Harold Hill History Index


13th May 1971
Labour swept into power with 30 seats. The Conservatives held 13 and the Independents 12. It proved to be Labour's biggest victory to date (2015). Michael Ward took control as leader. Frank and Rita Coffin were returned again with huge majorities, probably the biggest ever seen on Harold Hill. The Conservatives and the Liberals got short shrift.


Coffin R. C. Mrs Lab 3456
Coffin F. J. Lab 3310
Dodge G. F. Lab 3119
Collins P. J. Lib 529
Mawson C. A. Mrs Con 372
Everitt H. G. H. Con 348
Nock H. D. Con 347
Hurlstone T. Lib 263
Keeper T. W. Lib 222

Spindler J. A. Mrs Lab 2234
Ward M. J. Lab
Cure D. J. Con 286
Souter E. D. Miss Con 279

Heath-Coleman S. G. Lab 2684
Whiting R. J. Lab 2668
Heagerty M. J. Con 213
Orrin M. P. Mrs Con 199
Cohen R. Comm 137

George Dodge appeared on the scene for Labour and stayed around until standing down in 1978. Stanley Heath-Coleman, having fought a successful by election in 1969 fought on for what was to be his last election. He lived in Harold Wood and ran a small business there. He was the first person with a double barrelled name to ever be elected on Harold Hill, which was no small feat. He never troubled Harold Hill's single barrelled voters ever again. Reg Whiting soldiered on just as he would for many unsung years to come. Mrs Orrin was eventually elected elsewhere for the Conservatives and served for a while alongside her husband Tom. Ben Cohen tried again, flying the flag for the left. He was never under any illusion that he could win as a Communist. At any time he could have left the Communist Party, joined Labour and he would have walked any local election. To his credit he was never tempted and stayed true to the cause right until the end.

Frank and Rita Coffin (above) were very different political animals to Ben Cohen. They were no less staunch in their beliefs and no less determined in their cause. Frank and Rita served on Havering Council for many years, both in turn becoming Mayors of the borough. They earned the respect of all who came into contact with them. They were Quakers and in their quiet determined way they were both dedicated to working for the benefit of Harold Hill's working class people. Ben was far more radical, far more impatient and far more dogmatic. Ben was on a hiding to nothing, and his whole life was devoted to "the cause". He had many, many successes but whenever it came to elections, he could never win. He never had any doubts that the odds were stacked, but he was never downcast. With all the skill and patience of the teacher that he was, he would never stop "educating" and explaining the iniquities of the capitalist system. I argued with him at every opportunity and at times with vehemence, as a result I learned a lot from him.


The Laurie Hall arrest opposite took place in about 1969/70. The Tory Council of the day had given permission for the hall to be used by the then leader of the extreme right wing National Front, John Tyndall. A protest demo was organised and in the confrontation, which was very mild by today's standards, Ben Cohen was arrested. Ben, and his son Michael were at the protest. It's not clear if his younger son Simon was present. Michael recalls " When he was arrested I and a few others ran up to the police station only to find the commanding officer trying to throw dad out of the police station because he was too well known and was also  demanding a doctor to treat other protesters who had been injured' during their transportation to the nick. Though he was later found guilty of assaulting a police officer he was never fined or imprisoned and the magistrate/judge ordered the police to pay all the court costs! He obviously knew what had gone on." Looking back I think Ben was quite pleased with the outcome, as nobody was really hurt and he hit the headlines.

Ben and his wife Robbie were stalworts of the local communist party, having lived in Gooshays Drive, in Harold Hill since its beginnings. They were active in numerous campaigns fighting for Harold Hill’s working class. Ben was a teacher and Robbie worked in the kitchens of the Royal Liberty School. Sadly Ben met a premature death in a plane crash in Cuba in 1977. He was 67 years old.

