Tony Benn
Overview
 
Anthony Neil Wedgwood "Tony" Benn, PC (born 3 April 1925) is a British Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 politician and a former MP
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 and Cabinet Minister.

His successful campaign to renounce his hereditary peerage
Hereditary peer
Hereditary peers form part of the Peerage in the United Kingdom. There are over seven hundred peers who hold titles that may be inherited. Formerly, most of them were entitled to sit in the House of Lords, but since the House of Lords Act 1999 only ninety-two are permitted to do so...

 was instrumental in the creation of the Peerage Act 1963
Peerage Act 1963
The Peerage Act 1963 is the Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that permitted peeresses in their own right and all Scottish hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords, and which allows newly inherited hereditary peerages to be "disclaimed".-Background:The Act resulted largely from the...

. In the Labour Government of 1964–1970 under Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson
James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, FSS, PC was a British Labour Member of Parliament, Leader of the Labour Party. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s, winning four general elections, including a minority government after the...

, he served first as Postmaster General, where he oversaw the opening of the Post Office Tower, and later as a notably "technocratic" Minister of Technology
Minister of Technology
The Minister of Technology was a position in the government of the United Kingdom, sometimes abbreviated as "MinTech". The Ministry of Technology was established by the incoming government of Harold Wilson in October 1964 as part of Wilson's ambition to modernise the state for what he perceived to...

, retaining his seat in the cabinet.
Quotations

[I am against] the Treaty of Rome which entrenches laissez faire as its philosophy and chooses bureaucracy as its administrative method.

Encounter (January 1963).

The flag of racialism which has been hoisted in Wolverhampton is beginning to look like the one that fluttered 25 years ago over Dachau and Belsen.

Speech at Students for a Labour Victory rally, referring to Enoch Powell who was MP for Wolverhampton South West, Methodist Central Hall, London (3 June 1970), as quoted in "Onslaught on Powell by Wedgwood Benn" by Denis Taylor in The Times (4 June 1970), p. 1

Change from below, the formulation of demands from the populace to end unacceptable injustice, supported by direct action, has played a far larger part in shaping British democracy than most constitutional lawyers, political commentators, historians or statesmen have ever cared to admit. Direct action in a democratic society is fundamentally an educational exercise.

In New Politics (1970).

Workers are not going to be fobbed off with a few shares...or by a carbon copy of the German system of co-determination.

Speech in Southampton (25 May 1971).

We want industry to be in the public sector, to change the power structure of our society...We have not yet carved out of public enterprise a wide enough area of management decision which ought properly to be brought within the ambit of the workers themselves.

Speech in Brighton (6 October 1971).

[Men] who would rather go to jail than betray what they believe to be their duty to their fellow workers and the principles which they hold.

From an issued statement from Mr. Benn on five dockers imprisoned for contempt of court (21 July 1972).

Britain is the only colony in the British Empire and it is up to us now to liberate ourselves.

Labour Party Annual Conference Report 1972, p. 103.

I sometimes wish the trade unionists who work in the mass media, those who are writers and broadcasters and secretaries and printers and lift operators of Thomson House would remember that they too are members of our working class movement and have a responsibility to see that what is said about us is true.

Chairman's closing address to the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool (6 October 1972). Labour Party Annual Conference Report 1972, p. 349

The 1973 Labour Conference will have before it the most radical programme the Party has prepared since 1945.

As quoted in The Times (1 October 1973).

The [pay] policy is principally designed to hold down wages rather than to check inflation. Inflation is being used as an excuse to destroy free trade union bargaining.

Speech in the House of Commons (Hansard, 7 November 1973, Col. 1015).

Encyclopedia
Anthony Neil Wedgwood "Tony" Benn, PC (born 3 April 1925) is a British Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 politician and a former MP
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 and Cabinet Minister.

His successful campaign to renounce his hereditary peerage
Hereditary peer
Hereditary peers form part of the Peerage in the United Kingdom. There are over seven hundred peers who hold titles that may be inherited. Formerly, most of them were entitled to sit in the House of Lords, but since the House of Lords Act 1999 only ninety-two are permitted to do so...

 was instrumental in the creation of the Peerage Act 1963
Peerage Act 1963
The Peerage Act 1963 is the Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that permitted peeresses in their own right and all Scottish hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords, and which allows newly inherited hereditary peerages to be "disclaimed".-Background:The Act resulted largely from the...

. In the Labour Government of 1964–1970 under Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson
James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, FSS, PC was a British Labour Member of Parliament, Leader of the Labour Party. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s, winning four general elections, including a minority government after the...

, he served first as Postmaster General, where he oversaw the opening of the Post Office Tower, and later as a notably "technocratic" Minister of Technology
Minister of Technology
The Minister of Technology was a position in the government of the United Kingdom, sometimes abbreviated as "MinTech". The Ministry of Technology was established by the incoming government of Harold Wilson in October 1964 as part of Wilson's ambition to modernise the state for what he perceived to...

, retaining his seat in the cabinet. In the period when the Labour Party was in opposition, Benn served for a year as the Chairman of the Labour Party
National Executive Committee
The National Executive Committee or NEC is the chief administrative body of the UK Labour Party. Its composition has changed over the years, and includes representatives of affiliated trade unions, the Parliamentary Labour Party and European Parliamentary Labour Party, Constituency Labour Parties,...

