Imagine if four men were killed in a mass stabbing incident. An urgent investigation would take place beneath the glare of the media spotlight. If there was no quick resolution, questions would be raised. Ultimately, there would be calls for the resignation of the relevant head of police.
Imagine if four people were killed in a terrorist attack. Task-forces would be assembled and an intensive investigation would be mounted. If there was no quick resolution, there would be calls for the resignation of the Home Secretary.
And yet, almost six years ago, four working men were killed in an industrial accident at the Didcot A Power Station.
There has been no quick resolution. The media spotlight blinked out in about a week, never to reignite. There has been no public scrutiny. And there have been no calls for the resignation of the head of the Health and Safety Executive nor from the chief of Thames Valley Police.
Why? Because working men and women are viewed as expendable.
You only have to look back at the Government’s reaction when the COVID-19 pandemic first gripped the nation. White collar workers were advised to stay at home and to avoid close contact.
But while politicians enjoyed secret cheese and wine parties, construction and demolition workers were granted key worker status.
Think about that choice of language for just a second. They were GRANTED key worker status.
While the country hid away to avoid a global pandemic and possible death, construction and demolition workers were GIFTED the chance to walk disease-ridden streets; to use disease-ridden public transport; and to gather in close quarters on disease-ridden sites. Because they were seen as easily replaceable.
All of which is oddly reminiscent of generals stationed a safe distance from all that unpleasant and bothersome carnage while ordering men to go over the top in the trenches of the First World War.
I am not one for conspiracy theories. I now grudgingly accept that Elvis is dead. I firmly believe the 911 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon were not an inside job.
But do I believe that the Didcot investigation would have been concluded if it had been four bankers and not four demolition workers that were killed. Yes. I believe that with every inch of my being.
The time it has taken to investigate the Didcot Disaster is nothing short of a national disgrace. There is, I assume, a six-year paper trails that details the tardiness of the Thames Valley Police. A paper trail that surely calls into question the capabilities of the Health and Safety Executive.
But it runs deeper than that. Much deeper.
The failure to conclude the Didcot investigation in what will soon be six years speaks to an uncomfortable yet undeniable classism that permeates UK society to this very day.
That society has failed the four men that were so tragically killed when the boiler house at the Didcot A Power Station fell. It has repeatedly failed the families of those four men. It has prolonged their grief and their suffering. It has also failed the demolition industry that wanted, that NEEDED answers.
The intransigence of the HSE, the police, of MPs and others in authority ultimately proves that those that go to work in suits and ties view those that work in hard hats and site boots as expendable; as little more than cannon fodder.