Don’t be fooled by the official death toll. The fire at Grenfell Tower in Kensington, West London, could turn out to the one of the worst fires in our peacetime history.
First, my heartfelt sympathies to the families of the missing and bereaved. This was a terrible event, which could and should have been avoided. At the very lowest, over a hundred families were housed in a death-trap, without an effective fire alarm system, and given shockingly bad advice to stay put in the event of fire.
Expressions of sympathy are not enough, however. Those of us with a brain have a duty to analyse this disaster, both to attribute blame and ensure that we never see the like again.
Of course it is too early to express a concluded view about the cause of the fire, and the following comments represent preliminary analysis only, but people want answers and they want them quickly. They are entitled to them.
A quick recap
For those who have not been following the story, Grenfell Tower is, or sadly was, a 230-feet tall, 24-story local authority tower block in West London, near to the A40 Westway. It was divided into 120 separate apartments. It had a central stairwell and two elevators and was cheaply refurbished last year, being clad with combustible cladding, which contains aluminum and polymers.
The cladding was added to increase the building’s energy efficiency and improve its appearance. Grenfell Tower was originally constructed in 1974. More fire-resistant Reynobond cladding could have been used. Flammable cladding would not have been permitted on a building of this height in the United States.
The building had no effective fire alarm system. It was not fitted with sprinklers and had a single entrance, which also doubled as an emergency exit. No other means of emergency exit than the single stairwell was provided, although the London Fire Brigade has no effective means of rescuing people stranded on the top floors of burning skyscrapers. The stairwell was fitted with a German (Witt & Sohn) smoke extraction system.
At around 0054 hours local time on Wednesday June 14th, fire broke out on or near the third floor (second floor in UK parlance). The cause of the fire has been blamed on an ‘exploding refrigerator’. There were prompt calls to the 999 emergency number and the first appliance arrived at around 0100. The senior Fire Brigade officer on the spot quickly and correctly escalated the fire to a major incident and five London hospitals were put on standby. Some 200 firefighters were sent to Grenfell Tower, supported by police and paramedics.
The London Fire Brigade has no aerial fire-fighting capability at all and the fire was fought entirely from the ground. The external cladding quickly caught alight and the fire raced up the sides of the building. Escape from the 18th floor and above was very difficult. At least one baby was thrown by its distraught mother from an 11th floor window, being caught by an alert and caring member of the public. Other terrified residents jumped, as on 9/11. The heights were lower of course, but few if any of the jumpers survived.
The Death Toll
The authorities have been very nervous about releasing figures. The official toll now stands at 30, but very sadly there is no chance of it being anywhere near as low as that.
Nobody knows precisely how many were in the building when the fire broke out. The timing could not have been worse, as most flats were fully occupied. The range of realistic estimates appears to lie from 500 to 600.
The evacuation was chaotic. No accurate count of survivors was taken, only of those who were taken to hospital, or self-admitted. There seem to have been very few survivors, sadly, from floors 18 to 24 (American numbering). Only 50 or so families were rehoused, although these were publicly provided apartments and very few residents would have had alternative accommodation.
Tragically, it looks like the number of dead may be as high as 200. It is unlikely to be below 100, making 150 a mid-range estimate. Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry rather gave the game away on Thursday night’s Question Time on BBC1 when she said that we had not seen casualties on this scale since the Blitz. Being a pro-European, with respect (we shared a tutorial class at Bar school), she took care not to mention of course that the Blitz was carried out by our community partners the Luftwaffe and the Regia Aeronautica.
David Dimbleby was back in the chair again, BTW. He was briefly replaced following that economically literate question, which must have shocked BBC management.
The latest program was back to slamming the Tories as mean slashers of public services, with the panel pretending that you can increase the total tax take by hiking tax rates. The moment of economic literacy was like a shooting star at night. There was a brief flash of illumination, followed by darkness.
The Prime Minister has already announced that there will be a cover-up. Of course she didn’t use those exact words. The formula she used was “a full public inquiry”, which is Whitehall code for a total whitewash. It will be presided over by a judge, no doubt drawn from the Ministry of Justice’s dodgy judges list, no offense to the judiciary intended.
There has never been a serious judge-led inquiry in Britain. The locus classicus for judicial cover-ups was the Wreck Inquiry presided over by that bent Liberal, is that is not a tautology, Lord Mersey, following the sinking by German Naval Intelligence of the White Star liner RMS Titanic on April 15 1912 with heavy loss of life.
Lord Mersey almost certainly knew of Germany’s involvement. He was very quick to pounce on any barrister who asked intelligent questions. Unfortunately, since most barristers are intelligence-illiterate and gullible, there were very few of those. Lord Mersey’s inquiry was a musical comedy proceeding from beginning to end, with respect.
The Grenfell Tower inquiry will probably follow the lines of the with respect fatuous Piper Alpha inquiry, chaired by Lord Cullen. That followed the destruction by Germany’s GO2 of an oil and gas rig in the North Sea as part of Germany’s attack on the Thatcher Government. It was also part of an ongoing strategic campaign by Germany to strangle the West’s energy supplies, which had started with the German-sponsored Oil Price Shock.
The Piper Alpha inquiry largely rubber-stamped an earlier civil service technical report, which of course omitted all mention of sabotage. Occidental Petroleum, the owners of the rig, were a well-run company and suspected sabotage from the start. Dr Armand Hammer was nobody’s fool.
Sabotage was confirmed by the respected engineering consultants Arthur D. Little, but the ADL report was suppressed from the inquiry for political reasons. The inquiry was dragged out for over a year, sitting on no fewer than 180 separate days. In all that time not a single intelligent question was asked about the cause of the disaster and the Janet and John report which resulted got it hopelessly wrong, with respect. Nobody in Scotland is remotely interested in opening a murder investigation. Anyone would think that the Jocks export large numbers of kilts to Germany.
I predict that the Grenfell Tower Inquiry will be another long-drawn-out musical comedy proceeding, costing millions of pounds, during the course of which not a single intelligent question will be asked about the cause of the fire.
There are only two journalists in Britain with a brain (although that’s still two more than America), Christopher Booker and Peter Hitchens, but it’s unlikely that either will attend.
There will be an official preliminary report, which will state an official conclusion, which the presiding judge will treat as binding. No intelligence-literate barrister will be allowed to appear.
The exploding fridge
The only cause given, an exploding refrigerator, raises as many questions as it answers. We live in an age of unnecessary product warnings.
After a long day in London recently, I settled comfortably into my first class seat and decided to treat myself to a glass of wine and a packet of dry roasted peanuts from the catering trolley. I am very partial to dry roasted peanuts and, despite being suspended as a barrister, am keeping my alcohol intake up, so as to avoid causing a shock to my liver. I have a strong liver, BTW, much more useful to a barrister than a brain. I also have a brain, of course, but judges tend to get upset if I start using it in court.
The packet of nuts contained a stern warning to the effect that ‘this packet of nuts may contain nuts’. Even allowing for the fact that this warning was more likely addressed to the second-class passengers, who were served, eventually, from the same trolley, this did seem to me to be a bit of nanny-state nonsense.
I have seen and opened many fridges in my time. Apart from anything else they’re the best place to keep white wine and beer. I have NEVER seen a warning saying “This Refrigerator Might Explode”. It doesn’t happen very often.
How often have you been walking down the street, been overtaken by a fridge door and said “Dang, that’s another fridge gone up”? I have no doubt that we shall be hearing more about this exploding fridge. I am not saying that a fridge did not explode – what I want to know is, what caused to explode?
Was the fire deliberate?
Explosives are a not uncommon cause of explosions. The fire happened as Germany was applying pressure on the UK as part of a desperate effort to keep us in the German orbit, aka the EU. It followed two recent German-sponsored terrorist attacks, one of them an attempt to assassinate Prime Minister Theresa May, whose security detail is so jumpy the poor PM was banned from talking to survivors this week. She was only allowed to talk to firefighters, presumably on the basis that assassinating the Prime Minister would in most cases be treated as a disciplinary offence for a firefighter.
The building also appears to have housed members of the Moslem Brotherhood, a German-sponsored terrorist organisation. We know that setting fires is a standard German intelligence tactic, used e.g. in 1987 at King’s Cross, after the General Election that year didn’t go the way that Germany wanted. That was also about Europe, as the Germans wanted to
set up the euro, to which Margaret Thatcher was opposed.
It is too early to say whether the fire was set deliberately or not. It may turn out to have been caused by an over-ripe bottle of beer, or a particularly lively chicken and mushroom pie.
All I am saying is that the issue of causation has to be approached with an open mind and the incident placed in its strategic context. The police are incapable of doing that, as they are incapable of strategic thought, which requires thinking, with respect, not the rozzers’ strongest suit.
