Will the Grenfell 555 finally put paid to this shameless Tory Government?

RSOE EDOIS information on Grenfell Tower

Information posted on the RSOE Emergency and Disaster Information Service (EDIS) at the time of the fire

So now we know. 555 more victims of the Tory war on the poor in one night (on top of the 30,000 “excess” NHS deaths and the numerous deaths caused by benefits sanctions). It’s clear they believe the 99% are expendable.

Enough is enough. It’s time for them to go

Working from the figures released at the time the fire started (and subsequently concealed), we can do the calculation and work out how many are missing:

Persons affected 650
Evacuated/Rescued 65
Unaccounted for 585

Even if we assume the 30 listed as injured were in addition to those listed as rescued, that still makes a total much larger than they’re admitting to: a rough total of 555 people missing presumed dead. On top of this, there were probably also a number of undocumented immigrants, the magnitude of which we’ll never know.

555 victims or more on the altar of austerity, in the service of the great Tory God, Money

That’s more than many other disasters that have happened over the years: More than the London Bridge/Borough attack the week before (9 victims), the Manchester terror attack (22), Hillsborough (96), the Kings Cross fire (31), the Lockerbie bombing (270), the Dunblane shooting (17), the Zeebrugge ferry (193), the Aberfan slag heap disaster (144), the sinking of the Marchioness (51), the Moorgate tube crash (43), or the Pulse Orlando nightclub shooting (49) and the Sandy Hook shooting (27) in America,  the Bataclan shooting in Paris (89) and Breivik’s Norway Attacks (77).

Grenfell Tower has more victims than any of these, by a factor of at least 2, and yet it seems that the Government has issued instructions that the number of victims is to be kept quiet, with very slightly rising figures released drip by drip that have no relation to the actual victim count.

Meanwhile, there are stories going round about the real deal. Like the one about one fireman having found a single room which contained 42 bodies ranging in age from babies to the very old.

As Russell Brand has said, Grenfell Tower is a tale of corrupt landlords and complicit government. Somebody needs to be held accountable. But nothing seems to be being done to prevent documents relating to the actions that led up to the disaster from being shredded and deleted from computer servers and email boxes.

Mrs May, I have to tell you that Grenfell Tower is not going to go away.

Corruption and incompetence

This tragedy is more than appalling, it is the result of a series of acts of criminal negligence combined with a complete disregard for the needs, or even the safety of the poor. It makes it absolutely clear that so-called austerity is incompatible with public safety.

The refurbishment at Grenfell Tower is a parable for our times. Made pretty on the outside to please the sensibilities of absentee owners in the blocks opposite, while obvious safety hazards were ignored despite repeated warnings by the residents – who were actually threatened for trying to have the tower made safe. Money saved by choosing cladding that was so flammable it turned a minor fire into an inferno in just a few minutes.

When was the last safety inspection at Grenfell Tower? Residents reported that notices with the dates of the last inspection were dated before the current decade – more than 7 years ago. Were inspections done more recently, or not? If they were, why did the person responsible not bother to note down the date? If not, why not? And why was the fire exit sealed up in 2014?

Austerity’s reputation has gone up in smoke. It’s become clear that when the Tories waved aside the impact of cuts on public health and safety they were playing with people’s lives. Because they believe that 99% of the population don’t actually matter, and in fact, Britain would be better off with fewer people. This attitude has been demonstrated repeatedly by their demonisation of vulnerable groups: the disabled, people with chronic disease, the mentally ill, even patients with terminal illness who fail to die quickly enough. And migrants, of course. Many of the residents of Grenfell Tower were migrants.

Creating scapegoats and removing their lifelines has become a pattern for this government. But when you cut corners repeatedly, eventually your legitimacy falls and crashes to the floor, shattering into pieces. The Tories have seemingly only just discovered that the duty to look after the people is what government is for and they’re scrabbling round trying to cobble a valid reason for their existence together. Good luck with that, Tories. No. I don’t mean that. It’s time for you and your ilk in whatever party you may be skulking to go and play with your multi-billionaire chums. You thought you didn’t need us. Well, we sure as Hell don’t need you.

