THE man who lays claim to being Hampstead’s first Labour MP back in 1966, Ben Whitaker, keeps his powder dry these days, seeing no need to publicly lecture us with his view on how those who have followed after him are getting on. He does, however, keep up to speed with Camden’s changing politics, reading the local papers, and this week came a rare contribution from the 78 year-old in the New Journal’s letters pages. It basically tells people to buzz off if they are thinking about blaming current parliamentary candidate Tulip Siddiq for library cuts.
Whitaker was a one term MP and the Tories were back in control of Hampstead by 1970. Ken Livingstone, who failed to recreate his success when he lost to Geoffrey Finsberg there at the end of the 1970s, has his own theory as to why Whitaker won.
In his memoirs, You Can’t Say That, Ken explained, in a familiarly carefree passage about the type of voters in the north west of the borough: “Ben Whitaker became Hampstead’s first MP in 1966 when the actor Peter O’Toole hired a coach with Guinness on tap and went round the pubs of Kilburn promising a free drink and ride to the polling station for anyone voting Labour.”