June Cohen was elected as a Communist Councillor for the rural seat of Great Yeldham, Halstead Rural District Council, Essex at precisely 9pm on Tuesday 9th May 1967, on the same day she was also elected as a Communist Parish Councillor for Great Yeldham.
Originally from London, June’s paternal grandfather was Malcolm MacFarlane, a foundation member of the Communist Party. In 1960, she moved with her husband to Great Yeldham, Halstead.
On her arrival in the village she discovered that the two Tories standing as “Independents” had been elected for the ward for the previous fourteen years. So, when the local Saffron Waldon Labour party approached the Communist Party in 1964 to stand candidates in order that “at least there would be a poll”, she was more than happy to step forward.
June recalled that her candidacy was not only unique because she was a Communist and that it was unusual to stand on a party political platform in a rural area, but that they had the tenacity to put out the first election address ever seen by local voters in local elections. At this first election, June polled 73 votes.
The Halstead Communist Party branch took the decision to contest the 1967 election. (The branch actually only had one member residing in Halstead, with a further six in other widely scattered villages). In the ntervening years, the branch organised as diverse activities as rent campaigns (1964-1965), letters to the press, and work on the Cottage Garden Society.
In 1965, June’s son David was born and she made contact with other mothers at Yeldham clinic. Despite not being in paid employment, she kept up her membership of the Clerical & Administrative Workers Union, even thought her branch met twelve miles away in Braintree,
During the 1964 election, the local Tenants Association issued a newsletter urging the electors to vote for “two working class candidates”. June stated shortly afterwards that “There is no doubt that this was an important contributory factor in my election to Halstead Rural District Council.” It was a remarkable achievement by any standards, leading the new Communist councillor to say that: “I would like to say that nothing I have yet done in my life (with the possible exception of giving birth to my son) has given me quite the same sense of achievement as this. An extremely important factor was a strong teamwork of my own branch, the Communist Party branch at Sudbury, and of Harry Fawcett our Communist Party District Secretary.”
After her election victory, articles appeared in the East Anglian Daily Times, Ipswich Evening Star, Essex Chronicle, Evening Standard, The Scotsman (because of her link with Malcolm MacFarlane) and Anglia television.
It should also be recalled that Braintree had a Communist councillor for a period Harold Quinton and, in the largely crypto-Communist MP, Tom Driberg certainly a strong ally.
Source: Comment 24th June 1967