On 14 September 2017 The Grenfell Tower Inquiry began to investigate the causes of the fire and other related issues. The chairman, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, issued the phase one report on Wednesday 30 October 2019. In it, he concluded that the tower’s cladding failed to comply with building regulations; the principal reason the fire spread was the use of aluminium composite cladding filled with plastic on the building’s exterior.
In the dock?
- Past and present governments’ erosion of safety standards through programmes of deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing/subcontracting, localism and austerity: “Regulations were relaxed and eliminated, warnings were ignored and costs were cut, while profits and council reserves.
- David Cameron, as prime minister, promised and delivered a “bonfire of regulations” in the construction industry.
- Boris Johnson, as mayor of London, closed 10 London fire stations, took 30 fi re engines out of service and slashed over 500firefighter jobs to “save money” (charges made by Yvette Williams)
- The Conservative members of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) who covered the homes of working-class people with flammable tiles rather than fire-resistant tiles because they were cheap, prepared the way for the Grenfell Tower fire (Sasha Simic).
- “The true culprits of the fire are those who wrapped the building in flammable cladding, who gutted the UK’s fire safety regime, who ignored the warnings from previous fires, and who did not hear the pleas of a community worried for their safety”, Fire Brigades Union (FBU). Below left, see a brief video of firefighters during the fire
* In the 2012 Grenfell Tower Regeneration Project’s public consultation, which may be read here, residents were asked about the cladding’s colour and finish, but the issue of fire resistance was never raised.
The planning application’s engagement statement records that the choice of cladding – zinc or particle board was investigated and the final choice was Reynobond PE with a plastic filling – a cheaper option, saving nearly £300,000 – placed around flammable foam insulation.
The establishment – elite networks who close ranks to protect their own interests – spared the government & cladding company and scapegoated the Grenfell firefighters
Despite the Grenfell Inquiry’s finding that the principal reason the fire spread was the use of aluminium composite cladding filled with plastic on the building’s exterior, mainstream media chose to highlight criticism of the fire-fighters’.
The FT, though focussing closely on the performance of firefighters, did at least give details of the other companies involved, prudently noting that the report does not assign blame to any individual companies.
Hotpoint, a division of Whirlpool, made the fridge-freezer in which the fire began. Celotex, a division of the French multinational Saint Gobain, made the foam insulation used on the tower; Rydon, the design and build contractor on the refurbishment subcontracted the cladding installation; Harley Facade, and CEP Architectural Facades manufactured the cladding into “cassettes” for use on the tower.
The BBC (warned off after publishing this outspoken article about the cladding?), the Guardian and the Independent opted to focus on the fire service, the Metro achieving some balance by publishing a fiery article by Yvette Williams and one focussing on the fire service in the same issue.
Yvette summarised the feelings of many: “the real ‘villains of the piece’ should be in the media headlines, rather than the firefighters who risked their own lives to save people in a building that no-one should have been living in, with a fire that was unprecedented”.
Since the Grenfell disaster, Arconic has withdrawn Reynobond PE from the market for all building uses. The company is now being forced to disclose evidence to investigations by the police and the Grenfell Tower public inquiry and a second phase to investigate the broader causes will begin in 2020.
But, as the FBU concluded, “We cannot wait for years for the Inquiry to conclude. Change is needed now.” The Grenfell question: will Britain elect a government that puts people before profit?
* As with some other ‘sensitive’ documents, this link will not open. To read the report, the link has to be copied and pasted: https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/idoxWAM/doc/Other-960662.pdf?extension=.pdf&id=960662&location=VOLUME2&contentType=application/pdf&pageCount=1
Today, Times columnist Clare Foges, a former member of Boris Johnson’s mayoral team and then David Cameron’s speech writer, challenges the narrative that Brexit is down, in large part, to a high-handed and callous establishment’s neglect of the “left behind”, deploring the belief that:
”Those in poor northern constituencies and bleak coastal towns were left trailing in the gold-flecked dust thrown up by the golden chariots that bore the wealthy, the Londoners, the elite onwards — throwing back their heads to laugh heartily and pour some more Bolly down their gullets while failing to give a monkey’s about those in their wake”.
Truly, those in poor northern constituencies and bleak coastal towns were and are left trailing – but the elite do not spend time laughing at them – those people are neglected because they are simply of no interest.
She asserts that the deindustrialised towns have suffered because of globalisation or automation, not because those in government sat on their hands.
