Retrograde Borough of Kensington & Chelsea

RBKC’s coat of arms. The motto means ‘What a good thing it is to dwell in unity’ – picture from rbkc.gov.uk

An outsider assessing Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC) from a distance can be forgiven for believing that the council has become a more progressive, liberal, and democratic institution since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017. This illusion is sustained by the local authority’s exhaustive public relations policy and an absence of political or media scrutiny. In this induced amnesia, RBKC keeps a firm grip on North Kensington. But the council’s approach to the north is arguably more regressive and undemocratic than at any time in its history. A study conducted in the early years of the borough sheds light on the dynamics at play.

Sixties London

In 1963, the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea was formed by a merger of the separate K and C boroughs through the London Government Act. In 1967, Professor John Dearlove of the University of Sussex began researching the relationship between RBKC’s decision-makers and those seeking to influence policy, referred to as interest groups. For years, Professor Dearlove attended council meetings and learned about community issues, publishing his findings first in an academic journal[i] and later in a book[ii].

In the 1968 local elections, London turned blue, the Conservatives winning control of 28 councils to Labour’s three. The 2022 results reflect a changed city with just six councils controlled by the Tories and 21 by Labour. But RBKC stands apart from the wider city, remaining a Conservative safe seat throughout, and the only remaining Tory council in inner London. But it has been a divided borough, with North Kensington council wards tending to vote Labour, and two now-abolished parliamentary constituencies, Kensington North, and Regent’s Park & Kensington North, returning only Labour MPs to the Commons between 1945 and 2010.

The stark contrasts of the borough were present from its inception. The London Housing Survey in 1968 stated: “one of the most distinctive features about the Royal Borough […] the sharp contrast between North Kensington and the rest of the Borough”[iii]

Professor Dearlove noted the north’s higher number of manual labourers, its overcrowded homes, lack of open spaces, and higher proportion of children. Relating these disparities to his research, Dearlove saw the social, economic, cultural, and political divide between the north and the rest of the borough reflected in the contrasting interest groups interacting with council decision-makers, with northern residents inclined to seek innovation, change, and sometimes the reversal of the council’s policies.

Dearlove expanded the previously accepted definition of an interest group – private associations promoting their interests by seeking to influence policy rather than by nominating candidates for election – to incorporate groups who might not articulate specific demands but whose interests were already being attended to in policy and who wanted to keep it that way.

Interests

Dearlove heard Conservative councillors express preordained preferences for which policies should be pursued. Ideological biases “frequently served as arguments which were used by councillors to reject policy lines…urged on them by interest groups or the minority party.”[iv]  

Dearlove gave examples: one was a petition from residents of a North Kensington block of flats who wanted the council to purchase the properties following the financial collapse of the owner, Davies Investments. The residents wanted RBKC to either administer the block or sell it at a profit to a housing association. Housing associations were keen, and the district valuer had set a price at which RBKC could have compulsorily purchased the building. But the council rejected this idea on ideological grounds and the flats were bought by a private developer. A Tory councillor explained: “the people who have acquired the property are property experts and know what they are doing and should be left to get on with it.”[v]

At another meeting, Conservative councillors rejected a proposal to charge rates (what we now call council tax) on empty residential properties, with one councillor stating that to charge a landlord in such circumstances would be unfair because it would deter them from “trying to let it at the highest price.”[vi]  

RBKC’s Duty – 1968

The revolutionary fervour of 1968, in the United States, across Europe, even in Powis Square, must have felt a long way away from Kensington Town Hall for Dearlove when he interviewed 47 Conservative councillors and officers that Summer. He found that RBKC decision-makers judged interest groups based on three factors: who they were; their policy demands and their style of presentation.

Dearlove’s interviews revealed that councillors and officers considered it their duty to ensure:

  • The council played “a fairly small role…limited to the provision of statutory services.”
  • Low public expenditure, to meet the “needs of the ratepayers” (i.e. low council tax).
  • Balancing “providing for the underprivileged, housing and welfare services” with not “overburdening” car owners, ratepayers, a “certain type of resident.”
  • “The value of self-help, self-reliance and voluntary collective effort as opposed to government activity in the solution of public problems.”
  • Promoting and maximising the private administration of housing.

