the brilliantly leaping gazelle

Wherein I reveal the unsurprising news ‘Debbie McGee factor’ both exists and is alive and well in the British press.

DM

The media backlash over BBC presenters pay is yet another example of the ‘Debbie McGee factor’ at work. If you are unaware of the ‘Debbie McGee factor’ – what it is and the purpose it serves is – don’t be. I made it up for a blog I wrote a while ago, when I made the point that,

As every magician knows, if the audience is paying too close attention to them, then there is every chance that they will spot the sleight of hand or other chicanery they are is engaged in. (For the purposes of this argument all magicians are therefore less than handsome men, and it thereby follows that their assistants are attractive younger females wearing as little as the audience will permit). The purpose of the magician’s assistant is to distract the audiences’ gaze away from the magician and to focus instead on something more appealing. In essence the audience looks the other way, so that the trick can be successfully executed.

Debbie Mcgee was magician Paul Daniels’ assistant/ distraction and performed her role admirably, so admirably in fact that most people didn’t realise she had she was there to distract them.

When I remarked to someone yesterday that I was at a loss to understand the media’s over-reaction to the publication of the list, her response was that it was public – i.e. taxpayers – money and that therefore it was in some unspecified way justified. Which is true, up to a point. The point being the point at which sober reflection intrudes and gives chase to simplistic reaction.

Yes it isn’t fair that the BBC pays a lot to some of it’s employers. But whilst we focus on that, the media ignore the scandal that is the pay awarded to private companies by the government. That’s taxpayer money too, but it is very rarely front page news. This, for example, appeared in the Guardian,

Two private firms have earned more than £500m in taxpayers’ money for carrying out controversial disability benefit assessments.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) paid Atos and Capita £507m for personal independence payment (PIP) tests between 2013 and 2016, despite fierce criticism of their services by MPs.

And this little nugget, on economia with the intriguing headline,

Government paid Big Four more than half a billion pounds

The UK government has paid PwC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG more than half a billion pounds in fees over the past three years

Oh. And this, from who else? Your favourite and mine,  the reliably hypocritical Daily Mail which fulminated earlier this year that

All aboard the gravy train: Bill for Britain’s high speed rail link advisers is £180MILLION despite not a single piece of track being laid

Whilst gushing yesterday, with the unbridled sycophancy we’ve come to expect,

The look of love: Duke and Duchess of Cambridge can’t keep their eyes off each other as they join artists for a glittering reception in a Berlin ballroom

That would be the grandson of a pensioner who recently trousered an £82 million bonus to help with the refurbishment of her houses. Whose wedding we paid for. Enjoying a another taxpayer funded first class holiday. That one!

These things are related. By all means complain about what the BBC pay it’s staff and the gender bias it reveals, yes but whilst the public are busy being whipped up into wrongeous  indignation they are missing even more egregious abuses of public money. It says something none too edifying about the way in which the media both orchestrates and fuels public resentment over one issue, yet ignores others.

Debbie McGee!

 

Wherein Mr. Creosote meets Mrs. Frugal…

IOTBS

 

This post was going to be about the trial of three Barclay Bank executives and me comparing it unfavourably with the amount of people that have been jailed for benefit infractions since 2008. Ideally, I would have used this as a microcosm of the rather disingenuous judicial system that is skewed against the working person.

But instead I’m going to post about the events of last night which first of all, were a bit “Allo Allo” before morphing into ‘The rime of the Ancient Mariner’ and featuring a cameo appearance from one of Roger Hargreaves lesser known creations. Oh, and for good measure this was topped off by the feeling that one sometimes gets at school with an encore that was reminiscent of ‘Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.’

The setting for this lavish production was a wine and chocolate tasting evening at a nearby chocolate shop. I had brought this as a birthday present for my housemate and when we arrived and were seated we were subjected to a long introduction by the hostess who spoke in a comedy French accent that reminded me quite forcibly of Rene from ‘Allo Allo’. For those of you unfamiliar with ‘Allo Allo’ , it was a sitcom in the 1980’s that was based upon the French Resistance and Rene would always say ‘I will say this only once’. Only he would pronounce ‘this’ ‘theez’.

