Jacob Rees-Mogg’s comments blaming Grenfell victims for their own deaths is beyond outrageous, writes Shabbir Lakha
Jacob Rees-Mogg has once again shown his contempt for working class people by suggesting that the victims of the Grenfell tower fire lacked common sense. The multimillionaire Etonian’s disgusting remarks have rightfully caused outrage and he should face serious reprimand.
In a shameless act of victim-blaming, Jacob Rees-Mogg has in one sentence removed responsibility from his government for its “bonfire of regulations” that allowed the flammable cladding to be put on Grenfell in the first place, and of RBKC which deliberately and repeatedly ignored residents’ concerns.
It was made evident immediately after the fire in 2017 that the building’s fire escape was not designed for a full building evacuation, and that the council’s callousness meant there were disabled people living on the top floors. Did they die because they didn’t have common sense?
He has of course apologised, but this was no misjudged remark. It isn’t the first time he’s shown how out of touch he is with ordinary people or how little he cares about their lives. In the past, he’s said that he opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest – despite the fact that his hedge fund invested in companies that produced abortion pills to sell abroad.
This is a man who has described the foodbanks that are a direct product of the austerity inflicted by his party as ‘uplifting’. When I confronted him two years ago, he wholeheartedly backed and defended austerity, claiming that his party had lifted millions of people out of poverty because they had increased employment levels. For the majority of the people in Britain, this is a bold-faced lie.
Stagnating wages and rising living costs, coupled with the Tories’ bedroom tax, fit for work tests, Universal Credit and welfare cuts, and the decimation of social housing have been linked to over 130,000 people dying preventable deaths, to over a million people relying on foodbanks, to 14 million people living below the poverty line – the vast majority of them in work, and homelessness more than doubling since the Tories came to power.
It is a scandal that such a man is the leader of the House of Commons and he should be sacked immediately. But he won’t be, because he is emblematic of the Tory party, and why no justice for Grenfell or for millions of working people suffering under austerity can ever be achieved under Tory rule.
It should also be noted however that this is part of the impact of the Grenfell inquiry that has shifted blame onto firefighters instead of the government. By claiming that lives would have been saved if LFB had abandoned its 'stay put' policy instead of focusing on the flammable cladding, on then-Housing Minister Gavin Barwell (now a Lord) sitting on a report on fire safety in tower blocks and that RBKC was literally exposed for deliberately choosing the flammable cladding in order to save some money at the behest of then-Deputy Council Leader Rock Fielding-Mellen, it has given licence to people like Jacob Rees-Mogg to blame the firefighters and the victims.
Jacob Rees-Mogg has inadvertently made the reality of the general election abundantly clear. The choice we have is between a party that consists of and works for the millionaires and billionaires who get away with murder, or between a Corbyn-led government that would end austerity and fight for justice for Grenfell and all victims of Tory policy.
Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.
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