Bill Black: Those to Blame for the Grenfell Fire Victims Include Tony Blair

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By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and co-founder of Bank Whistleblowers United. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives

There are many people culpable for the mass loss of life in the Grenfell fire in London.  At this time, we know enough about the fire and its causes to be able to discuss these matters with sufficient confidence to draw preliminary conclusions.  As always, we should also keep in mind that we do not have all the facts so some of our conclusions must be tentative.

I do not focus on Tony Blair and Gordon Brown because they are uniquely culpable for the mass deaths in the fire.  Their failures are important to explaining several points that are often unclear to Americans.  First, Blair and Brown, as leaders of the Labor Party, were supposed to protect poorer citizens like those living in the tower blocks through effective health and safety regulation.  Historically, that would have been a top priority of the Labor Party.  Second, the reality is that Blair and Brown were aggressively hostile to health and safety regulation and that hostility exemplifies the radical transformation that “New Labor’s” leaders made to the party.  Third, Blair and Brown modeled New Labor on Bill and Hillary Clinton and Al Gore’s transformative policies when they led the New Democrats.  The New Democrats’ most radical political change was their hostility to the white working class, but their most radical policy change was their unholy war against effective health and safety regulation through the infamous “Reinventing Government” campaign.  Fourth, the revulsion of  much of the Labor Party’s base and the New Democrats’ base to these twin radical changes in political identification and policy in which the historical parties of the workers turned against the workers led to initial electoral success followed by severe defeats.  

Jeremy Corbyn’s success as the darkest of dark horse candidates to become Labor’s leader and Labor’s gains in the most recent election have stunned British elite commentators (and the far smaller number of Americans who follow UK political events closely).  To say that Corbyn is to the left of Blair and Brown is to mislead by inadequacy.  Corbyn is vastly to the left of Blair and Brown.  Corbyn is very far to the left of Bernie Sanders and Corbyn favors policies and alliances that would be instantly fatal for an American elected official’s political career.  Until the recent election results, dissent rules the Labor Party, with the great bulk of its leadership eager to knife Corbyn.  Corbyn’s sharp break with Blair and Brown’s unholy war against regulation explains why so much of his Party’s leadership is eager to remove him from leadership.  It also explains why his policies have led large numbers of younger voters to join the Labor Party and support Corbyn.  Similarly, Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren’s popularity, particularly with younger voters, has repeatedly stunned the New Democrats’ leaders.  The easily avoidable loss of so many in the Grenfell fire illustrates why Corbyn’s supporters have rallied passionately to what they see as the antithesis of New Labor leaders like Blair and Brown.

Here are the key facts that we know relevant to this article.  The Telegraph described them in a June 16, 2017 article entitled: “Eight failures that left people of Grenfell Tower at mercy of the inferno.”  The building was inherently unsafe with regard to fire danger.  The article begins with this damning introduction.

A litany of failings in building regulation and safety rules have left residents in tower blocks vulnerable for decades. Despite constant warnings from fire experts, nothing was done to improve fire-proofing standards, or even review the current situation.  

Grenfell was a multi-story residential tower with no sprinkler system and only one stairway allowing escape from a fire.  In British parlance, it was a “tower block.”  In reality, it was a death trap.  

Margaret Thatcher’s government removed a building standard requiring that the exterior be fire resistant.  That removal was obscene and indefensible, but it also begs this question of the “councils” in charge of the many tower blocks in the UK – what could possibly lead you to fail to make the building exterior highly fire resistant?  Many of the building measures that provide a building long life expectancy also produce strong fire resistance, so it is a horrific to choose to fail to make a large housing structure strongly fire resistant.  The same manufacturer that sold the Grenfell council flammable cladding sells non-flammable cladding – at a tiny price differential.  Grenfell could have installed the non-flammable cladding for 5000 pounds in additional expense.

After Thatcher removed the essential safety regulations, the councils actively made things far worse – in the face of repeated warnings that they were putting the tenants’ lives at grave peril.  The councils did not simply install exteriors with inadequate fire resistance – they installed exteriors that greatly increased the risk of the rapid expansion of a fire.  They did so by adding insulating “cladding” in order to reduce heating and cooling operating costs.  They chose to add flammable insulation rather than the non-flammable alternative.

