Written By: - Date published: 7:00 am, June 16th, 2017 - 124 comments
Categories: class, class war, corruption, disaster, housing, human rights, uk politics - Tags: ,

Russell Brown has written a moving, hard hitting post, about the Grenfell Tower fire which has so far taken 17 lives. He talks about living in London, outlines half a dozen life-stealing, preventable tragedies all with a common core of underfunding and ideological commitment to a culture of deregulation, and then points to the multiple instances of warning that the authorities were given about the risk of fire at Grenfell.

One night in 1987, 31 people had died in a terrible fire underground at King’s Cross Station. Senior transport chiefs resigned after an inquiry and Oppostion MPs accused the Conservative government of sacrificing the safety of travellers by cutting budgets. Only two days before the fire, Margaret Thatcher had delivered a speech – apparently aimed at US lawmakers considering their own budgets – about the importance of “prudent finance and living within your means”.

I lived, squatting, in several council flats and I wouldn’t want to claim they were lovely places. But it appears already that the prettification of Grenfell is behind the disaster. It quickly emerged that a residents’ organisation called the Grenfell Action Group had repeatedly warned of the fire risk in the building. As far back as 2013 the group was writing of “an ongoing culture of negligence at the TMO” with respect to fire risks.

Read it, weep, and then get very very angry. Because while the neoliberal underpinnings of this aren’t new, we’re at a point now where this should be intolerable. And that means we have the capacity for change. As Brown says, this feels like a signal moment in the history of the UK.  I see it as a confluence of history and tragedy and we’d better bloody well take advantage of the things in our favour. The UK has Corbyn’s Labour and momentum. NZ will need a different strategy.

We’re not in the UK obviously, and there are many ways in which we could argue that the UK is so much worse than here. In many ways we are still so insulated from the harshness of much of the world. But that’s the thing about life in the Brighter Future, it’s very easy to minimise the tragedy when it comes more subtle and with a smile and a wave.

This is Grenfell’s London.

Meanwhile in Godzone, we prefer to kill our poor people slowly and surely.

Follow the links. It’s all depressingly familiar, the tale of the neoliberal revolution. So, the politics then,

We can take our pick. Housing, health, suicide rates, mental breakdowns, workplace accidents, thousands hospitalised from contaminated water, household food insecurity. On and on, there’s a wide choice now.

In Southland there are people going blind unnecessarily because neoliberal governments have fucked over the health system so many times that it can’t function properly any more.

Brown again,

This feels like a signal moment in the history of a country. I realise the Queen’s not going to go over to Downing Street and relieve Theresa May of the keys to the nation. But Britain can not and must not go on like this.

What say you New Zealand about our own fate? That anger, that will win us the election. Let’s get smart about that, and direct the anger where it will be most effective.

124 comments on “Signals”

  1. Keith 1

    We’re not the UK, yet. But as sure as the sun will rise, we will catch up.

    And it appears New Zealanders are very comfortable with that.

    • Ed 1.1

      We are worse than the UK on many ways.
      The virus of neoliberalism is deeply embedded here, with a parasite class without empathy ruling the roost and unwilling to give up their control.

      • Keith 1.1.1

        For sure and you just know what was also fueling that fire was profit and greed and we top the world lusting after those nowadays.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.2

        The only way is to unseat them and take our power back. And to do that is going to mean a change in our electoral system. We need to move to an actual democracy rather than the elected dictatorship we have.

      • Red 1.1.3

        Hi Paul nice to have you back

    • saveNZ 1.2

      @ Keith, nope we’re not.

    • Sabine 1.3

      my partner was a voluntary fire fighter in AKL for almost 25 years..

      there are areas in Auckland where a fire truck can’t even get too.
      A disaster in some of our ‘infill to the hilt’ areas is only one accident away, and then we too can render our garments and wail : How could it happen”!.

      We are the same here, and as long “i’ll be rite, she’ll be rite too. And if she is not, tough luck.

    • Jono 1.4

      Yep so true it won’t be long…

  2. Ed 2

    Great post, weka.

    Pike River.
    The CTV Building.

    Now watch the Estsblishment’s playbook over next few months.
    Look for commonalities with how they acted after Hillsborough and Pike.
    You will find striking similarities.

    • saveNZ 2.1

      Pike River is our Grenfell tower. But I think the UK government will listen (or pretend to) more than our government ever will.

      If you think our Government was wrong to allow Pike River, to change the law so that mines ‘self regulated’, somehow allowed the resource consent to go ahead with a death mine, to allow the executives of Pike River to get away with out a trial or jail and be held to account, to quickly try to take over with Solid Energy to muddy the waters, to lie in previous elections that the government would get the bodies out, to be comfortable with a corporation so negligent it had to have local police take over the non existent ‘rescue’ attempt, which was essentially stopping anybody rescuing the miners, then vote the National Party out.

      There needs to be a return to some sort of standards with large corporations and the removal of deregulation.

      At present the ‘cost’ of National’s regulation seem to be at the worker. For example the teachers are the ones holding up the health and safety which is often ludicrous, (28 page health and safety assessment to take preschoolers on a school trip and having to secure them from ‘prickly trees’ ) while big dangerous organisations are killing people and the government says shareholder profits, trump workers safety. They are crazy. But they seem to be getting away with it.

  3. Tony Veitch (not etc) 3

    Draco posted this the other day on Daily Review:

    Is it just co-incidence that the three countries which have most whole-heartedly embraced the neoliberalism cancer have the highest rates of child poverty?

