It’s been almost a week since the tragic Grenfell Tower fire, in which over 79 people are believed to have died. There is something about the terror of 127 homes becoming an inferno in a matter of minutes that rips to the core of you. I’ve read the stories, watched the footage and viewed the photos of that horrific night many times and it leaves me with one overpowering thought – how could we let this happen?
And I do mean “we“.
You might assume that if you didn’t light the fire you’re innocent in this. But you’re not; none of us are. No-one could have foretold that the Grenfell tragedy was going to happen. But there were warnings. There were warnings to the council, and other local bodies, that fire safety had been severely compromised. Warnings that were ignored. If you’re not on the Kensington Council perhaps you think that absolves you of any responsibility. You’d be wrong though – that was just the start of it.
There were warnings, so many warnings, to all of us that things were – are – getting bad for many people in our society, especially the most vulnerable. Since the Conservative party has been in power thousands of people have died due to disability cuts; cuts to the emergency services have put more lives at risk; and the government’s continuing funding of the Saudi government is exacerbating the threat from global terrorism.
We have just had an election in this country. One where 31% chose not to vote. They chose not to vote for many reasons, mainly because they felt it would make no difference. The sad irony is it could make a huge difference. That 31% could practically have formed a government. The majority of people who don’t vote are from the poorer sections of society, forgotten over and over again because they aren’t getting their voice heard.
Yes, Grenfell Tower was an unprecedented tragedy and I hope that there is never such a tragedy again. But I shouldn’t have to hope for that. We should care more about our fellow citizens than we do about saving a few quid. This shouldn’t be about the difference between the right and left of the political spectrum, it should be a matter of human decency.
Tonight as I scrolled through the social media articles related to the fire I cried. I cried not just for the people like Khadija, Mohammed and Leena – the youngest victim at only six months old. But I cried for what our country has become. A country where a party who have overseen a massive decrease in living standards and a rise in deaths amongst the most vulnerable, are voted back in. Whilst the results on the 9th June may have initially seemed like a victory of sorts for Corbyn, as the situation settles the reality is becoming clear – this country voted for a party committed to further cuts, greater dehumanisation and more suffering for people who happen to be less well off.
It we are to show any respect to those who have died in Grenfell, and other preventable tragedies, then surely we need to realise that we all have a role to play. It’s not inevitable that politicians don’t care. Many care deeply. Although, it’s unlikely that
many of the 72 MPs who voted AGAINST a bill to ensure houses were fit for human habitation are part of those who do. Within days of the Grenfell fire government cuts have seen 10 London fire stations close. Such closures are not an inevitable policy. They are a political choice by the politicians we voted for. And they are a political choice which we as the British electorate need to understand our role in. Speaking with people in the run up to the election there seemed to be great resignation amongst both voters and nonvoters alike. A feeling that nothing would make a difference. But it does and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise. We have immense power in our own country, but for some reason we are blind to that. We are all shocked and horrified at the Grenfell Tower fire, but many of us will continue to vote based on whether they will be taxed higher, and forget that there are other bigger issues at stake, issues that may mean life or death for our friends, colleagues and neighbours.
Labour did an excellent job of motivating people who don’t usually vote to be heard on the 8th June, but it’s not something that should only be down to the party machinery. It’s down to all of us. Saying politics doesn’t matter is just as selfish as saying lives don’t matter. Very few would claim the latter but so many state the former. It matters who decides the emergency services budget, it matters who agrees building regulations, it matters who allocates funding for regeneration projects around the country. We live in one of the richest societies in the world, the idea that we cannot keep our children safe at night is absurd. If there is one good thing that could come out of this awful tragedy it’s that people realise just how powerful we each are. It’s our choice whether we use that power to support our communities, or allow people to be relegated to third place after profits and politics. Let’s hope we all remember that whenever the next election comes around.