There were multiple problems with the cladding.  The metal was thin, to reduce costs, which meant it would burn through very quickly in an intense fire.  The insulating material was flammable and it produced toxic smoke when it burned.  The cladding accelerated and spread the fire by acting like a chimney and allowing droplets of the burning insulating materials to fall and ignite secondary fires.  

Public officials, particularly fire fighters, and independent experts repeatedly warned the councils and senior government officials that the cladding would spread intense fires rapidly rather than retarding them.

For the past three decades fire safety experts have warned that the ‘Class O’ designation was based on small-scale tests conducted in laboratory conditions and did not properly evaluate cladding in a live fire.

A recent London Fire Brigade investigation into the fire at a tower block fire at Shepherd Court in West London in August 2016 found that external cladding had helped the fire to spread.

They found that when exposed to high flames the metal sheet of the cladding had melted away, setting the inner polystyrene foam on fire and allowing ‘flaming droplets’ to fall onto lower floors while helping flames to spread higher up. Fire chiefs wrote to every council in London to warn them of the dangers but no action was taken.

Dangerous cladding

A leading fire safety expert warned Government advisors three years ago that a tragedy like the Grenfell Tower inferno would happen unless they changed rules to ban cheap, flammable insulation used on the outside of buildings.

The experts sounded their warnings in plain English in graphic terms to ensure that the officials understood that they were warning of dangers that could kill hundreds of people in a single fire.

Arnold Turling said the Grenfell blaze was “entirely avoidable” and that a gap between the panels acted as a ‘wind tunnel’, fanning the flames, and allowing the fire to spread to upper levels.

Mr Turling, a member of the Association of Specialist Fire Protection, said: “Any burning material falls down the gaps and the fire spreads up very rapidly – it acts as its own chimney.”

As weak as the building requirements were for cladding once Thatcher emasculated them, initial testing results are that the cladding at Grenfell and many of its counterpart tower blocks failed to meet even the UK’s rudimentary standards.  The United States, for example, banned cladding with combustible materials for any taller residential building.  

At the time of the June 16 Telegraph story the media assumed that the Grenfell cladding complied with the far weaker UK standard.  Inspectors have now examined Grenfell’s cladding and reported that it did not even meet the UK’s inadequate standards.  Worse, Prime Minister May’s government has reported that the first cladding samples tested from 75 tower blocks had a 100% failure rate.  We should take that report with caution, for experts are questioning whether the government’s (unknown) test methods are reliable.    

The lack of a sprinkler system and a single stairwell for evacuation again show the inadequacy of UK building standards compared to other modern nations.  Those deficiencies were made worse by a lack of fire breaks, (reportedly) missing fire-resistant doors, and the failure to conduct required inspections.

Every UK leader from Thatcher to May is a part of this problem.  The fact that the Tories emasculated vital building safety rules is consistent with their Party’s ideology.  Blair came to power after Thatcher and was the leader of the Labor Party.  His Party’s ideology had long supported effective safety rules.  Blair, however, proudly led what he called “New Labor” – a Party that embraced Thatcher’s anti-regulatory zeal with its own special passion.  In 2005, Blair infamously gave two minor variants of a major speech condemning regulation and what he claimed was a developing refusal of the British to risk their health and lives – and the health and lives of their children.  Blair was particularly belligerent at the British who felt that they should receive compensation when others injured them.  Blair warned that it was essential that the government stop reacting to people being maimed and killed by trying to prevent future injuries from the same defects.  Blair – the head of the Labor Party – demanded that laborers put up quietly with unsafe workplaces so that not-so-Great Britain could compete with dangerous sweatshops in places like Bangladesh.  

I have written before about Blair’s speech attacking regulation, risk aversion, and victims of torts daring to seek compensation because Blairj’s speech also contained a delusional passage in which Blair claims that the UK financial regulators are vicious and harming UK’s ability to win the financial regulatory race to the bottom.  I also wrote to explain how the UK’s top financial regulator’s response to Blair’s speech proved that UK financial regulation was a non sequitur.  It consisted of “light touch” regulation, which meant non-regulation.  The City of London was as he spoke engaged in an epidemic of “control fraud” and predation of unprecedented scale.  Blair went on to decry a fictional war by the regulators against honest bankers.    

