As we approach the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, the Tories have learnt no lessons and show only disregard and contempt argues Steph Pike
They say ... it’s better in Holborn for all the lawyers and all the judges that are there, they said they can’t find a convenient place here. Everything that’s perceived to be the needs of the survivors, the first thing they say is no. That insensitivity, that arrogance! That they know everything and we know nothing because we’re poor.
These are the words of Chris Imafidon, who had tutored children who lost parents in the fire, in response to the decision to move the inquiry to Holborn after tributes to the victims have finished.
With the anniversary of the Grenfell fire just weeks away, these words sum up not just the attitude of the inquiry, which has also curtailed victim tributes, but both the cause of and response to a fire that was not an ‘unimaginable tragedy’ as Theresa May called it, but an entirely imaginable inferno, one predicted and feared by the Grenfell residents who repeatedly raised fire safety concerns; concerns that were ignored and dismissed with arrogance and contempt.
71 people died horrendous preventable deaths and hundreds more lost their homes, their friends, their families for a saving of £2.00 a sq meter of cladding. They should have been safe; their homes should have wrapped in protection and care, instead they were wrapped in a shroud of greed and contempt. 71 people were killed by a system that values money above all else; a system that views poor people, especially poor black people and immigrants, with contempt and views them as collateral damage in the relentless pursuit of profit.
After the fire, when survivors were grieving and in need, this Tory government's attempts to hide their disregard and contempt for the community were as useless and superficial as the cladding that was supposed to keep people safe. It’s response to the Grenfell fire and to the survivors was appaling. Through its policies of deregulation and austerity, it created the circumstances that inevitably led to such unnecessary loss of life. It failed in the aftermath of the fire to support the survivors, leaving people homeless and destitute. Nearly 12 months after the fire it has failed to adequately house most of the survivors.
It failed to immediately ban all combustible cladding, and even now all Theresa May has said is that she is ‘minded’ to ban it after consultation. After nearly a year the government has pledged to pay for replacement cladding on all social housing. However, the £400 million will be taken from the affordable homes budget meaning fewer homes that people desperately need will be built. When £3.5 billion can be found to restore the houses of Parliament and £32 million to pay for the wedding of the filthy rich, it is an outrage and an insult that money is taken from ordinary people to pay for replacement cladding.
Whatever the outcome of the inquiry, whatever the Tory government's platitudes about learning lessons and making sure something like this never happens again, we can be sure of one thing, that under this Tory government there is no guarantee that another Grenfell couldn’t happen. This government will never learn lessons because this wasn’t a tragic accident; it was the murder of innocent people by a government and system that puts profits above people, an inevitable consequence of years of austerity and cuts.
Steph Pike a is a revolutionary socialist, feminist and People's Assembly activist. She is also a published poet. Her poetry collection 'Petroleuse' is published by Flapjack Press.
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