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A working class hero is something to be

Political Editor Larry Neild says Tony Benn made so much sense even his own party ignored him

Written by . Published on March 14th 2014.

A working class hero is something to be

 TONY Benn never made it to the leadership of the Labour Party, but he was the undisputed leader of British Left Wing politics. 

I interviewed Tony Benn several times and everything he said made sense. In fact what he often said made so much sense that it was ignored, even by the masters of his own party. 

The trouble was Tony Benn found
himself preaching to the converted

As the 20th century was in its final years, Labour was closing its own door on the style and doctrines of old Labour values. New Labour was ushered in and Clause Four, the backbone of the old guard, was ushered out by a different brand of politician: Tony Blair. 

It wasn’t a case of abandonment, it was a case of making Labour electable, but to achieve the keys to Number 10, Labour had to sell its soul. These days there is so little between Labour and its old Tory adversary that to most people it matters little who occupies Downing Street. 

The one-time aristocrat Anthony Wedgewood Benn entered politics at a time when the Labour Party stood shoulder to shoulder with Britain’s “great unwashed” the millions of working class people in factories, in steelworks and down pits. In the Labour Party of the 1960s and 1970s, Benn was one of many Parliamentary allies, an army of politicians fighting the causes of the workers. 

As the economic and social landscapes changed there was dwindling need for such firebrand, let’s-roll-up-our-sleeves, true-red politics, and Tony Benn’s bedfellows became fewer and fewer. 

Still, even after he stood down from Parliament in 2001, in order to “spend more time with politics”, he carried on the clarion call with inspirational speeches at rallies in Liverpool and many other dyed-in-the-wool Labour heartlands. 

RallyAddressing a rally in Liverpool

It was hard to disagree, even in the last decade, with Tony Benn if you were lucky to catch him at one of these great, razor-sharp orations. 

But now there was nobody to implement his well-thought out ideas and suggestions. His audiences became the rump of left wing socialist groups who would hang on to every word he said, and applaud their own chosen King of Socialism. 

The trouble was Tony Benn found himself preaching to the converted. 

He used intellect and wisdom to convey his ideas, in the same way comrade and possible heir-apparent Dennis Skinner uses wit and well-placed one liners to hit home the messages as one of the few remaining red-flag flyers on the Commons benches. 

Today’s MPs on the same row will insist they are the party’s modern army, protecting and guarding socialist ideals. But what they are protecting (sic) is a different world to that which the likes of Tony Benn, Michael Foot, Harold Wilson, stood up for. 

To this end, there will be no turning back of the clock and over the coming hours and days the great and the good of the political world will be singing the praises of a man who tirelessly inspired generations of ordinary people. 

Such is the often hypocritical world of democratic politics, many of those politicians will shed a TV tear or two for Tony. 

But they will dare not implement the things he cried out for in his lifelong quest for a better world.

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16 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Martha FitzsimmonsMarch 14th 2014.

A great man, he outlived Thatcher and his legacy will out live her evil too

5 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 14th 2014.

What a pity there is nobody left like him in UK politics. Plenty of people like him in other countries.

AnonymousMarch 14th 2014.

Most of them are a bit distracted holding back the mighty Russian bear at the most. Charmingly idealist but achieved next to nowt really

AnonymousMarch 14th 2014.

That's still more than you have, or will ever achieve.

AnonymousMarch 14th 2014.

Such insight, such wit. Well done

AnonymousMarch 14th 2014.

Ah sarcasm, the first retort of someone who has nothing of any substance to contribute to any situation. I'm sure it passes the time in the dole queue though if nothing else.

Bill MajorMarch 15th 2014.

Not quite the level of comments Benn deserves. He was always a great orator, as one obituary said, he was a conviction politician, like Thatcher, but minus the bile and hatred. His ability to rebuff the clichés and simplistic prejudices of both right and centre, on radio and TV, only matched by Galloway and Crowe. To see the betrayer Shirley Williams blaming him for splitting Labour in the 1980s was laughable. We have lost two good Socialists this week.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 17th 2014.

They say you shouldnt speak ill of the dead but there you go comparing Tony to that awful Galloway bloke.

AnonymousMarch 15th 2014.

One a son of the aristocracy and the other on a salary of £145,000 and living in a council house. Yes, £145k and keeping the house from someone who really needed it? Socialist principles indeed

4 Responses: Reply To This...
JolyonMarch 16th 2014.

If that's a valid argument about Bob Crowe living in a publicly-owned house then you are surely also saying that the Queen is keeping Buckingham Palace from about 200 people who could be living in it?

AnonymousMarch 16th 2014.

I'm surely not, that's a completely specious and illogical argument, and you Jolyon well know it! Do try a bit harder, unless you really think corpy houses are truly meant for those in the top end of the salary bracket? No, thought not

JolyonMarch 17th 2014.

Council houses are for ANYONE who pays their rent. Bob Crow kept his house as a council house and when his family no longer need it someone else can have it. The people who are responsible for keeping people in need of housing out of council houses are those political vandals who sell them off and those profiteering leeches who buy them.

London RoadMarch 17th 2014.

You are completely right Jolyon

AnonymousMarch 15th 2014.

i take it the last comment was off a supporter of Tony Thatcher Blair

Beryl MillsMarch 15th 2014.

I heard some genuine comments on the radio & the tv. I also think he was dedicated in getting the best for the workers & as leaders of government he will never be replaced as successfully, he was very much admired even those of opposite parties they said how dedicated and thorough in getting the low paid etc.justice. sad he's gone but not forgotten.

Beryl MillsMarch 16th 2014.

Enough has been written now so not adding anymore. Thank you.

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