May chose a Public Enquiry because it puts the Government in control. An inquest is the correct choice

Theresa May was very quick to announce a public enquiry. This wasn’t to be nice to the victims, quite the reverse. Public enquiries are under Government control. An inquest is completely independent and allows the victims’ families to ask questions, which a public enquiry would prevent.

Here’s a lawyer explaining this:

This is on top of the fact that the Government seems to have instructed the media to hide the real number of likely deaths from this entirely preventable crime. So far, we’ve heard about around 65 survivors and they’re talking about possibly 50 deaths. But there were 120 flats and unless a ridiculously high percentage were on holiday during term time – which poor people would probably avoid due to fines for absence brought in by this Government – that means at least 300 people were in the building when the fire struck. 300 minus 60 is way more than 50. Why are they trying to hush this painfully obvious fact up?

Lily Allen brought this up, then was subsequently dropped from a planned appearance on Newsnight

This fire and the deaths caused by it is a crime because numerous complaints about fire safety were ignored. In some jurisdictions this would be considered culpable homicide. In England and Wales I believe it’s called corporate manslaughter.

The local council even threatened the blogger who worked to get something done.

The residents were unable to use the law to press their claims because this Government axed Legal Aid for civil actions, of which this would have been one. So many cut corners by this Government, and so many chickens coming home to roost.

If these known problems had been dealt with, and if the company in charge of refurbishment hadn’t been more concerned with fire safety than saving a few pounds on the cladding, the outcome would certainly have been very different. There must be criminal charges brought against all those responsible, including the Tory Minister who sat on a parliamentary report that recommended retrofitting sprinklers to all tower blocks.

The Monday morning hangover

The June 8 General Election has had more twists and turns than a Whitehall farce. In fact it is a Whitehall farce, minus the crashing through doors by half naked people who somehow manage to just miss each other.

Nobody knows what is going on, not May, not Corbyn, not Nicola and least of all us proles. For politics nerds like me, it’s fascinating and great fun.

I don’t deny there’ve been a few nasty surprises, but there’s much more to come, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we get a happy ever after worthy of the Garrick.

You’ve got to laugh

Just like any comedy, it’s best not to get too involved in emotions. The Tory Acting Company has always specialised in slapstick, as we witnessed when the MayBot ran up and down the country pretending to meet the public when a quick comparison of photographs revealed that she was actually “meeting” the same people in every shed and warehouse where she popped up for a photo opportunity.

Both the Tories and the Labour Party got their biggest vote share for many years, but neither won. The only party that actually got a majority in this election was the SNP, though you’d never know if you relied on the comical mainstream newspapers for your information.

Intermission

Right now, we’re just waiting for the interval to finish, while we eat our ice creams and take a quick look at the programme. The Second Act will be along soon, and maybe even a third, who knows?

Make sure you use this time to recharge your energy and your confidence. Like all long hauls, there will always be setbacks and people jeering from the sidelines just because they can.

It’s not over until it’s over. Independence is no nearer, and no further away than it was on the 7th June.

Theresa May is weak and wobbly – especially on Terrorism

Proof that Theresa May is a liability

Theresa May has been studiously avoiding using the Conservative Party name as a label for her campaign, preferring the more presidential sounding “Theresa May’s team”. So it’s fair to judge her party by her record in office. It’s not a good one.

UPDATE: The Facebook video originally included has been taken down (censorship?), so here’s something to replace it, which was recorded after the 3 June attack on London Bridge/Borough Market:

We need an approach that uses what Blair used to call “joined up thinking” to deal with terrorism at home, and we need to stop making excuses for attacks on Muslims, whether by ourselves or others. For example, Israel needs to be held to account, and so do Blair, Bush and everyone else who initiated and carries on with the so-called “war on terror” – about as useful as the “war on drugs”. Both have seen the target increase exponentially since their inception.

Even the security services recognise the negative effect of British attacks on Muslim countries, as stated by Baroness Manningham-Buller, head of the domestic intelligence service between 2002 and 2007, speaking to the Iraq Inquiry.

We’ve all seen the rise of hate crime since the Brexit referendum result, and it’s understandable that the victims of all this hostility become uncomfortable. For EU migrants, that’s simply meant they’re more likely not to bother trying to renew existing contracts, preferring instead to return home. But for people who have nowhere to go, having been born here or resettled due to their refugee status, it’s not so simple.