My first article focusing on Blair’s speech explained and criticized his broader attack on health and safety regulation.  I will not repeat those points here.  I write simply to note that the victims of Grenfell were condemned to death by an ideology and a rejection of science and the value of human life that captured the Tories, Lib-Dems, and “New Labor.”  Corbyn is famously flawed, but tens of millions of the British are coming to understand that Blair and Gordon represented a betrayal of the Labor Party and laborers – where they work and sleep.  They see that the Tories and the Lib-Dems are unreconstructed and that the Labor Party leaders eager to replace Corbyn are primarily unreconstructed Blairites.  In these circumstances, it is no wonder that Corbyn has gained so much support from younger voters.  

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

31 comments

  1. Terry Flynn

    Great post and good to see the rightful criticism of New Labour’s complicity.

    Regarding the last paragraph, and linking to the whole ‘triangulation’ and sacrifice of workers to the altar of identity politics instituted by the LibDems and New Labour – cough*Clinton/Miliband*cough*. Most of my so-called progressive friends (often post-modern academics doing identity-politics based work) declined to renew contact when I left Facebook to go back to email. Some of them were Brits who were too young even to remember the 1970s – I was a kid then and have vague memories of the upheavals under the dying days of ‘old’ Labour governments. Yet these ‘progressives’ still countered my statement that putting the basic bread-and-butter economic and (re)regulation issues first would go a long way towards solving the identity politics issues, saying ‘look how union barons treated women in the past’. Eh? Citing the ‘beer-and-sandwiches at Number 10’ meme from the mid 1970s (that may have been a tabloid exaggeration anyway?) Sheesh. They continued to vilify Sanders and Corbyn. I wonder if real deaths like this might finally begin to shake their misplaced loyalties. Counterfactuals (of course) are just fun what-ifs but I do wonder if (as the Shadow Chancellor maintains) the election had happened a couple of weeks later (after the fire though he said this pre-Grenfell) whether it’d be PM Corbyn?

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      Unfortunately, there is a huge disconnect between the attitudes of supposedly ‘liberal’ middle classes and traditional working class activism. I think the number one reason for the failure of the left in the last 20 years is the refusal of university educated left wingers to realise that they have far more to learn from the traditional leftist movement than they realise.

      A few months ago I was talking to a distant relative – she is professional, educated, mid 30’s, and just had her first baby. She would I think consider herself liberal and would vote for Labour. She moved job a couple of years ago from a high pressure consultancy to a public sector regulatory job – she didn’t say it, but I’m sure the prospect of better maternity leave and conditions was a major factor. We were talking casually about her life after the baby and she mentioned that she is ‘so lucky’ her employer is so family friendly and supportive, she has it much easier than her former colleagues. I casually mentioned that it wasn’t ‘luck’ she had such good conditions, it was years of hard work by public sector unions, which in turn set a baseline for larger companies, and had lobbied the EU and governments for proper legislative protections for women in the workplace. ‘Oh!’ she said. ‘I refused to join the Union, I can’t stand them, always coming up with stupid rules and stopping people from working’. I really didn’t know what to say in reply, that response seemed to say it all.

      Reply
      1. Terry Flynn

        Unfortunately, there is a huge disconnect between the attitudes of supposedly ‘liberal’ middle classes and traditional working class activism. I think the number one reason for the failure of the left in the last 20 years is the refusal of university educated left wingers to realise that they have far more to learn from the traditional leftist movement than they realise.

        Indeed. I remember the cold shoulder I got when asking female friends on FB glorifying the strides forward made by the third way in terms of feminism etc if they could afford to give up their job and live on a single salary. “Of course we couldn’t!”. Then where’s your choice as to whether to work or not? I’d show them the graphs showing how real wages have stagnated for 40 years relative to productivity but I always got the impression that their post-modernist education had taught them to disbelieve any such data. Ironic that they criticised the lies and manufactured reality of Trump and before him Bush 2. Anyway I’m getting off topic so will stop there.

        Reply
        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, Terry.

          Off topic is often good / interesting, so please don’t stop. This is useful context. The neo-liberals did not exploit a vacuum.

          Reply
      2. Julia Versau

        Wow. That does indeed say it all. Problem is, people who are enjoying hard-earned rights and benefits they did not have to fight for are clueless. They will be getting a clue soon. Thank you for this anecdotal, but highly representative story.

        Reply
        1. Jeffrey Radice

          Curt Flood is representative of the disconnect between modern beneficiaries of organized labor and predecessors upon whose shoulders we all stand. Very few professional athletes, let alone professional baseball players, could explain the impact Flood’s sacrifice had on their paychecks today.

