It’s now just over a year since Grenfell Tower burned alive 71 of its residents. What distinguished it from all other flat and house fires?
Substantially only one thing. The highly flammable tiles that clad it, with external flames leaping up 19 floors in 12 minutes. The Building Regulations introduced in 2006 and not reviewed since allowed them.
Without them the fire would most likely have been contained.
The fire services would have been right to urge residents to stay put. The Council would have been right to accept the lowest tender for construction – the norm. With correct fire doors no sprinklers would have been needed. A faulty switch or a faulty washing machine no different from lots of other domestic fires safely dealt with by our highly skilled fire service. And no-one killed.
Your boffins should have known. I could have told them! I was involved with the labelling design for upholstery complying with the fire regulations drawn up in the 1980’s. I found the graphic designer in Carlisle for the labels in use today. Your boffins looking for a quick fix didn’t get that right first time then. They thought that if the foam was inflammable the sofa was safe and wouldn’t burn. It was only later that it dawned on them that if the cover material was not “match resistant” as well – the wick for the candle – they hadn’t solved the problem of needless deaths from burning foam.
In 2006 your boffins should have known that the whole tile with its backing had to be tested. It was not enough that the outer surface should be fire resistant. And EVERYTHING BURNS if the temperature is high enough. They should have known.
What should have happened after the fire?
You should have banned the tiles – they are banned in the USA and in Europe – and you should have replaced them all within 12 months. That would, of course, have admitted your culpability and your liability with some heads on the block and a bit more than petty cash to sort, but at the least the residents in hundreds of tower blocks could now be sleeping easily at night and, if they owned their flat, not worry about its value. After that could come the inquests and the post mortems.
But that is not your way.
That is not what has happened. You hang everyone else out to dry including our wonderful fire services and the Tory Council in Kensington & Chelsea, and you don’t ban the tiles. You announce a consultation process for the tiles and you try to fabricate a “reasonable doubt” about the flammability of the tiles for your lawyers to hang on to, to eliminate the State’s responsibility. Without admitting responsibility, you give £400m to Councils but nothing to those who now live with the danger to the flats that they own and the blight on their value. There are many of them. You harness the bureaucratic inertia of an enquiry, hope that there won’t be another Grenfell Towers, and gamble with people’s lives and property.
It is high time to break the habit of a lifetime. Forget sovereign immunity. End the myth that the State can do no wrong. Bin the lunatic notion that all the world’s problems stem from the quest for profit and people like Tory councillors in Chelsea & Kensington. Face up to the fact that in 2006 it was the Labour Government of the day, looking for a quick fix, a cheap fix to meet heat-saving targets and prettify tower blocks at the same time, that legitimised a time bomb. Face the fact that the time bomb could have exploded in Labour’s Camden where they evacuated a tower block at 2a.m. in the morning or in any one of hundreds of other blocks, some council owned some privately owned, built since 2006 and clad with these tiles.
You have a terrible habit of refusing to confront reality; and you pay a heavy price for it to this day. Just this last week, 456 unlawful killings at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital exposed after 20 years. Same thing.
This is the leitmotif of all my writing on cycle lanes and special educational needs. The reality is that there are differing and conflicting human needs in a highly complex world. Equality is far too simplistic a word to use especially when it is used to justify selfishness quite regardless of the legitimate needs and rights of others. Fair play is the only way to resolve the differences.
Let me put this bluntly again. The human right to mainstream education a blessing for some, but a curse for others. Some children with special needs have a right to education in a special school. Children without special needs have their rights too. Some have a right to an academic education. Some to an education with practical skills. Equality doesn’t come into it. Fairness does.
I witnessed this as I helped parents, pupils, and their teachers in a special school in their successful campaign to keep their school open as chair of its board of Governors.
Every year since 1978, the price paid in disillusionment, disappointment, frantic efforts and vast expense on NTA’s to try to make it work. Questioning voices suppressed. The media, in simple ignorance, silent.
You have failed to acknowledge this mistake for forty years.
I give you two quotes from the Times Educational Supplement of 4 May 2018 with the Editorial headed “We’ve come so far on inclusion – but we’ve still got so far to go.”
In that issue Baroness Warnock wrote: “The bias towards inclusion was not the only thing wrong with the 1978 report, but, because it seemed revolutionary at the time, and because it was, at least at first, popular with many parents, because it promised to remove the stigma attached to attendance at a special school, it may have been the most damaging in its consequences.” My play Death of a Nightingale that I staged in London, my website, and my book detail those consequences.
Over 100 special schools were closed. The Editorial now writes: “And the road ahead is about to get tougher. Of the 534,000 extra secondary school students expected by 2026, according to current trends, 58,700 will have SEND and 9,100 will likely have complex needs that qualify for an education, health and care plan.”
On the roads you assert the rights of cyclists, but you ignore the rights of other road users. They come second. And you continue the idiotic idea that you can double the number of cyclists and reduce accidents at the same time
There is to be a new roundabout in Cambridge. It will give priority to cyclists over motorists. This is the report in the Times on June 16: “The Department of Transport (DfT) is investing £550,000 in the project as part of a £7million fund unveiled this week.” Jesse Norman, the cycling Minister said: “This funding, as part of our overall strategy, will help local council make their roads safer.” Roundabouts do pose a safety issue for cyclists. How many still to go?
£1.2bn is not enough to throw this as you plan to construct your cycle super highway into hilly Hampstead, now subject to judicial review.
When you don’t admit mistakes, you compound them. You make them worse and last longer. Grenfell Tower is just the latest and the very worst because you leave so many people at risk of being burnt alive.