The Grenfell Towers Fire

A huge fire at Grenfell Towers, London that engulfed the block of flats last night (13/06/17) despite the fire service’s best attempts to put it out shows Conservative cuts in sharp relief. To make it worse, the firefighters worked from 1am till 5pm then had to be back to work at 8pm on the same day because there was no one to cover their shifts! No time to adjust, to recover from the sights they must have seen yesterday. But that’s ok, the number of counsellors available to help firefighters process the traumatic scenes they witness on the job in the London Fire Brigade was cut from 14 to just 2 under (yep) Boris Johnson when he was Mayor, so even if they had the time off, they’d get no aid there.

And by 2020, the Conservatives want to cut the fire service even more!

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The human cost of their actions yet again claim the lives of the people that they are supposed to protect. But as they were not rich, to the Conservatives they are unimportant. The run down ruin within was hidden under the surface. And this was not the only tower block, house and flat that is in desperate need of repair. We have exactly the same situation, just for one of thousands of examples, in Paramount Building in Liverpool. Not a single safety certificate and it has 160 students in it! They have have begged the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service and the Building Regulators of Liverpool Council to evacuate the building… and nothing has been done. Nothing was done to help the residents of Lakanal House in 2009 either- and look what happened there.

Half of the fire stations in the area had been closed- Boris Johnson being directly responsible for this in 2013 when he was Mayor of London- under austerity measures and people died there, for nothing. And James Cleverly, Conservative MP, was the Chair London Fire and Emergency Planning under Johnson in 2012. Was he responsible for the sell-off? It is highly likely he is the ‘James’ in the letter below. Thanks to TomPride, we know that their fire engines were indeed sold off, for TWO QUID. Two bloody quid! This is beyond parody.

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Fifty have been taken to hospital, and seventeen are known to have died so far; a possibility of 200, even talk of 500 more fatalities; with 37 people still in hospital and 17 needing critical care.

Just as worrying, 72 of the Conservatives that blocked Corbyn’s Clause 52 for making housing fit for living in were themselves landlords.

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And one of these, Nick Hurd, is May’s new Police and Fire Minister! It is really like they want to rub the non Conservative electorate’s nose in it. Just like the rest of the Cabinet.

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Not only was it blocked Philip Davies, Conservative MP, filibustered it. Hardly surprising really as his voting record is pure nasty party. One local resident seems to agree, at least.

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Yet again- blood on their hands and no amount of spin is going to bring those people back or absolve the Conservatives of direct blame.

When the Conservatives award £1BILLION of Inheritance Tax cuts to the richest just two months ago, according to the IFS, and it would only cost £768 million to fit a sprinkler system in EVERY at-risk block of flats in England (about 4000!) then we know where their loyalties truly lie and it isn’t to the residents of Grenfell Tower.

All very well for May to declare austerity is ‘over’, but words are just that- words. The cost and fallout is still being felt by hundreds of thousands of people all over the UK. So let’s sum up (thanks to the Pileus for this graphic):

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All the party leaders have expressed condolences for the victims and great praise for the beleaguered emergency services but her, and she may well still be in France after making an a**e of herself at a football match there (yesterday- 13/06/17) by managing to mess up a Mexican wave. It begs the question why was she even there? The country is essentially without legal governance and she swanned off to a football match? I don’t care if it was pre-arranged, she needs to be here, at the helm of her sinking ship!

Later today (14/06/17) she announced via a Downing Street spokesman that she was ‘deeply saddened’ and she called an emergency meeting to deal with the ‘fallout’ from the fire. Those are the words of the Independent, not mine and I can’t comment without being rude so I won’t. The spokesman continued: There will be a “Civil Contingencies Secretariat to take place at 4pm to co-ordinate the response and ensure the Government is ready to assist the emergency services and local authorities as necessary.”

Oh it looks like she did make a speech after all. Here is some of it. She struggled through it, messing up her papers and dropping her glasses.

“My thoughts are with the victims, their families and all of those who had their homes destroyed.

“It’s impossible to comprehend the horror of what they’ve been going through. The response of people living nearby who have provided help, compassion and support has I think, once again, shown the fantastic spirit of London.”

Then May arrived at Grenfell Tower (15/06/17). Instead of talking to the local community whom I am sure had plenty to say to her, she came and went, held ‘a private meeting’ (with whom exactly? You can bet it wasn’t the ‘general public’) stayed for maybe 15 minutes (even the Queen and Prince William stayed an hour!)- and of course, no media.

She has learned nothing from the election and nothing from losing her majority.

And to top it off today (16/06/17), it has been announced she is to visit Grenfell Tower fire victims in hospital after avoiding residents due to ‘security concerns’. WHERE was the security for the residents of Grenfell? I am sure they’ll be ecstatic to see her, just like the Manchester victims were(n’t).

