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.

Of the four candidates, Mosley was the most experienced politician. With the entire resources of the fascist Union Movement, and its front—the White Defence League—some sixty agitators at his disposal, he had spent over a year at Notting Hill engineering a fascist renaissance. It was he who held the largest number and the best attended meetings. It was he who used the most dynamic campaign techniques. It was he alone who managed to arouse the enthusiasm of teen-agers. Day in, day out throughout the campaign one saw as though in a flashback nightmare, the birth of fascism in miniature. One meeting I shall not forget, held down a dingy alley—a row of slums to left and right, people leaning from the windows, the loudspeaker van booming in the dark clearing a great area at the centre by the pressure of its sound, behind the van a boarded building site from which, in the gathering tension of the crowd, one half hoped a band of communists might surge to bring the wheel of history full circle to the past. First spoke Mosley’s lieutenant, Geoffrey Hamm, a fine orator, ranting, rhythmical and strong. . . “and so we went to dear old (Tory) Lady Huggin’s home. . . she was out. . . so we asked the porter how many Negroes live in this house and he said. ‘One, the night porter’. . . How many Negroes has she got on her back? One. How many Negroes have you got on your back? Seven or eight thousand.” And then to cries of “Mosley!” “Mosley!” came the leader himself. The mean and twisted looking wrecks who form the Union Movement moved to the front. Their cry was echoed by a band of teen-agers standing on a lorry to the right who cheered and yelled like some ghastly jury of the young. At first he spoke in measured accents of the faults of successive Labour and Tory governments, of housing, of conditions, using a smokescreen of reason to build up to a wave of hate against the scapegoats. Not the Jews this time, nor the Irish—indeed there was praise for the Irish, for they were the ‘poor whites’ of the situation—but against the coloured immigrants. A small group of them, accompanied by two white women who looked like tarts, had worked their way to the front, there to be surrounded by a cordon sanitaire of police. One of the women heckled persistently. “They are our brothers”, she shouted and the coloured men, “We are here to stay!” By this time Mosley had got on to his favourite tale about two white girls aged thirteen and fourteen who were kidnapped by two black men; and “how many men were they forced to have in nine days? Two hundred. . . at a pound each”: and about how two Irishmen rescued them and how the Negro said, “This is my missus” and the Irishman “She can’t be, she’s only fourteen”; and about how the magistrates gave the two Negroes but five months apiece. At this point the teenagers on the lorry and the white trash who were Mosley’s men below made for the white girls who were with the coloured men with cries of “Slut” and “Get them!” and the police had to intervene, cautioning the prostitute and taking one of the coloured men away, easing tension slightly by giving way to sense of the meeting. The meeting ended. At first the crowd would not disperse and started moving towards a café frequented by white prostitutes and coloured men. The police carried one of the prostitutes who was at the centre of a commotion kicking and swearing to a Black Maria. Gradually the crowd dispersed. I talked to several people. A white prostitute said “We’re the same colour as them” pointing inside the café, testifying to the solidarity of outcasts. “If Mosley gets in, there will be no more blacks and tarts”—came from a former Labour voter, and “I hate Fascism but I’m voting Mosley because I’m sick of my daughter being accosted”, came from a woman who had been Communist but was still a “Socialist”. Another Labour voter said he was going to abstain and so were his friends, because they were for his policy of sending the immigrants home but againt his war record. When I tried heckling at another meeting a man with rotting teeth and twitching lip came up to me and snarled, “conchie”: when that did not work he tried “Jew”. On another occasion some teenagers I had got into conversation with were told not to talk to me but to listen to Mosley and “learn something for a change”. Though North Kensington was the only place in England where a Labour car actually got spat at, there was virtually no physical violence during Mosley’s campaign. Mosley had given hope to the desperate. If he got in, things would change. But since then the result of the election has deprived the desperate of any ‘constitutional outlet’ for their feelings. Though Mosley came bottom of the poll with 2,821 votes, the seeds Sir Oswald has sown live on.

Probably the most sympathetic of the four candidates was Michael Hydleman—the Liberal. Assisted by a youthful, open minded and enthusiastic band of middleclass political amateurs (undergraduates, housewives, a schoolmaster, a psychiatrist) and an equally youthful professional agent, he gave all those he met a sense that what his posters said—‘You matter to Michael Hydleman’ was true. He held a large number of open air meetings. He invited CND speakers, he preached antihate and stressed housing and housing only to be the cause of trouble. In this he was patently sincere and he had gone to considerable pains in working out just how much could be done by building on bombed and vacant sites which the Tories had left unused and which were in an area too unfashionable to attract any capitalist builder. This gained him many a vote amongst the C’s. Also he showed amazing pluck when one day, after a Mosley meeting through which a Labour van had fought a very rough passage, he took on, unaided and unguarded save by his wife, a gang of Mosleyites and tried to argue them into sense. He deserved every single one of the 3,118 votes he got, and it was a pity he lost his deposit. Things however were against him, for it was obvious from the start that Mosley was going to take more votes from Labour than from the Tories, and that consequently a vote for Hydleman was liable to be a vote for the Tories. With a Labour majority of but 2,943 and pre-election estimates of Mosley’s poll ranging from an optimistic 2,000 to a pessimistic 6,000 there was little leeway for a liberal.