A council officer told Dearlove that the council could easily do more for residents, but stated: “we don’t make much use of permissive legislation, and that’s policy…every year it somehow comes about that only the essential is considered.”[vii]

League Table of Interests – 1968

The academic asked RBKC’s representatives to rank 20 local interest groups that had been active in ‘67 and ‘68. At the bottom of the league table, the groups considered ‘not helpful’ by the Conservatives, were Kensington & Chelsea Tenants Association and Kensington & Chelsea Inter-Racial Council. Dearlove: “The acceptance of those groups would involve not only the imposition of an additional burden on the council but could also involve the possible reversal of existing commitments.”[viii]

At the top of the table were interest groups whose presence in the public sphere jived easily with RBKC’s “favourable attitude to the voluntary principle, low taxation and private collective effort rather than government effort in the solution of public problems.”[ix] These favoured groups provided information and services that supported decision makers’ existing policy preferences; those who “instead of just shouting, get down to doing something”[x] as one councillor put it.

These preferred groups included Kensington Housing Trust and Campden Charities. RBKC’s motivation? From housing trusts, the council made money on loan interest as well as being relieved of some of the responsibility of providing affordable homes; charities likewise provided certain essential services, enabling the council to focus on its ideological priorities. Dearlove found an exact match between the favoured interest groups and the council’s policy predispositions. Moreover, favoured groups were found to use styles of communication considered “proper and correct” by RBKC, specifically they would raise concerns by contacting a local councillor “in a quiet, non-public way”[xi]. No favoured groups ever organised protests, campaigned via the media, or submitted petitions. All of these means were considered “a form of pressure”[xii] and therefore were dismissed, along with those who practised them.

Disorder?

What does it mean to have an impact locally? For Dearlove, it meant a group being able to influence policy. For certain interest groups in the north who didn’t pass RBKC’s three filters of approval (who they were, their policy demands, and their style of communicating) this meant watering down their demands and style of communication to have a chance of impacting policy. Such contortions caused groups and individuals to lose grassroots credibility and forego the support needed to represent others in the pursuit of change.  

Dearlove’s research identified RBKC’s default setting: low taxes and clean streets for the rich; the bare minimum permitted under the law for the rest. This level of class bias triggered occasional pushback. Dearlove witnessed four instances of what he described as “fairly anomic interest articulation”[xiii] from the public being met with the mayor clearing the public gallery on the basis of “disorder.”

The public was permitted to attend council meetings “but they may not participate or take part”[xiv] the mayor told them.

The earlier quote from a Tory councillor in 1968 – “instead of just shouting, get down to doing something” – was no isolated utterance. In 1967, the leader of the council lost patience with the Kensington & Chelsea Council Tenants Association, telling them publicly that RBKC were “not bad landlords (and) when we’ve had bad relations it’s because the tenants are communist-led and egged-on by their councillors.”[xv]

This ambivalence and anger towards campaigners for better conditions has remained a feature of local dynamics. It was reprised recently by Cllr Taylor-Smith, Deputy Council Leader and Lead Member for Grenfell, Housing and Property, by far the most consequential politician in post-2017 North Kensington. Facing the complaint that the council’s Grenfell Assembly had little or nothing to do with Grenfell, Taylor-Smith claimed: “it is often one of a small, but very vocal group, who are very much against any Council initiatives, but do not represent popular opinion.”

There’s no room here to run through the track record of RBKC’s ‘change’ policy instituted after the Grenfell Tower fire. But the impact of the council’s refusal to implement fundamental change has undoubtedly contributed to the most neglected areas of the north of the borough sliding deeper into poverty[xvi].  

Complex

Compared to Dearlove’s findings from the early years of the borough, post-Grenfell RBKC presents a more complex picture, partly due to the public relations approach the council deploys, which, by definition, is deceptive and confusing. While 1960s council decision-makers were clear about their priorities, at least in their interviews with the academic, the 2017-2022 iteration has found new ways to disregard the communities and interest groups of the north, while simultaneously peddling a story of ‘culture change’.

Have a look at the council’s management structure (before the May 2022 elections):

Most attending meetings with RBKC councillors and officers experience this structure as a web spun to keep decision-making from local people who don’t pass the three filters. For example, under ‘Directors/service heads reporting to Executive Director of Environment and Communities’ we see Tunde Olayinka, Director For Communities. This officer hosted The Curve Community Meeting in February, a trauma-fest in which local people were offered no means to impact the decision to close the council’s primary Grenfell recovery centre.

