Local elections 2018 Preview: Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council

The Conservatives have held Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council for more than 50 consecutive years in a borough that is characterised by its extremes of wealth and poverty and until only recently there was no reason to suppose that there might be any deviation from this trend.

This may all change as the seismic events in the local and national political landscape in the intervening years since the last election means that for the first time in decades there is serious talk of a swing to a Labour-led council.

Scrutiny has been heaped upon the council and the Conservative Party since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 that claimed 71 lives.


Kensington and Chelsea Borough Chelsea has been a Conservative stronghold since 1964, with very little influence exerted by other parties in that time.

The last council election in 2014 ended in a decisive win for the Conservatives, who took 37 out of the 50 seats on the council.  Labour came in second with 12 seats and the Liberal Democrats took the remaining one, and have since gained a second.

The three main parties will this time be facing a challenge from newcomers Advance Together.

The party began as a political movement in 2017 and are now fielding 14 candidates across the borough.

Almost 70% of the electorate voted to stay in the European Union.

Map of Kensington & Chelsea following the 2014 local elections


Grenfell Tower

There are many who have blamed the council and their alleged insouciance for the disaster and the perceived mishandling of the fall out, and it will be the key issue at this election.

In the wake of the fire the council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown announced his resignation and in July of last year was replaced by Elizabeth Campbell, Conservative councillor for the Royal Hospital ward.

Since then almost half of the serving Conservative councillors have taken the decision to either not to stand again or have been deselected.

It will be up to Cllr Campbell and her team to convince people that a new-look Conservatives can offer people the change they are looking for.


If people are likely to see any change it most probably be in the key battleground of St Helens.

In 2014, it was the only ward where the elected councillors were split between Labour and the Conservatives.

The Conservative councillor is Eve Wilson who was widely reported to have been deselected late last year but is now back on the ballot paper in St Helens.

At the time she was the Conservatives only black candidate in the borough and she described her treatment as a “lynching”.

The Labour councillor Mohammed Bakhtiar was elected for the first time in a closely fought contest in which he finished second by a single vote.

There were only 62 votes separating first and fourth place and Cllr Bakhtiar is confident that Labour can take both seats in 2018.

In fact, not only does he think that Labour will win St Helens but he also believes that 2018 is the year that the Conservatives hold on the borough can be broken.

He identified Chelsea Riverside, Earl’s Court and Norland as the other wards that are the biggest targets for Labour.

The surprise election of Labour candidate Emma Dent Coad as the Member of Parliament for Kensington in June 2017 may be an indicator of a building resentment and changing mood among the electorate, towards turning voters away from the Tories and towards Labour, which predates Grenfell.


Justice4Grenfell activist Moyra Samuels said: “There is unfortunately a bit of a deep cynicism which as we knew, would be a comeback from what happened at Grenfell. You do hear ‘well what is the point of voting?’ and that is very worrying.”

Cllr Campbell said: “I’m there to do whatever I can, day by day, family by family. You can’t undo the past, but you can try and make the future a better place.”

Cllr Bakhtiar said: “If we lose this time I think that means we failed in the same way the Tories failed. Labour should win.”

He added: “Grenfell was a testimony that the Tories failed on all levels. It’s very easy to rule and govern in peace time but real leadership comes out in crisis.

South West Londoner will be providing live updates and all the latest news and reactions from all 11 counts across the area on May 3. Visit our website or Twitter for live coverage throughout the night.

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