The nauseating hypocrisy of May praising our police, fire and NHS services after every tragedy
In a relatively short space of time tragedy has struck the UK on five occasions: the reverberations of Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge, Grenfell Tower and Finsbury Park each echoed across the world and each massively involved our emergency services.
Police officer with riot shield attempts to protect firefighters from falling debris at Grenfell Tower
There are those who state that such events should not be ‘politicised’ in the immediate aftermath but there are others, including those in the emergency services, who feel that this is precisely the time when the crassness and hypocrisy of both governments and individual politicians must be highlighted.
Tragedy, such as those we have seen, is the signal for politicians and notably Prime Minister Theresa May to wax lyrical about the bravery and professionalism of our emergency services.
Yet how that sticks in the throats of those who have been vilified by these politicians and their party machines on previous occasions.
Police and Theresa May’s courage
Theresa May was lauded by the Conservative Party faithful for her ‘courage’ in ‘taking on’ the police. Courage, really? Courage is, in fact, that which we have seen from our 999 services and indeed members of the public during recent events.
Theresa May’s ‘courage’ was to berate the police service when invited as a guest to their own Federation conferences. ‘Courage’ was to list every well publicised police transgression going back almost 30 years involving a tiny percentage of the tens of thousands who have served or who are currently serving over that period.
‘Courage’ was, in 2015 to accuse her police critics of ‘scaremongering’ and ‘crying wolf’ and look at us now as the blood flows on the streets, the result of terror attacks and other violent crime involving the use of the knife and the gun.
Just days before praising police and indeed other emergency service personnel at Manchester Arena, Theresa May had published her Tory manifesto threatening legislation unless there were further curbs in ‘racist’ stop and search thereby ignoring the dramatic increase in gun and knife crime. How courageous is that?
There was and is nothing courageous in her belittling the police; in fact, her ‘courageous’ actions were those of a bully who inflicts pain on individuals who can’t fight back. No, police cannot take industrial action but many are now voting with their feet having had their fill of the bully whose government’s cuts are making their task of protecting the public impossible.
A picture paints a thousand words
But of course it’s not just the police. Firefighters, the heroes of Grenfell Tower, have had their pay, pensions and conditions eroded and suffered cuts to both personnel and fire stations. These are the firefighters who broke their own safety rules when entering a blazing Grenfell Tower in horrific circumstances; not only did they face the danger in front of them, many, as they later admitted, remembered the collapse of the Twin Towers back in 2001 yet still they went in.
Unlike the police, firefighters can take industrial action, which they have done sparingly but this has inevitably invoked the wrath of government ministers who publicly branded them reckless and irresponsible.
The public enquiry, which will doubtless fill the coffers of numerous legal firms, may well look at the question of cuts and appliances with the tallest London Fire Brigade platform reaching only 32 metres. Questions as to why the LFB had to ‘borrow’ a taller 42 metre aerial platform from Surrey were met with the rejoinder that many of the London streets were unsuitable for such an appliance; an assertion rubbished by Surrey’s former police and fire commissioner Kevin Hurley. The fact is that the platform was used to significant effect at Grenfell Tower when it eventually got there. Interestingly, BBC London stated that the LFB are now considering purchasing 92 metre aerial platforms, which makes a nonsense of their original statement.
As for the Simplex Sky Cannon helicopter designed to tackle high rise fires, I bet that was never on any agenda due to its cost implications. It was however on the agenda of Tokyo’s fire authorities and those of several Chinese cities. They bought it!
Simplex Sky Cannon
Our disintegrating NHS
Then of course, when disaster strikes praise is heaped on NHS staff by the same politicians responsible for its current disintegrating condition. Paramedics and ambulance staff are woefully overstretched with the sheer stress of the job taking a severe toll. In London, a bullying management culture led to a haemorrhage of qualified staff which in turn resulted in the ‘plunder’ of almost 200 Australian paramedics.
Imagine being a paramedic stuck outside an A&E unable to hand over your patient whilst listening to calls going unanswered. Imagine being an elderly citizen lying in agony on the street with severe fractures because your condition is not regarded as life threatening.
Remember the vilification heaped on junior doctors by Jeremy Hunt when they objected to the imposition of contracts and the misinformation given out by government spin doctors (excuse the pun) in respect of deaths at weekends. Jeremy, of course, now has the distinction of being a new addition to London’s rhyming slang, while Hunt is a clearly subliminal stumbling hurdle for TV presenters.
Nurses too have been subjected to contemptuous treatment by this government; the scrapping of bursaries being the latest damaging action. With many UK nurses opting to enjoy better pay, conditions and respect abroad, Jeremy’s NHS has had to ‘plunder’ nurses from countries who can ill-afford to lose them. With a serious shortage of nurses likely to reach catastrophic proportions, Jeremy now appears to be making panic-stricken noises about nurses pay.
Of course, the pay restraint imposed on the public’s police, fire and NHS heroes means that their real wages have dropped over the years; MPs of course are different and worthy of their 11%!
Does the government’s treatment of its emergency services relate to the tragedy of Grenfell Tower? Four words link the two: arrogance, negligence, incompetence and complacency.
Tower block fires at Harrow Court, Stevenage in 2005, Lakanal Court Camberwell in 2009 and Shirley Towers in Southampton in 2010, all resulting in loss of life, should all have been wake up calls for the government.
Both Harrow Court and Shirley Towers cost the lives of firefighters while Lakanal Court resulted in six deaths and the much publicised 2013 inquest verdict which should have ensured a sea change in respect of safety.
Attempts by the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group to galvanise successive government ministers and departments into taking action failed. Past and present government ministers with questions to answer include Eric Pickles, Brandon Lewis, Gavin Barwell and Stephen Williams.
Yet it wasn’t just the government who displayed arrogance. The Grenfell Action Group’s concerns were also dismissed by the Conservative dominated council and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation (KCTMO). Constant well documented KCTMO concerns as to the very real fire risks are visible on the internet. Their last published document in November 2016 predicted disaster with uncanny accuracy, even to the extent of fire appliances finding obstructions which would make it difficult for them to get close to the tower.
Little wonder then that anger has been directed by local residents against what they feel is an uncaring establishment at both national and local level.
The nation, notably Manchester and London, has been through a torrid time over the last few weeks and all this has taken place against a background of rising violent knife and gun crime and increasing physical attacks on police and other emergency service workers. Their heroic professionalism has captured the nation yet over the last seven years all have been treated with total contempt and disdain by this government in addition to having to endure damaging cuts.
Even during the debate following the recent Queen’s speech, Theresa May couldn’t resist referring to stop and search with the clear implication that police are racist, yet the chickens are clearly coming home to roost with a vengeance in respect of her lamentable treatment of police as can be seen below.
It remains to be seen whether there will be further terror incidents or whether the current ‘pressure’ cooker tensions across communities will explode this summer. In any event the emergency services will not be found wanting which will result in the usual platitudes and sound bites from Theresa May and her government ministers and once again my skin will crawl; I suspect I won’t be alone.
Union Jack patch which symbolises for many the stretched ambulance, police and fire services
(Metropolitan Police 1978 to 2011)
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