For many people Kensington conjures up images of wealth. It is paired with Chelsea in the pretentiously named ‘Royal’ Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. Last week Kensington was the last constituency to announce its result in the General Election. On the third count the Labour candidate was declared the winning candidate by 20 votes over the sitting Tory candidate, who lost her seat, and her job. During the week the Conservative Party declared that all former MPs who’d lost their jobs would be looked after by their party, having lost their jobs 2 years into a possible 5 year term.
But during the week North Kensington was in the news for different reasons as the fire in a tower block devoured the lives of at least 30 people and we won’t know the full number until the emergency services have made the building safe enough to properly check all the flats. There are 120 flats and there could have been as many as 500 people in Grenfell Tower when the fire started.
My own connection with the area arises from living in Portobello Road for just over a year in the mid 1980s and from working in a day centre for adults with learning disabilities for five years between 1995-2000, a 10 minute walk away from the now destroyed tower block.
A lot has been said about the likely causes and the facts must emerge. There is anger not just about the fire but about the neglect by the local authority which has spent 10 million on tarting up the block. It costs £1,150 per flat to install spinklers in every flat and £60,000 to replace the lifts in a block. There would have cost £200,000 in total to do the whole block. £2.4 million was spent on cladding, Some are saying we shouldn’t politicise a tragedy. That’s an insult to the residents both living and dead who can’t fail to notice that political priorities dictated how public money has been spent.
One of the issues that the tragedy has brought into focus is the removal of poor people from social housing in London to areas where accommodation is cheaper, like Hastings. I live in Hastings but I chose that for myself and people are entitled to remain where they choose. The Prime Minister has promised that residents of Grenfell Tower will be rehoused in their local area or in neighbouring boroughs. That’s not good enough. There are plenty of empty properties within the borough. The solution is obvious. Will the party that fights to preserve the wealth and privileges of the rich consider it?
A year ago during the Brexit referendum a friend of mine stated ‘Labour are finished’ after canvassing people in the Hollington area of Hastings and St. Leonard’s. Harold Wilson once said a week is a long time in politics. A year is longer.
And I suspect that the Tory party will cling on to power with this minority government. They arrogantly presumed the public would grant them increased authority to rule the country but the opposite happened. They thought they could win by promoting Teresa May’s character and demonising Jeremy Corbyn’s. But people grew sick of slogans and were attracted by what the Labour Party was offering. Last night I had a night out with my colleauges in Eastbourne and I came across this grafiti in the toilets of one pub.
And in case you missed it this is on the door on the way out.
The tide has turned and there’s no stopping it. Another General Election is required in order to provide people with reason to hope for the future. The Tories have plunged this country into chaos as a result of their squabbling about the European Union and their greed for more power. They do not deserve to be in office a second longer.