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As Grenfell Tower Shows, It’s Private Sector Landlordism That Kills People

If we were to listen to the constant voices telling us about the Grenfell Tower tragedy we would have to believe that all those people died because of the privatisation of British housing. It was that capitalist lust for profit that allowed – nay, insisted – that the place be badly maintained, flammable cladding used and so on. The absence of a sprinkler system, the incompetence of certain fire fighting efforts – Fatcher and Tory Austerity no doubt.

There is a small little problem with this narrative. That small little problem being, well:

A Grenfell Tower survivor who lost 20 friends in the fire and is still living in a hotel room more than 16 months later has told a public inquiry that the council landlord never fixed problems with the building, including electrical faults and broken lifts.

Hamid Wahbi, 54, described his desperate escape from his flat on the 16th floor and said that before the fire, lights would turn themselves on and off and plugs would fail to work. A new fridge did not work when it was first plugged in.

He said he reported issues to the tenant management organisation but they were never fixed. The inquiry into the disaster has previously heard that the fire is likely to have started in a fridge on the fourth floor.

Wahbi said lights did not always work in the landings and lifts often broke down, meaning there was often a 10- to 15-minute wait for a working lift.

So, there were most definitely problems with the manner in which the building was maintained. Let’s just agree to that. So, what about this capitalism and austerity vibe? That’s where the problem starts.

Because the property was actually managed by that tenants organisation. You know, that righteous insistence that those who live in a place should manage it. Just as those who work in a place should manage that too. And actual ownership was in the hands of the local council. You know, government, that name for the things we do together.

Which is where we’ve got our problem with that capitalism is to blame assertion – there wasn’t a capitalist in sight. In fact, the ownership and management system were as the more progressive insist such things should be. Except, well, it didn’t work very well but then isn’t that so often true of the way the progressives tell us things should be?

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5 years ago

How about the terrible class distinction in British Society? The middle-class tenants in Council Houses in Kensington and Chelsea looked down on the immigrants (and anyone else without contacts in the bureaucracy or political class) who got dumped in a Tower block as inferior and not worth listening to. So their complaints got ignored. It is naive to suppose that class distinction is just between aristocrats and plebeians (or between Brahmins and non-Brahmins): the plebeians divide themselves into strata and where and when I grew up the middle-class were such a tiny minority the main division was between the upper/respectable… Read more »

5 years ago

Evidently, it was those capitalist c***s selling cladding (How’s that for alliteration…) who were to blame. Which, the argue goes, is another reason for government to be ‘vertically integrated’ from owning and building tower blocks, to making the cladding, fridges etc.

You may as well apply said ‘logic’ to the NHS who will develop its own drugs, make its own dressings, equipment and other stuff, including ambulances and helicopters, so necessary to treat their customers (aka the overweight, indolent and ignorant masses).

5 years ago

Correct me if I’m mistaken but I was under the impression that Grenfell was substantially overcrowded as a result of legal tenants doing the capitalist thing and leasing out rooms to entire families of subtenants.

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