The Curious Case of the Council & Canalside


On becoming leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council a month after the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, Elizabeth Campbell promised change. In a brief speech to fellow councillors and victims of the fire in July, Campbell used the word ‘change’ eleven times. Considering Campbell’s own role in the council’s sustained asset strip of North Kensington, the words were never convincing. But they were rendered meaningless in January when the council tried to sell a vital community building to property developers to build flats for the rich. In failing to push through the sale, the Conservative council now looks weaker than ever.

Early this year K & C council were moving full steam ahead with their plans to sell Canalside House, home to numerous local charities, community groups, small businesses, and a hub of support for victims of the June 14th fire. Plans to sell the historic building on Ladbroke Grove and move its residents to a wholly unsuitable replacement on Latimer Road were put on hold following the fire, after resident organisations pointed out to the council that they had been filling in the gaps vacated by the local authority in providing emergency relief work and supporting the North Kensington community.



How do we know about the plans to sell? A council scrutiny committee meeting was filmed and posted online (the Canalside section starts after two hours). The details are in this Urban Dandy article.


An Executive Decision was issued by the council: Canalside was to be sold to developers to build flats, none of which would be social housing or realistically affordable for most people.

In addition, the move, which was instigated in 2016 by the sleight of hand of disgraced former deputy leader of the council, Rock Feilding-Mellen, was an existential threat to most of the Canalside residents as they would be unable to operate in an absurd hot-desking arrangement, in a small building, away from decent transport links. 

The 2018 decision to sell Canalside represented a resumption of long-standing policies of asset-stripping community resources and properties in North Kensington. After a short post-fire hiatus, the council’s true agenda was back: a shock doctrine for a community reeling and traumatised.

At the January committee meeting, the council, represented by Deputy Leader Kim Taylor-Smith, Councillor Matthew Palmer and Director of Corporate Property, Richard Egan, told a series of lies to try to push the sale through. They lied about having consulted residents, they lied about the residents’ feedback, they lied about the state of the building. They closed ranks and derided the whimper of dissent from the Labour councillors present as “a banal conversation”. Drawing on vast reserves of conceit, they huffed at the tepid opposition, they puffed at the questions, but they could not blow Canalside House down…or strip it from the community and gift it to property developers. Behind the bluster, something was wrong, something had changed.

Divine Right

The three men at the council meeting displayed the presumption of divine right that Conservative Party toffs love to lord over their supposed inferiors. The bullying tactics they employed were as chilling to observers as the decision itself.

Following a tyrannical templete: they attempted to achieve something clearly against the interests of the population; behaved as if it was in the interests of the population; ridiculed any opposition to the plan; hung on to the last possible moment; then when the diabolical plan was no longer politically viable, abandoned it and stated that there was never any intention of doing it really, claiming that they are in fact wholehearted, community-minded folk just like you ‘n’ me.



How did these people survive, politically, the national disaster of the Grenfell Tower fire and their botched response? They were propped up by the desperate minority national government, no doubt. But these individuals, remarkable only in their unremarkableness, have clung to power in Kensington, despite being apparently responsible for a political agenda that wrapped Grenfell Tower in highly flammable material in pursuit of profit, threatened legal action against residents who warned of the fire risk, and then left the community itself to marshal the emergency response.

What makes these well-to-do politicians want to stay in what is, ostensibly at least, pubic service? The answer may be that they are broken people, empathy driven out of them first by the private education system, then by a fanatical belief in capital and wealth. Kensington became a goldmine, rather than a community. To retain a sense of self, and to maintain their positions of power, which come with lucrative spin-off careers, these politicians are required to tell lies to their constituents on behalf of the people they truly serve: the obscenely wealthy, often referred to as the one percent. The council of Kensington and Chelsea are the class enemies of most residents the borough, certainly those in North Kensington.

Before we are accused of descending in to a speculative polemic, let’s get back to what is not up for debate…

How the Sale was Stopped

The residents of Canalside House and the Kensington and Chelsea Social Council wrote to the councillors expressing their unanimous rejection of the plans to sell the building and relocate residents. On the evening of Thursday February 8th, Urban Dandy published the story, detailing the objections of the residents and exposing the deceit of the council. The article was soon disseminated by local activists and there was a furious online response from the local population.

2018-02-09 Joint CH Statement

Overnight, the council did a 360. High level meetings were cancelled; concerned people of power expressed their alarm to RBKC, and soon anybody involved was receiving emails like this:

I don’t know where they got my email address from, but the message was understood: stop telling people the truth. The propaganda I received came as a relief. Canalside was no longer being sold and the council publicly committed to its refurbishment. The building’s virtues were extolled by the same local government that had, so recently and so avariciously, written it off.

Dandies 1 Tories 0 
So, the lies told to try to force the sale of a vital community asset were followed by lies so transparent as to lead concerned local residents to ask what is really going on. Why don’t they just state that they would love to sell off North Kensington’s community spaces but politically it is no longer viable? A whole community, seen as heroic by many after the response to the Grenfell fire, is being fobbed off with press releases and propaganda. They are trying to ‘manage’ us and our expectations. But we are not to be managed…

If Urban Dandy and a few committed community organisations can scare the Tory council into abandoning a multi-million pound property plan, think what North Kensington can achieve if it speaks with one voice. The council’s conceit was exposed: not only do they lack the talent and vision to run the borough, but they are also seriously wounded, politically, and now is the time to make demands and set an agenda for creating a thriving North Kensington for us and our children. Now is the time for vigilance and reckoning.

While the community has been forced to put in the hours to save Canalside, demand justice for Grenfell and hold the council to account, RBKC’s cabinet has continued to waste their lives in service to a rapacious agenda they probably cannot even identify, so profoundly internalised has it become. It is known to many as neo-liberalism, and it is deadly.

The local council and the Tory media want to “regain the trust” of the North Kensington population, but that is an unrealistic and ultimately meaningless goal. The issue is not trust, it is power. The Canalside capitulation tells us two things about the Conservatives in Kensington:

– They cannot be trusted
– They are weak and scared of your power

Kensington and Chelsea council have repeatedly claimed to have changed tack following the Grenfell Tower disaster. The community has called their bluff, and we have our collective foot on their neck. They can be booted out of office at the local election on May 3rd if enough people register to vote.

Perhaps, in a desperate late attempt to cling to power, the council leader will invoke the concept of change another eleven times. For her it is an abstraction, a word to be used to manipulate and deceive. For the North Kensington community, change is something we need and it is now something we now hold in our hands.


By Tom Charles


Thanks to Jen

RBKC Council Selling Vital Community As$et

By Urban Dandy


Canalside House on Ladbroke Grove



Less than eight months on from the Grenfell Tower fire disaster and Kensington and Chelsea Council’s money grab in the North Kensington community is back in full flow. Canalside House, one of the last remaining spaces utilised by charities, the voluntary sector, small businesses and other local enterprises, is to be sold to property developers. The decision raises questions about whether the Conservative council has learned any of the lessons of the Grenfell Tower fire, which was the culmination of years of neglect, indifference and wilful ignorance by the local authority. In the run up to the crucial local elections in May, the decision to sell Canalside represents a calculation by the local authority that the local population will be apathetic as one of the community’s last assets is stripped.


Canalside House, less than a mile from Grenfell Tower, is home to almost 20 organisations, most of which have played a direct and ongoing role in supporting the community in the aftermath of the unprecedented fire on Lancaster West estate on June 14th. In the absence of a serious local authority response to the disaster, local organisations and their volunteers stepped into the void left by the Tory council. The council is widely believed to be responsible for the 71 deaths and incalculable trauma in North Kensington.

