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No Inquiry Needed: Grenfell Tower Fire Was a Crime

Photo by ChiralJon | CC BY 2.0

No inquiry is required to have it confirmed that the Grenfell Fire in London on 14 June 2017 was a crime whose roots lie in the virulent disdain and contempt, bordering on hatred, of working class and poor people in a society which in the second decade of the 21st century is a utopia for a small minority and a dystopia for far too many.

The burnt out shell of Grenfell Tower stands as symptom and symbol of the class war that has been and is still raging all over Britain, a war that in 2017 has never been more intense and in which only one side is throwing punches and only one side is taking them. Thus it is impossible to consider the Grenfell Tower Inquiry to be anything other than an establishment pantomime capable of delivering only a simulacrum of justice in that its very complexion perpetuates the social injustice that led inexorably to the fire and resulting carnage.

The more cynical among us will not persuaded that the real purpose of the inquiry is anything other than to channel and filter the righteous rage and anger of a community that has been so grievously wronged onto the safe ground of obfuscation, shrouded in legalese and the kind of establishment-speak perfected over the far too many years in which the lives of working class and poor people have been regarded by the rich to be of scant importance.

As Alan Badiou reminds us, we are living in a world in which we have to “save the banks rather than confiscate them, hand out billions to the rich and give nothing to the poor, set nationals against workers of foreign origin whenever possible, and, in a word, keep tight controls on all forms of poverty in order to ensure the survival of the powerful.”

Leading the Grenfell Tower Inquiry is Cambridge-educated retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick. In one of the last cases he heard prior to his retirement Moore-Bick found in favour of Westminster Council in 2014 in a case brought by single mother of five, Titina Nzolameso. Ms Nzolameso had approached the council to be rehoused after she was made homeless in 2012. They offered her accommodation 50 miles from London and when she refused, Westminster Council ruled that she had made herself “intentionally homeless”, thus absolving them of their obligation to rehouse her under the 1996 Housing Act.

Sir Martin James Moore-Bick’s judgement, later overruled by the Supreme Court on appeal, drew the criticism that it was tantamount to a “green light” for councils in London to embark on the social cleansing of their poorer tenants and residents. The relevance of this judgement to the Grenfell Inquiry could not be more pointed, involving as it does issues concerning the substandard housing endured by Westminister Council’s poorest residents, people of no property in one of the world’s most developed and unequal societies in the world with a housing crisis that leaves no doubt of the contempt in which people on low incomes are held by a political class whose slavish attachment to the interests of the rich is beyond doubt.

Almost four months on from the Grenfell Fire only two families of those that survived have been permanently rehoused, while 150 families are still living in temporary hotel accommodation across the city.

At the heart of this issue are the questions of class and inequality that have long blighted British society. Their most grievous symptoms in 2017 are foodbanks, benefit sanctions, the welfare cap, homelessness, the housing crisis, and as Grenfell attests to, substandard housing. Each of the aforementioned feeds into the Grenfell Fire and the treatment of the survivors with regard to the lack of action and progress in permanently rehousing them; this in a borough in which 1,857 properties are currently lying empty in the vicinity of the burnt out shell of Grenfell Tower.

Everybody living in a community that has been the focus of the national and international media this summer for all the wrong reasons knows that this disaster could have been avoided, should have been avoided, and was not avoided purely as a result of their invisibility in the eyes of the council of the richest borough in London. They are victims of a sick society, intoxicated with greed at one end of the social spectrum and abject cruelty at the other, bringing with it the attendant maladies of crime, drug abuse, mental illness, and human despair.

In this scenario retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick could only ever be part of the problem rather then the solution. He is emblematic of an elite for whom the demographic represented by Grenfell might as well be living on another planet. Indeed it is hard to argue with the suggestion that only when we are living in a society in which Moore-Bick and his ilk are being judged rather than judging will we know what real justice looks like.

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John Wight is the author of a politically incorrect and irreverent Hollywood memoir – Dreams That Die – published by Zero Books. He’s also written five novels, which are available as Kindle eBooks. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnWight1

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