The number of those reported killed in the Grenfell Tower fire in London’s West End is rising. The reporting I’ve seen started the count at six, soon rose to twelve, then seventeen, and now stands at fifty-eight. There are some on social media claiming the number may be as much as ten times higher. This question at least will be answered sooner rather than later. What is also true is that a fight over numbers at this point distracts from more pressing facts. I.e. This loss of life was preventable and there is a direct link from the Conservative Party’s guiding ideology to this tragedy. The Labour Party tabled a bill less than a year ago to upgrade the safety of residences like Grenfell Tower. The Conservatives with their majority voted against it and so the bill died.
Think on this. Politicians voting openly against the safety of those they represent. How could they justify it? How could this not be political poison?How could the media essentially ignore such blatant disrespect by elected representatives of their constituents safety? The answer is straightforward. The Conservative Party campaigned on killing regulations. They bragged openly about eliminating two regulations for every one brought in. The core of their ideology was the ever exalted goal of “getting government off the back of business.” In the specific case of this Labour Party bill the Conservative majority rejected it on the claim of avoiding “unnecessary regulations”
The direct result of this lack of regulation for Grenfell Tower residents was the use of incendiary cladding instead of fire retardant cladding, and no requirement for a sprinkler system. As to the media the Conservative’s killing of Labour’s tenant safety bill was simply business as usual, dog bites man, expected behavior, one measure among too many to highlight. Google ‘bonfire of regulations’ and you will discover that like minded political behavior is not in short supply. As with many political regressions today America is leading the charge for this one. As is also not uncommon America once led by example having suffered its own versions of Grenfell in what were called the ‘bad old days’ before this redux.
There will be time to determine precisely how many died in the Grenfell Tower fire. The exact number does matter because every human life counts. For now what is most urgent is doing everything required to help those who survived to grieve and recover. On that score the Conservative’s handling of this crisis so far resembles nothing so much as it resembles an introduction – “Gasoline meet fire”. British comic Jonathan Pie sums up the tragedy and the Conservative’s conduct as papering over poverty with flammable cladding.
What should happen now is the passing of a tenant safety bill like the one that Labour tabled a year ago. Will it? What matters is that government regulations are enforced. Will they be? If this means hiring more enforcement officers, and it does, so be it. If there is anything at all that government is there for it is to ensure that the pursuit of profit does not lead our citizens to being burned on a bonfire of deregulation.