. In the Labour Government of 1974–1979, he returned to the Cabinet, initially serving as Secretary of State for Industry, before being made Secretary of State for Energy, retaining his post when James Callaghan
James Callaghan
Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, KG, PC , was a British Labour politician, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1976 to 1980...

 replaced Wilson as Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

. During the Labour Party's time in opposition during the 1980s, he was seen as the party's prominent figure on the left, and the term "Bennite" has come to be used in Britain for someone of a more radical, left-wing position.

Benn has come top in several polls as one of the most popular politicians in Britain. He has been described as "one of the few UK politicians to have become more left-wing after holding ministerial office." Since leaving parliament, Benn has become more involved in the grass-roots politics of demonstrations and meetings, as opposed to parliamentary activities. He has been a vegetarian
Vegetarianism
Vegetarianism encompasses the practice of following plant-based diets , with or without the inclusion of dairy products or eggs, and with the exclusion of meat...

 since the 1970s.

Early life and family

Benn was born in London on 3 April 1925. Benn's paternal grandfather was John Benn (a successful politician who had been created a baronet in 1914) and his father William Wedgwood Benn was a Liberal
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 who later crossed the floor
Crossing the floor
In politics, crossing the floor has two meanings referring to a change of allegiance in a Westminster system parliament.The term originates from the British House of Commons, which is configured with the Government and Opposition facing each other on rows of benches...

 to the Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

. He was appointed Secretary of State for India
Secretary of State for India
The Secretary of State for India, or India Secretary, was the British Cabinet minister responsible for the government of India and the political head of the India Office...

 by Ramsay MacDonald
Ramsay MacDonald
James Ramsay MacDonald, PC, FRS was a British politician who was the first ever Labour Prime Minister, leading a minority government for two terms....

 in 1929, a position he held until 1931. He was elevated to the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

, with the title of Viscount Stansgate
Viscount Stansgate
Viscount Stansgate, of Stansgate in the County of Essex, is a currently disclaimed title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1942 for the Labour politician and former Secretary of State for India and Secretary of State for Air, William Wedgwood Benn. He was the second son of Sir...

 in 1941; the new wartime coalition government
Churchill War Ministry
-The War Cabinet:Changes*August 1940: Lord Beaverbrook , Minister of Aircraft Production, joins the War Cabinet*October 1940: Sir John Anderson succeeds Neville Chamberlain as Lord President. Sir Kingsley Wood, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Ernest Bevin, the Minister of Labour, enter the War...

 was short of working Labour peers in the upper house. From 1945 to 1946, he was the Secretary of State for Air
Secretary of State for Air
The Secretary of State for Air was a cabinet level British position. The person holding this position was in charge of the Air Ministry. It was created on 10 January 1919 to manage the Royal Air Force...

 in the first majority Labour Government.

Both his grandfathers, John Benn (who founded a publishing company) and Daniel Holmes, were also Liberal MPs (respectively, for Tower Hamlets
Tower Hamlets (UK Parliament constituency)
Tower Hamlets was a parliamentary borough constituency in, Middlesex, England from 1832 to 1885. It elected two Members of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom...

, Devonport and Glasgow Govan
Glasgow Govan (UK Parliament constituency)
Glasgow Govan was a parliamentary constituency in the Govan district of Glasgow. It was represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1885 until 2005, returning one Member of Parliament elected by the first-past-the-post system.The area which the constituency...

). Benn's contact with leading politicians of the day thus dates back to his earliest years as a result of his family's profile; he met Ramsay MacDonald
Ramsay MacDonald
James Ramsay MacDonald, PC, FRS was a British politician who was the first ever Labour Prime Minister, leading a minority government for two terms....

 when he was five, David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor OM, PC was a British Liberal politician and statesman...

 when he was twelve and Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi , pronounced . 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement...

 in 1931, while his father was Secretary of State for India
Secretary of State for India
The Secretary of State for India, or India Secretary, was the British Cabinet minister responsible for the government of India and the political head of the India Office...

.

Benn's mother Margaret Eadie (née Holmes) (1897–1991), was a dedicated theologian, feminist and the founder President of the Congregational Federation. She was a member of the League of the Church Militant, which was the predecessor of the Movement for the Ordination of Women – in 1925 she was rebuked by Randall Thomas Davidson
Randall Thomas Davidson
Randall Thomas Davidson, 1st Baron Davidson of Lambeth GCVO, PC was an Anglican bishop of Scottish origin who served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1903 to 1928.-Background and education:...

, then-Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

, for advocating the ordination of women
Ordination of women
Ordination in general religious usage is the process by which a person is consecrated . The ordination of women is a regular practice among some major religious groups, as it was of several religions of antiquity...

. His mother's theology had a profound influence on Benn, as she taught him that the stories in the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 were based around the struggle between the prophets and the kings and that he ought in his life to support the prophets over the kings, who had power, as the prophets taught righteousness.

Benn was a pupil at Westminster School
Westminster School
The Royal College of St. Peter in Westminster, almost always known as Westminster School, is one of Britain's leading independent schools, with the highest Oxford and Cambridge acceptance rate of any secondary school or college in Britain...

 and later studied at New College, Oxford
New College, Oxford
New College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.- Overview :The College's official name, College of St Mary, is the same as that of the older Oriel College; hence, it has been referred to as the "New College of St Mary", and is now almost always...

 where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics and was elected President of the Oxford Union
Oxford Union
The Oxford Union Society, commonly referred to simply as the Oxford Union, is a debating society in the city of Oxford, Britain, whose membership is drawn primarily but not exclusively from the University of Oxford...

 in 1947. In later life, Benn attempted to remove public references to his private education from Who's Who
Who's Who (UK)
Who's Who is an annual British publication of biographies which vary in length of about 30,000 living notable Britons.-History:...

