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View from 'The Voice': People before profit

TRIBUTES: A candlelit vigil at Latymer Community Church, near the scene of the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower

ONCE AGAIN the fight for justice by a disenfranchised community in Britain is unfolding before the eyes of the world.

This time in west London, as friends and relatives of at least 79 victims of the Grenfell Tower block blaze search for answers as to why this ever happened in the first place.

There are claims that many warning signs and complaints about the dangers in relation to fire hazards existing at the 24-storey tower block were ignored. And there was the appalling failure by successive governments to implement a series of recommendations to keep people safe after the inquest into the fatal fire at Lakanal House in Southwark, south London in 2009.

Shocking images of the towering inferno last week on TV and in newspapers traumatised Britain. Eyewitness citizen journalism too played a huge part in capturing the horrendous human tragedy. And the incredible, selfless community action mobilised in the face of town hall paralysis and the passion of people telling their heart-breaking stories, has shown what is so great about our people.

The campaign for justice for the Grenfell Tower victims has now begun. David Lammy MP is right to call for manslaughter charges to be brought against those who are culpable. The police have launched a criminal investigation. The holding of an inquest and the Prime Minister Theresa May announced public inquiry should not be about either one or the other. They have different functions and should both happen.


CALLING TO TASK: MP David Lammy asks Theresa May a question about the criminal investigation into Grenfell yesterday in Parliament

But history shows that when it comes to the poorer class or people of colour, justice by way of inquests or inquiries are hardly a forgone conclusion. The New Cross Fire inquest didn’t help the victims, their families and friends nail those responsible, whom many in the community suspected were racists. We have also seen in prominent cases involving the deaths of black people in police custody where inquest juries have made a finding of unlawful killing, which should have led to the prosecution of the officers responsible, yet the verdict was overturned by the courts.

Grenfell Tower stands as a scorched monument to the failure of the Conservative government’s policy of austerity, which has led to cuts in public services many of them run by town halls. Wealthy Kensington and Chelsea, which has millions of pounds in the bank, should not have opted to save a measly £5,000 by using what experts have said was highly flammable cut-price cladding on the tower block that turned the building into a blazing tomb.

Now, no matter the cost, such tower blocks must be made safe and austerity ended. Never was it more glaringly true that people must come before profit.

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