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Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the devastating blaze at Grenfell. It was a day that Britain stood still, with even TfL underground trains came to a stop.
Then, the people marched. A silent procession of thousands – police estimate 5,000 – marched solemnly in solidarity with the victims and survivors of the Grenfell disaster.
However, whilst Jeremy Corbyn attended and marched alongside the people – and as the Labour leader told reporters how the fire represented all the injustice and inequality in this country – Theresa May had already snuck away early in order to ‘woo’ super-rich bankers at an extravagant European financial services banquet.
Jeremy Corbyn is at the Grenfell Silent March this evening to mark the anniversary of the fire. Theresa May is 'wooing bankers' at a European financial services event. Says it all.
— Liam Young (@liamyoung) June 14, 2018
There, while those at Grenfell grieved, May spoke to European finance bosses about how Government plans to remove doctors and nurses from the visa regime would open the way for banks to hire professionals from outside the European Economic Area.
The Prime Minister’s latest ill-judged decision comes just days after expressing her ‘regret’ at refusing to meet Grenfell residents in the wake of the fire, and stating how her initial actions made it appear as if she ‘didn’t care’.
However, May’s latest choice to leave Grenfell commemorations early in favour of attending a banquet with bankers is not likely to change this perception of her.
It could be considered that once, just once, time could be taken for the poor and desperate, the citizens of this country who May is supposed to represent, instead of for financiers.
Alas, no. It was imperative that bankers hear about the great things the visa lift will do.
The disparity between her and Corbyn goes to the heart of what it is to be a leader.
That is, to be close to your people, to understand their grief, to be there with them in their hurt, to feel it as you would feel your own because you are their leader and their representative.
It is the soft side of leadership. It is not policy or action, but it is the essence of leadership.
Perhaps May’s social awkwardness, her absolute and utter failure to understand her country’s emotions, would be understandable were she simply a stoic bastion of strength and stability who got things done.
She is not. One year on from Grenfell and May has managed to rehouse fewer than half of the families who survived the blaze. May’s promise was that they would be rehoused within a few weeks of having their homes torched. It’s been a year. This is both completely unacceptable and utterly disgusting.
More widely, research has revealed that more than 70% of all social housing towers have fire safety issues. Indeed, there has been no ban on the type of cladding used on Grenfell Tower.
Not only has the Prime Minister failed to take charge of the sorrow, or to ensure Grenfell’s survivors are safe, but so too has she failed to take any steps whatsoever to prevent such a tragedy happening again.
Grenfell was a torchlight on the inequality and the dichotomy between the lot of the rich and the lot of the poor in 21st century London, and 21st century Britain.
It must surely have been a raging alarm to the Tories that something needs to be done, that a society cannot continue in perpetuity while the chasm between the richest and the poorest humans widens.
Yet, no. Social housing continues to be sold off, zero action aside from vain pleas to housing developers is taken to stop them hoarding land, the housing crisis continues in earnest and homelessness abounds.
Theresa May could have redeemed the barbarism that neoliberalism caused in providing the circumstances for the fire at Grenfell. She could have begun to make it right. She could, at least, at the very least, have shown empathy.
Instead, the people of Grenfell have turned to the leader of the opposition, who was there with them.
Theresa May is no leader, she is no Prime Minister. She is a pathetic middle-manager who got promoted by some dumb oversight and who clings on dearly, smile-grimacing when she thinks she should, laughing too hard at the boss’s jokes, and stumbling from pillar to post, never quite managing to knock herself out.