Thursday, 10 May 2018

"I thought my baby was going to die"! Mother warns health bosses that A&E closures will be the death of people

Meet Sarah. Friend and single mother to 5 children, one with a chronic illness. Under the cover of daily dead cats & Tory chaos, the decimation of our NHS is in full swing.

Click on the link to hear Sarah's heartbreaking story

https://twitter.com/Shropsdefend/status/994295678431059969

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Angry about Windrush & austerity? Get out and Vote today!


Are you angry about Windrush? Or, the eight years of austerity that has seen the poor atone for the sins of the rich? Or, the decimation of our NHS? Or, the Brexit shambles? Or, the scandalous rise of homelessness? Or, the injustice of Grenfell, Or, [insert your own list] – Get out and vote today!  

As a therapist, I’m not afraid of anger, which is just as well because I’ve been angry every day for the past eight years. The only people I know who are not angry right now are either very rich (thus inoculated against the ravages of austerity) - or Yoga instructors.

I’ve picked up the pieces of lives crushed by the cruelty of this Tory government. Injustice is hardwired into every sinew of the system, with Human rights now only accessible to those who can afford to buy them.

The hostile environment that spawned the Windrush scandal was no accident. It’s indicative of a culture that has enshrined racist rhetoric into practice. Dawn Butler described May’s hostile environment as the new face of Tory institutional racism, “ever present from Stephen Lawrence to Windrush”. She’s right.

In 2011, Theresa May vowed to get rid of Article 8 (the right to family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights because, she claimed, it “perverted” the removal of “illegal immigrants”. Her competence as Home Secretary was called into question when it emerged that the example she cited, that of a pet cat scuppering deportation, was untrue and appeared to have been lifted, “word for word,” from a speech made by (then) UKIP leader, Nigel Farage. In fact, the case had been mishandled by immigration officials.

The morality of her contempt for the right to family life largely escaped scrutiny and went on to underpin the 2014 immigration Act. It should come as no surprise that this resulted in the Windrush scandal that has seen families ripped apart, denied access to jobs, health care, justice, dignity and hope. Diane Abbott, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell anticipated the “unintended” consequences for Commonwealth citizens and voted against it.

Racism has rarely been career limiting in the Tory party. In 2011, Tory Dover councillor, Bob Frost, described people involved in the Tottenham riots as “jungle bunnies”. He lost his job as a Maths teacher, but the Conservative Party only suspended him for two months. The emergence of Oliver Letwin’s sinister racist memo in 2015 did not result in him being sacked as David Cameron’s policy adviser.
Under Theresa May’s leadership, racism has become mainstream Tory policy. Directly (and indirectly) discriminating against black and brown skinned people - with impunity. When Theresa May appointed Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, it seems she deleted the traditional job requirement, “Portfolio of diplomacy” and replaced it with, “Portfolio of racist remarks”.
As Commonwealth leaders gathered in London amidst the Windrush scandal, who better to mollify the mood, than Johnson? Regaling delegates with stories about “flag waving piccaninnies” and “Pangas” with “watermelon smiles”.
If a Labour Politician made even one of those remarks, they would be hounded out of office, and rightly so. Having been suspended for using the racist term “N***** in the woodpile” in July, Anne-Marie Morris had the whip re-instated after only five months. 
At least 12 Tory candidates had to withdraw from the today's elections having been suspended amid accusations of anti-antisemitism, Islamophobia and far right links. One of whom, a former UKIP candidate is alleged to have racially abused Diane Abbott on social media.

Theresa May should not be surprised that her "Go home" buses, hostile immigration environment, the appointment of Boris Johnson as Foreign Minister and her tolerance of racism generally, has acted as a recruitment sergeant for the far right. As David Lammy said, If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Today is channel your anger into action day. All you have to do is get up, get ready and vote the Tories out of your town! 

