The Lessons from Grenfell Tower

The inferno at Grenfell Tower and the tragic loss of life is having unexpected consequences by indirectly spotlighting the yawning income divide between the victims of austerity and the rich elite.

Research has shown there is a direct and irrefutable relationship between mental health issues, crime-rates and life-chances in societies with the world’s highest income inequality. Top of the list currently by a long way are the US and then the UK.

Grenfell Tower and its management are becoming a ‘lighting rod’ for public opinion against the current government. It could well turn out to be one of the final ‘nails in the coffin’ for the current prime minister?

Theresa May, refused to meet the residents at Grenfell Tower due to personal safety issues. Whether this was justified or not – it has highlighted the fact that this is a Prime Minister who might prefer to remain in Number 10 well away from her detractors? Successful British politicians, have always been able to mix with the electorate. One example is that of prime minister Winston Churchill whose appearances in the East End during the Blitz raised morale.

If you have become so unpopular that it is dangerous to meet the people – should you really be in the job, is the logical take-away that many voters might deduce?

Another unexpected consequence is stemming from the Queen’s, Grenfell Tower’s appearance with Prince William.

While the visit to scene at Grenfell Tower was well intended, the Queen’s ‘rallying call for unity’ was really the wrong message? We are divided nation and what the victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster want is Justice, not National Unity. In fact, some national dis-unity, may well be what is needed to bring about change?

Her Majesty was reported in the media as being tearful on this visit, when sombre, was perhaps a more accurate description?

If the Queen is tearful or not, it can be clearly seen from the YouTube footage. The public are not just angry with our leaders, they are also very angry with the right-wing media for mis-representation.

The Queen received a £5 million “pay rise” during the era of the Cameron collation government, after a new system of funding the monarchy came into force. The Sovereign Grant, replaced the Civil List and grants-in-aid and meant the Queen receives 15% of the profits from the Crown Estate two years earlier. That is a lot of money, £36.1 million in the 2013/14 year including a £5 million increase from David Cameron, and furthermore the Queen is due another in £2.8m pay rise in 2017-18. This is at a time the working poor and unwaged are having their incomes slashed. Welfare benefits are frozen for four years at a time inflation is growing significantly. People are being deprived of food. Children are going hungry.

The Queen’s palaces fire-sprinklers are in good working order one assumes, and there is no chance that lower grade cladding will be used on her palaces so a landlord can garner more profit?  The Queens visit to Grenfell Tower highlighted not what brings us together, but what sets us apart.

Since 2010 the public have seen falling wages, and those on welfare, a harsh regime of sanctions frequently disproportionate to any ‘offense’ committed. EUROMOD the Tax-benefit microsimulation model for the European Union, reported that austerity cuts have largely gone to subsidise tax cuts for the wealthy.

If money was distributed more fairly, a disaster like would not have killed so many people crowded into low-budget accommodation, whilst relatively nearby, luxury houses owned by overseas investors stand empty, accruing fabulous profits. The Queen is Britain’s largest landowner. The Crown Estates major landlords. Should not all the property-owning classes all share some sense of the blame, some sense of the guilt?

Rather like WW1 Generals announcing where they plan to attack with a bombardment. The right-wing media publishes negative stories about those sections of society the government plans to assault with cuts. The police, fire-brigade, nurses, teachers, social workers and those on benefits.

The Bedroom Tax introduction was announced the same day Hedge Funds were given a substantial tax cut by Chancellor George Osbourne.

Statistics show that 51,000 people had their Motability vehicles withdrawn following personal independence payment (PIP) assessments.

The Conservative Government has waged this campaign so comprehensively that it has created a climate of arrogance and contempt towards people on welfare benefits.  It is no surprise, that the Grenfell Action Group gained little traction for their complaints and concerns about safety from their landlords – The Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.

The opinions of the poor count for little when you have a government involved in social cleansing.

The attitudes whipped up by the government and their media friends against the disabled and those on out-of-work benefits, has created a climate where the opinions and concerns of those on low incomes count for little?

Would complaints by rich tenants in Knightsbridge have been ignored in the same way by the management group? Wealthy tenants have access to lawyers, unlike the poor who have had Legal Aid taken away.  We have a two-tier justice system, and we all know it.

The government are complicit in this disaster in the way that they have engineered public opinion against the poor, the disabled and the wage-less. Had the ordinary people been listened to this disaster may have been averted. 

Simon Collyer 

Simon Collyer founded the ASSOCIATION OF PENSION & BENEFITS CLAIMANTS CIC (THE ABC) with a Millennium Award and BIG Lottery funding. The ABC are building a directory of organisations that assist those on low incomes with the help of students from Essex University, Student Union, who gain valuable work experience, training and certification. Simon’s plan is to launch Work TV, a channel for ‘the World-of Work’. 


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