Grenfell Tower disaster and British Conservative Boris Johnson


This video from England says about itself:

Jeremy Corbyn at Glastonbury FestivalGrenfell Tower Fire Raises Question’s About Inequality

24 June 2017

Jeremy Corbyn addressing the Glastonbury Festival crowd talks about how the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy raises questions about inequality in Britain.

By Julie Hyland in Britain:

Boris Johnson and the Grenfell Tower inferno

24 June 2017

When the list is drawn up of those criminally responsible for the Grenfell Tower fire in London, Boris Johnson’s name should be at the top.

The former mayor of London (2008-2016) recently condemned what he described as “political game-playing” over the inferno in west London that claimed the lives of at least 79 people. Suggestions that “this tragedy was somehow caused by fire service cuts” were “unbelievable,” he declared.

Johnson spoke as a video clip from 2013 became widely viewed on YouTube. In it he is seen telling a Labour Party London Assembly member to “get stuffed” when he accuses Johnson of lying over the scale and consequences of cuts to the London Fire Brigade (LFB).

Now foreign secretary, Johnson styles himself as the enfant-terrible of the Conservative Party. His famed outbursts, however, have nothing to do with unorthodoxy or “plain speaking.”

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, as he is more properly known, epitomises the class arrogance and social privilege of Britain’s upper-middle class. This is a man whose experience with the “lower classes” extends only to giving orders.

If Johnson is reacting so defensively, it is because in his capacity as mayor he forced through massive cuts in the LFB budget despite repeated warnings they would cost lives.

The London fire service is the fifth largest in the world and covers a metropolitan area of nearly 14 million people—the most populous in the European Union. In addition to firefighting, it responds to emergency situations, including traffic accidents and terror incidents, of which there have been three in the capital in the last four months.

Johnson took a sledgehammer to this vital provision. In 2012, he brought forward proposed cuts of £65 million, amounting to a 15 percent reduction in the LFB’s £448 million annual budget. In words that should be branded on his forehead, he justified this on the grounds of “the declining number of fire deaths.”

Due to opposition on the London Assembly, Johnson ordered the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA), which consists of 17 mayoral appointees, to begin consultations on the plan. Ninety-four percent of those consulted opposed the cuts, but their views were rejected as supposedly unrepresentative of the views of all Londoners. Instead, the number of stations and engines to be lost was reduced slightly, to 10 and 14, respectively, while the number of fire-fighter job cuts was increased to 522.

Using powers introduced by the Labour Party, which enable the mayor to overrule and “direct” the authority to carry out his instructions, Johnson decreed that the cuts should go ahead. In a statement at the time he said he was “not minded to provide additional funding” to the LFEPA for 2014-15.

He was supported by then-London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson, who had drawn up the cuts package under the grotesquely misnamed “London Safety Plan 5.” Only two years before, in November 2011, Dobson was allowed to retire from his £200,000 position, aged 52, in order to gain access to his pension entitlements, some £133,000 a year, ­before being immediately reemployed in the same post.

Johnson’s decision was challenged at the High Court by seven London councils—Tower Hamlets, Camden, Greenwich, Hackney, Islington, Lewisham and Southwark. They argued that it “ignores the fire risks posed by a concentration of potential terrorist targets, tourist attractions, social and student housing and high-rise buildings in the affected boroughs.”

The eighth claimant was Ms. Ingrid Richardson, who lived with her husband on the seventh floor of a south London 15-storey tower block. She suffered from Parkinson’s Disease and could move only with the help of a walking frame, while her husband had Alzheimer’s disease. Her claim was added to highlight the increased fire risks facing older and disabled residents.

Mr. Justice Foskett ruled that the closure decision was lawful, as the mayor was entitled to make use of his powers….

Dobson stated arrogantly at the time that “fire stations and fire engines do not stop fires happening—proactive prevention work does.” Except that there was no “proactive fire prevention” at Grenfell Tower or many other residences. Quite the opposite.

Official advice to “stay put” in a fire applies only to high-rise buildings that are fitted with fire-proofed doors. But not all the doors in Grenfell Tower were fire-proofed. Under conditions in which external cladding that was known to be combustible had been added across the entire exterior of the building as a cheap means of prettifying it, Grenfell Tower was a death trap.