#Vote Labour 💓

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Brexit is undermining The Good Friday Agreement & peace in Northern Ireland

It's the twentieth anniversary of The Good Friday Agreement today. My piece in Independent Voices below.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-good-friday-agreement-northern-ireland-troubles-violence-ira-border-a8297406.html

You might also like the article below which had 76,000 shares up until December. For some reason the share counter got wiped recently. Not sure it matters, just fecking annoying..

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-referendum-alternative-facts-brexit-bill-white-paper-european-union-a7558886.html

Also this in The New Statesman:

https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2017/12/island-ireland-wants-move-past-if-brexiteers-will-let-it

The role lies about immigration played in Brexit (Also in the Independent & wow, the share counter on this has also been wiped? 😕:

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/now-my-eight-year-old-thinks-he-could-be-deported-because-of-leave-rhetoric-clearly-its-time-to-face-a7095016.html

Friday, 23 March 2018

Irrespective of whether the BBC intended to frame Jeremy Corbyn as a “Russian Stooge”, the risks of that perception should have been apparent and intercepted.


Carole Cadwalladr and Channel 4’s exposure of the Cambridge Analytica scandal reminded me of the legendary Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee. Commenting on his role in exposing Watergate, he said,

The more complicated the issues and the more sophisticated the ways to disguise the truth, the more aggressive our search for truth must be”.

When I advised the broadcast media on editorial ethics, I used this quote – a lot, but never before has the role of the media as honest broker been more crucial to the wellbeing of democracy, than now.

Listening to Cambridge Analytica’s recently sacked boss, Etonian old boy Alexander Nix, boasting about propagating the digital landscape with lies, fear and hate, to win elections, was chilling. To mitigate against these fake news propagandists, actual journalism must be underpinned by facts and unfettered by favour.

While Channel 4 conducted a masterclass in broadcast journalism this week, the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme, Newsnight, became mired in an unedifying controversy over its handling of Labour’s response to Theresa May’s Russia ultimatum. The choice of backdrop (a red infused picture of Jeremy Corbyn in a hat, as opposed to a suit, in front of the Kremlin) betrayed a crisis in editorial judgement. Irrespective of whether the BBC intended to frame Jeremy Corbyn as a “Russian Stooge”, the risks of that perception should have been apparent and intercepted.

When dealing with a highly charged and politically sensitive incident, such as a chemical attack, licence fee payers expect probity and integrity in the BBC’s handling of it.

Two days before Theresa May issued her ultimatum to Russia, a Survation poll put Labour 7 points ahead of the Tories and showed that 60% of those polled had had enough of austerity, including almost half of Tory voters. The same week, Philip Hammond scrapped free school meals for 1 million children in poverty, Unilever announced it was moving its HQ out of the UK and the Brexit impact assessment was finally published. Summary: Whatever Brexit we get, we’ll be worse off.

Instead of holding the governments’ feet to the flames over any of the above, Newsnight went after the leader of the opposition for daring to do his job. If the Russia ultimatum was a dead cat, it worked. A lot of bad news got buried beneath the bluster.

Analysing media failings in the lead up to the Iraq war in 2016, Ian Birrell wrote, “The initial reporting showed how a supposedly free and fearless press was powerless, vulnerable and gullible in a moment of national crisis concluding”, “…it meekly fell into line with Government propagandists”.

The Economist’s analysis of the Chilcot inquiry revealed: That lack of caution, combined with a disregard for process bordered on the feckless…The intelligence was not questioned or challenged in the way it should have been, given how much was resting on it”.

MPs should have spoken out and demanded more and better evidence. Instead they put self-interest ahead of the national interest. Many of the same right wing Labour MPs who backed Blair’s reckless war, put self-interests before national interest again this week. Instead of backing Jeremy Corbyn’s sober call for calm and evidence, they were signing a letter blaming Moscow, ‘unequivocally” for the attacks.

Jeremy Corbyn is right to challenge Theresa May. There are few things as perilous as a weak leader trying to appear strong.  If she sees this as her Falklands moment – an opportunity to deflect from her huge unpopularity and domestic failures – she could take us into dangerous territory. This is a time for quelling - not fanning - the flames of hysteria.

