Just look at the headline I have cut and pasted from Sky News: Sky News has learned Govt and safety authorities were aware cladding was flammable but believed overall regulations in place were “adequate.” Well, that’s it then. Theresa May is on her way to a stretch courtesy at her majesty’s pleasure and Labour’s John McDonnell was right to say residents were “murdered by political decisions”. What else can you read into that?
First of all, John McDonnell goes a long way to vindicate my decision yesterday to resign from the Labour Party. The ashes have only just finished smouldering at Grenfell House, people are grieving the loss of family and friends, many others have lost everything and are homeless. Theresa May, whatever you think of her (and I don’t think much of her, okay?), immediately called for an independent public inquiry. If Sky News is correct, there are a lot of questions to be answered but before lashing out, as McDonnell has done, would it not be a good idea to look at everything in the round?
I am in no doubt that some politicians are now seeking to exploit the tragedy and potential scandal of Grenfell House. I am not going to defend May’s initial inadequate response because we all know she got it wrong but let’s put that to one side for now. It is becoming crystal clear that something went very wrong along the way and we need to know why it happened and who was to blame.
Grenfell House was built in 1974 and in recent years over £8 million was spent improving it. We are told that the installation of cladding was to “improve view for nearby luxury flats”. A planning document from 2014 says “The changes to the existing tower will improve its appearance especially when viewed from the surrounding area” and it makes repeated references to “the appearance of the area”. This looks extremely damaging but it does not, yet, prove that residents were “murdered by political decisions”.
We need politicians to call for answers, of course we do, and we need them to call for calm. What we do not need is politicians making political capital from the death of innocent people. Now, if cheap and dangerous cladding was installed on a building where the less well off lived in order to make it more aesthetically pleasing to the better off, we have a national scandal on our hands and a damming illustration of the divisions within our green and pleasant land. I can believe that all this is true, but I don’t know for sure.
John McDonnell doesn’t know the truth, either, but it seems he doesn’t care. I am as angry as anyone about the massive inequalities that blight our country and the Grenfell House disaster may just change attitudes forever.
The media is right to conduct a forensic examination of what happened in Grenfell House and the government is right to call a public inquiry to get to the bottom of what happened. Then, the CPS will decide whether there is sufficient evidence in order to seek to prosecute whosoever is responsible for the what happened.
No government, not even this one, will in any way obstruct or delay investigations as to the causes of the fire. Steps are being taken now to ensure other tower blocks are safe and everything else will follow after that. It will take time to get answers, we know that, but it is right to take time because we need the right answers in order to find solutions, both in terms of ensuring that something like this never happens again and the huge gaps in wealth in our country are finally addressed.
If people died because things were done on the cheap or because their homes were made more pleasing on the eye for the area’s wealthier residents, regardless of safety considerations, the truth will out. We don’t need thugs like John McDonnell to score political points: we need facts and we need action. And, above all, we need calm voices. Where are they?