But the elite constructed, fostered and continue to be enriched by globalisation and automation – the system which impoverishes many is necessary to their lifestyle. Clare admits that “When you know that you are on the lower rungs of a socio-economic ladder that reaches, at its heights, into the realm of millionaires and sports cars and Maldivian holidays, you may well feel resentful. It must be profoundly demoralising to see swathes of your countrymen and women enjoying seemingly easy success while you struggle”.
She also concedes, “Of course there is serious poverty and inequality in our country, but over the past 20 years in particular governments have tried a thousand different policies to reduce them” but fails to mention the ways – under recent Conservative governments – in which people on low incomes and those in poor health have been harassed, ‘sanctioned’ and deprived of their due allowances, in order to make derisory savings. She adds:
“I don’t deny that the Brexit vote may have been driven in part by resentment. Yet here is the crucial point: just because people have felt cruelly neglected by the powers that be, it doesn’t mean that they actually were . . . Let us not mistake a failure to revive left-behind areas with wilful neglect. For the most part the much-traduced “establishment” has been well-meaning and hardworking in pursuit of a fairer country.”
Yes, wilful neglect does imply a degree of awareness – the correct term is indifference; ‘left-behind’ people are simply not on the radar of the affluent, preoccupied by “sports cars and Maldivian holidays”. She ends with more burlesque:
“With a more benign and interventionist establishment at the helm, the taxes of rich people could be spread thickly all over the country with no fear that wealth will flee; billions could be borrowed for major infrastructure projects with no damage to our economy; the streets of Grimsby and Oldham would be paved with gold. By giving this impression, we are inviting people to vote for Jeremy Corbyn and his fantasy economics”.
But would those in government circles – who benefit from corporate sinecures, stock exchange speculation and commodity trading – be willing to change the globalised system for one in which government invests in strengthening the economy through regional production and supply chains? Or will they oppose such changes with all their might, to maintain their current privileges?
“Jeremy Corbyn is perfectly right to relate this week’s Manchester terrorist atrocity to British foreign policy in the Middle East.”
A Moseley reader draws attention to the thoughts of Simon Jenkins in the Guardian today. A summary:
Jenkins asserted that Jeremy Corbyn is perfectly right to relate this week’s Manchester terrorist atrocity to British foreign policy in the Middle East.
He reminded all that Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron clearly stated that they were spending soldiers’ lives toppling regimes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya at enormous expense in order to “to prevent terrorism in the streets of Britain”.
In the Andrew Neil programme this evening Corbyn added that Boris Johnson, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee – and MI5 had also expressed these views ‘on record’!
Their aim was to suppress militant Islam but Jenkins points out that when their intervention clearly led to an increase in Islamist terrorism, we are entitled to agree with Corbyn that it has “simply failed”.
We committed armed aggression against sovereign peoples who had not attacked us
Regimes were indeed toppled. Tens of thousands died, many of them civilians every bit as innocent as Manchester’s victims. Terrorism has not stopped.
Militant Islamists are indeed seeking to subvert the west’s sense of security and its liberal values. But the west used the language of “shock and awe” in bombing Baghdad in 2003, giving the current era of Islamist terrorism a cause, a reason, an excuse, however perverted.
Jenkins ends: “Islamist terrorism is related to foreign policy. However hateful it may seem to us, it is a means to a political end. Sometimes it is as well to call a spade a spade”.
Media 60: the BBC, aka the ministry for disinformation, attacks an ‘alliance of leftists and libertarians’
Analysis’ latest programme indicates that the political establishment is seriously worried about the pro-poor, anti austerity economic programme of the new Labour administration with its talented line-up of advisers which includes David Blanchflower, Thomas Piketty, Richard Murphy, Joseph Stiglitz, Ann Pettifor and Simon Wren-Lewis.
Universal Basic Income was a vehicle selected to downgrade ‘the left’ – or the Corbyn threat to vested interests.
Briefly it asserts that UBI:
- gives the right to be idle/lazy.
- is a bizarre idea, a Utopian daydream,
- is gaining serious traction on the left and
- is just the ‘flavour month for policy wonks’.
On the programme she called UBI “an idea winning support from an unlikely alliance of leftists and libertarians” and on Twitter: “Universal basic income: salvation for the left or the seeds of its destruction?” Search engines find Is the left’s big new idea a ‘right to be lazy’? – BBC News.
