• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

CounterPunch needs you. piggybank-icon You need us. The cost of keeping the site alive and running is growing fast, as more and more readers visit. We want you to stick around, but it eats up bandwidth and costs us a bundle. Help us reach our modest goal (we are half way there!) so we can keep CounterPunch going. Donate today!
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Grenfell and After

This summer, the annual Notting Hill Carnival took place as usual. The two-day carnival, Europe’s biggest street festival, has been a major London event every August since 1966. But this year, the carnival followed the tragic fire in June at Grenfell Tower, which happened in the same London borough, Kensington and Chelsea, and the carnival procession began with a commemoration for those who died in the inferno.

Picking up the weekend Financial Times, I flicked to the House and Homes section. The feature this carnival week (‘Get the Party Started’, Financial Times, 26-27 August 2017) focused on real estate in the same area. A graphic informed us that £1m will buy us a 2-bed flat, £10m will secure a 5-bed penthouse; a more unfeasible £35m will deliver a grand 8-bed detached home with a car lift.

It’s worth remembering that the constituency in which these excesses in the housing market are played out was also the site of one of the major upsets of the 2017 general election, held just a week before the Grenfell Tower disaster. The election, called in a fit of hubris, ended up with a reduced majority for the government — and the first Labour member of parliament ever for the Kensington and Chelsea constituency.

Change is afoot, not least because housing issues are at the bleeding edge for those damaged by austerity policies and a city economy that delivers homes for investors or those who have already made money in the housing market, while neglecting those facing overcrowding or stagnating incomes, or the city’s poor. The terrible events at Grenfell Tower revealed arrogant and incapable local government that was unable to look after the safety of its tenants or deal with the subsequent emergency; it had to be put in the hands of NGOs like the Red Cross.

The ‘traumascape’ of the incinerated shell of the Grenfell Tower stands in an area of wealth and poverty which exist side by side. This is the area Wyndham Lewis described as ‘Rotting Hill’ in his 1951 novel of that name. By the turn of the millennium it had become the romantic stamping ground of Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in Notting Hill (1999).

Notting Hill and its wider London borough still have around a quarter of residents in public housing (2011 census data), often adjacent to wealthy streets and terraces that feature in global property supplements. The important point is that property speculation and investment ride on the cultural heritage and diversity of the area — the community carnival serves as a reminder to consider what and where to buy with the prospect of significant capital gain.

Such advice sits uneasily alongside the kind of social anger now focused on foreign investment and the many empty and under-used homes and second homes of central London. The inadequate and socially disconnected policy elite, at both central and local government levels, amplifies this, as does the continuing insufficiency of the response to the Grenfell tragedy. Most of the former resident-survivors are still in hotels and temporary accommodation.

Rowland Atkinson is chair in Inclusive Societies at the University of Sheffield and the author (with Sarah Blandy) of Domestic Fortress: Fear and the New Home Front (Manchester University Press, 2016) and co-editor of Building Better Societies: Promoting Social Justice in a World Falling Apart (Policy Press, 2017).

This article originally appeared in Le Monde Diplomatique.

More articles by:

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
May 24, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Iran, Venezuela and the Throes of Empire
Melvin Goodman
The Dangerous Demise of Disarmament
Jeffrey St. Clair
“The Army Ain’t No Place for a Black Man:” How the Wolf Got Caged
Richard Moser
War is War on Mother Earth
Andrew Levine
The (Small-d) Democrat’s Dilemma
Russell Mokhiber
The Boeing Way: Blaming Dead Pilots
Rev. William Alberts
Gaslighters of God
Phyllis Bennis
The Amputation Crisis in Gaza: a US-Funded Atrocity
David Rosen
21st Century Conglomerate Trusts 
Jonathan Latham
As a GMO Stunt, Professor Tasted a Pesticide and Gave It to Students
Binoy Kampmark
The Espionage Act and Julian Assange
Kathy Deacon
Liberals Fall Into Line: a Recurring Phenomenon
Jill Richardson
The Disparity Behind Anti-Abortion Laws
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Chelsea Manning is Showing Us What Real Resistance Looks Like
Zhivko Illeieff
Russiagate and the Dry Rot in American Journalism
Norman Solomon
Will Biden’s Dog Whistles for Racism Catch Up with Him?
Yanis Varoufakis
The Left Refuses to Get Its Act Together in the Face of Neofascism
Lawrence Davidson
Senator Schumer’s Divine Mission
Thomas Knapp
War Crimes Pardons: A Terrible Memorial Day Idea
Renee Parsons
Dump Bolton before He Starts the Next War
Yves Engler
Canada’s Meddling in Venezuela
Katie Singer
Controlling 5G: A Course in Obstacles
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Beauty of Trees
Jesse Jackson
Extremist Laws, Like Alabama’s, Will Hit Poor Women the Hardest
Andrew Bacevich
The “Forever Wars” Enshrined
Ron Jacobs
Another One Moves On: Roz Payne, Presente!
Christopher Brauchli
The Offal Office
Daniel Falcone
Where the ‘Democratic Left’ Goes to Die: Staten Island NYC and the Forgotten Primaries   
Julia Paley
Life After Deportation
Sarah Anderson
America Needs a Long-Term Care Program for Seniors
Seiji Yamada – John Witeck
Stop U.S. Funding for Human Rights Abuses in the Philippines
Shane Doyle, A.J. Not Afraid and Adrian Bird, Jr.
The Crazy Mountains Deserve Preservation
Charlie Nash
Will Generation Z Introduce a Wizard Renaissance?
Ron Ridenour
Denmark Peace-Justice Conference Based on Activism in Many Countries
Douglas Bevington
Why California’s Costly (and Destructive) Logging Plan for Wildfires Will Fail
Gary Leupp
“Escalating Tensions” with Iran
Jonathan Power
Making the World More Equal
Cesar Chelala
The Social Burden of Depression in Japan
Stephen Cooper
Imbibe Culture and Consciousness with Cocoa Tea (The Interview)
Stacy Bannerman
End This Hidden Threat to Military Families
Kevin Basl
Time to Rethink That POW/MIA Flag
Nicky Reid
Pledging Allegiance to the Divided States of America
Louis Proyect
A Second Look at Neflix
Martin Billheimer
Closed Shave: T. O. Bobe, the Girl and Curl
David Yearsley
Hard Bop and Bezos’ Balls
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail