Towering Injustice



Who knew?  Who’d-a-thunk eh?

Grenfell Tower.

You might have thought it was a no-brainer, a 23 storey tower block to be clad in insulation and rain-proof cladding…it’d have to be fire proof, surely?  You wouldn’t wrap a building in flammable material would you when non-combustible materials were available, materials that not only didn’t burn but didn’t give off cyanide gas when burnt?  And yet that is precisely what did happen.

What went wrong?  ‘Experts’, political hubris, time and money, good intentions and lack of supervision.

The BBC et al scoffed loudly at Gove when he suggested perhaps ‘experts’ weren’t all they were cracked up to be and perhaps we shouldn’t listen to them quite so much, maybe with a touch of scepticism.  Indeed the Brexit vote was a vote by the People flying  in the face of ‘expert’ advice telling them how great the EU was.  The problem was that the peoples’ own experience on the ground, living with the consequences of EU membership, was entirely different to what they were being told they should appreciate….they were told what they saw as EU failure was their own fault, they didn’t understand, they were ignorant or they were prejudiced and bigoted.

Trouble is they were not stupid or bigoted, they knew full well what was going on and that they were being lied to.  The same goes for tower blocks like Grenfell Tower…the residents, not experts in architecture, building design or in building materials, could tell from living the reality that the place was a death trap.  But the experts knew better.

The trouble is the politicians, local and national, all have to rely on the experts…for the design, for construction and for overseeing any project.  And of course they will rely on them and their advice.  What else can they do?  Then there is the politics.  Housing in desperately short supply and politicians make promises to build, build, build and then they get elected and have to make good on those promises…luckily new building techniques and materials are available that will speed up and lower the cost of mass producing news homes.  It then falls to the local councils to carry out those promises, find the money and to supervise the jobs.  It just doesn’t happen as good intentions fall by the wayside and the pressure is on to get the new homes built to a budget…and the new techniques aren’t properly researched and developed so that ultimately the buildings fail in some shape or form.  The buildings are either demolished or attempts made to repair them…repairs which suffer the same problems of insufficient development and supervision.  These also fail as at Grenfell.

None of this is new.  New techniques and building materials have been around for over a century as prefabs using concrete became the common solution to rapidly building mass housing.  The politicians naturally having to rely on experts to assure them this was the best solution, and safe.

Here are some phrases that sum up the time from a 1984 investigation….  ‘Get it built’, ‘the mood of the times’, ‘time and money’, ‘euphoric times’, ‘people swept along’.

The politicians et al were swept along on a tide of hubris…an Obama-like ‘Yes we can’ mood that meant the details and the criticisms were swept aside and ignored in the ‘euphoria’ of getting the job done.

Watch the film, below.  It’s frightening how good intentions result in costly and dangerous end results, the politicians not deliberately setting out to build shoddy and lethal housing but a perfect storm of time and budget pressures, contractors failing to provide quality materials and good work standards and a failure of supervision by the councils all combined to produce homes that were deadly.

The while film illustrates the process by which failure was built into the system but the last 5 minutes brings it all into clear focus and relevance to today as it gets to the cladding repair systems and then the failure of politicians to listen to the people, preferring as they did, to listen to the experts.

This was in 1984….33 years ago…lessons learnt?  None.


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32 Responses to Towering Injustice

  1. lojolondon says:

    Problem is that the cladding was “EU-approved” – as everything must always be. That releases the ‘consultants’, builders and experts from any requirement for thought. So they just threw on the cheapest cladding there is and everyone’s arse is covered.


    • Guest Who says:

      I never knew that CE meant Cladding Européene


    • Thoughtful says:

      If only it were that simple.
      Case law deems the contractor to be expert and even if they are using ‘approved materials’ their either knew or should have known of the dangers. Using approved materials is not the protective shield that it might once have been thought to have been.


  2. JimS says:

    The BBC doesn’t learn either, just keep spending more and more ‘public’ money and all problems are solved.