          Changing sports, perhaps the recent news regarding the Hillsborough Tragedy can give one hope that the wheels of justice turn slowly but grind exceedingly fine, and thus they shall turn for the victims at Grenfell too. One can hope.

          I do find hope in little things, like Scousers never buying the Sun. It is a fascinating backstory to that song, and we may derive some faith in humanity from collective action like that, such as it is.

          Reply
      3. Norb

        Thanks for the anecdote PK. Your thoughtful and informative comments always lead the reader to a better understanding of the topic.

        Your story points toward a fundamental problem that receives inadequate attention, namely the psychological barriers citizens have constructed preventing them from seeing the dangerous path we are on as a society. Neoliberalism has created an environment where everyone must live their lives in a state of cognitive dissonance. What differs is only the level of awareness of the condition.

        Facing up to harsh reality or escaping into some imaginary world seems to be humanities current crossroads. It seems the choice for society is to continue to exploit human weakness, or to recognize the potential for nobility in human existence.

        The discussion needs to be about fundamental truths, and convincing more people to live their lives differently. It will take a relentlessness that few possess. Hence the dilemma.

        Reply
      4. Hiho

        The problem also derives from the fact that somehow educated workers do not see themselves as members of the working class (however ludicrous it might seem).

        I guess that they really believe the middle class has nothing to do with the working class.

        Professional class? Creative class? Liberal middle class? My ass. They are just elitist, indebted and screwed workers.

        Reply
  2. Dead Dog

    Where else can you read about this (terrible tragedy) and get a real insight into what really happened and, more importantly, evidence as to the why?

    I feel that the anger will result in jail for some, but not the direction-setters like our Tone.

    Thank you Bill and Lambert.

    Click the hat

    Reply
  3. Clive

    When you’ve lost the Hate Mail.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4645456/Half-claim-want-higher-taxes.html

    (note the “us” framing in the headline and the picture of Corbyn not, as usually shown, looking like a slightly crazier version of Rasputin).

    More like getting in front of the riot and calling it a parade than a true conversion, but nevertheless… Don’t, though even get me started on the “taxes fund spending” category error which is perpetuated. And the comments, just in case optimism is getting the better of hopeless cheery sorts and hope is tormenting you, may cause readers of a sensitive disposition to risk cranial collisions with their desks.

    Reply
    1. JustAnObserver

      Clive,

      Is this in the print version as well ? I only ask ‘cos there seems to be a distinct difference between the online and dead tree versions of the Daily Heil with the website being (marginally) less Dacre-crazy … does great headlines as well.

      Reply
  4. Carolinian

    Sounds like America needs a Corbyn–someone who has kept the faith over the decades of neoliberal assault. Where would we find such a person? Ralph Nader 2020?

    Reply
  5. Maggie & Tone

    There is clearly a correlation between the health of an economy and how that wealth is distributed within a society. The UK began falling behind comparative countries more than a hundred years ago, with this being most evident after WW2 when the UK’s European neighbours all surged ahead of the UK on both economic and social measures – GDP per capita, R&D investment, Capital investment, Productivity, Health spend etc etc. Therefore as a consequence of declining economic wealth, the UK did not have as much money to spend on infrastructure & buildings as other countries did. However that poor economic wealth, which has been evident for decades, didn’t happen in a vacuum. The privatisation boom that started with Thatcher continues to this day (health system – NHS). Even with the one-off windfall that was North Sea oil in the 70’s onwards, the UK was unable/unwilling to restructure it’s economy. The word often associated with North Sea oil is squandered.

    So the poor economic growth under the guise of privatisation and ‘light touch regulation’ made penny pinching inevitable. The tower block fire in London was virtually guaranteed to happen sooner or later. Buildings are just one area in which neoliberal greed had consequences. ‘Accidents’ started happening on the railways when they too suffered from being privatised with short term expediency as the main objective. The introduction of PFI (private funding) in the 90’s to build hospitals, schools etc has already been exposed as not only resulting in buildings (schools) that have had walls collapse, but also a horrendously expensive way to build anything, leaving massive debts for 30 years to come and all just to keep the less expensive option of public borrowing off the governments figures. Started by the tories and continued with gusto by labour.

    The UK has just launched an aircraft carrier at a cost of £3.5bn. The UK continues to stumble along ignoring the reality of where it stands in the real world. Until a realistic economic balance is achieved, the UK’s poor economic performance will continue and the ‘accidents’ will keep happening.

