Perhaps only those who have lost everything can even begin to understand the trauma of the Grenfell Tower inferno. And even then, the loss that comes with abandonment or flood leaves hope of a living monument or a few soggy memories. But fire is total: the heat and flames burn your whole life to ash – the love letters of youth, photos of mum and gramps, your favourite stripey summer shirt, a thousand CDs and DVDs of laughter and tears, and the hamster. Where could he have got to? No light switches work. The windows are all tinted with black and brown smoke stains. It’s so dank, and everything reeks of bonfire. In the dimness you crawl on your hands and knees over scorched carpets and comb every inch with a spoon to try and find something… anything… a thought, a ring, a hamster. You find his little body beneath a charred sofa, covered in cinders and dust. He managed to escape from his cage – a mini-universe of plastic tunnels and tubes – and thought he’d found shelter from the blaze raging above, but there was no way out after that. The whole room became his cage and then his tomb. I’m so sorry your life was brief. Let me wash your little body under the tap and wrap you up in a white handkerchief. Please remember me in hammy heaven. RIP little one.
All those who once lived in Grenfell Tower are now homeless and destitute; many are bereaved and grieving; others are still searching, hoping. Unidentified bodies are still smouldering, and there’s not much hope. There’s actually no hope. We don’t yet know how many souls perished, but the 17 confirmed is expected to rise to more than 100. It is the worst fire in Britain since the Second World War. And in this pit of suffering there is great anger – understandable, justifiable rage – for Grenfell Tower was jam-packed with the poorest people in Kensington, the richest of London boroughs, with marbled billionaire mansions, manicured gardens and a royal palace at the south end, and the third-world deprivation of densely-packed concrete tower blocks in the north. The rich people have got fire alarms and sprinklers. Apparently Grenfell Tower did not. And the stairwell fire escape was blocked. And the whole tower was clad in a flammable plastic façade.
And all that’s the Tories’ fault.
Yesterday Theresa May visited the scene privately (no media) but was advised for security reasons not to meet with the victims, so she talked and listened to policemen and fireman and councillors and coordinators. Then Jeremy Corbyn descended with an entourage of cameras and press photographers, and this thousand-word picture circled the earth:
Theresa May: cold, aloof, uncaring, nasty, evil.
Jeremy Corbyn: warm, caring, loving, compassionate, Christ-like.
The Labour leader was quick to blame “Tory cuts” for the tragedy. He did so within a few hours of the news unfolding, and his socialist brotherhood and sisterhood soon piled in. They instinctively never miss an opportunity to bash the Tories, but to make political capital out of the prematurely-cremated poor ones of Kensington was an egregious exploitation which fanned the flames of a money-raking media hate-fest against the Tories.
There are hundreds of examples, but consider Jon Snow’s interview on Channel 4 News with singer Lily Allen (why?) last night. Her opening statement was an anti-Tory diatribe:
Well I think there needs to be questions answered about fire regulations and why, you know, a bill was meant to be passed was voted against by 312 Tory Conservative, you know, Conservative MPs, 80 of which I hear are landlords. There has to be a conflict of interest there, um, and that needs to be investigated.
This was her primary concern: to root out political corruption among Conservatives. The Rt Rev’d Pete Broadbent, Bishop of London (acting), was quick to reach the same judgment:
We clearly don’t need to waste £millions on a public inquiry when celebrities, journalists and bishops have already determined cause and guilt. Funny how none of them are asking why the stairwell escape route was blocked. Did Theresa May conspire with Boris one night to cram it with old sofas and stained mattresses so the stinking poor refugees they despise so much could grow fat going up and down 21 floors in a lift so they’d die sooner and decrease the surplus immigrant population? The Royal Borough Council may have made mistakes. They could be culpable. Individual Tories may have acted in self-interest or out of incompetence, as might the company commissioned and paid £millions to clad the tower blocks. It isn’t as though the cladding fire risks weren’t known (see here and here), so why not spend an extra £5,000 and do the job to maximise people’s safety? Or don’t they matter because they’re poor?
There are many pertinent questions of fact and conjecture here, but why leap to exploit this tragedy so precipitously with condemnation of a whole political ideology under the guise of worshipping the God of justice? Sensible reflection and compassion are worth more to God and man than cheap political shots. Isn’t it the primary duty of a bishop to be a focus of unity?
The “small state” isn’t intrinsically evil, and partnership with “big business” is by no means all conspiratorial or detrimental to human flourishing. But, hey, these are right-wing Tory headbangers and scum, and, as we know, Toryism is a work of the Devil. They are all morally delinquent for cutting fire services and police services and slashing health and safety regulations to a bear minimum – especially for the poor. They are all just as wicked as each other – they don’t care about widows and orphans, and so God must judge them, initially through Bishop Pete’s Twitter feed, and then through an imminent general election defeat when Saint Jeremy will be vindicated – he of all mercy, love and compassion.
But even he can’t resurrect hamsters.