Following the disaster, the battle for the truth of Grenfell has started. The focus is now on the nature of the inquiry with concerns being raised over its leadership and conduct. As a direct result of his actions as part of the judiciary the Chairman, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, is viewed with deep suspicion and the initial meeting with residents was fractious. Centre stage is an apprehension that the scope of the inquiry will be limited to just the local circumstances of North Kensington and not wider issues of social housing.
In previous blogs (here and here) I have suggested why Government and media will want a strictly limited inquiry based on a woeful deficit of democratic accountability. But there is another reason for scepticism. Any comprehensive investigation must surely highlight the role of the media in using immigrants as a tool to drive their regressive agenda of slashing public servicess while giving tax cuts to the wealthy.
The Murdoch (The Sun and The Times) and Rothermere (Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday) owned press are the obvious culprits, but we must not ignore the role of the BBC in giving continuing prominence to UKIP and its erstwhile (and future?) leader Nigel Farage despite fast fading support and no Parliamentary representation. The focus has been on how immigrants are responsible for everything from an inability for people to get GP appointments, through jumping social hosing queues, to being responsible for clogging up motorways!
But the aim of papers such as the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph goes beyond simple populist xenophobic demonisation for its own sake and is really a tool for undermining public services. Services, by the way, used by ALL of us. These papers are implicitly, but effectively, promoting the idea that the populations of weldare states do not want to share their prosperity with others who they perceive as not ‘being like them’ The argument is essentially: if the immigrants get all the public goodies then why should we pay for public services? Consequently, support for redistribution of wealth withers as ethnic diversity, driven by migration, grows. As support for public services and a willingness to defend them wanes so the argument for cutting taxes for the rich, even in a time of austerity, can prosper. Here in a nutshell is the aim of the oligarchical press. More inequality, more wealth for the 1% and the less well-off, indigenous and immigrants alike suffer. All built on a perception of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees, NOT the facts!
The Grenfell Tower catastophe is where the overt xenophobic element of the media agenda converged with with the associated undermining of support for public services. Regulation influenced by corporations, cheap materials, outsourced safety checks and an attitude of anything goes The reports of other councils such as Camden has revealed the true extent of the crisis, but it extends well beyond hosuing. For example, why should I support an NHS if immigrants clog it up and I cannot access the service I paid for? So the case for a privatised service is advanced with the wealthy able to affors care and associated big profits for the peers of the paper owners.
A former director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Nick Pearce examined the issue in an article entitled Diversity vesus Solidarity: A Progressive Dilemma!. He stated:
Attention to the drivers of public perception on race and migration. the role of the media in shaping public opinion on race, immigration and ethnic diversity is well documented but relatively poorly researched (particularly in relation to specific groups such as asylum seekers).
How many more Grenfells must there be before the real aim of the media agenda is understood and exposed?