An action dubbed ‘East 4 West – Grenfell Solidarity‘, took place on 27 June. It involved 22 lots of residents in tower blocks mainly across East London hanging out a banner to express their solidarity with the residents of Grenfell Tower. (Twenty two because one for each residential floor in Grenfell Tower).
It was not generally reported as far as I can tell but it does indicate how quickly a movement can be formed. The interesting part is not so much that these tower blocks were hanging out banners – although that in itself requires organisation – but that there was an organisation formed very quickly to do it.
As is now more and more evident to everyone, efforts to put the budget in equilibrium have precisely the opposite effect on society in general. Am I alone in feeling that this could be the start of a greater engagement in the democratic process?
I was also struck by a short piece on radio 4 , where an ex firefighter who lives in a Manchester tower block went to see his tenant management company to ask about the fire systems. Without demur they proudly gave him an envelope with all the details. He was astonished when he read it and and is now apparently working on a structured reply to tell them the alterations they need to make to bring the fire prevention up to standard. So it rather looks as though Grenfel Tower was not the only accident waiting to happen.
As an aside I remember when I ran a company, I was appalled that I was all of a sudden supposed to be an expert in fire protection as well. Of course the idea is that you go to the ‘market’ to hire in that skill, but how do you know the people you hire in possess the correct knowledge?- or are not just on commission? Or do you just say ‘looks good to me’? (I’ve been in a fire so I can say I didn’t follow this last option, but others might have been less diligent). The stupidity is that no authority seems regularly to check anything until after you’ve had a fire.
There is now controversy about who will run the inquiry into the Grenfell fire and whether its remit will be wide enough. The Fraud Squad are investigating the fire alarm firm, which is certainly worrying. But I cannot agree with George Monbiot’s otherwise excellent exposé of red tape – and the clique that likes to run the country – where he says that “A public inquiry where the government chooses charges, judge and jury puts the bonfire of regulations outside the frame. An independent commission is needed.” But I think that is long grass territory. The inquiry can establish the causes of the fire and the reasons for its rapid spread. Apart from the inadequate response from Kensington & Chelsea Council, the principle reason for a wide remit is to show that deregulation is life threatening. A conclusion I think most have already reached, and indeed, this is suggested by the reversal, by the Government, of the abolition of the requirement to have sprinklers in new schools.
It would certainly make us feel good to have an inquiry that, in due course, concluded that because the Conservatives do not wish to leave any financial debt for ‘future generations’, those generations are to be left instead with pot-holed roads, homes that are fire hazards, hospitals that are obsolete, schools that are falling apart and a shortage of trained doctors.
And that’s a real debt.
But surely that is already obvious.