People saying the tragedy should not be "politicised" must remember how the Tories have indulged landlords while cutting fire servicesby Maya Goodfellow / June 15, 2017 / Leave a comment
Before dawn had broken on the Grenfell Tower block yesterday, the chorus of voices had already begun: don’t politicise what’s happened. But housing is deeply political and Grenfell encapsulates how.
The death toll from yesterday’s tragedy is still rising, people are still searching for the missing relatives and friends and residents who survived lost everything they owned—all because of a fire that could likely have been prevented.
The deadly Grenfell fire broke out in Kensington, one of the richest boroughs in the country. But it wasn’t one of the area’s many million pound luxury properties that was eaten up by flames; nor was it wealthy residents who were forced to throw themselves from burning windows. This was a block of social housing and many of the people living there were on low pay. And they were wise to what could happen in their home.
Time and again they pleaded with the council and with Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), the company that manages social housing in the borough, to deal with their severe safety concerns. Reporting problems over issues from wiring to boilers, they were ignored persistently.
David Collins from the tower’s resident’s association said 90% of residents signed an independent petition asking for there to be an investigation into the organisation that runs the building “because they were so incompetent.” The council turned it down. Their dissent, Collins says, was stifled through intimidation and bullying.
Instead, residents were left with no option other than to live in danger: they warned in a 2016 blog that “a serious fire in the tower block” would be the only way to bring KCMTO “to justice.” One resident said this was part of an effort to force them out of the area in a callous act of social cleansing—and many now worry they won’t be rehoused in a borough authorities are rapidly gentrifying.
Before the rest of the world knew about Grenfell resident’s battle for safe housing, this was already political.
A microcosm of inequality
What happened in Grenfell is in many ways a microcosm of the UK’s deep-seated inequality. In January last year, the Conservatives voted down a rule that would have required private landlords to make their homes “fit for human habitation.” Seventy-two of the Tories who voted against it…