Kensington and Chelsea has a large number of charities, but it is a borough that needs them, owing to the grotesque levels of inequality and high levels of poverty, much of which is concentrated in North Kensington. Canalside House is one of the main hubs for community organisations, serving hundreds of local people.

Backstory Continue reading

No Lions in England


UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s latest offensive remarks triggered fresh calls for his sacking. But Johnson’s attitude is not exceptional. His callous comments on Libya are indicative of a mendacity towards the Middle East and North Africa that runs deep in the Conservative party and the UK’s wider political establishment.

At a fringe event for business people at the Conservative party’s annual conference, Johnson outlined his belief that Libyan city Sirte has the potential to emulate Dubai. He claimed to have met of “a group of UK business people, some wonderful guys who want to invest in Sirte…all they have to do is clear the bodies away”. Johnson chuckled at his own wit. Continue reading

When Emma Dented the Unwritten Coad

Before the fire, this was written…

It was something none of us thought we would see in 2017: The Conservative party lost their seat in Kensington, their safe seat, their stronghold, the wealthiest constituency in the UK, the Royalist Borough.

Previously held by (Sir) Malcolm Rifkind, he was forced to abandon ship in 2015 after being caught in a channel 4 sting complaining about his wages, bragging about how little constituency work he did and accepting obscene amounts of money to talk on foreign policy, a subject upon which his expertise lies in getting things spectacularly, repeatedly wrong. Read about it here if you want.

Do-nothing Tory grandee Rifkind was replaced by London’s deputy mayor, Lady Victoria Borwick. Unlike Malcolm, she did engage with the community and acknowledged the existence of the poor. Like Malcolm, her political life was devoted to class war. On housing, on the cuts, on refugees, for much of her tenure her complacency was matched by the resigned apathy of the non-Tory population of North Kensington.

But nobody really thought she was under serious threat of losing her seat. Two months ago, when the PM called the election, Labour had no chance in Kensington. Then came Labour’s manifesto, coupled with the Conservative party having nothing of use say about anything. A huge turnout, and two recounts later, Kensington was the final seat in the country to be called. And what a call the constituency made.

As if to milk the attention for all it was worth, it was late on Friday night when jubilant scenes erupted at the Town Hall. Emma Dent Coad had beaten Borwick by 20 votes, changing local politics forever, and making a mockery of Theresa May’s miserable campaign.

Urban Dandy tracked down Labour’s Kensington majority, and here they are, the 20 official history makers in their own words:

(note: their words were shared before the disaster)

Lisa (first past the post): “I have never voted conservative, and although I have always thought it is a given in k and c that the tories will win, I have always believed it is important to exercise ones right to vote. I am sick to the eye teeth of how our area is being over regenerated and valuable services, including outstanding children’s centres, have been or are planned to be closed down – all in the name of affordability with the borough refusing to consider the bigger picture. This year, like many others, I voted for labour. I am absolutely blown away that Emma Dent Coad has been elected to represent the people of Kensington. This is such exciting news. It feels progressive and exciting. I am a very happy resident right now.

Sophie (come unity): “I’m delighted with the result.  I have lived on Ladbroke Grove for 15 years and have seen many changes.  I was involved in the campaign to keep North Kensington Library in the community and more recently was involved in the running of the KPH (A valuable community hub – now sadly closed). Emma supported the library campaign and came to the birthday party we threw for the building in October.  Incidentally I took the opportunity to invite all councillors to the party following a debate in Kensington Town Hall and Labour were the only councillors who came:

I extended a similar invitation to all councillors in our final week of running the KPH.  I was told that Tories were too busy with their election campaign, but Emma came down with all the Labour councillors and spent an afternoon in the pub.  

This is the first time in my life I have been able to vote for somebody that I truly believe in – someone who really speaks out for our local community”. 

