June 14, 2017, will always haunt me. The anniversary is a reminder of my friend Khadija Saye and the 71 others who died in the Grenfell Tower fire. The memory of being woken up in the early hours by concerned messages and calls, alongside harrowing images on social media, will never leave me.
This wasn’t a tragedy that affected everyone equally — 85 per cent of the victims were from ethnic minority backgrounds. One in five were disabled or vulnerable. The ruin of Grenfell unveiled a fractured society, revealing the shattered bonds that are meant to hold our social fabric together.
As the years pass, shock and sorrow has turned into anger and frustration. The Government continues to state its determination to give the families of those who died the justice they deserve, but has failed to deliver it. Since then, not a single charge or conviction has been made. Instead, the Government has just given Jacob Rees-Mogg a knighthood. The Conservative politician who, after the fire, suggested that the victims lacked common sense.
Although work has progressed on the removal of flammable aluminium composite cladding (ACM) on high-rise blocks over 18 metres, many of those in medium-height blocks between 11-18 metres have been left with the same cladding. The Government’s current contract to ensure that developers cover the costs of the removal only covers 1,100, when there are between 6,000 and 9,000 unsafe buildings alone. While the Government claims that those in medium-height blocks will get their properties made safe, the anxiety that ‘it could happen to me’ will not go away with a faint promise.
Delays in the implementation of the recommendations from the first phase of the report as well as the publication of Phase Two leave the families and friends of the victims feeling ignored. Those who lost loved ones want closure, rather than constantly having to fight.
Grenfell Tower still casts a long shadow over a country where change is needed. Thousands drive past the tower every day, reminded of its symbolism and the individuals who paid the highest price. The fire will never be a story of the past until justice is served and people feel safe in their homes.
David Lammy is the Labour MP for Tottenham