The framing of Jeremy Corbyn as a “Russian stooge” by some media outlets is an obvious red herring. He robustly condemned the Salisbury attack but his track record is equally strong. Eight years ago, he signed a Parliamentary Motion accusing Putin’s Russia of corruption and human rights abuses and has called on the government for a UK version of the Magnitsky Act, which allows for financial sanctions. Something the Tories had previously resisted.

It is the Conservative party that has received £3m worth of donations from Russian donors and it was Boris Johnson who accepted £160,000 in exchange for a game of tennis with Lubov Chernukhin, the wife of a former Putin minister. The same woman bid £30,000 to have dinner with Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson. Chernukhin’s husband was Putin’s deputy finance minister. Meanwhile, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s fund management’s firm has profited from a £60m investment in a Russian bank, despite being under EU sanctions since 2014. 

He who pays the piper calls the tune.

Our democracy has been hijacked and apostles of hate have stolen our privacy and exploited our vulnerabilities. Now is not the time to be deflected by dead cats and red herrings. The wellbeing of democracy depends on the media pursuing truth with the same determination as those in power seek to obscure and distort it. 

Other articles Tess has written on the media and Jeremy Corbyn:


On the BBCs crisis of governance:


On the right wing of the Labour party: 


Monday, 5 March 2018

Bonkers Brexit update: Theresa May's absence of a cogent alternative makes a hard border in Northern Ireland increasingly inevitable


Theresa May’s much awaited Brexit speech on Friday, failed yet again, to propose any workable alternatives to a hard border in Northern Ireland.

Disgraced/deluded Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, proffered some advice to Theresa May ahead of her speech. In a leaked letter, he urged her to be relaxed about the whole hard border thing. So what if the Good Friday Agreement unravels? – small price to pay for being able to decide the shape of British, err, bananas.

This is completely at odds with the fact that Theresa May signed off on phase one of Brexit in December, contingent on the fact that there would be no hard border in Northern Ireland and, in November, Boris Johnson himself said, There can be no return to a hard border. That would be unthinkable, and it would be economic and political madness".

Why the change of heart? We don’t know, because the media hasn’t deemed it necessary to press the Foreign Secretary on his complete U-turn. This buffoon even compared Northern Ireland to London’s congestion charge this week and still the media afford him the veneer of credibility. Lies have long since been Johnson’s strategy of choice. Remember the £350 million a week he promised for the NHS?

The vacuum created by the absence of any cogent workable alternatives to economic and moral bankruptcy post Brexit, is being filled by anodyne soundbites, deception and lies. David Davis lied about the existence of the Brexit risk analysis and on Wednesday, Jacob Rees Mogg lied when he said Jeremy Corbyn voted against the GFA on Channel 4 news.

The people on the Island of Ireland, my family and friends, deserve better. They want to know what Brexit will mean for their livelihoods and their future. These are just some of the practical questions that Theresa May has yet to answer:

If Northern Ireland leaves the single market, a hard border is inevitable. What will become of the cross boarder collaboration enabling farmers on both sides to compete with their counterparts elsewhere in the world?

 25% of the region’s raw milk goes south of the border to be processed and 40% of Northern Irish lambs are processed in the republic. A hard Brexit would impede that flow, not just because of tariffs and customs checks, the burden of paperwork around traceability and standards would be prohibitive.

What will become of the joint initiatives on shared waterways? Access to medicine? And the current all-island approach to preventing the spread of animal diseases, such as, foot and mouth?

What will become of patients from the Republic who receive radiotherapy in the north and the children who travel from Belfast to Dublin for heart surgery in the only all-Island newly opened world class facility? How will emergency services continue to collaborate post Brexit?

What about subsidies? Northern Ireland already has the highest levels of unemployment and poverty in the UK and can ill afford to lose €3.5bn in EU subsidies up to 2020. Unless the magic money tree in Panama is raided, the British exchequer would struggle to fill that gap.

