Grenfell Tower: The Change That Hasn’t Happened

Artwork by Ana Ovilo
Written by Alex Howlett

“They always seem to need a significant loss of life before things are changed.”

So says former chief fire officer Ronnie King of the Grenfell fire tragedy last month. In his comment, he draws on the shortcomings of ministers who refused to listen to previous concerns about the building and experts such as himself: “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 failed to take action and ignored evidence of dangerous housing, why are significant changes not being made to the system so evidence and professionalism is prioritised over bureaucratic decisions? 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?

David Lammy commented on the situation:

“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”.

The government’s actions in relation to the tower have noticeably lacked competency and compassion. 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 meaningful change. £5500, even as an initial payment, is an insulting and inadequate payout to those who experienced such trauma because of the government’s disregard for their safety. Theresa May’s £5 million bailout 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, and yet it remains unchanged. The question is how long it will take until the next unnecessary loss of life caused by our governments incompetency. 

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