world : What do voters want in London's most marginal seat?

world : What do voters want in London's most marginal seat?
world : What do voters want in London's most marginal seat?

Monday 1 July 2024 10:31 PM

Nafeza 2 world - Kensington in west London is a place of extremes, where the super-rich live alongside some of the poorest in the capital.

The north of Kensington and Chelsea is the more deprived part of the borough, with a higher percentage of residents living in temporary accommodation and living under the poverty line, according to charity the Kensington and Chelsea Foundation.

But almost half of children (45%) in the borough go to private school and some of the most expensive properties in the country can be found there.

The constituency was the most marginal seat in the capital in the 2019 election, with the Conservatives winning ahead of Labour by just 150 votes.

After boundary changes last year, the seat now includes Bayswater and Lancaster Gate, previously part of City of Westminster, and has been renamed Kensington and Bayswater.

Residents say the cost of living and the prime minister's pledge to introduce a military service are at the centre of their minds for this election.

Business owner Alya Sabbagh, 65, said prices on goods had gone "very high" and criticised "high taxes".

She said: “Our lifestyle has changed for all of us. We are spending more than we are earning.”

Photographer Gia Jones, 23, and hardware store manager Christina Wilkins, 35, had mixed feelings about Rishi Sunak’s plan to introduce national service, which ministers have alluded to as not being solely confined to military service.

Ms Wilkins said: "I think forcing people to do a voluntary service might not be the best way to do it, but I understand it’s quite a hard one for Rishi and I think he’s doing his best.”

Ms Jones said: “My dad was in the war. He was in the forces. And, I kind of understand the PTSD that comes with it. And I think putting that into action will just, you know, it can ruin people’s lives.”

Felicity Buchan won the seat for the Conservatives in the last election, ahead of Emma Dent Coad.

Both are standing again - but Ms Dent Coad has left the Labour Party and is standing an independent.

Standing for Labour is Joe Powell, whose campaign has centred on local hospitals, and the Liberal Democrats have put forward William Houngbo, whose main priorities are rejoining the EU and improving housing.

Ms Buchan said bringing Notting Hill Police Station back into use was at the forefront of her campaign.

She told BBC London: “Crime is a big issue in this constituency. The Labour mayor of London closed this police station six years ago, I’ve been campaigning for the last four years to have it re-opened and if Sadiq Khan insists upon selling it I want to work with the council to buy it for police or community use."

She said the second issue on her agenda was Labour’s idea to tax private schools.

“More than 50% of children here go to independent schools. If only 20-25% have to leave, it will have a huge impact on the state sector," she said.

"It is politicising children’s education, it’s old fashioned Labour class war."

Labour’s Mr Powell says he would rebuild St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington after it was moved down the priority list.

“It was a broken promise to our community, that affected the health and healthcare of thousands of patients and staff, and we’ve committed for example, to build a brand new St Mary’s Hospital,” he said.

His other focus is Grenfell, saying that if Labour wins, a priority will be implementing the recommendations from the first phase of the Grenfell inquiry.

The Lib Dem candidate Mr Houngbo is the only candidate talking about reversing Brexit.

“We need to re-join the single market, because our economy, particularly the small businesses, have been closing down recently because they were affected by the impact of Brexit,” he said.

He also wants to keep a closer eye on housing associations which run a large proportion of social housing in the borough. "We need to monitor the fair deals they are giving to our residents,” he added.

The wild card in this race is Ms Dent Coad who was the first ever Labour MP in this constituency and is now standing as an independent.

Now, she is nailing her colours firmly to a mast in the north of the borough, where the tragedy of Grenfell looms over so many peoples lives.

“Grenfell is so much bigger than one horrific, completely avoidable atrocity," she said.

"We have the housing crisis, people living with damp and mould, we have leaseholders or people who are renting, in dangerous homes, and they can’t sleep and that’s really frightening.

"I’ve been there, I know what it’s like, I feel for them, because I am one of them.”

Mona Adam is standing for the Green Party and Marc Burca is standing for Reform UK.

You can find a full list of candidates for the Kensington and Bayswater constituency here.

Additional reporting by Adrian Zorzut from the Local Democracy Reporting service.

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