In June last year, after the Grenfell Tower fire, I wrote:
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.
Yesterday I read this:
Relatives of all 72 victims will be given the chance to commemorate loved ones during the [Grenfell Tower fire] inquiry.
The inquiry will look into all the deaths – including one victim who died in January, having been in hospital since the blaze.
Five others were remembered on the inquiry’s first day, which began with a 72-second silence in memory of those who died.
They include artist Khadija Saye and her mother Mary Mendy, Denis Murphy, Joseph Daniels and Mohamed Neda.
I don’t see anything wrong with taking a few minutes to reflect on the dead at the opening of an inquiry into a disaster such as this. But once those few minutes have passed, the cold, impersonal business of finding out what happened, how it happened, and why should commence free of emotions and political posturing. Is that occurring now? No it’s not, and it looks as though it’s more soap opera than inquiry:
Families are being given as long as they want to tell the inquiry about their loved ones through a mixture of words, pictures and videos.
Survivor accounts are important as they can provide key details such as how fast the fire spread, and what difficulties they faced in evacuating. Also, the correspondence between the residents and housing association will be vital to the inquiry. But talking about loved ones with pictures and videos without limit? Is this an inquiry interested in discerning facts, or a memorial service?
What’s happened is obvious: an entire industry has sprung up around the Grenfell Tower fire with the dual purpose of securing public monies for key individuals and furthering their political aims. They have managed to gatecrash what should be a sober, professional inquiry and turn it into a grieving session after which no doubt they’ll put considerable pressure on investigators to point the finger at their opponents, i.e. the Tories and any company with deep pockets. They’ve been allowed to do this because the political classes no longer have the personal courage to face down a baying mob of chancers and insist on due process being followed.
Given that Sadiq Khan is in charge of London and Theresa May in charge of the whole country, it’s hardly surprising we’re no longer capable of holding an inquiry into a disaster without the whole thing turning into a circus. We really are missing some adults, aren’t we?