The tragedy at Grenfell Tower is rapidly turning into a political football, that will inevitably result in the real lessons being missed and it being turned into a Dangerous Dogs Act-like knee jerk reaction that fails the people. Construction of this tower started 45 years ago and the problems have not happened overnight; so those on both sides of the political aisle should look at themselves in the mirror and ask if they could have done something better rather than attempt to just pass the blame on to others.
While we have seen acts of heroism from the emergency services and great generosity and energy from the volunteers working to help the victims, we have seen sniping from the gutter of social media from nasty people on both sides, such as disrespecting the great work of the Red Cross or snide comments about the effects of multiculturalism and politically correct interviews. Shame on you all.
What went wrong? We can't answer the technical reasons now (was it the wrong cladding, would sprinklers have stopped the fire etc.), but two matters stand out for me:
- The people living in places like Grenfell Tower are low priority for politicians in all parties, no doubt because they are too busy getting on with life to make much of a fuss. They are the people serving your coffee, delivering your parcels, cleaning your offices and working in your hospitals, among many other roles. Decisions regarding the residents are deemed acceptable that would not be in other contexts. Question 1 - would someone seeking to refurbish an apartment block for private occupation be allowed to operate in the same way?
- I work in a 200 year old building with significant planning restrictions, yet we have fire escapes, loud fire alarms and we have been retrofitted for air conditioning and modern systems wiring. Question 2 - why are the places we work covered by so much greater fire regulations than where we live? While some workplaces may have particular fire risks (commercial kitchens, some factories etc.), but an office surely has no greater fire risk than a home?