Orbituary – Bernard Kissen

Hastings & Rye CLP is saddened to hear of the death of one of our former Parliamentary Candidates – Bernard Kissen. (Bernard is pictured here with Harold Wilson)

Our thoughts are with his wife Helen and his two sons, Mark & Nicholas.

Michael Foster has very kindly provided us with the following statement and information:

Obituary: Bernard Kissen (Labour’s Hastings Parliamentary Candidate, 1966 and 1970)

Michael Foster (Labour MP for Hastings and Rye 1997-2010)

At the age of 87 Bernard Kissen has died. Bernard was Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate in the 1966 and 1970 General Election in Hastings and in 1966 was within a little over 2000 votes from winning the seat for the very first time.

His challenge to Sir Neil Cooper-Key, the long term backwoodsman who represented Hastings at the time, probably led to the removal of Sir Neil when the Tories realised that in Bernard they were up against a force of nature.

It was Bernard who I recall as a Young Socialist, helped to change the way we did politics in Hastings Labour. I recall in particular that his main campaign was to encourage the Party to place a candidate in every election ward. Before then, Hastings had three or four seats which it won and the rest were left to the Tories. The certainty of Tory control was absolute.

Bernard’s campaigning style was to ensure that everyone had the chance to vote Labour every year thus it was the foundation of our subsequent success. His community involvement using his skills as a solicitor in forming the Hastings Leaseholder’s Association gave him much local credibility.

Although practicing as a solicitor in Cricklewood, Bernard would work in his Cricklewood office in the morning then travel to Hastings with his wife Helen and they would campaign most evenings, living at the weekends in Fairlight Road. I recall many meetings in Lyons Tea Room (now Nationwide Building Society) in Hastings Town Centre to plot the Tories downfall!

In the event, it was not to be and in 1970 the swing to the Tories nationally defeated what should have been the first Labour MP for Hastings. I was pleased to take on the baton as a twenty-something in 1974 and again in 1979 and to have the opportunity to be the first Labour MP in Hastings and Rye in 1997, building as we did over the years on Bernard’s legacy.

Bernard entered local government where he served as a councillor in the London Borough of Hillingdon and later on in the London Borough of Camden.

Bernard became involved in politics in 1945 and in 1982 went to live in Israel although later coming back to the UK where he lived out his retirement in Kentish Town. He is survived by his wife Helen who lives in Kentish Town, and his two sons Nicholas and Mark.

About The Author

Hastings and Rye Labour