The inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire began today, Thursday, at the Connaught Rooms in central London. Sir Martin Moore-Bick, its chair, read out a prepared statement then rushed out of the room.
He admitted that local residents would not be represented on the inquiry panel. “To appoint as assessor someone who had direct involvement would undermine my impartiality,” he said.
Moore-Bick is a former Court of Appeal judge and his statement confirmed all the worst fears of campaigners, residents and survivors.
Before the inquiry Socialist Worker spoke to Unite union rep Stewart, who lives in the shadow of Grenfell Tower.
“We haven’t had answers for three months,” he said. “If the inquiry doesn’t address local and national government responsibility then we’re not going to find out why this happened.
“How did the deregulation of safety standards contribute? Unless they’re going to look at that and other related issues we’re not going to get justice and there’s no point in the inquiry.”
Kensington and Chelsea Labour councillor Pat Mason was at a screening of the inquiry at Notting Hill Methodist church.
"There was a collective sigh of resignation when Moore-Bick read out his statement," he told Socialist Worker. "One person told me, 'We've got a white-haired judge sitting underneath golden chandeliers giving priority to journalists while survivors are treated with contempt.'
"Who's justice is it going to be? Establishment justice.
"It's a systemic problem which started in Downing Street. Having an inquiry about something the government is responsible for is not going to deliver justice."
Moore-Bick went on to say that for the inquiry to be successful evidence would have to be examined “calmly and rationally”.
This implies that having ordinary people on the panel would make this impossible.
He announced that certain professionals in their respective fields would be appointed as assessors.
But ordinary people already know who is responsible for the fire - the council leaders, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) and the government.
Much of the former Court of Appeal judge’s opening statement was devoted to the minute detail of how the inquiry will be organised. Survivors who attended were told that "skeleton arguments" needed to submitted on A4 paper at 12 point font size with 1.5 line spacing.
Barrister Michael Mansfield shouted from the floor to ask questions on behalf of the survivors and was ignored. Afterwards, he told assembled journalists that if someone from the local area couldn’t be an assessor for the inquiry, they could still participate.
Later in the day at least 800 people marched in silence through north Kensington to demand justice for the dead.
March organiser Zeyad said, "We're here to show people how united we are."
Kelvin lives in the shadow of Grenfell Tower. "The KCTMO are still charging me full rent, he told Socialist Worker. "I'm not paying. I saw people die that night.
"They only engage when they want money so this is a way of putting pressure on them.”
Moore-Bick's press conference confirmed what people already knew - the establishment are out to cover their backs. Survivors and campaigners will have to shout over drone of establishment voices to get justice.