The Tories had tried middle-class candidates and failed. In 1952 they took to Bob Bulbrook as ‘Your Conservative Candidate’. In 1955 he cut Labour’s majority by 2,000. This time he nearly won. The description given of him in the Tory blurb is true. Bob is “a man of the people”, “a forceful and able speaker”, “a very human man”. Indeed I should go further and say that Bob’s earthy wisdom has for the English electorate something of the appeal Lonesome Rhodes—the hero of ‘A Face in the Crowd’—might have for the American. A Trench Inspector with the South Eastern Gas Board by ‘profession’, Bob Bulbrook is a born demagogue. The local Conservative Association is well organised, friendly ladies were there to offer canvassers tea at several Committee Rooms, and when the day came there was a surplus of cars from South Kensington. Yet there was something forced about the wild cheer the blue rosetted and bowler hatted, the elderly public schoolboys and the genteel landladies, the hanging jurymen, and the shopkeepers, the smooth young carreerists with their handsome wives, gave Bob Bulbrook as he came on to the platform at the eve of poll rally. They had just been hearing Sir Harry Hylton Foster—the present Speaker—admonishing them headmasterlike with forefinger uplifted, about the incompetence and irresponsibility of the Socialists, when in burst this comedy figure, this contradiction in terms, this working class Tory. What a speaker! At question time to a question on coloured immigrants—“as far as Bob Bulbrook is concerned they are as welcome as the flowers in May”, and, “they were British too. . . wave it and say you are proud to breathe British”. And then to a question about what the candidate proposed to do about the increasing number of crimes of violence, “Being a man who likes a fight . . . boxing and wrestling all my life”—and here Bob crouched forward, reaching for his knees letting us all see a hefty leather belt which I am sure he would have no hesitation in using should the occasion arise, “I should have no hesitation in supporting any measure for the reintroduction of corporal punishment”. All this with delicious emphasis, followed by the wildest cheers of the evening. To my repeated cries of “Shame” an elderly lady turned round and hissed “You should have been birched when you were a boy”. Fact not Fiction! A similar roar of applause greeted Uncle Bob’s Suez campaign as taught to Tory children. Still Sir Harry Hylton Foster saw nothing wrong with it. Had not anyone read Randolph Churchill? On my way out I felt like kicking a dachshund that had ‘Vote for MacMillan’ on its back. It would have cost me my job.

George Rogers, Labour M.P. for North Kensington and since 1954 Opposition Whip for London was educated at Willesden Elementary School. A former railway clerk and sometime associated with the I.L.P., 1945 swept him in as Corporal George Rogers. Since then he has moved out to Harrow, acquired the middle class accent of a salesman and a car. He is, as Herbert Morrison said at a meeting “a good constituency man”, which, coming from so august an authority, I take to mean “a man who can be trusted not to put principle above party”. George Rogers is liked, indeed well liked, by the majority of his local party, though not by the intellectual and CND faction; and during the campaign all three floors of the Midland Red and Heavy Cream painted party headquarters were teeming with bureaucratic activity. But though “Gorgeous George” as they call him is well liked by all but the idealists in his local party, Mr. Rogers has acquired over the years the reputation of being something of a mystery man. George Rogers is well aware of this and at an election meeting complained bitterly that he had over the years he has sat seen 20,000 of his constitutents, and written 140,000 letters, and that consequently he did not deserve such a piece of Tory Slander. Technically, George Rogers has not neglected his electorate, and were he sitting for a more restful area his performance might pass. Morally, he has. At the time of the Race Riots he had seemingly nothing more constructive to say than that we ought to have coloured policemen to look into coloured vice, and that, besides, the trouble was really caused by people who were not Notting Hill residents at all. At a pre-election meeting he told us how he had done his level best “to ameliorate and palliate” matters—these were the words! He had even been allowed to break his silence as a Party Whip. This however was not good enough. If he has ever attacked the Tory Borough Council about housing none of the people I talked to in Notting Hill had ever heard about it. And recipients of the 140,000 letters he has signed tell me that whether it be slums, German re-armament, or the H-bomb, the answer is always the same—quotations from the Party line. Worse than this: alone amongst the non-fascist candidates, George Rogers saw fit to kow-tow to the incipient racism of his electorate by including a line about getting rid of “undesirable elements”—needless to say no criteria of undesirabilky were specified. I got into an argument at Party headquarters about all this, only to be told how unfair it was to be “too liberal” and how one had to see both sides of the question! With an 877 majority, North Kensington is now a marginal constituency.