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17 Jun, 2017 16:29

‘In wake of Grenfell Tower fire, May’s government must go'

‘In wake of Grenfell Tower fire, May’s government must go'

Though the mistakes that led to the Grenfell Tower fire weren’t made on Theresa May’s watch as home secretary, millions of people are bent on seeing the tragedy end her government now, political activist and social justice campaigner George Barda told RT.

Thousands of angry protesters marched in London on Friday demanding justice for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. The official death toll has reached 30, but it’s expected to rise further, with up to 70 people still unaccounted for.

RT:  Clearly people in London are outraged by what’s happened and are unhappy with the way the government’s been handling the situation. Is the government to blame, do you think?

George Barda: Absolutely… most of the groups [at the protest] have arrived back together in North Kensington, where this tragedy happened. There are millions of people now that pray that this tragedy could be turned into a genuinely transformative moment for this country. The reason for that is that this horrible story coming so soon on the back of the election says everything that is wrong about our society.

The previous government, between 2010-2015, they had one-in-two out rule. What that means is that for every regulation they decided to impose, they insisted on removing two. And the then-housing minister, who is now the immigration minister, in fact, specifically, when he was challenged as to whether he should put a rule in place that said that sprinkler systems should be fit in the buildings like this, as they already have to be in Germany, Wales, in Scotland, etc., his justification for not putting this rule in place was that they had this totally ideological idea that for every regulation they imposed they had to remove two. That was his specific justification. If there had been a sprinkler system in this building, despite all the other massive failings – that would’ve stopped people dying, and that didn’t happen.

What’s also come to light, and that is perhaps the most shocking economization of human tragedy, is that in order to save two pounds per square meter, the private company that added this new cladding to the building decided not to invest in the fire-resistant cladding from the same company; it invested in the cheaper cladding. We have to wait for the investigation, but it seems very clear from eyewitnesses, and what we’ve all seen on TV, that one of the main sources of the fire went up the outside of the building – up this new non-fire-resistant cladding. This is one of the richest countries in the world; one of the richest places in the world, this borough in London, as well. But this is an area where the poorer people live, and their lives essentially have been sold up the river based on this crazy ideology of deregulation, removal of the rules, and everything will be fine. No, removal of the rules and people will die, and that is what people are seeing very clearly.

RT:  Prime Minister Theresa May has launched a public inquiry. Is this the right way to get to the bottom of this and hold people accountable?

GB: I think, obviously, when a tragedy like this happens there has to be a public inquiry, and that must go forward and fully independent and it must be given all the resources it needs. But that is a totally separate question from the question of whether [Prime Minister Theresa May] should resign. Obviously, it wasn’t on her watch as prime minister; it wasn’t on her watch as home secretary that the mistakes were made; it seems prior to this. But millions of people, as I say, are determined that this will be the end of this government now.

And the reason it is absolutely not enough just to say there is going to be an inquiry, is that the last time there was a tragedy on a smaller scale in a residential housing block in South London, again a much poorer community, a number of people died. There was a report into that, and one of the recommendations was that you should have fireproof cladding, and that you should install sprinklers in every building. And this is basic, basic stuff in terms of preventing people dying in the event of disaster

The reality is that this report came out in 2013, but it was well-understood before that report was completed that these obvious measures that could be taken that would save lives could be taken. Even if they wanted to justify waiting for the 2013 report before they did the obvious things to save lives, which I think is questionable, the fact that they have not done it in the last four years is absolutely appalling, and this government must go.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.