Yesterday evening I did what I rarely do, and that was watch the TV news. I switched it on because I was reading reports on Twitter that a riot was going down in Kensington, egged on by Sky and BBC reporters.
What I saw was illuminating if one wishes to see what modern Britain is like. I don’t mean understand what it is like, just to see what it is like. A protest had been organised against the local council in response to the Grenfell Tower fire by a man with an Egyptian name whose accent suggested he’d lived in London for a while but wasn’t native born. He was surrounded by people waving crudely-printed A4 signs with people’s photos on, presumably those missing or dead. He was speaking in a stuttering, disjointed manner but with plenty of passion into a loudhailer, cheered on by the crowd. It looked very much like the protests you see on TV taking place in Pakistan, the Middle East, or North Africa. Which is about as surprising as British football hooligans looking like British football hooligans even when they’re in Portugal.
The protesters had submitted a list of demands to the council, one of which was that all those effected by the fire be rehoused immediately in the same area. Within 30 minutes – which must be an all-time national record – the local government responded saying they will rehouse everyone and do their utmost to make sure people can stay in the same area. The protesters rejected this, presumably because they have knowledge of an empty tower sitting nearby into which all residents can move immediately.
They then interviewed several people who were complaining about the information regarding the number of dead. The police said they can only confirm each death once they have a dead body – a reasonable argument, one supposes – but warned the number will probably rise. The people interviewed didn’t like this approach and would prefer the police speculate as to how many people might be dead. The leader of the protest said he was upset because the police said six people had been confirmed dead and he’d thought that was the lot. People who had not heard from loved ones since the fire, and were sure they were inside when it happened, blamed the police for keeping them in limbo. To be fair, these individuals were highly distressed and I can’t blame them for lashing out: they get a free pass.
As the evening wore on the protest morphed into one calling for the resignation of Theresa May, seemingly on the grounds that she had won the election last week but Labour had done better than expected and this fire ought to reverse the result. I have no idea how many people protesting were residents of the Grenfell Tower or their relatives with a genuine grievance, and how many were simply hard-left rent-a-mob types who have taken a lead from their cousins in the US and decided to make the country ungovernable.
Browsing Twitter, many people felt an inquiry into the fire is not required because even if the cause is not known the solution is: the Tories must be replaced by Labour in national government. For those who did venture a theory as to the cause, it was a muddle of technically incorrect information regarding sprinklers, cladding, and insulation mixed in with general cluelessness about how installation works are priced, subcontracted, and carried out. The Daily Mail didn’t help things by spouting absolute bollocks on the subject, as usual.
I thought the whole thing was a wonderful illustration of modern Britain, and few came out looking good. Having a bunch of foreigners submitting a list of demands to a local council who, when they respond almost immediately with a reasonable statement, see fit to reject it is indicative of the sort of people who are in that council, and the people who voted them in. They’ve spent so much time, effort, and money in pandering to the feelings of minority groups that they’ve allowed these mobs to develop; this hasn’t just occurred overnight. The irony is that in doing this, the council has neglected more pressing tasks – such as ensuring people are not living in tower blocks shrouded in flammable materials.
You have the police issuing reasonable statements, seemingly bewildered that the mob in front of them jeers and throws things at them. Could it be that the touchy-feely Met police who are quick to throw people in jail for racist Tweets aren’t actually liked or respected by the diverse mobs whose arses they’ve been licking for the past twenty years? Yet only last week I had a bunch of policeman assure me public opinion of them is rising.
Then you have the mob of white, middle class hipsters wandering through London shouting “Tories Out!” Where are their parents? Inviting them around for Sunday dinner and doing their laundry, I expect. They probably think it’s perfectly fine that Toby is out calling for violent revolution against the ruling classes who engineered the house price increase that paid for their son’s “education” in the first place. And he wants a new iPhone for his birthday, but not the shit one with no memory.
I was just a kid in the 1980s when we had that seemingly endless series of disasters: Piper Alpha, the Herald of Free Enterprise, the King’s Cross fire, the Marchioness, the Clapham Junction rail crash. These were catastrophes of enormous consequence with all the emotional and human aspects of the Grenfell Tower fire, yet we did not see third-world style mobs whipping up anger and making ludicrous demands, nor perpetual adolescents demanding the government be replaced by one headed by a bunch who’d just lost an election. Sensible heads prevailed, inquests were held, genuine lessons were learned, and the rules changed so they didn’t happen again. In those days the adults were in charge.
Is Theresa May in charge now? Hardly. It appears that nobody is, and every time somebody opens their mouths they are already compromised by being complicit in the sort of blithering incompetence and half-arsed dithering that brought this entire situation about in the first place: the unfettered immigration, the pandering to minorities, the emphasis on feelings, the win-at-all-costs politicking, the ludicrous housing and welfare policies, the stuffing of councils and companies with inadequate people who are incapable of doing the job and – most importantly – the voters who put them there, kept them there, and shit their pants at the first sign that anyone, anywhere, wants to do things differently.
I watched the news last night and realised I have no dog in this fight. I have nothing whatsoever in common with any of the people involved, the whole thing might as well be being played out on Mars. I’m not just talking about the people who lost their homes, I’m talking about the protesters, the media, the politicians, the police, the middle class voters, and most of those commenting on social media. I feel like I’m standing on the edge of a witch’s cauldron, looking at some bizarre concoction being prepared and wondering how it’s all going to turn out.
Badly, would be my guess. See if I care.