    As a society we advance by doing more for less. I can remember when paying ‘a cent per bit’ was a goal for computer memory, that would make a 8Gb memory stick worth about $640M! Damn those cost-cutting technologists!

    Another good lesson is not to rush to adopt something new before it has been trialled and developed. Let’s smash traditional families! Let’s encourage sex between people of the same sex! Let’s take people out of bad societies, (that are bad presumably because they are made up of ‘bad’ people), and see how many we can inject into our society before it goes bad, (knife crime, drugs, FGM, honour killing, terrorism etc)!

    Anyone would think they want to engineer more disasters to keep the news ‘exciting’.


    • charmbrights says:

      @Jim S Ah the days of “Middle Earth when men forged rings of ferrite into which all knowledge could be poured” as I heard in an academic paper in the last century. We have all suffered from the “experts know best” when something has been constructed/created and tested but then won’t work in the real world, like the computer bills for zero pounds, zero shillings, and zero pence which were followed closely by demands for payment when they were ignored.


    • JohnG says:

      JimS, surely the news these days has to be vibrant, inclusive, impartial, honest, appropriate, challenging, as well as exciting?


  3. joeadamsmith says:

    That was – is – a fantastic documentary. The last five minutes being (especially) illuminating. This is something that the BBC used to produce and were renowned for……. Would they do this again?

    And, as Alan said (when he referred to Gove) can the professionals be totally trusted?


  4. Jo says:

    I haven’t watched the film yet but, having spent many years in the building industry, though not at the sharp end, I know that there is a massive gulf between what should happen and what actually happens in practice. That will not come as a huge surprise.

    New techniques and materials are developed by experts under ideal conditions but they often fail to take into account the reality of the building site. Corners are cut, not necessarily through incompetence or malice but because those on site do not understand the significance of what they are being required to do. Builders are conservative and will default to their traditional way of doing things and, to put it bluntly, few building site workers have degrees in civil engineering and the materials sciences. Things get damaged and fail to perform as they should. A team performing a task will undermine work performed by the previous team. That happens a lot and it’s down to supervision.

    I’m not justifying bad practices, but laboratory experts and architects are not always fully in touch with reality.


    • davylars says:

      In the 70’s Gateshead labour council in their wisdom constructed a social housing development using a style of flat roofed maisonette modeled on a style that was being constructed in Algeria or Morocco. Can’t quite remember.
      In the early eighties, as we remember the conservative government allowed council housing stock to be sold off. Anyway surprise surprise, after a few years the roofs began to leak. The fortunate people who chose not to buy these houses had a tiled roof put on for free at the expense of the council. The poor buggers that had bought the houses had to pay for the retrofit, or not.


  5. miker22 says:

    What an interesting film. Many thanks for putting it up. It does put things in perspective a bit. Great play for instance has been made of the fact that the residents at Grenfell Tower complained and their complaints were ignored or stifled. But that has clearly been the case in so many places. That residents’ meeting was a good example – I am not trying to justify the authorities or whoever is responsible but there just was no solution – there were simply no places for them to move to.


  6. manky codpiece says:

    If you have to keep on finding more and more money to fund more and more homes,then take in more and more people
    from everywhere on the planet,where does it end.
    It doesn’t surprise me there are cock ups like this along the way.
    If the bucket is full then a bigger bucket or add another bucket to the problem is required,I can’t see the bucket being emptied
    any time soon,can you.
    corbyn and farron want an open door policy,so the tap just keeps on giving and the money has to be found to accommodate it.
    It may be more complicated than it appears to me,if so,someone please enlighten me.


  7. manky codpiece says:

    If you have to keep on finding more and more money to fund more and more homes,then take in more and more people
    from everywhere on the planet,where does it end.
    It doesn’t surprise me there are cock ups like this along the way.
    If the bucket is full then a bigger bucket or add another bucket to the problem is required,I can’t see the bucket being emptied
    any time soon,can you.
    corbyn and farron want an open door policy,so the tap just keeps on giving and the money has to be found to accommodate it.
    It may be more complicated than it appears to me,if so,someone please enlighten me.


