11 Days Remaining

Monday 26th
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

WERE there sharp intakes of breath when shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the Grenfell Tower fire victims were “murdered by political decisions?”

McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and other political activists, supported by the Morning Star, have been agitating for decades to demand that housing be seen as a human right not a marketable asset.

Council housing was the primary means by which Britain combated the scourge of slum dwellings and destruction of countless homes through aerial bombing during the second world war.

Requisition of land, compulsory purchase, fire regulations and restrictions on the ability of private landlords to gouge rent from tenants for below-standard homes were all part of the postwar housing campaign.

They weren’t seen as dangerous revolutionary fancies, although the desire to rehouse the homeless in modern, sanitary and safe homes certainly had its roots in the left. But even Tory governments in the 1950s boasted of building hundreds of thousands of council homes each year.

Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government unleashed an ideological offensive against council housing in the 1980s, flying her “property-owning democracy” propaganda kite. She encouraged individuals to buy their council homes, while subsequent neoliberal premiers from both major parties pushed the transfer of entire council estates/schemes to housing associations or delegated their running to arm’s length management organisations.

Making savings not human decency became the watchword for managing council housing.

This meant taking out caretakers/concierges from tower blocks, cutting corners on safety and scrimping on the cost of insulation, as the minimal savings achieved through fitting flammable panels rather than flame-proof cladding at Grenfell shows.

Safety warning followed safety warning and complaint followed complaint, but they weren’t taken seriously because the tenants were poor and didn’t warrant extra expenditure, having failed to buy into the capitalist dream.

The Grenfell victims were effectively murdered by heartless political decisions and by the profits-first ethos of capitalism.


Errant mortar?

ISRAEL is playing a very dangerous game in supporting al-Qaida affiliate Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (Hetesh) against the Syrian army in Quneitra province.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that the Israeli warplane that killed two Syrian soldiers and destroyed two military vehicles on Saturday did so in self-defence is as palpably false as US justifications for interventions designed to assist terrorist groups fighting to overthrow the Damascus government.

Collaboration between Hetesh in Quneitra province and zionist forces based in the occupied Golan Heights is well documented, including treatment of wounded extremists in Israeli hospitals.

The Israel Defence Force reference to “errant” mortar fire hitting the occupied Golan Heights is misleading.

Such “errant” fire occurs so often and brings the same result — Israeli air strikes on Syrian government targets — that it is now abundantly clear this is the extremists’ method of summoning aerial support.

For all the rhetoric from Washington and Tel Aviv about global threats posed by Islamic State (Isis) and al-Qaida, their actions are directed principally against Syrian state forces and allied formations they designate as Iran-backed.

Bombing Syrian defensive positions outside Ba’ath City while they are under attack from Hetesh confirms Israel and its US protector’s ongoing obsession with regime change. To follow that by attacking a government field hospital after the assault by their proxies was repelled compounds the crime.

Israel should examine the consequences of its role in building up Hamas as an alternative to Yasser Arafat’s secular Fatah party in the 1980s and reconsider its interference in Syria.