By getting into bed with the DUP and riding rough shod over the rigorous impartiality required by the Good Friday Agreement, the Tories are gambling with peace in the province. The majority of people in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU. Despite the Tories having no mandate to impose a hard border and promising there wouldn't be one, their continued inability to propose concrete alternative plans and failing to address the above questions, makes the hard border inevitable.

In the words of a Dublin friend: "Jaysus, Mary & Holy St Joseph - We're feckin doomed!"



Monday, 26 February 2018

My thoughts are with you Rob Delaney. And your family. And your beloved son, Henry.


Earlier this month US actor, devoted Dad & lovely man, Rob Delaney, announced the death of his beloved 2 & a half year old son, Henry.

When I saw him at a Labour event in Hackney during the General Election Campaign, our conversation revolved around our boys. They were the reason we were both in that room. For the NHS, for compassionate socialism, for our kids.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam…

Rob's full facebook announcement is below. He asks that we donate to  Rainbow Trust (https://rainbowtrust.org.uk) or Noah's Ark (https://www.noahsarkhospice.org.uk) in Henry's name or in the name of someone we love & urges us to take concrete and sustained action to support the NHS, however you can. Do not take it for granted.




I have very sad news. My two and a half year year old son Henry has passed away. Henry had been diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016, shortly after his first birthday, following persistent vomiting and weight loss. He had surgery to remove the tumor and further treatment through the early part of 2017. Then the cancer returned last autumn and he died in January.
My wife and Henry's older brothers and I are devastated of course. Henry was a joy. He was smart, funny, and mischievous and we had so many wonderful adventures together, particularly after he'd moved home following fifteen months living in hospitals. His tumor and surgery left him with significant physical disabilities, but he quickly learned sign language and developed his own method of getting from A to B shuffling on his beautiful little bum. His drive to live and to love and to connect was profound.
I am astonished by the love-in-action displayed by Henry's mom and his brothers. They are why I will endeavor to not go mad with grief. I don't want to miss out on their beautiful lives. I'm greedy for more experiences with them.
The NHS nurses and doctors and the home carers and charity workers who helped our family survive Henry's illness will be my heroes until the day I die. I am desperately sad right now, but I can say with authority that there is good in this world.
If you'd like to help other families in the UK with very sick children, please make a donation to Rainbow Trust (https://rainbowtrust.org.uk) or Noah's Ark (https://www.noahsarkhospice.org.uk) in Henry's name or in the name of someone you love. Our family would be in much worse shape right now if it weren't for them. I would also urge you to take concrete and sustained action to support the NHS, however you can. Do not take it for granted.
Finally, I ask that you respect my family's privacy regarding this matter. I have nothing else to say that I haven't said here.
Thank you, beautiful Henry, for spending as much time with us as you did. We miss you so much.



Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Want equal pay girls? Forget the vulgar militancy of the suffragettes & ask nicely


If I never hear the word “suffragette” again, it’ll be too soon. Last week’s media fest was tiresome. Fortunately, this week it’s business as usual with women fading into their rightful place. The background.

A few years ago, I cringed as I watched my toddler grab a toy from a similar aged girl in playgroup. Supernanny would advocate that I intercept my son, “encourage” him to return said toy and teach him the virtues of sharing. I wrestled with this and, on balance I decided that, whilst sharing is a valuable life skill, it’s gender specific.

After all, when that girl (with princess emblazoned across her chest) grows up, there won’t be a knight in shining armour to fight her battles for her. If my son snatches a coveted promotion from under her nose while she’s on maternity leave, she’ll have to find the time and energy to snatch it back, all by herself. If she persists she’ll be labelled a trouble maker and will face a tribunal, whereupon an all-male panel will preside as judge and jury.

Since Tory cuts put legal aid beyond the reach of ordinary people, she’ll have to re-mortgage her house to pay for the court case, the strain of which will have caused her marriage to collapse, resulting in a nervous breakdown and the baby being taken into care.

A responsible parent would teach their daughters not to resist the inevitable. Why not give them less pocket money than their sons? I realize now that, if you’re a parent, equal pay only matters if you have a daughter.