Corbyn went too, and did allow media coverage but as yet we don’t know exactly what happened as the biggest outlets in the main, while they were there taking photos, their reports don’t seem to have arrived on the MSM websites yet. The BBC had a minute or two, and here’s a snippet of that. And RT had a live feed video of his visit to the local community centre where many of the survivors are staying. When his and Labour Press’ page update, I will add it here. Photos are already trickling onto social media though- here he is talking to local residents, with Emma Kent Coad, new Labour MP for Kensington. More will be added as they come in.

Today (17/06/17) his letter to May came out in the public domain:

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The only acceptable response is to ensure they are

  • housed now, somewhere safe, local and secure, which was promised (but May has already gone back on that) by Conservative housing minister Alok Sharma.So that promise lasted FORTY-EIGHT HOURS.
  • while a new home for them is found or built that is not a death trap,
  • funding for new clothes, furniture, and compensation for what they lost- not that that will bring back sentimental items or people from the dead
  • and to pay for all the costs; including funerals.

And while they do that,

  • open the fire stations back up and reverse the stripping of the emergency services now
  • reverse the public sector pay cuts and freezes– all of them
  • get fire prevention measures in all schools, care homes and public buildings where the vulnerable go and live
  • go back to the Housing Act and insist that all landlords immediately enact the details of Clause 52 and make all housing fit to live in.

Only then will anyone believe the Conservatives, or the Council, give a crap about the residents of Grenfell Towers.

It would be too much to ask that they dig into their own pockets or offer to help of course, despite the fundraising, offers of spare rooms, clothes and more by ordinary locals, charities and people all across the UK. The MPs, those poor dears, are only on about £75,000 a year plus expenses after all. 🙄

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They have been so inundated with donations they have nowhere to put them all!
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The Westway Trust put up the homeless
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Queues to donate food and clothing built all day
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Local food collections already in full swing

We find out stories of quiet heroism, like that of A level student Rory Walsh. Instead of revising for his exam the next day, he went straight down to Maxilla Social Club, helping families affected find shelter. Then he returned, after his English exam, to volunteer again. We hear of students who had been in the Tower going to school the next day to take their GCSEs in their pyjamas. And the people who didn’t make the news but were up all night offering their time, care and donations.

In light of what has happened, the statement released by Sadiq Khan, the current Mayor and one time Labour MP, sounds a little hollow, especially if the extract from the right-leaning Evening Standard is true.

Then some of the heartbreaking last moments of residents come to light. It’s hard to read this without incredible anger and sadness.

Teaching assistant Nadia Choucair, 33, was in a flat on an upper floor with her husband, mother, and young daughter who called a friend at 2am to say: “Goodbye. We’re not going to make it. I love you.”

Tony Disson, 66, who phoned his three sons at 3am to say he was trapped in his bathroom. His son Lee launched a social media appeal for information about the retired market trader, but a close friend last night appeared to confirm his death, saying: “We have been told that Lee’s dad did not make it”.

Mother-of-two Rania Ibrham, 30, sent a WhatsApp video to a pal begging for help at 2.54am. Neither she nor her children, aged five and three, have been seen since.

Mariam Elgwahry, 27, shared a flat on the 19th floor with her mother Eslan, 64, and three family members who are also missing.

Jessica Urbano, 12, borrowed a phone to tell her mother she was hiding in the fire escape on the 20th floor but the call was cut off. She has not been heard from since leading to her parents to launch a desperate online appeal.

Nicholas Burton woke up in hospital after the blaze and is now hunting for his wife Maria Del Pilar Burton, 65, who has Alzheimer’s.

Berikti Habtom, 35, and her son Buroke, 12, were believed to be at home when the fire started. Her sister Arsiema was desperately seeking news of their safety last night.

Mohamdenur Tuccu, 44, finished work as a security guard at Red Consultancy and went back to break Ramadam fast his with wife Amalahmedin and their three-year-old daughter Mayah in their 19th floor flat.

Diabetic Hesham Rahman 57, texted relatives from his 20th floor apartment at 3am to say he could smell smoke.

Ali Yawar Jafari, 82, was escaping with his wife and daughter in a lift when he got out at the tenth floor, unable to breathe. His family reached the ground floor but he has not been heard from since.

“They were breaking fast for Ramadan, so they were awake, but they followed the wrong advice and now they are gone. It’s devastating.”

A petition demanding a full public enquiry into this terrible event has already been started.

Yet tonight (14/06/17) when pressed by Jon Snow on Channel, the leader of Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council would not give assurance that tenants wouldn’t now be moved out of the area. It’s as if this was the plan all along, to wait till it fell down or burned down so the land could be used for luxury homes. Get ’em out by Friday indeed… that same Council, due to cuts are overwhelmed with trying to deal with the residents, who are now homeless. The staff on the front line are not to blame- they’re just trying to do their job, just like countless other ‘operator level’ staff all across the UK. But the Councillors are Conservatives with a controlling interest.

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And the Towers’ landlord need to be taken to court now- he had already been given danger of fire warnings for Grenfell and two other Towers under his ownership. Even more disturbing, the Witt Group who own the buildings, took off their website page about the ‘fire system’ minutes after the blaze was announced on the news.