A report by Insurers RSA into an August 2016 fire at the Shepherd Court tower block, also in West London, had found that flammable material in insulation panels “melts and ignites relatively easily,” and can cause “extremely rapid fire spread and the release of large volumes of toxic smoke.” The report added, “This allows extensive and violent fire to spread, and makes firefighting almost impossible.” [emphasis added]

Fire chiefs wrote to the local authorities to warn them, but no action was taken.

On Friday, police confirmed that preliminary tests on insulation samples collected from Grenfell Tower “combusted soon after the tests started.” They continued, “The initial test on the cladding tiles also failed the safety tests.”

Yet during the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, when the cladding was installed, the building was inspected 16 times between 2014 and 2016 by Kensington and Chelsea Council, which signed off on the work.

During the horrific fire, it became clear that the LFB (and presumably many other fire services across the country) is manned with hoses that can reach only to the 12th floor of any building. The fire service had to “borrow” a larger platform that could reach to 42 metres—still only the 15th floor—from Surrey, nearly two hours away.

Like many other high-rises in the UK, Grenfell Tower had only a single stairwell. As the flames spread, it would have become quickly apparent that those in flats above the 15th floor had no means to escape the toxic fumes given off, much less the fire, and no means of rescue.

They waited to die.

Residents of North Kensington have praised the courage and commitment of the firefighters who attended Grenfell Tower and fought to save those inside, against almost insurmountable odds. They did so above and beyond the call of duty, in some instances over a 19-hour shift.

In total, some 200 fire fighters and officers attended the call-out, with 40 fire engines. Fire fighters have told how they could not get past the 15th floor and how they had to choose whom they should try to save.

Why did the fire fighters have to work such long hours under such conditions? Why do most accounts describe fire crews from Whitechapel being first to enter the building—a station in east London, more than 40 minutes drive away? What happened to the “fire prevention” measures Johnson claimed meant the LFB could be cut?

The answer is clear. Small wonder that firefighters and local residents who witnessed the events broke down in tears of sorrow and fury.

Last year, a report by Lancaster University statistician Dr. Benjamin Taylor found that Johnson’s cuts had led to deaths. Analysing response-time data to 24,000 house fire call-outs between 2012 and 2015, Taylor found that the average time in some areas before the fire stations were shut was “well under five minutes,” whereas some stations afterwards were taking up to 10 minutes to respond.

The London’s Burning report said firefighters were unable to respond to the six-minute target time in more than half of the fires studies. A least eight deaths were attributable to these delays.

In November 2015, Johnson and Dobson axed a further 13 engines in London, just two weeks after a man had jumped to his death from a burning housing block in Camden. The man, Choi Yip, was forced to jump after it took fire fighters more than 13 minutes to reach the blaze at the sheltered housing block.

The 13 fire engines had already been removed from service in preparation to break a strike by firefighters against the attack on their pensions, and were due to be returned. But a review ordered by Johnson decided they were surplus to requirements. This left the LFB with 142 engines, down by one-quarter of its strength from the end of 2013.

British authorities neglect Grenfell Tower firefighters


This video from London, England says about itself:

Family Evacuated After Grenfell Tower Fire Faces Uncertain Future

23 June 2017

A family evacuated from a nearby building after the Grenfell Tower fire faces an uncertain future not knowing where they may end up living.

By Will Stone in Britain:

GRENFELL HEROES ARE ABANDONED TO THEIR NIGHTMARES

Saturday 24th June 2017

Leading firefighter hits out at loss of mental healthcare as tower horror stories mount

A FIREFIGHTER has demanded more protection for the mental health of crews after colleagues who were sent in to tackle the devastating Grenfell Tower fire were faced with “dozens” of dead and screaming children.

The harrowing experiences of those who entered the inferno that broke out last Wednesday were revealed by Fire Brigade Union (FBU) London regional official and Chelsea brigade firefighter Lucy Masoud.

Fire services have been “savaged” by cuts with fire inspectors being the first to get the axe, and 17 full-time counsellors for the fire service have been replaced with just four part-timers to take care of thousands of firefighters and staff, she said.

One firefighter was faced with having to choose between saving a mother and daughter or a family trapped on another floor, she told the Star, adding that “we should not have to make that choice. I’m hugely concerned about the mental welfare of my colleagues. They’re heartbroken, we’re talking about some firefighters with 25 years or more experience.

