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My constituency of Kensington is at breaking point – no wonder it voted Labour

Soaring house prices have almost eradicated a culture of carnival and immigration.

Kensington makes no attempts to hide its overwhelming bougie-ness, so it’s no surprise the poverty within its constituent boundaries often goes unnoticed. With its huge, white-washed Victorian houses, private gardens and a palpable sense of entitlement, it’s no wonder the area has consistently voted Tory. It’s home to Kensington Palace and to Hyde Park, and offers second or third homes to numerous Russian oligarchs and former 90s pop stars.

My family moved to West London before I was born, and we were what you’d describe as "definition gentrification". I attended the state school, where I got to learn steel pans, and used to sell Ribena on my doorstep during Notting Hill Carnival. It was clear to me the extreme privilege under which I lived – but also that the area was still attempting to cling on to a culture that was being eradicated by rising house prices.

But don’t be fooled by the sparkling white properties. Kensington, the UK's richest constituency, also contains the joint poorest ward in London. My old state primary school still exists, but the houses in the catchment area sell for millions of pounds, pricing out local residents from a decent education. 

The area’s problems had been growing, and this time it reached breaking point. For the first time ever in its existence, last week’s election saw the constituency go Labour by just 20 votes. What felt like screaming into the void turned out to be one of the most important votes I had ever placed.

I’m surprised the constituents of Kensington came through, but when you take a closer look, it doesn’t seem as strange as you might think. At the core of the Kensington vote is the fatal mistake of placing an ill-fitting, Eurosceptic MP in a highly pro-EU borough. Lady Victoria Borwick voted to leave, despite 68.7 per cent of her (former) constituents voting to remain.

A friend of mine told me how her family, who had only ever voted Conservative, refused to do so because of Borwick's betrayal over Brexit. Labour and Lib Dem posters started to appear in the area. Despite Kensington's rise as a haven for the super rich, those who have lived there for years and in particular, the young who grew up there, refused to forget its past. While Brexit may have pushed the core Conservative voters away, its combination with a politically engaged young vote gave Kensington that final push it needed.

Borwick was also not the most palatable of Tory MPs. She consistently voted against laws to promote equality and human rights, voted against higher taxes on banks, and against laws to combat climate change. She refused to attend the second hustings of this general election campaign, after being heckled by constituents in the first. She apparently convinced Theresa May to remove an ivory trade ban from her manifesto

She also disliked one of the area's most defining features: Carnival. Despite its affluence today, in the mid 20th century, Notting Hill was a rundown slum. In the late 1940s, West Indian workers arrived to solve a post-war labour crisis. They started what is now the Notting Hill Carnival.

You might think keeping such an event going might be seen as the least you can do for pricing out an entire generation and community, but Borwick hated Carnival. Despite the event being statistically less dangerous than Glastonburyshe constantly scaremongered about it on her blog, writing about the negligible crime rates and damage to small business. Her ultimate insult to the area? Starting talks to remove Carnival.

No doubt it was Brexit that motivated traditional Kensington Tories to vote Labour. But Corbynism may have also increased the young vote in the area, and compelled those who felt disenfranchised to vote. Despite its affluence, Kensington deserved a change. Carnival is going red this year.

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People are not prepared to see innovation at any price - we need to take care of our digital health

Correcting the course of technology in Britain does not need to mean taking backwards steps and becoming an anti-innovation zone.

As individuals, we have never been better connected. As a society, we are being driven further apart.

Doteveryone’s People Power and Technology report, released this week, found that half of the 2,500 British people we surveyed said the internet had made life a lot better for people like them - but only 12 per cent saw a very positive impact on society.

These findings won’t be news to most people living in Brexit Britain - or to anyone who’s been involved in a spat on Twitter. The fact that we’re constantly connected to our smartphones has not necessarily improved our communities or our understanding of one other, and the trails of data we’re leaving behind are not turning into closer social bonds.

Many of the positives we experience are for ourselves as individuals.

Lots of consumer tech puts simple self-sufficiency first - one-click to buy, swipe right to date - giving us a feeling of cosy isolation and making one little phone an everywhere. This powerful individualism is a feature of all of the big platforms - and even social networks like Facebook and Twitter, that are meant bring us together, do so in the context of personalised recommendations and algorithmically ordered timelines.

We are all the centre of our own digital worlds. So it is no surprise that when we do look up from our phones, we feel concerned about the impact on society. Our research findings articulate the dilemma we face: do we do the thing that is easiest for us, or the one that is better for society?

For instance, 78 per cent of people see the Internet as helping us to communicate better, but 68 per cent also feel it makes us less likely to speak to each other face-to-face. 69per cent think the internet helps businesses to sell their products and services, while 53 per cent think it forces local shops to compete against larger companies online.

It’s often hard to see the causality in these trade-offs. At what point does my online shopping tip my high street into decline? When do I notice that I’ve joined another WhatsApp group but haven’t said hello to my neighbour?

When given clear choices, the public was clear in its response.  

We asked how they would feel if an online retailer offered free one-day delivery for lower income families, but this resulted in local shops closing down - 69 per cent found this unacceptable. Or if their bank invested more in combating fraud and cyber crime, but closed their local branch - 61 per cent said it was unacceptable. Or if their council made savings by putting services online and cut council tax as a result, but some people would find it hard to access these services - 56 per cent found it unacceptable.

It seems people are not prepared to see innovation at any price - and not at the expense of their local communities. The poorest find these trade offs least acceptable.

Correcting the course of technology in Britain does not need to mean taking backwards steps and becoming an anti-innovation zone.

A clearer regulatory environment would support positive, responsible change that supports our society, not just the ambition of a few corporations.

Some clarity about our relationship with web services would be a good start. 60 per cent of people Doteveryone spoke to believed there should be an independent body they can turn to when things go wrong online; 89 per cent would like terms and conditions to be clearer, and 47% feel they have no choice but to sign up to services, even when they have concerns.

Technology regulation is complicated and fragmentary. Ofcom and the under-resourced Information Commissioner’s Office, provide some answers,but they are not sufficient to regulate the myriad effects of social media, let alone the changes that new technologies like self-driving cars will bring. There needs to be a revolution in government, but at present as consumers and citizens we can’t advocate for that. We need a body that represents us, listens to our concern and gives us a voice.

And the British public also needs to feel empowered, so we can all make better choices - adults and children alike need different kinds of understanding and capability to navigate the digital world. It is not about being able to code: it is about being able to cope.

Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and well-being, and reduce health inequalities. Perhaps we need a digital equivalent, to protect and improve our digital health and well-being, and reduce digital inequalities.

As a society, we should not have to continually respond and adapt to the demands of the big corporations: we should also make demands of them - and we need confidence, a voice, and representation to begin to do that.

Rachel Coldicutt is chief executive of Doteveryone.