Sunday 17 June 2018

Questions, questions


I usually try to post tidy-looking transcripts, but this one is too long and I'm running out of time today. So please find below a transcript of the part of today's London section of The Sunday Politics, hosted by our old friend Norman Smith. 

It's taken straight from TV Eyes, with a few corrections from me. I hope it's still easy to read. The bold bits are Norman Smith speaking. The non-bold bits are his various guests. I've indicated who is being questioned at which point by highlighting their names in red

I haven't marked out the interruptions though, but there were quite a few and you'll easily be able to guess where they came. (Look for the balance of bold lettering and non-bold lettering. The closer they are the more interruptions there were. And the longer the length of the non-bold lettering the more the interviewee got to make their point). 

This is for those of you here at ITBB who know a lot more about this than I do and will be able to spot any bias (or lack of bias) much better than me here.

So, dear reader....

Was Norman Smith as factually mistaken about everything as Elizabeth Campbell, from Kensington and Chelsea Council, implied in her often incredulous-sounding responses to his accusatory ('accuse-a-Tory'?) questions?

Did Norman go way too far for a BBC journalist in suggesting that Mrs May "misled" Grenfell survivors (i.e. lied)?

Did Norman's questioning of his two Labour guests provide proper balance? Was he as tough with them as with his Conservative guests? 

Here then is the transcript:

Joining us now is Elizabeth Campbell, from Kensington and Chelsea Council, who took over as leader in the immediate aftermath of the fire. Elizabeth Campbell, your predecessor when he quit, said he was resigning because of the perceived failings of the council. Now, do you think the failings of the council are perceived or real? Well, I think we have to wait for the inquiry. You don't know? Well, soon as I took over as leader the first thing I did was to apologise and to say that actually the council did not cope well enough in the face of an overwhelming national tragedy and I still hold to that. We obviously didn't cope well enough. But as to the details, that's what the inquiry's for. Let me put it to you - the failings are not historic in terms of the immediate aftermath, which many people would say the council failed to get a grip on the situation. They're current in terms of your failure to rehouse residents, and as you yourself promised to do within a year, something like half are still in temporary accommodation. Well, I don't accept that because about 90... But you've broken your promise. You said you would get them... Hold on, let me just finish. 90% of those who need to be rehoused have accepted permanent accommodation now. But the accommodation is not available or suitable. Again, I don't agree. Well, why are they not in the properties then? Because it's complicated. It's very complicated and it's difficult and, you know, having been at the commemoration hearings every day, if you've got a family and you've had the opening of the public inquiry, well, the commemoration hearings for two weeks, then you have the opening of the public inquiry, you've got Ramadan going on at the same time, and yesterday you had the first anniversary. Meanwhile, the children are doing A-levels. When people are ready to move they'll move and we are doing everything we can to support them, help them, to encourage them to take up the flats and properties that are available. Let me put it to you, the facts are against you. If you have a situation where you have 200 or so households and only 80 or so after a year have been permanently rehoused, how in any way can you be satisfied with that? I'm not satisfied with it but I'm saying that it's... There are reasons for it. These aren't just figures that you can just move from one side of the sheet to another. They're individuals and they will have individual reasons. And I'm saying that... Yesterday I was speaking to quite a lot of our staff in the resettlement team, the allocation team, we know everybody, we know them very well. OK, but let's get a sense then, here we are one year on, half have not been put in permanent housing. How long do you think will it be before you will be able to ensure all of them are in permanent housing? Well, I'd just like to pick you up on what you said. You said "When they will be put". It's not a question of us putting them in. Yes, but you know the You know the thrust of my question. Yeah, I do, but I think... I don't think it is about having fake deadlines. But if you are a resident you want to know when you can expect to move into a permanent home. That's not an unrealistic ambition. Well, 90% have accepted it. So when will they actually be in housing which they can go into? They will move when they are ready to move. Well, when you can supply housing that is fit to go in because as you will know there has been criticism that much of the housing you have bought is inadequate, requiring repairs, damp, not suitable for people with disabilities etc etc. Again, I think the story is more complicated than you make out. You know, we went out and we bought 307 properties so everyone would have a choice. Then we have a duty to make sure that those properties are absolutely the best they can be, whether that's from fire regulation, whether that's from gas, whether that's from electricity. If people came to us and said, "Actually, I don't want to have gas in this flat." We'd say, "Fine, OK, we will change it." This is about getting homes for people. It's not just properties. I understand it's complicated... And if people want to say to us, "OK, I'd like a new kitchen, or I'd like a different tile, or I want to change that carpet. You seem to be suggesting that somehow it's the residents who are the problem, that they're too picky and finickity about what they want. No, I haven't said that. I've said... You're saying if they want a different kitchen... I don't think that's being picky. I think if you've lost your home, I think that's fair enough. All right. All I'm saying is that we're doing absolutely everything we can to make sure that, you know, having lost everything that they can have a home that they wish to move into. OK. But if you are a resident you would accept that you would want to have some sort of timeline in which you would feel confident that your family could move into permanent housing. Can you give them any reassurance that by the end of next year or whatever this will be sorted? 90% have accepted their flats. You're not answering the question. I think I am. Because you're trying to say that it's their fault. If I'm a resident I would want to know when I can move into permanent housing - confident that I'd be able to get into it. You can move in when your flat is ready. 90% are ready to move into as well. So, the flats are there. It's up to us to try and encourage people, to support them. Having been to the commemoration hearings, having been to the services yesterday, imagine it was you, imagine you've been married 30 years and you've lost your wife and you're going out buying, I don't know, towels or things for your flat and you're moving in on your own. That's quite a difficult... Let me... Bob Blackwell, let me bring you in. I mean, Theresa May her record too does not stand close examination does it? Because in the immediate aftermath she said, "Don't worry, you will all be permanently rehoused within three weeks." I mean, what a preposterous thing to say! Well, I think Theresa as Prime Minister has apologised. Not for that. Not for that. Not for that. She's apologised for her reaction in the immediate aftermath. In the immediate aftermath. But not for misleading residents about when they would be rehoused. But I do think that we have to empathise with the survivors of this terrible tragedy. We have to remember that they've lost absolutely everything. I understand that. They literally walked out in the clothes that they were wearing and everything else is gone. Now, when you're under those circumstances I don't think there's any council in the country that could have coped with that. Do you think Kensington handled it well? No, I don't they handled it well but I don't think any council in the country could have handled it well. Can I suggest... What I do think is important, however, is that we've got to give the survivors both the appropriate amount of time to grieve for the ones they've lost, and also to get a settled home, which they can call home after their recovery. The point is that we cannot ask the council or the Government to force people to go into homes. But can I suggest to you...? They've got to be offered a home that is suitable for them that they will then be able to regard as home. I don't think you can fix times. All right, but can I suggest to you, there is an obligation on political leaders in the aftermath of such a tragedy to be honest, to be candid with the sort of scale of reconstruction, and time that will be involved? And I would suggest to you that Theresa May, in effect, misled residents by giving them false expectations of when they could expect to be rehoused. And the Government has continued to do so. We have had quotes from Sajid Javid saying - you will be in by Christmas. I mean, that actually is unfair on the residents. Well, I think the clear point here is that the most important thing was that properties were being offered by the council, with assistance from the Government, for those residents to move in. Now, if they felt that those properties were not acceptable to them, they were either in the wrong place or the wrong type, and they rejected