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Notting Hill Hustings
a convenient way of describing the North Kensington electorate is to think of people living in towns as falling under three broad heads: A’s living in beautiful homes, nice houses and posh flats; B’s living in council flats, housing estates and generally in “semi-detached”; and C’s living in dilapidated mansions, grim tenements and slums. Half the people in North Kensington are C’s, a third are A’s, the rest B’s. Geographically the A’s live to the South, and with their Tory neighbours of South Kensington—the safest Tory seat outside Ulster—share permanent control of the Council of the Royal Borough. Hence the housing crisis and the paucity of B’s. What slum clearance there has been dates mostly from the ‘thirties, and what ‘B’ housing has been provided since the war has been mostly at high rents. Worse than this is the fact that the A’s of North Kensington hardly think of themselves as living in what the journalists call ‘Notting Hill’—the crisis area—at all. ‘Notting Hill’, where the C’s live, lies further North—down towards the Gas Works, the main line out of Paddington and the sinister Grand Union Canal. Of the C’s a thousand or so are Irish, a couple of thousand coloured immigrants and a handful of them prostitutes. Some hundred or so coloured immigrants are friendly with the prostitutes. As the majority of C’s strive to become B’s and there is little hope of this within the area under a Tory Council and a Tory Government, Notting Hill is an area of high mobility. A doctor friend of mine reports a 10 per cent turnover in his list due to change of address. Structurally the slums of ‘Notting Hill’ are not as bad as some, but conditions have got worse as a result of landlordism, overcrowding and vice. The three go together and form a vicious circle since coloured immigrants and prostitutes are by far the most profitable slum tenants. Politically North Kensington is in principle a safe Labour seat in a permanently Tory Royal Borough. But it became a focal point of political interest as a result of Mosley’s candidature.
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