Normally, aericles posted on this blog attempts to provide opinions that are, hopefully, informed, important and original. That last does not apply where others have already blazed a broad path, when the blog may include those thoughts. Only on rare occasions has it quoted wholesale, because there seemed scant chance of improvement on the original observations.
Such a rare occasion occurred today, when George Monbiot strung a series of tweets together that deserve as wide a coverage as possible in the public interest. What follows are his tweets, verbatim. They make compelling reading, especially for those evaluating the morals of the present UK government.
As the final stage of the Grenfell Tower inquiry has begun this week, I’d like to remind you of what was happening in another part of London on the day of the disaster, to show what the Conservatives mean by “freedom”. I hope you’re sitting down.
On 14 June 2017, as the Tower burned, the government’s Red Tape Initiative team met to discuss building regulations. It was due to consider whether rules governing the fire resistance of cladding materials should be scrapped, for the sake of construction industry profits.
The Red Tape Initiative was established “to grasp the opportunities” Brexit offers to cut “red tape” (i.e. public protections). It was chaired by Sir Oliver Letwin MP, who had claimed that “the call to minimise risk is a call for a cowardly society.”
Sitting on its advisory panel were: – Charles Moore: formerly editor of the Daily Telegraph and chair of the Dark Money-funded lobby group Policy Exchange. He was best man at Oliver Letwin’s wedding. – Archie Norman, former chief executive of ASDA and founder of Policy Exchange.
Until he became Environment Secretary, another member of the panel was Michael Gove, Conservative MP and former chair of Policy Exchange, appointed by …. Archie Norman.
The Red Tape Initiative’s management board consisted of Oliver Letwin, Baroness Rock and Lord Marland. Baroness Rock was a childhood friend of George Osborne’s, married to the wealthy financier Caspar Rock. Lord Marland was a co-owner of SCL and Cambridge Analytica.
In other words, it was an entirely representative cross-section of the British public. In no sense was it a clique of old chums, insulated from hazard by their extreme wealth, whose role was to decide whether other people should be exposed to risk.
Letwin’s Initiative appointed a team to investigate housing regulations. It included representatives of trade unions and NGOs, though they were outnumbered by executives and lobbyists from the industry. And, surprise, surprise, one Richard Blakeway, from … Policy Exchange.
Their task on June 14 was to consider a report the Red Tape Initiative had commissioned from the lobbying firm Hanbury Strategy, identifying building rules that could be cut. It listed as “burdensome” the EU Construction Products Regulation, that sets fire standards for cladding.
What was the source of the report’s assertion that this regulation was unnecessary? A column in the Sunday Telegraph by Christopher Booker, perhaps the most mendacious journalist in the UK, who had produced, across the years, an astonishing string of outright lies.
During the meeting, as the Tower burned, the full scale of the disaster became clear. The panel decided that, on this occasion, it would not recommend that the regulation be removed. Very gracious of them, I’m sure.
But the bonfire of regulation and the deliberate confusion between “red tape” and public protection continues as if Grenfell had never happened. Why? Because our lives are worth less to this government than the profits of the disaster capitalists it favours.
So when this government says “freedom”, ask “whose freedoms do you mean?” When it says “red tape”, ask, “do you mean pointless paperwork, or the rules that protect us from predatory capital?” When it says “the people”, ask “do you mean us, or just the people who fund you?”—George Monbiot, Febroary 2nd 2022