Muslims have borne the brunt of hate crimes ranging from vile rants to attacks, some leading to death. It seems that a friend of the Manchester bomber (I won’t dignify this creature with a name) was stabbed to death recently. The fanatical Islamist group called Daesh in the Muslim community, and by various other names outside, for example “so-called Islamic State” by the BBC, have a ready answer to this: not just an eye for an eye, but wholesale slaughter such as we witnessed on Monday.

Our emergency services, and the people of Manchester including many Muslims rose to the challenge and in many cases put their own lives at risk to help the victims of that attack. This is the British way, of course. Alongside the sorrow for the death and suffering of so many innocents, we can feel justified pride in this, but we also need to reflect on what more we can do to help prevent these things from occurring so far as possible in the future.

Jeremy Corbyn’s speech hits the right note, I think, and certainly provides a more rational and well thought out approach than has been evidenced by the behaviour of the Tory party under May’s watch as Home Secretary and PM.

Boris Johnson, predictably, has attacked Jeremy Corbyn for pointing out that British adventurism is encouraging terrorism. He doesn’t want us to remember what he wrote in an article in the Spectator on 16 July 2005 : “As the Butler report revealed, the Joint Intelligence Committee assessment in 2003 was that a war in Iraq would increase the terror threat to Britain.”

Jeremy has reaffirmed his manifesto pledge to fund the NHS properly, so it can deal with atrocities like this and also with the day to day things that have been falling apart so spectacularly over the course of this Government.

He’s also pledged to increase police funding so that we no longer have to call in the few soldiers we have left to free the police to do their job of protecting the public, which they haven’t had the staff to do for some years. Police numbers have been reduced to such an extent that they are now only able to react to events. Preventive investigation, community policing and other important aspects of their work have had to be shelved.

It’s time to get rid of this government that places the bottom line before people’s lives, not just in the matter of security and fire services but in so many other ways. We need to get the Tories out before they completely destroy the UK and all it stands for.

Tim Farron, leader of the LibDem rump has said that his party won’t go into coalition with Labour, even though Nick Clegg (the former leader) is saying that Labour can’t win a majority on its own and the party should ‘start thinking about how to mount a proper challenge to Conservative hegemony’.

On the other hand, since the LibDems were saying that they’d never go into coalition with the Tories before 2010, this may be another LibDem lie, even if not quite on a par with the U-turn on tuition fees which destroyed much of their support in 2015.

If Alistair Carmichael’s defence (in the case brought by voters in Orkney and Shetland after the 2015 election) is to be believed, Liberal Democrats think that promises made to win an election are meaningless spin, so there’s space for a change of mind. Let’s hope so. They might be needed.

Great selection of free posters

Big Sister is watching you
Bella Caledonia has released a set of free posters that can be downloaded and either used as is or printed out. It’s in the form of a shop, so you add the items to a cart and go through a normal purchase process, but there’s nothing to pay and you can pick them up after you’ve done it.

The image shown above is my favourite. It’s a gif version of a set of posters that all go together nicely. You can’t download it in this form (except here, right click on the image – Save) because it’s been saved as a jpeg, and jpegs don’t animate.

My second favourite is this one:

May wants us to judge her on her record. OK, then

Don't mention our record

She wants us to judge her on her record, but she doesn’t want us to mention Tory policies and their results, like:

  • 50 deaths a week from sanctions
  • the NHS sell-off
  • 1.2 million foodbank parcels last year from the Trussell Trust alone – probably double that when you take other foodbank operatives into account
  • University tuition fees going up again, and thereafter linked to inflation
  • 4 million children in poverty
  • the VAT rise planned for the next budget
  • the removal of the triple lock on pensions (which are among the worst in the developed world, anyway)
  • the repeal of the Human Rights Act
  • Tax cuts for the rich, and benefit cuts for the poor and disabled
  • The rape clause: prove you were raped or you and your children can starve
  • 900 mobility vehicles taken away every week
  • Corruption wherever you look, eg
    • Tory Election Fraud Whitewash (the prospect of these cases going to Court is most likely the reason May called the election in the first place)
    • Papers relating to child abuse by politicians lost over and over again
  • yada yada yada

Seriously? Judge you on your results? I don’t think you really mean that, Mrs May.