The role of the Director For Communities at this meeting was not to direct anything, least of all the communities in that room. The agenda was printed on cheap off-white paper, the flyer featured all the vocabulary that signals an official con: “Help decide,” “come and influence,” “really need you and your local knowledge and expertise,” “a chance for the Grenfell-affected community to come together to start co-designing the new Curve Residents’ Steering Group,” “oversee the budget,” “community conversation,” “be involved,” “process of co-designing” and more. Written by people who use words as a means of reinforcing process, rather than to accurately describe something, it was propaganda, the defining characteristic of RBKC’s communications.

The RBKC management structure forms a vortex, sucking in ideas that then vanish because the people whose minds produced them aren’t considered worthy. The three filters identified by Professor Dearlove live on.

Comparing RBKC in 2022 with Dearlove’s observations of the 1968 iteration, it can be argued that the current council is actually worse in terms of its openness to democracy and empowerment of people in the north of the borough. Let’s stick with The Curve to provide some evidence.

In 2018 a board of governors was appointed to The Curve, by way of interviews conducted by pillars of local civil society. The governors were there, ostensibly, to hold the council to account over its management of this focal point of post-fire activity. I was one of those governors, on a board that was approximately representative of North Kensington’s demographics. We quickly realised we weren’t governing anything. Understanding the value of space and buildings to the community’s future, and in a bid to salvage something from months of frustrating engagement with RBKC, we drew up a proposal to turn The Curve into something very different to the trauma incubator it had become.

Looking at Dearlove’s definition of RBKC’s three filters (who we were, our policy demands, our style of communicating) you would think that The Curve’s governors might have stood a chance at influencing policy.

Who we were: governors of the council’s own building, appointed by the council via their chosen interview panel.

Our policy proposal: With initial financial support from the council, The Curve would become an independent centre for both trauma recovery and employability in the industries of the future for North Kensington residents. The key features of the proposal were to make The Curve a centre of genuine holistic recovery and to offer serious options and guidance for young people seeking to upskill and engage fully in the economy.

Our style of communication: We presented a business plan containing frequent references to entrepreneurship and enabling people to become economically self-sufficient.

Of the three filters, only the policy proposal filter can explain RBKC’s rejection. As with 1968, an interest group that wanted to see transformative policy was rejected by the council. The governors’ proposed business plan was potentially transformative for local people and would have guaranteed a building for long-term community use. But, in a meeting with the Executive Director of RBKC’s Grenfell Team, Robyn Fairman, the proposal was not even considered. Decisions on The Curve were made at the Town Hall and anything that didn’t match what had been preordained wasn’t of interest.  

Fairman absorbed some of the verbiage of the governors’ vision into the council’s austerity plan for the area before leaving with a pay-off of just under £500,000 of taxpayers’ money in 2021.

With The Curve closed, the empty building is an allegory for an institution stuck in another era, regressive and undemocratic. Meanwhile, local communities aren’t stuck for solutions and ideas. Yet we continue to be frustrated and disempowered.

By Tom Charles @tomhcharles

Thanks to Sara Soliman Riaño

References:

[i] John Dearlove, Councillors and Interest Groups in Kensington and Chelsea, British Journal of Political Science, Vol.1 No.2, April 1971, pp. 129-153
[ii] John Dearlove, The Politics of Policy in Local Government, Cambridge University Press, 1973
[iii] London Housing Survey, 1968, pp. 10
[iv] Dearlove, Councillors and Interest Groups in Kensington and Chelsea, p.134
[v] Ibid.
[vi] Ibid.
[vii] Ibid., p.140
[viii] Ibid., p.143
[ix] Ibid., p.146
[x] Ibid., p.142
[xi] Ibid., p.141
[xii] Ibid.
[xiii] Ibid., p.267
[xiv] Ibid., p.136
[xv] Ibid.
[xvi] Two reports detailing the extent and impact of poverty are: ‘Poverty and Prosperity in Kensington + Chelsea. Understanding Inequalities in a Borough of Extremes,’ Kensington & Chelsea Foundation, 2021; and ‘The most unequal borough in Britain – revisited,’ Emma Dent Coad, 2020

Both Barrels

Sitting alone upon the hill inside my head

Overlooking the City

Watching soldier ants devour, destroy each other

For no reason, no reason at all

Slowly returning to their homes

Questioning their beliefs their actions

Cognitive dissonance quickly vanishing – Vanquished

For the perpetual lie must continue…

Picking up a placard like a sword

Needing a cause to feel validated

I am here, they cry

We are the virtuous ones 

My life is relevant

My identity counts

Truth is it doesn’t…

You’re full of self-delusion

Just used by idealogues for a lost cause

Of their immature revolution

Always a follower

Never a leader

Or even worse an individual free thinker!