; in the 1975 edition his entry stated "Education—still in progress". In the 1976 edition, almost all details of his biography were omitted save for his name, jobs as a Member of Parliament and as a Government Minister, and address; the publishers confirmed that Benn had sent back his draft entry with everything else struck through. In the 1977 edition, Benn's entry disappeared entirely. In October 1973 he announced on BBC Radio
BBC Radio
BBC Radio is a service of the British Broadcasting Corporation which has operated in the United Kingdom under the terms of a Royal Charter since 1927. For a history of BBC radio prior to 1927 see British Broadcasting Company...

 that he wished to be known as "Mr Tony Benn" and his book Speeches from 1974 is credited to "Tony Benn".

Benn met US-born Caroline Middleton DeCamp (born 13 October 1926, Cincinnati, Ohio) over tea at Worcester College in 1949 and nine days later he proposed to her on a park bench in the city. Later, he bought the bench from Oxford City Council
Oxford City Council
The Oxford City Council provides local government for the city of Oxford in England.- Overview :Between the 2004 local elections, and 2010 the council was in minority administration, first by councillors from the Labour Party, with the Liberal Democrats being the official opposition...

 and installed it in the garden of their home in Holland Park
Holland Park
Holland Park is a district and a public park in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in west central London, England.Holland Park has a reputation as an affluent and fashionable area, known for attractive large Victorian townhouses, and high-class shopping and restaurants...

. Tony and Caroline had four children—Stephen, Hilary
Hilary Benn
Hilary James Wedgwood Benn is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Leeds Central since 1999. He served in the Cabinet as Secretary of State for International Development from 2003 to 2007 and as the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs...

, Melissa
Melissa Benn
Melissa Ann Benn is a British journalist and writer. She is the only daughter of Tony and Caroline Benn.Benn was born in Hammersmith, London. She has two older brothers, Stephen and Hilary, and a younger brother, Joshua. She attended Holland Park School and graduated with a first in History from...

 and Joshua, and ten grandchildren. Caroline Benn died of cancer on 22 November 2000, aged 74, after a prominent career as an educationalist.

In July 1943, Benn joined the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

. His father and brother Michael (who was later killed in an accident) were already serving in the RAF in 1943. Whilst holding the rank of pilot officer
Pilot Officer
Pilot officer is the lowest commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many other Commonwealth countries. It ranks immediately below flying officer...

, Tony Benn served as a pilot in South Africa and Rhodesia
Rhodesia
Rhodesia , officially the Republic of Rhodesia from 1970, was an unrecognised state located in southern Africa that existed between 1965 and 1979 following its Unilateral Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom on 11 November 1965...

.

Benn's children have also been active in politics; his first son Stephen served as an elected Member of the Inner London Education Authority
Inner London Education Authority
The Inner London Education Authority was the education authority for the 12 inner London boroughs from 1965 until its abolition in 1990.-History:...

 from 1986 to 1990. His second son Hilary
Hilary Benn
Hilary James Wedgwood Benn is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Leeds Central since 1999. He served in the Cabinet as Secretary of State for International Development from 2003 to 2007 and as the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs...

 served as a councillor in London, and stood for Parliament in 1983
United Kingdom general election, 1983
The 1983 United Kingdom general election was held on 9 June 1983. It gave the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher the most decisive election victory since that of Labour in 1945...

 and 1987
United Kingdom general election, 1987
The United Kingdom general election of 1987 was held on 11 June 1987, to elect 650 members to the British House of Commons. The election was the third consecutive election victory for the Conservative Party under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, who became the first Prime Minister since the 2nd...

, finally becoming the Labour MP for Leeds Central
Leeds Central (UK Parliament constituency)
Leeds Central is a borough constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elects one Member of Parliament by the first past the post system of election.- Boundaries :...

 in 1999. He served as Secretary of State for International Development
Secretary of State for International Development
In the United Kingdom, the Secretary of State for International Development is a Cabinet minister responsible for the Department for International Development and for promoting development overseas, particularly in the third world...

 from 2003 to 2007, and then as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is a UK cabinet-level position in charge of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the successor to the positions of Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport...

 until 2010. This makes him the third generation of his family to have sat in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom
Cabinet of the United Kingdom
The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is the collective decision-making body of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, composed of the Prime Minister and some 22 Cabinet Ministers, the most senior of the government ministers....

, a rare distinction for a modern political family in Britain. Benn's granddaughter Emily Benn
Emily Benn
Emily Sophia Wedgwood Benn is the eldest child and only daughter of Stephen Benn and Nita Clarke . Four generations of her family have served as Members of Parliament — her uncle Hilary Benn, grandfather Tony Benn, great-grandfather William Wedgwood Benn, and great-great-grandfathers John...

 fought and ultimately lost the seat of East Worthing and Shoreham in 2010, becoming the Labour Party's youngest ever candidate in the process. Tony Benn is a first cousin once removed of the late actress Dame
Dame (title)
The title of Dame is the female equivalent of the honour of knighthood in the British honours system . It is also the equivalent form address to 'Sir' for a knight...