Ben Cohen

Terry Hurlstone comments...Regarding May 1971 state that the Libs only fielded one candidate..... we put up three, all Young Liberal activists ..... Terry Hurlstone, Tom Keeper & Phil Collins. I am very surprised that you have forgotten our lively campaign as we had a write up in the Evening Standard......" Singing their way to Success?" Terry Tom & Phil they are the boys for Harold Hill..... Vote Liberal, was our campaign song. Our campaign was supported by the famous BBC cricket commentator John Arlott..... He kindly recorded a message to "the electors of Harold Hill" urging them to vote for these three young liberals. Sadly the tape is lost. I was the campaign organiser, & with Tom, persuaded Phil to make up the team as a paper candidate....he did no work & got more votes than me & Tom..... his name was third on the ballot paper,above George Dodge,...a lesson ? Michael Ward was a very nice bloke...... He came from a Liberal family..... his uncle , Tom Dove O.B.E. President of Romford Liberals, was my mentor ...although well over 80 he encouraged us young Libs. Michael progressed to the Lib Dems & became Paddy Ashdowns speechwriter, before returning to Labour. Keep up the good work. P. S. Phil Collins wife, Mell is the Green parliamentary candidate for Upminster......I have joined the Greens.

Thanks for that correction Terry, I have to admit that I got it wrong, I lifted the figures from a third party and left half of Gooshays behind. The results above are now amended and complete. I have no personal memory of the event, for god's sake who would.

Below the campaign leaflet of the Liberals, nice to see "young" Terry and his boys putting in the effort. Terry went on to fight the longest string of unsuccessful attempts to gain a seat on Havering council in history. He became the local equivalent of the nationally famous loser, Lieutenant Commander William George Boaks who stood and lost in every general election from 1951 until his death in 1986. NB. Terry is still alive, for the time being.


Mills, W.C. Lab 1,633
Noyes, Mrs M. E. Con 161
Hurlstone, T. Lib 77


O'Flynn, D. R. Lab 1,014
Mrs A. M. Con 170
Grant, B. A. Lib 38

Rudlin, Mrs M. M. Lab 1,299
Reilly, L. J. Con 116
Cohen, R. Comm 56
Thomson, C. G. Dwarf 22
Keeper, T. W. Lib

By Elections 8/7/71

There were three by elections just eight weeks after the election. These were triggered when three Harold Hill Councillors were made Aldermen. Wilf Mills, Denis O'Flynn, and May Rudlin were duly elected to the Council for the first time. For Denis O'Flynn and Wilf Mills it was to be a long stay.

All Councillors are chosen by the electorate, but Aldermen were elected by their fellow councillors. In London boroughs, Aldermen constituted one sixth of the Council and served for a term of six years, half being elected every third year. Aldermen were usually selected from amongst existing Council members, but since the only legal requirement was that an Alderman should be qualified to be a local authority councillor, it was possible to place people on the Council who had never won an election. There were feeble arguments for this thoroughly undemocratic process and many good arguments against. The archaic position of Alderman was finally abolished in 1974.

4th May 1974
After three short years Labour lost its overall majority and were reduced to 26 seats. The Conservatives held 20 and the Independents 9. The council was run by a coalition of Conservatives and Independents.

Coffin, F. J. Lab 1,907
Dodge, G. F. Lab 1,834
Mills, W. C. Lab 1,722
Cutcher, P. S. Con 560
Mawson, Mrs C. A. M. C. Con 499
Marsden, Mrs P. J. Con 489
Ingle, D. J. Lib 253
Ingle, Mrs M. E. Lib 236
Wright, Mrs J. M. Lib 222

Spindler, Mrs J. A. lab 1,301
D O'Flynn, D. R. lab 1,278
Cure, D. J. Con 373
Forster, R. G. Con 353
Maynard, B. G. Lib 184
Rabone, A. E. Lib 152

Whitworth, R. E. lab 1,558
Rudlin, Mrs M. M. lab 1,524
Lewis, G. RA 1,068 Thompson
Brabner, R. N. Con 325

