I am currently updating this website, and will be widening its remit to include issues, articles and blogs I have written as a journalist, Councillor, and during my 30 months as your MP.
I made this video in September 2018 – so much has happened, but so little has changed! I’ll leave it there for a little while as a reminder.
Before entering politics full time, I spent 30 years working as a journalist and researcher working in design, architecture and planning. In my 13 years as a Councillor for Golborne Ward in North Kensington, I have challenged the Conservative led Council’s spending priorities and their plans for handing over public assets to private companies, by sale or lease.
Four days after my election in 2017, the Grenfell Tower fire atrocity devastated our communities with huge loss of life. I spent much of the first two years in Westminster looking after Grenfell affected people struggling with housing and other issues, as well as learning how to be of service in the local and national context. Our communities must be empowered to take back control of their lives and to have access to their legal rights, their dignity, their freedom to thrive, and choice as they age and may need help to live independently. This applies to all parts of the social and economic spectrum.
My work on the injustices surrounding housing of all kinds, particularly social housing and the dangers it can bring – not just fire safety, but dangers to physical and mental health – concerned me for many years before June 2017, and will undoubtedly do so for many years to come.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is the most unequal borough in Britain. I pledged to tackle the inequalities in life expectancy, income, physical and mental health, education and life chances which I find to be shameful in a first world country. My personal values as a socialist have developed in this context. It’s simple to me: people should pay the full amount of tax they owe in the country in which their income is earned, and ensure employees are paid a decent wage. In return they should expect to receive a level of pay they can live on, the services they’ve paid for, to be educated, and to receive health and adult social care free at the point of access when needed.
My first ever vote in 1975 was to remain in the Common Market we had joined two years before. In 2016 I campaigned for and voted to Remain, along with nearly 70% of Kensington voters. However the current position of economic no man’s land is devastating to many of us. We may ‘leave’ the EU on 31 January, but the uncertainty about the terms of the Written Agreement, how we will trade and with whom, and the future of our EU nationals will continue for some time. Many fear the uncertainty will continue past the end 2020 deadline, and I share that fear. It’s already has a very bad effect on the economy – check specialist press and share prices, not Downing Street announcements!
During my term in Westminster I worked hard to consolidate, extend and improve my links and networks with individuals, voluntary organisations, residents’ associations, religious groups, amenity groups, activists and campaigners across Kensington on their issues and struggles. I hope to maintain these links as far as possible within my remit as a Councillor sitting on Planning Applications and on Audit and Transparency Committee, so feel free to contact me if your group or campaign needs support. As chair of the Labour Group I am able to bring your concerns to our Councillors.
Kensington is a beautiful and historic area, and very diverse, with over 50% of residents non-British born. Having been born in Chelsea and spent more than half my life in Kensington, the area is in my DNA. This is one of many reasons why I fight against unwelcome development alongside campaigners and residents’ groups – and take it personally. I will always stand with residents in the north, south, east and west of Kensington, against developments which threaten to destroy our neighbourhoods and communities, and against the loss of local assets and services. I will also use all the influence I have to protect, maintain and improve our historic and listed buildings, conservation areas, parks and public realm, for the enjoyment of all residents and visitors.
Current issues on my radar:
- Some residents in Knightsbridge have expressed their concerns about the proposed pavement widening in Sloane Street, an area already suffering from endless construction projects, over-development, and appalling levels of air pollution. Drivers of luxury cars racing around residential streets, increased street crime, prostitution and drug-dealing, and road safety on Brompton Road crossings are also of huge concern. Meanwhile, shops, cafes and restaurants are struggling, and there is a plan to create a Business Improvement District (BID) which I have discussed with local groups and am happy to support as far as I am able.
- The demolition of Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre and the now vacant site has had a devastating effect on local business. I fully support the Save Earl’s Court campaign to create a development comprising modern exhibition facilities along with housing for low income earners, in an environmentally friendly setting. I sponsored a meeting in parliament to support this campaign and will continue to support them.
- I also hear reports of anti-social behaviour around the clubs and pubs of Earl’s Court Road, as well as the dangerous levels of air pollution. We shouldn’t have to fight to be safe on the streets and to sleep at night. AirBnB is a growing problem which can also create serious anti-social behaviour and unwelcome litter dumping in the streets, while the perpetrators seem unaccountable. I have been out with police as an observer on a 999 night shift and saw for myself the incredible work they do with very limited resources.
- In South Kensington I have spoken to groups demanding sympathetic and careful restoration and improvements around the station and its arcade, and in support of step-free access to all platforms. Many are as concerned as me about improving pedestrian safety in Exhibition Road as our wonderful museums attract ever greater number of visitors. The Yalta Memorial Garden opposite the V&A is in desperate need of improvement – indeed, of basic maintenance. Residents around Gloucester Road are continuing to resist the Kensington Forum Hotel redevelopment that was turned down at Planning Committee, but the Mayor of London’s call-in overturned the decision of elected members. I spoke to the Mayor at the hearing at City Hall, in support of residents.
- In Kensington High Street and in Notting Hill Gate shops, cafes and restaurants are struggling with rising rates and rents, and we need to support these businesses in a difficult local environment. Contributing to this, the unwelcome proposed development at Newcombe House is still in the balance as it went to an Inquiry in November at which I spoke – we await the result in due course.
- In North Kensington I will continue working with local organisations, campaigners and volunteers in relation to the ongoing effects of the Grenfell Tower fire, demanding additional funding for mental health support for all ages including young people, which is clearly inadequate, and a more sympathetic approach to rehousing for those affected. Many voluntary organisations are still fighting for ongoing funding and secure premises.
- I have been attending Notting Hill Carnival since the early 80s. I fully support the event and its proud history and will continue to campaign for it to improve and prevail. Issues around who Carnival benefits, and how it is funded and policed remain controversial. I will continue to support all the Carnival communities in their struggle to improve stewarding while they maintain the artistry and pageantry of our spectacular annual festival, which many judged to be ‘the best ever’ in 2019.
- I keep up with campaigns to Keep North Kensington Library for Public Use, Save Wornington College, Save Earl’s Court, numerous Grenfell related campaigns, and as Golborne Councillor will continue the fight to address the disgraceful maintenance of Council and housing association properties.
I never forget – I work for you.