 Margaret Rutherford
Margaret Rutherford
Dame Margaret Taylor Rutherford DBE was an English character actress, who first came to prominence following World War II in the film adaptations of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, and Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest...

.

Member of Parliament

Following his Second World War service as a pilot in the Royal Air Force, Benn worked briefly as a BBC Radio
BBC Radio
BBC Radio is a service of the British Broadcasting Corporation which has operated in the United Kingdom under the terms of a Royal Charter since 1927. For a history of BBC radio prior to 1927 see British Broadcasting Company...

 producer. On 1 November 1950, he was unexpectedly selected to succeed Sir Stafford Cripps as the Labour candidate for Bristol South East
Bristol South East (UK Parliament constituency)
Bristol South East was a borough constituency in the city of Bristol. It returned one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom by the first past the post system of election....

, after Cripps stood down because of ill-health, and won the seat in a by-election on 30 November 1950
Bristol South East by-election, 1950
The Bristol South East by-election, 1950 was a by-election held on 30th November 1950 for the British House of Commons constituency of Bristol South East in the city of Bristol...

. Anthony Crosland
Anthony Crosland
Charles Anthony Raven Crosland , otherwise Tony Crosland or C.A.R. Crosland, was a British Labour Party politician and author. He served as Member of Parliament for South Gloucestershire and later for Great Grimsby...

 helped him get the seat as he was the MP for nearby South Gloucestershire
South Gloucestershire (UK Parliament constituency)
South Gloucestershire was a parliamentary constituency in Gloucestershire. It returned one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom....

 at the time. Upon taking the oath on 4 December 1950 Benn became the youngest MP, or "Baby of the House
Baby of the House
Baby of the House is the unofficial title given to the youngest member of a parliamentary house. The term is most often applied to members of the British parliament.-Australia:In Australia the term is rarely used...

" for one day, being succeeded by Thomas Teevan, who was two years younger but took his oath a day later. He became the "Baby" again in 1951, when Teevan was not re-elected. In the 1950s, Benn held middle-of-the-road or soft left views, and was not associated with the young left wing group around Aneurin Bevan
Aneurin Bevan
Aneurin "Nye" Bevan was a British Labour Party politician who was the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party from 1959 until his death in 1960. The son of a coal miner, Bevan was a lifelong champion of social justice and the rights of working people...

.

Peerage reform

Benn's father had been created Viscount Stansgate
Viscount Stansgate
Viscount Stansgate, of Stansgate in the County of Essex, is a currently disclaimed title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1942 for the Labour politician and former Secretary of State for India and Secretary of State for Air, William Wedgwood Benn. He was the second son of Sir...

 in 1942 when Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 increased the number of Labour peers to aid political work in the House of Lords; at this time, Benn's elder brother Michael was intending to enter the priesthood and had no objections to inheriting a peerage
Peerage
The Peerage is a legal system of largely hereditary titles in the United Kingdom, which constitute the ranks of British nobility and is part of the British honours system...

. However, Michael was later killed in an accident while on active service in the Second World War, and this left Tony Benn as the heir to the peerage. He made several attempts to renounce the succession, but they were unsuccessful.

In November 1960, Viscount Stansgate died, and as a result Benn automatically became a peer and was thus prevented from sitting in the House of Commons. Insisting on his right to abandon his peerage, Benn fought to retain his seat in a by-election
Bristol South East by-election, 1961
The Bristol South East by-election, 1961 was a by-election held on 4 May 1961 for the British House of Commons constituency of Bristol South East in the city of Bristol....

 caused by his succession on 4 May 1961. Although he was disqualified from taking his seat, the voters of Bristol South-East re-elected him regardless. An election court
Election court
An Election Court is, in United Kingdom election law, a special court convened to hear a petition against the result of a local government or Parliamentary election. The court is created to hear the individual case, and ceases to exist when it has made its decision.- Statutory basis :Election...

 found that the voters were fully aware that Benn was disqualified, and declared the seat won by the Conservative
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 runner-up, Malcolm St Clair
Malcolm St. Clair (UK politician)
Malcolm Archibald James St. Clair was a British Conservative Party politician.He was the son of Major-General G.P. St Clair CB CBE DSO, and was educated at Eton College....

, who was at the time also the heir presumptive to a peerage.

Outside Parliament, Benn continued his campaign, and eventually the Conservative Government
Conservative Government 1957-1964
In January 1957 Sir Anthony Eden resigned from his positions of Leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. This was mainly a consequence of the Suez Crisis fiasco of the previous autumn but also due to his increasingly failing health...

 of the time accepted the need for a change in the law. The Peerage Act 1963
Peerage Act 1963
The Peerage Act 1963 is the Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that permitted peeresses in their own right and all Scottish hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords, and which allows newly inherited hereditary peerages to be "disclaimed".-Background:The Act resulted largely from the...

, allowing renunciation of peerages, was given the Royal Assent
Royal Assent
The granting of royal assent refers to the method by which any constitutional monarch formally approves and promulgates an act of his or her nation's parliament, thus making it a law...

 and became law shortly after 6 pm on 31 July 1963. Benn was the first peer to renounce his title, at 6.22 pm that day. Malcolm St. Clair, fulfilling a promise he had made at the time of his seating, then accepted the office of Stewardship of the Manor of Northstead
Manor of Northstead
The Manor of Northstead was once a collection of fields and farms in the parish of Scalby in the North Riding of Yorkshire in England. By 1600, the manor house had fallen into disrepair and was occupied only by a shepherd. At present the Manor is part of the Barrowcliff area of the town of...