“We are used to dealing with deaths on a daily basis but we have seen nothing on the scale like at Grenfell.

“Many heard screaming children and others will have the image of dozens of dead children. I can honestly say I don’t know how they’re going to cope.

“Control room staff would have had absolutely the most horrific time.

“They had to deal first hand with all the calls from the victims and we know that many perished while on the phone to staff.

“You cannot predict what the long-term mental health effects of these experiences will be. What’s important is that they need proper counselling and mental health support.”

The fire was sparked by a faulty fridge-freezer just after 1am and combustible cladding on the building helped it spread at an alarming rate over 24 floors of the council housing block, Scotland Yard revealed yesterday. Locals reported hearing screams and shouts for help while the blaze went on for more than 24 hours.

The official death toll stands at 79 but hundreds more “missing” people are feared dead and survivors have been displaced. Many fatalities could have been avoided with more firefighters and equipment, said Ms Masoud, who was off duty that night.

She continued: “I don’t want to politicise this tragic event but the fact remains that over the last three years Kensington and Chelsea has had half of its fire service cut.”

Ten fire stations, 27 fire engines and 600 firefighters have been cut across London alone in the last three years.

Of these, two stations at Knightsbridge and Westminster, which could have responded to the Grenfell incident, have closed.

Firefighters who were called out to Grenfell have been asked not to speak to the press as it might interfere with investigations.

Ms Masoud along with other firefighters have been at the scene all week helping with the clean-up operation.

There was no mention of addressing the cuts to the fire service or helping firefighters after tackling major fires in the Queen’s Speech this week.

The Metropolitan Police also announced yesterday that it would be considering manslaughter charges related to the fire at Grenfell, looking in particular at whether the use of flammable cladding was illegal.

In a response statement the Radical Housing Network said: “Today’s initial verdict is beyond damning. It is also an indictment of a broken housing model — one where council housing is systematically run down and tenants are treated with contempt.

“From the council’s estate management organisation failing to respond to repeated resident complaints, to the reported delaying of a fire safety review by government ministers, it’s clear that a culture of negligence existed at all levels.

“Those responsible must be held to account.”

This video from London, England says about itself:

Camden Council Announces Evacuations From Five Tower Blocks With Same Cladding as Grenfell Tower

23 June 2017

Camden Council has announced that it will be evacuating five social housing tower blocks to remove dangerous cladding and to install fire sprinklers and an alarm system.

By Felicity Collier in Britain:

‘Similar Grenfell cladding used on many other residential blocks’

Saturday 24th June 2017

AT LEAST 11 residential tower blocks in eight local authority areas in England have been found to have flammable cladding similar to that blamed for the Grenfell Tower disaster, the government said yesterday.

Buildings in the London boroughs of Camden, Islington, Barnet, Tottenham, Hounslow and Newham, and in Manchester, Sheffield, Halifax, Portsmouth and Plymouth are at risk, Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid wrote in a letter to MPs.

Hundreds more buildings are being tested, though it was confirmed that none of Scotland’s 32 local authorities used cladding of the same type as Grenfell.

In Barnet, cladding on three tower blocks was found to be potentially unsafe, although non-combustible. The material will be removed “as a matter of urgency,” Barnet Homes chairman Terry Rogers said, while 24-hour fire safety patrols have been put in place, according to the North London Press.

A demonstration organised by campaign group Axe the Housing Act will take place today in Parliament Square from noon to call for justice for the Grenfell fire’s victims and for decent, affordable homes for all. On Monday, Barnet Housing Action Group will protest and demand answers from the council.

Questions submitted by the group will be raised by Labour councillors at a housing committee meeting at Hendon Town Hall from 6pm.

The group said: “Our own [Conservative council majority] borough is renowned for showing disdain for its less wealthy residents and we need to apply pressure now to ensure the necessary action is taken without delay.”

London Grenfell Tower scandal update


Grenfell Tower survivors' demonstration

At a rally in London, England last Friday at the Department for Communities and Local Government a resident from north Kensington holds up a piece of charred cladding that had fallen from Grenfell Tower during the blaze.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Friday, 23 June 2017

600 COMBUSTIBLE CLADDED TOWERS!

‘MANY in the fire service and the fire safety sector have been raising issues about regulation, issues like cladding, for many years and we constantly run into a brick wall from a government which is obsessed with deregulating, with reducing what they describe as red tape.’

