Tuesday, May 21, 2024
HomeLaura PerrinsLaura Perrins: Grenfell is a monument to our faceless society

Laura Perrins: Grenfell is a monument to our faceless society


There were many underlying causes of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Socialism built that death trap – a bunch of technocrats who in the 1970s thought they knew best and cleared ‘slums’ to warehouse the poor in these towers.

They didn’t know at the time what monstrosities they would be become – but that is the thing about socialism: it is all good intentions on the road to hell. Wanting to do good is very different from actually doing good. I can’t be sure but I’d wager that many of the slums cleared were Victorian houses, which with the right amount of investment would probably sell for close to a million quid these days.

There is a housing shortage in London, which will have prevented the tower from being demolished when no doubt it should have been. The housing shortage is due to an increased population caused by immigration and lack of house building caused by an over-regulated planning system.

But ultimately, ultimately, we are where we are. And ultimately on Wednesday night, through no fault of their own, the residents of Grenfell Tower were where they were: in a firetrap.

I don’t like to speculate before an inquiry but it seems the cladding caused that fire to spread ‘like a tissue set alight’, engulfing the building. The lack of sprinklers did not help. Yes, regulations do not apply retrospectively but the cladding was chosen, it seems, because it was cheap. One tender was dropped when it went over budget. After a competition a cheaper tender was chosen.

Someone made a decision to use that cladding that was not fire resistant. Someone made the decision not to install sprinklers. Ultimately these decisions may have proved fatal. Only the inquiry will tell us why those decisions were made.

And it came to be that on Wednesday night in London, in one of the richest cities on the planet, children were burnt alive in a tower block. Maybe they were asleep, maybe they weren’t and instead waited terrified as the fire approached. An unspeakable death. Jesus said, ‘Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’

How do you think we’ll be judged for this, this burning of the children in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea? A borough held by the Tories for decades. It was not intentional, but we know it was neglectful. Let’s not pretend otherwise.

I have always believed in proximity. When something awful happens abroad you feel helpless but it’s too far away for you to hold any responsibility. But this isn’t Syria. This is Kensington. Kensington – home of Harrods.

What this tragedy highlights is just how important local councils are. Their budgets are huge, their responsibilities grave. On what grounds do we vote for them? Party allegiance, how much they’ll reduce council tax? Or what they propose to do for the borough as a whole.

The truth is that, as Robert Peston said in a Facebook post – and I am paraphrasing here – the more diffuse, ‘faceless and irresponsible’ the decision-making body becomes, the more reckless the decisions become. And the decision-making does become more diffuse or indeed reckless than public-housing governance; a dangerous mix of statism, out-sourcing and crony capitalism.

Many of the residents of Grenfell Tower were poor immigrants. Once they arrived in the UK, they were housed on the fringes of society. The reality is, especially for those who think of themselves as compassionate pro-immigration residents in the Royal borough, there is no humanity in being pro-immigration if you are not willing to contribute to the cost of housing and services of those who come in search of a better life.

Welcoming immigrants because in truth they provide you with cheap labour is not compassionate. Leaving it to poorer boroughs, already under strain, to house and provide education and health services to poor migrants is not compassionate. Immigrants are people will real needs; not people you can use to make yourself feel good and then forget about. Perhaps, as some have suggested, devolving immigration policy to local councils would remind us all of the humanity of poor immigrants and turn slogans into solutions.

Finally, Peter Hitchens, as always, states the truth: “They should leave the burned-out Grenfell Tower where it is, as a lasting monument to the needlessly dead and as a warning to our complacent, self-satisfied society. Shore it up, fence it off, and set a great stone slab next to it with a list of the names of those who died. Write on it in deeply incised, enormous letters ‘They Did Not Need To Die.”

Lord have mercy.

(Image: Natalie Oxford)

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