    As they used to say in exams – compare and contrast – UK vs Germany or Netherlands or Denmark or any comparable country over the last 30 years or so. UK bottom year after year.

    http://www.theglobaleconomy.com/compare-countries/

    Reply
    1. Synoia

      War debts. The UK was hollowed out by war debts form WW I and II, and a victim of its class system.

      Germany’s WW II debt was forgiven, the UK’s was not. The UK emerged from WW II poor, and it took 15 to 20 years to rebuild.

      Coventry Cathedral was consecrated in 1962, some 20 years after being destroyed. I can remember unbuilt bomb sites in Norwich in the early ’60s. Couple this with dreadful management/worker relations, which were always blamed on the workers (and their unions), which on reflection I believe were a consequence of the UK’s class system, and there is a process of failure, and lack of investment.

      Reply
      1. SpringTexan

        Churchill said the country was bankrupt after the war and could not afford an NHS and many other things, but Attlee went right ahead, won the election, and the NHS was founded and much other social spending also.

        Corbyn aims to bring back the “spirit of 1945”.

        Reply
  6. Robert

    “There is clearly a correlation between the health of an economy and how that wealth is distributed within a society”.

    I suggest this is a case of fallacy of composition: there is no such clear correlation, though there could be a connection (not the same thing). Trouble is, there are far too many other independent variables impinging on something as broad as the health of an economy (measured by what criteria?…) for a pronouncement like this to be sustainable.

    Despite that, subjectively I agree with most of your argument. And Bill Black’s indictment of Blair/Brown is devastating. But really it’s one that shames us all because in one way or another we’ve all been complicit even though without knowing it.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith

      Not correct. You need to get up to speed on the work of public health experts.

      From a 2007 post:

      The Financial Times’ Michael Prowse explains:

      But recent epidemiological research suggests that finance ministers, too, may some day be required to issue health warnings. There are good reasons to believe that policies that promote greater economic inequality – such as budgets that slash top tax rates – cause higher rates of sickness and mortality….

      In Britain, these new arguments are most closely associated with Richard Wilkinson, a professor at Nottingham University’s medical school. Wilkinson has spent much of the past two decades painstakingly assembling the evidence for a link between inequality and sickness. But researchers elsewhere, such as Ichiro Kawachi and Bruce Kennedy of the School of Public Health at Harvard University, have independently confirmed many of his claims.

      Those who would deny a link between health and inequality must first grapple with the following paradox. There is a strong relationship between income and health within countries. In any nation you will find that people on high incomes tend to live longer and have fewer chronic illnesses than people on low incomes.

      Yet, if you look for differences between countries, the relationship between income and health largely disintegrates. Rich Americans, for instance, are healthier on average than poor Americans, as measured by life expectancy. But, although the US is a much richer country than, say, Greece, Americans on average have a lower life expectancy than Greeks. More income, it seems, gives you a health advantage with respect to your fellow citizens, but not with respect to people living in other countries….

      Once a floor standard of living is attained, people tend to be healthier when three conditions hold: they are valued and respected by others; they feel ‘in control’ in their work and home lives; and they enjoy a dense network of social contacts. Economically unequal societies tend to do poorly in all three respects: they tend to be characterised by big status differences, by big differences in people’s sense of control and by low levels of civic participation….

      Unequal societies, in other words, will remain unhealthy societies – and also unhappy societies – no matter how wealthy they become. Their advocates – those who see no reason whatever to curb ever-widening income differentials – have a lot of explaining to do.

      No wonder the Economist didn’t want to open this can of worms. The idea that wealth might be bad for you is tantamount to sacrilege. But there are plenty of signs that all is not well in the land of Mammon. 40% of Americans have taken antidepressants, and some link the increase in obesity to their use. The Center for Disease Control reports that deaths from illegal drugs has increased fourfold in the last 20 years. And the growth is greatest in the white, middle-aged cohort.

      http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2007/01/happiness-health-and-inequality.html

      Reply
      1. Robert

        Yves

        Though flattered to have attracted your attention, I must point out that your reproof is misdirected.

        The “health” in the post I commented-on above was not (as it is in passage you linked-to) what that word means in common usage, ie people’s physical and psychic wellbeing in the medical sense:- “…Those who would deny a link between health and inequality must first grapple with the following paradox…(etc)”.

