NEWS
26/04/2018 23:31 BST | Updated 30/04/2018 15:47 BST

Grenfell Council Hustings Disrupted After Man Storms Stage To Confront Tory Candidates

Kensington and Chelsea candidates accused of ignoring tragedy.

Kathryn Snowdon
Usama Ghamhi jumped on the stage to confront the Tory candidates at the Kensington and Chelsea hustings.

A Kensington and Chelsea council hustings event was abruptly stalled after a man who said he lost family in the Grenfell Tower fire stormed the stage.

Usama Ghamhi, 24, accused the Tory candidates of ignoring victims of the blaze when he confronted them at the town hall-style meeting.

Afterwards, he said they “didn’t want to talk about” the tragedy. 

Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Advance party candidates attended the debate on Thursday night, which was held in Fox Primary School, in Kensington Place.

The audience were told at the outset that recordings were not allowed during the hustings and that only still images were permitted.

The first hour of the debate was dominated by questions of pollution, schools and housing.

But tensions began to escalate after a member of the audience tried to defend the council over its handling of the disaster, saying the fire “could have happened” in other parts of London, adding: “The council done (sic) everything they could.”

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) has been plagued by accusations of incompetence since the fire broke out last year, killing 71 people.

When the chair of the hustings tried to move on, one member of the audience who lives near to the charred tower yelled out: “Why should we vote for you? You let 71 people die, you let 71 people die.”

As the chairman tried to move the debate on to a separate topic, Ghamhi jumped on the stage and approached the Conservative candidates, repeatedly telling them: “Talk about Grenfell.”

In between loud applause from the audience, Ghamhi said: “I’ve been there since the day of the fire, none of you have come to see me.”

Organisers and the chairman stepped in to intervene as tensions continued to rise in the room, with the audience divided about whether Grenfell should be discussed in greater detail or not.

Speaking outside the meeting, Ghamhi, 24, who looked visibly upset, said: “I’m from the area, I have family in there, I’ve lost family in there [Grenfell], I’ve been in the area every day, doing things for that area. We’ve gathered donations and made it a community centre and they [the council candidates] didn’t want to talk about it.”

Soon after the meeting reconvened, Conservative candidates left the building. A reason was not given for their departure.

The Conservative party failed to send representatives to two hustings events in the north of the borough earlier this month.

One was held at Al Manaar, a Muslim cultural heritage centre, on April 12 and a second was hosted at Westway23 the following week.