  4. RedLogix 4

    I’m not a professional builder, but I have done enough of it to know this:

    1. Highly flammable cladding material with a vertical chimney space permitting fire to spread rapidly


    2. No sprinklers


    3. No alarms


    4. Inevitable deaths

    Now each of these elements was almost certainly a decision made in isolation from the other; probably another classic ‘Swiss Cheese” model of a sequence of apparently non-threatening omissions all lining up to trigger a disaster.

    But none of this could possibly have come as a surprise to the TMO. They already have had a major fire in one of their properties; they had clear warnings from residents and others.

    So why the failure to take heed of the warnings? Why no active fire engineering or risk management in place? Why was a cheaper flammable version of the cladding selected? Why were the fire alarms not functioning? Why was it not considered ‘economic’ to have sprinklers installed?

    I predict right now the the TMO board probably consists of a group of well-meaning people under prepared and under resourced for the gravity of their task. And some of them will now be the fall-guys for this. But crucially this cannot avoid the fundamental political questions around the funding, mandate and accountability of the TMO in the first place. How and why was such manifestly inadequate governance permitted to exist?

    The scuttling sound you can hear will be Tory slashers and burners crawling for cover.

    • saveNZ 4.1

      +1 RedLogix.

      Yep, there will be fall guys, but the real people the government that should have regulated fire regulations will not be held to account.

      Apparently the fire instructions told the residents to stay in their apartments in the event of a fire.

      • RedLogix 4.1.1

        I’ve thought this one over a bit. When I say ‘fall guys’ I’m not assuming their complete innocence either. An inquiry has yet to be held, a great deal we don’t yet know.

        But absolutely accountability has to reach beyond the TMO and ask why such deficient governance has been allowed to operate.

        • Draco T Bastard

          But absolutely accountability has to reach beyond the TMO and ask why such deficient governance has been allowed to operate.

          Because such deficient governance is what the capitalists want and the politicians are, by the looks of things, owned by the capitalists.

      • greywarshark 4.1.2

        Following on from RedLogix comment it would be good to read Glenn’s from Open Mike yesterday where he goes through a list of facts and explanations relating to the tower fire.

        Open Mike 15/06/2017

        • Sabine

          the instructions to stay put in your flat work if the fire can be contained to a flat or a floor..

          This fire however found lot’s of available fuel in flammable cladding outside the building, traveled up the building and thus could not be contained.
          IF you have a look at some of the pictures available you will see that even with the extension of the fire truck the water could only get to about 10th floor.

          the picture of the guys sitting there and doing nothing, was not that they were resting, they literally could not do anything but wait and let the fire burn.
          These would usually be the crews that would go inside and combat the fire there.

      • mauī 4.1.3

        The instruction to stay put in case of fire is only valid if the fire can be contained within one apartment by fire resistant materials or very slow burning materials. Then the fire service can come and put it out unobstructed before the materials have been able to burn through and spread the fire to the next apartment.

        But if there is any breach of that fire containment in any apartment or even if there is a known possibility that it could happen then that instruction is criminal.

      • Marcus Morris 4.1.4

        From and article by Jonathan Freedland in todays Guardian:

        “So Grenfell Tower threatens to stand forever as a warning against four of the defining features of our era. First, deregulation – elevated to an ideal by the free marketeers of Thatcherism and pursued ever since. Protections for consumers or workers or residents have long been recast and despised as “red tape”, choking plucky entrepreneurs. A favourite slogan of the right was the promise of “a bonfire of regulations”. Well, they got their bonfire all right.

        Second, and related, is privatisation, an animating ideal for the right since the mid-1980s. Grenfell Tower will surely endure as proof that there are some aspects of our lives that do not belong in the realm of profit. The outrage I saw was fuelled by years of frustration felt by people who found their homes managed by an unresponsive company, rather than by elected officials they could throw out.

        Third comes austerity, which has depleted the ranks of housing officers and safety inspectors across the country. Hardly an excuse in the Royal Borough, mind you, which is said to have £300m sitting in a contingency fund.

        But most obviously, Grenfell Tower is a story of inequality, of the poor herded into a cramped building made unsafe because it was prettified to improve the view of the nearby rich. One woman I met wondered if the fire had been started “deliberately, to get rid of us all”. She instantly withdrew that allegation, ashamed of herself for saying it. “But that’s what people feel,” she said.

        Grenfell Tower should mark a point of no return. No return to the frenzied deregulation, cost-cutting and rampant inequality of the last four decades. These are not new evils. They have been lurking for many years. But it took the light of a burning building for the whole nation to see them.”

        This country is desperate for a Bernie Sanders or a Jeremy Corbyn – a politician with fire in his belly and a fearlessness to take on the rich and powerful.

    • red-blooded 4.2

      Add to that list:
      5) A history of power surges and even exploding electrical appliances,

      PLUS (according to RNZ)

      6) Retro-fitted gas pipes running up the stairwells(!). Apparently the tenants had been complaining about this and warning about fire danger for ages.

      This is heart-breaking stuff, but it’s also stomach-churning and gut-wrenching. People have clearly died because of stupid, cost-cutting, under-regulated decisions. Even the idea that in this day and age, older high rises in the UK still don’t have to have sprinkler systems is appalling.

      • RedLogix 4.2.1

        Professionally I’m not an electrical engineer, but my whole career has been very close to it. So in that regard this report of ‘power surges and exploding appliances’ is intriguing.

        In most circumstances I can think of, it would be a loss of power or brown-outs that might be caused by ‘faulty wiring’. Sustained loss of voltage will cause electric motors to draw more current and potentially over-heat, but this takes some time to happen. The common faulty component in the distribution system would be under huge stress and would likely fail quite spectacularly.

        However in a larger building like this it is possible there was power factor correction equipment installed (essentially large banks of capacitors) that might not have been working correctly. I’m guessing here, but I can image scenarios where the stored energy in the capacitor bank is briefly released back into the building supply and causes an increase or surge in voltage. That could definitely damage appliances like cheap fridge motors in mere milliseconds.

