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Kensington horror ignites a revolutionary mood

By Heiko Khoo | China.org.cn | Updated: 2017-06-19 15:11

Last week was perhaps one of the most dramatic in modern British history.

Although Theresa May's Conservative party won the most seats in the general election, this was a Pyrrhic victory. This is one where an army nominally wins a battle, but does so at such a huge cost to itself that another such battle would bring catastrophe.

May's incompetent misjudgment of the popular mood continues unabated. Meanwhile the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn has seen its ratings race ahead and, incredibly, everything indicates that, if there were a new election tomorrow, Labour would win a landslide majority. What a difference a week makes!

There are times when necessity is expressed through an accident. Such was the case with the horrific fire engulfing a high-rise tower block called Grenfell tower in Kensington, one London's wealthiest boroughs, but one where, only the week before, Labour scored its most dramatic and unexpected electoral victory.

The fire swept up the 24 story-building in the early morning so fast that many residents were unable to escape. The occupants of this 1970's building had for years prophesied impending disaster, indeed issuing a chilling warning last November that a fire with significant loss of life was inevitable.

The Conservative-led council, like many local governments around the country, had long worked hand-in-glove with property developers. Under the auspices of regeneration and improvement, unaccountable bodies systematically manipulated the local residents and signed contracts for all sorts of unnecessary building work.

At the same time the elementary needs of residents were ignored and their interests trampled on. Fire in such concrete high-rise blocks should remain isolated within the apartment affected. However, it appears that cladding attached to the exterior of the tower block during renovation work was responsible for the blaze sweeping up the building in minutes.

The death toll may well exceed 100. Most of the dead have either not yet been found, or not identified. On Friday, I was at the scene, where hundreds of people were milling around shell-shocked, some were wailing in grief. Soon, this mood turned to anger and then rage.

Whilst emergency response teams did what they could to save lives and comfort the injured, the local government has proven utterly incompetent; and Theresa May exacerbated the unpopularity of the national government by initially refusing to talk directly with those affected.

By contrast, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn went to the community, shared their grief, and promised to ensure that those responsible would be brought to justice. In addition, he called for empty luxury houses and apartments in the area to be requisitioned to house those made homeless by the fire.

This is the first time in my life that I sense the mood in British society is turning revolutionary. The Russian Marxist Vladimir Lenin identified the preconditions for a revolution as follows: That the ruling class is unable to rule in the old way; and the oppressed classes are unwilling to be ruled in the old way; and that an organization or leadership exists that is prepared to lead a movement for change.

The Conservative party would like to be rid of Theresa May. Her former chancellor, George Osborne, described the prime minister as "one of the walking dead." However, the party's leaders are terrified to remove her for fear of the consequences if this triggered a new election.

Yet, May has still not been able to form a government, although one is due to be announced this week. And, in an unprecedented move by the establishment, the 91-year-old Queen of England issued a somber letter to her subjects in an attempt to pacify popular anger.

Last Friday, a march by the enraged community around Grenfell Tower led to the storming of Kensington Town Hall to demand truth and justice. The police seemed unable, or perhaps unwilling, to use force lest the situation escalate out of control and copycat rebellions sweep the country. Small, but angry protests erupted that evening in central London.

Within the Labour Party, the majority of MPs despised Jeremy Corbyn only a month ago; however, when he walked into Parliament last week, these same MPs gave him a standing ovation. Now, one after another of his opponents have eaten humble pie and declared how wrong they were.

They hope thereby, to cling to their positions despite the anger of ordinary party members at their two-year campaign to sabotage his leadership. Now Corbyn and his team have called a giant demonstration for July 1 to draw on his growing popularity.

In this climate of seething anger, a radical switch in Britain's political direction is certainly on the cards.


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