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June 18, 2017



I think that our blogger's argument here is rooted more in idealism than materialism: my impression is that OU style politicians see politics as a "friendly" competition only among themselves; they seem to me very well aware that between them as a caste (very much linked by marriages of course) and the rest of the populace politics is a hard struggle about power, which they pursue with harsh determination when necessary. See how they deal, as a group, with those outside the caste or those who dare to have positions that are not "permissible".

Politics is based on real power relationships, and "the Establishment" caste has real power and real determination to protect it; "the Establishment" allows via voting a limited participation of "hoi polloi", which is to choose which faction of "the Establishment" is in charge, but they should not dare to choose to reject "the Establishment" and choose a faction outside it, or choose not-"permissible" policies. So voting is indeed mostly a popularity contest among mates.

That has the inestimable advantage that it preserves the peace, because "real" political struggle, whether among factions of "the Establishment" or between them as a caste and "hoi polloi" tends to turn brutal (e.g. Peterloo massacre for an extreme example).

As a very candid example of the mindset, here is the first Commons speech of the young Winston Churchill, on what to do with the "rebellious" Boers and the "generous" offer of the type of self rule they should be offered:



«them as a caste»

T Been notes in his diary, 2006-03-22, on a social occasion where he was with many of the "great and good" and his own family:

“Looking round, I thought how the Oxford Union, and senior civil servants and judges are all part of the mandarin Establishment class, who run everything. I was saying how nice everyone was to me, and Lissie commented, ‘Well, it is all about class, you realise.’ They are nice to me because I am part of their class. She is shrewd about that.”

Caste more than class though (caste includes personal and familial relationships...)


"There’s a line through the countless deaths in, mines, factories and building sites through Aberfan and Hillsborough to the suicides caused by benefit cuts. That line has led to the smouldering remains of Grenfell tower."

Not suggesting any kind of a plot...



You missed a bit. Conditionality is the policy apparatus (designed?) which attacks unwelcome statistics/graphs without touching the sides of actual problems.


These peoples lives simply didn't matter enough to have 200k spent on a sprinkler system yet can raise more than £2.2 million when dead. The money was clearly there to be spent but it wasn't, draw your own conclusions.



The marginalisation of the Grenfell survivors was wonderfully illustrated by the BBC News. They interviewed a bishop after the meeting with Theresa May as though he was their spokesman. He spoke of 'robust' exchanges but offered no flavour of those exchanges- perhaps he was reluctant to take sides against the government. To not interview any of the highly articulate survivors is a further demonstration of the BBC's patronising attitudes towards poor people. You have absolutely hit the nail on the head.

Chris Williams

All fine but Blissex please don't call the Oxford Union the OU. There's only one OU, I work for it, it's the best university on the planet, and it was invented by Harold Wilson.


We might all benefit if politics was not treated as a game but you could also have mentioned that politics is hard. It's not just a hug, it's making coherent arguments and persuading others through discourse of their merit. This probably doesn't include stealing other peoples property.


"This probably doesn't include stealing other peoples property."

Is pretending we don't know the meaning of the word 'requisition' part of the parlour game, then?


"and in which there's no place for childish games."

Not going to happen. Just look at how many politicians are using this event to bash 'neglect' and 'austerity'

This was a systematic failure of design, product certification, construction and of building standards due to simple human ignorance. Combustible cladding was used and either fire stops were not properly installed, thought not to be needed (I've seen it myself a number of times) or just did not work as intended.

It has nothing, nothing, to do with money. Lots of money was thrown at the building to upgrade it.

Yet already we hear plenty of cries about how this has been caused by 'systematic neglect', wails that 'if only money had been spend on XXX'. Like sprinklers, you could have installed the worlds most expensive and best sprinkler system, it would have done nothing due to the nature of the fire.

There may be a strong case for financial neglect in the social sector, but using this episode as proof of that, or saying it is the cause, is playing childish games.


Hmm. I do feel the crazy idea that free markets without any regulations and standards has been a large factor in the fire.
Strong regulations will create market opportunity if done correctly. Unfortunately there has been a general hatred of any suggestion that we should regulate to such an extent that even basic regulation and research into regulations are neglected.
The political class has devalued any expert working in such areas such that warnings are now routinely ignored or just humoured.
Commercial Companies will remove costs and work to the bear minimum standards to be price competitive and pay large dividends. Saving £6k on a £9 million contract is normal practice.
Government and the political class desperately need more technical training to allow them to understand basic engineering and the folly of no standards.
The U.K. is in a rush to the bottom of the pile. A free for all where tat is the accepted norm and citizens are fodder for the 'Loads of Money' mantra.
This is a wake up call that's been ringing loudly for years but is falling on deaf ears.



"Hmm. I do feel the crazy idea that free markets without any regulations and standards has been a large factor in the fire."

Have you actually read the regulations and standards?

Do you actually know whether regulations that exist were followed, adequately understood/enforced or that they are correct?

Or are you just providing an example of the kind of quality of debate I allude to, no facts and just verbal diarrhoea based upon an already established opinion looking for facts to support it?

Alexander Kurz

"We see this idea of politics in the matey undertow between presenters such as John Pienaar and Andrew Neil and their narrow roster of guests" --- I never watch TV but made an exception for election night. I dont know Pienaar and Neil, but the matey tone between presenters and politicians struck me hard (I still remember vividly the moment Liam Fox came on) and made me wonder why anybody outside this small elite would care to vote at all.

An example that shows how terrible these mates fail when they have to meet "ordinary people" is available at http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/818093/Londoner-shuts-down-BBC-reporter-during-Grenfell-Tower-London-fire-protest
where the matey interviewer completely fails when he is asked why he thinks people are angry ... he doesn't know ... can you believe it? But I understand now why. In his upperclass matey bubble he really cant see it, even if it is in front of his eyes.

Same with May, when she speaks about "ordinary people".


Not a good example Kurz.

The reporter is asking for their view, which is actually doing his job, rather than spouting of his own opinion which he should keep to himself.


Pre Thatcher it was stressed that the first duty of a civil servant was to be brave and honest to protect the UK public (poor or rich or in-between) against any intended or otherwise wrongful policies of politicians. They were Crown Employees, not Government employees. The elected politicians represented their electors(rich or poor); the Civil Service effectively "ran" the country.

The long process to neuter honesty and fact based evidence that conflicted policy / ideology then started. It was also combined with isolating an obsolete non-technical "ruling" class from those carrying out the work. Responsibility was shed but political powers were increased.

First it was the gagging ruling that civil servants could not say or write anything that contradicted a Minister. The arms length executive agencies were then formed that were set targets by Ministers. Anything went wrong and the CEO of the Agency had to answer, not the (only policy) Minister. Then the mass outsourcing to an unaccountable private sector started so that the expertise of the civil service to enable correct advice to be given was hollowed out. Prison, Probation, Forensic services etc etc were sold off and again became unaccountable. No one can find out how much all this costs as Commercial in Confidence dogma rules.

Then Councils were forced to outsource for "efficiency" reasons. So the Councils lost the ability to be an intelligent client(know what was wanted and know that it was provided). Who was responsible now? The Council, The Minister, the private contractor? No one knows nor cares.

Possibly the Brexit process was part of the same desire of Thatcherite style UK politicians to get away from dealing with others of different and more expert and informed views in Europe. Taking back control, not to the UK, but to their ilk.

Any rate, the tower block fire seems am inevitable result of the Thatcherite process (also adopted by Blair). The Fire Brigades were once totally responsible for fire inspections - now any tick boxing, unqualified body can do it, or more likely not do it. No one cars except the residents who are ignored. The Civil Servants no longer have the expertise to draft technical standards. They are even unaware of the need. Ministers are also unaware of the need and also hostile to any regulations, good or bad. Ministers believe it is up to the market to "sell" the need for sprinklers to cash strapped Councils despite there not being any regulation that they are fitted to such blocks. Council have lost specialist staff and in-house knowledge and no longer consider they have any responsibility because it is all outsourced into the ether now. They would not know one cladding material from any another.

The Government and Councils are now reduced to the level of unintelligent clients.

Churm Rincewind

So Andrew Neil's "narrow roster of guests" is implicated in "the ostracism and patronising of those whose class, gender or ethnicity excludes them from the game, such as...Diane Abbott".

The fact of the matter is that between 2003 and 2010 Diane Abbott appeared in the majority of editions of This Week, which aired thirty five times a year, and then another eight times in the next two years following her appointment as Shadow Minister of Health. Not much "exclusion" there then.

No matter. Along with people like Katie Hopkins and Nigel Farage, Chris is always keen to trash the BBC's political reporting so I guess this is just par for the course.

gastro george

@Dipper, from a different recent thread:

"May has faults but she may have learnt from this and her party will move to cover any obvious faults."

That's working out well then.


@ gastro george - still in a position for it to work out well. Though frankly it is going to be hard from here. Quite a lot of reorganising to do.


Off topic.

Anyone know why the whole family of clean shaven white van man "terrorist?" are not in police custody.... or even helping with enquiries?
Do the telepathic powers of government "know" that they were not plotting or helping?
Mad dogs and Englishmen?

Jandra Beeston

"There’s one aspect of the Grenfell catastrophe that is perhaps under-appreciated – that it should finally kill off what is perhaps the dominant conception of politics in the media."

Although it seems beyond doubt that a significant portion (the majority, perhaps) of voters earnestly hope for such a change, I suspect we may be seriously underestimating the ruthlessness with which the Oxbridge boys club (and they're mainly boys) will protect their privileged positions.

From Aberfan onwards, mass loss of poor or disadvantaged lives has yet to result in anything other that the odd cosmetic change. The boys know the popular outrage will gradually subside and, meanwhile, it's they who have time & money on their side.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.


This kind of crap (as above) makes me angry.

This is like an aircraft crash. There are reams of regulation and standards and a very real failing here due technical intricacies and human ignorance. Its very easy after the fact to go 'oh it was obvious'.

This is not a UK issue or even an EU issue, this is happening globally with a number of similar incidents worldwide and thousands if not hundreds of thousands of buildings using the same products and methods.


Yet politicians on both the left and the right have loudly condemned 'austerity' as the blame, they should be strung up.

A proper adult discussion and investigation should (and likely will be) carried out. Yet everyone has already blamed a host of people, some prat in this thread blames thatcher!

The FACT is that millions of pounds was spent upgrading an old building to improve the living standards of those within it using new technology/products/methods.

But new technology sometimes goes wrong. And like aircraft it sometimes, sadly, takes an accident for flaws to become known. Although this is against a background of ever decreasing incidents and higher safety standards. And anyone even thinking of blaming this on 'lack of spending on sprinklers' needs to shut their ignorant hole as this actually would have had no bearing on this particular fire.

Sometimes we get it wrong because we are human, not because we are left/right/thatcher/blair or insert whatever your preferred bogyman is.

People making political capital out of this should feel ashamed.



The fact that the fire prevention failed in a non-safe way is self-evident, from the pictures. Fires are supposed to be contained in the unit where the fire occurred. (In fact the brigade extinguished the original blaze).

Changes like self-certification of compliance with fire regulation by the contractors rather than council/Fire Brigade enforcement would appear to be at fault. And the motivation for this change is reduction in regulation and/or austerity and/or the outsourcing of responsibility to parties with an economic incentive to cut corners.

The cladding did not fail safe, when even fitting of pipe work can breach firewalls.
Not to mention routing of gas pipework in communal areas without proper fire proofing.

Sprinklers would have mitigated the fire when other precautions have failed, reducing smoke and lengthening the escape time.

Warning was given before the events at Greenfell. The council (and National Government) has clearly failed in it's responsibilities for the safety of the tenants/public.

The fire should have been contained in the first unit, and safety should not be fragile, and subject to predictable failure resulting from retrofiting.

This was not a failure of technology, but of implementation/cost cutting.

The technology is understood, the practice was inadequate and people (who should have acted differently) are responsible.

gastro george

@Dipper - "still in a position for it to work out well."

I'll be charitable here and presume that you're still talking about Brexit and have failed to see Grenfell in the news ...


"Changes like self-certification of compliance with fire regulation by the contractors rather than council/Fire Brigade enforcement would appear to be at fault."

The investigation has not been completed, it appears that it may very well have complied so you points is redundant. again you are pushing a political agenda ahead of the yet to be established facts.

"And the motivation for this change is reduction in regulation and/or austerity and/or the outsourcing of responsibility to parties with an economic incentive to cut corners."

There is no evidence that corners were cut and in fact cheaper systems exist that would actually have been safer.

You of course know this having fully researched the standards, regulations and marketplace yes? you have not at all just again spouted anything which fits your prejudices?

The rest of your post is the usual nonsense. It is very easy to point to a host of problems and faults, that are indicative of systematic failings and a lack of investment but at the same time have absolutely no bearing on the actual incident.

Its easy to find lots of problems that are not actually the cause but fit your prejudices nicely.

You also fail to address that this is a EU wide issue and even global, under many governments with varying and great amounts of legislation, stop harking on about cutting corners and privatisation and cutting standards, its nonsense.

People died. If you want to stop more people dying you identify the real cause and failings, not just jump on the 'austerity' band wagon.


'There’s a line through the countless deaths in, mines, factories and building sites through Aberfan and Hillsborough to the suicides caused by benefit cuts. That line has led to the smouldering remains of Grenfell tower.'

'Fake', would you like to read through this carefully. What connects all of these? I'll give you a little clue should I - most of the people who have died weren't rich or went to public school and Oxbridge. Amazing coincidence isn't it?

You seem to know so much about this topic, so tell me how rich people manage to be so lucky to to avoid being killed where they live or work, when clearly, according to you, there seems to be nothing wrong with the way places like Grenfell Tower have been looked after.

It speaks volumes for the type of person you are that you get animated about some things but not others.


Unfortunately Neil Kinnock let himself down badly. Despite this correct retort and the small number of very good speeches he gave kinnock epitomised the failings of 1980s Labour. He moved the party to the right to win the mythical middle ground thus like Blair helping to entrench the right wing ideologies that marginalise those who do not own capital. He also was guilty of being rather a posturing macho character who in his own way reinforced the very cult of strength that Thatcher embraced. Which is often a cover for the bully. his own version of reformist strong man just made him look like a socialist bully-boy, which went down badly in 1992. The same criticism could be applied to other left wing organisations which put posturing before persuasion.


As for Tony Benn I am sure lots of people quite liked him, weather in the ruling class or not. They may have disagreed with his political position but that does not require dislike.

The problem with contemporary graduates of oxbridge is that a lot are like Boris Johnson. Namely an Obvious dilettante and charlatan. He cannot be bothered to master a brief or make consistent arguments as it is too much like work. Bluster replaces debate or ideas. It is the failure to take responsibility for the exercise of power. That is why avoidable disasters happen. It is a moral failure, power can only be legitimate when those who wield it take responsibility for how it is used. Villages being buried in coal waste, tower blocks becoming an inferno, wars of aggression killing tens of thousands. If they want the kudos of office they should do a reasonable job.


Nice blog i like it.

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