The official inquiry won’t be an inquiry at all. It will, I suspect, be conducted under ‘Warwick Rules’, where the findings are dictated in advance by the Cabinet Office, on pain of the learned judge’s most recent encounter with Miss Whiplash being leaked to the Sun.
Lessons about governance
Another thing the inquiry won’t look at is the role of the Cabinet Office in running local government. Local government in Britain has been hollowed out for decades. It’s now effectively a branch of central government, which in turn is run from the Cabinet Office.
It is highly unlikely that the Cabinet Office would have permitted safe cladding to have been used in last year’s refurbishment. Grenfell Tower was a death-trap and as such was far too useful to GO2, the German intelligence operation in London. They are always on the lookout for systemic or design weaknesses which can be exploited both to cause both physical and political mayhem.
Lacking a single member with high intelligence and possessing an obsessive tendency to write off intelligence analysis as conspiracy theories, and not knowing how badly compromised the Joint Intelligence Committee is, the Tory government is a soft target.
The London Fire Brigade and Ambulance Service were overwhelmed by this disaster. They had to put out pathetic calls asking people not to ring 999. Had anyone’s house caught fire in South West London they would have been out of luck – it would have been buckets of sand and water only.
There are lessons here about our lack of resilience. Goodness knows how they would have coped had two such fires started at the same time. As it turned out many of the ambulances weren’t needed, as so few survivors made it out of the building, but they weren’t to know how bad the death toll was going to be.
I have called for years for the Civil Defence Organisation to be brought back. Aside from anything else CDO fire engines would probably have greater power and reach. The London Fire Brigade is equipped to deal with house fires, not tower blocks – none of its hoses could reach much above the 18th floor.
A revamped CDO could also have helicopters designed for fire-fighting and evacuation. Sixteen years after 9/11 we are still reduced to watching desperate people having to jump from tall buildings. The military perfected helicopter evacuation in Korea and at Suez. It’s not a new concept. Yes I know the air is bumpy above a fire, engines have to be uprated to cope with warm ambient air, you need extending stairs rather than rope ladders, as you’re not evacuating troops, and the helos have to be reinforced, but it’s not difficult to do.
The assassination attempt on Congressman Scalise
I’m glad the attempt failed, but Steve Scalise was badly hurt. There is no way the shooter was acting alone – they never do. Recruiting a Bernie Sanders supporter was clever.
There is not the slightest reason to suppose that Senator Sanders was involved, and the shooter may not have been a genuine Sanders supporter anyway. In the Oslo Massacre the DVD took care to manufacture an extreme right-wing legend for Breivik.
A similar strategy was followed in England a year ago, when GO2 created a right-wing legend for Jo Cox’s assassin. Readers will recall the story – the pro-German side were losing the referendum on the EU, so the DVD in Dachau tasked GO2 with assassinating a nice Remain MP in a desperate effort to swing the result Germany’s way. Germany of course is the controlling power in the EU, the concept for which was drawn up in the Nazi period by a team of officials reporting to Reichsminister Funk.
The Remain camp of course took care not to mention the good (not!) Reichsminister during their campaign to keep Britain under Germany’s thumb. They pretended that the father of the EU was the German agent Jean Monnet, although they also took care not to mention that Monnet worked for the Abwehr and had drenched himself in Allied blood in both world wars.
It is important to act in good faith. I am marginally to the right of center politically and don’t share many positions with Bernie Sanders. I absolutely refuse to blame him for this shooting in any way, however, and I would not expect any true conservative to try and take unfair political advantage. I think Senator Sanders is a good man, who speaks from the heart. Rather like my old friend Tony Benn he has a deep belief in the democratic process.
The attempted assassination of the Majority Whip comes at a time when German Correa/COREA Group assets in the CIA and FBI are trying to smear President Trump over the Russia hoax and set him up for impeachment on a trumpery (pun intended) obstruction of justice charge. That clown Mueller, BTW, needs to be thrown off that investigation, along with the team of eager young Democrat lawyers he’s hired, none of whom seem to have stayed awake during their ethics classes, no offense intended.
LA’s tribute to Adam West
I don’t usually agree with the Mayor of LA, indeed I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with him. However I respectfully applaud his decision to honor Adam West by displaying the Bat symbol in LA’s night sky. That was a nice touch.
Adam West’s Batman was a cultural icon. The series demonstrated a fundamental truth – being good is not the same thing as being boring. In fact the Bad Guys tend to have a lot less fun.