It’s taken me until today to fathom it out.
It’s shame that I’m feeling.
I am ashamed of my country. And I’m ashamed of myself.
I listened to John Humphrys repeatedly skewer Sajid Javid at ten past eight this morning on Radio 4’s Today programme. Humphrys put it to the Communities Secretary that what happened in west London in the early hours of Wednesday morning was “shaming”.
Javid stuttered and spluttered but he couldn’t deny the charge. Because it’s undeniable.
As well as being a semi-pro shouter at the radio, I cry very easily at news reports. At times I find the inhumanity that some people perpetrate against others unbearable.
The news this morning that the first victim of the Grenfell Tower calamity to be identified was a refugee from Syria was one such moment.
Mohammed Alhajali fled a war, somehow managed to get past the xenophobes in charge of the nation’s immigration policy and was building his life here – only to lose it in his own flat. The devastating interview with his brother, from whom he was separated while trying to flee the tower block, on the Victoria Derbyshire programme this morning tied my innards in knots.
I thought – hoped – that the day could only improve.
But the pinheads in notional charge of the country somehow keep finding new standards of breathtaking ineptitude with which to appall us.
Our walking corpse of a prime minister disrupted the health professionals trying to heal the injured today but STILL hasn’t dared meet the displaced, apparently scared that people might shout at her.
It’s been suggested today that to fit external cladding to Grenfell Tower that wasn’t inflammable would have cost £5,000 extra. That may or may not prove to be true. The company whose cladding went up on Wednesday morning says they don’t recognise that figure, so we’ll have to await the enquiry. (They’re hardly likely to say otherwise, though, are they?)
But if it is remotely accurate – if the price of 100 lives in 21st century Britain is £5,000 – what the hell does that say about our country?
And if it’s true, how the person or people who made the decision to say, “Fuck it – let’s go with the cheaper option,” can live with themselves will baffle me until my very last breath.
A “refurbishment” that cost £8.6 million apparently just couldn’t stretch to an extra five grand.
Meanwhile, unknown numbers of traumatised people will apparently spend yet another night dossing down on gym mats in community centres tonight.
This is not New Orleans post-Katrina. The infrastructure is intact.
Wednesday night, we could just about forgive. But to be no further forward after nearly 72 hours?
And God knows there are plenty of empty flats in London at the moment.
There. Is. No. Fucking. Excuse.
Yet our leaders still cling to the notion that it is excusable because the people we’re talking about have names like Isaac Shawo, Khadija Saye and Mohammed Alhajali.
I can’t help but think that if their names had been Charles, Rupert and Felicity the official response would have been somewhat different.
The three named victims were 24, 23 and five years old.
Five years old.
If you do exist, God, there’s a grey, wet island in the North Atlantic that chronically needs your help to find its lost moral compass.
Because it’s not good enough just to rail against the Tories this time. The blame isn’t theirs exclusively.
For a start, there was the 13-year period that Labour was in office between 1997 and 2010. They might have done some good stuff on the fluffy side of things, but they perpetuated the neoliberal orthodoxy that says, “Screw those who aren’t already wealthy and don’t already have power.”
And then there’s the Liberal Democrats.
If I hear one more person say that they feel sorry that Nick Clegg got his arse handed to him last week because he’s a nice man, I will react violently.
Nick Clegg was dazzled by the shiny baubles that Cameron dangled before him.
Nick Clegg enabled the last seven years of economic, political and social mismanagement of desperate, increasingly incompetent Conservative government.
The reason Jeremy Corbyn resembles a giant is because he’s been surrounded by pygmies in Parliament for the last 34 years.
And yes, before the current generation of insipid streaks of piss that inhabit the green benches, there was John Major and That Bloody Woman.
But – to channel my inner George Carlin – guess what, folks?
We put them all there.
We voted for them.
Or, worse still, we couldn’t be arsed to vote against them.
We tolerated 40 years of shite – largely because we got smartphones and The X Factor and we can now buy 17 different types of pasta in Tesco.
You want to see where that tolerance got us?
Watch this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40300004
And this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40306526
While I’ve been writing this, Cruella has had the audacity to say it’s going to take up to three weeks to rehouse people.
OUR PRIME MINISTER IS A STUPID, MALEVOLENT, RACIST, OPPORTUNIST, INCOMPETENT, COMPASSION-FREE AUTOMATON.
(Yeah, I know I’m no Kanye.)
The appropriate response here – the HUMAN response – is to drive around Kensington and Chelsea and requisition every bloody empty flat and house you see until every single one of those people are housed.
Watch that interview again. See the undisguised contempt in her eyes when the person asking the questions dares to question and interrupt her. (Good job by the way, blonde woman, whoever you are.)
Today is the anniversary of Jo Cox’s murder, the awful denouement of parts of Britain’s regular but half-hearted embrace of naked racists like the National Front, the BNP and UKIP.
In the last few weeks we’ve suffered three horrifying acts of terrorism, committed by individuals who were all too easily radicalised because we have tried to swagger through the Middle East alongside America, killing people at will for no apparent reason.
The moral compass comment earlier wasn’t flippancy.
Look at the country we have become.
There are only 60 million of us on these islands. Less than 1% of the global population.
And we’re rich beyond imagination – still the world’s sixth biggest economy, despite everybody’s best attempts over the last couple of decades to run the economy into the ground.
To behave as we behave, to tolerate what we tolerate, to settle and to accept second best is just so blatantly wrong.
It is indeed shameful.
And it’s indecent.
Let’s not worry about whether there is or isn’t such a thing as society.
We need to concentrate on two things before we can indulge in navel-gazing like that.
First, let’s help the people sleeping in the gymnasiums. Let’s not talk about helping them. Let’s actually help them.
And then let’s work on becoming a decent country, one that operates on the basis that every one of our 60 million fellow citizens matters as much as we do.
I’m acutely conscious this is not my most coherent argument.
But there are so many things that need saying and so many changes that need to happen if all these horrible, needless deaths are not to have been in vain.
Life has to – and will – go on.
But we cannot – must not – continue to live as we have.