Emma Dent Coad, Labour MP for Kensington: ‘The sadness doesn’t stop…’

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She won by just 20 votes in June’s general election. Four days later, Grenfell Tower went up in flames, and she’s been fighting for the victims ever since

For four days in June this year Emma Dent Coad was able to celebrate one of the more unlikely electoral victories in modern history. At the age of 62 she had, by a margin of 20 votes and after three recounts, become the first Labour MP ever to win her Kensington constituency in London. “For those four days,” she says now, somewhat wistfully, in her office in Westminster, “it was just amazing. I had strangers hugging me in the street, some who had never voted in their lives before, because they thought nothing would ever change.”

The victory was particularly sweet for Dent Coad, who had lived most of her life in the borough, in social housing, and who had been a minority voice on the local Tory council for the previous decade. During those years, she says she kept a little notebook of the ways she and her colleagues were patronised when they tried to speak about poverty in the country’s richest and most unequal local authority. She once raised the question of child malnutrition on one of the borough’s estates, she recalls, and a council member smiled and told her: “Labour loves the idea of rickets”.

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