Emma Dent Coad, MP for Kensington and Chelsea / AFP PHOTO / CHRIS J RATCLIFFE (Photo credit should read CHRIS J RATCLIFFE/AFP/Getty Images)
When Labour won the seat of Kensington in this year’s general election it was a totemic result that symbolised the revenge of metropolitan liberals over the Tory party that had produced Brexit. Turnout rose and a 10.6% swing from the Conservatives to Labour meant Emma Dent Coad was the new MP with a majority of only 20 votes.
Days later, the Grenfell Tower disaster put her very prominently in public view as one of the faces of the crisis. But after the initial shock, as the country struggled to process what had happened and missteps on the media were understandable, it became obvious that, among those pontificating, Dent Coad’s response continued to sound odd or deficient. As a councillor, she had served on the body that looked after Grenfell Tower. She had praised the renovation of the Tower. This is not to allocate a shred of blame to her or anyone else, that would be ridiculous and there is a public inquiry ongoing. I simply observe that anyone with such a role or involvement might be a little more humble on television and self-reflective when discussing Grenfell, what it happened, and what it meant.
Since then, strange comments by Dent Coad on other matters have surfaced. On Prince Harry – who risked his life flying Apaches in a warzone – she was appalling. She told a fringe meeting:
“Harry can’t actually fly a helicopter.”
(That’s not true, but anyway.)
“He tried to pass the helicopter exam about four times and he couldn’t get through it at all so he always goes for the co-pilot. So he just sits there going ‘vroom vroom’.”
Was it a joke? If so it is material barely suitable for a third rate stand-up trying to impress with lame remarks about the monarchy.
Then this week, Guido Fawkes revealed that she had described the Conservative former candidate Shaun Bailey as a “token ghetto boy.” In 2010 she wrote: “Who can say where this man will ever fit in, however hard he tries? One day he is the ‘token ghetto boy’ standing behind D Cameron, the next ‘looking interested’ beside G Osborne. Ever felt used?”
A Tory or Lib Dem MP revealed to have been using similar language about a Labour candidate would have found their feet not touching the floor on their way out the door. Dent Coad has apologised, but it was a strange apology. She apologised, she told BBC Radio London, if Mr Bailey was offended. She had been quoting “an Afro-Caribbean” constituent, she claimed.
Once again, as with the disgraced Jarad O’Mara, the Labour’s party’s most basic vetting appears to have broken down. Is there any? A standard run through the blog or search for letters sent by Emma Dent Coad to newspapers would have revealed matters of concern. Yet somehow, the Labour party – a once great political party – waved her through and into the Commons.