The public debates that have taken place in the media over the last two days regarding Grenfell Tower appear to have focused on whether a rather disconnected pair of politicians who are of course professionals in the sense that Rees-Mogg and Bridgen are both MPs and in the case of Rees-Mogg one of the three most senior Ministers in the Government, have made a mistake. They both clearly believe they have spoken incorrectly although Rees-Mogg’s apology was half hearted. He claimed that his words were wrong because he had the benefit of hindsight and in one sense this makes his comments even more disturbing, given what politicians are supposed to do in our nation.
His words referred to whether several different professional bodies that were acting under intense pressure as people were dying as the professionals sought to grapple with the fire and care for the people were acting in the most effective matter, or whether his ‘common sense’ could have improved matters. Sadly Grenfell Tower is not the only example that could be used to drill very deep holes into the common sense argument that claims that ‘running away from the [problem] irrespective of what the Fire and Rescue or Police or Health services say is the best practice’. No doubt there are many examples which do justify running away despite the advice, but equally there are many examples including the smoke filled stairs which destroy such inept arguments. Several football based examples where crowds of people running have caused the biggest disaster can be used to explain why such ideas can be very dangerous. That said the benefit of the Macpherson report into the Stephen Lawrence investigation offers all of the public sector bodies, not just the police who took his advice, the recommendation that they invite people disconnected with their professionalism to come in and help them understand what a credible set of instructions will feel like to the public, so perhaps the Fire and Rescue Services could adopt that in the light of these concerns.
However the real challenge is the professionals who judge what sort of material is appropriate when it comes to buildings and indeed what the building regulations are and the decisions made by other professionals regarding how much to spend on items to make things look nicer, but not making them safer. All of these are matters that politicians both have a role to play and must be held accountable for. Perhaps Rees-Mogg and Brigden and their colleagues if they get re-elected as members of the Government will take this experience and use their power and influence to ensure that the rules, regulations and resources are all focused on helping the tenants, owners and emergency professionals ensure that next time a fire or other emergency takes place, that matters can be resolved with far less risk of injury and death.