When it comes to Grenfell, then we are all Spartacus

The terrible loss of life at Grenfell Tower must never be forgotten. Picture: AP Photo/Matt Dunham

The terrible loss of life at Grenfell Tower must never be forgotten. Picture: AP Photo/Matt Dunham - Credit: AP

I read an interview with Kirk Douglas at the weekend.

Now 100 years old, he laughed at the idea of himself as a 'living legend'.

'At least I'm still living,' he said. And hasn't he lived?

The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, his rise to the very top of Hollywood's firmament has been remarkable.

He has also been married to his wife, Anne, now 98, for 63 years.


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Yet his proudest achievement, he said, was giving a writing credit to Dalton Trumbo on the film Spartacus and thus helping to break the Hollywood blacklist.

Anyone who loves Spartacus as I do will understand why that gesture had to be made.

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How could Douglas have been part of the famous 'I'm Spartacus' scene, the most beautiful rendition of the power of the decent many to stand up to the despicable few ever committed to film, and not credit the man who wrote it?

Yet the McCarthy witch hunts which demonised supposed Communist sympathisers made everyone afraid to speak out back then and Douglas' courage in doing so – he admits he was terrified it would end his career – is worthy of everlasting note.

'I'm Spartacus' applies to so many scenarios I have seen throughout my life, both personally, and in the news.

Whenever the Hillsborough families spoke out, every football supporter with a brain knew that they were Spartacus too.

Those who go on strike and face demonization. Those who stood against apartheid. Against war. Even, at times, those who waged unpopular wars. Leadership to justice takes many forms. Now, the Grenfell tower block tragedy is set to be another example.

The way our society treats the survivors and responds to the reasons this appalling thing happened will be a big test.

Theresa May wants a public inquiry – but we know how those usually go. Lots of drama. Lots of bluster. But, in the end, 'recommendations' that all too often go nowhere. We can't let that happen this time.

Kirk Douglas has earned the right to say, 'At least I'm still living,' but if we go on with our lives, confident that what happened at Grenfell could never happen to us, then we have not.

It maybe that the reasons the fire occurred had nothing to do with cost cutting being prioritised over safety as some have alleged.

But if it was, consider the NHS, our schools and all the other areas where so called austerity has been biting hardest, and remember that in any situation where we allow money to matter more than human life, then it is time for us all to be Spartacus and to stand the hell up.

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