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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Tony Benn

Sorry to hear of the death of Tony Benn, otherwise Anthony Wedgwood Benn, who many years ago gave up his inherited title (he was Viscount Stansgate) in order to become a member of the House of Commons. He was of course regarded by a large proportion of the press as a dangerous Red, and commonly ridiculed by the right-wing press In fact, he was that rarest of all things, an honest politician. His honesty was transparent, and ordinary people recognised that: he was for some time the most popular politician in Britain. He always seemed to me to be about the only genuine Socialist in the house of Commons, both in the Governments in which he served and when in opposition – and he continued to impress in the years after leaving active politics. He was a real old-fashion Socialist in the mould of the 1930s and earlier, and it was always refreshing to hear him speak and to note his reactions to contemporary politics, especially when the Labour Party turned into a very mildly left-wing imitation of the Tory Party, its sense of moral purpose weakened to a point at which it more or less ceased to exist. Benn was probably little known outside England – goodness knows what they would have thought of him in America, where  he would certainly have been regarded as a tool of the Kremlin. He was never that:  He was also a fine speaker and writer, and an extremely nice man. 

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