Everywhere I go tonight, I see and hear people demanding prison for the guilty. What I want is Justice, and a new beginning. The culprits are so numerous, to jail them all would leave nobody outside the Gates. All of us are to blame, for we have all let it happen.
Desk research conducted by The Slog over the last 48 hours confirms a complex, multi-layered cacophony of culpability in relation to Grenfell Tower. But some patterns of – shall we say – double standards are emerging when it comes to specifications of exterior cladding.
For example, the American-made Alucobond+ product used on the new flagship privately funded Canary Wharf Crossrail station for City executive users scores zero on flammability in tests across the world. The contractors did not even consider any cladding that couldn’t guarantee 0% combustibility.
The story is not quite as clear-cut when it comes to NHS construction projects. Here there are endless processes (variously numbered ProCure & Safety 08) for suppliers to use; but a source in Surrey contacted The Slog this morning to say that, in his professional view, the processes were “relatively easy to subvert”.
The Class O EN 13501 fire ratings are in turn complex, and care has to be taken distinguising between fire resistant and non-combustible. The former is rated B1, the latter A2. So for example, the Natura Rainscreen facade used on Ebbw Vale hospital is A2 (not A1 as with Alucobond) but almost certainly safe; whereas the Reynobond PE used at Grenfell Tower was B1 – the difference between ‘safe’ and ‘engulfs a building in 14 minutes’.
How many elected local officials in the UK would know that? Do you think it would be hard to float it through a planning committee? I’ve been there – and believe me, I’d say it was extremely easy to do.
That such is the case also reflects what I have found since midday yesterday: there are thousands of B2 cladding materials on high-population structures right across the UK.
I am holding back on listing them in full, because some may be hearsay: also I think it would be better for local residents to search the web for techspecs on their cladding and then bombard the councils and MTOs about instant action. Starting a nationwide panic on top of the anger at the minute is the last thing we need.
There are also myriad other factors. Study the “fluffy architect” spiel on Design & Build websites in the UK, US and EU, and there is a preponderance of “blends superbly with the local geology”, “uses innovative techniques to be carbon neutral”, and “tested rigorously for a proven ability to save energy”. It seems to me as an objective observer that the appeal being made here is to pc politics (right across the spectrum) about all things green and eco-friendly. Council handouts and sites in turn stress the very same things. As does the Reynobond brochure.
This morning the antediluvian but equally biased Daily Express tried to pin this obsession with pc over safety on the EU. In fact, almost all national decisions to ban Reynobond PE on tall structures – in Germany for example – were taken by the national legislatures. Notably, Reynobond is a French product…and in France, no such ban exists. The UK’s Health & Safety Executive also appears to have given the product a big tick for use on Grenfell Tower. This lack of uniformity is, frankly, unforgiveable. I tweeted this yesterday, and I stand by it:
If you haven’t yet grasped the sociopathic nature of data manipulators on the internet by the way, it’s a shame you weren’t looking over my shoulder over the last two days. My stupid fault for not page capturing, but there are gaps in the information trail this morning that weren’t there yesterday afternoon. London’s leading spin agencies (for example Bell Pottinger) make their living at this. Insiders in the “modern” PR sector admit that using the Data Protection Act to achieve this result is standard procedure.
Other intriguing elements are apparent all over the place. The young Grenfell resident featured on the BBC News yesterday has given an interview in which he admits to suspecting arson. His testimony was also compelling as he talked about the “real marketing strategy” behind Grenfell’s refurbishment. I remain interested in the “fact” (so far uncontested by any technical source) that the fire did not begin in a flat.
The local Action Group’s complaints stress again and again the existence of gas points (and absence of sprinker systems) in the stairwells; and for me, it starts to explain the ferocious rate at which the fire climbed the building. Again, my best information is that the HSE passed the arrangements: but in the 21st century, don’t rule out forgery and backhanders achieving that result.
Although the foregoing reads like a mixed bag, there is one seam running through all of it: what’s on trial here is the commercial and professional culture of the UK. Not one political Party, but rather various interwoven layers of spin, half-truth, faking, baffling jargon, misleading Law, devious motives, Council incompetence, history airbrushing, corruption, greed, class war, and neoliberal claptrap about companies owing no debt to society, only the shareholders.
I would lay the vast majority of the blame for the development of this culture on our MPs, business leaders and lawyers in general, and on the Friedmanite academic piffle served up by Margaret Thatcher and her odd mentor Keith ‘Bonkers’ Joseph.