Once I had made the connection in my mind between Rene and the hostess I couldn’t put it out of my mind at all! She may have said something about different wines going with different chocolates and how she might have been to wine fairs to explore what wines went with the chocolates she made. She could have done but I just wish she would’ve repeated the word Sommelier over and over again for comedy value! The fact that she was French made it even funnier. She was proud of artisan chocolate especially the bizarre flavour combinations that she had concocted. One of these the coffee and aniseed one wasn’t as disgusting as it sounds, although the lavender and lemon one was as pungent as it was unpalatable. It was then that there was a performance of ‘The rime of the Ancient Mariner.’ Inasmuch as every time we thought we were going to eat some chocolate she banged on about something else. The irony inherent in her telling us about how her chocolate and how well it went with certain types of wine whilst us not experiencing it for ourselves wasn’t lost on me. And judging by the faces of the others wasn’t lost on them either! It was a case of it being so near and yet so far.

Finally the moment had come and she introduced the wine. Naturally this was accompanied by a talk on how important it was to choose the right wine to go with the right chocolate.   For some inexplicable reason that the 12 year old me couldn’t fathom, she said there wasn’t any white chocolate as white chocolate did something that was very complicated and worthy to something resulting in something else. Any hopes that our wine glasses would be filled were soon dashed by her transforming into Mrs. Frugal!

Everyone gathered was too polite to say anything but half a wine glass means that one half is missing and believe me these were the smallest wine glasses I’ve ever seen. They were more like Champagne flutes. It wasn’t so much that I wanted a full glass, but more that it was the principle. Eventually she stopped talking long enough for us to be invited to open the packets of chocolate and to sniff – SNIFF! – each one and decide which wine would go with each chocolate! If this all sounds a bit far fetched it was as nothing as being there and trying to keep a straight face! Then finally, we got to eat some chocolate. The chocolate was so wafer thin, that Mr. Creosote could’ve eaten it safely!

It was here that she mentioned that if our palate had been compromised her advice was that we should sniff our own skin. Possibly it was only me that thought it highly amusing that a French person was telling us to sniff our own skin, being that the English have a rather uncomplimentary opinion of French hygiene standards!

If you think that is bad, worse is to come because after we had tasted some chocolates and drunk a measly amount of wine she would then ask us in turn to evaluate them both. This reminded me of being at school. Specifically when a teacher reads out something that you are studying for ‘A’ level literature – and of which you have no understanding of – and asks everyone in turn what they thought about it. You tried to remember bits of what each person has said so you can give a Frankenstein answer. By the end of the evening the whole thing reminded me of ‘Invasion Of The Body Snatchers’ which as you are no doubt aware Invasion Of The Body Snatchers was a movie made at the height of cultural paranoia when American fears of communists in their ranks was at its height. The film played on the notion that people were not what they seemed and that aliens had hijacked their bodies but to all intents and purposes they were the same. It must have been the wine but soon everyone was loudly declaiming arrant nonsense in order to sound more cultured than they were. My favourite being by a long chalk was the hostess’ claim that ‘The flavours sounded delicious to her nose!’

To my uncultured mind, she had mistaken her anus for her mouth.

My election notes. E-Day + 21

GG

Well this is a turnup, both in terms of me continuing to post about the election that was THREE weeks ago now and Teresa Mays u turn on public sector pay. As the Guardian had it early yesterday afternoon,

No 10 has given its strongest hint yet that the public sector pay cap could be reviewed at the next budget, saying the government had heard the message from the electorate at the last general election.

Although later in the afternoon it reported that the government was doing a u turn on its u turn

No 10 backtracks on public sector pay and now says ‘policy has not changed’

The afternoon Downing Street lobby briefing has now finished. And, having signalled earlier that the public sector pay cap might be lifted, Number 10 is now insisting that the policy has not changed.