        I’m only speculating, but in general it’s true most building electrical systems are poorly maintained , so it would be no surprise if this was a contributor to the event chain leading to this fire.

        • red-blooded

          I took the observation about power surges from a comment Russell Brown made as part of the conversation thread, and he took it from a 2013 report from The Grenfel Action Group (a residents’ group):

          “”We believe that the power surges at Grenfell Tower posed a major fire risk to many residents but this is not highlighted in the Committee report. Residents witnessed smoke coming out of light fittings and other electrical appliances, some of which literally exploded. Despite the fact that these dangerous and highly alarming incidents were reported to the TMO on 11th May no serious action was taken until the problems escalated out of control on 29th May 2013.”

          The group complained that the council identified arcing in a mains supply cable as the cause of the surges – which went on for two weeks! – but made no attempt to find out why the arcing had happened.

          The same post also notes that the company that installed new wiring was also the company that got the contract to do safety assurance on the wiring.”

          • RedLogix

            Agreed. That is truly weird and alarming. If these reports are accurate my technical brain boggles.

      • Bill 4.2.2

        The gas pipe thing is astonishing. My mum spent the last years of her life in a high-rise, and residents weren’t allowed gas canisters in the flats, never mind having mains gas running though the whole damned thing.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.3

      Why was a cheaper flammable version of the cladding selected?

      Why was a cheaper, flammable version even on the market?

    • Why was a cheaper flammable version of the cladding selected?

      The person in charge of the renovations has responded that all the renovations met the relevant standards – as though this were some kind of trump card.

      In the Jamie Whyte view of safety, this is best practice safety management in action. Now that a large number of people have been killed in their own flats by flammable cladding etc, the rational consumer will refuse to live in a building with flammable cladding and no fire alarms or sprinkler system, and building owners will upgrade their buildings accordingly. No regulations or inspectors necessary.

      One can only assume he did most of his philosophy work on the third day of a meth binge.

  5. RedLogix 5

    And on a personal note.

    I see that weka has included a link in the OP to a Southland DHB report on their ophthalmology unit. Well ‘adverse events’ are not confined to Southland.

    My own father lost almost all his sight last year due to a procedure with a contaminated needle. I’ll give them credit for doing their best in the awful aftermath, but again it should never have happened and no-one will be held accountable.

    • joe90 5.1

      Same. Earlier this year a family member underwent a routine procedure that went badly wrong.

      And again, staff did their best in the aftermath but oh boy, there was nothing they could do to ease the pain and anguish that traumatised a family shattered and still recovering after the death of another member caused by a medical misadventure.

  6. Carolyn_nth 6

    Robert Mackey on The Intercept, about Tory MPs who don’t care about the less well off and their well being, and who supported cuts that impacted on health and safety; and about a couple of Labour MPs who do care.

    … Prime Minister Theresa May visited the scene of a deadly fire at Grenfell Tower in Kensington, West London on Thursday, but declined to meet survivors.

    May, whose new chief of staff has been accused of failing to implement the recommendations of a fire safety review that might have prevented the tragedy, also refused to permit journalists to accompany her during a briefing by firefighters.

    That shielded her from uncomfortable questions — about her own role in “radical reforms” that saved money but cut the number of firefighters by 10,000 nationwide — and made for a striking contrast with a visit by Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, who spent an emotional half hour with residents and relatives of the victims.

    Corbyn also promised residents that he would make sure those responsible for failing to prevent the fire were held accountable.

    Emma Dent Coad, who was narrowly elected to Parliament last week to represent Kensington,…
    Dent Coad added that the neglect of fire safety at Grenfell Tower appeared to be part of a wider lack of care for the area’s less working class and poor residents. “We have a very rich council which spent 26 million pounds repaving Exhibition Road for tourists at the same time as it was closing nurseries, pruning youth clubs, closing older people’s lunch clubs, not investing in social care.”

    And then there’s a PM wannabe in the wings:

    The mayor also insisted that a public inquiry into the disaster May promised had to be completed quickly, given that so many other Londoners live in high-rise buildings that need to be made safe.

    Khan’s predecessor, Boris Johnson, came in for plenty of abuse on social networks for his part in reducing the number of fire stations in the capital during his time in office.

  7. AsleepWhileWalking 7

    Peaky Saku speaks on the Richie Allen show

    • AsleepWhileWalking 7.1

      Approx 6.30 in they start discussing Public/private partnerships.

      6.50 – people pay rent on the basis of what they can afford (subsidized rent)
      7.30ish – private investors come in and then priorities change (building made to look nice rather than replacing fire extinguishers etc)

      There are some creepy parallels to NZ here^^

      12.00 – the Tenant Management Organisation, “that is what they do…they don’t treat us like people”

      • saveNZ 7.1.1

        +1 AsleepWhileWalking

        Yep def creepy parallels to NZ here, I often think the NZ government and council only care about real estate rather than people, because they are so brainwashed by neoliberalism they actually can only calculate in terms of accounting profits and not understand it’s people that make the city and the country what it is, not the fixed assets.

  8. Sanctuary 8

    The british press are really turning on Teresa May for showing up, refusing to meet any of the survivors, and leaving again in a heavily escorted limo convoy and contrasting it with Corbyn’s genuine anger and emotion as he met with the locals.

    May is now electoral poison. She is PM just as the chickens of her deep cuts to services during her time as home secretary are coming home to roost. She has got nowhere to hide, and no one to blame.

    • RedLogix 8.1

      Which is kind of surprising really. Not fucking up this kind of thing is Politics 101; May must have either been strongly advised not to go into a potentially hostile encounter with the survivors … or she has the tin ear of a Watties factory.