As things stand, the odds are stacked in favour of my son. He only needs to achieve average grades to get paid up to double that of a more qualified female graduate. If he marries and has children, it will be his wife (she’ll be paid less) who stops working. Fulfilling society’s expectation of him as breadwinner, he’ll be free to network and get noticed (she’ll be working ‘round the clock for no pay and no-one will notice). His route to world domination need not be derailed by fatherhood.

Why should I take on someone else’s battle? What with sourcing Mini Boden outfits and block booking Monkey Music, it’s all I can do to lift a glass of Chardonnay before unwinding in front of Loose Women.

With few exceptions, women who make it to the top are unlikely to have done so by challenging the status quo. Parliament, business and the media, is awash with women willing to demonstrate their masculine credentials. Rebekah Brooks didn’t get where she is today by tackling sexism (page 3) at The Sun. Until there are sufficient numbers of women in top jobs to make a difference, my boy’s future is safe.

The BBC knows this and has taken steps to ensure women are kept in their place. They do this, allegedly, by paying their male talent more than their female counterparts. When “dissident” BBC journalist, Carrie Gracie, demanded to know why her male colleagues get paid some 50% more for similar work, she got a perfectly logical explanation. Their work is more valuable.

Take John Humphrys on the Today Programme. In a leaked recording, this legend was heard ridiculing Carrie Gracie, for daring to question their pay disparity. Previously, he conflated the sexual harassment of female MPs with normal dating behaviour. Granted, none of Humphrys’ female colleagues could pull that off and that’s why his “talent” is worth £400,000 more than theirs.

Despite the fact that it is men’s reckless incompetence at the highest level that has brought the global economy to its knees, still we don’t question their merit. In 2008, a male journalist made a compelling case as to why men were to blame for the recession. No-one has heard from him since. Rumour has it he’s in witness protection and writes verses for Hallmark.

The bottom line is, when my son takes his rightful place (s) at the top table (s) of power, be it as media mogul, corporate giant or political behemoth, even if he did fail (through no fault of his own, obviously), his contract will contain so many get out of jail cards he’ll be laughing all the way to the bank, where he’ll take out enough money to buy a peerage and live happily ever after on the Costa del Tax Haven.

As long as our daughters aspire to be princesses rather than politicians, men will continue to ride roughshod over women. If I had a daughter I’d be throwing myself in front of the Queen’s Corgis, but I don’t, so I’m off to the hairdressers instead.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Stripped of his ministerial mantle, sacked health minister Philip Dunne must now face his constituents

Sacked health minister, Philip Dunne, is my MP. His callous comments, suggesting that patients in A&E should be grateful for chairs (beds are so 1970's), come as no surprise to me. In his own constituency, on Christmas eve, patients in A&E didn't even have chairs to sit on. Staff had to step over them on the floor. See my article in today's Guardian for more on the failures in Mr Dunne's back yard:


https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/12/philip-dunne-nhs-remarks-face-constituents

Clip from BBC news coverage of public meeting where Philip Dunne was booed and heckled by constituents:







Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Tory Britain saw record numbers of children waking up homeless & malnourished this Christmas

Having an ignominious stand-off with my child, outside the local food bank, wasn’t quite how I envisaged Christmas Eve. It had been brewing since before we left the house. He was having second thoughts about donating some of his toys, which were thrown in (by me) to make the box of food we had prepared look less, utilitarian. 

