Theresa May criticised for avoiding questions in 'inhuman' Newsnight interview

Prime Minister repeatedly avoids questions about the tragedy 

Narjas Zatat
Saturday 17 June 2017 17:04 BST
Theresa May criticised for 'inhuman' Newsnight interview

Theresa May has been criticised as “inhuman and uncaring” after she sidestepped questions about the Grenfell Tower fire.

In an interview with the BBC’s Newsnight, Theresa May called the incident which killed at least 30 people “absolutely horrifying”.

But asked whether she had failed to judge the public mood by host Emily Maitlis, Ms May appeared to skip over the question.

The host suggested the public needed an acknowledgement of responsibility from the Government.

But Ms May replied: “This is an absolutely awful fire that took place. People have lost their lives, people have had their homes destroyed, they have fled for their lives with absolutely nothing.”

She was then asked if she had misread the level of public anger towards her.

“What I have done since this incident took place is, first of all, ensure that the public services had the support they need in order to be able to do the job they were doing in the immediate aftermath,” Ms May replied.

Pressing further, Ms Maitlis asked where she failed to understand public anger, given that she hadn’t initially met with residents.

Again the Prime Minister appeared to evade the question.

“This was a terrible tragedy that took place,” she said. “People have lost their lives and others have lost everything, all their possessions, their home and everything. What we are doing is putting in place the support that will help them.”

She added: “I have heard horrifying stories from the fire brigade, from police and from victims themselves who were in that tower but also from other local residents, some of whom of course have not been able to go back to their homes either.

“What I’m now absolutely focused on is ensuring that we get that support on the ground. Government is making money available; we are ensuring we are going to get to the bottom of what happened we will ensure that people are rehoused, but we need to make sure that that actually happens.”

Trying a different angle, Ms Maitlis suggested that the tragedy could have been prevented, highlighting a 2013 coroner’s report that recommended putting sprinklers in all the buildings in the surrounding area. She also pointed out that a cheaper, flammable cladding had been used.

Theresa May remained persistent in her response: “We have yet to find out what the cause of the fire was. The fire service is doing that. The fire services are looking at what the cause of the fire was. It is important that we get to the bottom of this and find out exactly what happened.

“The Government has taken action on the recommendation of the coroner report. But what we need to do in relation to this incident – to this horrifying fire – is to make sure that we get to the bottom of why this fire took place, what happened, why did it spread so unexpectedly and so ferociously and so quickly.”

Viewers accused the prime minister of “blatantly ignoring” Ms Maitlis’ questions, with one Twitter user writing: “Theresa May is precisely the kind of leader we know we don’t need at a time like this.”

Another wrote: “Infuriated by Theresa May on Newsnight.The woman only talks in soundbites,” and a third accused her of being “inhuman”.

“How can someone be so inhuman and uncaring? Theresa May is a write-off now more than ever,” said the user.

It marked the end of the bruising day for the Prime Minister who had earlier been accused of being a “coward” as she she left a church, which was being used as a support hub for victims of the fire.

As she left through a side door people chanted: “Shame on you”.

The Prime Minister had been meeting victims, residents and volunteers at St Clement’s Church in north Kensington, after she was accused of failing to show “humility” when she refused to meet locals during a visit the day before.

Thousands of Londoners also marched on Downing Street to demand answers and justice over the deadly blaze.

Theresa May has pledged to set up a £5m fund for emergency supplies, and said that residents will be rehomed in the borough, or neighbouring boroughs within three weeks.

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