Election 2019

General election 2019: Acrimony and early celebrations in Kensington

Kensington kids
Image caption Emma Dent Coad celebrating before realising Felicity Buchan had snatched the seat from her

The ultra-marginal west London seat of Kensington, home to some of London's richest and poorest, has been returned to the Conservatives by just 150 votes. It's a reversal of what happened in 2017 and follows a bitter campaign.

Labour's Emma Dent Coad celebrated as her result of 16,618 votes was read out.

But it proved premature and cries of "shame, shame" rang out as it became clear Conservative candidate Felicity Buchan had edged the seat with 16,768.

In 2017 Ms Dent Coad, a former Kensington and Chelsea London Borough councillor, had narrowly won the seat from the Conservatives by just 20 votes.

This time around it has been an acrimonious campaign and at the count on Friday morning angry words were exchanged between Ms Dent Coad and the third placed candidate Lib Dem Sam Gyimah.

Some in the Labour party blamed Mr Gyimah for their defeat in Kensington, including Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, who called him a "carpetbagger".

The former Conservative MP who defected to the Lib Dems over Brexit took 21.3% of the vote, a 9.1% rise for the party compared with 2017.

He was spotted in Holland Park on Friday morning and blamed the failure of tactical voting and said the Conservatives "owed Jeremy Corbyn a big debt of gratitude for their election victory".

Mr Gyimah was adamant voters had "feared" the Labour leader.

Image caption A very tired Lib Dem Sam Gyimah out for breakfast would not reveal his future plans following his defeat

His was an opinion voiced by one young mum, Amanda, who lives in Dalgano ward, in the less prosperous end of Kensington.

Amanda, an NHS nurse, did vote Labour but blamed leader Mr Corbyn for the Labour defeat.

"The country voted for a leader rather than a party. I feel like we are turning into America," she said.

Image caption Ola Patterson said he was a centrist and voted Conservative as he "could not stand Jeremy Corbyn"

The constituency is home to Grenfell Tower, where 72 people lost their lives in a devastating fire less than a week after the 2017 election.

And their new representative in Parliament, Ms Buchan, said following her win she wanted to unite people after Grenfell and be an MP for all of Kensington.

But speaking to people in the borough on Friday, it was national issues that were on their mind.

In a wealthy part of Ladbroke Grove property developer Ola Patterson was walking his dog.

Originally from Sweden, he has lived in the UK for 30 years but is a first time voter, only registering to do so after the Brexit referendum.

He said both he and his wife were Remainers but he just wanted the government to get on with Brexit. "We need stability so the government can actually govern instead of this, everything was being wrecked in Parliament, with decisions being prevented from going through," he added.

Even though Kensington went blue, there are still question marks over what will happen next.

Thomas Williams, who described himself as a floating voter, outlined his reasons for not voting for Labour.

He said: "I thought the idea of borrowing another £80bn to add to the national debt to fund increased public spending was too much weight to put on my children.

"I wouldn't ordinarily vote Conservative, I float around. I am hoping that sensible one-nation Conservatives will get in Boris' ear as I don't think he has any beliefs of his own."

Image caption Kensington voted 69 per cent Remain in the 2016 European Union referendum

Despite Boris Johnson's election victory, there are still some people who do not fully back the prime minister.

Chris Michanicou, a green grocer in Holland Park, has always voted for the Conservatives but admitted he "did not 100% trust" Mr Johnson.

Image caption Greengrocer Chris Michanicou could easily have voted Lib Dem

He said trade and borders were his concern: "I voted for Boris because of the (EU) deal he won. I hope things will run smoothly, 90% of the stuff we sell in this shop is European.

"I've always been a Conservative voter, but I had to think twice last night. I definitely wouldn't have voted for Corbyn, but if I had a second choice I would have voted for Lib Dem."


Analysis

By BBC London's political reporter Karl Mercer

Labour is still the dominant party in London with 49 of its 73 MPs but its newly elected members haven't been smiling much overnight.

They have seen their party roundly rejected in large parts of the UK, once again setting the capital against the rest of the country. Indeed, the only Labour gain on the night was in Putney.

Holding on to what they have in the capital will be seen as something of a triumph, but they will face difficult questions.

Not only about their party's future, but about how a Labour city will work with a heavily Conservative government.

How will a Labour mayor persuade the man who used to do his job, that it's worth spending money in the capital, when he will want to reward voters in the Midlands and the North who delivered him such a big majority?

There may be interesting battles ahead.


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