Artwork by Ana Ovilo
Written by Alex Howlett
“They always seem to need a significant loss of life before things are changed.”
These were the words of former chief fire officer Ronnie King after the Grenfell fire tragedy last month. He also outlined the obvious differences between the experts and “them”, namely beings the ministers who refused to listen to previous concerns about the building: “they are politicians and I am a professional fire adviser”; “they seem to need a disaster to change regulations, rather than evidence and experience”.
It begs the question: if those in government who are allowed to make these decisions regarding public safety have so completely failed to take action and have so clearly ignored evidence of potential danger, why are significant changes not being made to the system, so evidence and professionalism is prioritised over bureaucratic decisions? And in the meantime, why have “they” – who made the damning decisions to “stonewall” the residents attempts to express their concern about the lack of fire safety measures – not suffered the repercussions?
In the words of David Lammy:
“The prime minister needs to act immediately to ensure that all evidence is protected so that everyone culpable for what happened at Grenfell Tower is held to account and feels the full force of the law”.
It is deeply unsettling realising the complete lack of genuine competency, compassion or representation within our government. This is something that the British public is and has been largely aware of, but if Grenfell tower teaches us anything, it is that the relationship between the government and the general public needs to change significantly. If the aftermath of Grenfell tower teaches us anything, it is that apparently not even “a significant loss of life” will push our representatives into bringing about this change. £5500, even as an initial payment, is an insulting and inadequate payout to those who experienced such trauma due to the governments disregard for their safety. Teresa May’s £5 million bail out does not acknowledge the root of the problem: herself, and the government she leads.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, also acknowledged this, observing how: “Residents feel that they are neglected because they are poor. There has been a vacuum. It has exposed a gaping hole in how our government responds to events of this scale.”
It is undeniable that the vacuum has been exposed. What is questionable is whether this will be the last time that there will be unnecessary loss of life at the hands of the present and past governments, or whether we will see clear evidence of much-needed change.