Saturday, 17 June 2017

The Grenfell Tower Massacre. The PM's Chief of Staff, Gavin Barwell has blood on his hands.

Mr Lee Jasper, veteran activist and former Policing and Equalities Director for London (2000-2008) commented,

Grenfell Tower 
My profound sorrow, prayers and thoughts are with all the victims and all those affected by this appalling tragedy.

The black, smouldering, Dreadful Tower stands as a glaring and ugly monument to London’s growing inequality, poverty and discrimination.

A city where your class or colour, dictates the quality of life and where discrimination against vulnerable communities is rife.

The Tories brutal and ideological commitment to austerity, has acted as a powerful magnifying glass that has massively amplified disadvantage, racism and a disdain for the poor.

RBKC Leader Councillor Nicholas Paget-Brown


Our sorrow and grief has been compounded by the callous incompetence of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC) and the Prime Minister who have behaved in an appalling and deeply insensitive manner. I stand in solidarity with the local community, who are calling for the resignation of all the current Tory Council leadership at RBKC. 

I fear that the woeful disaster response of RBKC gives us a clear indication of what could happen, if there was a large scale disaster at Notting Hill Carnival. This incident demonstrates that they have no strategic response and have treated their own residents with a callous contempt that defies belief. 

I join all those who are rightly demanding that former Housing Minister,  Gavin Barwell, now the Prime Minister’s current Chief of Staff, be sacked or resign immediately.

His position is untenable given his derisory role in failing to ensure fire safety regulations recommended by the Coroner at Southwark Lakanal House fire inquest in 20013 were implemented. 

He choose to sit on that important review. 

Put simply and with moral force, Gavin Barwell has blood on his hands.

We need to support the demand that Government conduct an urgent assessment of the estimated 4,000 Tower Blocks in the UK that have the same, combustible external cladding, as a matter of extreme urgency. People and families’ are living with acute stress and fear of not knowing if their block is safe.

I’d like to personally applaud the skill and unbelievable bravery of fire-fighters, the police and in particular local residents. We should be righlty proud of their response. Their example of heroism stands in stark contrast to the total failure of leadership shown by both the Royal Borough Of Kensington and Chelsea and central Government. The leader of RBKC must resign and publically apologise for their failure. 

They cannot remain in office.

Whilst we grieve deeply with the families and those still assumed missing and those injured we urge the Metropolitan Police to urgently arrest those responsible all those officer at RBKC and the Kensington and Chelsea Management Organisation (KCTMO) along with all relevant contractors, on potential corporate manslaughter charges and to seize all available evidence before it is destroyed.

This is not only a continuing danger to public confidence in identifying these responsible but Grenfell House should be treated as a crime scene not an accident investigation. We remember all too well that when the victims are poor, black and minority people money is saved, corners cut and investigations fail as with the now infamous investigatory debacle into the London New Cross Fire Massacre.

It’s vital that London authorities comprehend the outrage this hellish fire has engendered in our communities. It is essential that wise counsel is sought and employed to guide those that are charged with responding. London authorities legitimacy and credibility is on the line and may be irreparably damaged. 

The furious reaction to the PM's visit speaks volumes. She was forced into retreat in the face of sheer outrage. May seems both emotionally sterile and illiterate.”  

Although I have now retired from activism, given the scale of this tragedy I humbly offer my own view as to what I believe should happen now;

      Suggested demands:       

  •     Demand the sacking/resignation of the entire Conservative administration of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC). They must now face a Labour vote of no confidence, or a local referendum demand for an elected Mayor.  Demand the sacking of ex housing Minister Gavin Barwell who bears the full responsibility for failing to act on the Coroners report recommendations into the 2013 Southwark Lakanal House fire;

  •       That the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan demand that Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea be taken into special measures by Government and that all disaster response responsibility is transferred to the London Mayors Office to lead through the Mayors Fund and coordinate the work or voluntary organisations and the public, seeking to donate funds and resources to those directly affected;

  •       Grenfell Tower should now be covered up to provide dignity to the dead who remain in the building. Arrange a multi faith blessing service at Grenfell Tower to bless and consecrate the dead who remain.  Call a national 1 minute silence one week on.

  •      Demand the immediate fire safety assessment of all 4,000 Tower Blocks in the UK; That UK Mayor’s and Local Government Association should convene a national Tower Block Safety Group to drive fire safety.

  •      An urgent criminal investigation is instigated by the Metropolitan Police Service into potential criminal negligence at RBKC, Kensington and Chelsea Management Organisation (KCTMO); Harley Facades, Rydon and all other private contractors that bear responsibility for the work, maintenance and surveying of the Grenfell Tower Block;

  •     The Metropolitan Police Service must immediately secure and seize all vital documentary evidence, email and communication among all those contractors and council officers responsible for fire and building safety maintenance at Grenfell Towers.

  •      Last and most important that the Mayor of London urgently convenes a City wide disaster response task force, to help coordinate and direct relief and support efforts. This includes entering partnership with Grenfell Tower residents with the Mayors Fund to lead charitable donation in support.

Lee Jasper.