After my words about Grenfell, I sensed that certain, errr… “affluent” types weren’t quite getting what I meant by “Too poor to live in safety”. I didn’t think I had to spell it out but, hipsters being hipsters I felt I had to facetiously cram their thick frame Raybans so far down their throats that they can heat up the shit they were about to vocalise, simply by tilting their heads towards the sun.
The problem with Grenfell and others like it, is a complex one that goes back to Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980’s. I can’t speak for Grenfell per se but I can speak of East London, which has a similar problem that I understand from the ground up.
East London was primarily used for docking with docks such as St. Kathrine’s Dock handling goods from all over the world and various other docks, also manufacturing using factories all over East, with the famous “financial square mile” situated squarely in the City of London (think of it as a city, the City of London, sitting inside another huge city, London, or Greater London). Historically, the east has always been the poor area of London. This didn’t change through the centuries right up until the 1980’s and 90’s. A few big things happened, firstly Margaret Thatcher introduced a “Right to buy” scheme which encouraged council house tenants to “buy” their houses (no one really owned their council property, it was effectively a 100-year lease). Secondly, they built Canary Wharf right at the top of the Isle of Dogs. Smack bang in the middle of the East End where everyone can see it.
Why build Canary Wharf 5 miles from the City of London? It wasn’t going to offer jobs to the locals, most of our residents were labourers. We could help you build it but the business that would take place thereafter had no cockneys in mind. Furthermore, if they weren’t targeting cockneys, then who were they targeting to be the workforce in Canary Wharf? The answer is, the gentry. The people whose families could afford to send their children to university, to get the degrees necessary to do the jobs required in Canary Wharf. The trouble is getting the gentry to move to East London, at the time one of the poorest places in Britain.
This is where Maggie’s “right to buy” makes an appearance. Gentrification takes two forms, what I like to call “Infiltration” and “Reformative”. Right to buy appeals to the Infiltration method. It works by making the housing affordable with a mortgage, tempting the council tenant into “owning” their property seeing as they thought they could never own property. They now own it, property 10 minutes from Canary Wharf with good transport links, and now have the right to sell it. No one local could afford it, so they sell it to someone who can. The people who can afford it are the rich types, at the time yuppies, now it’s hipsters. They would generally avoid “ethnic” areas with “higher crime rates” (we have to remember racism plays a part too). They would move to “safer” parts of East, predominantly white, so there’s some kind of a connection. This created pockets of gentry that slowly spread out over time, infiltrating East London.
The second method started happening in the 1990’s and peaked in the 2000’s. The Reformative method. Every council estate had a kind of community, you probably knew your next-door neighbour at least. However, every council estate has its criminal element. So, if you provide poor education, poor wages, and very few opportunities to those in estates, and make them watch Canary Wharf grow in wealth while they struggle to find a pot to piss in, don’t be surprised if you see the crime rate in an area climb faster than Peter Kay’s cholesterol level. People will find their own way to make large sums of quick money. There’s only so long you can watch someone eat before you make yourself a sandwich. This played into the council’s hands perfectly. They practically cum in their pants at the thought of having a crime estate. Crime sends the value of the area through the floor, which means property investors become interested. So, the council let the crime continue until the price is low enough to turn a profit. Property investors buy the land up from under your feet and before you know it, your council estate is knocked down and you’re moving a sofa into your lovely new apartment in… Dagenham. Most cockneys live outside London now, fun fact.
The property investors build new, luxurious and coincidently fucking expensive flats right where you used to watch Countdown. Of those flats, 10% are made available as council housing. The crime rate drops, property price booms and a few millionaires just got that bit richer, and that’s just YOUR estate, they’re doing this all over the shop. They “Reform” the area. Now, with the infiltrators pricing out the established community, and the reformers absolutely obliterating it, East London is now “safe” enough for hipsters and gentry. Look at Brick Lane, JUST LOOK AT IT! I only go there for the biegels now. Hipster hell.
Where I live, a council estate maisonette (which is posh for “two floors”), we have complained 17 times about our plumbing, as in sewer water comes up into our bath. In that time, the building across from me, a “Reformed” building made by private property investors, just had its stairway rebricked for the 5th time for decorational purposes. To make it look better.
It is this attitude that I believe aided the fire at Grenfell.
When the surrounding area has been gentrified there is no incentive to keep an existing building in good shape. They would rather knock a building down than keep it going if it doesn’t appeal to the gentry, which it didn’t. This fire was unfortunate, but the cladding wasn’t fireproof, the “renovations” were made by the lowest bidder. A £10 million budget, and how much of that went to wages for the labourers, then the salaries of the managers, then the middle men, the serveyers, not to forget the peripheral companies like skip hire, crane hire etc.? That would’ve eaten away at the budget. How much was actually spent on high quality materials? No wonder it went up in flames.
Obviously, now the gentry are the hipsters who can afford the inflated rents, and the posh folk who own the houses, they are the problem. I just hope the plastic cockneys who sold out our heritage to the highest bidder can live with themselves in their Penge drums, fingering their overfed wives while watching Saturday Night Takeaway. We don’t have the money to make our own renovations, so we rely on the state to source the safest renovation. Hence the previous title “Too poor to live in safety”. We are too poor to afford state of the art renovations to our rented properties, that we couldn’t make if we wanted to, because it is technically criminal damage without prior permission. We couldn’t even buy our housing if we wanted to now. My house was worth £55,000 in the 80’s, to buy now would be £560,000.
The gentry and the hipsters have ruined East London. They ruined council estates and have a huge part to play in Grenfell. The cladding, that same cladding has been used all over East London, was put up because Grenfell was an “eyesore” to the surrounding prosperous residents who find poor people an inconvenience. The need for council housing wouldn’t be so high if the same prosperous residents paid their employees a fair wage, and if councils didn’t keep selling our land to the lowest bidder. Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone both sold us a dream, telling us that they would be injecting money into deprived areas, had I known that would mean injecting rich people and ejecting us, I’d have told him where he could stick his money.
Not just blazing buildings like Grenfell but poor upkeep in general is a direct result of Gentrification. Putting money ahead of people. Not caring enough to maintain the building, or to put a sprinkler system in it. Nor paying the extra £5000 to fireproof the building. This is commonplace, no one wants to maintain a council estate when someone will come over, knock it down, build expensive flats that make the area look nice but have no one from the area actually in them. Failure to maintain a building will result in more tragedies like Grenfell, maybe not to that extreme, but why not? It’s already happened once.
Grenfell is just a symptom of a failing system.