On the night of June 14, 2017, 72 people lost their lives in Grenfell when their homes were engulfed in flames.
In the years since, there has been an often frustrating search for justice so far, with a public inquiry yet to be completed.
The bereaved, survivors and residents of Grenfell deserve to have the key figures in this disaster testify before the inquest is held and held accountable. This includes key politicians.
Of course, it’s not about politicians squirming. It’s about understanding what happened so we can prevent it from happening again.
If he doesn’t hear from key politicians, the investigation will end up half-baked – just one more disappointment for the bereaved, survivors and residents, after what will likely be more than five years without accountability.
Yet, it seems that is exactly what is about to happen. Key politicians regarding the disaster are left behind. Many of them are not presented to the survey.
One is Boris Johnson.
He was Mayor of London from 2008 to 2016, vital years in the run-up to Grenfell – and as Mayor of London he was responsible for the London Fire and Rescue Service.
That alone would be enough to warrant his appearance before the inquest. But what makes it a certainty is what he did to the London fire brigade.
Boris Johnson’s mayoral years are synonymous with jaw-dropping ladder cuts.
It has gone through unprecedented cuts such as 10 fire stations closing, the scrapping of 27 fire engines and the loss of almost one in five fire stations in London between 2010 and 2016 alone.
It is absolutely impossible to make cuts like these and have no effect on London’s fire service response to major incidents – such as Grenfell.
Indeed, on the night of the fire, it took a high-range aerial fire engine 38 minutes to reach Grenfell. Under the cuts imposed by Johnson, the long-range devices were removed from the list of engines sent immediately to fires of this type.
It’s not like Johnson wasn’t warned about his cuts, either.
In 2013, a Labor Assembly member from London asked him about the impact of cutting fire stations, fire engines and fire stations.
Johnson told him to “get stuffed.”
Not putting key politicians like Johnson on the stand is a trap the investigation risks falling into.
The main root cause of the Grenfell Tower disaster is politicians cutting costs and deregulating. It is these politicians and their policies that should be the focus of investigation.
If the survey, as it is supposed to, spends years questioning others and spends little or no time on politicians, it diverts their attention and puts it on others.
Firefighters and control personnel, whom I represent, faced days and weeks of rigorous questioning during the investigation.
It is right for the investigation to hear from as many relevant witnesses as possible. But they weren’t responsible for Grenfell.
Firefighters crawled along smoky corridors to save lives, inside a burning tower that they knew might have been on the verge of collapse. Screening staff attempted to reassure Grenfell victims who would later lose their lives.
They had no role in the cuts or removal of standards around this disaster. They shouldn’t be the focus when it comes to finding out why it happened.
And the privilege of being Prime Minister should not allow Boris Johnson to escape public scrutiny from Grenfell.
Boris Johnson has a long list of situations where he has been negligent, reckless, malicious or a combination of the three.
Yet he seems to get away with it, time and time again.
72 people lost their lives for no good reason in Grenfell. This can’t be another one of those times.