It was a night of disappointment for a Labour Party that had enthusiastically pursued blue seats in a flagship Tory borough, and went barely rewarded despite a dramatic surge in turnout.
The Conservative Party held a firm majority in Kensington and Chelsea, taking 36 seats to Labour’s 12, leaving one seat to the Liberal Democrats.
A ‘Justice 4 Grenfell’ sign projected onto the side of the Kensington Town Hall greeted new arrivals to the polls, marking a sombre reminder that this election was the first since the tragedy.
Candidates had been grilled by voters about how they would handle the aftermath of the tragedy, during hustings around the borough in the lead-up to the election.
Many observers had speculated continued anger over the fire would have consequences for the Conservative majority in the election result.
The areas immediately surrounding Notting Dale, the ward where Grenfell sits, were Labour strongholds already – and the party retained that loyalty.
But ultimately, the southern parts of the borough stayed true to their blue heritage too.
Previously, the council seats had been held by 37 Conservatives, 11 Labour councillors, and two Liberal Democrats.
About half the Tory councillors were not up for re-election, including former leader Nick Paget-Brown who stepped down following criticism of the council’s handling of Grenfell.
Electors were instead presented with a fresh crop of Conservatives, and they voted for them in blocs, as the electorate recorded a 39.7 per cent turnout.
After declaring victory, Conservative leader Elizabeth Campbell said Grenfell would be a priority in her speech to the Town Hall: "We also recognise that all of us here in Kensington and Chelsea live in the shadow of Grenfell and Grenfell was, Grenfell is, and Grenfell will be our first priority."
Later, she said voters had clearly recognised the party's record of providing efficient services and low council taxes: "They voted us in to deliver those services and we will carry on doing that."
She spoke about a candidate list featuring broader diversity than ever before, saying the new Conservative-majority council must be more in tune with the whole community.
The council would focus on rehousing the dozens of Grenfell survivors who remain in temporary accommodation, and aiding the inquiry that starts in a fortnight, Campbell said.
“We all want justice for our residents.”
Labour campaigners’ enthusiastic surge through safe-seat blue wards came on the back of MP and Councillor Emma Dent Coad’s historical win in Kensington last year.
The party rallied in neighbourhoods they hadn’t campaigned in for decades.
The party’s council leader Robert Atkinson said upon conceding early on in the count that he had never expected a red takeover, but at that stage remained optimistic about grabbing Tory seats.
As the votes came trickling in from around 4am, the only grab was by Labour newcomer Portia Thaxter, who took Conservative Eve Allison’s seat in St Helen’s with a wide lead.
Labour’s three candidates in Chelsea Riverside did come within a whisker of matching their Conservative rivals’ votes; but ultimately the Tories held the close-fought ward.
The biggest uptick in voter turnout was concentrated in the middle of the borough, with Norland, Holland, Pembridge, and Campden all attracting a significant surges in interest.
But ultimately, all seats in those wards held their patterns too.
Speaking after the result, Atkinson said he was surprised Labour’s “energetic” campaign did not translate into more seats.
But he thought the gains Labour had made showed it was beginning a revival, and he felt residents were losing trust in the Conversatives.
“They preferred to talk about bins rather than Grenfell.”
He said he was disappointed Conservatives had avoided hustings throughout the north, and he hoped the new crop would bring a fresh attitude.
“We will continue to hold them to account and I think I still have a job to make sure that she delivers, eventually.”
Meanwhile, newcomers Advance Together had fielded 14 candidates across the 18 wards, yet that party, Greens and UKIP all went home without seats.
THE FINAL RESULTS
Eight parties contested the 50 seats.
Sarah Addenbrooke- CON
Anne Cyron – CON
James Husband – CON
Brompton & Hans Town
Mary Weale – CON
Walaa Idris – CON
Sophia McVeigh – CON
Catherine Faulks – CON
Robert Freeman – CON
Ian Wason – CON
Janet Evans – CON
Greg Hammond – CON
Quentin Marshall – CON
Monica Press – LAB
Nadia Nail – LAB
Ian Henderson – LAB
Adrian Berrill-Cox – CON
Gerard Hargreaves – CON
Alison Jackson – CON
Pat Healy – LAB
Robert Thompson – LAB
Hamish Adourian – CON
Malcolm Spalding – CON
Linda Wade – LIB DEM
Emma Dent Coat – LAB
Pat Mason – LAB
Mehdi Lari – LAB
Aarien Areti – CON
Charles O’Connor – CON
Johnny Thalassites – CON
Robert Atkinson – LAB
Judith Blakeman – LAB
Marwan Elnaghi – LAB
David Lindsay – CON
Julie Mills – CON
Laura Round – CON
Dori Schmetterling – CON
Tom Bennett – CON
Marie-Therese Rossu – CON
Charles Williams – CON
Elizabeth Campbell (leader) – CON
Emma Will – CON
Cem Kemahli – CON
Portia Thaxter – LAB
Mohammed Bakhtiar – LAB
+ 1 LAB
Will Stanley – CON
Josh Rendall – CON
Kim Taylor-Smith- CON