        It was the “health of an economy” which (whatever it is) isn’t what Michael Prowse’s article deals with (ie inequality’s malign effects). That article however well-argued on its own ground is at best tangential to what I wrote and not a refutation of it.

        Reply
  7. sharonsj

    I read in a UK newspaper that Grenfell Tower originally had three fire escapes. But the renovation removed two of them. (And this was after years of the tenants complaining about general safety.) Apparently the-powers-that-be thought a single fire exit for a 24-story building was perfectly adequate.

    Reply
  8. EverythingsJake

    I’ve been trying to figure out where one would even use the “unsafe” version of the cladding. It doesn’t seem like it should even be available for sale.

    Reply
  9. bob k

    “Makes me wanna holler, throw up both my hands,
    Makes me wanna holler, throw up both my hands,
    This ain’t living….”

    Marvin Gaye, “Inner City Blues” from his genius “What’s Going On” album.

    Reply
  10. gordon

    I’m waiting to see what happens to the burned-out Grenfell site and the other towers which have been found with inflammable cladding. Is this the excuse needed to turf out the poor and redevelop the sites for luxury apartments?

    Reply
  11. lyle

    Note that the single stair in residential buildings is a feature of UK building codes, where as in the US that has been banned since at least the beginning of the 20th century in New York City for example (look at all the fire escapes on old buildings in the city, that are there because a second escape route was required to lease apartments. If you look at the plans of the residential floors it would not be possible to provide non contiguous stairways since there is a central core with the lift and the escape stair. It appears also that pipe chases were not big enough in the original design so that pipeing had to go thru the staircase also. Other reports suggest that inadequate maintenance of the buildings is an issue with missing fire doors etc common in other tower blocks. If you don’t have all the fire safety features that were designed in then you are worse off.
    As with most disasters there were a chain reaction of things that caused it. First it was a hot night so windows were open and the fridge fire could flame the outside of the building. (Since AC is not as common in the UK since it does not get as hot. Then there are reports that the outside of the original building had some triangular features that got covered up by the cladding, was adequate fire stopping used? If not you had a set of chimneys for the flames to go up.

    Reply
    1. Lyle

      Doing a bit more checking the rule in the UK depends on the distance from the door of a flat to the escape stairs. If it is less than 7.5 m then only one stair is ok depending on the number of occupants. If you look at the floor plans of the tower it looks like it met the requirement.

      Reply
      1. JTFaraday

        I have repetitive unpleasant dreams about large populated dirty dark-ish convoluted public structures that I can’t find my way around to wherever it is I’m going, (for some reason I don’t know why).

        But one stairwell in THAT building?– never in my worst nightmare.

        Reply
  12. Mike Gramig

    This is, sadly, a very familiar story in the history of public fire protection. The problem is not with a particular political party, but rather the inclination to do the least with regard to public safety. The motivation is to avoid cost. The result is as often as not much more costly than the savings. Fire protection officials have for(ever) made the case for retrofitting the built environment with systems of engineered protection and building assemblies that enhance life safety. It has been a huge struggle. In my own professional involvement of over 45 years in emergency fire services, this has been a constant story. There have been many successes as technology has improved, but it has been known for well over 100 years that sprinklers are exceptionally effective in protecting structures – especially high rises – and they have still not been uniformly retrofitted to high rise buildings that have been built before codes began to require them. The same can be said of other life safety building codes – structural, electrical, etc.

    Reply
  13. anonymous in Southfield

    To say that Corbyn is to the left of Blair and Brown is to mislead by inadequacy. Corbyn is vastly to the left of Blair and Brown. Corbyn is very far to the left of Bernie Sanders and Corbyn favors policies and alliances that would be instantly fatal for an American elected official’s political career.

    You said a lot there Professor Black. Firstly, the designation of left and right is almost useless but what other terms do we have? Sanders and Corbyn are both branded as socialist (as was B. Obama -ha!) by their political enemies. As though . . .

    But more to the point of what I feel is crucial to our current situation: Sanders can’t move on to the political stage and say what needs to be said about foreign policy either because it would mean ending his career. End the warmongering? We can hear the crowds now: ‘Soft on terrorism.’ We live in a society that does not really want to discuss that which needs to be most discussed.

    So we talk about the antics of a clown who spews word salads across the media waves. If he thought Syntax was the name of a beautiful woman we might have the beginning of a discussion.

    Reply

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