Category Archives: Grenfell Tower

Interview: as Insulate Britain returns to our roads, here’s why you should support them

Back on the streets: Insulate Britain.

Activists from Insulate Britain have rekindled their campaign for better home insulation by supergluing themselves to roads in Liverpool Street, Limehouse Causeway, Bishopsgate and Upper Thames Street.

What a nuisance, right?

Wrong. Well, it’s wrong if you love your relatives and friends, anyway.

And it seems people are getting it – because members of the public reportedly told the protesters they were “doing a good job”.

It seems the organisation has gained a lot of ground since a London mother tried to run over members in a Range Rover because she wanted to drive her son to school:

The police were informed…

… so This Writer is sure we’ll hear more about that incident in due course.

But what is Insulate Britain all about? And what does insulation have to do with disrupting road traffic?

Vox Political had a chance to find out when This Writer interviewed Insulate Britain’s Steve Gower – appropriately enough, on a road. I recorded the chat, so you can hear it right here:

If you are deaf, please find a text version of the interview below:

Who are you? That’s a good start, isn’t it?

Yeah. I’m Steve Gower. I’m a volunteer advocate for the homeless, I’m currently unemployed, and I’m working – working! – I’m also a member of Insulate Britain.

Right. So what is Insulate Britain?

Insulate Britain is a group of individuals and a campaign that have made a demand to the government to insulate all the council and social housing properties in this country and to provide a meaningful statement to prove that they are serious about reducing the amount of CO2 in the environment [in accordance with] the Paris Agreement of 2015 that they’ve signed up to, by 2025.

How are you doing it?

By completing non-violent direct action around the M25 and surrounding areas.

Why around the M25?

Because unless a financial crisis happens as in disruption to the Capital, the government will not listen.

That’s the important point, I think, because we see it on the news – well, we do; you go and do it – and there’s a kind of disconnect, I suppose, because of the way it’s reported. We need to know what the necessity is. People need to find out why you are doing the things you are doing.

I agree with you there. We made a statement – I personally posted a written statement to the government in August, where our demands were exactly that – the insulation and retrofit of all council and social properties to be completed. Not just talked about, because we’ve been promised this before.

Over 20 years ago, the government of the day recognised that 50,000 people in the UK were losing their lives through the cold in their own homes. 20 years on, nothing substantial has changed. We have got the leakiest homes, not only in the whole of the UK, but in Europe as well.

Would it be spectacularly expensive for them to do? Is there any financial disincentive for them to do it?

It’s not going to be cheap – but my personal answer to that is [to ask] how much value you put on the life of your child, the life of your grandchild, or the life of your grandmother or grandfather.

In financial terms every house is different, but it has been estimated between £500 billion and £1 trillion or £1.1 trillion over a 10-year period.

Okay, but against that you balance the lives that are saved, and of course if you wanted to put it in money terms, a life has a huge economic value. So the economic argument doesn’t work anyway because it’s the equivalent of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

The other figure is that for every pound that is spent retrofitting and installing insulation into people’s properties, you will gain £3.20 back.

Yes, there you go.

But I’m not in it for the money. I’m in it for my children and my children’s children.

Quite, but I think it is worth putting out there: there is no economic argument for it anyway.

If there was an economic argument about this, because we’ve put ourselves in debt, this country has been in debt since 1690. We have found money when we needed it in the past 3- or 400 years, for disasters or even wars. This is a humanitarian crisis on our island.

That’s right, because the UK of course is the home of the magic money tree.

[Laughter] You said that, not me!

I’ve been saying it for a while now. So you’ve been doing these demonstrations on the M25, these acts to disrupt, I suppose-

And for this conversation. You’re only talking to me now because of the fact that we’ve been on the roads for the last [few] weeks.

That’s exactly right.

I’ve been a ground worker in my past life. I’ve built houses in that lifetime. Those houses are not fit for purpose; they are as leaky as the ones I’ve mentioned before – we’ve got the leakiest properties in Europe. New properties today are within that scope as well. They will need retrofitting in the future. They are today not fit for purpose.

Strangely enough I was hearing something on the radio about that, only the other day. The idea is that they put plans up for approval based on how a place will look and then they try to put everything into it afterwards. It’s always many years behind the times.

