LABOUR shadow chancellor John McDonnell has come out and said openly what the vast majority of people in the country believe – that those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire were ‘murdered’ by ‘political decisions’.
Speaking at a debate on democracy held on Sunday at the Glastonbury Festival, McDonnell placed the blame for the loss of life at the door of those who ‘view housing as only for financial speculation.’
He said: ‘Those families, those individuals – 79 so far and there will be more – were murdered by political decisions that were taken over recent decades. The decision not to build homes and to view housing as only for financial speculation rather than for meeting a basic human need, made by politicians over decades, murdered those families. The decision to close fire stations and to cut 10,000 firefighters and then to freeze their pay for over a decade contributed to those deaths inevitably, and they were political decisions.’
McDonnell is absolutely correct; the Tories have revelled in their campaign to cut health and safety legislation. Just months before the blaze in Grenfell Tower Tory ministers posted on a government website their ‘anti-red tape’ agenda for all new-build properties, which was aimed at abolishing the ‘health and safety culture’ that cut into the profits of the property speculators.
In 2012, then Tory prime minister David Cameron bragged to a meeting of businessmen that he would ‘kill off the health and safety culture for good’ because it was an ‘albatross around the neck of British business’ costing them billions of pounds a year. In March last year, the Tories issued a press release entitled ‘Government going further to cut red tape by £10 billion.’
It was signed, among others, by the communities and local government secretary Sajid Javid, and it hails the implementation of its notorious ‘One-in, Three-out policy’ under which three regulations must be removed every time one new one is introduced.
They boasted: ‘Businesses with good records have had fire safety inspections reduced from six hours to 45 minutes, allowing managers to quickly get back to their day job’ – of making money and to hell with the risk.
The results of this mass cull of health and safety regulations – hailed by the Tories in a phrase that will come back to haunt them as the ‘bonfire of the regulations’ – are to be seen in the burnt-out wreck of Grenfell Tower, destroyed in a fire that spread at unbelievable speed across the flammable cladding put up by the council to ‘improve the appearance’ of the 24 storey block and make it more visually pleasing and acceptable to the wealthy residents nearby.
This cladding is banned in countries across the world because of earlier fires, but it was £2 a square metre cheaper than a more fire resistant alternative. Undoubtedly those managers and council officials responsible for Grenfell Tower were exceedingly grateful that they were not tied down by red tape, and could rush back to their day jobs of ignoring the numerous warnings from tenants and others that they had constructed a death trap.
The reality is that there has never been one single piece of health and safety regulations introduced willingly by government or the bosses – every single regulation designed to save lives at work or in the home has had to be fought for by the trade unions and the working class in the teeth of ferocious opposition from the profit-hungry capitalist class and their tame politicians.
This is the great lesson hammered home by the criminal disregard for the lives of ordinary people that Grenfell Tower has so brutally brought home – capitalism doesn’t care how many workers die as long as they make a profit. Workers in their millions should march on parliament this Saturday demanding the Tories be kicked out along with their ‘bonfire of the regulations’.
If they refuse to go, the trade unions must call an immediate general strike to remove them and go forward to a workers’ government that will carry out socialist policies of nationalising the banks, land and industry, including the building industry, under workers’ control, and put an end to a rotten capitalist system that puts profit before human life.