Fire Brigades Union General Secretary Matt Wrack was reacting angrily to Tory PM May’s announcement in the House of Commons yesterday that around 600 high rise blocks of flats across England are using similar cladding to Grenfell Tower.

May told the House of Commons that Kensington and Chelsea council ‘couldn’t cope’ in the aftermath of the fire, and that it ‘was right’ its chief executive, Nicholas Holgate, had stepped down.

Pressed on whether the cladding passed fire and building regulations, she said tests would be made public in the next two days. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responded: ‘At least 79 people are dead. It is both a tragedy and an outrage, because every single one of those deaths could and should have been avoided. The Grenfell Tower residents themselves had raised concerns about the lack of fire safety in the block.

The Grenfell Action Group had warned, and I quote, “It is a truly terrifying thought, but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believes that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.”

‘The prime minister has said it is right that the CEO of Kensington and Chelsea Council has resigned. It may be. But why aren’t the political leaders of Kensington and Chelsea taking responsibility as well for this terrible event?

‘Mr Speaker, from Hillsborough, to the child sex abuse scandal, to Grenfell Tower, the pattern is consistent, working class people’s voices are ignored, their concerns dismissed by those in power … Those people have died, they will never come back. We have to learn those lessons to make sure this tragedy is a turning point in our whole attitude and never again do people die needlessly, in a towering inferno, living in poverty, surrounded by a sea of prosperity.’

The FBU yesterday wrote to all MPs saying that cuts to the fire and rescue service of 11,000 frontline firefighters since 2010 – one fifth (20%) of the workforce – has put public safety at risk. The letter stated, ‘As a result of the massive funding cuts to fire and rescue services, there has been a significant decline in the capacity of fire authorities to undertake crucial fire prevention work.’

Wrack warned: ‘Of course in this instance, in the question of where people live, red tape is whether you have fire-resistant doors, walls and ceilings to stop the spread of fire. And red tape in that case is the difference between life and death.’

Wrack added that the checks done on cladding in a scientific room are very different from when they are subcontracted out to privateers and put on buildings like Grenfell in a decorative way, creating flumes and chimneys behind them.

He added: ‘Many local authorities, strapped for cash after seven years of cuts, have cut back on fire testing, cut back on inspections because they simply haven’t got the staff to do it any more.’

This 21 June 2017 video from the USA is called How Neoliberalism Caused The Grenfell Tower Fire.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Friday, 23 June 2017

MAY MUST GO! say Grenfell marchers

OVER 300 people marched from Shepherd’s Bush to Parliament Wednesday lunchtime following last week’s Grenfell Tower fire disaster.

‘We know the government is guilty,’ declared Karen Boyle at an impromptu rally before the march set off. We know May has lost her majority, the DUP has backed down,’ she added to cheers. Boyle continued: ‘We must not hold back. We can’t live any more with this government, we can’t afford it.

‘We’re determined and we have demands.There is an anger in the wider community and that anger has to be heard. How much violence must be done to us before the government stops doing violence? We will not be drawn into their narrative. We can’t let the Conservative Party nor the right wing media determine how we fight. We can’t live with this government, not for another five years, not for a moment.’

Antonia Bright told the rally: ‘Enough is enough. No-one deserved what happened in that tower.

‘No-one deserved to lose their lives there. No-one deserved to to die in the Mediterranean or lose benefits. We want the May government brought down and ended. Justice means we have to fight for it – that the poor and oppressed fight for it. We are not going to forget, we’ll keep marching until we win.’

Miqui Joseph said: ‘I feel sorry for the ones who lost their families in that tower. I hope they see their children again.’ News Line spoke to several of the marchers as they assembled.

Shirvin Best said: ‘I’m here to show solidarity for human rights, peace and enhancement of the quality of life for all. The march today is about Grenfell Tower and its victims, ensuring that a disaster like this never happens again. From day one, I have been involved in obtaining donations from the supermarkets and encouraging others to actively get involved as volunteers to help the victims of Grenfell Tower.

