Of all various tragedies and disasters that have beset Britain in the last decade, none has garnered nearly so much media attention as the Grenfell Tower fire of June 14, 2017.
Partly, it’s true, this was an understandable response to the shockingly high death toll: 72 people, including 18 children, burned or suffocated by an electrical fire which turned, with frightening speed, into an all-consuming conflagration which swiftly engulfed a 24-storey London tower block.
But what began reasonably enough as a perfectly natural response by the media to that feeling of empathy we all get in times of mass human suffering – “Those poor victims! There but for the grace of God go I…” – quickly mutated into something much less edifying.
All too quickly, drawn like sharks to blood, the tragedy vultures swooped in, scenting easy money or political advantage. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money was paid out in compensation to liars and cheats who falsely claimed to have been made homeless or to have lost relatives in the fire. (The fact that some of the tower’s residents were undocumented illegals living cheek by jowl made this much easier; as did the politically correct authorities’ reluctance to ask too many awkward questions in the aftermath of such a dreadful disaster).
Even worse – for really, as elected public servants they ought to have held themselves to higher standards – were the mostly Labour politicians who attempted, with some success, to rewrite the Grenfell narrative to suit their left-wing agenda. For some, such as arch-Corbynista MP Emma Dent-Coad the lesson of Grenfell was evil, heartless Tory cuts jeopardising the lives of the working poor. For others, such as David Lammy MP and, more recently, Baroness (Doreen) Lawrence, the real reason those 72 people had died was — what else? — racism.
Not since the death of Princess Diana, probably, has any event in British history resulted in quite so much canting, confected, fake emotion, so much ugly, cloying, virtue signalling, so much witch-hunt hysteria. If you didn’t care passionately about the Grenfell tragedy you were literally the worst person in the world. And instead of trying to put this mass hysteria in its proper perspective, the authorities instead irresponsibly pandered to it.
Perhaps the most shaming example of this was the trial of a man who had been caught on film burning a cardboard effigy of Grenfell Tower on a bonfire. For a terrifying moment, it seemed as if the British justice system had been so overwhelmed by political correctness that even making a tasteless joke in your own home had been made a criminal offence.
Now finally, Sir Martin Moore-Blick, the retired appeal court judge in charge of the public inquiry, has released his 1,000-page report. It doesn’t address the causes of the fire – we’ll have to wait another two years for that bit. But even at this stage of the investigation one thing is abundantly clear: the lefty narrative about Grenfell couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, if you had to ascribe all those deaths to one single cause, it would be the dangerous idiocy of left-wing ideology.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the catalogue of errors made by the London Fire Brigade (LFB) on the night of the disaster. This is not to criticise the ordinary firemen who risked their lives and worked their guts out and did everything they could to save as many people as possible that night and whose heroism is praised in the report. No — and the report is clear on this: complaints that firemen are being ‘scapegoated’ are both misplaced and unhelpfully distracting — the problem is systemic and institutional and is the fault of people much higher up the chain of command.
One of those at fault, says the report, is the London Fire Brigade’s commissioner Dany Cotton. She is accused of ‘remarkable insensitivity’ for her testimony at a hearing that: “I wouldn’t change anything we did on the night”. She also suggested that the tower block fire was so unlikely that no training could have prepared her crews for such an event, saying: “I wouldn’t develop a training package for a space shuttle to land in front of the Shard.”
This is the mindset of the Soviet-era bureaucrat. It’s the kind of thing you can imagine them saying at the Chernobyl reactor just before it exploded — and then reiterating afterwards in the court investigation. “We did nothing wrong. All our procedures were correct.”
Except already by that stage, it was plain to anyone with half a brain that the LFB’s ‘stay-put’ policy — whereby Grenfell residents were ordered by firemen to stay in their flats rather attempt to escape — may have been the main reason so many died.
According to the Daily Mail:
“It is thought up to 55 of the 72 people who died were told to stay in flats for almost two hours after the first 999 call, despite flames spreading with terrifying speed.”
By the time the policy was reversed, it was much too late. A death toll that could, perhaps, have been as low as 18 had risen to 72.
People are right to get angry about the Grenfell tragedy. But the thing that they should get most angry about is the entrenched political correctness that led to the avoidable deaths of more than 50 people.
What do I mean by entrenched political correctness?
Well if you’re a regular reader of Breitbart London you’ll have encountered several perfect examples with regards to Britain’s fire services. Such as:
Fire Service Drops ‘Fireman Sam’ Mascot Because He’s Not Inclusive Enough https://t.co/zOyEHU8hQI
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) September 13, 2019
FireMAN: London Fire Service Slams Cartoon Pig for Sexist Language https://t.co/GUkqTGxjiK
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 20, 2019
— Oliver JJ Lane (@oliver_lane) October 31, 2019
London Fire Brigade Calls for Ban on ‘Sexy Fireman’ Ads to Help Attract Women https://t.co/QuuihuXNKd
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 22, 2018
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 16, 2017
These are a local manifestation of a much broader problem afflicting Western culture: the hijacking of institutions, both public and private, by the regressive left and their gradual subornment to the Woke agenda.
There’s barely an institution or an industry that has escaped unscathed: big business, the police, academe, local government, health services, television, the military – you name it. Every one of them has become Social Justice Warrior converged.
In each case the result is much the same: the main purpose of the institution has been diluted and subverted – and directed towards values which have nothing whatsoever to do with that institution’s ostensible mission.
Since we’re talking here about the fire services, let’s use them as our example.
The primary purpose of fire services, we can surely all agree, is to stop people dying in fires. Sure they have subsidiary roles — advising on fire safety; rescuing pussy cats out of trees; etc — but definitely rescuing people from burning buildings is the most urgent and important one; the one that makes us most grateful towards and strongly supportive of our firemen.
Yet what has been the main preoccupation of Britain’s fire services in the last decade or so?
Stuff, see the examples above, which has nothing whatsoever to do with fire-fighting and life-saving. Stuff, you might even argue, which actually conflicts with these primary functions.
Which sex, all things being equal, is going to do a better job of rescuing you from a burning building: male or female?
Well it’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?
Yet in the last few years, for reasons which have nothing to do with operational effectiveness and everything to do with left-wing identity politics, fire services have been discriminating ‘positively’ to recruit more women – at the expense of the men who in most cases are likely to do a much better job than the girls by dint of their size, strength and testosterone.
Similar problems have emerged in the police.
Similar lunacy has afflicted our armed forces, which are much more eager now about finding the most ‘diverse’ recruits rather than recruits best suited to the job of killing and dying for their country.
The rot invariably starts from the top – not least because the people at the top have themselves been beneficiaries of this politically correct recruitment and promotion process: promoted because the push the right race, ‘gender’, or sexuality buttons rather than because they were the best man for the job.
Grenfell is a symptom of a much wider problem – and one, I hope, that Boris Johnson’s Conservative government addresses if and when it gets a working majority in the coming general election.
Britain’s institutions have been infiltrated and destroyed by decades of creeping political correctness. And in the case of our emergency services, this is costing lives.
If you’d asked those 72 people who died in the Grenfell tower fire what the imagined was the point of the London Fire Brigade, what do you think their answer would have been.
a) promoting gender equality and diversity
b) stopping people from being burned alive in fires
We’ll never know now what their answer would have been. But I think we can probably guess because it’s the same answer about 99 percent of the population would give to this question.
Our culture, our safety, our institutions, our country have been ruined by a tiny minority of politically correct loons.
Time we took back control and put grown-ups back in charge.