As the days pass from the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, it becomes clearer that, although the cause of the fire is as yet unknown, the speed and ferocity with which the fire spread could have been prevented if not for failures by the landlords and the Tory Party to provide the residents with safe accommodation.
The residents of the tower block raised concerns, during and after renovation work carried out, that the building was a fire hazard but they were repeatedly ignored. Sadly, they predicted that it would take a tragedy of this scale before anyone started to pay attention, a tragedy that has, at the time of writing claimed 30 lives, with that number likely to rise dramatically.
Cladding fitted to the exterior of the building to improve the view for neighbouring rich people, which was packed with flammable insulation, caused a chimney effect, fanning the flames and allowing the fire to spread over 23 of the 24 floors in just 4 minutes.
Inside the building, a lack of smoke alarms and sprinklers, as well as notices fitted in the lifts advising people to stay in their flats in the event of a fire, meant that many residents never stood a chance. Access to the car park was also restricted, causing problems for fire fighters trying to gain entry to the property.
Landlords KCTMO had previously been issued with legal enforcement notices by the London Fire Brigade as a result of another tower block fire in 2015. Fatally, they continued to fit out Grenfell with sub-standard materials in order to save money, a practice they knew they could get away with due to the Tory Party voting down a bill that would have forced landlords to make homes fit for human habitation. 72 Tories who voted against the bill were landlords, including then PM David Cameron and Police and Fire Minister Nick Hurd.
Theresa May has now come out with her plan for a public inquiry. The residents must demand that this is abandoned and an inquest heard instead. Only one can happen and, with a public inquiry, the residents will have no say in proceedings, will not be allowed to ask questions, and the whole affair will be ran by the government. An inquest is more democratic and would allow those who lost their homes, their family, their friends and neighbours to have a voice. As this could raise difficult issues for the government, it seems like Theresa May is again protecting her own interests rather than those of the people she supposedly represents.
Collectively, we must fight to make sure catastrophes like this a thing of the past. Pressure must be put on landlords, councils and the government to improve living conditions for the working class and for new, safe, social housing to be built as a priority. We must also demand that the landlords are held accountable for this tragedy and tried for multiple cases of manslaughter, aiming to ensure this never happens again.
By David Adair