‘The development, construction and renovation were at fault. There was no proper health and safety risk assessment plan before and after inspection and commissioning. The disregard for the safety and lives of residents in the tower was disgraceful. The renovation was done on the cheap with the minimum health and safety regulation.

‘The community has been fantastic. What we don’t have is the government taking action to support the victims and their families at Grenfell Tower. The £5m fund is an insult to injury. These people have been suffering, they’ve lost families, their loved ones. Their home has been burnt out, they have no identity, no clothes except what has been donated.

‘When he was London mayor, Boris Johnson had no concern about sprinklers and safety in all high rise blocks above ten metres. Sprinklers should be in the Queen’s Speech. They put a lot of poor people in a block and when something happens, they blame someone else. Kensington and Chelsea is one of the richest boroughs in London. They gave £5m to the Opera House yet they couldn’t spend £2 per square metre extra for the cladding. The downstairs nursery lost 13 children alone. Nothing is being done about rehousing.’

Louise and Colin Dawson came down from Scotland for the march. Louise said: ‘We came down to protest about the fact that Theresa May is prepared to put the peace process in jeopardy in Northern Ireland. But the fire started so we decided we’d go to parliament and Kensington.’

Colin said: ‘The fire was cost before lives. It shows up what’s been going on for the last 20 to 30 years since Thatcher. The fire symbolises everything about the capitalist system.’

Louise added: ‘The people should take action to bring the government down. In actual fact, May doesn’t have a government, she hasn’t a deal with the DUP. She’s got to go, she should never have been there in the first place.’

Media graduate Holly Campbell said: ‘What happened at Grenfell Tower should never have happened. My nephew and niece lived in the block opposite. The rich men’s blocks they were building opposite wanted Grenfell to look pretty. What happened was criminal, I think and most people think that.

‘The Tories make the rich richer and the poor poorer. They are just out for themselves and their business friends. I hope Jeremy Corbyn wins this and takes action. He is making the poorer feel confident about the future and I hope he lives up to expectations.’

Social worker amd Unison member Michael Anthony said: ‘I’m here to protest against the government. They have no real mandate and are hell bent on pushing their policies against working and oppressed people. I’m angry about their housing policy which left poor people and migrants in unsafe and dangerous housing, which led to the Grenfell Tower fire.

‘Had it not been for the community making a stand about poor housing, this issue would not have been highlighted. The unions must take action. There should be an indefinite general strike.

‘Let’s bring down this government.’

Mohamed At-Tu said: ‘I’m from Morocco. I was born in the UK and I’m a British citizen. I live in Grenfell Walk, right next to the Tower. We’ve all been evacuated. They put some of us outside on the streets for the past five to six days. Finally, yesterday they’ve given me a hotel for the night.

‘Hopefully, they will give me another place tonight. I’m protesting today. I want answers and people to hear what we have to say. I don’t want Theresa May to be prime minister. On the Thursday, she came to Grenfell Tower. She saw the residents but she didn’t speak to them.

‘She just went to speak to the fire brigade. Now she’s trying to make things better but it’s not going to work. We still haven’t seen the council. Jeremy Corbyn came down and paid attention to the residents, but not Theresa May.’

Saul Sebag, a charity volunteer, said: ‘I don’t think they look after people in Westminster. My family are all Jewish immigrants. I don’t like the way the government treats immigrants. And they don’t care about youth. There are no opportunities. Debt puts you off university. The cost of tuition fees is too high as well as the cost of housing. I’m working full-time for free, it’s just one internship after another.’

Grenfell Tower survivors demonstrate

Britain: The Conservative government has revealed that 600 high rise buildings have “similar” cladding to Grenfell Tower, west London where the inferno on June 14 claimed the lives of at least 79 people. A Downing Street spokeswoman added that samples from some tower blocks had been tested and “so far, three samples have been found to be combustible”: here.

London Grenfell Tower update


This video from London, England says about itself:

21 June 2017

Clashes broke out between police and protesters taking part in a ‘Day of Ragedemanding justice for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire and an end to the Conservative government led by Prime Minister Theresa May, Wednesday. The protest was organised by Movement for Justice By Any Means Necessary (MFJ) who oppose ‘brutal austerity, cuts and anti-immigrant attacks‘.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

‘The tears may never stop’, says Dent Coad

Friday 23rd June 2017

EMMA DENT COAD said yesterday that the Grenfell Tower disaster had revealed the true face of Kensington.