Sometimes reporters do read too much into a briefing, where the language might be open to interpretation, but colleagues who were at both briefings insist that that was not the case this time. Number 10 really has stepped back from what they were saying at lunchtime, they say.

The election result proved conclusively that the public have lost their appetite for austerity – not that they had any choice – and wanted a change.

And change is what we got! Before the election we had one right wing party clinging to power and after it we got the same right wing party clinging even more desperately to power thanks to the support of an even more right wing party. Is it just me or does it seem highly ironic that a political party that is, as Frankie Boyle has it, ‘the political wing of the Old Testament’ is anywhere near the levers of government.

As I noted a few days ago, the government can afford the £1 billion bribe to the D.U.P to keep them in power, but not a pay rise to public sector workers. How does that work?

Although some public sector workers have endured a 1% pay rise, because inflation is rising as well as the cost of living,  in real terms it’s a pay cut, some other public sector workers have fared slightly better. Actually much better. As the Daily Telegraph reported in February,

MPs will be given a £1,049 pay rise from April which will see their salaries rise to £76,011 while public sector workers face a continued cap.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has announced that MPs pay will rise by 1.4 per cent, their second hike since the General Election.

Ipsa said: “This is in line with our determination on MPs’ pay, published in July 2015, where we committed to adjusting MPs’ pay for the rest of this Parliament at the same rate as changes in public sector earnings published by the Office of National Statistics .”

In 2015 IPSA made the decision to increase MPs’ salaries by 10 per cent last year from £67,000 to £74,000.

Politics is all about choices. What becomes a choice in the first place is by definition a choice;  some options aren’t even worth considering in the first place in order to become choices.

My election notes. E-Day +20

 

SH

The above ‘photo was taken a few days ago when, according to the Independent,

A school trip to a police firing range where pupils took aim at targets with toy guns has been criticised on social media.

West Midlands Police opened its doors to a Year 3 class from Kings Norton Primary, Birmingham, to thank pupils who had written to officers following recent terror attacks.

Pictures from the visit show a line of pupils, aged seven and eight, aiming plastic replica firearms at targets metres away.

I could, if I was so minded use this as a way to comment upon in both the decline in police numbers and the cut in central government funding of the police. As evidence for this, I might cite the Institute for Fiscal Studies recent analysis of police funding and it’s key findings that;

The number of full-time equivalent police officers in England and Wales fell by 14%, or almost 20,000 officers, between 2009 and 2016. This has undone the workforce expansion of the 2000s – there are now fewer police officers in England and Wales than there were in the late 1990s.

Spending on the police fell by 14% in real-terms between 2010–11 and 2014–15. Central government grants for the police fell by more (20%) but some forces were able partially to offset the cut by raising more money through council tax.
At the autumn 2015 Spending Review the Government planned further cuts to central government grants for the police up to 2019–20. It was planned that if police forces each chose to increase the council tax precept by the maximum permitted then their budgets would remain constant in cash-terms between 2015–16 and 2019–20.
Current estimates of police force revenues in 2016–17 show that the government has done as they promised so far: Police budgets remained broadly flat in cash terms between 2015–16 and 2016–17. However, this does mean that in real-terms revenues have continued to fall.

 

I could do that. Of course I could. I could also use it to highlight the fact that politics is all about choices, and that it is all well and good Teresa May praising the police after a terrorist incident, but her warm words are not much use to pay for anything in the real world. Unless she’s invented a new kind of virtual reality currency, rather like Bit Coin, only Bitch Coin. So instead of denominations of pounds, one might have instead increasingly descriptive words for warmth to denote value. So a lukewarm might be worth only five tepids and a tepid only worth five cools. The most valuable being of course the centre of the sun, but that wouldn’t ever be used – not even by Russian oligarchs – but for most people it would instead be boiling.

