Grenfell, never again?

© Natalie Oxford / CC BY 4.0
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World events are already far-fetched, and have been for quite some time. The coronavirus pandemic only further enhanced the surreal quality that had already been fostered by Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as US President. Now there is Boris Johnson in 10 Downing Street, and it feels as if the Prime Minister is trolling us. After renegotiating the exit terms, then fighting a general election on the slogan “get Brexit done” and the promise of an “oven-ready deal”, Johnson is set to tell the EU that the withdrawal agreement never made sense. It is “contradictory” and must be rewritten, which was “unforeseen” when he agreed to it last year.

Whether the PM is truly willing to walk away from talks or he is bluffing about no deal to make later compromises look good, or some combination of the two, there is an aspect of genuine trolling here: the Tories are frustrated with Keir Starmer’s approach. Although as Shadow Brexit Secretary he eventually joined the ranks of those pushing for a fresh public vote, the now Labour leader refuses to be goaded into playing “political parlour games” – as one Labour official put it – on Brexit. Neither he nor Rachel Reeves responded to reports over the weekend, but instead Louise Haigh did so, which ensured that their response flew under the radar. This is not because she isn’t an effective communicator, but because the Brexit process so far suggests people in the rest of the UK have limited attention spans when it comes to Northern Ireland.

Starmer hasn’t tweeted about Brexit. He has preferred to talk about the other bit of shameful yet shameless conduct from the Tories so far this week: their vote on the fire safety bill. The opposition party tried to amend the legislation, as reported by LabourList on Sunday evening, and compel the government to implement the recommendations of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry’s phase one report, published in October 2019. They had pledged to legislate for the recommendations in the 2019 Conservative manifesto. But without a single exception, Tory MPs voted against the move and Labour’s proposal was decisively rejected. Even the new Kensington MP joined the effort.

Grenfell-style cladding still has not been removed from over 80% of private sector buildings and nearly 50% of social sector buildings, government figures show. Residents are trapped in these homes, either due to a lack of social housing provision or our ridiculous leasehold system, which means there are tens of thousands living in unsafe blocks and many who are scared going to sleep each night. Shadow minister Sarah Jones said: “There should be no backsliding on a commitment that a fire like Grenfell can never happen again.” Yet, horrifyingly, there is little stopping precisely that from taking place. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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