A Tribute to Tony Benn

I know it is rather late now for this, but I am not a professional writer and some things take a lot of research. Besides is it ever too late to pay a tribute to someone who has accomplished so much.

Researching the life of Tony Benn I have learnt so much about this remarkable man who will be sadly missed in these challenging times.


Anthony Neil Wedgwood “Tony” Benn passed away peacefully on March 14th.  He was one of the few genuine socialists of our time here in the UK. A fervent campaigner for democracy and socialism Toney Benn was the longest serving MP in the labour party, he won more elections than any other Labour MP – 16 in all. He was a Member of Parliament between 1950 and 2001 and a Cabinet minister under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan in the 1960s and 1970s. In May 2001 he retired from the House of Commons,“to devote more time to politics.”

Toney Benn was a man of honour, principle and integrity, a passionate campaigner for social justice, genuine democracy, freedom of speech, human rights, trade unionism and compassion towards animals. He was also an advocate for pacifism and a fervent campaigner for the cessation of all wars.

Read more about the life of Tony Benn:

In a statement his children Stephen, Hilary, Melissa and Joshua said:

“We will miss above all his love which has sustained us throughout our lives. But we are comforted by the memory of his long, full and inspiring life and so proud of his devotion to helping others as he sought to change the world for the better.”

Video from the people’s Assembly which Tony Benn helped to launch:

The People’s Assembly Against Austerity was launched – by Tony Benn,  Len McCluskey and other trade union leaders – with a call to all those millions of people in Britain who face an impoverished and uncertain year as their wages, jobs, conditions and welfare provision come under renewed attack by the government.

RIP Tony Benn


As a tribute I would like to include a selection of notable quotations from Tony Benn.

On Pacifism

“All war represents a failure of diplomacy.”

“If you can plan for war, why can’t you plan for peace?”

“it would be a total corruption of the whole meaning and spirit of the UN Charter, which was carefully written to make it possible the peaceful settlement of international disputes, to try to present it as offering a blank cheque for war whenever the United States wants one”

“I was born about a quarter of a mile from where we are sitting now and I was here in London during the Blitz. And every night I went down into the shelter. 500 people killed, my brother was killed, my friends were killed. And when the Charter of the UN was read to me, I was a pilot coming home in a troop ship: ‘We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.’ That was the pledge my generation gave to the younger generation and you tore it up. And it’s a war crime that’s been committed in Iraq, because there is no moral difference between a stealth bomber and a suicide bomber. Both kill innocent people for political reasons.”
Question Time, 22 March 2007

On equal marriage and the Church of England.

“When you think of the number of men in the world who hate each other, why, when two men love each other, does the church split?”

On the media and government control

“The one thing that is absolutely essential is that there shouldn’t be any governmental control [of the media] directly or indirectly.”

On vegetarianism and compassion towards animals

I never liked meat and my son Hilary, 30 years ago, said: “If the world ate the grain instead of feeding it to animals and killing them, there would be enough food for everybody.” That moment my wife and I became vegetarian and I never touched meat since.

‘The case for animal testing is now being directly challenged by scientists and doctors and their judgement must be taken seriously’.

“I am teetotal and vegetarian, so I do live on tea. I don’t like Earl Grey tea, but it may be a class prejudice against earls.”

“The support [for the bill to ban fox hunting] comes from people young and old–it is not confined to the young, although it is very strong among them–who believe that cruelty to entertain is wrong, and I share that view… As a vegetarian and someone who has always supported animal rights, I feel that we have a duty in a representative assembly to reflect properly the feeling that exists.”

“Madam, if you are so concerned about catching BSE, you should do what I do and turn vegetarian.”

“Having been made aware of the need for it, I have never lost sight of my vegetarianism. Unquestioning brutality like slaughter and capital punishment does corrupt you and is a blot on the civilizing of society. Such positions reflect on the values of a society. I am particularly revolted by religious slaughter but the slaughter of all animals is barbaric.  Why breed animals simply to kill and eat them.  How is it different to killing people?”