    • greywarshark 8.2

      But she is calling on the Taliban-like DUP to keep her in power. How fragile the advances are that people achieved after the shock and horror of WW2. All going up in flames, and we who have profited are okay to let it go without a squawk.

  9. mauī 9

    Kids say it best. 7 year old boy holds London mayor to account.

    • saveNZ 9.1

      Pity Theresa May, could not be bothered fronting up to the people. But I guess that requires talking to real humans to say ‘safe and stable to’. The Tory austerity policies don’t look safe and they don’t look stable.

    • Gabby 9.2

      Well coached kids.

  10. Sacha 10

    via twitter:

    “The Times says the ‘fire resistant’ panels cost £24. The flammable £22. Making the building non-flammable would have cost £5K more.”

    • saveNZ 10.1

      Apparently the panels were not for the residents but for the neighbours to ‘beautify’ the ‘eyesore’. So that’s where the council’s 8.7 million pounds went then, not to help the residents – in fact quite the opposite as it turns out – judging from the horrific consequences.

      • saveNZ 10.1.1

        Similar here with the state houses being sold off to private developers. They National party and council housing policies are producing less affordable housing, the focus is on profit and appearance for profit as well as social cleansing of undisirable beneficiaries from desirable suburbs.

        No doubt there will be some similar moniker like ‘tenants housing association’ who isolate the council and government from any issues of maintenance by routing it off the tenants or doing nothing.

        • saveNZ

          In the political context as well, the Labour MP won Kensington by only 40 votes, so the needless deaths of the residents who are unlikely to be Tory voters and the potential ‘relocation’ of it’s survivors into cheaper areas – could actually help the Tories if their is another election win Kensington. It’s sick.

          • greywarshark

            Replace needless with ‘preventable’ or ‘avoidable’ deaths. Need doesn’t come into it, it’s just a habit using that word in that context.

    • RedLogix 10.2

      In the wider context of the whole renovation the cost difference between flammable and non-flammable panels … regardless if these numbers the Time is quoting are accurate … would be trivial.

      It really speaks to a failure of engineering oversight at a very basic level. The more I think about it the more baffling I find it.

      • McFlock 10.2.1

        It’s the cult of profit maximisation – there’s no such thing as a “trivial” cost.

        Do the minimum required to meet the minimum standards and specifications you can get away with, and if someone forgot to specify “non-flammable”, don’t point it out because the deaths will be down to them not you.

  11. Karen 11

    Fantastic post, Weka. Thank you.

  12. Bill 12

    1. The cladding was known to be highly flammable.
    2. People were instructed to stay in their homes in the event of a fire.
    Points 3. through 17 would run along similarly depressing and somewhat incomprehensible lines.

    Theresa May turns up (why?) but won’t talk to surviving residents because of security concerns.

    Sadiq Khan (London Mayor) turns up with bullshit platitudes and prefers to address a camera over a local pointing out that “we’ve seen no-body”.

    People who have lost their homes are reportedly frightened to accept forms of assistance because they believe they’ll lose their right to various entitlements.

    Millions of pounds have apparently been raised. But how does that money go to survivors or family of the dead without becoming subject to rules and regulations that would result in the state’s responsibilities being replaced by acts of private charity?

    Anyway. Unless you feel up to reading a bit of a rant, stop reading here. Otherwise, carry on reading below the dotted line.


    That aside, just remember folks, as voters we can always vote for the “lesser of two evils”. But there is no “lesser of two evils”. Both greater and lesser evil drags its belly along the same path; it’s the same beast. So maybe those who excuse various expressions of liberalism should stop with the excusing?

    By definition, liberalism accepts capitalism. Liberalism always promotes finance or business and the making of money before all else. It merely offers up reforms by way of ‘individual rights’ in order to deliver supposedly equal opportunity ‘for all’ at the alter of an allegedly liberatory and impartial capitalism – hence the absence of class analysis in liberal political discourse.

    We’ve had 150 years or so of capitalism’s systemic abuses and miseries, relentlessly burying those who didn’t grasp their supposed opportunities. That never changes and will never change. So, no more reform. No more platitudes, false hope or empty promises.

    Ah! (I hear some people say). But what would you put in its place? How would we get there? What’s the plan?

    Well, to those people who would rather sit down and talk about it in a fug of avoidance and inaction, I like to imagine a moment of looking over my shoulder to catch a glimpse of them, coffee, biscuits, timetables and action plans in hand, flashing away into the distance aboard the hell bound train that masses of us, in a moment of simple decisive action decided to get off of.

    What would come next? Well, if there is a next, we’ll figure it out. Collectively we’ll be fine.

    You read this far! Thank you for the indulgence 🙂

    • Sabine 12.1

      well this area of London was always a Tory strong hold, this is the first time that a Labour candidate has won in a long time.

      So one could argue that voting for the Tories year after year the good people of this area were voting for the proper evil, and the unashamed evil, and the i don’t give a shit evil that comes with people that put appearances and money over others, and the many poor people who did not vote at all.

      We have had capitalism ever since, any society everywhere on this planet has been ruled by those that amass the largest fortune and can hire the biggest gun, the poor ones, held in place by the guns do the work. That is not a symptom of the last 150 years. Aristocracy and Capitalism are the same thing. Just different names and colours.

      So what do you want people to do, other then not participating at all and still be subject to the system as there currently is no “i opt out’ form available?

      • Bill 12.1.1

        If you seriously believe that capitalism has been around ‘since forever’, and therefore that the very specific nature of the exploitation inherent to capitalism isn’t unique and reasonably recent, then maybe you and Draco should sit down and have a coffee or a beer somewhere together.

