The 2005 hurricane that devastated New Orleans exposed failings in leadership and a terrible disdain for the lives of the poor. The London fire is doing the same

Leadership requires courage, imagination and empathy. In the two long days since the first flames licked up the newly fixed cladding on Grenfell Tower in west London, the prime minister has failed to show any of these qualities. On Wednesday, the first day, she said nothing at all until 6.30 that evening. On Thursday morning she ventured out to the scene of the disaster, where she rightly congratulated the emergency services on their inexhaustible efforts. But she made no contact with the shattered survivors, nor the faith workers and volunteers who have poured in to the area with such compassion. Less than an hour later Jeremy Corbyn arrived. He listened to people, he hugged them, he promised to find out the truth and told them he would speak for them. Theresa May could have said and done all of those things, but she did not.

The inferno at Grenfell Tower in which 17 people are now known to have died begins to look like Britain’s Hurricane Katrina. Mrs May is President George W Bush, off the pace, inarticulate, seemingly uncomprehending – a leader failing the great ordeal by disaster that is the ultimate test.

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