Grenfell tensions boil over at count: ‘Congratulations to Sam Gyimah for screwing up Kensington’

By Catriona Graffius
December 13 2019, 08.30

There was no let-up in the vicious fight for Kensington.

In one of the most acrimonious and marginal seats of this election, Liberal Democrat Sam Gyimah’s 9,312 votes were more than enough to split the Kensington remainers, leaving the seat to the Conservative’s Felicity Buchan with a narrow majority of 150.

Before the result was announced, Labour candidate Emma Dent Coad said: “If Kensington want somebody who will work like a dog for them then hopefully they’ll support me.

“It’s been a distasteful campaign, very rude, offensive. I’m not afraid of that at all, I can see right through it.”

By 3:15am, a recount between the Labour and Conservative seats was announced.

It seemed the electorate had spoken for the Conservatives.

Exiting the town hall shortly afterwards, Ms Dent Coad had only one message: “Congratulations to Sam Gyimah for screwing up Kensington.”

Meanwhile, a crestfallen Gyimah was heard mumbling in the foyer: “I just want to lie in a bed, forget about this.”

Over the course of the campaign Gyimah and Dent Coad have laid vicious accusations at each other’s doors over the Grenfell tragedy.

When Gyimah blamed Dent Coad for having a role in the decisions over Grenfell’s cladding in her time as a councillor, the then-Labour MP demanded an apology and reported Gyimah to the Metropolitan Police.

The Kensington candidates’ mudslinging has been symptomatic of a wider debate on the nastiness that has crept into British politics after Brexit.

On a national scale, opposition MPs such as Labour’s Jess Philips called for the end to divisive political language that stoked hate crimes and abuse against female MPs.

Conservatives have consistently confronted Labour with their failure to address anti-semitism in the party.

In Kensington however, the Conservative candidate Felicity Buchan’s tactic of distancing herself from the protracted political tussle clearly paid off.

Towing the party line of ‘getting Brexit done’ and shying away from the offensive was enough to win her what she has called the Conservative’s ‘jewel in the crown’ and one of the most coveted seats of the night.

As all candidates gathered to hear the final results at 4:17am, Dent-Coad’s aides broke into applause for their candidate and roared, “shame, shame, shame” at Gyimah.

Yet Buchan stood quietly as the Mayor Will Pascall announced her 150-vote triumph.

She had stolen the show.

Twitter raged at the announcement of the new Kensington MP in what some called a betrayal of those who endured the Grenfell disaster.

In his losing speech, Gyimah lamented: “They voted out of fear and on doorsteps people talked about the fear of this election. We have got to fight for a liberal democracy.”

But Buchan spoken coolly of the need to unite the country.

“I want to represent the whole of Kensington,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter who people voted for and I want to represent the north, the south and the middle and I do want to bring together our communities.

“‘I’m very, very happy I won, I knew it was going to be a contest, I knew it was going to be close and I’m delighted that the people of Kensington have chosen the very positive Conservative agenda.”

Her biggest task will be to persuade the people of Kensington that the political fight is over and she now stands for them all.

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