Politicians who back neo-liberalism have “blood on their hands” when it comes to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, a Labour shadow minister has declared.
Chris Williamson, one of Jeremy Corbyn’s most loyal supporters, said the economic policies which “afflicted” successive Tory and Labour governments led “directly” to the blaze – which killed at least 80 people in June.
The Shadow Fire Minister has led calls from his party to widen the scope of the inquiry into the blaze, calling for it to investigate the impact of austerity, social housing supply and deprivation on the causes of the tragedy.
Speaking to the Guardian, Williamson – who returned as Derby North MP in June after losing the seat in 2015 – said: “It’s important we do find out how and why it started but there are deeper questions that relate to the political culture that allowed it to happen.
“It’s a culture that has afflicted both Labour and Conservative governments, starting with Margaret Thatcher. That whole culture is built on deregulation, privatisation and cuts.”
He said politicians who had “foisted neoliberal brutality on this country” had contributed “directly to Grenfell Tower and these people have blood on their hands who have pushed this approach”.
Williamson added: “Because neoliberalism is underpinned by privatising and not fettering business, that has actually resulted in things like building control being subject to competition, which has meant the private sector coming in and cutting fees, and inevitably the quality has gone down.”
The interview also appeared to show Williamson claiming Labour had won the 2017 General Election, despite winning 55 fewer seats than the Tories.
When talking about criticism leveled at Jeremy Corbyn, Williamson said: “I feel people have stopped listening to the smears and lies and dirty tricks. I think for all the talk about Venezuela and antisemitism, and the latest thing is sexism now, Jeremy’s overwhelming landslide victories in the leadership elections and the general election mean people have stopped listening to the smears.”
Williamson’s forthright comments come a week after he revived the idea of female-only train carriages as a way of tackling assaults on the railway.
He told the PoliticsHome website he wanted a consultation on the plan, which had been suggested by Corbyn in 2015 as part of his first leadership campaign.
Figures uncovered by the BBC last month showed that 1,448 sexual offences on UK trains were reported in 2016-17 - up from 650 in 2012-2013.
He said: “It would be worth consulting about it. It was pooh-poohed (when Jeremy Corbyn suggested it), but these statistics seem to indicate there is some merit in examining that.”
He said: “It was there [during his leadership campaign] as a discussion item which was taken out of context.
“The response was that people don’t want them: end of.”