Times caption: Dany Cotton, the London Fire Brigade commissioner, with Theresa May the day after the Grenfell fire DAN KITWOOD/GETTY IMAGES
In February we posted a piece with a link to a Guardian article, and we highlighted this passage:
Speaking at a event entitled “Gender Equality: will it take another 100 years” organised by the Young Women’s Trust, Cotton revealed the sexism she has faced throughout her 30-year career at the LFB.
Asked whether she supported quotas in industries dominated by men, she warned that women promoted during quota periods could suffer because of positive discrimination. “For every single rank promotion I’ve got I have been told, every single time, that I’m going to get the job because I’m the only woman on the panel – even the job I’ve got now. [J4MB emphasis] Which is quite bizarre, really,” she said.
Her narcissism is off the scale. The sexism she “faced” was anti-male, not anti-female. She admits she got her jobs, including that of Fire Brigade commissioner, through pro-female / anti-male discrimination. Yet her concern is not for the disadvantaged men, but the advantaged women – to repeat, “she warned that women promoted during quota periods could suffer because of positive discrimination”. Quite how the women who landed jobs they didn’t deserve, ahead of men who DID deserve them, is unclear. Maybe they don’t want reminding they’re token women?
Leaving aside that this genius suggested Fireman Sam be renamed Firefighter Sam, the woman is clearly considerable out of her depth. She’s not resilient enough for the job, and she relentlessly engages in virtue signalling rather than leading those who work in the fire brigade. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were at least 100 firemen in the London Fire Brigade who could do a better job than Ms Cotton.
If she has the slightest self-awareness, she would admit (if only to herself) that she’s not up to the job, and resign. But women in such circumstances rarely do, they seem to lack the sense of honour that is more the province of men. We’ve seen this many times with Social Services, where female Social Services directors refuse to take responsibility for the most appalling cases of abuse of babies and children.
Another factor disinclining her from resigning is surely the sisterhood. They will tell her that any feelings of inadequacy are merely “imposter syndrome”, experienced by women in senior positions – rather than a feeling of inadequacy being an honest self-assessment in this case, as in so many others.
They will also tell her she’s going a great job under difficult circumstances, and resigning would be a blow to other women, with their perpetual need for inspiration, celebration, role models… but who will be the role models’ role models?
Of course, in the absence of a resignation, Ms Cotton should be fired. But with Theresa “this is what a feminist looks like” May as prime minister, there’s little or no chance of that.
I can recall only one case of a woman resigning from a senior role, and being honest enough to admit she wasn’t capable of performing it well – a Labour Education Secretary, many years ago. Her name escapes me. Answer on a postcard, please.
A piece by Kaya Burgess and Will Humphries in yesterday’s Times, emphases ours:
The head of the London Fire Brigade has defended the “stay put” advice given to residents during the Grenfell Tower blaze.
Dany Cotton, commissioner of the brigade (LFB), said that the rapid spread of fire up the outside of the tower and on to other floors was so unexpected that firefighters were right to tell people to stay in their flats. This advice was only revoked at 2.47am, almost two hours after the blaze broke out.
She told an inquiry that LFB had not provided special training on how to tackle cladding fires because it was not a scenario they had anticipated and it would have been like training for “a space shuttle to land in front of the Shard”.
Shahin Sadafi, chairman of Grenfell United, a group representing survivors and bereaved relatives, said: “That’s a very imaginative response to something that we believe is not totally accurate.”
Ms Cotton was challenged when she was shown a presentation prepared by LFB engineers in 2016 at a time when Ms Cotton was director of safety and assurance. The slideshow, entitled Tall Building Facades, featured images of cladding fires from around the world and it warned that “new construction materials and methods … could affect the way fires develop and spread in a building”.
She was also shown a letter sent to the local council by an LFB assistant commissioner in April 2017, which warned that the composition of panels used on another building that caught fire did not meet safety standards.
Ms Cotton said that she was not aware of the presentation and no special training had been introduced to tackle cladding fires. “From the moment the fire left the flat on the fourth floor and started travelling outside the building there was no way they could have extinguished that fire,” she said.
“I wouldn’t expect us to be developing training or a response to something that simply shouldn’t happen.”
Richard Millett, QC, lead counsel to the inquiry, asked whether such training could have led firefighters to revoke the “stay put” advice earlier as they would have known that the fire would spread further.
Ms Cotton said that Grenfell Tower had only one narrow staircase and was not designed for a mass evacuation, adding that there was no way to communicate evacuation advice to all residents at once.
She also said the LFB has a policy where it does not call back those who rang earlier, even if they had previously been told to stay put and that advice had since changed.
Many calls were received from flats that had not yet been affected by smoke or fire and she said that sending them out into the smoke-filled stairwell would have brought them “from an apparent place of safety into a place of danger [that could] potentially kill them”.
Ms Cotton was so traumatised by the tragedy that she cannot recall all of what happened on the night of the blaze. She was present as a senior “monitoring officer” and was not in operational command.
She said she has received counselling to aid her recall of events but this had not been successful. She had suffered from memory blanks which she believes are “linked to the traumatic nature and sheer scale of the incident.”
She said in a statement to police: “I deliberately didn’t write any notes at the time of the incident. Because I had such poor recall of the night’s events and I’d hoped they would improve. I have subsequently undergone an accredited counselling technique called EDMR with a view to improving my memory recall.” This had not been “terribly successful”.
In the statement, made in February, she said: “I’m still finding it very difficult to look at visual images and have conversations about Grenfell. I’m still responsible for effectively running the London Fire Brigade, and everything else that’s involved in that. It would be no good for me to fall apart.
“Therefore, I have not spent huge amounts of time in my head [J4MB: As opposed to in her…?] looking and thinking about Grenfell Tower. In speaking to police to provide this statement, this will actually be the first time I have talked through the whole incident.”
The fire chief also said that she had blocked out a memory of a near-miss with a piece of falling debris on the night of the blaze.
She described arriving at the tower at 2.49am: “”Sitting in my car I could see the tower through my front windscreen. I was still on the phone to Tom [the director of operations] and said ‘What the f***? This can’t actually be happening; I can’t believe what I’m seeing’.”
She “was not a hundred per cent convinced in my mind that everybody was going to come out of there alive” on arriving to speak to firefighters on the scene.
She said: “For the first time ever, I had an overwhelming continuous feeling of anxiety, of responsibility in committing firefighters into a building where I could not guarantee their safety. I’ve never felt that way before, and I have been in charge at hundreds of large scale operational incidents.”
Some of the firefighters were “clearly terrified” on entering the building and she said in her statement: “It has truly damaged some people who witnessed some terrible things and who will never forget them. They will wear the scars for the rest of their life.”
“The building was so hugely involved in fire; you cannot help but compare it to 9/11.”
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