The official report into the 2017 Grenfell Tower disaster has been released and is highly critical of London Fire Brigade, despite efforts made by the fire service on the night of the tragedy.
The report claims that a number of the 72 victims could have been saved had London Fire Brigade called for an evacuation of the building sooner and the orders to “stay put” had been discarded prior to 02:35. The report also said that the fire brigade was “gravely inadequate” in terms of preparation for a disaster of Grenfell Tower’s nature.
While there are surely lessons that can be learned from Grenfell Tower and criticism is perhaps warranted in places, the report whitewashes the very reasons that the fire began in the first place, whitewashing the role of the government, local authorities and big business.
Caroline Lucas and Jeremy Corbyn were amongst those to criticise the report.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Corbyn was staunch in his defence of London Fire Brigade.
“It was not firefighters that deregulated building safety standards… who ignored the concerns of tenants… who failed to put sprinklers in high rise blocks, and it wasn’t firefighters who put flammable cladding on Grenfell Tower”Jeremy Corbyn
Corbyn would also criticise the government’s ongoing failure to re-clad buildings identified as at-risk and a danger to their residents, stating that “eight in 10 residential blocks are still yet to have that ACM cladding replaced.”
The lack of journalistic integrity in holding members of the government to account was addressed by some, with Gavin Barwell’s appearance on Peston coming in for particular criticism.
Since the Grenfell Tower disaster, Gavin Barwell has been given a peerage.
Boris Johnson’s now-infamous “get stuffed” reply to questions about cuts he made to London Fire Brigade when Mayor was also trending high.
During his time as Mayor, the Prime Minister was responsible for shutting 10 fire stations, sacking 500 firefighters and getting rid of 30 engines. This was despite promising that there would be no cuts to the fire service before his reelection to office in 2012.
Many online have compared London Fire Brigade being made the scapegoats for the tragedy to the way Liverpool fans were made the scapegoats following the 1989 Hillsborough disaster and the way miners were blamed for violence at the 1984 Battle of Orgreave.
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, has insisted that the report is a whitewash and that justice has not been done, stating that the public “will be baffled that people have not already been prosecuted.”
“You should look at the causation and who took the decisions… because there are Government ministers who are evading scrutiny. Yet the actions of individual firefighters are being scrutinised.”Matt Wrack
The second phase of the inquiry into the disaster will begin in January when issues such as the design of the tower block will be addressed.