Feeling safe in a crowd

A peaky blinder

No one’s listening or cares

Even you don’t really

In the quiet of your bedroom…

But hey! The next march beckons

I sit upon my hill in peace

For I am a gang of one

I left the battle long ago

Slowly walking away

Leaving the foolish to fight the deluded

While the band plays on………………….

M C Bolton, May 2022

drawing by TC

THE HOMECOMING

Gently I stroll barefoot

Across the dew-soaked grass

The sun slowly rising

My feelings, my emotions stretching

Dusting off the fine particles of my subconscious dreams…

Is this the Promised Land?

I cannot return to the wilderness

Never again do I want to feel

It’s hard sand between my toes

Or hear the jackals howling at the moon…

I have made it this far

To the land of giants

Where their walled cities stand defiant…

Leaving behind my former self

Shredded like an old snakeskin

Blown away by the breeze…

This flawed, weak man 

Like a piece of driftwood

Made smooth by sea and sand

Tossed casually into the eternal flame

A sacrifice of unconditional Love

To glow amongst the embers

Finally, home

Finally free………………….

Mark C Bolton, August 2022

Why Write

Now & again, we are invited to deliver writing workshops for young people. Here’s what I like to tell them…

I tell them that the aim of the workshop is for them to write skilfully, to express their ideas creatively and with confidence. We encourage them to take ownership of their English language; it belongs to them, not their teachers, schools, or exam board.

Why does writing matter?

Because people think with words, vocabulary is very important; it allows us to understand ourselves, each other, and our world. And all jobs require communication, from applications to emails, to writing reports, and blogging – a way with words boosts your chances of success in any career.

We always emphasise that we are not there to judge them. We aren’t following the national curriculum. We are genuinely curious about what they have to offer. Usually, blank faces look back but some grasp this concept of creativity for self-expression and liberation. Writing is largely a self-taught discipline; anybody can develop a style that works for them, with enough practice.

Impact

Words can be used for various reasons – to hurt, inspire, inform, lighten, uplift, and connect. People without words are frustrated and angry, they feel impotent. Continue reading

INITIUM NOVUM

A calmness entered my soul

Just briefly I was complete

Everything made sense

Feeling that inner peace 

Of refusing to fit in or go with the flow

I was right all along

The never ending war inside my head

Slowly rescinding as I accepted defeat…

Knowing I just had to be me

Taking risks-Putting it all on the line

No fear of rejection 

For there is truly nothing to reject

Being human wanting to love

To be intimate-To care

Sharing a moment in time 

For reasons I know not…

Gentle touches-A stolen kiss

Yet everything is slipping away

A landslide of the heart

Swaying like a reed in the breeze

Reaching out-Reaching inward

To feel-To grab

Hanging on to the thin thread of hope

Falling backwards into space

Beyond time-Towards darkness…

Then comes the bright piercing light

Blinding-Cleansing my soul

As I am born once more

Trying to hold on 

To my knowledge my experiences

But it’s all slipping away

Slowly slipping away

Knowing nothing once again……..

M C Bolton, July 2022

Awareness Alone

She was flying at speed, with no sense of fear. Kaleidoscopic rainbows of colours were rushing past her with excitement, an eager playfulness that she found contagious. She looked down and saw hills and valleys beneath her, she saw ploughed and fallow fields and the microscopic activity of lives being lived. She looked up and witnessed the stillness of the stars. There was a never-ending depth to them when viewed from this angle, like brushstrokes to the infinite. She looked ahead of herself and into the oncoming colour, she felt a reassuring calmness within the speed. 

She had always been a rebel, quick to play the devilish advocate of the opposite and contrary, quick to assume the role of the antagonist committed to playing the counterpoint. For so many years she had been the one trying to rush others onwards. She had called it passion. She had judged most of life as a drudgery, a flattening bore of responsibility and restraint. She had seen those surrounding her, family and friends, even strangers who’s path she would cross, as needing shaking up, waking up into the pure potentiality of a life lived in full glory. She had made herself a nuisance without any sense of shame. Pushed forwards with the wholehearted belief that she was following a higher cause, the lifetime commitment of an awakened truth-seeker, desperate to both inspire and be inspired. The counterpoint to what she perceived as inertia had always been movement, a dragging and a thrusting, a call to arms proclaimed by an individual rushing onwards at speed. Now that she was flying at speed, she found herself playing the counterpoint again. Only it wasn’t the inertia that she had always imagined it to be, the counterpoint to speed was actually stillness. 

She was still, while flying at speed. And with the stillness came a calm contentment. Strangely familiar, like a friend from the past that one struggles to recognise at first. That moment before the spark of reconnection lights the fires of your heart. The squeal of delight, the lightening of spirit, the widening of the eyes. It was as if every cell in her body was pulsating with the eternal light of the stars above. She could feel everything with expanded awareness, the entirety of her body, as well as the vistas above and below. The wind was her too. The way it rushed past with eager delight. Every colour was a world of its own, a doorway into a past moment of her life. Red and orange, blue and green, yellow and fuschia, purple and pink. She had been all these colours and more and she had retained their stain as an imprint upon her soul. The fibres of her being stored the memory of how she had been, and her past being had shaped her even more than she realised. 

Her subservience to ideology and principle had left its residue. It had been corded to her for so long and during any time of cording there will be a continual osmosis, unconscious assimilation and the creation of baggage. It wasn’t enough to cut the cord and be done. That idea was born of impatient irresponsibility. There were dues to be paid, reparations to be gathered, uncollected baggage waiting to be reclaimed. She would have to suffer the kickbacks of her former trigger-happy self, and when they came, as they surely would, she would have to resist the temptation to re-cord herself to her former ideas and principles as a method of self-defence. For such a method would place her finger back on the trigger, it would result in more shots, more death and destruction, the creation of even more baggage, further dues to be paid, further reparations to be gathered. An endless cycle of birth and death, pleasure and pain, an almost continual suffering. 

She would have to stay clam, retain a connection to stillness. And her unofficial counterpoint training would help; because in a world of continual change: new creations, physical death and decay, emotional rises, psychological shifts, developing thoughts, ever-reactive senses, the only counterpoint is that which never changes. That which is consistent. 

Awareness. 

Her Awareness. That within, which is aware of all the changes, the senses and thoughts, feelings and beliefs, all the fluid identities of the surrounding world. The ‘I AM…” that connects itself to different things in order to complete the trailing sentence and experience itself in absolute totality. If she could remain connected to the knowledge that in truth, given a long enough timeframe, she is only that awareness and nothing more, then she would probably be alright.

She continued to look ahead. The confluence of different colours had merged into a fixed point of light. Colours continued to exist in the periphery, but her attention was so concentrated that she didn’t notice them. She was beginning to know something beyond colour and form, separation and difference. She was still aware of what was below her in the fields and the valleys, she could even feel the sadnesses and joys of those who ploughed them. They fell into her like a pebble to a lake, causing a splash and a ripple that settled into calmness and transparency, security and rest. She was becoming aware of the source and the sauce. The source of it all, as distinct from the separate sauces of life, the different tastes and fancies. She was beginning to connect to this perennial awareness. Something singular and alone, but far from feeling lonely she felt more accepted and connected than she ever had before. And no sooner had she smiled to herself in self-satisfied satisfaction, than she awoke to the warm daylight of a summers morning, the rest of her household fast asleep. Her day just beginning.


by Palmer Golden

photo by talib

RBKC’s North Ken News: Real Eyes Realise Real Lies

North Ken News is a Kensington & Chelsea Council magazine, delivered to thousands of residents in the borough’s less affluent wards. Ill-conceived and half-heartedly produced, it typifies a local authority lacking the ambition to truly change following the Grenfell Tower fire.

Background

In January 2019 Kensington & Chelsea Council (RBKC), after holding ‘Creating Stronger Communities Conversations,’ produced its Grenfell Recovery Strategy, saying the document “demonstrated a strong desire” on the part of local residents “to shape recovery directly, building on the existing strengths and talents of communities.”

The aspirations RBKC identified in its consultations with locals included:

  • RBKC enabling “stronger community leadership”
  • RBKC tapping into “existing skills and networks” and
  • “The need to improve Council communications to all North Kensington residents”

North Ken News, along with other mass distribution puff pieces, are RBKC’s responses to the frustrations raised about the council’s communications. These publications amount to little more than public relations for a disgraced local authority. A true provider of grassroots news and analysis, the blog THis Is North Kensington summarised North Ken News as “PR self-analysis of the supposed Grenfell Strategy.”  