Wilf Mills followed up on his 1971 by election victory with a win in 1974 and he went on to represent Labour on Harold Hill until he was finally deselected by his Labour Party Branch and consequently could not stand in the 2006 election. He served on most major committees and was both deputy leader under Arthur Latham and Ray Harris. For a short time during the tumult caused by the defection of four Labour Councillors in 1997 and following the subsequent "resignation" of Arthur Latham he was caretaker leader of the Labour group and Leader of the Council. Wilf lived in Collier Row and still does. He is no longer active in politics and was deeply embittered by his deselection. The successful deselection followed several other attempts over the years. In 1994 the Hilldene branch did manage to deselect him but irregularities in the branch procedure led to his reinstatement. Wilf is an easy going, likeable, generous bloke he always did his share of election work and he always turned up to meetings. His problem was that he was very much on the right of the party and too compliant and easily swayed by council officers, they saw him as a pushover. So did Arthur Latham and that's why he was always Arthur's preferred choice as his number two. I mostly disagreed with Wilf on tactics but I couldn't always nail him down because he swayed with the wind and never liked to make a fuss. "When the gang of four were eventually expelled from the Labour Party he often referred to us as NAZIs it didn't endear us to him. Wilf was simply "a governors man." Dennis Cook considered him to be a "man of straw" we have all met them, they quietly get on, they cause little fuss and achieve very little, and all the time they occupy space that could well be used by others to greater effect.  Wilf spent his entire political life treading water, always being there and yet creating not so much as a ripple. It's very sad but very true.

Below I have copied and pasted an email written by Wilf Mills on 26/4/15. It is his response to the above. It has not been cut or changed in any way, and that includes the spelling and grammar. (DS is me, Del Smith)

Wilf can send me a revised text at any time.

"Harold Hill councillor DS (who was the Chief Whip at the time) was an out and out Traitor to the Labour Party and his  colleges on the Group . Arthur  Latham  (AL) was the Leader of the council and Wilf Mills (WM) was deputy leader.
He and his fellow traitors sided with the Tories and the Residents association , which destroyed an elected Labour council  and put a Tory/RA plus his  traitors in control of Havering Council. RA Louise Sinclair was now Number ONE in Havering. (thanks to D S)  He even took the Mayoralty for, I believe his final year just as a final slur to A L  I always and still do believe there was a lot more to his treachery than just his hatred for A L.    Question =  Why stab all your colleges in the back just so as to  get one of them you hate. It doesn't say much for his so called Socialist Beliefs or political acumen let alone his concern for his once were colleges . They  defected just before the group AGM when if they had stayed D S  and other supporters (not defectors) would have been in the majority and got their way Democratically, goodbye AL and W M .
D S had tried his stab in the back method against A L in a previous council but members like me told him where to go . If my memory serves me correctly the collard Bill Harrision to be Leader but it all fell through ,no room at the Inn for either 0f them.
I have on record the number of times he and his fellow traitors voted with the Tory/RAs against their Labour Group, it is well over 100. 
(WM)  was and had been in serious discussions for some months PRIOR to DS and his gang of deserters action. Quite a few meetings  took place, well  away from Havering with  A L as too his relinquishing the leadership. WM had visited the Labour Party H Q at region and kept them informed ( mostly by phone) of the action he was taking . Their advice was to be very careful and keep it on a friendly basis, even if it takes a few months longer. A L was a figure of, like it or not "Some Substance" in the London Labour Party. Publicity was the last thing they wanted. W Ms action against A L was because of his unaceptable behaviour Privately and his attitude towards the Council, plus his poor Group Leadership which was bringing the Labour Council and the party into disrepute. 
Had D S not acted as he did A L would have departed as Leader and probably had resigned as a Councillor at least 12 months prior to when he did.. 
Many things we all tolerated from A L but disrepute I and others said (to quote WSC) "Up with it ,we would not put."he must go. 
Because of members like Denis O'Flynn,  Masie Whitelock. Tony Gordon and Wilf Mills , who all (plus others) contributed greatly  in A Ls demise and later of course the Labour Group that stayed in one piece after the event.
WM and Ray Harris (RH) led the group into victory at the next Havering Election, we completed a full five year term, R as leader W as deputy. They were happy days indeed, will they ever come back I ask myself.

PLEASE NOTE.  I do not in any way other than to give Mike Davis full respect in returning to the Party and once again playing a part in local politics. Mikes action in returning as he did took a lot of courage and I am pleased  to give him full credit for doing so. I am always pleased to see Mike, at anytime.

