions so that this may never happen again. Social care, social policy, and social housing have all suffered under the Conservatives – and now even the places we call our homes are not deemed worthy of investment.
A local resident who was filmed in a BBC interview said: “They did regeneration last year to that building, put these shoddy plastic things on there that set up alight, because they want more reasons to knock these blocks down”
And I think that this speaks volumes.