As I look at the burnt-out shell of Grenfell Tower today, it is being covered slowly in white plastic – now up to about the sixth or seventh floor. This material cover-up prompts me to be aware that there also appears to be a cover up and whitewashing of the public inquiry.
This week there are two more days set aside for ‘procedural hearings’ for the Grenfell Inquiry. It is increasingly obvious to most of our community that this inquiry is unlikely to deliver the things we want, namely the truth, accountability and change.
We hoped that an inquiry would include a thorough investigation as to how social housing tenants are treated; decent properties where tenants are safe, can afford the rent and in the communities where they want to live. Social housing was removed from the terms of reference – so no change here.
Inequality is a major factor in what happened at Grenfell Tower and yet the Equality and Human Rights Commission – the very body that the government tasks to ensure accountability on these issues – was refused core participation status in the inquiry.
Our local authority, Kensington and Chelsea, has treated the community of North Kensington with contempt for decades and have to be accountable for the horror of what happened at Grenfell. Labour Councillors currently in opposition in Kensington and Chelsea (May 3rd – may change this) have also been refused core participation status and have been told that they have to be represented at the inquiry by the Conservative councillor’s lawyers.
Former Judge Martin Moore-Bick was appointed by the Prime Minister as the inquiry chair. He has no understanding of the experiences of our community and has a worrying past record of social housing cases. Demands for a diverse inquiry panel with additional members who have equal decision-making powers has been constantly refused. The petition by bereaved families reached the required 100,000 signatories and a date for a parliamentary debate has been set – May 14th 2018 – did this not ring any bells for the civil servants who diarised this? We hold a silent walk on the 14th of every month to remember the 72 men, women and children our community lost. With this level of disrespect and the systemic lack of humanity, why would we have any hope that the inquiry will deliver anything for us?
The inquiry’s behaviours and actions all point in the opposite direction of delivering the truth, holding anyone accountable and driving change in our society. What happened at Grenfell Tower should be a mirror to the government of everything they have got wrong in the way they treat our society. Never was there a more a crucial time for them to put a greater spotlight on the need for sweeping reforms in the UK; instead they do what they always do! However, on this occasion they won’t get, what they always got. We will continue on the road to justice – we owe it to 72 beautiful people who are not with us today; and when the government and their servants try to downplay Grenfell - to use a quote from Michelle Obama, “When they go low, we’ll go high”.