It is too soon yet to conclude on the culpability of this disaster, but, if early reports are correct, we should be greatly concerned about how law is made and how the mantra of ‘red-tape’ paralyses commentary and political debate.
The apparent dismissal of practical solutions such as fire sprinklers and quite possibly the design of effective evacuation procedures should raise concern, but, the worst of all revelations appear to centre around the economic decision to use exterior panelling that offered a potential fire risk; all this against the backdrop of a community in protest, not just now, but for many months if not years!
Several days before this savage fire, I received notification of a hotel fire in Turkey, in which there were apparently difficulty with the alarms and people were being woken up by fellow holidaymakers and some staff. The reaction by some members of staff toward holidaymakers who were filming the scene, was to allegedly attack them and drag them away. In that case, the holidaymakers claim that they are still trying to get answers having received very little help or information; can you see the trend?
Of course none of this is a surprise to me, apart from my own campaigning activities on behalf of Consumers, I also work across a wider portfolio, supporting my fellow campaigners and helping them to deliver rational argument.
There are many Consumer protests, activists and concerns on Fire, Carbon Monoxide, Domestic Toxins, Chemicals in the Environment, Chemicals in Aircraft and on Ships, Disappearances, Fracking, Inquests and the ineffectiveness of our Public Bodies and lack of real Regulation and Enforcement
All too often I see the victims or their families following a personal tragedy that has befallen them, all for the want of Public Information, Law or Enforcement. These dignified people, attend the Houses of Parliament, seeking answers, quietly demanding action. They are often in rooms full of Industry personnel and politicians where kind words are uttered, with just the right amount facial angst and promises of action that never materialise. Let me assure you, the victims and survivors are angry, but they are often in a majority of one; just another statistic that suggests that any reaction must be balanced, proportional and action only through Consumer Modelling!
The advocates for many of these victims are often derided, described as being too ‘extreme’, ‘unhinged’, ‘too difficult’, ’failing to understand commerce’, ‘failing to understand that commercial interests must be balanced’; even I have come under the hammer of derision, all because I offer the experience of Consumers and what must be done to make sure that this or that never happens again. For Industry, and many politicians are so persuaded, the balance sheet or the bottom line is the guardian against Regulation! As many of us experience, Patronage is a powerful mistress but it smothers the need for action and indeed justice.
In January 2015, I had the honour of delivering an address at the House of Lords, to celebrate the 20th Year of the Charity, CO-Gas Safety. In that speech, with the assembly of Industry and Politicians before me, here is a selection of some of the issues I raised:
“My journey has taken me to the four corners of the globe, dealing with complaints from booking problems, illness, toxins, corruption & suspicious deaths. Today I am going to be controversial, that is the nature of what I do and no-body should be surprised by what I have to say.
Throughout the world I have met victims, survivors & activists campaigning to right wrongs. In the UK on CO there is the valiant work of Gareth Hughes, simply seeking honesty and openness in what is contained within fuel products; Gordon and Avril Samuels who out of personal tragedy simply want the public informed of the dangers and for a greater use of alarms; Molly Maher lost a son and has a seriously disabled daughter – who tried and failed to obtain Justice in Spain & the UK, and then there is Stephanie! Like me, not a victim or a survivor, but nonetheless motivated to advocate for those who feel they have no voice and she does so in a responsible manner, highlighting the deficit on data, the need for Public Information and for meaningful legislation to protect the Public.
When you consider the world we live in, from aircraft, shipping, food and fuel, all of the issues causing concern have one unifying factor; Hydrocarbons.
As Consumers and Employees, we are blissfully unaware of what makes up the fuel we use, the food we eat or the air we breathe; all of us acquiesce to common phrases, clean air, clean water, fresh food, natural gas. We accept an element of risk and the sage words of our politicians and of Industry that everything is safe. Whilst we should always acknowledge the progress of initiatives, I have found, particularly in the UK that Campaigners on a wide range of issues, exist in what I call the Hourglass Vacuum; Politicians and Industry on either side with victims, survivors and activists in the middle with no real meeting of minds.
I am not a great supporter of Dominic Greive MP but I do admire him for his steadfast principles on Human Rights and International Law. Recently he was asked about pressure groups and the parliamentary process and he had this to say; "Parliament is about working collectively, moderating peoples views and coming to a consensus. We need to cooperate with each other”.
In other words, parliament needs to facilitate opinion, indeed where are the Hybrid Leaders, taking a balanced position with Industry and with all the passions and desires of both victims/survivors, many of whom suffer with Brain Damage, Victim Syndrome, Grief or with the physical affects of exposure to HydroCarbons, with the goal of protecting Consumer health and their rights and providing a level playing field for Industry –I regret to say that in my view, there is currently no such balance in the UK CO debate!
On the other side of the coin, it’s essential that victims, survivors and activists practice objectivity and unity because their individual goals are complementary to each other. To demonstrate this point, in the cabin air quality debate, we have demonstrated that a unified lobby is an effective and challenging lobby and to the angst of Industry, it is having a global effect.
These honestly held opinions, borne out of experience, presents a challenge to all in this room; I would be happy to work with anyone to build a similar success – you must decide if you are ready to accept the challenge or continue with the generally held Campaigners view – ‘same old same old’!”
The challenge I threw out was met with no engagement from those same Industry and Political attendee’s; on that day it clearly demonstrated a polarised political process - an experience that the people of Kensington all know too well. Can you hear the people sing?
(First Published on 17 June 2017)