On 8 June 2017, the voters of Kensington elected a new Member of Parliament. Her name was Emma Dent Coad. Well known locally as a long-standing Labour councillor for the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Emma narrowly beat her Conservative rival with a wafer-thin margin of just 20 votes. Six days later Grenfell Tower, sitting in the North Kensington ward of her constituency, was consumed in flames and 72 residents died.
Emma tells us in her fiercely written and detailed book about the politics of the place she has called home for the last 40 years. One Kensington, tells a story of a borough riven by inequality and a governing class that cared more for subsidising opera than providing for its most vulnerable residents.
She is firmly of the left and part of the Corbyn years of the Labour Party. She was only in Parliament for a short period, losing her seat in the December 2019 election. Her 30 months in office offered her an insight into national politics where, at times she felt she had travelled back to the 1970s.
Reluctant to share what she saw and heard on the morning of 14 June, she does reveal,
“It scarred my soul forever with a fury I cannot put into words. And I will never forgive those who were responsible.”
Immersed in the response, deeply connected to the community, she describes her fury at the council of which she had been a member for many years. It reveals what it is like to be a Labour councillor in a majority Conservative council; this leads to a schizophrenic narrative that on the one hand sees her at the heart of the council and yet an outsider venting fury as the local MP.
She says at the end of the book that people asked her if she would stand for election as an MP again. It’s a moot point now as she no longer has the backing of the Labour Party; whether she has enough grassroots support to win it as an independent will have to wait until the next general election.