Labor called on Tories to reimburse donations linked to the coating of the Grenfell Tower, with bereaved families accusing Lewis Hamilton’s Formula 1 team of taking ‘blood money’ sponsorship from a company that was making combustible insulation used on the tower.
The backlash against Kingspan’s sponsorship of Hamilton’s race car intensified on Friday as more bereaved families joined in calls for its removal. Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Leveling, Housing and Communities, urged Mercedes to cancel the deal, saying he was “deeply disappointed” that this happened as the public inquiry continues.
But Lisa Nandy, the shadow of Gove’s work, urged him on Friday to “take the same principled stand” by returning a donation of nearly £ 25,000 in 2017 from an Arconic shareholder, who fabricated the cladding panels.
She welcomed Gove’s comment that “the Grenfell community deserves better” than the sponsorship deal, but said her party should also return donations from property developers who have used a similar coating. Gove, whose party has previously said donations are received in good faith and fully comply with the law, was contacted for comment.
Grenfell Group Next of Kin, meanwhile, urged Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff and Hamilton not to “wash away the sins of sport” and accused them of being “on the wrong side of history” .
Kingspan fabricated some of the foam panels used on the tower, which the public inquiry into the disaster said “contributed to the rate and extent of the vertical spread of the flames.” Its logo will appear on the noses of Mercedes cars during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix this weekend.
Hamid Ali Jafari, a Grenfell Next of Kin member whose father was killed in the blaze, said the deal was “shocking and upsetting” and asked Mercedes and Hamilton to apologize.
“If Lewis Hamilton wants to support us he could put the Grenfell logo on the car and show that 72 people are dead and four and a half years later nothing has happened,” he said.
” These people [Kingspan] flouted the regulations and didn’t care, ”said Shahrokh Aghlani, who lost his mother and aunt in the fire. “Sport should represent something in morality. I hope they will do the right thing.
The Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 team stressed that Hamilton was not involved in the sponsorship deals.
The deal was announced with photos of Kingspan Managing Director Gene Murtagh sitting on one of the Mercedes F1 cars with Wolff.
The investigation saw emails showing that on the eve of the first anniversary of the disaster, he had asked his public relations team to try and mold the media coverage in favor of his company’s business interests, despite the sensitivity of the date. .
After a senior executive urged the company’s public relations consultant to pass a story on to reporters opposing the ban on all combustible materials in exterior walls, the consultant cautioned against doing so, saying that “anything that turns towards the subject of money could be taken badly”.
But Murtagh insisted, “We have to move forward from all angles and without delay. “
Ed Daffarn, who escaped from the 16th floor, said it showed “a cruel indifference to the suffering and pain of the bereaved and the survivors.”
“Seeing Gene Murtagh sitting in a Mercedes Formula 1 car is like pouring salt into an already festering wound,” he said.
Responding to criticism of the sponsorship deal, a spokesperson for Kingspan said it had no role in the design of the cladding system, its K15 product made up about 5% of the insulation “and was used as a substitute without Kingspan’s knowledge in a system that did not comply with building regulations ”.
Mercedes said: “Our partner Kingspan has supported and continues to support the vitally important work of the investigation to determine what went wrong and why in the Grenfell Tower tragedy. “