On June 2020, close to 3 years since the Grenfell Fire Tragedy, I published an article called ‘Grenfell: Burning Justice To The Ground’, where I detailed what happened prior, during, and 3 years on from the fire that took 72 lives. In that article, I explained that the Tory government had adopted a politics of disposability, that the working classes and ethnic minorities were deemed disposable in the eyes of the government, hence Grenfell was allowed to happen in the first place, and hence the issues it raised have not been answered some 3 years on from the fire. I now write 8 months on from that article, to tragically inform you that on the 1st of February 2021, Tory MPs abstained in a flammable cladding vote — the same aluminium cladding used in Grenfell.
In my Grenfell article I stated:
The worst part of the aftermath: it can happen again, in fact, it is very likely to. Last year there were major fires from Barking to Greater Manchester, and in response the government published a new deadline for all Grenfell-style cladding’s removal, June 2020. Yet official figures revealed that 300 buildings are still wrapped in the lethal Polyethylene cladding, and Labour stats suggest that 56,000 people are unknowingly living in another Grenfell, another death-trap, and it would be safe to assume that not one of those people resides in an expensive privately developed flat in Kensington. Three years on and there is no justice, three years on and the government remains silent, remains inactive, allows people to burn, and to an extent allowing them to burn, is as bad as burning them yourself.
Labour, which tabled the motion, has stated that in fact 11 million people may still be living in homes with unsafe cladding similar to that blamed for Grenfell. The vote would have seen the government take action to remove flammable cladding from buildings more quickly, introducing a 2022 deadline for all buildings to be made safe (given the Tories failed to meet their June 2020 deadline). Many people who own affected flats have been presented with significant bills for remedial works or fire patrols, with some being made bankrupt, and a number unable to sell their properties. Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire had urged Tories to support the opposition motion, in a bid to draw the issue to the attention of the government. Ms Debbonaire stated, “This is bigger than party politics — this is about people’s lives, and feeling safe in their own home, and protecting them from going bankrupt.” Some Conservative MPs spoke out about the issue during the parliamentary debate ahead of the vote, but most declined to vote against when it came to the division.
In fact, an Open Democracy investigation revealed that the government has been accused of an attempted cover-up, with the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government allegedly telling local authorities it was “appropriate” to block freedom of information requests about the cladding. Not to mention how key emails, documents, and design drawings, paramount to the ongoing Grenfell inquiry were ‘lost forever’ after being wiped from a laptop in September. All this, while 8 out of the 201 families effected by Grenfell remain in temporary accommodation and 1 still resides in a hotel — AS OF JANUARY 2021!
But I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised: this government doesn’t care about its people. Time and time again they have shown us this — failing to feed children during a pandemic, allowing over 100k people to die of Covid-19 and then saying “we did everything we could”, allowing 72 lives to be lost in Grenfell and putting millions of more at risk. Well no Mr Johnson, Mr Hancock, Mr Gove, and the countless other Tory MPs who allow the poor to die — you did not do everything you could, and you still have not.