  8. Alicia Sinclair says:

    What a stunning film.
    So much comes back, we used to do films like this as a matter of routine.
    THE Adam Curtis?
    if so-where the hell has HE been since Grenfell Tower? Even the leftiscum would have to listen to this visionary( has his faults, but this is stunning work). T Dan Smith too!
    A must-watch, thank you Alan.
    PS. Re “Gove and his experts”.
    Not true-he said we`d had enough of acronyms getting spouted by Faisal Islam like “CBI”, “OBR”, “IPPR” and the like…”BBC” goes without saying!
    So he`s not against experts-he`s against presumptuous acronym wavers, who themselves know nothing-but cite others. Like Blair did and his IAEA crap on WMD…there`s a few more for you!


  9. Thoughtful says:

    No one is mentioning save in to prevent people blaming, Green energy policies. I believe there has been some kind of memo circulated telling those involved expressly NOT to place any blame on the Green policies which led to this.

    Firstly the Fridge Freezer ignition. The old refrigerants such as R12 which is now illegal was non combustible, but now almost unbelievably modern fridges & freezers use butane as the refrigerant. Butane is lighter gas or camping stove fuel ! It was changed because the Green lobby demanded it.

    Then there is the insulation and unfortunately the Green lobby isn’t happy with Good, Very Good, etc, the only thing it wants is THE BEST, and unfortunately the best is flammable. There are ways of making it fire retardant, but that is NOT fire proof like rock wool. Rockwool however is not THE BEST, so the Green lobby won’t accept it.

    Tower blocks don’t have cavity walls so the insulation has to be external or internal, but the Greens demand it is 100mm thick ! so it has to go on the outside, and that means it needs protecting from the elements with aluminium panels. The best low maintenance finish is of course a plastic type coating which again is flammable.

    Without the Green issues surrounding the refurbishment of these blocks, this disaster would never have happened.


    • chrisH says:

      Agreed Thoughtful.
      No “White heat” types like Roy Hattersley
      No ” cities in the sky types” like Michael Heseltine
      No ” community active” types like Simon Hughes. Harriet Harman, Lynne Featherstone, Tessa Jowell, Margaret Hodge-and of course their recent equivalents like Corbyn, Thornberry, Lammy and Coad( all of who are derelict if they don`t know these issues raised in this film).
      No European Union.
      No Ed Miliband or Ed Davey.
      And-of course-no Green Party, Friends of the Earth, Paris wankers who hate Trump, no Kyoto scum-all of who slated May for not writing to Donald Trump is some message in a bottle gesture as local tinderboxes were carefully wrapped in kindling.

      Someone smart on this site gave us the idea of the sheep all being safely down the other end of the field as all this is going on.
      There they all are…we need to drag the scum back up this end and cut a few throats…it`s what Gaia may want as a sacrifice, you Green Lefty bastards!

      Horsemeat 2013, diesel forced on us then banned all under New Labour and the Cameron Tories. Get out your Stanley knife Theresa-shit as you are, you only provided the victims…the load I name DID start the fire at Grenfell, in one way or another.

      AND-what REALLY gets me?
      The level of scholarship, concern and history was clearly known and coded by those in charge at this time-ALL contributors to the programme spoke well, clearly and expressed their concerns as well as the pay grade allowed, even into retirement. These were not EU clots, not kids with Blairs syntax and media massaging weasel words re “regrettable” etc. Their science, local accents and roots were clear, they had jobs where they`d be facing tenants in the pub later on maybe?
      Clerk Of Works for example.

      Compare to the media scum of today who talk crap and avoid conflict, fact or legal pursuits-and get out of the “role” before the shit hits the fan like today. Only one German engineer here-and he spoke as well as us.
      If THAT alone-this babel bollocks is not reason alone to leave the EU-then what is?


  10. Adam83 says:

    I blame Communist architecture.