Anyway, being puerile, my immediate thought on seeing this picture was this scene from ‘The Hangover’.

 

My election notes. E-Day + 19

 

rr

The drugs that my doctor prescribed for me to help lower lower my blood pressure might have more likelihood of success if I didn’t read the news. Well ‘news’ in it’s loosest possible definition of the word, as this piece of irrelevant nonsense on todays MailOnline, aptly demonstrates

Britain will continue to pay millions of pounds in child benefit to children living across Europe after Brexit – despite widespread anger at the handouts.

The country forks out around £30 million a year in benefits to 34,000 children living across the bloc, mostly in Poland.

It chundred, before adding,

It was contained in a 15-page policy paper which sets out the government’s plans to protect the rights of EU nationals living in Britain.

The document states that the ‘export of UK benefits’ will be ‘protected for those that are exporting such UK benefits on the specified date, including child benefit, subject to on-going entitlement to the benefit’.

This means that EU nationals who arrive here before the cut off date – which will be some time between March this year and March 2019 – will still get the handouts.

It’s nonsense in the sense that it’s so trivial. I mean, £30 million a year in benefit payments for 34,000 children? No wonder the Mail is angry about it it, it’s just so amateur! Given that Teresa May has raised the bar so high with her £1 billion bribe for 10 D.U.P MP’s, Thats £100 million each!

And they say that votes can’t be bought!

And as if to prove that austerity is relative – the relative in question being if your relative happens to be the queen or or not – comes the news in todays Guardian that;

The Queen is in line for a near-doubling of her income to more than £82m due to a government decision to increase her funding to cover “essential works” to Buckingham Palace.

The Crown Estate, which owns most of Regent Street and swaths of St James’s as well as thousands of acres of farmland, forests and coastline, made £328.8m profit in the year to the end of March 2017, an 8% increase on the previous year.

The Queen’s sovereign grant, the amount she receives from taxpayers, is calculated as a percentage of Crown Estate profits. In November, it was announced that the percentage would rise for 10 years from 15% to 25%.

But one piece in the story is worth mentioning;

Of the cost, Sir Alan Reid, the Keeper of the Privy Purse, said: “It accounts for 65p per person per annum in the UK; that’s the price of a first class stamp. When you consider that against what the Queen does and represents for this country, I believe it represents excellent value for money.”

The funding increase to cover improvements to Buckingham Palace was decided in a review by the Royal Trustees – the prime minister, the chancellor and Reid. Officials have said the repair work, which is set to take 10 years, is essential to avoid the risk of “catastrophic building failure”.

If someone could explain to me the difference in reaction to this and to this, as reported in the Independent;

Kensington and Chelsea Council threatened a resident of Grenfell Tower with legal action after he blogged about his concerns over fire safety.

The Grenfell Action Group (GAG) raised their fears time and again both with the council and with the company which managed the doomed 24-storey tower block, writing an eerily prophetic post last year warning that only a “catastrophic event” would expose the “ineptitude and incompetence” of their landlord, the KCTMO.

Instead of taking their concerns seriously, the Conservative-run council replied with its own warning letter from solicitor, Vimal Sama, dated 25 July 2013 and addressed to Francis O’Connor, accusing him of “defamatory behaviour” and “harassment.”

Then please do.

I’ve blogged about this before, of how those in control of taxpayers funds deem some costs somehow more worthy than others. The queen lives on state benefits. She holidays at our expense. Are the D.W.P ever told about her leaving the country? She has numerous dwellings around the country, but does the D.W.P ask her what happens when she’s not there? Or even when she is there? How many bedrooms can one person sleep in at a time. So is she being sanctioned for under occupancy? Her eldest son runs a business? Are the D.W.P investigating him for fraud or is he taking the biscuit? One of her grandchildren gets married and we pay for it? In what way isn’t she a benefit cheat?

And how can we as a society afford this and but not this?

The fate of a centre for disabled children will be discussed at a cabinet meeting today.