, thereby disqualifying himself from the House (outright resignation being impermissible
Resignation from the British House of Commons
Members of Parliament sitting in the House of Commons in the United Kingdom are technically forbidden to resign. To circumvent this prohibition, a legal fiction is used...

). Benn returned to the Commons after winning a by-election
Bristol South East by-election, 1963
The Bristol South East by-election, 1963 was a by-election held on 20 August 1963 for the British House of Commons constituency of Bristol South East in the city of Bristol....

 on 20 August 1963.

In government (1964–1970)

In the 1964 Government
Labour Government 1964-1970
The Labour Government 1964–1970 was led by Prime Minister Harold Wilson. The Labour Party had won the 1964 general election by a majority of 4 seats. The Profumo affair had seriously damaged the previous Conservatives government, meaning Alec Douglas-Home's Premiership lasted only 363 days...

 of Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson
James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, FSS, PC was a British Labour Member of Parliament, Leader of the Labour Party. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s, winning four general elections, including a minority government after the...

, Benn was appointed Postmaster General
United Kingdom Postmaster General
The Postmaster General of the United Kingdom is a defunct Cabinet-level ministerial position in HM Government. Aside from maintaining the postal system, the Telegraph Act of 1868 established the Postmaster General's right to exclusively maintain electric telegraphs...

; during his time in that position, he oversaw the opening of what was then the UK's tallest building, the Post Office Tower, and the creations of the Postal Bus Service and Girobank
Girobank
Girobank was a British public sector financial institution founded in 1968 by the General Post Office. Itstarted life as the National Giro but went through several name changes, becoming National Girobank, then Girobank Plc , before merging into Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank...

. He proposed issuing stamps without the Sovereign's head, but this met with private opposition from the Queen
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...

. Instead, the portrait was reduced to a small profile in silhouette, a format that is still used on commemorative stamps today. Benn also led the government's campaign to close down the many off-shore pirate radio
Pirate radio
Pirate radio is illegal or unregulated radio transmission. The term is most commonly used to describe illegal broadcasting for entertainment or political purposes, but is also sometimes used for illegal two-way radio operation...

 stations of the time, a campaign that forms the centrepiece of the 2009 film The Boat That Rocked
The Boat That Rocked
The Boat That Rocked is a 2009 British comedy film written and directed by Richard Curtis, with pirate radio in the United Kingdom during the 1960s as its setting. The film has an ensemble cast featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Nick Frost, and Kenneth Branagh...

, and was responsible for introducing the Marine Broadcasting Offences Bill
Marine Broadcasting Offences Act
The Marine, &c., Broadcasting Act 1967 c.41, shortened to Marine Broadcasting Offences Act, became law in the United Kingdom at midnight on Monday, August 14, 1967 and was repealed by the...

. By the time the bill became law in 1967, Benn had been promoted to the post of Minister of Technology
Minister of Technology
The Minister of Technology was a position in the government of the United Kingdom, sometimes abbreviated as "MinTech". The Ministry of Technology was established by the incoming government of Harold Wilson in October 1964 as part of Wilson's ambition to modernise the state for what he perceived to...

, which included specific responsibility for overseeing the development of Concorde
Concorde
Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde was a turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner, a supersonic transport . It was a product of an Anglo-French government treaty, combining the manufacturing efforts of Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation...

 and the formation of International Computers Ltd. The period also saw government involvement in industrial rationalisation, and the merger of several car companies to form British Leyland.

Labour lost the 1970 election
United Kingdom general election, 1970
The United Kingdom general election of 1970 was held on 18 June 1970, and resulted in a surprise victory for the Conservative Party under leader Edward Heath, who defeated the Labour Party under Harold Wilson. The election also saw the Liberal Party and its new leader Jeremy Thorpe lose half their...

 to Edward Heath
Edward Heath
Sir Edward Richard George "Ted" Heath, KG, MBE, PC was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and as Leader of the Conservative Party ....

's Conservatives
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

, and upon Heath's application to join the European Economic Community, Benn campaigned in favour of a referendum on the UK's membership. The Shadow Cabinet voted to support a referendum on 29 March 1972, and as a result Roy Jenkins
Roy Jenkins
Roy Harris Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Hillhead OM, PC was a British politician.The son of a Welsh coal miner who later became a union official and Labour MP, Roy Jenkins served with distinction in World War II. Elected to Parliament as a Labour member in 1948, he served in several major posts in...

 resigned as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.

In government (1974–1979)

In the Labour Government of 1974
Labour Government 1974-1979
-Formation:After the February 1974 general election, no party had a majority of seats. The incumbent Conservative party won the popular vote, but Labour took the most seats. Edward Heath, the Conservative prime minister, attempted to negotiate a coalition with the Liberal party, but resigned as...

, Benn was appointed Secretary of State for Industry, where he set up worker cooperative
Worker cooperative
A worker cooperative is a cooperative owned and democratically managed by its worker-owners. This control may be exercised in a number of ways. A cooperative enterprise may mean a firm where every worker-owner participates in decision making in a democratic fashion, or it may refer to one in which...

s in struggling industries, the best known being at Meriden
Meriden, West Midlands
-External links:*****...