In her maiden Commons speech, the first ever Labour MP for Kensington paid tribute to those affected by the horrific fire.

“The horror and fear of this man-made catastrophe will be etched on all our hearts for ever,” she said.

“The tears may never stop. I know this from the grief etched on the faces of people in Ladbroke Grove.

“Total strangers approaching me for comfort, reassurance, a question, a hug, to share their fears and disbelief that such horror could be visited upon our neighbourhood.

“And the burnt-out carcass of Grenfell Tower and all it represents lours over us.”

She criticised those who claim social tenants have “no right to live in desirable Kensington” while ignoring the poverty and overcrowded housing that exists in the area’s most deprived pockets.

Ms Dent Coad told MPs: “The people who have been failed want justice, accountability and an honest and transparent process to achieve it.”

She had earlier called on PM Theresa May to reverse cuts to fire services and to order a public inquiry into the tragedy.

British Conservatives neglect Grenfell disaster survivors


This video from London, England, says about itself:

Tottenham Residents Find Out Their Building Has The Same Cladding As Grenfell Towers

22 June 2017

Residents of the River Apartments building in Tottenham have just found out their building is covered in the same cladding as the Grenfell Tower. Here is their response.

By Robert Stevens in Britain:

Grenfell Tower fire victims and survivors treated with contempt by UK authorities

22 June 2017

Those who perished in horrific deaths and the survivors of the Grenfell Tower inferno—which has killed at least 79 people—are overwhelmingly poor and working-class.

Their deaths were the result of the policies of successive governments, going back nearly four decades, through which the social rights of working people, including the right to safe housing, have been eviscerated.

Numerous representatives of the political elite and their media backers have engaged in handwringing and mock indignation over the fate of the victims. Their real attitude, however, is shown in the way that the survivors and their families have been treated by the authorities, with undisguised class hatred and contempt.

This is sanctioned from the very top of government. For days, there was no governmental or local authority assistance for the victims. It took two days for Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May to make a 30-minute visit to the site, where she was kept away from the public on “security” grounds. Only after the awareness of growing anger in London and nationwide finally hit home in ruling circles was an emergency relief fund initiated. This was after public donations had already raised more than £3 million—totally independently of the government.

The official “Grenfell Tower Residents’ Discretionary Fund” is a pittance of just £5 million. Of this, a minuscule £500 is being made available as an upfront payment to those who were burnt out of their homes. Another £5,000 is supposedly to be transferred into their bank accounts, which many cannot access, as their entire possessions went up in flames. As of Tuesday, the £5 million has barely been touched, with one news channel reporting that a total of just £330,000 has been paid out to survivors.

This is approximately half of the amount spent on refurbishing the Tower with the combustible cladding that almost certainly enabled the fire to spread with such devastating speed.

Moreover, it stands in stark contrast to the £369 million in taxpayers’ money that has been granted to the Royal Family for a 10-year refurbishing of Buckingham Palace, which stands in the same London borough. The lives of 80 people, if not many more, and the destitution of an untold number displaced—who have lost everything they possessed—is valued at just a tiny fraction of the amount being lavished on one family, already amongst the most privileged in the country.

The work on the Queen’s official residence, estimated to be worth £2.2 billion, will include replacing cables, lead pipes, wiring and boilers. When it was announced last year, a statement from Buckingham Palace read, “An independent specialist report concluded that without urgent work there is a risk of serious damage to the palace and the precious royal collection items it houses from, amongst other scenarios, fire and water damage.”

No such concerns ever crossed the minds of those in power responsible for Grenfell Tower, and the fate of around 600 people, who were left without the most basic safety requirements, including a central fire alarm and sprinkler system.

It was clear to all from the very outset that the fire was a major catastrophe requiring a massive emergency response. Yet no such co-ordinated action was organised by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) council—despite it being the wealthiest local authority in the country—to offer emergency respite, including the provision of food, drink, warmth and shelter to those devastated by the crisis. This was their response to working class people, some of whom fled the blaze in terror wearing just t-shirts and their underwear.

It was the local population and others who rushed to the area, coming from as far afield as Birmingham, to organize support and help for those who fled the inferno. Many of those assisting were visibly shocked at the lack of any official emergency operation, complaining they had worked for days providing food, clothes and shelter, with no assistance from the authorities.

