Jacob Rees-Mogg’s recent comments on LBC have sparked outrage. In a discussion about the Grenfell tower tragedy, Rees Mogg said “I think if either one of us [Nick Ferrari] were in a fire, whatever the fire brigade said, we would leave the burning building. It just seems the common-sense thing to do.”
Such contempt for the victims of this tragedy is exactly what we should expect from the Tories. Their party and class are responsible for the austerity policies imposed on the working class leading to the deaths of an estimated 130,000 over a span of ten years.
A survivor of the tragedy was quick to expose the callous ‘rationality’ that Rees-Mogg attempted to present. 62-year-old Ahmed Chellat explained to the Mirror how people “died on the stairs trying to leave, they couldn’t breathe. People needed help and directions, they tried to open doors and there was smoke everywhere”.
The victims should not be forced to defend or explain their actions on the night of the fire. It is the private companies who cladded the building, the council who ignored the demands of Grenfell residents, and the Tory government and its cuts to the fire service that must take the blame.
Ahmed, who lost five members of his family to the fire, alongside many others has demanded an apology from Rees-Mogg. Rees Mogg apologised via a statement to the Evening Standard saying “What I meant to say is that I would have also listened to the fire brigade’s advice to stay and wait at the time […] However, with what we know now and with hindsight I wouldn’t and I don’t think anyone else would”.
The sincerity or lack thereof in Mogg’s reply will mean nothing to the victims of Grenfell tower. Grenfell to this day remains a harsh symbol of the logic of a profit driven system. The reactionary layers of ruling class have repeatedly tried to de-politicise and obfuscate Grenfell’s causes with the language of accident. In 2017 when Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, John McDonnel, said the victims were “murdered by political decisions” the right-wing press rushed to their polemics in an attempt to muddy the message in unnecessary debate over terminology and timing.
The Grenfell tower tragedy is political. At route, Grenfell was a catastrophe of capitalism. The Grenfell tower report clearly shows the building was in breach of safety regulations purely to cut costs.
On top of this, the fire service did not have adequate equipment, the radios and computer support system failed, and aerial platforms could only spray water as high as the 10th floor. That is a consequence of 10 years of cuts to the fire service.
Jacob Rees-Mogg chose the most appropriate time to expose the indifference of his character towards the suffering of working-class people. The Tories have started the General Election by laying bare just how out of touch they are.
The Liberal Democrats have pushed themselves into a corner – refusing to work with Corbyn, but claiming to be the only genuine remain party so presumably couldn’t work with Johnson’s Brexit government either. Regardless, Jo Swinson’s voting track record proves the Lib Dems to be just as reactionary as the Tories, happy to continue the job they started in 2010 of austerity, cuts, and more attacks on workers. They are, in every sense, a non-option for the working class.
Socialism is the only real alternative for the working class. Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party has set the agenda for a radical change in Britain. It is the job of a socialist labour government to bring the economy into public ownership and begin restructuring Britain towards the needs of the working class before the shareholders.
Now is the time for Labour activists and Trade Unions to mobilise, to fight with the optimism and will necessary to defeat the Tories and bring the class struggle to new and escalating heights. The tragedy of Grenfell was the tragedy of capitalism, it was the tragedy of few against the many. With bold socialist policies Labour could transform society in the interests of the many, not the few.