There are houses today – built – that are eco-friendly and have zero carbon emissions. Every house, by law, has to be rated from A to G. My personal property is a one-bedroom flat, category E. I don’t drive – I can’t afford to drive, unfortunately. But if you drive, a family car emits less CO2 than my flat over the course of a year.

Wow!

Also, as I mentioned before, I’ve built properties – as the boys and the girls are doing now in the construction industry – that are not fit for purpose. With this – what we’re asking for – are proper insulation and retrofit, which will mean quality jobs, valuable jobs, and houses that will be fit for purpose, for not only the next 10 or 20 years but possibly into the next century.

How proud we would be of that! How proud a job, and significant, that you are building not only a house, and a home, for a family, but saving the planet as well.

Right. That’s what you’ve been doing; those are your reasons. What has the response been from the authorities?

We’ve had no response other than a mention in the Tory Party conference from Boris himself, calling us this, that and the other…

What an honour!

What an honour, yeah, it has been! I, and many of my comrades and friends on this campaign, may – probably will – end up in jail for our actions: non-violent, direct action.

But we are just the messengers. The real traitor in this episode is our government. They are traitors to our country by knowingly allowing people to die prematurely this winter, as they have done for the last 20 or 30 years.

There are estimates of tens of thousands of people living in fuel poverty who won’t be alive this time next year and we are the ones who will probably end up in the dock and in jail. That just tells you what sort of country we are in today.

And that’s the treachery of it as well, of course, that instead of taking you seriously, they are punishing you for doing something – for drawing attention to something that they should have been doing anyway.

They’ve got one job. For the safety and the well-being of the people.

Yeah, but they’re not very good at it…

Do you have a message for people out there who might be a bit confused about what’s going on?

We’ve got [a few] days now for the government to make up its mind what it’s going to do with our actions and the reasons behind them. It’s also an opportunity for the population of this country to find out exactly what we’re asking for.

We’ve had accusations of not letting ambulances through. There’s footage – I’m in one of the clips actually, where we let an ambulance through. That is the policy of Insulate Britain – to let any blue light through our barricade.

So you’ve got propaganda against you as well, then.

We apologise for temporarily halting the lives of individuals getting to school, getting to work and what have you; I have been, in the last 20 years, obviously, a parent; I have worked all the hours God sent on a construction site and had injury at work as well, and still gone back to work.

Where it has got me is where I’ve built houses that aren’t fit for purpose. I’ve built schools that I couldn’t afford to send my son to. And I’ve built shopping malls that I couldn’t afford to shop at.

You are looking at Christmas Future. I don’t want you to have the same future that I am living today. When I left school there was one job to every 10 individuals. They wrote a song about it.

Today the tables are turned. The people and the workforce, the working class, have got more power today than they’ve ever had because of the circumstances – what’s gone on for the past two years. They shouldn’t be rushing to work. They should be given a decent wage and decent working rights. That needs to be told as well.

This will not only provide quality jobs, but we demand that we want quality products as well.

Four years ago an incident shook the country, most of Europe and the world, and that was Grenfell. The materials that go on our houses tomorrow have got to be fit for purpose and not substandard. That is also what is on the agenda here.

How they do it – and this is my personal belief but I think there’s a lot of support for it – is we look after our own – we get local craftsmen, local jobs, local workers, local builders to do our work for us. We don’t want the corporates involved, and that includes the materials as well.

They’ve got to be sustainable materials, and certainly not the ones we’ve seen – unfortunately – in Grenfell.

Absolutely right. Okay?

Thank you.

That’s cool.

AFTERWORD:

So there you have it.

Trying to save many thousands of lives – and attack climate change – by improving home insulation=BAD. Actually aiding drug and financial crime=GOOD. That’s apparently according to the people who guard the law.

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Rising price of Grenfell proves Tory cost-cutting is a murderous false economy

Ravaged: this destruction happened because rich Tories wanted to cut a few farthings from their council tax bills. It has ended up costing them more than a thousand times what they hoped to save.

Tory-run Kensington and Chelsea council has spent more than £400 million trying to cope with the consequences of the Grenfell Tower blaze – a fire caused by its attempt to save just £300,000.