, which kept Triumph Motorcycles in production until 1983. In 1975, he was appointed Secretary of State for Energy, immediately following his ultimately unsuccessful campaign for a "No" vote in the referendum on the UK's membership of the EEC
United Kingdom referendum, 1975
The United Kingdom referendum of 1975 was a post-legislative referendum held on 5 June 1975 in the United Kingdom to gauge support for the country's continued membership of the European Economic Community , often known as the Common Market at the time, which it had entered in 1973 under the...

. By his own admission in his diary (25 October 1977), Benn "loathed" the EEC; he claimed it was "bureaucratic and centralised" and "of course it is really dominated by Germany. All the Common Market countries except the UK have been occupied by Germany, and they have this mixed feeling of hatred and subservience towards the Germans".

Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson
James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, FSS, PC was a British Labour Member of Parliament, Leader of the Labour Party. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s, winning four general elections, including a minority government after the...

 resigned as Leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

 in March 1976. Benn entered the subsequent leadership contest
Labour Party (UK) leadership election, 1976
The Labour Party leadership election of 1976 occurred when former leader Harold Wilson resigned as Party Leader and Prime Minister.In the first ballot, held on 25 March, six candidates vied for the leadership: Employment Secretary Michael Foot; Foreign Secretary Jim Callaghan; Home Secretary Roy...

 and came fourth with 37 votes in the first ballot. Benn then withdrew from the second ballot and supported Michael Foot
Michael Foot
Michael Mackintosh Foot, FRSL, PC was a British Labour Party politician, journalist and author, who was a Member of Parliament from 1945 to 1955 and from 1960 until 1992...

 for the leadership, although James Callaghan
James Callaghan
Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, KG, PC , was a British Labour politician, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1976 to 1980...

 eventually won. Despite not receiving his support in the vote, Callaghan kept Benn as Energy Secretary. Later in the autumn of 1976, there was a sterling
Pound sterling
The pound sterling , commonly called the pound, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence...

 crisis, and then-Chancellor of the Exchequer
Chancellor of the Exchequer
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the title held by the British Cabinet minister who is responsible for all economic and financial matters. Often simply called the Chancellor, the office-holder controls HM Treasury and plays a role akin to the posts of Minister of Finance or Secretary of the...

 Denis Healey
Denis Healey
Denis Winston Healey, Baron Healey CH, MBE, PC is a British Labour politician, who served as Secretary of State for Defence from 1964 to 1970 and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1974 to 1979.-Early life:...

 sought to gain a loan from the International Monetary Fund
International Monetary Fund
The International Monetary Fund is an organization of 187 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world...

. Benn publicly circulated the Cabinet minutes from the 1931 National Labour Government of Ramsay MacDonald
Ramsay MacDonald
James Ramsay MacDonald, PC, FRS was a British politician who was the first ever Labour Prime Minister, leading a minority government for two terms....

, which cut unemployment benefits in order to secure a loan from American bankers and resulted in the inadvertent splitting of the Labour Party. Callaghan allowed Benn to put forward his "alternative economic strategy", which consisted of a siege economy. However this plan would later be rejected by the Cabinet.

Move to the Left

By the end of the 1970s, Benn had migrated to the left-wing of the Labour Party. He attributed this political shift to his experience as a Cabinet Minister in the 1964–1970 Labour Government
Labour Government 1964-1970
The Labour Government 1964–1970 was led by Prime Minister Harold Wilson. The Labour Party had won the 1964 general election by a majority of 4 seats. The Profumo affair had seriously damaged the previous Conservatives government, meaning Alec Douglas-Home's Premiership lasted only 363 days...

. Benn wrote:

As a minister, I experienced the power of industrialists and bankers to get their way by use of the crudest form of economic pressure, even blackmail, against a Labour Government. Compared to this, the pressure brought to bear in industrial disputes is minuscule. This power was revealed even more clearly in 1976 when the IMF secured cuts in our public expenditure. These lessons led me to the conclusion that the UK is only superficially governed by MPs and the voters who elect them. Parliamentary democracy
Parliamentary system
A parliamentary system is a system of government in which the ministers of the executive branch get their democratic legitimacy from the legislature and are accountable to that body, such that the executive and legislative branches are intertwined....

 is, in truth, little more than a means of securing a periodical change in the management team, which is then allowed to preside over a system that remains in essence intact. If the British people were ever to ask themselves what power they truly enjoyed under our political system they would be amazed to discover how little it is, and some new Chartist
Chartism
Chartism was a movement for political and social reform in the United Kingdom during the mid-19th century, between 1838 and 1859. It takes its name from the People's Charter of 1838. Chartism was possibly the first mass working class labour movement in the world...

 agitation might be born and might quickly gather momentum.


Benn's philosophy consisted of a form of syndicalism
Syndicalism
Syndicalism is a type of economic system proposed as a replacement for capitalism and an alternative to state socialism, which uses federations of collectivised trade unions or industrial unions...

, economic planning, greater democracy in the structures of the Labour Party and observance of Party conference decisions by the Party leadership; he was vilified in the right-wing press, and his enemies implied that a Benn-led Labour Government would implement a type of East European socialism. Conversely, Benn was overwhelmingly popular with Labour activists. A survey of delegates at the Labour Conference of 1978 found that by large margins they supported both Benn for the leadership and many Bennite policies.

