Thursday, 15 June 2017

Grenfell Tower and the politics of Social Class

It's a fair bet that had Grenfell Tower been a luxury block of a flats - like one of those that are plentiful in the borough of Kensington - the catastrophic events of the last 36 hours wouldn't have happened. Fire and smoke alarms would have worked, sprinklers would have been installed, lifts would have been operational, there'd be more fire escapes and a type of plastic cladding known to be a fire risk wouldn't have been used on the building's exterior - a cladding scheme carried out incidentally because some of Kensington's more affluent residents had apparently been complaining the tower block was an 'eyesore'.

Certainly it's an indisputable fact that the politics of social class and social inequality runs through this entire horrific episode. Grenfell tower housed mainly poor people and people from ethnic minority backgrounds - people who are largely ignored and marginalised in contemporary British society - and you can't help but get the feeling the Tory local authority and the 'arms length' body the council had created to run the tower block just couldn't be bothered to listen to the concerns of all those poor people about the building's safety

Over the last few hours there has been speculation on social media that the fire may have been deliberately started, as part of a warped scheme to drive poor people out of one of the wealthiest boroughs in the british isles. And while such claims are probably the result of understandable anger and grief fueled by what local people feel has been years of neglect by local and national government it will nevertheless be interesting to see if Grenfell Tower's tenants are allowed to return to the block when it is refurbished - or will they be 'dispersed' to londons outer boroughs or even further afield like tens of other poor londoners have been in recent years? 

While the following links are a good illustration i think of the utter disregard many members of Theresa May's tory UK government takes to matters like ensuring properties are safe for the tenants who live in them.

And when considering what happened in Kensington it's also important to understand the overall context within which it has occurred ie successive British governments have been trashing and undermining council and social housing for decades. So when Thatcher initiated the so called 'right to buy' hundreds of thousands of council homes were bought at knock down prices but weren't replaced because local authorities were forbidden to spend the capital receipts generated to build new properties. And the Blair and Brown Labour governments continued this assault on public housing - bribing and bullying local authorities to hive off their housing stocks to so called 'arms length' companies.So with council housing and tenants viewed with such obvious disdain by successive British governments is it really any wonder the views and safety concerns of the tenants of Grenfell Tower were dismissed so readily by the block's management company and Kensington borough council?

Worth noting the devolved government's in Scotland and Wales have to their credit abolished 'right to buy' in their respective countries, and also very pleasing to note the Welsh Government has insisted that new properties built in Wales must have built in sprinkler systems


  1. Nobody is stopping you (and folk with the same outlook as you) paying more in tax to HMRC so that government coffers are swelled sufficiently to improve 'council' housing.

    But for you to insist that others pay more is surely just plain wrong.

    1. I tell you what's 'plain wrong' Jonti - its billionaires and super rich corporations paying less and less in tax while budgets for local authorities are cut and cut by the tory government at westminster. If those that can afford to paid a bit more in tax then local authorities would be able to afford to ensure their tenants lived in safe housing. I suspect youre one of those people who'd move if poor people moved in alongside you