The Telegraph smears the Grenfell community to protect the establishment

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Ed Sykes

The Daily Telegraph has apparently taken to smearing the Grenfell community to protect the establishment. Grenfell Tower activists have accused the Barclay brothers-owned publication of “lies and distortions”.

“Sloppy and desperate” journalism

Ishmahil Blagrove from campaign group Justice4Grenfell released a Facebook post on 5 July. In it, he says:

We have been prepared for and awaiting the lies and distortions and it has begun today in The Telegraph – of course owned by billionaire tax dodgers, the Barclay brothers.

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Referring to a Telegraph article titled The Justice4Grenfell agitators: campaign group tries to push Tower inquiry judge to resign, Blagrove insists:

It is journalism of the most sloppy and desperate kind, demonstrated by their inability to even spell my name correctly – low standards characteristic of The Telegraph.

He also slams the paper for “pushing the agenda of its billionaire owners or the Establishment” by attacking Justice4Grenfell members as “agitators”. And he believes this tactic to be:

a clear indication as to how they view common people attempting to secure justice from a rigged system that favours the elite and powerful in society.

The main problems with the Telegraph hit job

Blagrove accuses The Telegraph of:

  • Claiming that Justice4Grenfell had written a letter to Theresa May. This, he says, “is totally untrue”. The paper apparently assumed this from a statement suggesting the group was “in the process of drafting a letter”.
  • Failing to give details of a case in which the Grenfell inquiry judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick “ruled against a Westminster tenant and exiled her to Milton Keynes”; and failing to explain “why many residents have voiced objections” to his appointment.
  • Provocatively using the word “agitators”.
  • Failing to “reach out to survivors and residents of North Kensington”.

Looking at the article in question, most of these accusations appear to be correct. After its “agitators” headline, the piece lays out the judge’s side of the story, before having a dig at Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. Then, it finally gets around to the Justice4Grenfell activists, claiming the group “wrote to Theresa May last night”; even though it later contradicts this by quoting a co-ordinator as saying “We are just in the process of drafting a letter”. The paper then quotes a “senior Tory source” as saying that opposition to Moore-Bick’s appointment “feels like a political witch hunt orchestrated by the left”; while failing to elaborate in detail on the grassroots objections to his appointment.

Concerns about Moore-Bick

Residents from the estate around Grenfell Tower recently wrote to the Prime Minister, asking her to consult them on the public inquiry’s appointments. But as housing campaigner Pilgrim Tucker says:

In appointing Sir Martin Moore-Bick, [Theresa May] has ignored them, and appointed a completely inappropriate judge. We can have no faith that this inquiry will produce justice for Grenfell residents.

The Radical Housing Network (RHN) campaign group, meanwhile, described how the judge in question had:

a track record of facilitating the social cleansing of London, approving Westminster Council’s decision to house a single mother with five children in Milton Keynes, 50 miles away from their family and networks, a decision later overturned by the Supreme Court. The government are clearly preparing a stitch-up, trying to put a judge at the heart of the establishment in charge of the inquiry, who supports the inhumane housing policies which have led to Grenfell.

One of Moore-Bick’s allies, however, said:

Martin is anticipating this to be a rough ride and he is prepared for it… He wants to be judged by what he does in the inquiry.

Justice4Grenfell

As The Canary reported previously, Ishmahil Blagrove helped to co-found Justice4Grenfell to “gather, represent, organise and coordinate” activities already taking place in the form of legal responsesyouth associationscommunity centres and faith organisations “not only for the victims and survivors, but for all of those who know the injustices and negligence endemic to today’s social housing situation in the UK”.

Now, The Telegraph appears to be picking sides in the battle for justice. And many would argue that it’s picking the wrong side.

The paper may have made honest journalistic mistakes in its hit job against Justice4Grenfell, of course. That’s entirely possible. But judging by its record of smearing critics of the Conservative Party and Britain’s socio-economic status quo, it would not be at all surprising if Grenfell Tower activists are just the latest victims of such tactics.

If there’s to be a battle between the establishment media and Grenfell activists, however, Blagrove is determined that the former will not win. He promises:

This will not be another Hillsborough, where elements of the media targeted, vilified, denounced and attempted to discredit the survivors and families seeking justice.

Get Involved!

– Donate to the Grenfell Tower Appeal.

– Join the Million March on London on 1 July.

– Read more from The Canary on the Grenfell Tower fire.

– To change the current political and economic system, we also need a media revolution. Please read and support the work of independent news outlets which seek to hold the powerful to account while informing and inspiring the struggle for an alternative. Add more that you like in the comments section:

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