Six years since Grenfell — Fight for fire safety just as vital now

by Paula Mitchell, Waltham Forest Socialist Party

Six years ago, 72 people died in a horrific fire at Grenfell Tower in Kensington, west London. It was a tower block lived in by working-class, mainly Black, Asian and migrant people, in the richest borough of London.

Profit-hungry companies had put their own riches before human life. Cheap flammable cladding had been attached to the tower, to give wealthy neighbours a more pleasant view.

Grenfell Tower. Photo: James Ivens

Each year we say, the fight goes on for safe homes. What has changed?

Virtually nothing. But one change as a result of the Grenfell inquiry is the recommendation that tower blocks should have more than one staircase.

Sadiq Khan

In February, London’s Labour mayor Sadiq Khan ordered that all planning applications for residential blocks over 30 metres must now include a second staircase. Khan has chosen to fall in with the Tories’ proposal rather than that of fire chiefs, who call for that rule to apply over 18 metres.

But what about those already with planning permission, but not yet built, like the enormous 36- and 26-storey blocks planned for Walthamstow Town Square, with only one staircase? As things stand, Waltham Forest Labour council is allowing this obscene development to go ahead!

We have to fight for a moratorium on all new developments until they are safe. But mostly we have to fight for safe, good-quality council housing, with secure tenancies and low rents.

The privatised model of housing, pursued by Tories and Blairite Labour alike, has been an utter disaster. Selling off council housing, and selling off public land to private property developers to build blocks of tiny, expensive flats, has made a handful of people rich. For working-clas people, it has meant homelessness, overcrowding, appalling housing conditions, sky-high rents and death.

Our own party

That means we also have to fight for political representatives in the interests of working-class people – a new mass workers’ party. We say that because it is clear where Keir Starmer’s Labour Party stands on these questions.

Emma Dent Coad was elected as Labour MP for Kensington in the 2017 general election, just days before the Grenfell fire. She championed campaigns of the Grenfell survivors, and supported Jeremy Corbyn’s call for council house building. She was barred from even the long-list to be selected as a Labour candidate for the next general election.

Save our Square campaign in Waltham Forest has a gathering in the square on 17 June at 1.30pm to remember Grenfell, and call for a halt to the building of the unsafe ‘monster’ blocks