Recently getwestlondon published an opinion piece about a hotly debated piece of planning law , written by the man some call ‘the Honorary MP for Kensington’, Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP.
As Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Kensington, I wish to respond. But before I do, let me explain a little about myself. I am not a politician. I am a member of the public who heard the call for people with real experience of life to enter public service, to improve the lives of everyone living in the United Kingdom. I’m delighted to have been selected to contest Kensington at the forthcoming election, and have been working with Labour Councillors and colleagues around the borough for the past year.
I come from a modest background. Born in Cardiff, South Wales to an English mother and a Syrian father, we lived in Syria for my first five years, then returned to Wales with my mother and brother. My mother worked hard as a nurse to excel in her career, put food on our table, and create a warm and supportive family environment. Now, as a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at University College London, I research and lecture on the role of international organisations in the lives of people in the developed and developing world.
The government brought in new planning regulations that would allow a change of use from ‘office to residential’ without the need for formal planning approval. The Council won an exemption, due to the relative value of residential vs commercial in the borough. However this exemption is now being overturned by the government which believes it is slowing down the provision of new housing. The Kensington MP says that overturning our exemption would ‘have an overwhelmingly detrimental effect on the economic activity and quality of life in the Royal borough, driving many perfectly viable businesses out of the area’.
However, the MP for Kensington totally contradicts his own earlier comments that supported the demolition of Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre. This development will comprise a major shift from commercial to residential as it will wipe out thousands of local jobs, threaten the livelihood of local shops, restaurants and hotels, and damage the national exhibition industry. He supported this despite knowing that just 14% of the homes to be built will be ‘affordable’ in the widest possible definition of the word.’
I have to ask myself if our MP knows the borough at all. Look at Warwick Road north of Cromwell Road: Homebase, Charles House and an array of other office buildings have been flattened for mainly private and super-prime residential development, obliterating thousands of jobs. Did he speak out against that? No he did not.
MPs must be seen to be consistent and speak out for their constituents. They don’t want an Honorary MP, they need a Voice for Kensington. I will provide that voice and be that advocate for all the residents of Kensington.