Almost half of Kensington and Chelsea’s 37 Conservative councillors will not be defending their seats on 3 May, following a sometimes rancorous Tory candidate selection process. Only 20 of those currently holding seats are seeking election to them again, and voters in only three of the royal borough’s 18 wards will have the chance to re-elect exactly the same Conservatives to represent them as they voted for the last time they went to the polls.
The official list of candidates for each ward published on the council’s website yesterday shows that the three Tories currently representing Abingdon ward – two of whom secured their seats in by-elections held after the last full election in 2014 – are all standing again, as are the two who’ve represented Norland ward for the past four years. An unexpected Tory name on the list is that of Eve Allison, who holds one of two seats assigned to the “split” St Helens ward – the other is held by a Labour councillor – and was reported in December to have been de-selected by the local Conservative Association. Allison, who is black, filed a complaint about her treatment, which she likened to a “lynching”.
Otherwise, loyal Conservative voters will have at least one new name to consider when they address their ballot papers, and in two wards, Holland and Pembridge, there is no continuity at all. The high Tory attrition rate results from a combination of de-selections and voluntary decisions to stand down, in some cases resulting from public association with the Grenfell Tower fire, whose causes remain the subject of Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s ongoing inquiry. Neither former leader Nicholas Paget-Brown nor former deputy leader and cabinet member for housing, property and regeneration are seeking to continue as councillors.
Labour is hoping to make inroads into the Conservative majority, though media reports that it might win control of a borough that has been Tory-run throughout its existence are being privately dismissed by Labour sources, such is the traditional strength of Tory support in a majority of wards. Even so, the extraordinary circumstances in which this year’s council contests are being held make firm predictions perilous.
Three of Labour’s 11 current councillors are not seeking re-election, including former Big Brother contestant Beinazir Lasharie who has a young baby. A local party called Advance – or Advance Together, according to its nomination document details – which includes former Liberal Democrat and Labour members and community activists and has a strong anti-Brexit stance, is fielding 14 candidates in 12 wards.