📣📣📣 this is a public service announcement for those following the grenfell tower story abroad 📣📣📣
a lot of the foreign press seems to ignore the main tenets of the story so if you may here is a brief breakdown of why it’s shaping up to be a defining national moment in the uk:
***the housing tower is located in north kensington. it is social housing for poor and working class londoners of which a huge number are BME. the borough of kensington and chelsea is the richest in london and marked by devastating inequality and gentrification that some poorer residents describe as social cleansing. non-luxury housing in london is generally a huge issue that has gone unaddressed for decades now, and privatisation of social housing provision has meant that profit motive and cost cutting have been strongly featured in poor people’s housing. race, housing and poverty are also tightly linked in london; this was a poor and ethnically diverse community as you can see if you watch videos from the scene. first victims we knew that sadly perished were a black british female photographer and her mum, and and a syrian refugee.
***the council is tory and they have done less and less for the housing of its poorer residents and more to accommodate wealthy people. for example, the council is sitting on 300 million in cash reserves yet somehow didn’t find cash to install basic fire sprinklers that the residents asked for? not only that but the 8 billion refurbishment that included the now notorious cladding was partly done for insulation but partly also to make the ugly 1970s council estate look more aesthetically pleasing for the swanky neighbourhoods nearby. the more flammable material used in the cladding saved the building contractor a whopping £5000
***government has been tory for the past 7 years and the order of the day has been austerity. public services have been cut to the bone and so has local authority funding. social housing managers who often work for subcontracted private providers paid by the council have a huge case load. they are encouraged to spend less and less time on health and safety (including fire safety) and more on asking intrusive questions about people’s jobs and incomes because of the tory culture of dividing people into the “deserving and undeserving poor” ie those who work and those who don’t. people on benefits are not prioritised when it comes to housing despite individual circumstances, which is why in grenfell you had 70 year olds with limited mobility living on the 22nd floor.
***uk has probably the most entrenched class system in the world and trashing of the working classes and the poor is almost a national hobby for some people. right-wing tabloid media is extremely powerful and they paint a picture of benefit cheats and non-working immigrants even though most poor people in britain work (they are the new working poor who have terrible wages and live in squalid and unaffordable housing) and most BME people were born here, they’re not immigrants
***if you are poor you are largely voiceless and meaningless to this neoliberal tory government. the tenants had written letters raising concerns about fire safety and in response were threatened with legal action. of course they couldn’t respond because tories have cut legal aid because of… yes, austerity. meanwhile tory ministers have been sitting on reports about fire safety in council flats including one from a coroner of a case where six people died in a housing block in south london in 2009. the prime minister didn’t meet the people affected at the scene and the response has generally been very poor. local council has been nowhere to be seen and the donations have come from ordinary people – proper working class solidarity in the face of state that treats them with utter contempt.
TL;DR: austerity kills, gentrification kills, indifference kills. people want justice, they are angry. why did up to 150 people die? this was preventable – it’s scandalous, horrific. it’s like poor people’s lives don’t matter in britain – a hurricane katrina moment for the uk. so please watch videos of THE PEOPLE, poor and working class londoners, who are suffering and expressing anger. don’t listen to theresa may, tories and the bbc trying to sanitise the story. this has everything to do with inequality, poverty, race and most of all CLASS. make those people visible again and help us change things because honestly this is the breaking point and we don’t need people spreading a false narrative abroad. cheers, peace out
“I’d already played a messed-up guy in a dark, psychological role and a council estate junkie, but this has been the most I’ve connected to any material. I found a lot of similarities between me and the character.”