The inaction of the RBKC meant that hundreds of people made homeless by the fire, including those who lived in rented social housing adjacent to Grenfell—told to vacate their homes on safety grounds—were not provided with any proper alternative accommodation. Instead many were dumped at the nearby “official rescue centre”—Westway Sport and Fitness Centre. Here they were forced to sleep on the sports hall floor, on rubber mats with sleeping bags and makeshift pillows.

Seeing their plight, many Londoners offered survivors rooms in their houses and access to food, drinks and shower facilities.

Rather than provide decent accommodation for the victims and demand government step in to ensure it, RBKC has sent around 250 of those affected by the fire to stay temporarily in dingy hotels all over the capital.

Speaking to ITV’s Peston on Sunday show, West London film producer Nisha Parti, who has been helping victims of the fire, said, “Victims were going to hotels, arriving at hotels, with no one from the council to greet them, to check them in, to give them clothes and food.” Parti revealed that Kensington and Chelsea council were giving just £10 a day to the survivors on arrival at the hotels, an amount even lower than the daily amount allotted in welfare payments to the unemployed. This barely allowed its destitute recipients to pay for a sandwich and a beverage.

Reports also emerged that RBKC council were sending Grenfell and nearby residents into accommodation miles away from London. The council denied claims that people have been sent outside of central London.

This however is contradicted by accounts, including the detailed statement given by one survivor, who lived in a flat on Grenfell’s 17th floor and who managed to escape from the blaze with his aunt.

In a video widely shared on social media, the young man explained that, “Another guy, they took him out of the hotel [the council originally sent him to] and they sent him to Preston…They [the council] are putting pressure on people that if you don’t accept their offer [of accommodation] you are making yourself intentionally homeless.”

He also revealed that one of his neighbours—whose wife had died in the fire and who “was in a terrible place right now and losing it”—was “put in an old people’s home. He’s not going to get rehoused now. That’s it.”

He continued, “They are doing some disgusting things. They are cutting corners and we are already scared about what’s going to happen to us.”

By announcing the fund, May was acknowledging the scale of opposition that was developing against her pro-austerity government and the ruling elite, fuelled by the blatant refusal of the government and the Conservative-run local authority to assist survivors. May said, “Frankly, the support on the ground for families who needed help or basic information in the initial hours after this appalling disaster was not good enough.”

Yet even as she was forced to state this, after denying it for days, May would not guarantee those made homeless would be rehoused in the borough, only that “as far as possible” they would be placed “within the borough or neighbouring boroughs. Some people may actually want to go to another part of London.”

Shortly after May’s statement, furious local residents descended on Kensington Town Hall to demand “Justice for Grenfell” and that those suffering be afforded basic, civilised treatment. Thousands more participated in a demonstration that marched through central London.

The Labour MP for Kensington, Emma Dent Coad, told the BBC’s Sunday Politics show, “We are still hearing stories of people not being allocated properly. There’s one woman this morning and her child, they have been moved three times since Wednesday into different accommodation.”

On Tuesday evening, almost a week after the fire, Sky News reported that a number of survivors were still sleeping in the Westway Centre. They feared, it reported, that if they went elsewhere council officials would wash their hands of them entirely and prevent them from being rehoused in the borough. Sky reported that it had been told that a number of people were sleeping in cars and even in parks since the fire and had received no assistance.

The callous disregard for human suffering by the powers that be and the humiliating treatment that survivors have been subjected to over the past week is an object lesson in the real priorities of the ruling elite.

The terrible, entirely preventable, catastrophe unleashed on the Grenfell residents and the working-class community around it reveals the true face of a society in which a sated layer of multi-millionaires and billionaires wallow in unimaginable wealth and privilege while working people are condemned to live in death traps.

This video from London, England, says about itself:

22 June 2017

Labour Party MP David Lammy in his first question in the new session of parliament shares his personal friendship with one of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire and challenges Tory Party Prime Minister Theresa May over the current state of the criminal investigation.

Grenfell Tower survivors could be made intentionally homeless for turning down homes 200 miles away, claims MP. Labour MP David Lammy claims residents face being moved as far away as Lancashire: here.