Could anything demonstrate more plainly the bankruptcy of Tory thinking?

If these rich, irresponsible, selfish office-jockeys had not been so keen to shave a few quid off their council tax bills, they would have saved themselves from paying out more than 1,300 times as much.

And 72 human beings would not have died.

I wonder if those responsible ever remember that?

The public costs of the Grenfell Tower fire have exceeded £500m after the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea revealed it had spent £406m on its response and recovery efforts in almost four years since the disaster.

The sum is in addition to the costs to the taxpayer of the ongoing public inquiry, which hit £117m by the end of March this year, most of which was taken up with lawyers’ bills.

The figures stand in stark contrast to the £300,000 saved in a cost-cutting exercise during the refurbishment of the 24-storey council block between 2014 and 2016 that led to combustible aluminium panels being substituted for the planned non-combustible zinc on the exterior of the block.

The plastic-filled replacements fuelled the fire on 14 June 2017 which killed 72 people, the inquiry has already concluded.

Source: Grenfell costs surpass £500m as council bill revealed | Grenfell Tower fire | The Guardian

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Tory hypocrisy: they can’t sort out fire safety in your flat after Grenfell, but support huge payments to redecorate Johnson’s

Grenfell: this is what happens when inflammable cladding on tower blocks catches fire. Tenants in many more blocks have had this stuff inflicted on them, and the Tories want to force them to pay to get rid of it.

Isn’t it typical of the Tories that they’re happy to nod through possibly corrupt funding of Boris Johnson’s flat redecoration, but won’t protect people in blocks of flats from fires like that at Grenfell Tower?

They have just been knocked back – yet again – by the House of Lords, who have voted to shield residents of tower blocks from fire safety costs.

MPs had rejected the Lords amendment but, after their fourth defeat on this subject, it will now be reinserted into the bill.

The bill modifies a previous law to clarify that building owners must manage and reduce the risk of fire in their properties.

However, last week the House of Lords added an amendment which sought to ensure building owners do not pass on the costs to leaseholders and tenants until a support scheme is in place.

Housing minister Chris Pincher described the amendment as “ineffective and defective”, claiming that it would prevent any remediation costs from being passed to the leaseholder, even in instances where the cost was very minor – such as replacing a smoke alarm.

As a tenant in a rented property myself, I can inform Mr Pincher that my landlord pays for the cost of replacing the smoke alarm here as a matter of course.

It should not be used as an excuse to continue denying tower block tenants improvements that could save their lives.

And it could – because there are only hours left before the end of the current Parliamentary session, when the Bill will be dropped – unless the Tories decide to carry it over to the next session (which seems unlikely to This Writer).

All of this takes place in the shadow of the row over prime minister Boris Johnson’s own flat. Who pays to replace the smoke alarm there?

Tory MPs would have been happy to let £200,000 be paid, just to redecorate the rooms above 11 Downing Street, with no questions asked.

But members of the public have pointed out that this means they are happier for huge amounts to be paid on a single person’s flat – if that person happens to be one of them – than for cash to be spent on potentially life-saving work for many people.

That’s not a good attitude to have with an election next week.

Source: Grenfell: Government defeated on fire safety costs bill – BBC News

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Grenfell residents who raised safety fears before fire were bullied, inquiry hears

After the fire: Grenfell Tower.

Lawyers for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire have told the inquiry into the disaster that residents were “bullied” and “stigmatised” for raising safety concerns.

Michael Mansfield QC, representing a group of survivors and the bereaved, said Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council regarded the 24-storey block in North Kensington as an “eyesore which required cosmetic surgery to make it more palatable to its elegant and wealthy neighbours”.

So it provided a refurbishment between 2012 and 2016 that was only a “superficial facelift while neglecting underlying deficiencies”.

The council, along with the body that ran Grenfell Tower and oversaw the refurbishment, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO), ran a complaints system for residents that was “outdated, cumbersome, not simple and was used to shut them off, lock them out essentially”, said Mr Mansfield.

He said the council and TMO had a “culture of indifference”.