        Does it cross your mind that “not participating” can be something other than passive? Not participating in *this* does not preclude participating in *that*, where *that* can be building the new within the shell of the old (to steal an old coined phrase).

        • McFlock

          It might not preclude it, but until *that* is something specific, defined, and achievable, then “not participating” is simply passive approval.

          • Bill

            How specific or defined or achievable?

            I view it all a bit like yoga. Initially there is only a very basic idea and the actual practice of it can be bloody difficult – even seem quite impossible and hopeless given existing physical limitations. But then, with practice and patience, you might discover that what was previously ‘out of the ball park’ with regards possibilities has become reasonable simple and do-able.

            Maybe then the question becomes one of when you began doing yoga. Were you ever not practicing it in one form or another – eg, that simple and almost reflexive stretch when you wake in the morning? More to the point, is it about simply doing – honing technique which then reveals further possibilities – or is it about end results?

            Or to come at it from a completely different angle. Can thought and action be divorced from one another and give rise to anything other than either 1) thinking and inaction, or 2) thinking and incomplete action, or 3) thinking and contradictory action (ie, hypocrisy)?

            Okay. Taking off my hippy/philosophical hat now 🙂

            • McFlock

              Yeah, it was all getting a bit beyond me. I was just thinking “well, do we want to see 20k fewer children in poverty in the next three years, or business as usual from the current fuckwits, or maybe someone has a better idea that has a shitshow of happening while we’re all still alive”.

              • Bill

                Not quite sure of what orthodox political channels there are that would ensure 20 000 children not living in poverty any more. (Maybe that’s a touted policy target that I’ve missed?)

                Let’s be realistic about this. NZ Labour might reasonably be expected to roll out policies that would be less harsh on poor people – or at least less harsh on some poor people.

                But they are a party wedded to liberalism now, and so won’t change the general trajectory that results in all the social inequities we see or experience in NZ.

                Maybe the Greens will run on an electoral platform that overtly promotes social democratic policies. But I doubt it. Regardless, they may possibly be able to exert pressure on a NZ Labour led government so that their policies are that bit less harsh or that bit more wide ranging.

                Beyond that, we’re maybe looking at a Mana contingent putting forward suggestions that the Greens might gravitate towards, thus pulling Labour over just that wee bit more.

                Whatever happens, I’m afraid it absolutely will be a case of business as usual. A bit of tweaking on the fringes will be about it.

                • McFlock

                  oh, 20k was just a guesstimate based on the difference between now and the end of lab5. Probably a massive underestimation.

                  That might be tweaking at the fringes to you, but to those kids it would be a massive improvement.

                  But my main sticking point is that I have no idea what unorthodox political channels there are that would have any positive outcomes whatsoever, let alone for thousands of kids.

                  I’m not saying there is no alternative. I’m saying if you can see an alternative, a specific course of action I and others can do this September that would either put a far left party in government or completely redesign our political system, feel free to present it. Because otherwise it’ll be my standard tossup between the Greens and Labour, with a twinge of mourning for the Alliance (fucking Anderton).

                  • Bill

                    By ‘orthodox’, I was just meaning parliamentary.

                    As I said, NZ Labour would blunt the edges, and I wasn’t minimising or dismissing the impact that will have on some people.

                    You’re presenting things in terms of this September, meaning you’re looking for something to come from the election. A liberal government will be elected. It may be one that is less harsh than the current one. So yes, flip your Green/NZ Labour coin…that’s more or less all that NZ parliamentary politics has on offer at the moment.

                    I’ve banged on often enough in the past about housing collectives and working collectives. I’ve pointed out on more than one occasion that the legislation that would allow very robust set-ups to be established exists in NZ Law. I’ve also written about how, within those communities that are set up well and from my experience, general well being is greatly enhanced and deleterious material poverty eradicated.

                    But that’s got nothing to do with September, quite a lot to do with access to initial monies and a whole lot to do with prevalent mind sets throughout NZ society.

                    • McFlock

                      Well, maybe a strong Labgrn coalition will help change that prevalent mindset.

                      Whereas “not participating” will simply guarantee more of the same tory government, and more suffering for tens of thousands of kids.

                    • Bill

                      You’re definition of ‘not participating’ is far too narrow. You’re assuming participation revolves around simply voting or not voting. That’s not it.

                      I may find myself in a set of circumstances where I’m not participating in the propagation of social and economic norms, and where the nature of the non-participation becomes an example and a very real challenge to those same norms (been there).

                      And in that situation, it wouldn’t be incongruous to tick a box every 3 or 5 years – the act just wouldn’t be invested with a whole lot of expectation.

                    • McFlock

                      well, that simply doesn’t compute for me. You vote, you participate. Whether there’s expectation is fairly moot.

                      gotta go offline for several hours, hopefully back before 10pm lol

        • Sabine

          what would you call the excess of the royal court in France if not ‘capitalsim’. It was couched in different terms but the results are the same. In a hundred and fifty years they will rename Capitalism and present it as a new philosophy.
          And looking at paintings from Kaethe Kollwitz, or from Hryonimus Bosh to just name two, yes, it is the same. Same excess for the rich, same disregard for human lifes, same disregard for law. I think the good old Marquis de Sade wrote a book about the excesses of the monied gentry in his time and was promptly thrown into prison for it.

          Most current ‘not participating’ is passive in so far that people have given up and that is that. They don’t vote, they don’t organise, they don’t participate. Unless you can show me different.

          And every building in town that kept the shell but rebuild is still a leaky building with an old shell.
          The only ones that do building new in an old shell really well are the Dutchies.

          But then the Dutchies know what they are building for.

