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By Jason Michael
Grenfell tower has laid bare the complete and utter contempt the Westminster government has for London’s ordinary working people, the marginalised, and the vulnerable. If we think they care about Scotland we are delusional.
Grenfell tower is an inferno that, in the past days, has ripped right through the heart of every part of the United Kingdom. Later today the London Metropolitan Police will release adjusted figures relating to the number of people still missing, and – considering figures on the ground in the north Kensington estate have been ranging from anywhere between 150 to 538 – we must all be prepared to be horrified at the number. We can be under no illusions; in this case the word “missing” is a euphemism for dead. While we hope and pray that this amended figure is as low as possible, this catastrophic disaster must serve as a wakeup call to the people of Scotland.
During the 2014 Better Together campaign, in a desperate bid to stop Scotland electing to leave the United Kingdom, we were loved-bombed with the message that the people of England love us – that Britain and the British establishment loves us. Are we to believe that we in Scotland are loved more than the residents of Grenfell tower? We certainly do not wish to be loved the same as them. No matter the number revealed today Grenfell tower will stand for as long as it is now permitted as a blackened monument to the spiteful indifference of Britain towards its own marginalised people and families. We don’t want or need this love.
Kensington in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, where you will find Kensington Palace – the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, is home to the most expensive real estate in Britain. Conservative politicians and Russian oligarchs live side by side in this salubrious wonderland where a seven bedroom townhouse will set you back a modest £57,500,000. It is also home to the high-rises of north Kensington, where – for more than half a century – people have been forced to live in desperate circumstances and poverty; comparable only to conditions in parts of the Developing World.
Can we imagine what the view of a dilapidated high-rise does to the value of a sixty million pound house? People who live in such splendorous piles – some of the most powerful and influential people in Britain – do not enjoy the community of poor neighbours. They loathe and despise them. It was the want of the rich, and not the need of the residents of high-rises like Grenfell tower, that resulted in a regeneration project in which £8m was spent on making the tower more visually pleasing with a flammable cladding. It was this need to hide poverty rather than address its causes that led to the fire that has now killed dozens, if not hundreds, of people.
From the moment the fire was first reported and the scale of the disaster became known we have seen nothing but naked contempt from the Tory establishment for those who have died. Almost immediately, and while victims were still shouting for help, the borough council and its affiliated tenant management organisation were busy removing incriminating pages from their websites. The local Tory council leader appeared on television blaming the residents themselves for the substandard quality of the renovations and the lack of basic fire safety features. Then Theresa May appeared and didn’t bother speaking with a single local person.
It may seem cruel and judgmental of me, but we have all seen the right-wing responses on social media sneeringly commenting on the size of victims’ families and their reliance on the state. I have no doubt in my mind that there have been a few Champaign bottles popped in celebration that this “eyesore” is at last coming down. This is the fruit of power and greed. It is the result of the individualistic capitalism to which these people subscribe. It dehumanises people, the powerful and the powerless alike. This is modern Britain – a terminally sick nation-state where the wealthy see the poor as nothing other than means to their own ends.
This is precisely how this British establishment system views Scotland, the north of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. We are only loved by it for what we are worth. Those parts and those elements of our populations that are of no value to this system are treated with violence contempt. Scotland’s poor and marginalised are worth as little to Theresa May as those poor people who were burnt to death in Grenfell tower. Even Scotland’s Conservative leader Ruth Davidson discovered only last week how little the London Conservatives valued her fringe sensitivities when they got in the way of the priorities of May’s need to hold on to power by calling on the bigots of the DUP.
Sadly, without something approaching a revolution, nothing will change for the people of north Kensington and poor and working class people all over England. We in Scotland, as sympathetic as we are to their plight, are powerless to protect them. But we can, however, act to protect ourselves. British imposed austerity kills. It has killed more people in the past few days than all the domestic terrorism of the past 17 years. Every day we delay in pressing ahead with our struggle for independence more people are dying unnecessarily. The single most important lesson that we in Scotland have to learn from what Grenfell tower has unmasked is that we must be an independent country.
Anger at the scene of the Grenfell Tower fire.