  11. Framer says:

    Twice I have heard it said that the fire service extinguished the fridge blaze but did not notice that flames had gone outside the window into the cladding.
    We are told today that the fridge caused the fire but no other details except the manufacturer’s name
    Fire officers were therefore in the tower at the time.
    If so, why were there so few warnings to people on the higher floors?
    Will this be investigated, as it seems like negligence?
    Perhaps it can’t be since such parties cannot be deemed culpable in today’s climate of blaming the Tories, the ‘rich’ and the council.
    Only asking.


    • davylars says:

      I have heard that one also about the fire service extinguishing the fire.
      I would hate to think it is true, but if it is,,,,
      Gross negligence by the fire service…….
      Grounds for manslaughter perhaps.
      Just a thought.


  12. Martin Pinder says:

    Anyone remember the progressive collapse of Ronan point?


    • Jo says:

      Yes, quite well.

      However, if the Wikipedia “List of structural failures and collapses” is reliable, the UK comes out quite well, although May still hasn’t apologised for the collapse of the Ely Cathedral tower in 1322.

      The US seems to be particularly accident prone, if the list is representative, but then it does have serious earthquakes from time to time.


      • Lobster says:

        Jo – I don’t think Theresa May needs to apologise for Ely Cathedral. That would have been Thatcher’s fault.


        • Jo says:

          Quite right. Grantham not far away either. Stupid of me !

          BTW, on the BBC TV complaints programme this morning (I forget what it’s called), viewers gave the BBC a hammering over their rabble rousing and attempts to blame May for everything. They couldn’t even find a BBC producer to respond, which is unusual. However, May smeared so job done.


  13. Emmanuel Goldstein says:

    Instead of emptying these tower blocks in Camden and having to rehouse hundreds of families for up to four weeks because of safety issues which have been there for the last ten years how about this instead.
    Get the Army to supply a fire piquet guard, ten men, one guard commander and three sets of three soldiers doing two hours on and four off, one patrolling round the outside, one the bottom half and one the top half inside. The Army could be paid for this by the council instead of the astronomical hotel bill and all the upheaval to the occupants would be avoided.
    An over reaction by the council, first of all they ignore the issue then they go completely over the top with their evacuation at short notice on a Friday night.
    Have none of these councillors on six figure salaries got any common sense.


  14. Edward says:

    Excellent video, and nice to see Balloon Woods flats again after all these years, even if it is in a state of demolishment. Brings a tear to my eye. The kids that lived on that estate were complete shits though.



    • The General says:

      “The kids that lived on that estate were complete shits though”
      And now they vote Corbin and provide him a warped kind of credibility.


  15. Fol-de-rol says:

    “Without the Green issues surrounding the refurbishment of these blocks, this disaster would never have happened.”

    Next year it will be illegal to let a property with an EPC rating lower than E. No doubt this will get even stricter. To save the planet we have to wrap ourselves in plastic. Or rather, our tenants. I wonder how much this influenced the decisions to use this material. In NZ they limit how high this stuff can be used due to catastrophic fires in Melbourne and Dubai pre 2016.

    This stuff also makes tower blocks so warm that people prop open the fire doors – or buy an air conditioning unit that eats energy. D’uh!


    • Scroblene says:

      I wish I was a younger man, and knowing back then how these fools ‘working’ in councils, including the GLC Direct Works Department – (remember them – a license to print money), I’d be in there like a shot, demanding new surveys, giving ‘advice’, getting huge contracts hastily drawn up by prats like Corbyn, and costed by idiots like Abbott.

      That’s where fortunes are made, just like global warming scares with that twat Horrobin, and the like.

      Go for it my cowboys, it’s all there waiting for you, and I’ll enjoy watching the horror when Corbyn eventually realises that most of this crap started when his failed lot of leftie glassy-eyed pillocks pissed everyone off when Blair and Brown had the purse strings.

      What goes around, burns around.


  16. petebogtrott says:

    just heard that the crazy world of arthur brown are reforming for a charity single,can’t remember the hit they had in the 60’s but i’m sure some one could enlighten me.