them. I think the figures are something like 866 offers made by the council to the 203 households. OK, let me... If that is the case, a lot of those residents have said... It depends what they are being offered. .."Thank you for the offer but it's not acceptable." OK, let me just bring Clive Efford in. I mean, the response of Jeremy Corbyn, too, is questionable, isn't it? I mean, he politicised an already utterly devastating and fraught circumstance for the residents by suggesting that somehow this was the consequence of austerity - the fault of the Government. Well I think that... I mean, clearly this is a... a result of a local authority that quite frankly refused to listen to its local residents. That's not... Hang on a second. These people were disenfranchised. But on this question of austerity, Jeremy Corbyn blamed it on austerity. They are a disenfranchised working class community in a Conservative Borough that disregarded them. And there is no getting away from this. This is a council that couldn't even pick up the phones the following day to answer the calls from other local authorities who were offering assistance. I mean, it was a disgraceful state of affairs. Do you see this... But just let me finish because you've made that accusation. And also the standard of the work that was done on that block, we can only wait for the outcome of the inquiry and police investigations, but I think we all know what the answer to that is going to be. So I think it's wrong to suggest that Jeremy Corbyn politicised this. OK, OK. Now let's hear from the local MP for Kensington, Labour's Emma Dent Coad. The council has to accept that they can't deal with it. They don't have the capacity to deal with it. And they have made some huge errors. They must either invite the Government in to help them or the Government send in commissioners now. They need expert help now to deal with this. The council has made some terrible mistakes by buying the wrong kind of housing for the right kind of people. And this has to be dealt with. Otherwise, people continue to languish in hotels. Trust me, I've been in some of those hotel rooms. You don't want to be in a Premier Inn for a year. Joining us now is James Murray, the Mayor's Deputy Mayor for Housing. James Murray, what on earth has Sadiq Khan been doing? He seems to have been invisible throughout all of this. Right from day one, Sadiq was down there meeting people affected in the local area. What has he actually been doing? Whilst he was out there meeting people who were affected, his team, me and the other people at City Hall were there helping out with the local council, with the other councils who were drawn in to help out, the Government and so on. People from City Hall were seconded to help out with the response effort. And over the last year we have put money in to helping Kensington and Chelsea to buy replacement social homes. The Mayor has launched a fund to help local businesses. The mayor has secure an extension for people who are survivors trying to secure indefinite leave to remain. So, there's been a lot of ways in which the Mayor has been involved The Mayor has also, I think, really found it important to to keep up the pressure on the Government and the council to make sure they don't continue to let down residents. OK. Elizabeth Campbell, have you found the assistance of the Mayor's Office useful? Well, I certainly haven't had any personal contact from Sadiq Khan at all. No personal contact at all? No. But, you know, fair enough... Well, there we are, James Murray, here you have the leader of the Council on the front line of this issue, haven't even heard from you. I don't want to make it too personal here. It's not personal, it's just, are you actually in contact with them? Elizabeth and I have had a number of meetings together. That's fair enough. I've had meetings with her and with her cabinet member for housing both in Kensington Town Hall and at City Hall. Sadiq has been out there being visible right from the very beginning, meeting people, making sure that he's a leader in the local community. There's a broader issue in terms of tower blocks in London. Why doesn't the Mayor issue some sort of instruction, guidance, ultimatum, call it what you will, to say - no more cladding on the side of tower blocks, and that cladding that is there in London should be removed? Because at the moment it seems a lot of tower blocks have still got this cladding. So, let's be really clear the difference here between the Mayor's planning policies, which he has responsibility for, and building regulations which are national regulations. And the Mayor has been absolutely clear the Government needs to get on and issue new building regulations that people can have full confidence in to make sure they ban combustible materials. That they say sprinklers should be mandatory over 18 metres. To say, let's ban desktop studies. The Mayor has been very clear that building regulations need to be updated by Government as quickly as possible to give people that confidence. In the meanwhile the Mayor has some control over planning policy in London and what he set out there in publishing his new draft London plan is a way in which planning policy can ensure higher standards of fire safety. Can you explain this, which I genuinely don't understand, why have tower blocks got flammable cladding on the side of them? That would seem barmy to me. The Mayor has made very clear that he thinks that the combustible material should be banned. As someone who is involved in housing, can you tell me why on Earth it was put on in the first place? There has been a system of building regulations and building control which has not been fit for purpose for some time. And so what the Government needs to do is make sure that all those existing buildings are made safe and to make sure the building regulations for the future are regulations that we can have full confidence in. OK. Bob Blackman, when we had this review, the Hackitt Review, published recently, which seems to have caused more confusion than illumination, saying we don't need to get rid of the cladding. The Government has to act on this? Absolutely. And I think that both the previous Secretary of State and the current Secretary of State have made clear that the desktop studies are going to be either barred completely or very much minimised in terms of their impact. One of the problems we have to face in these tower blocks is, of course, that the reason for the cladding being put on is because of leakage and also the fact that these blocks are often very cold. That's one of the reasons why this was put on. Unfortunately, one of the problems here is to assess at what level materials are combustible. Clearly, we've got to look at what the inquiry says and what the outcome is. The regulations I'm afraid have been neglected by governments for 20 years or more and need to be completely updated. Clive Efford, you touched on this a few moments ago but I want to ask both of you. Do you regard what happened at Grenfell as, in effect, a modern morality tale? About how the poor, the disenfranchised, are treated by those in power? We haven't got much time. Yes, I do. And I think in the aftermath of Lakanal and the report from Lakanal there is no justification for that cladding having been put on that block. Bob Blackman? I think we've got to review this to make sure this never happens again but it could unfortunately have happened in any of the boroughs, which have these high-rise blocks. That needs to be put right urgently so that people don't suffer such a terrible fate anywhere ever again. And, Elizabeth, do you think it is, in effect, a modern morality tale? I think that, as Bob has said, it's something that could happen anywhere. We weren't unique and we just have to be really open with the inquiry. We need to find out what happened. And we just need to make sure that it never, ever, ever happens to anyone else again. Well, that's all we have time for. My thanks to Elizabeth and James, and, of course, to Clive and Bob. And with that - it's back to Sarah. 

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