May ‘distraught as we all are’ about Grenfell fire

17 Jun

Prime Minister Theresa May with firefightersImage copyright
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Theresa May is as “distraught as anyone” about the Grenfell Tower fire, First Secretary of State Damian Green has said.

He described criticism of her response to the disaster as “terribly unfair”.

The prime minister faced cries of “coward” and “shame on you” when she returned to the scene on Friday, having not met victims on her first visit.

Mrs May is now meeting residents, victims, volunteers and community leaders in Downing Street.

Mr Green said: “She has the same degree of sympathy and horror at these events that we all have.”

“We are all desperately sad, we are angry, but of course none of us as angry as those who were directly affected. I absolutely get why they are angry.”

Hundreds of protesters have gathered in Whitehall, calling for the prime minister’s resignation. Shadow minister Angela Rayner was among those addressing the crowd.

Image caption

Protestors march on Whitehall on Saturday afternoon

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Getty Images

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On Friday, protesters gathered outside Downing Street shouting “May must go”, “justice for Grenfell” and “blood on your hands”

Hundreds of protesters also marched on Whitehall on Friday, angry at the government’s handling of the disaster.

Chris Imafidon, whose home overlooks Grenfell Tower, addressed the crowd and held up a poster of a missing child and a piece of scorched cladding.

“I’m not here because I support the Tories, Labour or Liberals,” he said.

“I’m here because this child … on Tuesday went to bed and now nobody knows where this child is.”

Another protester described Mrs May as “cold like a fish”.

Media caption“Cold, cold like a fish”: One protester on Theresa May

In an interview with BBC Newsnight, Mrs May said the government was doing all it could to help.

“The government is making money available, we are ensuring we are going to get to the bottom of what has happened, we will ensure that people are re-housed. We need to make sure that actually happens.”

Media captionTheresa May says £5m will be available for survivors, and the cause of the Kensington fire is being looked at

Mr Green said a £5m fund would be for the immediate needs of victims, adding that “other money may be needed longer term”.

A chairperson for the public inquiry will be appointed “in days” and residents “will have a voice in stating the terms of reference” for it.

‘All feel the sadness’

Mr Green rejected complaints that the prime minister had not understood the mood of the nation.

“I think she has done everything that could have been asked… listening to residents’ concerns and, above all, acting on those concerns as quickly as possible. That is what a prime minister should do and that is what she has done.

“She is as distraught as anyone, as all of us are, we all feel the sadness, we all recognise the anger and can see why people are that angry and the prime minister feels that as much as anyone,” he added.

Former Conservative minister Michael Portillo said on Thursday that, although she had met in private with members of the emergency services, she should have met Grenfell Tower residents, as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn did.

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