Edward Daffarn, a member of the Grenfell Action Group, wrote a series of blog posts about safety issues in the building and raised concerns with the council – such as a fire door with a broken closing mechanism.

This was pointed out in 2015 and the door still wasn’t working on the night of the fire in 2017, allowing smoke into a central area on one floor where two people died.

The inquiry heard the council described Mr Daffarn’s blog posts as “scaremongering”.

Another lawyer, Stephanie Barwise QC, read an email from council worker Laura Johnson, sent during the building’s refurbishment, saying that a councillor would not want to attend a public meeting of people “moaning about minor issues”.

In fact residents had correctly identified issues such as gas pipes in hallways, problems with fire doors, power surges, a failed ventilation system and access for fire engines.

London Fire Brigade warned in the months before the fire that cladding could be dangerous. The inquiry heard the council simply forwarded the letter from the fire brigade to the TMO, saying: “FYI.”

James Ageros, lawyer for the TMO, said: “The TMO does not accept that it ever adopted a dismissive attitude toward residents or indeed toward their complaints and concerns.”

He said the inquiry should consider whether the TMO could have been expected to see through the “deceptions” of cladding manufacturers about the safety of their products.

Hundreds of other building owners and management organisations had not been able to “untangle this subterfuge”, he said.

In its submissions, the council apologised for its failings in monitoring the TMO and said “the council could have, and should have, done more to stop it happening”.

It’s a big buck-passing exercise, isn’t it?

The council apologises and says it should have monitored the TMO; the TMO doesn’t apologise and says it could not have been expected to see through “deceptions” by the manufacturers of the cladding.

My opinion? Residents are right to blame them all. The council, at least, has admitted a failing. The TMO should have recognised any false claims by the cladding manufacturers; that’s part of its reason for existing and the council should have realised this wasn’t happening.

And residents were ignored – until they died.

And now, residents at other blocks with similar cladding are being penalised for living in places where the landlord made the wrong decision because the Tory government is ignoring their concerns.

History repeats itself. The UK is run by people who want to take your money and do nothing in return – especially people in government.

We can vote them out – for example at the local elections in May.

But that rarely seems to happen. Why?

Source: Grenfell residents ‘bullied’ for raising safety fears before fire – BBC News

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Tories announce new scheme for buildings with ‘Grenfell’ cladding – while taking millions from builders who used it (allegedly)

Inferno: Grenfell Tower went up like a roman candle because it was covered in flammable cladding – killing an official total of 72 people.

The wrongness of this should be evident for all to see.

Firstly there’s the wrong of the new scheme to replace Grenfell-style cladding on tower blocks.

If you live in a block that’s taller than six storeys, your building will get a share of a £3.5 billion government fund to get rid of the flammable death stuff.

If your block is smaller – four to six storeys, then the government will stuff you with a loan, so you have to pay to strip off your own cladding. You get to pay it back at £50 per month, for “many years”.

Okay, they’re “low interest” but they’re also “long term”. Okay, they’re attached to the property – not the occupier – but that just means anybody in an affected block of four-six storeys is hammered with negative equity for – as good as – ever; new buyers would factor the loan into any decision on whether to buy and it is likely to lower prices.

Secondly, there’s the wrong of the £2.5 million allegedly donated to the Conservative Party – the political organisation running the government that has introduced these cladding replacement schemes – by the builders who installed the terminally-flammable cladding in the first place.

That’s right. The Tories stumped up £3.5 billion for one scheme, knowing they’ll tax that money right back*, set up a second scheme that takes cash direct from the people affected – and the people responsible for all the trouble, gave the Tories £2.5 million (allegedly).

*Apparently there’ll be a £200 million a year tax on the property industry to pay for all this – but you know the top bosses will just pass the cost on to clients rather than pay any of it themselves.

That’s great value for money – for the (allegedly) builders!

And that’s especially true when we remember that the firm that sold the cladding used at Grenfell Tower knew about the risk of fires in 2013, but continued to offer a flammable version of it.

And there’s even more wrong!

There was no announcement … for people in buildings of three storeys or less, who it appears could still be hit with eye-watering cladding bills by their freeholders.