          For us however, in our times, it is still a Story of two Cities

          • Bill

            So I take it you’ve never organised anything or joined with others to create anything, never challenged anything nor joined with others in subverting anything – just spent a life existing between dotted lines that others have imposed and that you imagine demarcate all that’s possible? Oh well.

            It’s true that the exercise of illegitimate power goes back to ‘whenever’. (I’ve never argued otherwise) And it’s also true that it’s taken many different forms in many different places over time. However, the nature of capitalist exploitation is very specific and fairly recent.

            • gsays

              I can testify to coming together with mates and doing something.
              We tagged the gorge.
              Alloy ladder, couple of 4x4s , tin of paint and a full moon.

              GE FREE PLEASE.

              2002. Corngate (I had to look it up)

    • marty mars 12.2

      If you want a revolution, start one.

      • Bill 12.2.1

        What you suggest I do there marty?

        Douse myself in petrol like Mohamed Bouazizi? Maybe form or join some vanguard movement that seizes control of the state? (That ends well!) Maybe just buy me a turntable and put another record on – thirty three and a third or forty five? I think 45’s more revolutionary somehow 🙂

        Maybe I joined a revolution some time back? Maybe it quietly waxes and wanes or just slowly builds? Maybe it’s all just waiting for more people to catch up or ‘twig’ so that more possibilities open up?

        Or maybe not. Whaddya know?

        • marty mars

          Just trying to help you be decisive.

          • Bill


            I think it was 1983 marty. So that’s a wee few decades of doing it – to a sometimes greater and sometimes lesser degree in whatever given circumstances.

        • Adrian Thornton

          12 inch 45’s I can go along with… the flying nun revolution pretty much happened on that format…

  13. Marcus Morris 13

    Read George Mionbet’s latest contribution in the Guardian It says it all.

    • Ed 13.1

      So if some neoliberal git goes on about red tape, say “I doubt the families of Grenfell would agree with you about red tape.”

      And if some neoliberal rants on about things being ‘too pc’, say “I doubt the families of Hillsborough would agree with you about being too pc.”

      And if some neoliberal idiot gibbers on about being ‘nanny state’ say “I doubt the families of Pike River would agree with you about the ‘nanny state’.

      And if some neoliberal idelogue blathers on about being ‘unecessary regulations ‘ say “I doubt the families of the CTV building would agree with you about the ‘unecessary regulations.’

      These zealots have controlled the use of language for too long.
      Let’s take it back.

  14. rhinocrates 14

    For a two-word summary of Tory attitudes to fire safety in London in particular and public services in general from Boris Johnson:

    SPOILER: He says, ‘Get stuffed.’

    I suppose bloody Nick Smith would say ‘We have redefined ‘on fire’ to mean ‘safe’.’

  15. Ed 15

    150 dead at Grenfell??

    Singer Lily Allen has accused the mainstream media and government of covering up the Grenfell Tower fire death toll, live on Channel 4 News. Anchor Jon Snow was interviewing the singer when she said:

    “I feel like the government are trying to micromanage people’s grieving here… I’ve never in my entire life seen an event like this, where the death count has been downplayed by the mainstream media. 17? I’m sorry, but I’m hearing from people that the figure is much closer to 150, and that many of those people are children.

    The mainstream media has so far been reporting the death toll at 17.

    Allen clarified:

    Those are off the record numbers that I’ve been given from policemen and from firemen.

    The Channel 4 News host said he had also heard the same ballpark figure as Allen. He responded:

    “The difficulty is that they have to identify bodies. And there can be very little left in this building.”

  16. Ed 16

    Telling the truth.

    • joe90 17.1

      Yes, let’s all be creepy as fuck stalkers.

      • McFlock 17.1.1

        I don’t have much of a problem contrasting the lifestyles of people who profit vs people who die, but knowing the Daily Mail (and without clicking the link) it’s probably just a random photo of the home of some old lady who won the lottery after years of minimum wage slog.

  17. mordecai 19

    “Because while the neoliberal underpinnings of this aren’t new,…”
    What ‘neo-liberal underpinnings’? This was a council owned building, run by a TMO (tenancy management organisation). It is already public knowledge that the residents had argued over installation of a new sprinkler system, and that the GAG had been expressing concerns over safety since at least 2012.
    This is failure of council and the property managers, and attempts to blame some nebulous political ideology that barely exists anywhere is a disgrace to those who lost their lives.

    • What neoliberal underpinnings? Well, there are many, but most pertinent in this instance is the decision to save a measly 5 Gs by installing flammable rather than non-flammable cladding in a building refurbishment, because fitting flammable cladding featuring a fire-friendly ventilation layer to the outside of a building with no fire alarm or sprinkler system meets the relevant standards under a government focused on cutting red tape and not inflicting “clipboard-wielders” on society’s “wealth-creators.” How many dead people would you like us to require as evidence that neo-liberalism’s a shit ideology?

      • mordecai 19.1.1

        So false economy is a neo-liberal trait? I don’t think so. But good try.

        • Psycho Milt

          False economy isn’t a neo-liberal trait, but willingness to take risks that involve disregarding the potential costs in human life certainly is one, and agitating for governments to adopt the Jamie Whyte approach to safety is another. Pike River is also a fine example.

          • mordecai

            The risks, if any, were taken by a Council with support from a tenancy group. These people are not automatons under the spell of any ‘ism’. They are imperfect human beings who ballsed up. Nothing to do with political ideology. But look, if it makes you feel better to blame some perceived and vague ideology rather than face the fact that of what really happened, then good luck to you. It puts you in the same class as moon landing and 911 conspirators, but that’s fine with me.

            • Psycho Milt

              I can’t stop you believing ideology doesn’t influence behaviour, sure.

