There were calls from some commentators on 14 June ‘not to politicise’ the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London. And Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also insisted that “today is the day to support the emergency services and the residents”. But at the same time, he didn’t shy away from making clear that it’s difficult to separate the tragedy from past political failures.
The Labour leader first sent “sympathy, support and solidarity” to everyone affected by the fire, before saying a “huge thank you” to the emergency services on the scene.
But when Sky News questioned Corbyn about the Grenfell Tower fire in relation to a similar disaster in 2009, Corbyn said:
lessons have to be learned…
Harriet Harman – the MP for Camberwell and Peckham who represented those people that suffered in the fire there in 2009 – has made the point that, if you cut local authority expenditure, then the price is paid somewhere.
Harriet Harman soon spoke out herself. And she suggested that lessons had not been learned from the past. She told BBC Radio 4‘s World At One programme:
Councils want to fit sprinklers in their tower blocks, but it comes down to money… The government has been cutting the money to councils. If you cut money to councils, you can’t put in sprinklers.
Meanwhile, Corbyn also told Sky that, in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire, it would be important to look at:
the numbers of people available to the fire service, paramedics, and emergency services to deal with a crisis like this. We thank all those that work so hard in our emergency services, but we have to make sure [they’re] properly resourced to deal with this kind of crisis…
And he told the BBC that:
You can never compromise on safety where fire is concerned… The reports that were made in the past have to be acted on.
A chorus of criticism
But Corbyn wasn’t the only one not afraid to link past political decisions to the tragedy at Grenfell Tower.
Novara Media co-founder Aaron Bastani insisted in the wake of the disaster that:
From poor safety standards to Tories rejecting laws to make all homes fit for human habitation, this morning’s tragedy in London is a political matter.
Others made similar points. From the landlord KCTMO’s alleged failures to its apparent profit-making:
To cuts to the fire service:
And to the Conservative government’s participation in, and failure to deal with, Britain’s chronic housing crisis:
Or as Mark McGowan, the Artist Taxi Driver, said:
There’s literally people out in the streets screaming… ‘we told you, we told you’. And then you’ve got people saying ‘don’t politicise this’…
This is political
In short, today is indeed a day to focus on saving lives, to thank our emergency services, and to support everyone affected by the Grenfell Tower disaster in any way we can. But we also owe it to all the people who have suffered to look closely at why this happened, and to stop it from happening again. To do that, we need to be asking some very serious questions. And they’re almost all political.
– If you are concerned about anyone from Grenfell Tower, call the Casualty Bureau on 0800 0961 233 or 0207 158 0197.
– See more from The Canary on the Grenfell Tower fire here.
– Also read more articles on Britain’s housing crisis.
Featured image via screengrab