There was also no new answer to who will pay for expensive “waking watches” – wardens who patrol buildings to check they are not currently on fire. Mr Jenrick referenced a £30m fund to replace waking watches with fire alarms, that was already open.

We also don’t know when the new support will launch or when we will get more detail about it.

And we don’t know if the £50-a-month loans for people in low-rise blocks will ever be written off. If they’re not, the announcement indicates a flat that faced a £50,000 bill could be paying it off for more than 80 years.

Some have condemned the Tory government’s behaviour as “incompetence” but let’s try to be honest about it, shall we?

If they really did take money, it’s corruption.

Source: Fury at new cladding scheme – how it works and why it ‘betrays’ flat owners – Mirror Online

Starmer’s farcical Telegraph column actually tries to attack Tories for fence-sitting

Keir Starmer: what you can’t see is that he’s actually sitting on a fence. He’s just been there so long that he’s had a back rest installed.

How did Labour’s (remaining) membership ever elect as leader a man with such a staggering lack of self-awareness?

It’s bad enough that Keir Starmer thinks writing a column in the Torygraph is a good way to build support for his policy-free political party.

But to accuse the Conservatives of “sitting on the fence”, after he spent almost his entire tenure as Labour leader doing just that, is an act of colossal ignorance.

Worse even than that: the issue he raised – flammable cladding on tower blocks after the Grenfell Tower inferno – is not an example of Tory fence-sitting. It’s an example of Tory buck-passing because they’re making us pay to make these homes safe, rather than their landlords.

Starmer is trying to shame the Tories for abstaining on Labour proposals that would – rightly – get the unsafe cladding off threatened buildings and pursue those who should be paying for it, for the costs.

It would be a reasonable course of action – if Starmer hadn’t earned his own nickname “the abstainer” so well over nearly a year.

“Is this satire?” reads one comment on Facebook. “Of all the people to talk about abstentions it’s definitely funniest coming from [Starmer].”

Another stated: “Starmer is permanently sitting on the fence. You know what they say: ‘You will get splinters in your backside’.”

A further commenter resorted to verse: “The ‘Sir’ sat on the fence all day,
“Had nothing to do and nothing to say,
“Now give him a flag and he’ll wave it forever,
“But an honest socialist – Never, Ever, Never!”

But possibly the most biting referred to the fact that Starmer had published his article behind the Torygraph‘s paywall.

It reads, simply: “Sorry but I haven’t worked since the first lockdown and can’t afford to read your article.”

Tory plan to save tower block residents from cost of fixing unsafe cladding is to charge EVERYBODY

The ruin of Grenfell Tower: thousands of other tower blocks are covered in cladding that is just as flammable, endangering many thousands of people’s lives. Their owners bought it because it was cheap. Now, it seems the same owners will dodge the cost of rectifying their potentially fatal mistake. Why should they?

What spectacular stupidity.

Many thousands of flat owners and tenants are facing huge bills for fire safety work to replace cladding on their buildings, after the Grenfell Tower blaze of nearly four years ago.

Despite the fact that they did not commission the unsafe cladding, residents are likely to have to pay to have it removed and replaced – at huge cost – under current conditions.

The cost is likely to run to billions of pounds.

The Labour Party rightly said that leaseholders and taxpayers should be protected from the cost, and the government should pursue those who were actually responsible for the “cladding crisis”.

Its Commons motion to that effect passed unopposed because the Tories didn’t turn up. We may conclude that Boris Johnson feared another public relations disaster if he opposed it. The result is not binding on the government.

But the last thing the Tories want to do is force businesses to pay for the problems they have caused. They have spent more than three years trying to protect them from that.

So now the plan is to force the taxpayer – everybody in the UK – to pay for the fatal cost-cutting of a few greedy businesses by stumping up government money for the work.

The government has decided to allocate extra funding, possibly running into billions of pounds, to speed up the removal of unsafe cladding.

An announcement is expected within weeks as negotiations between the housing ministry and Treasury are reaching a conclusion.

Something needs to be done, obviously. People have been living in unsafe housing for three and a half years since the Grenfell fire killed so many people – and other fires caused by flammable cladding have happened in the meantime (fortunately with no fatalities).

But we have a government that simply won’t lay blame where it is due.