              • McFlock

                Wow, you’re in the same class as the folks who conspired to fake the moon landings and 911?

                Mordecai is obviously in awe of your conspiratorial skills. 🙂

              • mordecai

                Oh ideology does influence behaviour. Just ask the victims of islamic terrorism. But in this case you seem to be asserting some ideology influenced the council and residents group to make bad decisions. That is an assertion you simply cannot prove.

                • I’m not sure what “residents’ group” you’re claiming made bad decisions. Certainly not the residents who put a lot of effort into to trying to highlight how the KCTMO was endangering their lives.

                  The behaviour that was influenced by ideology in this case includes the “bonfire of regulations” that resulted in this bonfire of tenants, the passing of responsibility for council flats to private organisations, the wholesale redundancies affecting building inspectors, firefighters etc and the approach to safety taken by the building renovators. It can’t be “proven” in the sense that a quadratic equation can, but that standard of proof isn’t required to hold an opinion.

                  • mordecai

                    “I’m not sure what “residents’ group” you’re claiming made bad decisions. ”
                    The KCTMO, who managed Grenfell. KCTMO’s Board includes eight residents.

                    “The behaviour that was influenced by ideology in this case includes the “bonfire of regulations” that resulted in this bonfire of tenants…”
                    …none of which prevented the TMO acting responsibly.

                    “…the passing of responsibility for council flats to private organisations…”
                    4 of the TMO are Council representatives, so that’s bs.

                    “…the wholesale redundancies affecting building inspectors, firefighters etc and the approach to safety taken by the building renovators.”
                    Decisions about the building renovation were made by the TMO, not regulators or renovators.

                    Your opinion is flowed by your obsession with blaming an ideology rather than the obvious failings of human beings.

    • Ed 19.2

      The desire to get rid of the red tape surrounding fire safety sounds neoliberal to me.
      Closing down fire stations sounds neoliberal to me.
      Not installing water sprinklers sounds neoliberal to me.
      Not maintaining fire alarms sounds neoliberal to me.
      Congratulating oneself on making those cuts sounds neoliberal to me.

      And posting extremist ideas like those above sounds neoliberal to me.

      • mordecai 19.2.1

        Red tape or otherwise is irrelevant. The owners were the Council. This is a failure by the owners and building management.

    • RedLogix 19.3

      A powerful response mordecai:

      So Grenfell Tower threatens to stand forever as a warning against four of the defining features of our era. First, deregulation – elevated to an ideal by the free marketeers of Thatcherism and pursued ever since. Protections for consumers or workers or residents have long been recast and despised as “red tape”, choking plucky entrepreneurs. A favourite slogan of the right was the promise of “a bonfire of regulations”. Well, they got their bonfire all right.

      Second, and related, is privatisation, an animating ideal for the right since the mid-1980s. Grenfell Tower will surely endure as proof that there are some aspects of our lives that do not belong in the realm of profit. The outrage I saw was fuelled by years of frustration felt by people who found their homes managed by an unresponsive company, rather than by elected officials they could throw out.

      Third comes austerity, which has depleted the ranks of housing officers and safety inspectors across the country. Hardly an excuse in the Royal Borough, mind you, which is said to have £300m sitting in a contingency fund.

      But most obviously, Grenfell Tower is a story of inequality, of the poor herded into a cramped building made unsafe because it was prettified to improve the view of the nearby rich. One woman I met wondered if the fire had been started “deliberately, to get rid of us all”. She instantly withdrew that allegation, ashamed of herself for saying it. “But that’s what people feel,” she said.

      Grenfell Tower should mark a point of no return. No return to the frenzied deregulation, cost-cutting and rampant inequality of the last four decades. These are not new evils. They have been lurking for many years. But it took the light of a burning building for the whole nation to see them.

      Oh and it looks like the death toll will be closer to 110 than 17 but no-one wants to come out and say so.

      • Ed 19.3.1

        Yes lying and a lack of democracy is another telltale hallmark of neoliberalism.

      • weka 19.3.2

        the death toll thing is odd. On the one hand, an extreme fire that no-one has had to deal with before and some of the bodies incinerated. On the other hand, where’s the reporting on how many people lived there alongside the number of people listed as missing. Surely the council and emergency services know by now? I know it’s only been a few days, but wouldn’t there be a tenants list and then a system for asking people to register that they are ok. Or for family to register people as missing (they did this here after Chch 2).

        • RedLogix

          Yes it does seem quite odd. I can understand why officials don’t want to put out numbers into the public domain without some clear basis for doing so … but with reports that up to 600 people lived in the tower there is a wide range of possible outcomes.

          At present it looks like about 30 confirmed casualties and another 58 reported missing. Let us fervently wish that it goes no higher.

      • mordecai 19.3.3

        So you make your argument from an opinion piece in the Guardian, of all sources.
        If you had even a shred of an argument you would be able to point to the absence of such failures in non ‘neo-liberal’ economies, correct? So fire away. Then I’ll school you on just how many Russians died at the hands of socialist incompetence.

        • RedLogix

          If you could find anywhere I had ever supported Soviet style totalitarianism as a viable political system, you might have a point. But you don’t.

          And keep your ‘schooling’ to yourself. Personally I got to visit the “Highway of Bones” some years ago. That wasn’t incompetence, it was malice of the most chillingly brutal and grim sort.

          • mordecai

            Soviet style totalitarianism is socialist totalitarianism. But you haven’t answered my question, and I know why.

        • Psycho Milt

          It’s indicative of how extreme an ideology neo-liberalism is that its proponents fall back on comparisons with Bolshevism when they want to make it look relatively less unpleasant.