Read an interview with Tony Benn:

The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr Benn

Tony Wardle talks to Tony Benn – politician, vegetarian, saviour and ‘scarey bogeyman’

This is a very informative interview, not only about Tony Benn’s vegetarianism, but it reveals a lot about the personality and the world-view of this remarkable politician.

On Parliament

 “Through talk, we tamed kings, restrained tyrants, averted revolution.”  

On power

 “No medieval monarch in the whole of British history ever had such power as every modern British Prime Minister has in his or her hands. Nor does any American President have power approaching this.” 

On Marxism

 “It is wholly wrong to blame Marx for what was done in his name, as it is to blame Jesus for what was done in his.”

“Well I came across Marx rather late in life actually, and when I read him, two things: first of all I realised that he’d come to the conclusion about capitalism which I’d come to much later, and I was a bit angry he’d thought of it first; and secondly, I see Marx who was an old Jew, as the last of the Old Testament Prophets, this old bearded man working in the British Library, studying capitalism, that’s what ‘Das Kapital’ was about, it was an explanation of British capitalism. And I thought to myself, ‘Well anyone could write a book like that, but what infuses, what comes out of his writing, is the passionate hostility to the injustice of capitalism. He was a Prophet, and so I put him in that category as an Old Testament Prophet.”

Interestingly Tony Benn died on exactly the same date as Karl Marx – 101 years later.

On Socialism and Democracy

“Although socialism is widely held by the establishment to be outdated, the things that are most popular in British society today are little pockets of socialism, where areas of life have been excluded from the crude operation of market forces and are protected for the benefit of the community”

“Democracy is not just voting every 5 years and watching Big Brother in between and wondering why nothing happens. Democracy is what we do and say where we live and work”

General quotations

“In 1993 I spoke in Hyde park to a couple of million people…afterwards someone from the BBC said ‘you’re a voice in the wilderness’ and I said ‘well there are two million people in my wilderness, how many are there in yours?’

“It’s the same each time with progress. First they ignore you, then they say you’re mad, then dangerous, then there’s a pause and then you can’t find anyone who disagrees with you.”

“I do not share the general view that market forces are the basis of personal liberty”.

“My Great-grandfather was a Congregational Minister and my Mother was a Bible scholar, and I was brought up on the Bible, that the story of the Bible was conflict between the kings who had power, and the prophets who preached righteousness. And I was taught to believe in the prophets, got me into a lot of trouble. And my Dad said to me when I was young, ‘Dare to be a Daniel, Dare to stand alone, Dare to have a purpose firm, Dare to let it (be) known.'”
Interview with John Cleary, 23 February 2003

“[The Labour Party]’s never been a socialist party, but it’s always had socialists in it, just as there are some Christians in the Church, it’s an exact parallel.”

“Simply having nuclear weopens destroys democracy. When a country has them, ministers – of all parties – lie. No minister has ever told the truth about any central question of nuclear policy”

“The word terrorists is a term of abuse used to describe those with whom you disagree. According to Mrs Thatcher the ANC are terrorists”

“I never had any sympathy with the Soviet system and it’s lack of democracy but I never believed the Russians were threatening to invade Western Europe”

Quotations  about Tony Benn

“Tony Benn was the articulate advocate of socialism who inspired my generation. “He gave us all hope of a fair and equal society.”
John McDonnell, chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said Mr Benn had fought for his ideals “almost to the last breath of his life.”

“He was a hero to me and to millions more not only because of what he advocated – social justice, democracy and peace – but because of the way he advocated it, with passion, decency and without malice against anyone.”

Comments on Twitter

Really sad to learn Tony Benn has died. A man of integrity who used his voice to stand up for the poor and powerless RIP
A Tweet from Mark Russell @markrusselluk

Read more Twitter tributes:

Tony Benn dead: Twitter tributes serve as moving eulogy to his enduring political legacy

Blogs with comments and tributes to Tony Benn

The socialism of humanity: A tribute to Tony Benn

Tony  Benn Will be Missed

Goodbye and Thank You Tony Benn

Tony Benn and the Five Essential Questions of Democracy

The measure of a man: my tribute to Tony Benn

A Tribute to Tony Benn


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