The closure of Nascot Lawn Respite Centre, Langley Road was announced on Friday, June 16.

The centre which looks after disabled children with severe medical needs while their families rest, is due to close on October 31 due to funding cuts from the Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

It’s facing closure because its £700,000 annual running cost is too high. It’s yet another sad and telling indictment of what is and isn’t affordable. There will be more.

 

 

 

My election notes. E-Day + 17

Royal Windsor Horse Show - Day 5

Friday evening and the first few hours of Saturday morning were spent by me and my partner at the local Accident and Emergency department of my local hospital. I had fallen quite well from an artistic point of view – with nonchalant grace and aplomb – but quite badly from any other point of view, given that the aplomb in question was the sound my head made when it hit the table.

So that covers the why I was there.

Believe me, I wasn’t going to post about my trip to hospital, because it was as essential as it was inherently boring. But earlier today I received a text, which I’ll share with you, so you can judge whether or not I think too much about things

I am posting about this is because it is an indictment of our times, the rather bizarre modern phenomena of people feeling the need to rate something,

“We would like you to rate your recent experience at xxxx A&E department. How likely are to you to recommend or A&E department to your Friends and Family if they needed similar care or treatment.” It then gave a rating out of 5, with 1 being extremely likely and 5 being extremely unlikely.

A few things immediatly sprang to mind.

First, the clue is in the name, front and centre ‘Accident and Emergency’ specifically the ‘Emergency’ part. Emergency suggests many things, but one thing it doesn’t is cause one to reflect upon irrelevanacies.

Perhaps yes, the staff could’ve been a tad more communicative but there weren’t that many of them – well not in the reception and initial assesment area anway – so much so that the area was frequently unstaffed, causing one of the patients waiting patiently to be seen to offer advice to the newcomers.

And perhaps yes, the seating could’ve been less industrial and more functional, given that after a while I was getting a numb bum. But I suppose when hospitals are expected to do even more with even less this is an inevitable consequence.

Related to that is the fact that possibly I could’ve been seen by the doctors sooner than the six hours after my arrival and intial assessment and four hours after my second blood pressure reading which was, the nurse taking it agreed, ‘abnormally high’. But then my local hospital is also a major trauma unit. Through frosted glass I could see blue lights arriving with alarming frequency, followed by hurried tannoy calls for ‘resuscitation staff to the trauma unit’ which were inevitably followed some time later by one for a ‘cleaner to the trauma unit for a deep clean’

Eventually I was seen. All of those earlier irritations faded instantly. Because whilst any organisation that is the third largest employer in the world is bound to have some area’s of improvement, the N.H.S, is still by some order of magnitude both the best healthcare system in the world and uniquely British. Only we have access to free healthcare paid for through general taxation. Only a Labour Government could’ve had the will to make it a reality.

Going to an Accident and Emergency isn’t on peoples ‘to do’ list.  One shouldn’t in most cases compare hospitals with each other. It’s not like Trip Advisor. where you can read other peoples ratings. They’re an essential public good. People don’t just choose to go one. Well, not most people anyway, because I remembered an observation I shared with my partner as I was waiting to be seen. About how Prince Phillip,

 “Was admitted to King Edward VII Hospital in London last night, as a precautionary measure, for treatment of an infection arising from a pre-existing condition.”

Namely how on earth would any other 96 year old man living on state benefits be treated by the media if he tried a similar stunt? I mean, we are funding his private healthcare whilst our own is underfunded?  In what possible universe is that fair?

My election notes. E-Day + 12

BC

 

I could write a post about the Chancellor Phillips Hammonds speech this morning at Mansion House, and what it might mean for Brexit negotiations.

Of course I could.

Or I could write about how German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she could back a eurozone finance minister and eurozone budget “if the circumstances are right”. Of how this might confirms the worst fears of those who voted to leave the EU as the start of a slippery slope towards a United States of Europe.

Of course I could.