Edward (Grenfell Action Group): “Nice to see a supporter of Save North Kensington Library and Save Wornington College campaigns elected as our MP. Certainly wiped the smug smile off the likes of Cllr Paget Brown and Cllr Feilding Mellen who treat the residents of North Kensington with contempt and disdain”

Dave (Buzzing): ‘K&C is taking back the streets for the many not the few…leading by the front for a better society that accounts for people from different walks of life and circumstances’

Jen (Dandy): “I never thought I would see a time when K&C wasn’t a Tory stronghold. Results go to show how much London and all of Britain need tax paid properly by all to fund the crucially important services universally available in the UK of healthcare, education and more. Go on Jezza!”

Kassim and Wife (joint statement): 1. Tories ignored us for so long not anymore now! They know now why they lost the seat! 2. Voted for Prosperity over austerity! Hope over fear! 3. Tories lost contact with Kensington voters!

Yvette (Labour party member, nearly ran me over once): “The successful and historic election of EDC as a Labour MP in the Kensington seat demonstrates true democracy at work. For the young and old who voted for the first time it means they will know going forward that their vote makes a difference; and that fighting for what is right is worth it.”

Lindale (Natasha’s dad): I did vote to get the conservatives out, I’ve been waiting for this for years.  My first email to Victoria Borwick was to tell her how useless Malcolm Rifkind was.  I ran a facebook campaign to get rid of the Conservatives.  Getting the Tories out of Kensington was so sweet, I am curious to see what changes it makes to some of the ongoing issues in the Boroug

Niles (23): “When the rhythm changes so does the dance”

Anab (Upstairs): “I voted Labour!”

Sheraine (The Guv’nor): “It’s amazing man, Well deserved, she’s worked really really hard and she’s very capable”.

Faisa (first time voter): “I voted for Labour because I don’t like Theresa May and I think there should be a new prime minister”

Abdullahi (Baraka Obama): “I always vote Labour, I could never give my vote to the Conservatives. Even with a tiny majority, it shows you can’t be laid back. The Conservatives thought ‘nobody can touch us, this is Kensington and Chelsea’ – Now the community needs to say, if we’ve done well in this one, we can do even better in the future’.

Farhia (second time voter): “I previously voted Lib Dem but this time around I voted Labour. There was so much benefit from a Labour government – help with costs as a student, I could pay off my tuition fees. If I benefited, it’s only fair for future generations to have that chance. Their values match the working class, compared to the Conservatives, who just make life harder for us”

Karen (Brighton fan): “Emma Dent Coad saved the house I live in when the Conservatives wanted to knock it down. She’s a lovely lady to boot, very humble”.

Mustafa (Abu Jamal): “I like Jeremy Corbyn, he’s the one who is in touch with the reality of life, he’s very genuine. The Conservatives have no idea what working class people get up to. What was important was the manifesto, scrapping tuition fees. I don’t want my kids being in £50,000 debt”.

Valentyna (first time voter): This year I went voting and it was the first time in my life and I’m very proud to make this step especially as my vote mattered and Labour won! Guys wake up and take a stand. 

Chris and Reem (Joint statement made live at the Tabernacle)”We voted for Labour and for Emma Dent Coad in protest at the Tories’ pursuit of “Brexit-at-all-costs”. We are stronger within the EU. We also voted to counter the Israel Lobby’s pernicious campaign to undermine Jeremy Corbyn”.


And for good measure:

Ayman (age nine, Year 4, local primary school): “I asked my parents to vote for Labour because of the NHS and humanity as the Conservatives don’t care about us”

Maya (age 10, Year 5, another local primary school): “I was there on Friday night with my mum. It meant a lot to my mum and it was a once in a lifetime experience for someone like me. It was good, Emma came out crying and everyone was like ‘wooooo’ and singing ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ and ‘Go away Tories, Labour in’.




Four days later, hell broke loose in Kensington. Soon after, in parliament, Emma Dent Coad made her maiden speech. Sensitivity, compassion, calm, poise, and an unflinching demand for justice. North Kensington is finally represented.



Tom Charles



By Sophie Lodge