Waiting for the tumbrils to arrive outside my small terraced house in Kensington & Chelsea to take me before the new revolutionary tribunal for the heinous crime of being a property-owning resident in the richest borough in the country, as well as a vicar’s daughter (I hadn’t realised that too was a beheading crime until I read this yesterday), I thought I should use my last moments to good purpose.
My eye caught The Times Saturday supplement on my recycle pile. How to be a modern dad the front page read, a picture of Grayson Perry swimming into sight. Surely the point is how to be a good dad? Not being a cross-dressing attention seeker would be a good start. Children are easily embarrassed; they are rather keen on convention, they don’t like show off parents …
I couldn’t concentrate on it. My mind’s been on little else but the fire since those early hours of Wednesday morning, when I reached out my arm to turn on the radio to get me to sleep again. This time it didn’t.
Over the airwaves came people’s voices in panic, fear and desperation – reported live. A tower block was on fire just three miles away.
They were telling of the block’s doors slamming shut behind them as they escaped, barring firemen from access; of the stairwells cluttered with rubbish hindering exit. People, maybe many, were still trapped in the burning building; some were jumping to probable death. Others who’d managed to escape said they had been told to stay put in their flats. But for ignoring this instruction, they too would be still trapped or dead. All the while the flames were rising.
This was real. But reporters on site were covering it as a disaster movie, asking for personal stories honing in on panic instead of facts – loving the drama.
Was there a fire emergency muster point? Who was arranging it? Who held the register of everyone living in the block? No reporter saw fit to ask – even of the shell-shocked leader of the Tory council, there in person from the early hours.
Act Two: (later in the day) Mr Corbyn, the new Jesus Christ of the poor and the dispossessed, arrived to show his sympathy and solidarity. It was soon to be followed by an outbreak of ’empathy’ outrage. Where was Mrs May? She’d only visited the firemen – how callous. (A day later under the brutal onslaught of the BBC’s Emily Maitlis inquisition she was found guilty).
Then came the all too predictable poverty/ social injustice outrage train. All these poor people living in this horrible, unsafe blighted tower in the middle of the richest borough in the land.
The guilt-tripping of the Borough’s ‘rich’ had begun. It might as well have been our fault.
Maybe it was. Without our hefty council tax bills could the borough have afforded to house so many of the poorest residents in the land? How else could it have provided services for this, its fastest ever growing population (up by 25 per cent in just 6 years to an estimated 190,000 people) in this second most densely populated borough in England and Wales?
No, no nobody with any sensibility would dare to mention that. Instead well known Kensington Tories, like Dave Cameron and George Osborne, slid out of view and allowed the far left to command the argument and the stage. Lend a hand to the embattled Mrs May? Forget it.
Too late she’d returned with her empathy basket hurridly filled to be ignominiously chased away by an angry and psyched up crowd. Never mind that London mayor Sadiq Khan too had needed police protection to hustle him away from people demanding to know the unknowable at that point. He remained on the side of the virtuous forgetting such a conflagration could well have taken in place in several Labour led London boroughs.
But there were genuine concerns. Had the Royal Borough really had no disaster plan in action? They didn’t produce a spokesman. Were the survivors, for all Mr Corbyn’s hugs and care, still, two days later, without proper shelter? If so why hadn’t he acted to get it sorted with the Borough’s new Labour MP and councillors? I wonder.
All we seemed to hear was of the arms length official promise to rehouse people within three weeks. Some PR – but manna from heaven to the Corbynites. Chaos – at least as far as the news told us – was still reigning. Later we were to find out the Red Cross had been on site from Wednesday.
Come Friday I checked all through RBK&C’s website to find out what I could do to help other than donate – I had – or give toiletries – I had. Could I offer my spare bedroom? But, unbelievably they were only looking only for ‘commercial’ accommodation it said – heartlessly and foolishly I thought.
By now an angry mob was storming the Borough’s offices and another heading to Downing Street. It alarmed me. This was more than the righteous anger of the residents – it was a tinderbox about to go up. The one-dimensional narrative of social injustice, of the poor versus the rich of the far left’s leaders and agitators, was inciting more anger fanned by an uncritical news agenda.
But what if people were still sleeping on community centre floors? I took myself to St Clement’s Church to find out. The volunteer I met could tell me little, though he gratefully listed the offer of my spare bedroom or my sister’s even closer flat (she could live with me we thought). He said he would get back to me.
He hasn’t. Nor has anyone since. It is now 5 days later. Was my offer not needed or not wanted? Or even communicated? I doubt we will ever know.
One thing I felt for certain, neither Corbyn nor McDonnell would have wanted to know about any such offers. It hardly sat with the former’s class war call to ‘seize’ empty homes ‘belonging to the wealthy’ to house the homeless, which he reiterated on ITV the next day.
Of course Peston, his interviewer, went with the Corbyn flow, pressed him neither on this nor on the role of new Kensington Labour MP, the former councillor Emma Dent Coad, who just happened to be member of the responsible Tenant Management Organisation, yes the one that had contracted the cladders of Grenfell Tower.
If Grenfell is a case study in the Left’s weaponising of tragedy – it is also a study of guilt-tripped Tories gift-wrapping themselves as lambs to the Left’s slaughter.
If they have a reprieve, it must be used to unpick the manipulation of this grievous tragedy as well as their own ‘liberal’ sensibilities and stupidities the far left exploited so easily and ruthlessly. Otherwise, the tumbrils will be coming to take them and us, the bystanders, away.