The tragedy caused by the Grenfell Tower fire has exposed a well known truth about London. In this beautiful city, the most expensive houses on the planet and the most poverty stricken building blocks are side by side. Great wealth resides within a stone’s throw of gut-wrenching poverty. And yet, the experience of living in this city is vastly different for people within two minutes of one another. An invisible social structure ensures that one side gets the best of what this city has to offer, while the majority of Londoners are trying to survive.
This tragedy has demonstrated how monetary savings were put ahead of public welfare. The Conservative Party led Kensington and Chelsea Council oversees one of the wealthiest boroughs in the country. If ever there was a Council that didn’t need to cut corners to save money, it would have been this one. That’s not to say that lack of funds would have been grounds for putting lives at risk. No, what this demonstrates is that when it comes to cuts, it is the poor that are expected to make all sacrifices while the wealthy are kept in their bubble. Well, the poor made the ultimate sacrifice at Grenfell Tower; they paid with their lives. At the time of this post, we still don’t know the full number of lives lost. What we do know is that the fire has shown us a thing or two about our politicians and our people.
Firstly, the local faith groups and community centres deserve recognition for creating a safe haven for displaced residents. This has created an opportunity for the rest of London to come together and offer whatever help they could. The Council was slow to react, and was shown up by ordinary people who didn’t hesitate to jump in and offer whatever help they could.
The second take-away from this tragedy should be how crucial our emergency services are. The recent terrorist attacks, and now, the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, has clearly demonstrated that the government needs to recognise the tireless work the emergency services do, and invest in them rather than cutting their numbers. Now, more than ever, we need to ensure that our police force and hospitals are fully staffed. Elected politicians should give these services more money, national deficit be damned!
Lastly, we all need to pay close attention to what happens next. For a long time, the poor have been pushed out of London. Although we don’t hear enough of this, allot of poor people have found themselves housed outside of their neighbourhoods in the capital. We can’t let this happen. This tragedy cannot be used as an opportunity for the area to be fully claimed for the rich. We have to hold all parties responsible for ensuring that the neighbourhood is rebuilt for displaced residents. And at all costs, we have to ensure that the neighbourhood is kept for the everyday people.
Anger levels are high, but now is not the time to get angry. It is time to come together as communities, regardless of believes and backgrounds, and become active. We have watched the Conservative politicians bungle one thing up after the other. We have seen Theresa May’s lack of empathy when she visited Grenfell Tower, and how slow the Conservative Party led Kensington and Chelsea Council was in coming to action. In fact, Nick Paget-Brown, the Conservative leader of the Council appeared to blame residents of Grenfell Tower for this tragedy. The Conservative Party has shown us time and again where their priorities lie. They are servants of power, and not of the people. It is time we hold them to account. Following this tragedy, it is untenable for Theresa May to remain PM. She should go, and the same goes for Nick Paget-Brown. It would be the decent thing to do. But as these Conservative politicians appear unaffected by decency, it should be required of them to go.
Everyday people like the residents of Grenfell Tower might not have the money to make the Conservative Party look out for our safety. But ordinary citizens outnumber the wealthy. It is time that we stopped waiting for politicians to do right by us. We need to pay attention at local and national levels, and when these politicians betray the trust placed in them, we should ensure they are ousted. For too long, politicians at both sides of the isle have profited from their roles at the expense of regular people. It is time that we say no more, and ensure that these politicians do their jobs.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the residents at Grenfell Tower. And our gratitude is with the service people who work tirelessly to keep us all safe and well cared for.