He publicly supported Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin is a left wing, Irish republican political party in Ireland. The name is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone". Originating in the Sinn Féin organisation founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, it took its current form in 1970...

 and the unification of Ireland, although in 2005 he suggested to Sinn Féin leaders that Sinn Féin abandon its long-standing policy of not taking seats at Westminster. Sinn Féin argue that to do so would recognise Britain's claim over Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

, and the Sinn Féin constitution prevents its elected members from taking their seats in any British-created institution.

In opposition

In a keynote speech to the Labour Party Conference of 1980, shortly before the resignation of party leader James Callaghan
James Callaghan
Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, KG, PC , was a British Labour politician, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1976 to 1980...

 and election of Michael Foot
Michael Foot
Michael Mackintosh Foot, FRSL, PC was a British Labour Party politician, journalist and author, who was a Member of Parliament from 1945 to 1955 and from 1960 until 1992...

 as successor, Benn outlined what he envisaged the next Labour Government would do. "Within days", a Labour Government would grant powers to nationalise industries, control capital and implement industrial democracy; "within weeks", all powers from Brussels would be returned to Westminster and then they would abolish the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

 by creating one thousand peers and then abolishing the peerage. Benn received tumultuous applause from the audience.

In 1981, he stood for election against the incumbent Denis Healey
Denis Healey
Denis Winston Healey, Baron Healey CH, MBE, PC is a British Labour politician, who served as Secretary of State for Defence from 1964 to 1970 and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1974 to 1979.-Early life:...

 for the post of Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, disregarding the appeal from Michael Foot
Michael Foot
Michael Mackintosh Foot, FRSL, PC was a British Labour Party politician, journalist and author, who was a Member of Parliament from 1945 to 1955 and from 1960 until 1992...

 either to stand for the leadership, or to abstain from inflaming the party's divisions. Benn defended his decision with insistence that it was "not about personalities, but about policies." The contest was extremely closely fought in the summer of 1981, and Healey eventually won by a margin of barely 1%. The decision of several moderate left-wing MPs, including Neil Kinnock
Neil Kinnock
Neil Gordon Kinnock, Baron Kinnock is a Welsh politician belonging to the Labour Party. He served as a Member of Parliament from 1970 until 1995 and as Labour Leader and Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition from 1983 until 1992 - his leadership of the party during nearly nine years making him...

, to abstain from supporting Benn triggered the split of the Campaign Group from the Left of the Tribune Group.

After Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

 had invaded
Falklands War
The Falklands War , also called the Falklands Conflict or Falklands Crisis, was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the disputed Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands...

 the Falkland Islands
Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, located about from the coast of mainland South America. The archipelago consists of East Falkland, West Falkland and 776 lesser islands. The capital, Stanley, is on East Falkland...

 in April 1982, Benn argued that the dispute should be settled by the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 and that the British Government should not send a task force
Task force
A task force is a unit or formation established to work on a single defined task or activity. Originally introduced by the United States Navy, the term has now caught on for general usage and is a standard part of NATO terminology...

 to recapture the islands. The task force was sent and the Falklands were soon back in British control. In a subsequent debate in the Commons, Benn's demand for "a full analysis of the costs in life, equipment and money in this tragic and unnecessary war" was rejected by Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

, who, apparently unaware that Benn had served during the Second World War, stated that "he would not enjoy the freedom of speech that he put to such excellent use unless people had been prepared to fight for it".

In 1983
United Kingdom general election, 1983
The 1983 United Kingdom general election was held on 9 June 1983. It gave the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher the most decisive election victory since that of Labour in 1945...

, Benn's Bristol South East constituency was abolished by boundary changes, and he subsequently lost the battle to stand in the new seat of Bristol South to Michael Cocks
Michael Cocks
Michael Francis Lovell Cocks, Baron Cocks of Hartcliffe was a Labour Party politician in the United Kingdom.Cocks was educated at Silcoates School, Wakefield and Bristol University and became a teacher....

. Rejecting offers from the new seat of Livingston
Livingston (UK Parliament constituency)
Livingston is a county constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, to which it returns one Member of Parliament . Elections are held using the first-past-the-post voting system....

 in Scotland, Benn contested Bristol East
Bristol East (UK Parliament constituency)
Bristol East is a borough constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elects one Member of Parliament by the first past the post system of election.-Boundaries:...

, losing to Conservative
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 candidate Jonathan Sayeed
Jonathan Sayeed
Jonathan Sayeed is a British politician who was a Conservative Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom from 1983 to 1992 and from 1997 to 2005....

 in what was perceived to be a shock result. He was selected for the next Labour seat to fall vacant, and was elected as MP for Chesterfield
Chesterfield (UK Parliament constituency)
Chesterfield is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is a marginal seat between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. The best-known MP was Tony Benn from 1984 to 2001...

 in a by-election after Eric Varley
Eric Varley
Eric Graham Varley, Baron Varley, PC was an English politician and former Cabinet Minister on the right wing of the Labour Party....

 resigned his seat to head Coalite
Coalite
Coalite is a brand of low-temperature coke used as a smokeless fuel. The title refers to the residue left behind when coal is carbonised at 640 degrees Celsius. It was invented by Thomas Parker in 1904. In 1936 the Smoke Abatement Society awarded its inventor a posthumous gold medal.Coalite is...