WILF MILLS  =  A  true and trusted member since his release from the Army in 1947 and a child deliverer for a few years prior to  WW ll 

Member of  Romford Borough Council until its demise via Edward Heath  (E H ). The same E H who took us into Europe without asking anyone but himself, perhaps you don't remember. I do. 

Member of L B Havering  from the begining . 

Served over 42 years as a Councillor in Romford and Havering and would put his record of loyality and other whatevers up against anyone.


Mike Davis was one of the four "traitors" though it seems he is now forgiven, at least by Wilf. His recollections are reproduced below. .

"It is interesting to read some recent emails mainly emanating from Del Smith and Wilf Mills   as well as various other labour supporters and members, therefore, as I am mentioned in Wilf’s treatise perhaps I should add my take on the history of those times.
I was first elected as a Labour Councillor in Mawney Ward in 1986 and immediately learned to distrust (Arthur Latham) who without gentleness, ousted Ron Whitworth in order to take his place as Leader of the labour group. The following four years - our labour group took active roles in opposing the then Tory / Ratepayer Administration. Housing was my passion then and it still is today. In those days Geoff Otter was the spokesperson on housing for the Labour Group. Geoff, whose primary skill was being obnoxious, mostly to all the Tory/Ratepayers. When they announced in 1988 that they intended to sell off the whole housing stock to an Housing Association, Both Steffan Koseda (another Labour group Member) and I decided to bypass Geoff Otter and take the strategic fight to the council tenants. We set up our own campaign organisation and registered ourselves as a new housing association.
Over the next year we put out newsletters, posters, and numerous letters to the papers, all aimed at fighting the sell-off. In just a couple of months our posters “Tenant’s Alert” were being displayed in council flats and house windows across all the working class parts of the Borough.
In 1990 The Labour group formed a minority administration and right up until 1994 the whole labour group had admiration and respect for the way Arthur played not only the other opposition members but the Council officers as well. Sadly in the following elections in 1994 the labour group fell just short of becoming a majority administration. During this period Arthur's acolytes (some twelve councillors) would blindly support Arthur in anything he said or did. Wilf was the Deputy Leader at the time and Del Smith was the Chief Whip.  Del was working hard at getting our policies on board with the other group leaders but unfortunately Wilf was clearly in Arthur’s pocket. By 1996 Arthur made two attempts to oust me from the Chair of the Housing Committee. Firstly by rigging the vote to place Ray Shaw in the Housing Chair. It transpired within days that he just could not hack the responsibilities and he resigned. Then within a couple of months Arthur and his acolytes pulled a second stunt and got Steffan Kosea elected to the Chair, by one vote. Steffan lasted very much longer than Ray Shaw at least a couple of months.
It was clear to me that Arthur and his henchmen were gunning for me, and  I therefore had no hesitation in joining Del, Denis cook and Tony Hunt, in resigning the Labour Whip.
No Wilf, Del was not the traitor – it was you and those others who like you did not have the backbone to see Arthur for what he was – a devious, dangerous, manipulator who was only interested in controlling you and his other gang members.

Mike Davis.  29/4/15.

Reg Whiting never stood in the 1974 election but he was returned in a by election in April 1975 after an absence of less than a year. He replaced May Rudlin. Reg served from 1968 until he stood down for good in 1986 never having lost an election.

I will say no more about Reg than I wrote in an obituary that was published in the Romford Recorder in 2010.

" I was a neighbour, friend and comrade of Reg Whiting for many years. He certainly did his stint when Harold Hill was solidly voting for Labour. I lived a few doors down from him in Edenhall Rd for ten years, so I would see him a fair bit. Self effacing and never frightened to do his share of the donkey work, canvassing, delivering leaflets and collecting subs. He also held numerous offices in the local Labour Party and his trade union. I last saw Reg 12 or 13 years ago by which time I had moved away from Edenhall Rd and  he had retired from active politics. I don't think the labour party has so many Reg Whitings nowadays. He was a carpenter and was a few fingers light to prove it. Old fashioned in his way I remember in the latter years after he retired when he went rather quiet for a year or two and then turned up with a woman he introduced as "my lady friend" Later I believe he married for the second time. Reg was approachable and completely unstuffy. Reg was what Harold Hillians call "allright.""

Reg died in the summer of 2010. He was 87.


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