Indeed, I could write a post about how Barclays and four former executives have been charged with fraud over their actions in the 2008 financial crisis. About how they are the only senior staff at bank to have been charged in the UK on this. Indeed, I might draw unfavourable comparisons between this and the numbers of people convicted of benefit fraud since 2008.

Of course I could.

I could do all of those things. But I won’t.

Because part of my childhood died yesterday and I imagine people who were children in either the ‘60’s, ‘70’s or ‘80’s might’ve felt the same way upon hearing the sad news that Brian Cant died yesterday. Put simply he was the voice of my childhood, calm, playful and encouraging. Everything me as a child wanted in a voice and if it had to come out of a TV well, I was just glad it was there at all.

As the Guardian in it’s obituary of of him it noted,

 For two decades from 1964 there was scarcely a BBC show aimed at little children that didn’t come with Cant’s distinctive tones. It was his voice that weekly introduced us in the late 60s to the townsfolk of Camberwick Green (1966). And it was Cant who did the prosodically captivating roll call for the fire brigade in Camberwick Green’s sequel, Trumpton (1969): “Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb.”

He presented ‘Play School’ – I can still remember an episode that showed us through the round window how rubber gloves were made – and ‘Play Away’. Brilliant children’s shows’, never patronizing but always fun. He didn’t try to be your friend as much as he made me want to be his. His tone somehow conveyed a sense of here was someone you could trust, here was someone who was still in possession of a child-like imagination of invention and above all here was someone who was genuine. That, for me at any rate at least, is what made him so beloved.

Because when you’re a child you quickly learn to spot fakes; you don’t know why they are or even how you know but you just know. It’s both intuitive and quickly forgotten, something all children have, yet some forget when they become adults and become the people that they as children despised.

I mean, I don’t look back on my childhood with any great fondness so I’m just glad his voice was such a large part of my childhood.

And no, I’ve no idea what ‘prosodically’ means either.

My election notes. E-Day + 11

Today there was a minutes’ silence at 11am for the victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and in a macabre twist of fate, at 11am in Brussels saw the beginning of talks regarding Britain’s exit from the EU. Or to be exact, talks about talks, as the processes that will govern the talks have yet to be agreed upon.

All of this whilst the clock is ticking. The deadline for the conclusion of these talks which is March 29th 2019, which is two years after Teresa May triggered Article 50.

One might be forgiven for thinking that possibly she might have been wiser to trigger Article 50 after the general election. There was no pressing need to, in fact there was every pressing need not to, to help Britain sort out it’s negotiation stance. The EU is in no hurry. They are like someone in a messy divorce who knows they’re going to keep the house and the car. They don’t care. They have nothing to lose – well nowhere near as much as we do – and can act accordingly. Two years is an incredibly short time to ensure the smooth and orderly transfer of powers back to the UK. Which brings me back to Grenfell Tower.

 

How exactly will all manner of regulations be challenged in the courts, I mean will the UK Supreme Court be the final court to appeal to once we leave Europe?

My election notes. E-Day + 10

Tumbleweed-862x574

The headline in today’s Daily Telegraph raises a lot more questions than it answers.

In fact, it answers none at all.

 Prosecutors are considering manslaughter charges after Grenfell Tower disaster, Keir Starmer reveals.

I mean anyone can consider anything. It remains to be seen if anything will result of this consideration. Because. As I wrote two years ago about the UKIP manifesto:

Anyone can aspire to anything. The great thing about an aspiration is that it doesn’t commit you to anything. An aspiration is another, more grown-up word for a wish. Just imagine saying to an excited child on their birthday, “Now take a deep breath and remember when you blow out the candles to make an aspiration.”

The same is true of consideration. Its vagueness is also its strength. It suggests possible action at some unspecified time.  We’ve all considered doing things. But how many of the things we consider actually happen and how many of them are like conversational tumbleweed?

