Harry Cohen
Exchange of letters about rates flack Harry Cohen April 30/May 1, 1987.
IT'S good to be back. Waltham Forest Guardian June 19, 1987.
COHEN UNREPENTANT ON RATES PROTEST Waltham Forest Guardian February 26, 1988.
BERNARD Weatherill furious with Labour's Whips Private Eye March 4, 1988 no 684
I WON'T PAY! Waltham Forest Guardian February 16, 1990.
MP mourns mum Waltham Forest Guardian October 27, 1994
Harry masters it Waltham Forest Guardian March 2, 1995.
Expenses prosecution? BBC web site March 11, 2010.

Harry Cohen and Eric Heffer at the Grange. See also this link.
Harry Michael Cohen (10 December 1949, Hackney, London) is a politician in the United Kingdom. He has been Member of Parliament for the Labour Party for Leyton and Wanstead since the 1983 election, and is a member of the Socialist Campaign Group. From Wikipedia.
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LEYTON MP Harry Cohen lives to fight another day after holding onto his seat in the General Election, one of the few Labour MP's in London to do so.

From the Waltham Forest Guardian after the election in 1987
Leyton MP refutes accusations on market Waltham Forest Guardian November 21, 1986
IT'S good to be back. Victorious Harry Cohen Waltham Forest Guardian, June 19, 1987.


46, Brunswick Road, Leyton, E10

Age 32.

Married to Ellen, who is studying for an M.A. at London University. 2 "children". Mark (22) and Leila (20).

Career Experience. Qualified local government accountant presently employed as an auditor by NALGO. Previous employment:- 8 years with the London Borough of Hackney and 3 years with the London Borough of Waltham Forest.

Labour Party positions. Active Party member since the age of 15. Collector. Branch Secretary. Branch Treasurer. Local LPYS Chairman. GMC & Executive Cttee member. Annual Conference delegate on several occasions. CLP Treasurer. Political Education Officer.

Waltham Forest Council. Councillor for almost 10 years. Vice-Chairman of the Social Services Cttee. Vice-Chairman of the Environment Cttee. Chairman of Planning Implementation Cttee. Currently, Chairman of Environment Cttee. Labour Group Secretary. Group Policy Cttee member. Council representative on the Area Health Authority, Community Relations Council and the London Boroughs Association.

Trade Union Experience. Member of NALGO for 11 years. Departmental Representative. Branch Executive Cttee member. Branch Auditor. Annual Conference delegate. Currently a member of Assoc. of Clerical, Technical & Supervisory Staffs (ACTSS) which is linked to the TGWU.

Also, a member of the Co-operative Party and the Campaign Against Racism.

NOTE: This dates back to about 1982 and was probably the c.v. Harry produced when he stood as a candidate for the Leyton CLP Parliamentary nomination.

IT'S good to be back. Victorious Harry Cohen fends off the opposition to regain the Leyton seat and return to his duties in parliament. Pictured left to right: Waltham Forest mayor Bill Pearmine, Harry Cohen, and Liberal candidate Simon Banks in the background.


Waltham Forest Guardian June 19, 1987.


MP Harry Cohen's defiant vow but, he warns, copying his lead could prove costly
LEYTON MP Harry Cohen says he will refuse to pay the poll tax. He says he would rather be fined than pay what he claims is an "unjust and iniquitous charge."

The tax is to be levied against all adults when it replaces domestic rates in April. The latest estimate for its level in Waltham Forest is £488.

Mr Cohen is one of 30 Labour MPs who say they will not pay the poll tax, officially called the Community Charge.

He told the Yellow Advertiser: "It is an attack on the poorest people in society. It is a blatant redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich."

However, Mr Cohen, who lives in his constituency in Leytonstone, said others should think carefully before following his example.

I am not trying to lead a mass campaign of non-payment," he said. "Other people have to make decisions for themselves.

"I should think I will be fined and have the poll tax deducted from my earnings. "I can afford not to pay. But for others who are less fortunate, not paying may mean losing their belongings or their home."

Mr Cohen registered to pay the tax but 'fined' himself the £50 penalty for non-registration by donating £25 to the Anti-Poll Tax Campaign and £25 to Greenpeace.

A council survey has revealed that Leyton will be hardest hit by the poll tax because it has a greater number of households with more than two adults.

Meanwhile, households in Chingford, worse off under the rates, will be better off after the change-over because they contain, on average, fewer adults.

A council spokesman said: "Anyone who refuses to pay the poll tax will be summonsed to appear before the magistrates court.

"They will be asked for any good reason why they should not pay it-- and there is none-- and then an order will be made against them.

"This will give the council the powers to sell the person's property or have the tax deducted from pay or benefit. Costs of the action will also be added."

Magistrates will also be able to impose a non-payment fine of up to £200 and if people continue to evade the tax could send them to prison.

Waltham Forest Guardian February 16, 1990.

Harry masters it

LEYTON MP Harry Cohen has proved himself to be a master of politics.

The Labour parliamentarian was all robed up for his congregation ceremony at Birkbeck College, London University, recently to receive his Master's Degree in Politics and Administration.

Former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Dennis Healey was on hand to present him with the degree scroll.

Waltham Forest Guardian March 2, 1995.


BANNED from Parliament for five days — Harry Cohen's penalty for his outburst over rates.

But, unperturbed, the Leyton MP will be back in the House of Commons this week to champion the cause against ratecapping.

Waltham Forest's only Labour MP received a five-day suspension for refusing to keep silent during a debate on the setting of the ratecapping limits.

Mr Cohen claimed that he and other Socialists from ratecapped boroughs were being gagged, while Tories from unaffected areas were allowed to give "frivolous" and long-winded speeches.

Ironically, the suspension followed a day of prayer and fasting by local Christians for Mr Cohen.

They claimed that he had been deliberately fillibustering during the debate on the Alton abortion bill by introducing one on animal protection.

The row at the Commons last Thursday was sparked off after Mr Cohen protested about not being able to put forward his views on the ratecapping limits for Waltham Forest.

He said Environment Under-secretary Christopher Chope stood up to round off the debate and made some jibe about Waltham Forest, saying he would have loved to have heard the arguments in its defence.

Mr Cohen then got to his feet and asked Mr Chope if he could speak on the debate, but he was refused.

He protested again but Speaker Bernard Weatherill refused to let him speak and issued the suspension, effectively banning him from going anywhere near Parliament for five days.

Mr Cohen described the move as scandalous, saying: "It is disgraceful that I and other Labour MPs were not allowed to speak on behalf of their ratecapped boroughs.

"Tory MPs from areas which have not been ratecapped were allowed to speak.

"When you realise that this council has actually set a budget eight per cent lower than the last Tory administration's you begin to realise that ratecapping is just an act of sheer political malice."

He went on to defend his action: "When you're not allowed to speak, then you have to protest."

Mr Cohen's antics did not go unnoticed by Walthamstow MP Hugo Summerson.

He said: "Harry knows very well that quite frequently in debates members are not called because the House runs out of time. This is unfortunate but applies to everyone.

"I'm sorry he won't be called, because I would like to have heard him defend the 62 per cent rate increase."

Waltham Forest Guardian February 26, 1988.

BERNARD Weatherill, the Speaker of the House of Commons, is furious with Labour's Whips whom he blames for landing him in trouble over his suspension for five days of MP Harry Cohen on 18 February.

Cohen, the MP for Leyton, a rate-capped authority, was suspended because he kicked up a fuss about the Speaker failing to call him in the debate which was specifically about ratecapped authorities. No less than 73 MPs went into the Lobby in criticism of the Speaker's decision. That's more than twice the normal number who refuse to back the Speaker on these occasions. Among the 73 were some of Labour's junior front bench spokesmen, including Richard Caborn, Ann Clwyd, Terry Davis, Joan Lestor and Clare Short, all of whom were ordered by Labour's Chief Whip Derek Foster not to support Cohen.

The Speaker, angry beyond belief, argued with Labour MPs and told them to consult their Whips who, he said, had deliberately shortened the debate. "But for their intervention it could have gone on for another 1 1/2 hours until 11.30pm."

Sheepish Labour Whips later admitted that the speaker was right and that they had arranged for an early end to the debate at 10pm to enable Scottish MPs to get home early to their beds.


Private Eye March 4, 1988 no 684
Click to return to index
MP mourns mum

"THE SPARKY old lady" of Chingford as her friends described her has died.

Annie Cohen, mother of Leyton MP Harry, died at Whipps Cross Hospital on Sunday morning. She had been ill for four weeks.

Mrs Cohen spent most of her life at her Higham Station Avenue home. She was a staunch member of the Waltham Forest Co-operative Party, the Chingford Women's Labour Party and the Cooperative Women's Guild.

Mr Cohen said his mother had been a keen anti-fascist during the 1930s. She and his father Emanuel had raised a "dynasty" of people in caring public service.

"Both my sisters are nurses and, until he retired my brother, was a policeman," said Mr Cohen.

Mrs Cohen leaves four children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

The funeral is today (Thursday) at the City of London Crematorium.

Waltham Forest Guardian October 27, 1994
Annie was very much the sparky old lady, or at least she was old by the time I met her. She certainly seemed to be one of those battling grannies you come across sometimes. I found her very impressive, if sometimes a little unsophisticated.
The BBC understands Labour MP Harry Cohen is also being investigated by police over his expenses. BBC home affairs correspondent Daniel Sandford said no file on the Leyton and Wanstead MP had been sent to the Crown Prosecution Service. Mr Cohen, who is standing down at the election, was stripped of a £65,000 pay-off for retiring MPs after a "serious" breach of expenses rules. The police have not confirmed Mr Cohen is being investigated as part of its almost 10-month inquiry into expenses claimed by Parliamentarians and it is not known what the inquiry relates to or what stage it is at. They have said only that a "small number of cases remain subject to consideration by a joint Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service assessment panel or are subject to continuing investigation". Labour MP Harry Cohen is stepping down at the election Mr Cohen apologised to Parliament last month after he was criticised for claiming more than £70,000 in second home allowances for a property in his constituency at a time his designated main home was being let out for long periods. A report by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner found that the second home "could not be regarded as his home for the purpose of claiming parliamentary allowances" as he was not living there. As an MP from an outer London constituency, the report said he should instead have claimed a London supplement that would have entitled him to £9,000 over the same period. Consequently, the report concluded that Mr Cohen received more than £60,000 in public money "to which he was not entitled". The Standards and Privileges Committee, which has the power to recommend sanctions for MPs over their expenses, said the breach was particularly serious and involved a large sum of public money. 'Wife's illness' It said it had "sympathy" for the MP because his wife had been battling serious illness while the MP said his circumstances were unusual because his wife's illness required them to spend more time in the constituency. Mr Cohen argued he had always designated it as his main home and there were periods when it was not let and he was living there.

BBC web site Page last updated at 04:24 GMT, Thursday, 11 March 2010

Regional Conference report 1984
My selection speech July 1985
Forest branch minutes July 8, 1985
62% rates increase 1987
Neil's affidavit and judgement on legality of 62% 1987
Two MPs April 14, 1987
Thank you for your letter

I am trying to save the local Parliamentary seat for Labour in the face of the current considerable Rates flack. any suggestions how this can be done?

Yours sincerely,


PS Surely you, as a journalist could have done a better communications job that the Group & Council have so far done.

London Borough of Waltham Forest


TELEPHONE: 01-527 5544

May 1, 1987.

Dear Harry,

You are right to admonish me for failing to persuade the group torun a better communications exercise.

However, I would point out that I have only been on the council forone year and in addition to the work I do for the council I also have servedas a member of the District Health Authority (sometimes this on its own seemslike virtually a full time job), a member of the London Waste Regulation Authorityand the North London Waste Authority, a member of the London Ecology Authorityand an active deputy (the member rarely turned up) at the London Boroughs GrantsScheme (the Richmond scheme). At the council I chaired the Allotments Committeeand averted possible legal action against the council and got the Children'sPanel off the ground as the first chair. I am a member of the Planning Committeewhich meets twice a session, the Safety & Public Protection Committee, theLeisure Committee and (until recently) the Land Strategy Committee. In my unionI was recently nominated as an NEC member and am about to stand as chair ofmy branch (about the largest in the union). I also have to work for a livingand spent two of the last 52 weeks abroad as part of my job.

I do surgeries, follow up case work and sometimes I even have a beeror two.

Nevertheless, I did move the following motion at my branch during themiddle of last year:"This party calls on the Labour Group on Waltham ForestCouncil to improve publicity. The council should be running poster campaignsand adopting a much higher profile. Harringey Council, for example, seems tohave a poster on virtually every lamp post. The council should also producea magazine advertising its services and provide a range of leaflets about servicesand aid available at points where the public use council buildings (for exampletown halls and libraries). A leaflet giving dates and time of all council meetingsshould also be available at these points."

This was carried by my branch and went through Leyton GMC on November28 , through LGC and arrived at group on January 13.

I also urged the setting up of a publicity committee (this was set upbut only met once) and was appointed a member of this committee. When it metI urged that rapid action be taken but the leadership took the view that wehad to wait until we got our publicity officer in post before we could expectvery much action. It was agreed by the publicity committee that we should gooutside to produce a leaflet on the/rates to be delivered at about the sametime as the rates demands. The last I heard about this was that the leaflethad been produced and could be expected soon. I haven't seen it and don't knowwho the outside consultants were.

By the way the reason I went through the branch, GMC and LGC to geta motion to Group was that when I tried to short cut the procedure on thesmoking ban at council meetings (that also was my motion) I was ruled out oforder by the chair of Group, Mike Macnulty.

Having said that I feel that even if the council had launched the verybest pr campaign money can buy it would have had a lot of problems with therates increase. There is no way to justify a rates increase of 62% when peopleare not having their bins emptied, when libraries are going out on strike andwhen black councillors are going to the press (notably Paul Foot) to implythat we are all racists.

Partly for this reason but mostly because I believe rates are a taxwhich hurt people down the bottom of the scale much harder than people at thetop, I campaigned very strongly in the party and in group against the rateincrease. It was Richard Slack and myself who made speeches at the key group/lgcmeetings and group meetings attacking the rates increase. We always said itwas a stupid thing to do because it would inevitably lead to rate capping whichwould create worse problems than taking action to reduce costs straight away.

As a result of this campaign Richard and myself have lost a lot of credibilityin the group. It would, therefore, seem unlikely that I will be any more successfulin persuading the group to act sensibly in future than I have in the past.

But no doubt you are right that I should have tried harder and if Ihad it all to do over I would certainly have made this my key activity.

Secondly, in your letter you as me to suggest how you can save the local parliamentary seat. If I were you I would certainly stress that as an MP you are involved in quite a different field from the councillors. Councillors have only limited powers and can only dowhat the Government allows them to do while an MP in a Labour Government couldgenuinely improve the material conditions of everyone locally. Secondly, Ithink you should attempt to persuade Walworth Road to change its mind aboutthe constituency aiding Ilford. For myself I will work mostly in Ilford andnot locally unless the national party changes its mind. The local party hasno right to challenge the decision of the national party on this issue.

Finally, I believe that you will be re-elected. In fact I have neverwavered from that view but I did warn that Eric would be in trouble and intruth I now believe he has very little chance of being re-elected.

Yours sincerely,
Jo Brind
Eric Deakins loses the Walthamstow seat