Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Justice for Grenfell


On the 14th of June 2017 a fire broke out in a tower block in West London. It took 24 hours to get it under control and over 60 to get it fully out. At least 71 people have died. 

The story of Grenfell didn't start at 54 minutes past midnight on 14/07/17 though. It's one episode in the long neo-liberal journey towards the total destruction of social housing in the UK. In this case it was in the aftermath of huge cuts to the body that regulates social housing. Roger Jarman the former head of housing at the Audit Commission - which has previously inspected social housing for safety - wrote to the Guardian newspaper in the days after the fire saying this:

"Unlike the healthcare, social care and education sectors, social housing in England no longer has an inspection regime that assesses the performance of landlords delivering services to the 4 million households living in housing association or local authority housing. Between 2000 and 2010 the Audit Commission carried out 1,400 housing inspections of housing associations and local authorities, but when the commission was abolished by the coalition government these inspections stopped".

The tenants who lived there had already given stark warning of what could happen. They had been ignored. 

2 days after the fire, on Friday 16th of June word spread via social media that a protest was planned. I was free that evening and jumped straight onto the train after work. I arrived in Kensignton to find the town hall occupied and local people filling the streets. 

We then began marching towards the tower:

The atmosphere was like nothing I'd experienced before on a protest. While the likes of the Socialist Workers Party had predictably turned up there was nothing they could do to 'manage' this protest, they were spectators at best. 

On route all vehicles stopped, car horns were beeping loudly, people were getting off buses to join in with the protest, people were shouting and whistling from balconies along the way. As we arrived speeches were given, almost all from local people as far as I could tell. 

Demands were read out. Posters were up all over the place with names and pictures of those who were still missing, many people were in tears. 

The Justice for Grenfell campaign continues. 

There will be no justice until people responsible for cutting corners are fully identified and dealt with and social housing rises again and the working class in the UK are saved from the clutches of corrupt housing associations that have long lost their purpose, greedy scheming private landlords, massive capitalist housing developers and the banks.

All of us who live at the mercy of landlords who don't give a shit about us unless the rent is late live at risk of fire, mould, pest infestations, poisoning and being worn down by cold and damp conditions. This kind of housing is killing us all slowly.

Decent social housing for all, democratically controlled by the residents is a revolutionary demand. When we have control of our own homes and our streets and our neighbourhoods we will be well on the way to taking control of our lives and living in the safe, healthy conditions that the class of people who have built the entire cities we live in deserve.

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