Few would envy the lot of Kensington’s Labour MP Emma Dent Coad, whose constituency includes the Grenfell Tower, and whose responsibilities therefore include advocating for survivors of the fire, trying to maintain the public profile of their plight, and get them all re-housed. In these duties she is a tireless campaigner, not that you would know from a perusal of our free and fearless press this week.
Emma Dent Coad, MP for Kensington
She highlighted the desperate situation for many of the former Grenfell residents in a statement yesterday. This has not been covered by the press, but it will be here.
“The government has recently found £.3bn to restore Buckingham Palace, a palace with 52 Royal and guest bedrooms and 188 staff bedrooms. It is lived in by just three members of the Royal Family. In addition, the Government finds £.3bn a year in total to support the Royal Family, including millions to refurbish apartments for their use in Kensington Palace” she tells, before contrasting this with the lot of the Grenfell survivors.
“Meanwhile, a short walk away, survivors of the Grenfell Tower in pokey hotel rooms for 15 weeks because there are no homes available for them. One woman is heavily pregnant and is heading for a Caesarian any day now. She has nowhere to go after birth to recover apart from back to her room which is so small there is no room for a cot and baby clothes - which have been begged from Mothercare by a volunteer”. There is more.
Her constituency - from the privilege of Buck House ...
“Another survivor, who is disabled, has been moved six times, and was forgotten by her carers, so she spent a day lying in bed in her own excrement … Many are refugees, and some are former soldiers. I have total respect for them and the sacrifices they have made for their home countries and for ours. Army veterans are treated very poorly by the Government; a close associate served in Iraq and Afghanistan and returned suffering from shock and PTSD. It took years to get a diagnosis, the system is punitive and he suffered unimaginably”. And then she gets to the reason the statement had to be made.
“On Monday night I made a joke. It has been taken the wrong way. Can we look as the real issues facing us now?”
That her joke - a swipe at Prince Harry, who, regardless of all the good work he undoubtedly does, is not about to face the hardships of the Grenfell survivors - was taken the wrong way is one of the great understatements.
The press went over the top in no style at all in response. The Murdoch Sun was quick off the mark. “A LABOUR MP is facing demands to apologise to Prince Harry over slurs about his Afghan war record … Emma Dent Coad, 62, wrongly told an anti-monarchy event at Labour’s conference that Harry could not fly an Apache helicopter, adding: ‘He just sits there going, “Vroom vroom”’”. And there was more in the same vein.
... to the despair of the Grenfell Tower survivors
After Ms Dent Coad declined to grovel before the inmates of the Baby Shard bunker, the paper ran “Emma Dent Coad today refused to apologise for her comments after they were revealed by The Sun”. Good for her. But the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail went further.
Following their sighting shot telling “A Labour MP has refused to apologise after sparking fury by mocking Prince Harry's Army career and accusing Prince Philip of cheating on the Queen … Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad abused the senior Royals at a fringe meeting at Labour's party conference in Brighton”, the Dacre artillery really opened up.
First came “Heroes rally to defend Harry: Wounded veterans fire back at MP who ridiculed the prince's Army record … Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad attacked Prince Harry's service record … She wrongly told the Labour conference that the prince cannot fly helicopters … Veterans and friends of Harry have lined up to defend his Army service record”. And then came the routinely spiteful hatchet job.
Under the headline “The sneering MP who's to the left of Corbyn: ANDREW PIERCE profiles Emma Dent Coad after her distasteful jibes about Prince Harry”, readers were told “Miss Dent Coad’s loathing for the Royal Family borders on the obsessional. But the recently elected Labour MP for Kensington has plumbed new depths with her distasteful jibes at the party’s conference in Brighton this week”. She’s 62. “Miss”?
Ms Dent Coad's statement yesterday
It gets worse. “So who is Emma Dent Coad and what exactly is driving her? Her background was undoubtedly privileged and on the Spanish side her family is descended from explorer Christopher Columbus and the Borgias, notorious aristocrats who produced two Popes - it is an ancestry she takes great pride in”.
And what relevance does that have to her work for the Grenfell survivors? You know, Dacre doggies, the constituents who elected her? While the Sun and Mail are draping themselves in the nearest available flag and coming over all righteous - and the resident idiocy at the Express is even pushing stories such as “Labour MP urged to resign after Harry remarks ’betray’ vow of loyalty to the Queen”, what are they doing for survivors?
Whatever your view of the monarchy, the contrast between their life of guaranteed comfort and security, and the plight of the Grenfell survivors nearby, is a stark and indeed jarring reminder of the grotesque inequalities in society, and not just in the capital.
Worse, that the press ignores those survivors, even when they train their guns on the MP who is working hard to try and improve their lot, is unforgivable. Those who wrote the hatchet jobs on Emma Dent Coad do not have to worry whether they will have a roof over their heads tonight, or food to put on the table. They will not be driven to the despair experienced by those who escaped the Grenfell Tower blaze.
Ms Dent Coad also told yesterday “We heard last night at the council meeting about some survivors who have given up hope and are contemplating suicide”. That is the grim reality which the MP has to face in her everyday work.
This filth masquerading as journalism should hang its collective heads in shame. It will not. Our free and fearless press will carry on ignoring the weakest and least fortunate in our society and sneering openly at those who champion them, its conscience numbed by the reassurance of regular and generous paycheques and the demands of management.
If anyone ought to say sorry, or even resign, as a result of this episode, it should be the editors and executives of the papers lambasting Emma Dent Coad. Shame on them for ignoring the poor and needy, while worshipping money and privilege.