My election notes. E-Day + 9

 

GT1

I went swimming on Thursday, well not swimming exactly, it was more hydrotherapy and more hydro than therapy at that. The theory was that lying on my back in the water and staying afloat by means of moving my arms on the surface of the water would in some way alleviate the pain in my left shoulder. That was the theory. Practical application of the theory proved otherwise, as my body communicated to me that I was causing it pain. That was on Thursday, and the pain hasn’t as yet fully abated. Hence the words you are reading have been typed by my glamorous assistant Julie, who is smiling as she types this!

One person who never seems to smile unless she’s looking at a horse is the Queen and  she visited the scene of the Grenfell Tower disaster and met some of those affected. As any reader of my previous posts will know, I am no great fan of the royal family. In fact, they are to democracy in the 21st century what the Pied Piper of Hamelin was to child safety. The tragedy at Grenfell Tower exposes many things wrong with our cost conscious society, but not least of which is the hypocrisy that underpins our society inasmuch as the need to be cost conscious only seems to affect one strata of society, the same one that bears the brunt of austerity, the same one that didn’t create the conditions that necessitated it.

In 1992, Windsor Castle was gutted by fire. This was seen at the time as a great tragedy – although no-one died – and immediately there was talk about restoring the castle to its former glory. There was almost as much unanimous support in parliament for this to be carried out at the taxpayer’s expense, as there wasn’t public debate.

As fire-magazine notes in its excellent account of it;

 Fires in such important and high profile buildings were not new: Hampton Court Palace was badly damaged by a fire on Easter Monday, 1986.

Following the Hampton Court Palace fire, a detailed survey of Windsor Castle was carried out by the Property Services Agency (PSA) which identified a works programme of £20 million to incorporate fire prevention measures including complete rewiring of the main Castle buildings, the fitting of automatic detection, installation of fire resisting doors, improved fire compartmentation, treatment of timber and separation between heating elements and combustible materials. Between the date of the report and the fire, responsibility the fire safety and royal residences was transferred from the PSA to the royal household, which employed its own consultants.

Before noting;

As a result of the fire, not only was Windsor Castle made safer but safety in a range of other heritage premises was improved. The interaction between listed buildings, heritage features and smoke alarms had been a concern for many years, with a general reluctance to utilise systems because of the intrusive nature of work such as drilling holes. This has undoubtedly spurred on the development of wireless smoke alarms which protect without causing collateral damage to the fabric of buildings.

Compare this to the tragedy that killed 6 people at Lakanal House in Southwark in 2009. There was a coroners inquest – of course there was – which made recommendations – of course it did – and one of these recommendations was ignored were ignored – of course it was. The coroner’s report into Lakanal House called for developers refurbishing high-rise blocks to be encouraged to install sprinkler systems. And guess what happened? With an almost predictable inevitability Lakanal House was refurbished and re-opened recently but no sprinkler system was installed. The leader of Southwark council was on ‘The World At One’ on Thursday trying to explain his reasons not to. (the interview with him starts at 37mins).

He points out that local councils have many competing demands on their funds and this is but one of them. He also points out that fires of this nature are more likely to happen in social housing as opposed to private. Quite why his comments haven’t received coverage and wider debate – especially given the media interest in this issue – is as bewildering as it is inexplicable.

How and why is it that some costs can be borne by the taxpayer, especially if they’re to a wealthy pensioner who not just works the system but is integral to it’s very perpetuation, yet other costs are somehow too expensive? Politics is about choices, and the catastrophe at Grenfell Tower neatly brings into focus how some choices can be afforded, whilst some can’t.

One more thing.

If the report in Wednesdays ‘Independent’ are true, that;

“Due to its height the tower is visible from the adjacent Avondale Conservation Area to the south and the Ladbroke Conservation Area to the east,” a planning document for the regeneration work reads. “The changes to the existing tower will improve its appearance especially when viewed from the surrounding area.”

Then the blackened ruin that is Grenfell Tower once was a home to so many, should be left as it is, as a permanent reminder of what the inherent unfairness in a capitalist society can lead to.