Context Continue reading

THE PARTING

I dropped anchor

Watching her slowly sail over the horizon

Knowing we would never see each other again

A small tear formed in the corner of my eye

Where it stayed

For the stoicism within my soul

Kept it from rolling down my cheek…

I knew I would miss her

We had fought so many battles together

At times against each other

She was brave good and true…

Capturing my heart upon my first gaze

Knowing it was doomed from the start

I still entered willingly

Laughing inwardly at my foolishness…

Yet what a journey

For a brief moment

We were both truly alive

Living dangerously -Without fear of tomorrow

Caring, sharing, touching each others’ spirit

Even praying together one time

Feeling the Love of God

Descend on us like a dove

But even that was not enough

For religion, tradition, duty calls

What should have pulled us together

Tore us apart!

I held on briefly-Still do

Believing that what God ordained-Brought together

No man could separate!

This world, this often cruel sea

Not made for the likes of us

As we both sail into the mist of time…

I will never forget you

For you are like the cool Summer breeze

That blows through my hair

I know it’s you

Just passing by

Just saying hello!

Just saying Hi !

A wry smile cracks upon my face

I truly love you still

Yet you can never hold the wind….

M C BOLTON MAY 2022

photo by TC

RBKC has bins

Norland Ward in Kensington & Chelsea is 0.2 miles from Grenfell Tower. In a rational political culture, local politicians seeking election in that ward on Thursday would express support for the victims of the Grenfell fire and solemnly vow to address the worsening economic and social inequality that characterises North Kensington. But in the Royal Borough, pushing policies of injustice and inequality can guarantee you a safe seat, as the Tory candidates make clear in their campaign literature.

We previously looked at Kensington & Chelsea News, the local Conservative Party’s main election propaganda, which sets out their key policies: bin collections, borough-wide parking permits, clean air, low council tax, saving the local police station and money for parks. While some of these pledges are contradictory and some are probably fibs, they are accompanied by the biggest profanity of all; council leader Elizabeth Campbell claiming that “continued support and meaningful recovery for the communities most affected by the Grenfell tragedy will be at the heart of everything we do.”

North Ken Censored

The election propaganda for Norland Ward is more of the same, talking up the threat of a Labour-run council, promoting absurd policies, and ignoring residents in the north of the borough. Even though Norland’s boundary reaches into North Kensington, there is no mention of Grenfell or the poverty that plagues the area.

The Conservative candidates, Stuart Graham and David Lindsay, have ultra-safe seats and plenty of political space to express any conscience or vision they possess. They instead follow the council strategy of studiously ignoring North Kensington. They state they are “committed to standing up for the residents of Holland Park and Notting Hill,” omitting North Kensington completely.

The Norland campaign literature is aimed squarely at those who already live in comfort. In the irrational borough, this group is attended to slavishly: “We need a council that has a record of standing up for residents and delivering more while costing less.” Continue reading

Review: Kensington & Chelsea News

The latest propaganda from the Kensington and Chelsea Conservatives comes in the form of a glossy A3 publication with the tagline, Community News. The Spring 2022 edition of Kensington & Chelsea News has the look of a free local newspaper but is a campaigning leaflet for the Tories ahead of next month’s council election. Its mix of policy pledges and class-conscious signaling makes clear the council’s priorities five years on from the Grenfell Tower fire. We read and analysed it so you don’t have to.

Page One

‘K & C News’ bucks the trend in these dark times by starting with a feel-good story titled “Café Society is here to stay.” The article features reassurances that locals can still object to pavement licenses being granted if noise is an issue. Even more reassuringly, K & C News informs us that Café Society will operate “from Sloane Square to Westbourne Grove,” skidding to a halt just before it gets to North Kensington. This geographical description could be a mere rhetorical flourish to name two upscale streets popular with the rich Tory voter base. Or it could be more sinister; the first signal to K & C News’s readership that the north of the borough is of little concern to the council.

The next headline is also good news but comes as a bit of a shock: “South Kensington saved by local campaign.” In my ignorance, I hadn’t known that South Kensington, the richest area in the country, faced an existential threat. The detail is that London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, wanted there to be a big glass building there, but heroic local (Conservative) councillors thwarted his plan. South Kensington was rescued from the jaws of Khan back in November, but this newspaper is campaign propaganda to remind core Tory voters and donors that the council remains devoted to them. For those who follow the politics of RBKC, particularly its public relations approach to the five years since the Grenfell Tower fire, it is interesting to be able to read a document that sets out their true priorities, however dressed up in deceit they might be…   Continue reading