Thursday, 29 June 2017

The Lessons of Hillsborough For Grenfell



In the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster and as Labour continue their attempts to politicise it and imply that something nefarious has taken place rather than merely incompetent it was a good moment for the announcement that charges have been brought against several individuals over the Hillsborough disaster. There was another appalling tragedy and one that was needless and wholly avoidable.

But we should remember that though catastrophic mistakes were made that Saturday afternoon and though the cover-up was disgusting and abhorrent, this was a tragedy born of human frailties we all possess and know. The impulse to pass the buck and to try and spin culpability for Hillsborough is one our politicians know only too well as we are seeing.

The story about Grenfell is emerging slowly and methodically and it is one we recognised only too well too. It is of a system that does pettifogging very well indeed but fails to see the bigger picture. It is of a system in which the right hand does not know what the left is doing, where there is no communication and a blind trust in officialdom. The Labour politicians who are trying to make political capital out of this have a bovine trust in the state and yet this has been a failure of the state from top to bottom. Certainly some politicians might have been better at a response on the ground in the wake of events, but that is no guarantee of their being able to stop anything like it from happening in the first place. Their standard prescription of throwing money at services would make no difference at all. Not that this stops them making such claims. Chauncey even argued yesterday that the public sector pay cap contributed to this tragedy in a manner I have yet to hear explained. Is he saying that public sector workers would do their jobs better if only they had not had their pay capped at 1% during an era of ultra low inflation? Does that not detract from his image of public sector workers as being heroes who do their work out of public duty and selflessness quite at odds with rapacious mercenaries in the private fields who should of course be taxed in vengeance?

There are all kinds of silly conspiracy theories about Grenfell made worse by political opportunism and posturing. The forensic investigation is proceeding but deaths can only be confirmed when evidence is clear and unambiguous. The nature of this event is that some deaths may never be confirmed because nobody knew they were there, they were there illegally or at least illicitly and there is no way of identifying their remains. There may simply be no remains in some cases to be identified. This was after all a vicious fire that took hours to put out. That is to be profoundly regretted but it is nobody's fault. The inquiry announced will in time report and will likely find that this was a series of small failings and mistakes that led to one unimaginable disaster when bad luck and coincidence spun their treacherous web. Many of us had complacently thought that such a disaster was impossible in this country. Now we know better. Ultimately it is that complacency that helped cause Grenfell and it is a complacency that those trying to capitalise on that terrible night are even more guilty of as they reach their expedient and hasty conclusions about why it happened.

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