Former Labour candidate for Hastings and Rye dies aged 87

Bernard Kissen and Harold Wilson
Bernard Kissen and Harold Wilson

A former parliamentary candidate for Hastings and Rye who ‘helped change the way Hastings Labour did politics’ died last month, aged 87.

Bernard Kissen was Labour’s candidate for both the 1966 and 1970 general elections in Hastings and was a little more than 2,000 votes away from winning Labour the seat for the very first time in 1966.

Born in 1930, Mr Kissen is survived by his wife Helen and two sons Mark and Nicholas.

Michael Foster, the MP for Hastings and Rye from 1997 to 2010, said: “(Bernard Kissen’s) 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.”

Mr Kissen first became involved in politics in 1945 before going on to practice as a solicitor in Cricklewood, London.

He would spend his mornings at the office before travelling to Hastings with his wife to campaign most evenings and weekends when he stayed at a house in Fairlight Road, Hastings.

Mr Kissen went on to join local government where he served as a councillor in the London Borough of Hillingdon and later Camden.

He moved to Israel in 1982 before returning to the UK to live out his retirement years in Kentish Town, in Camden.

Following Mr Kissen’s death on November 14, Hastings and Rye Labour added: “Our thoughts are with his wife Helen and his two sons, Mark and Nicholas.”