Sonia made serious omissions – due to ignorance or strategy? Though carefully lacing the programme with references to robots, she interviewed no acknowledged experts on the subject of UBI and never referred to the widespread interest and pilot projects by governments and universities in other countries.
So who is Sonia? The invaluable Public Affairs News enlightens us
Sonia Sodha, appeared on the programme merely as the chief leader writer for the Observer. She did not tell listeners that she is employed by the establishment’s PR supremo.
As several times stated on the programme she was a policy adviser to Ed Miliband but an online search reveals that she has now joined the Westminster Policy Institute, headed by Sean Worth, a special adviser to David Cameron in Downing Street. WPI describes itself as an experienced and highly-networked team of consultants drawn from backgrounds in Downing Street, the Treasury and senior policy and media roles, providing strategic advice and hands-on support.
To compensate for the programme’s deficiencies, here is a helpful thumbnail UBI sketch on Money Week, no hotbed of the ‘loony left’, but a widely read financial magazine:
(UBI) makes all work pay by abolishing the classic trap of all means-tested benefits.
Under a universal income, there are no perverse disincentives that give people an excuse to stay at home in the face of an effective marginal tax rate of 80%.
Given that one of the main challenges of the age appears to be in-work poverty, rather than mass unemployment, a basic income system could play a significant role – especially in an age of disruptive technologies that make working lives less and less secure.
Nor is there any disincentive to prudent long-term saving – no one has their benefits stopped for having too much in the bank.
Via John Wight’s Twitter account we saw a link to an article by Saurav Dutt, novelist, independent film producer, playwright, screenwriter, graphic design illustrator, accomplished author and writer. After James Landale, BBC diplomatic correspondent -amongst many others – reported David Cameron’s description of Afghanistan and Nigeria as corrupt, Saurav Dutt asked if anyone is contending that the UK is not corrupt?
”What the City and the tax havens are up to isn’t anything as morally defensible as corruption – it’s that good old fashioned criminal act of “receiving”. It gives corruption a bad name . . . There isn’t a lot of corruption in the UK, well, not in cash . . . “
The well-filled envelope type of corruption is common in some countries. How people laughed at Neil Hamilton when it was alleged that he received money in this way – British corruption is less obvious but now well realised by the general public. When will we protest like the Indian people?
As noted in the earlier post, readers send many links to news about the revolving door, rewards for failure, the political influence wielded by the corporate world and lucrative appointments for the friends and family of those with political influence; this is the British way.
Dutt says that corruption comes from the ‘top’ down and is endemic in Western society: “In a fiscal sense it is the banks, financial institutions and ‘big business’ with acceptance from politicians (who also get their cut one way or another) and moves on to a more moral sense with the Police and the legal professions”.
An All-Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Corruption was established in November 2011 to raise awareness of the impact of international corruption and to enhance and strengthen UK anti-corruption policies and mechanisms. Could they answer Dutt’s questions?
- How many MPs voted for health legislation when they have interests in private health care?
- Why does Cameron appoint Ministers to the education department who have a direct interest in academies that their companies are involved in?
- Why does this government give honours to people who have given their party money?
- Why does this government pass legislation that directly benefits their donors?
As Dutt says “The Transparency International corruption index shows we have some way to go before we reach the dizzy heights of Denmark, and a short stroll down the slippery path to the likes of Qatar and the UAE”.
Happy Christmas: “regardless of the systematic dismantling of the state . . . and the ideological glee at making the disadvantaged suffer”, rejoice!
The writer tried to ignore the news, cynically announced as the public prepares for Christmas festivities, that – on ‘trash day’ – a total of 36 written ministerial statements and 424 government documents were published, as Parliament rose for the Christmas recess. Consequences:
But the words of a Walsall blogger, the Plastic Hippo, made it impossible.
“Clearly, lots of time, effort and thought has been devoted to the black arts by the Conservative Party, their corporate backers and a sympathetic media. It seems a shame that they are unwilling to turn their expertise to reducing the national debt, securing public services, ensuring that no child goes hungry and made some effort to unite the nation and not divide it for the sake of short-term electoral advantage”.
“The Machiavellian undermining of political opponents by Tory Party strategists is as good if not better than a John Le Carré novel”, he continues:
“The clever manoeuvring began on day one of the coalition government . . . Within weeks, Liberal Democrat lightweights with ideas above their station were quickly neutralised by a quiet word to the Standards Committee and the Essex constabulary . . . Vince Cable vowed to take on Murdoch over BSkyB but the old fool fell for an elaborate sting involving a couple of young lovelies working for Murdoch . . .