To be fair, said offspring (who, like Andy in Toy Story, wants to find loving homes for his beloved toys at a time of his choosing) has a heightened social conscience. Children aren’t born with it, it’s learned through exposing them to situations where they have the opportunity to empathise with vulnerable human beings and teaching them not to judge. My parents taught me that destitution is not a life choice and that it can happen to any-one.
“There, but for the grace of God, go I”! That’s what my father said whenever we saw a homeless person on the streets. Even when he had no money himself, he never walked past without giving people he called, “our friends,” the time of day. “A kind word costs nothing”, he’d say.
We’ve instilled that ethos of humanity in our child, who regularly pitches up to sell The Big Issue for our friend, Samaria. When her baby was born dead recently, he raided his piggy bank to help pay for the headstone. She wouldn’t take his £25 so he bought toys for her two other children for Christmas instead.  
On a visit to the German Christmas market in Birmingham last week, we met Stephen. He told us he had been sleeping on the streets for 13 months. I asked him if he knew the homeless man, Paul, found dead nearby the previous week. He did, “and more besides that never get reported”. He wept silently as he sipped a coffee that a kind man had given him, along with a half-eaten sausage roll (note to well-meaning folk, if you wouldn’t eat scraps, don’t give them to homeless people).
Recent research by Crisis, revealed that the actual number of people sleeping rough on the streets of England is double the 9,000, previously estimated, when hidden rough sleepers (such as those sleeping in tents and cars) are factored in.  
The charity Shelter also revealed that child homelessness has reached a 10-year high, with nearly 130,000 children in Britain waking up homeless and in temporary accommodation this Christmas.
The family went to see A Christmas Carol last week. An eerie, tangible sadness befell the cinema during the iconic scene in the counting house, where two men of means attempt to extract money from Scrooge for charity. Affronted that the poor would shun workhouses, for which he paid his taxes, he admonished, If they would rather die, they’d better do it, and decrease the surplus population.
Dickens’ words never felt so real and their resonance so cruel. Increasingly, our taxes are not funding safety nets to catch our vulnerable, but are being siphoned off quietly to repay the debts owed to the rich (and the DUP) who have underwritten this tyrannical Tory regime.
The erosion of the welfare state under the Tories has seen women’s refuges closed and child poverty and homelessness soar. Recent analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated the number of children living in poverty is set to rise to a record 5.2 million over the next five years (it’s currently 4 million). Causal factors identified were frozen benefits and the introduction of universal credit. Concerned GPs who are seeing an increase in Victorian illnesses like rickets  are piloting food prescriptions to malnourished children.
My father’s compassion was born of his own experience of falling on hard times when, as a young man, he was robbed en-route from rural Ireland to a new life in London. His entire  savings – enough to cover his first month’s rent, gone. He had to work as a labourer for a month before he received a penny in wages. During that time he stayed in a “doss house” for the homeless and lived on jam sandwiches.
In 2018, I’ll continue to contribute to food banks and buy The Big Issue, but for people like Stephen, Samaria and Paul (may he rest in peace), that’s just not good enough. Much more must be done to redress this government’s “abject failure” in tackling homelessness. Abandoning austerity would be a good place to start

Friday, 13 October 2017

The Tories are lying about Brexit. It'll end in tears

On Wednesday, Liz Truss told Andrew Neil on the Daily Politics that she had changed her mind on Brexit. She voted to remain, she said, based on forecasts that leaving the EU would have major economic consequences. "Since we have left, it has been more positive, so the facts have changed and I have changed my mind."

In that last sentence alone there are two factual inaccuracies, which were not exposed as such by the selectively incompetent Neil. Firstly, we haven’t left the EU yet and secondly, the economy is not fine.

On the same day, Neil will have known that the IMF cut growth forecast for the UK and predicted it would slow from 1.8% in 2016 to 1.7% this year and 1.5% in 2018 and a report by leading investment bank Rabobank concurred. It predicted that a hard Tory Brexit would plunge the UK into immediate recession, cost the economy £400 billion and wipe 18% off GDP growth by 2030. The ONS also warned of record trade-in goods deficit in August and the OBR, the treasury’s official forecasting body, downgraded the UK’s productivity, which it expects to hit growth and weaken the economy.

The economy is in meltdown and Andrew Neil lets Liz Truss, chief secretary to the Treasury, mislead his viewers. A Labour MP would have been skewered.

Meanwhile, also on Wednesday, Philip Hammond admitted that “It is theoretically conceivable that in a no deal scenario there will be no air traffic moving between the UK and EU on the 29th March, 2019”.

