Fire – how did it come to this?

The devastating fire in North Kensington must have had us all thinking of 9/11. And yet this was a preventable, (in all likelihood) accidental fire in what is supposed to be the fifth richest nation on earth.

Personally I feel deeply ashamed that such an appalling inferno, in which at least 17 people perished, can happen in 2017 and in municipally owned housing in one of the richest boroughs in the country.

It is an indictment of our government, whose basic requirement for its existence is to ensure defence and justice for its citizens. Clearly it failed in both at the Grenfell tower.

Yet again it comes back to light touch regulation so beloved of the Neoliberal state.
Landlords are supposed to conduct their own fire risk assessments – something for which they are mostly unqualified and where they are never a disinterested party.

Previously fire certificates would have to be obtained from the fire service. This both levelled the playing field for all participants and gave the fire service an intimate knowledge of their patch.

The rolling back of ‘red tape’ is relentless – just last year the requirement to fit sprinklers in all new schools was abolished.

This is the nasty party in action.

There is much obsessing by the Brexiteers about Britain’s place in the world. The terrifying pictures from North Kensington broadcast round the world will have served to confirm how backward we are.

We may not be a failed state but by failing to invest we are a state that regularly fails its citizens.

More in anger than much hope I have signed a petition to reinstate proper fire inspections here.

The government has a duty of care to all its citizens. It needs to be reminded of it.



  1. Sean Danaher -

    I was absolutely horrified. The suffering by being burnt alive and the effect on friends and relatives is too horrible to contemplate. Though I had breakfast with my intensive care hardened wife who described in graphic detail what the fire brigade might expect to find when they finally explored the carnage. I might have anticipated this in somewhere like Manila but in London. the true number of fatalities will not be known for a while.

    Boring things like “red tape” save far more people than extraordinary terrorist measures. I worry that leaving the EU will reduce rather than improve standards.

  2. Peter May -

    I agree. Brexit stands as a potential to reduce standards – and it is amazing that many – if not most – of those standards were British designed, so it really is an excuse for the Brexiteer British to disassemble what their nation made – another point that needs shouting from the rooftops.
    Basically red tape is an excuse. And particularly for those who run smaller companies where it usually serves to level the playing field. It is also an excuse for those have never encountered personal tragedy as a result of its ‘bonfire’.
    Jack Monroe writes movingly on the aftermath of the fire here:

  3. MikeL -

    KCTMO was free to specify standards higher than the minimum required by the regulations. Why didn’t they?

    It is a company limited by guarantee, with membership open to residents, and a varied board, including local councillors.

    It is misleading to portray it as somehow a greed-filled profit making organisation. It wasn’t. Nobody is getting rich here. All the incentives were in place for the safety of the residents to be paramount.

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