Theresa May finally meets Grenfell survivors after accusations she showed 'no humanity' to residents

 

Theresa May leaves the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London after visiting people who were injured in the fire. (PA)C)

Theresa May has visited survivors of the Grenfell fire disaster in hospital a day after coming under heavy criticism for refusing to meet residents during a visit to the scene of the tragedy.

The Prime Minister was accused of showing “no humanity” by Michael Portillo, a former Cabinet member himself, on Thursday night.

Her announcement comes as police confirmed the official death toll now stands at 30 and the Queen and the Duke of Cambridge also paid a visit to residents.

The Queen, dressed in bright blue, paused to speak to local residents who had gathered outside.

Meeting volunteers in front of tables stacked with donated goods, William discussed the tragedy with one, saying: “Things like that you never want to see.”

He told another: “That’s one of the most terrible things I have ever seen.”

Support – the royals met volunteers and residents during a visit to the Westway Sports Centre which is providing temporary shelter for those who have been made homeless by the fire. (Picture: Reuters)
She also met with firefighters. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/Pool Photo via AP)

Mr Portillo’s criticism of the PM was the latest in a string of very public condemnation over her refusal to meet residents – apparently for security reasons.

Judith Blakeman, a Labour councillor at Kensington, said: ‘She’ll probably be protected from residents as she was protected from electors during the election campaign. It’s a sign of cowardice.’

Another local resident reportedly described Mrs May as “shit”, adding: “Theresa May was here but she didn’t speak to any of us.”

Read more about the Grenfell Tower fire

Labour’s former deputy leader, Harriet Harman, said it was “not OK” for the Prime Minister to go to the area but not meet residents, and called on her to invite them to talk to her in Downing Street, as victims of the 2009 Lakanal House fire were.

But Government minister Tobias Ellwood suggested that security concerns had prevented Mrs May from speaking to local people on Thursday.

And Tory MP Chris Philp told BBC’s Newsnight that she may have been “keen not to intrude and cause disruption at a time.

Humanity – Mr Portillo accused the Prime Minister of failing to show any humanity during her visit to Grenfell Tower (Pictures: Getty)

The Prime Minister met fire chiefs but did not speak to residents, while her opposite number, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was seen to be meeting people affected by the blaze.

Asked about their different approaches, Mr Portillo said: “She should have been there with the residents, which is what Jeremy Corbyn was. He was there hugging people and being natural with them.

MORE: Fund for Syrian refugee who perished in Grenfell Tower blaze raises thousands of pounds in hours
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“The Prime Minister would have been shouted at by residents but she should have been willing to take that.

“You have to be prepared to receive people’s emotions and not be so frightened about people.”

Mr Portillo says the Prime Minister is unlikely to last the summer

Mr Portillo added that he would be “amazed” if Mrs May was still PM by October, when the Conservative Party conference takes place.

The Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom was also harangued in the street as she defended Mrs May’s no-show.

As she spoke to Sky News at the site of the fire in west London, Mrs Leadsom was confronted by a local resident, who said chances had been missed to make the 24-storey block safe.

The man said: “Why are Sadiq Khan and Corbyn coming down here to speak to people and Theresa May is coming here with police, walking around, not meeting no-one, not meeting families?

“This fire could have been stopped a long, long time ago… There’s not even sprinklers in there.

“In 2009, the last block was on fire. What has happened since then? Nothing. Enough is enough, I have got friends in that tower. We have a right to be angry. Because of people saving money, people are dying.”

Mrs Leadsom said: “The Prime Minister came yesterday to look at the operation, to try to make sure that everything that can be done by the Government is done.”

“The Prime Minister is absolutely heartbroken… The whole sense in the House of Commons is absolute horror and shock. I don’t really think it is appropriate to be talking about whether people have humanity or not.”

The backlash comes at a particularly difficult time for Mrs May, who has seen her popularity plummet after a terrible election campaign, in which she was repeatedly accused of avoiding “real people”.

She also came in for a hard time over a disastrous social care policy int he manifesto.

Mr Corbyn’s popularity, on the other hand, has rocketed – as can be seen on the chart above that was published on Thursday.

Mrs May’s excuse of “security concerns” seemed increasingly implausible in the light of Mr Corbyn’s visit – and also that of the Queen, who travelled near to the scene on Friday morning.

The Queen meeting people affected by the tragedy on Friday (Rex)

The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge met volunteers, local residents and community representatives while visiting Westway Sports Centre, near the charred remains of the building in west London.

The death toll

The blaze devastated the high rise in Kensington (PA)

Searches for people missing in the Grenfell Tower inferno are continuing as a police commander expressed hope the death toll would not hit triple figures.

Dozens are thought to be unaccounted for since the blaze, which police fear was so devastating that some victims may never be identified.

Twelve bodies have so far been recovered from the gutted 24-storey tower, while more have been located inside, but cannot yet be removed.

Meanwhile, experts have said sprinklers could have been fitted in the tower for £200,000, but Nick Paget-Brown, the Tory leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, said there was not a “collective view” among residents in favour of installing them.

Syrian Mohammed Alhajali has been named as the first victim

One of the first victims was named as 23-year-old Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali, with the Syria Solitary Campaign director Kareen El Beyrouty launching a campaign towards funeral costs.

The appeal said: “Mohammed Alhajali undertook a dangerous journey to flee war in Syria, only to meet death here in the UK, in his own home.

“His dream was to be able to go back home one day and rebuild Syria.”

Family of Khadija Saye have also confirmed she is one of dozens to have died. 

Khadija Saye has also been confirmed dead

“For those of us that have been down there, it’s pretty emotional, so I hope it is not triple figures, but I can’t be drawn on the numbers,” he added, his voice cracking.

He added: “It may be – and I just don’t know – it may be that ultimately some victims remain unidentified.

 

 


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