Socialist Worker

Blame Tory cost-cutting and racism for Grenfell Tower fire

by Gabby Thorpe
Issue No. 2678

Monthly Silent walks take place calling for justice over Grenfell

Monthly Silent walks take place calling for justice over Grenfell (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire should be a chance to expose cost-cutting, institutional racism and the way profit comes before people.

And it should be a pathway to justice and an opportunity to bring the guilty Tories and bosses to account.

The first phase of the inquiry’s report was set to be published on Wednesday.

This interim report into the fire, which killed at least 72 people in June 2017, is looking into its causes and the authorities’ response.

A leak to the Daily Telegraph newspaper on Tuesday revealed that the report condemns the response of the London Fire Brigade. Inquiry chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick blamed it for “systematic shortcomings”.

The report was expected to state that the fire spread so rapidly because of the west London tower block’s combustible aluminium cladding.

This had been added to the building during refurbishment in 2015-16.

But leaks largely focus on the response of firefighters and the emergency service call centres.

Grenfell—two years without justice
Grenfell—two years without justice
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They say that both fire fighters and call centre workers were ill-prepared for the fire, and that more training is needed for handling incidents in tower blocks.

Moyra Samuels, spokesperson for the Justice4Grenfell campaign, told Socialist Worker, “Especially in the case of call centre workers, the report recognises a lack of training.

“It also speaks to cuts made to the fire services.”

The report focuses heavily on the “stay put” policy—which meant that residents were told to stay in their flats for up to two hours.

The advice was withdrawn. But Moore-Bick said more lives could have been saved had it been withdrawn earlier.

The stay put policy is an important issue. But focusing on that doesn’t explain why such a fire happened or why intensely flammable cladding was used with no proper regard for safety.

Jon Wharnsby, a firefighter who rescued people in Grenfell, said, “There have been thousands of high-rise fires in London and there has been one Grenfell.

“The difference between those fires is not the fire service.

The only difference is that that building was refurbished in a specific way.”

The stay put policy, designed to stop the fire from spreading outside of the flat of origin, was put in place before the cladding was installed.

Moyra said the report’s conclusions expose government failings to listen to past warnings about the policy (see left).

“The report shows that no lessons were learnt—particularly from the Lakanal fire in 2009,” she said. “There is no accountability—and that is what is important now for the campaign.”

For there to be justice for survivors and their relatives, the government must take responsibility.


Stay put fears ignored

The London Fire Brigade requested advice on the “stay put” policy after the Lakanal House fire, which killed six people and injured 20 in south London on 3 July 2009.

The government issued new guidelines in 2014 on how the policy should be implemented.

But it ignored requests made by the coroner and the fire brigade to launch a review into policy. At the same time, firefighters called for new national guidelines on what to do when the policy failed.

These requests were also ignored.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s report should not be used to scapegoat firefighters for failing to correctly deal with stay put at Grenfell.

We should demand the the government instantly launches a review into the policy.


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