The Council too need to shoulder some of the blame- they refused to look into residents concerns on safety even when presented with a petition pleading for them so to do. And they brought lawyers in to force the residents to cease and desist from writing pleading letters to them about the state of the flats. Thanks to the Skwawkbox, one of those letters is out in the public domain.

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And there are already rumours that

  • if the surviving residents have been told if they refuse accommodation outside London they will be declared ‘intentionally homeless’ and thus not eligible to be housed at all!
  • that they were offered temporary hotel accommodation in a hotel with identical cladding! (Will confirm these asap.)
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Grenfell Tower, left, and the Premier Inn into which the council appears to want to move survivors. If true, who thought of this and could they have been any less sensitive? It’s like they sat down, had a meeting and thought ‘How can we ensure the survivors get PTSD flashbacks tonight?’

What has been confirmed though is that the Conservative Council are so inept that a group of relevant Council officials led by Labour controlled Ealing Council have stepped in to undertake operations at a local level and establish an emergency task force. Council leader, Conservative Nick Paget-Brown refuses to step down (doing a May!) but surely his time at the top is at an end after this. And the deputy leader, Rock Feilding-Mellen, has been a property developer in London since 2003, with his focus on ‘regeneration’. 

Surviving Grenfell residents are rightly angry at being thrown under the bus by Conservatives, the Council and the Witt Group, all in the name of clearing them out to make room for lucrative gentrification of London. Today (19/06/17) they, or a representative they they now have, have released a series of very reasonable demands addressed to the Council and the Government.

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Since 2014 though, they couldn’t even get lawyers to fight the shoddy state of their Tower due to Conservative legal aid cuts. And talking of gentrification, here is proof that the Council had slated the Tower for demolition three years ago!

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And the Conservatives, chiefly Gavin Barwell when he was Housing Minister, deliberately sat on reports warning of dangers in high rise flats. Now Barwell has been promoted to Chief of Staff in the reshuffle, having lost his Croydon Central seat. 😠 The Conservatives last year also quietly shelved recommendations to install sprinklers in schools and care homes.

Private landlords have little obligation to do it, and if they don’t have to, they won’t. Instead, they spent a whole whack of cash (£10 million) on expensive cladding to ‘gentrify’ it. Problem is, it was inflammable as all hell. For just 3% of that money, they could have fitted a working sprinkler system for the entire block. And Goldman, CEO of Rydon, the contractor who fitted it last year doesn’t even know what the cladding was made of, yet still charged £10million for it?

And this same material has likely been used on the school nearby! Reprehensible!

Well it has been discovered that its core was polyethylene, which is an accident waiting to happen. And it did. High-rise buildings in France, the United Arab Emirates and Australia that had similar cladding have all been hit by fires that spread. 

This cladding, according to regulations brought in under Thatcherno longer had to have an hour’s fire resistance, according to the Chief Advisor to the Government on Fire Safety.

Just think about that for a moment.

The new rules were weaker, and thus more deadly than the ones brought in in 1986. The suppliers of the cladding to Rydon’s subcontractors, Omnis Exteriors, were asked to provide the cheaper, non retardant type of panels- Reynobond PE not Reynobond FR (fire retardant.) For just £5000 more, (£2 a panel) they could have fitted fire retardant cladding.

This is basically corporate manslaughter aided by the Conservatives.

And Labour MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, agrees.

He has also made this letter public:

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(For more on this, and what May has done and hasn’t done, please see the post election blogs, especially week two.)

How the hell are they going to recover from this? The residents tried so hard to get something done, knew they were in danger every day for three years, were told to ‘stay put’ despite their misgivings, then were ignored and bullied. And now some are dead and the rest traumatised. Some were so desperate to get out they jumped from high windows.

There were no alarms.

There were no sprinklers.

The London region of the Fire Brigades Union (representing the capital’s firefighters since 1918) aver that “Nobody has ever died in a fire in the UK in a property with an effective sprinkler system fitted. Grenfell Tower had no such system.” The Council swear the residents didn’t want one due to the ‘disruption’ that would cause, which can be shown to be a lie.

And if one resident hadn’t had the keys, there would have been only one main exit open too- there was only one fire escape, on one side of the flats and it was not in good order, according to Labour Councillor Judith Blakeman, for Kensington and Chelsea.

This is the very epitome of an attack, not just on the poor, but on ordinary people- people across all cultures- that is at the root of Conservative austerity politics.

Their disregard for the people who died is clear- today (16/06/17) there was even talk of a Defence Order on the MSM ordering them NOT to release numbers of deaths- NOT out of consideration but to cover their a**es! While this turned out not to be true and as they are supposed to be for national security reasons the fact this seemed so horribly plausible is a measure of how little people think of our government.

The Grenfell Tower residents’ injuries, loss of all they owned and their deaths will never be a number to us.

To be dismissed as a ‘mob’ by the MSM (yes Daily Mail, Star and Telegraph I am looking at YOU) when you demonstrate and show your pain and anger (with NO violence) is yet more salt in your already open wounds. And as they won’t apologise for demonising you, I will.

✊✊✊ Solidarity for Grenfell. ✊✊✊

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