In My View - 22 June 2017

Tragic events of the last few days have left us looking for answers to make sense of it all. The fire at Grenfell Tower came at a time when we are already trying to come to terms with the threat from terrorism and has been followed by what seems to be a revenge attack outside a mosque in Finsbury Park. These events, the attack in Manchester and the one in Westminster are subject to ongoing Police investigations and it is not right to jump to conclusions. What we can say though is that we have communities in our country that we do not engage with well enough and that we must do better to understand. We can also say that we are once again indebted to our amazing emergency and security services, without whom things could be so much worse, and that it is appalling to see innocent people and their families caught up in these events.

The fire at Grenfell is an absolute tragedy. Questions must be answered about the cladding and other systems in the building. I have formally written to South Somerset District Council to ask about safety here and ask if there is anything I can take forward to Government policy on what needs to get better. In the response of the survivors though, and the neighbouring community, we could see something that has made this resonate in parts of the country. The people there, the community, feel let down by the Government, the Council; I think they feel let down by the country as a whole.

By many logical measures we should have fewer disaffected people in the country than before. Traditional measures like unemployment have reduced – millions of new jobs have been created and the minimum wage and personal allowance have both dramatically improved pay on lower incomes.

I am not alone in thinking we need to move quickly away from tower blocks of social housing. They seem to isolate by design; they stand alone from the world around them and make the residents feel different. Of course interim safety must be reviewed to stop another tragedy like this but ultimately many of these blocks need to be replaced. Residents have spoken about the strong community within Grenfell Tower but they do seem united against something else and it’s that sense of alienation that we need to take very seriously.

It is right that the incident in Finsbury Park is treated as a terrorist attack. Tolerance of the peaceful beliefs of others is at the centre of what we think of as British values. Business at Westminster resumes this week and I will be working hard to represent our part of the country, including in forging a new relationship with our European neighbours. It is safe to say that security issues, supporting our emergency services and tackling radicalisation will be at the top of the agenda.

As always, if I can be of any help, if you would like an appointment at one of my regular advice surgeries or if you would just like to tell me what you think, please do email or call 01935314321.