Over the last few weeks it has been nigh impossible to evade the inescapable coverage of the horrific Grenfell tower inferno that claimed 80 lives and destroyed countless more. Ever more shocking, arguably more so than the event itself, has been the hive of media activity whose sole purpose has been to deflect blame from those seemingly responsible.
One only need candidly observe calls from the Torygraph of “militants” apparently “hijacking” protests at the inferno’s avoidable nature. This vilifying language arguably has a lot to answer for in sowing the seeds of division between the victims of the disaster and those who may potentially be seeking to help. This also, is a prime example of the dangers of a heavily partisan press- although perhaps a topic for a different post- cannot go unnoted in light of the events the paper is covering.
It is perhaps in the smouldering embers of what once was Grenfell Tower that lies the defining image of what austerity looks like. It would be a blatant lie to deflect otherwise. This is what senior members of the fire service and police warned of if cuts to their budgets were allowed to continue and they were remorselessly starved of investment.
Shocking too, in equal measure, is the findings that have emerged since the tragedy that the cladding on the high rise tower block, situated in one of London’s most affluent suburbs lest we forget, was the main perpetrator for how the blaze spread so ferociously and quickly. However, it was the compounding of this finding, that fireproof cladding could have been purchased at a mere £400,000 extra to an £8million refurbishment budget that caused the volatile anger expressed by many in the days following the tragedy. To clarify, this cost equates to just £2 extra investment on each piece of cladding. When this is considered, people’s anger seems far more justified.
Grenfell burns [By: Natalie Turner] [File: English: Grenfell Tower fire, 4:43 a.m.] [Public domain via WikiMedia Commons]
I spoke earlier in this post of the tower being symbolic, and now seemingly synonymous, with austerity. And yet it is in this assessment that I can’t help but feel more than a little guilty about the events that have taken place there. Was it not on the promise of “balancing the books” that David Cameron led his Conservative Party back into Government with a resounding, strengthened majority in 2015? It is with this thought in mind that I can’t escape the notion that had we not been misled on promises of a “stronger economy” – ergo, further cuts, things might have been different. I am comforted in the fact however that nobody on the electorate side of the fence could have predicted what was to befall Grenfell. The same misgivings cannot be extended to the officials who allayed residents concerns at a lack of fire safety and prevention.
Grenfell will undoubtedly be on the minds of many for a very long time. With a public inquiry recently announced, it is important this takes all the measures it is able to in learning the lessons from this disaster so the public are not reading similar horrific news stories in a few years time.
Furthermore, if Grenfell is now symbolic of an austerity programme that places efficiency in spending before public safety then I would venture a new programme of spending for the Government. However long they remain in place, invest. And invest quickly. While the electorate were by no means to blame for this disaster, they were the innocent victims upon which the full price of austerity was laid bare.