But dear me Leftists, you don’t get off scot-free here. Blair courted the low-life we’re talking about, he crawled up the Digger’s backside, and his friendly rival Brown sucked up to every BSD in the City, attending their bank openings with a beneficent smile. The starting gun on thoroughly mendacious spin was fired by Alastair Campbell, and he along with other sociopaths of that era verbally and physically abused any Minister, senior Civil servant, broadcaster or Attorney General who got in his way.
It is no good ten years on slagging these jerks off as “Blairites” as if they were members of another Party all along: until 2008, you were all very happy to be in Power and watch the Tories flailing about all over the place. You went along with the tick-boxing, put-a-notice-on-the-wall-right-sorted bollocks that produced 37,600 legal instruments to make lawyers rich and everyone else confused, a £23bn NHS bill for CfH, Big Hair Ward procedure watchers, and a PFi debt off-piste disaster whereby one contractor after another swindled the People with shoddy buildings and huge ongoing maintenance bills. You went along with internal markets and being “relaxed about the filthy rich” and Child Support Agencies and LGBT obsession and every other bit of Highgate poppycock that left the bottom 20% exactly where they were in 1997: at the bottom.
The depression in working class wages begun towards the end of the Thatcher era continued at exactly the same rate under Brown as it did under Osborne. Not one single element of privatised social weal was reversed. Not one single competent regulator or NGO was produced, and not a single pointless quango like the British Council was even crticised, let alone dismantled. (As a result of that, arch NHS-killer Jeremy Hunt made his fortune).
Think on this telling quote from Avid Camerlot: “I always studied Tony Blair’s methods. I was in awe of him, and eager to learn how he did it”.
Thatcher’s second victory in 1983 was the signal for every unpleasant multi-legged abominable creature to come out from under the clammy stone. Big Bang three years later turned a few hundred pointless spivs into multimillionaires and acted as a catalyst for the outrageous shadow banking heist we see today. When Labour inherited it and did nothing, all the new Blair Cabinet went along with that. Straw, Brown, Prescott, Harman & sat in silence. Only Claire Short (easily one of the nicest people in politics) had the courage of her convictions….and she was very obviously alone.
It was at that point – just after the turn of th century – the wet rot in British culture became so lacking in fresh air, it turned dry.
‘My God,’ the buggers thought, ‘Labour’s in power and dicking about with a bloody Millenium Dome. We’re quids in’.
Education was diluted by fiddling the targets….as were NHS waiting lists. Alan Johnson lied on telly about mixed sex wards, and how much CfH had cost. A Met police investigation into Saudi arms sales corruption was directly perverted by Tony Blair, who went on to lie to the Commons about Saddam. Crime stats were routinely altered by senior officers to gain promotion….and then go on Cultural Diversity courses. The practice of mobile phone hacking began: several Labour MPs knew, and did nothing about it: getting on the wrong side of Newscorp was “off message”. When the Telegraph blew the lid off an enormous scandal about cash-for-questions and expense fiddling, Mandelson dismissed it as “Tory fabrication”. Not one of his better soundbites.
What the Telegraph then revealed under Camerlot was a sordid bunch of embezzling pigs in the trough right across the Chamber and on both sides of the aisle. What they knew but didn’t write about was the enormous 2005/6 heist pulled off by Whitehall, in which (with the Treasury’s connivance) some £730billion of future pension emoluments were awarded to 650 Sir Humphreys. On Labour’s watch.
What Jeremy Corbyn is trying to do now is classic Animal Farm fodder: “Left leg good, Right leg bad”. What Momentum and other throat-jumping tweeters were trying to do last Wednesday was suggest that all the problems of cuts, uncaring office-holders and local government corruption began in 2010.
Well, it won’t wash: turning a blind eye in Rotherham, Bristol and Plymouth didn’t start in 2010. Neither did Prescott’s illegal planning permissions, Straw’s Jihadist appeasement, banker set-asides, egocentric projects, and the perversion of justice. It began with Heath’s city chums and Union bully-boys, was ruthlessly switched by Thatcher, adopted by Blair, embraced by the EU, and then pushed towards corporate rule by Cameron.
Grenfell Tower is not a political issue, it is a cultural symptom.
The solution is root and branch bottom up reconstruction of the way Britain works; and no, the answer is no more collectivist socialism than it is neoliberal economics and neocon geopolitics.
The list of things to put right is almost infinite. And while I know this upsets many of you, I refuse to believe that the simplistic answer is one man and one Party with one hopelessly outdated ideology. The answer is to get back to personal and communal responsibility and compassion.
As from tonight I’m catching a plane and taking three days off for culture, sensitivity, and good company. Enjoy the weekend.