EVEN though Kensington and Chelsea Council’s chief executive Nicholas Holgate had already confirmed his intention to resign before council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown quit over the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Government should now go even further.
There is a strong case to be made for the whole council being placed in ‘special measures’, with new leaders drafted in, after a Cabinet meeting to discuss the inferno descended into chaos – ruling Tory councillors walked out when the High Court stated that the media had a legal right to attend.
Not only did this heavy-handedness shame some ‘tinpot’ dictatorships, but such arrogance also besmirched the reputation of democracy per se and gave cause for victims of injustice to be even more suspicious of the wider political establishment.
For Coun Paget-Brown to claim media reports could be prejudicial to the forthcoming public inquiry could not have been further from the truth – inquiries can’t be prejudiced because they’re presided over by a senior judge and any competent council official should have been more than capable of making this clear.
Given Rotherham Council’s leadership was rightly replaced in the light of the borough’s child abuse scandal, why has the same not happened at Kensington? At least 80 people were killed when flames spread with devastating speed throughout a tower block where newly-installed cladding on the building’s exterior appears to have been fitted on the cheap with the council’s knowledge. To compound matters, the council’s response to the disaster has been both cavalier and complacent.
These are matters that must be discussed in public. If Theresa May wishes to show she’s in charge, she should act now before this ignominious council has a chance to cause even more heartache, offence and embarrassment.
Tories, Labour and Brexit splits
AT least the business of the Government, and scrutiny of Ministers, can continue after the Queen’s Speech was passed, thereby sparing the country even more political turmoil and the possibility of another election.
Yet it’s hardly business as usual. Theresa May had to write out a £1bn cheque to secure the support of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party – money previously denied to the emergency services, NHS staff and regions like Yorkshire which have been repeatedly shortchanged.
And Labour’s difficulties should not be under-estimated. Even though Jeremy Corbyn appears to be in the political ascendancy, he had to sack three shadow ministers – a fourth resigned – after 50 MPs defied his orders and backed a Commons motion calling for Britain to remain in the single market. Mr Corbyn will argue that the election result, where Labour exceeded expectations, has afforded him the opportunity to punish those who are disloyal – and that Mrs May will be powerless to do so if she faces a similar rebellion.
Yet, given both of the main parties are divided when it comes to the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU in 2019, it’s all the more reason to end the divisiveness that continues to characterise this issue by setting up a cross-country commission that could ensure that the whole country’s needs come before party political calculations. Both the Tories and Labour do, in fact, have far more in common than they care to admit. As no less a figure than the Archbishop of York intimated earlier this week, it’s high time they recognised as much.
A poor net return
HOW times change. Not only was it a novelty 50 years ago for a British male tennis player – Sheffield’s Roger Taylor in this instance – to have top billing on Wimbledon’s hallowed Centre Court, but his historic five-set match with Cliff Drysdale was the first to be broadcast in colour by the BBC.
Fast forward five decades. Not only will defending champion Sir Andy Murray open proceedings on Centre Court on Monday but TV coverage of his match will be enhanced by the very latest high definition technology that affords viewers the best seat in the house.
Yet, as the BBC prepares to serve up two weeks of unmissable sporting action as Murray, and Johanna Konta, carry the hopes of an expectant country, it’s all the more reason to lament the decline in the Corporation’s sports output for the remaining 50 weeks of the year. In this regard, it’s game, set and match to those who believe the BBC has not only let down sports fans, but failed to make the most of the very technological advances that it pioneered. It’s a poor net return.