As informed political debate goes, all this was a reminder that informed political debate is dead . . .
“With the enthusiastic cooperation of a feral right-wing media, Tory spymasters set about Ed Miliband with the ferocity of fox-hounds after Reynard or possibly Rennard the Liberal Democrat lord. The best that quality journalism and profound political thinking could come up with was that Miliband has two kitchens, his father “hated” Britain and that he looks a bit odd when eating a bacon sandwich . . .
“Duly elected with a considerable majority, the systematic destruction of Corbyn began. Unfortunately, Comrade Corbyn seems able to ignore the increasingly hysterical attacks and even a casual observer might be impressed with his dignity under such savage provocation.
“He regularly wipes the floor with David Cameron at the dispatch box leaving the Prime Minister red in the face unable to answer reasonable questions and shouting at the opposition benches that everything is the fault of a party last in power five and a half years ago. Tory activists will be asking for their three quid back . . .”
Fortunately the general public is increasing aware of these machinations peddled by mainstream media and careerist politicians – and despite their best efforts continue to applaud and support Corbyn.
Read Plastic Hippo’s article in full here.
“British service men and women will now be in harm’s way and the loss of innocent lives is sadly almost inevitable” – @jeremycorbyn
After recording Jeremy Corbyn’s earlier well-judged ‘rebellions’ on Iraq, Libya etc and noting that the ‘anti-war lobby’ makes lucid points about the risk of civilian casualties, the lack of ground troops and any viable political strategy for the future health of Syria, Oborne regrets that Corbyn’s motives were ‘traduced’ by David Cameron on Tuesday night. He adds:
“It is, of course, utterly essential in a parliamentary democracy such as ours that these arguments should be heard. But over recent decades, British policy has been marred by an unfortunate convention – an unwritten rule that both the main political parties should agree about foreign affairs. It is most unfortunate that when he does so, his motives should be traduced in the way that David Cameron did on Tuesday night”.
Read the man’s uneasy face snapped on that day – will his decision boomerang as one cartoonist has suggested?
Thanks to Scottish councillor, Linda Kelly and Felicity Arbuthnot who forwarded the list writing: “using the word bloody in its literal sense: Labour’ s bloody list of shame!”
Labour for: They were: Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East), Kevin Barron (Rother Valley), Margaret Beckett (Derby South), Hilary Benn (Leeds Central), Luciana Berger (Liverpool Wavertree), Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South & Cleveland East), Ben Bradshaw (Exeter), Chris Bryant (Rhondda), Alan Campbell (Tynemouth), Jenny Chapman (Darlington), Vernon Coaker (Gedling), Ann Coffey (Stockport), Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford), Neil Coyle (Bermondsey & Old Southwark), Mary Creagh (Wakefield), Stella Creasy (Walthamstow), Simon Danczuk (Rochdale), Wayne David (Caerphilly), Gloria De Piero (Ashfield), Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South & Penarth), Jim Dowd (Lewisham West & Penge), Michael Dugher (Barnsley East), Angela Eagle (Wallasey), Maria Eagle (Garston & Halewood), Louise Ellman (Liverpool Riverside), Frank Field (Birkenhead), Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar & Limehouse), Colleen Fletcher (Coventry North East), Caroline Flint (Don Valley), Harriet Harman (Camberwell & Peckham), Margaret Hodge (Barking), George Howarth (Knowsley), Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central), Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central), Alan Johnson (Hull West & Hessle), Graham Jones (Hyndburn), Helen Jones (Warrington North), Kevan Jones (Durham North), Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South), Liz Kendall (Leicester West), Dr Peter Kyle (Hove), Chris Leslie (Nottingham East), Holly Lynch (Halifax), Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham & Morden), Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East), Conor McGinn (St Helens North), Alison McGovern (Wirral South), Bridget Phillipson (Houghton & Sunderland South), Jamie Reed (Copeland), Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East), Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West), Joan Ryan (Enfield North), Lucy Powell (Manchester Central), Ruth Smeeth (Stoke-on-Trent North), Angela Smith (Penistone & Stocksbridge), John Spellar (Warley), Gisela Stuart (Birmingham Edgbaston), Gareth Thomas (Harrow West), Anna Turley (Redcar), Chuka Umunna (Streatham), Keith Vaz (Leicester East), Tom Watson (West Bromwich East), Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) and John Woodcock (Barrow & Furness).
Media 51: the New Statesman was being economical with the facts – of course a rattled David Cameron in PMQs ‘dialled up the abuse’
George Eaton, political editor of the New Statesman, appears to be another nominal socialist who cannot accept the democratically elected Labour leader who has such an enthusiastic cross-party following in the country.
New to Mr Eaton’s work, the writer visited the site and saw the general Corbyn-undermining tenor of his articles, post election. How he would dislike the admiration expressed by South Korean speakers and young Brits in a South Korean film (http://newstapa.org/29509) recently circulated.
Today he exults: “Labour right triumphs in PLP elections of backbench committee chairs – many of them ‘part of the problem, rather than part of the solution’. And yesterday Eaton reported that at this week’s PMQs session, Cameron’s patience ran out – accompanied by jeering Tory MPs.
Eaton attributed the PM’s tone to ‘contempt for Corbyn’ but social media – Roslyn Cook’s tweet – filled in the very significant missing link: the statement which will be seen as a major threat to arms trade, party funding and a loss of face for the PM on the international ‘stage’
Cameron was deeply riled by the Labour Leader’s statement issued shortly before Prime Minister’s Questions and lost the respectful tone assumed in earlier sessions. Jeremy Corbyn:
“David Cameron’s invitation to Britain today of the Egyptian president and coup leader Abdel Fatah al-Sisi shows contempt for human and democratic rights and threatens, rather than protects, Britain’s national security.
“Support for dialogue and negotiated conflict resolution in the Middle East is vital to us all. But to welcome and bolster with military support the coup leader who overthrew a democratically elected president in 2013 and has presided over the killing and jailing of many thousands since makes a mockery of government claims to be promoting peace and justice in the region.
“Support for dictatorial regimes in the Middle East has been a key factor fuelling the spread of terrorism. Rather than rolling out the red carpet to President Sisi, the Prime Minister should suspend arms exports to Egypt until democratic and civil rights are restored.”
Britain’s shame: the UK arms industry is a major supplier of weapons and other military equipment and $24bn has been invested in the Egyptian economy by British businesses in the past five years – British-based companies such as BP and Vodafone being among the biggest players in the Egyptian economy.
Goodbye British made steel: would a Corbyn-led government say “we can’t favour domestic production in the face of Chinese dumping”
The 99% don’t agree with this government policy
Why not favour British production? As festivities celebrating the visit of President Xi Jinping proceed apace, Richard Murphy’s Green Deal colleague, Colin Hines, describes the collapse of the steel industry as “A triple whammy forced on Europe by the Treaty of Rome’s open borders diktat”. He adds – in the Guardian:
The Magic Money Tree: there is a way out of this – and a funding source to finance it
- The EU must be reformed by a “treaty of home”, allowing national economies to flourish via border controls to goods, money and people. The problems of protecting domestic sectors like steel could then be overcome.
- Future mass migration could be limited once its causes are tackled; in the interim massive aid should be given to those countries hosting refugees.
- Finally, austerity should be replaced by funding the rebuilding of social and physical infrastructure. The simple way to pay for all this is with the EU’s magic money tree (phrase coined by the Economist?), the European Central Bank, which is e-printing €60bn a month in a failing attempt to counter the downsides of the free market in Europe.
“The Bank of England’s quantitative easing programme has created £375 billion of magic money, which keeps interest rates artificially low, thus engineering a recovery, or at least the illusion of one. But this sort of magic money tree is more at home in a Grimm’s fairy tale than a modern one where everyone is destined to live happily ever after. Because not everyone’s a winner under QE. If you’re rich and you’re able to borrow, then you’re laughing all the way to the bank as it boosts the value of assets and keeps debt cheap . . . But if you’re prudent – a saver, or a pensioner – then you see the opposite happen”.
And Positive Money points out that creating money is as easy as the flick of a pen and the clattering of some computer keys. While the UK’s “magic money tree” is currently controlled by the private banking system, the UK government is quite capable of altering this situation. All it requires is the political will to act.
Colin Hines recommends that next month, the ECB could instead print:
- €20bn of “migrant QE” to help cope with the refugee crisis,
- €20bn of “jubilee QE” to deal with the continent’s debt problems and secure the future of millions of future global warming migrants and
- €20bn of “climate QE” put on the table at next month’s climate change conference in Paris.
As Scots rescue their shipyard the government merely says “Goodbye British made steel” and buys shares in foreign steelmakers.
Corbyn would do better: the banks have had more than their share: now for migrant, jubilee debt and climate QE.