I awoke on the morning of 14 June last year, 2017, seeing the smoke from Grenfell go by our front room window. I took our things down to Notting Hill Church and volunteered for the rest of the day. It was one of the most heartbreaking days of my life.
So many lives were lost because of greed and a lack of respect for basic human life by Kensington and Chelsea Council, and a greater lack of care for all those concerned on an astounding level, in the days and weeks immediately after the tragedy. I defy anyone to watch the “Grenfell” documentary and not be moved.
I have been born and bred in west London and love the area with a passion, but I can honestly say I feel so ashamed to come from an area that allowed this nightmare to happen. We all know councils are slow to act, invariably, and that they are indifferent, for the most part, and that they think they are better than you, but I think the shock of Kensington and Chelsea’s inept behaviour has floored many, because in my opinion, that same behaviour was criminal.
The Grenfell residents had written time and time again, pointing out the high risk of a fire and tragedy and the fact it would appear that nothing less than a cataclysmic event would get them, the Kensington and Chelsea landlords, to take notice.
Kensington and Chelsea, you should be disgusted with yourselves. You should hang your heads in shame, and not keep deferring and passing the buck. You should look each individual in the eye, and say you will help them, and say sorry. You should never again make a decision where the cheaper option is favoured over a safer, more secure one. Make it your daily goal to help these people.
Find them – the remaining 43 people – a permanent home. Don’t leave them in their hotel rooms to suffer the memories of that horrific night. Give them what you did not give them before: a safe, clean home they can call their own.
Theresa May’s apology came too late
Theresa May has reportedly admitted she should have met Grenfell Tower survivors in the immediate aftermath of that dreadful fire, saying not doing so was a mistake she will “always regret”. Well, it wasn’t exactly a difficult decision, but that was her call and it was clear at the time that she had got it wrong. She gets absolutely no points for regrets now. Those survivors, on the other hand, deserve accolades aplenty. If only there had been no need for such accolades. Too little too late, by a street, Theresa.
Italy has let humanity down by refusing refugees
Italy is a beautiful country full of history and culture, but now not refugees.
Refugees seem to be everywhere, they look different and speak differently although if you get past this simplistic, inaccurate stereotyping you will find a range of normal people that are escaping from horrors that most people have no idea of – fortunately.
Italy was wrong to refuse the shipload of refugees and to tweet it as a “victory”, as the minister Matteo Salvini did, because people must be safe even if others are inconvenienced.
Spain showed a kinder heart and a stronger character and acted to help the unfortunate souls. This is only one example of an issue that is ongoing. Australia, where I live, also has a poor approach to refugees, at least at the political level.
The solution lies not with where they are going but with why they are leaving their own countries. If there was peace and prosperity then there would be few refugees.
Welcome the lost and work on making life better for all.
Kim Jong-un is not a child who craves Disney trailers
Whilst everyone is happy that the Singapore summit will help to usher peace, was it really necessary for President Trump to show Kim Jong-un a Hollywood movie (“Destiny Pictures”!) depiction of their meeting and the outcome, on his iPad?
After all Kim Jong-un is not a dumb school kid who will be swayed by a movie on their summit. He heads a rogue nuclear armed nation at the age of 31. And Donald Trump is the president of a powerful nation, the USA. He should not behave like a second-hand car salesman. This was poor taste, crass sensationalism and an insult to anyone’s intelligence.
The reason we have politicians is to vote in people’s best interests, whether those people understand why or not
How many people who voted in the referendum understood the difference between the European Union, the European Free Trade Association and the European Economic Area?
This was supposed to be the reason we had a parliament with MPs who could look at difficult issues and vote in the best interests of their constituents, even when that might be the unpopular option.
Hence the inadvisability of government by plebiscite. It is interesting that countries that do have such a system would never allow a vote as close as 48/52 to pass.
It is to the shame of our elected representatives that to date only Phillip Lee has shown to have been able to put country and constituents ahead of party and personal ambition.
Hedgehog streets might save this vulnerable species
We were saddened but not surprised to read that hedgehog populations are plummeting (Independent) and they have been added to the red list as “vulnerable”.
We have been reporting similar declines in our “state of Britain’s hedgehogs” reports published with people’s trust for endangered species (PTES) for some years, most recently January 2018. However, that report does offer a glimmer of hope in that urban population decline appears to be slowing.
This could be attributed to simple actions, taken by gardeners and home owners across the country, having been made aware of the problems hedgehogs are facing through campaigns such as Hedgehog Street, our partnership project with PTES.
Like many of the species in decline, a major problem hedgehogs face is loss of habitat and fragmentation of habitat. There are pockets of land that are wonderful for hedgehogs but if they don’t join up with other pockets, it may be a population there is not sustainable. Connectivity is key!
Hedgehog Street has been asking people to create hedgehog highways across the country: a CD case-sized gap at the bottom of boundary walls and fences could join up valuable habitat. You can even log your hedgehog highway or sightings of hedgehogs on the big hedgehog map.
Let’s build on that glimmer of hope and pull hedgehogs back from the brink.
Fay Vass, chief executive of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society
Children don’t know how to respond to fake news and this is worrying
The rise of digital and social media is rapidly changing the way children experience news, but children are not acquiring the literacy skills they need to survive and thrive in the digital age at the requisite pace.
This is the finding of a year-long commission on the impact of fake news on children and young people by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Literacy and the National Literacy Trust.
The commission found that only 2 per cent of children and young people in the UK can tell the difference between real and fake news. This dangerous skills gap is not only driving a culture of fear, anxiety and uncertainty amongst young people, but it is also threatening to undermine children’s democratic futures.
Teachers believe that they are ultimately responsible for helping children identify fake news, yet only 6 per cent of children say they’ve ever talked to a teacher about it. If this perilous imbalance isn’t redressed, the wellbeing and democratic futures of an entire generation of children will be at risk.
The government and media companies must urgently step up to provide teachers with the training, resources and time they need to help children develop the necessary literacy skills to confidently navigate, analyse and assess the validity of the news they find online.
Lucy Powell MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Literacy
Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust