Labour’s history maker steps down less than a month after election win

Tories promise to have a candidate 'here for four years, not four minutes'

Thursday, 26th May — By Richard Osley

Adrian Cohen

Adrian Cohen at the election count after being alerted that he might have won in Hampstead Town by a CNJ tweet

IT was the big story of an election night during which Labour piled on the misery for the Tories – a candidate winning for the first time in a ward which once seemed impossible.

But, just 20 days after making local political history by getting elected in Hampstead Town for the party, Adrian Cohen has now stepped down.

As revealed first on the New Journal’s website yesterday (Wednesday) morning, arrangements are being made at the Town Hall to send residents in the area back to the polls on July 7 to find a replacement.

Labour council leader Georgia Gould did not comment on how much this would cost financially but it is estimated that running a new ballot could cost around £20,000.

She said: “I’m sorry that Hampstead voters will be asked to go back to the polls so quickly, but Camden Labour are committed to standing up for Hampstead Town residents over the next four years.”

Mr Cohen’s victory was the first time Labour had ever won in Hampstead Town and led to a bizarre moment that will go down in parochial folklore: a “paper candidate”, he had to be roused from his sleep to be told he might actually have won.

He raced to the counting hall after seeing a New Journal tweet suggesting a surprise victory might be in store.

The was seen as an illustration of just how far Labour was ahead in London earlier this month; it also took overall control of Barnet and Westminster, both once considered important Conservative strongholds.

But now Labour must see if they can repeat the trick in a one-off showdown which will see the Tories looking to quickly recover a lost seat here and interest the Liberal Democrats, who have held seats in the ward before.

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq could not be reached last night amid rumours that she was “furious” about how the debacle had played out.
Her successes in the area at recent general elections perhaps were one of the best indicators that enough of the ward’s residents might be prepared to vote Labour.

Conservative leader Councillor Gio Spinella said: “He [Mr Cohen] was clearly not ready to be a councillor.

“We appreciate his honesty in standing down but this does show Labour were not serious about Hampstead Town and its residents and issues.”

He added that his party had served the ward over a period “stretching back years” and added: “We hope that in the weeks to come Hampstead Town residents will be prepared to look at us with fresh eyes and allow us to once more represent them fully with a councillor who will be there for four years and not four minutes.”

Mr Cohen’s name had not appeared on a thank you leaflet distributed in the area over the weekend, and the signs that a by-election was in the wind were there when Labour held a street stall in South End Green ­– not the more commonplace locations for the party over the years.

In a statement released before the annual mayor-making meeting last night, Mr Cohen confirmed he would not be serving as a councillor.

“I would like to thank the residents of Hampstead Town for electing me to be one of their two councillors representing the ward,” he said. “This historic victory for Labour was truly unexpected. Unfortunately my personal circumstances now mean I cannot take up the seat as a Hampstead Town councillor.

“I am deeply sorry that I cannot do justice to your support, but Hampstead Town deserves a Labour representative who can work every single day for our community.”

He added: “I can’t do that and it would be wrong for me to serve as your councillor when I know I cannot give you the attention and dedication the job
needs – consistent with my values and the values of Camden Labour.

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