Not to be outdone by her hapless subordinates, Theresa May said she didn’t know how she would vote in a re-run of the EU referendum. She would have to look at all the facts. You couldn't make it up. 

Does that mean David Davis is withholding the results of his Brexit impact assessment from the PM, as well as parliament and the public? Is she not aware of the predicted damage Brexit will cause to jobs and living standards? If Theresa May doesn’t have sufficient facts on which to base an informed decision about leaving the EU several months on, why is she going ahead with it her kamikaze mission?

Surely it is in our national interests for the findings of the Brexit impact assessment to be made clear and for the public to be given a chance to vote again – this time based on facts. Not lies.


We are experiencing major economic consequences, the NHS is not getting the £350 million a week and, for many children in this country the tooth fairy leaves magic dust under the pillow because the magic money tree is based in the Bahamas. Not easily accessible for a nurse who, despite being in work, is dependent on food banks to feed her children.  

On a more positive note: Pics from the Labour party conference in Brighton. Spent most of it in The World Transformed fringe events. The highlight was definitely having an intimate audience with the absolute girl - Naomi Klein!







With the People's Chancellor: John Mc Donnell!



Friday, 21 July 2017

I went to Grenfell Tower. What happened there is a national disgrace

The acrid stench infused the air. The landscape, adorned with messages and memorials, struggled to reconcile the veneration of dignified grief and irreverent, visceral anger.

I oscillated between both. Grief hung in the ether like a flammable fume. Volatile, toxic, debilitating. The photos of those whose lives were lost. The prayers, the pleas, the eulogies. The human faces behind the headlines.

Days before, some of the dead and feared dead would have taken the train journey I just took, walked the route I just walked to get there, sat in the park around the corner that I just sat in and exchanged perfunctory pleasantries with the local shop keeper like I just did.

The photo of Isaac caught my eye. He left school at the same time as my little boy that day. He will have had his tea, maybe smearing ketchup on his school jumper, like mine did and went to bed, forgetting to brush his teeth, like mine did. Wrapped in a blanket of love he may have told the spiders lurking in a corner of his room a story, like mine did, before drifting off to sleep clutching his threadbare teddy, like mine did.

The difference between Isaac and my child is, Isaac lived in a tower block with no fire sprinklers, exposed gas pipes, combustible cladding (cheaper than the non-combustible yet aesthetically pleasing variety) and dodgy electrics prone to potentially lethal surges. Illegal? You’d think so, but Tory cuts to legal aid means rights are now only available to those who can afford to buy them. That ruled Grenfell Tower residents out.

Five weeks on and survivors are still homeless and dependent on sporadic, demeaning state handouts. A hundred quid here and a voucher for a hotel there isn’t good enough. Survivors need certainty, security and dignity. That starts with a secure, safe home. Some children don’t know if they’ll be returning to the same school in September because they don’t know where their new home will be. Some survivors say they’ve been told to accept homes without being allowed to see them first. Others say they fear being forcibly rehoused outside the borough. I’ve been told of survivors who’ve been threatened that declining housing they’re offered, however inappropriate, would be deemed as elected homelessness, and would incur benefit penalties.

Even now, survivors are being excluded from key decisions that will impact their future. Security firms were employed, at tax payers expense, to “keep them out” of Kensington and Chelsea’s council meeting on Thursday. Scenes of survivors being kettled into a public gallery, side-lined and silenced, prevented from participating in decisions about their own lives, were a national disgrace. The footage of Tory councillor, Mathew Palmer, mouthing “Don’t let them in” spoke volumes about the Tories’ contempt for humanity, decency and democracy.


Making my way back to the tube, I was stopped in my tracks by a child. She was surveying the messages pinned to the street railings and was transfixed by an elaborate picture of a dove. She asked her Dad what the text around it said. “I don’t know love, it’s written in a foreign language”.  I squinted to read it, “It says, Suaimhneas stíoraí da anam, which is Irish for, may your souls rest in peace”.

If the souls that perished in Grenfell are ever to find peace, they must first be afforded truth and then justice. We owe Isaac, and all those who died with him, that much.