          • mordecai

            Neo-liberalism is a construct by people like you with limited political vocabulary. That’s why you have no sense of the sarcasm in my posts about the soviet union.

            • RedLogix

              Interesting … you remind me of the decades after Muldoon, no bastard could ever be found who voted for him.

              Look I realise it suits you to pretend it never existed, finely dicing and parsing neo-liberalism into a grammatical goulash , but those of us who lived most of our adult lives with Rogernomics and all that came after, will not forget the taste so easily.

              • mordecai

                That’s all very dandy, but ‘it’ needs defining. Neo-liberalism is, as I said, a construct. If you wish to bemoan capitalism or free enterprise, then I’ll pay attention. However throwing around a rather nebulous term, and ascribing to it all the evils of the world, is so much nonsense. A bit like applying the label ‘racism’ to everyone you disagree with.

          • RedLogix

            Heh … nothing I could possibly add PM.

    • Draco T Bastard 19.4

      This is failure of council and the property managers, and attempts to blame some nebulous political ideology that barely exists anywhere is a disgrace to those who lost their lives.

      That political ideology exists all right. It’s the ideology of the right-wing.

      And it’s that ideology that killed 29 people in Pike River
      It’s that ideology that killed all those people in Grenfell
      It’s that ideology that has our public services being cut
      It’s that ideology that has our assets being sold off cheaply so that a few rich people can make us all serfs for their profits
      It’s that ideology that has poverty increasing across the developed world

  18. RedLogix 20

    And who makes all this lethal damned cladding?

    This Chinese experience was probably not fully appreciated outside China, even though it was Chinese manufactured insulation cladding that was by now being exported around the world. In November 2014, a fire started from a discarded cigarette on a balcony of the second floor of the Lacrosse tower in Docklands, Melbourne, Victoria, rapidly spread via the Chinese manufactured cladding to the twentieth storey of the building, forcing hundreds to evacuate, but fortunately without loss of life because the fire did not then spread back into the building. However, in Australia there’s been growing concern among construction unions about the “flood” of such building materials into the country that could endanger the public.

    In fact if you read more on this incident in Melbourne they were incredibly lucky; there just happened to be a seven storey overpass right next to the building, on the side on fire, with a hydrant which gave fire services the reach with ladders and hoses to contain the fire without loss of life. But two prior incidents in China, in 2010 and 2011, were equally devastating as Grenfell. The term ‘death trap’ is scarcely hyperbole.

    Evidently there are possibly thousands of tower blocks globally affected.

    • Draco T Bastard 20.1

      Can’t say I’m surprised by that. It just reinforces the fact that we need some serious regulations about the quality of goods that we allow to be brought in and used in our nation.

      • RedLogix 20.1.1

        It’s one big area I tend to agree with you on; cheap, shoddy unregulated manufacturing (sure China is the big offender, but I don’t care where the country of origin is) is not just poor value for money, and all too often dangerous … but in the wider picture … is an exceedingly stupid, grotesque waste of resources.

        I can’t walk through one of those big box retailers of plastic junk without the stench of oppressive waste and environmental degradation hanging over me.

  19. Saint Vincent 21

    Something goes wrong = neoliberal to blame.

    • mordecai 21.1

      This is the extremely shallow thinking amongst the left, regrettably. And its the reason people are abandoning leftist politics, because it has failed everywhere, and its supporters are devoid of answers.

      • weka 21.1.1

        Yes dear, Corbyn didn’t just raise Labour’s vote by 10% in a month via socialistic policies. And Corbyn’s actual left wing Labour doesn’t out poll the Tories a few weeks after the election. And Corbyn doesn’t out poll May.

        I’m not sure if you are trolling or disingenuous, but the whole ‘leftwing has failed and lefties are stupid’ thing is just boring, especially in a place like this that values actual political debate rather than ideological assertion.

        • mordecai

          So your argument is based on some odd sense that a loss by Corbyn is actually a victory. For the record, The Conservatives received almost 1,000,000 more votes than Labour. The Conservatives hold 55 more seats than Labour. You comments remind me of the propoganda bs promulgated by the soviets.

          • weka

            But I’m not arguing about who won the UK GE. I’m arguing against your assertion that the left is dead. I just provided pretty good evidence that it’s not.

            There’s also the quality of a victory not just the raw numbers. That Corbyn and socialist Labour are still rising in the polls is easily the best refutation of your argument.

            “You comments remind me of the propoganda bs promulgated by the soviets.”

            That just tells me something about your intellect. You’re also an ideologue. Like I said, it gets boring pretty quick around here when people can make arguments beyond rhetoric.

            • mordecai

              “But I’m not arguing about who won the UK GE.”
              Well, yes you are really. You’re arguing the UK GE was something of victory for Corbyn and left. A bit like England doing a lap of honour after drawing with the AB’s.

              “I’m arguing against your assertion that the left is dead. I just provided pretty good evidence that it’s not.”
              No, you didn’t. The left LOST the UK GE. In fact the left have not been in power in the UK since, ummmm…..

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    New Zealand is today taking action to reduce the potent global warming hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gases, Climate Minister James Shaw and Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage announced today. “The global agreement to reduce these potent greenhouse gases is another step in New Zealand’s commitment to reduce global warming. It is estimated ...
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      The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) through its skills and employment programme, Te Ara Mahi, will invest nearly $600,000 to ensure work opportunities for locals in Turangi and Whanganui, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau announced today. “I’m pleased to announce the PGF is investing in these innovative ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Government levels electricity playing field for consumers
    Consumers will benefit from changes to the electricity market that will see a level playing field for smaller independent retailers, greater transparency over the big power companies, increased competition in the market and more support for consumers to shop around for better deals, Minister Megan Woods has announced. The changes ...
    2 weeks ago