Jeremy Corbyn chose his election launch address to redefine “common sense” for Tories forced into apologies over comments on Grenfell.
Corbyn said Tories “shamefully seemed to think the victims of the Grenfell fire died because they didn’t have the common sense to save themselves”.
He said: “I’ll tell you what’s common sense. Don’t put flammable cladding on people’s homes – that’s common sense.
“Don’t close fire stations and don’t cut fire fighters – that’s common sense.
“And don’t ignore residents when they tell you their home is a death trap.”
Earlier in the day, during a round of ridiculed media appearances, Tory chairman James Cleverly conceded that the remarks of Jacob Rees-Mogg and, subsequently, Andrew Bridgen, had “caused a huge amount of hurt and distress”.
The resulting response saw both forced into apologies.
Rees-Mogg claimed the victims of Grenfell did not use “common sense” when they followed fire-service advice to stay put.
Cleverly was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Isn’t the reality that [Rees-Mogg] has no idea how these people live? He has no idea how people who didn’t go to Eton, didn’t go to Oxford, didn’t inherit large sums of money really live their lives?”
Cleverly said Rees-Mogg’s comments were hurtful, and it was right for him to have apologised.
“Jacob recognises that what he said was wrong and caused a huge amount of hurt and distress, he has apologised unreservedly, and I do think that is the right thing for him to do,” said Cleverly.
Bridgen backed Rees-Mogg, seemingly suggesting Rees-Mogg was “cleverer” than those who died in the fire – and went on to describe Rees-Mogg as a leader.
“He is, in effect, saying, ‘I wouldn’t have died because I would have been cleverer than the people who took the fire brigade’s advice.’
“But we want very clever people running the country…that’s a byproduct of what Jacob is – that’s why he is in a position of authority,” Bridgen said.
In a series of related tweets, rapper Stormzy slammed Rees-Mogg as “the scummiest”, saying: “[So many] of you politicians are evil and wicked and this is why we hate you.
“72 people died in a tragedy that you are to blame for…This ain’t about politics, it’s about the people who govern us lacking the most basic humanity or empathy. It’s nuts to me.”
Matt Wrack, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) general secretary, said it was “callously irresponsible” for a senior government figure to suggest the public should ignore firefighters when they are in a fire.
Anger toward Tories was compounded by confirmation that the government had put Rydon – the main contractor on the Grenfell re-cladding – on an official list of firms recommended to build high-rise housing.
Rydon – which faces intense scrutiny over Phase 2 of the Grenfell public inquiry – is listed as one of 12 firms on a framework agreement that helps public-sector bodies find building companies.
And the firm more than doubled its post-tax profits in the year after the disaster to £16.6m.
Grenfell United said that, in the circumstances, it was “totally unacceptable” for Rydon to be classed as a reputable contractor for other high-rise towers.
The campaign group urged Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick to not only remove Rydon from the list but explain how it was ever on it.
A government spokesperson said a place on the framework was “absolutely no guarantee” of a company securing government contracts – but under existing EU rules, government was not legally allowed to preclude Rydon Construction from bidding for government contracts.