Instead, these gutless Tories would rather force everybody else to pay the price, even though we never incurred it.

Unjust.

Source: Ministers plan extra cash to remove unsafe cladding – BBC News

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Files on #GrenfellTower cladding ‘lost forever’ after deletion from laptop. How convenient!

Up in smoke: Grenfell Tower after the fire that killed 72 residents. Emails and documents on the refurbishment that put flammable cladding on the building has been found to have been destroyed.

Emails, documents and design drawings relating to the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower that put highly flammable cladding on its walls have been lost forever after being deleted from a laptop, the inquiry into the 2017 disaster has learned.

Design manager Daniel Anketell-Jones, who worked for cladding specialists Harley Facades until March 2016, told the hearing he erased his work computer of all files after agreeing to keep the device despite leaving the firm.

Harley managing director Ray Bailey said… “Daniel Anketell-Jones… left Harley some months before the fire.

“By that stage he had both deleted all of his Harley related emails from his laptop and had arranged with our service provider to remove his email file from our systems.”

Asked about this by inquiry lawyer Kate Grange QC, Mr Anketell-Jones said: “I don’t know what he means by that.

“I didn’t arrange for that to happen. I don’t think I would have the authority or the security to do that.”

How convenient for this firm – directly involved in the refurbishment that turned Grenfell Tower into a tinderbox – that this documentation has similarly gone up in smoke.

Email dialogues that are now lost could have cast light on whether designers were aware that the cladding was a danger to the lives of everybody living behind it (72 of those lives were lost in the blaze).

The deletion may have been entirely innocent – but it looks deeply suspicious.

And it creates another obstacle for the inquiry, that is trying to determine where ultimate responsibility for the deaths lies.

Source: Grenfell files ‘lost forever’ after laptop wiped, inquiry hears | London | ITV News

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Jenrick says Grenfell recommendations will be implemented. Get ready for ANOTHER u-turn

Inferno: The Grenfell Tower blaze caused the greatest single loss of life in London since World War II, with official figures showing 72 people lost their lives.

How can we believe a Tory claim that the recommendations of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry on safety for people living in flats will be put into practise?

For a start, Robert Jenrick is the one making the claim and he’s as crooked as a nine-bob note (in This Writer’s experienced opinion)!

The recommendations

required flat owners or building managers in England and Wales to:

  • Share information with their local fire service about the design of external walls and the materials used
  • Carry out regular inspections of lifts and individual flat entrance doors
  • Share evacuation and fire safety instructions with residents of the building

But we will have to monitor the Tories carefully, if we want to be sure they don’t pull yet another u-turn.

And remember: they have already prevented the most important change – the removal of all flammable cladding from tower blocks.

What conclusion are we supposed to draw from that, apart from:

The Tories never cared about the lives lost at Grenfell and will happily watch more people die the same way.

Source: Grenfell recommendations will be implemented, says Robert Jenrick – BBC News

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Brexit – and Grenfell – reveal two faces of Theresa May within a single day

Former prime minister Theresa May seemed to have developed a backbone when she stood up to Boris Johnson over his Brexit u-turn – but that’s only if you haven’t noticed her betrayal of the dead of Grenfell, that happened less than 24 hours before.

As the Johnson government introduced new legislation into Parliament, contradicting the withdrawal agreement that Johnson himself negotiated and signed, Mrs May had this to say about it:

It was a principled stand, and won support in the social media from those of us who understood what she meant:

Of course, there were some well-aimed barbs too:

But while we may praise Mrs May for her response to the withdrawal agreement, er… withdrawal, she has disgraced herself over the response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

May was prime minister when the London tower block was engulfed in flames, due to the fact that it was covered in highly-flammable cladding.

She said at the time that she would work to make sure no such tragedy ever happened again.

Well, cladding on another London block caught fire with the same effect between then and now – fortunately with no fatalities.

And yesterday, Mrs May happily voted to ensure that the recommendations of the Grenfell Inquiry – including the removal of such cladding from private and publicly-owned residential properties – will not be implemented by the government:

We cannot praise her comments on Brexit without condemning her actions on Grenfell.

I agree with Mr Patel (above):

Never trust a Tory.