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Allocating blame and punishing guilty won't solve societal problems linked to Grenfell fire says bishop

Rt Rev Dr Graham Tomlin delivered the Premier Lecture on Wednesday night with a stark warning that we could see something similarly tragic happen again unless we rethink what it looks like for people to live together in society.

While saying there is a need to hold people to account, he called for a societal change which sees people loving their neighbour whatever their social standing.

"If the Inquiry produces its results, culprits are identified and perhaps given prison sentences, that would satisfy a certain need for justice, or even revenge, but it still would not resolve anything fundamental.

"If we allocate blame, punish the guilty, and then carry on as before, then there is no guarantee that something like this will not happen again, or even more, we will perpetuate the deeper conditions and attitudes that led us to this point.

"We might even issue new types of building regulations, or safety measures in construction, but even that I suggest would not be enough.

"The kind of repentance that Jesus calls for, and indeed the Grenfell Tower fire calls for is deeper - a radical look at the way we live together in our society." by Revd Micky Youngson

Next week marks the first anniversary of the fire.

Bishop Graham was speaking as the public inquiry into the fire is in full swing.

He suggested there were many reasons for the fire which need to be addressed.

"The truth is that bad things happen not usually as the result of calculated, deliberate malice, but when we simply fail to pay attention.

"No one set out to cause a fire, or to deliberately burn down the tower, but corners were cut, regulations were ignored, mistakes were made."

Tomlin talked about the need for society to move away from self-interest and suggested this starts with the issue of housing which he said had now become too linked to profit making.

The local community in Kensington was praised at the time of the fire for how it rallied together.

Bishop Graham said we need to see that sort of togetherness throughout the year not just at the time of tragedy.

"We need to make mutual care our regular way of life, rather than a brief response to an emergency...we choose our friends, we do not choose our neighbours.

"We need a new story, a new vision of life that sees us as those not made to pursue self-interest but as those who are fundamentally connected to one another."

The Premier Lecture can be read in full here.​

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