. On the day of the by-election, 1 March 1984, The Sun
The Sun (newspaper)
The Sun is a daily national tabloid newspaper published in the United Kingdom and owned by News Corporation. Sister editions are published in Glasgow and Dublin...

 newspaper ran a hostile feature article "Benn on the Couch" which purported to be the opinions of an American psychiatrist. In the intervening period, since Benn's defeat in Bristol, Michael Foot had stepped down after the general election in June 1983 (which saw Labour return a mere 209 MPs) and was succeeded in October of that year by Neil Kinnock
Neil Kinnock
Neil Gordon Kinnock, Baron Kinnock is a Welsh politician belonging to the Labour Party. He served as a Member of Parliament from 1970 until 1995 and as Labour Leader and Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition from 1983 until 1992 - his leadership of the party during nearly nine years making him...

.

Benn was a prominent supporter of the 1984-1985 UK miners' strike
UK miners' strike (1984–1985)
The UK miners' strike was a major industrial action affecting the British coal industry. It was a defining moment in British industrial relations, and its defeat significantly weakened the British trades union movement...

 and of his long-standing friend, the National Union of Mineworkers leader Arthur Scargill
Arthur Scargill
Arthur Scargill is a British politician who was President of the National Union of Mineworkers from 1982 to 2002, leading the union through the 1984–85 miners' strike, a key event in British labour and political history...

. Some miners, however, considered Benn's 1977 industry reforms to have caused problems during the strike; firstly, that they led to huge wage differences and distrust between miners of different regions; and secondly, that the controversy over balloting miners for these reforms made it unclear as to whether a ballot was needed for a strike or whether it could be deemed as a "regional matter" in the same way that the 1977 reforms had been.

In June 1985, three months after the miners admitted defeat and ended their strike, Benn introduced the Miners' Amnesty (General Pardon) Bill in the Commons which would have extended an amnesty to all miners imprisoned during the strike. This would have included two men convicted of murder (later reduced to manslaughter) for the killing of David Wilkie
Killing of David Wilkie
David Wilkie was killed during the miners' strike in the United Kingdom, when two striking miners dropped a concrete block from a footbridge onto his taxi whilst driving a strike breaking miner to his workplace. The attack caused a widespread revulsion at the extent of violence in the dispute...

, a taxi driver driving a non-striking miner to work in South Wales during the strike.

Benn later stood for election
Labour Party (UK) leadership election, 1988
The Labour Party leadership election of 1988 arose when Tony Benn, identified with the left-wing of the British Labour Party, challenged the incumbent Neil Kinnock...

 as Party Leader in 1988, against Neil Kinnock, following Labour's third successive defeat in the 1987 general election, and lost again, on this occasion by a substantial margin. During the Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

, he visited Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

 to persuade Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

 to release the hostages who had been captured. He was also one of the very few MPs to oppose the Kosovo War
Kosovo War
The term Kosovo War or Kosovo conflict was two sequential, and at times parallel, armed conflicts in Kosovo province, then part of FR Yugoslav Republic of Serbia; from early 1998 to 1999, there was an armed conflict initiated by the ethnic Albanian "Kosovo Liberation Army" , who sought independence...

. In 1991, with Labour still in opposition and another general election due by June 1992, he proposed the Commonwealth of Britain Bill
Commonwealth of Britain Bill
The Commonwealth of Britain Bill was a bill first introduced in 1991 by Tony Benn, then a Labour Member of Parliament in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. It proposed abolishing the British monarchy, with the United Kingdom becoming a "democratic, federal and secular commonwealth", in...

, which involved abolishing the British Monarchy
British monarchy
The monarchy of the United Kingdom is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 6 February 1952. She and her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial and representational duties...

 in favour of the United Kingdom becoming a "democratic, federal and secular commonwealth"; in effect, a republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

 with a written constitution. It was read in Parliament
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

 a number of times until his retirement at the 2001 election
United Kingdom general election, 2001
The United Kingdom general election, 2001 was held on Thursday 7 June 2001 to elect 659 members to the British House of Commons. It was dubbed "the quiet landslide" by the media, as the Labour Party was re-elected with another landslide result and only suffered a net loss of 6 seats...

, but never achieved a second reading. He presented an account of his proposal in Common Sense: A New Constitution for Britain.

Retirement

Tony Benn did not stand at the 2001 general election
United Kingdom general election, 2001
The United Kingdom general election, 2001 was held on Thursday 7 June 2001 to elect 659 members to the British House of Commons. It was dubbed "the quiet landslide" by the media, as the Labour Party was re-elected with another landslide result and only suffered a net loss of 6 seats...

; as he explained it, he was "leaving parliament in order to spend more time on politics". Along with Edward Heath
Edward Heath
Sir Edward Richard George "Ted" Heath, KG, MBE, PC was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and as Leader of the Conservative Party ....

, Benn was given the privilege of being able to continue using the House of Commons Library
House of Commons Library
The House of Commons Library is the library and information resource of the lower house of the British Parliament. It has adopted the phrase "Contributing to a well-informed democracy" as a summary of its mission statement.- History :...

 and Members' refreshment facilities by the Speaker
Speaker (politics)
The term speaker is a title often given to the presiding officer of a deliberative assembly, especially a legislative body. The speaker's official role is to moderate debate, make rulings on procedure, announce the results of votes, and the like. The speaker decides who may speak and has the...

. Shortly after his retirement, he was approached by the Stop the War Coalition
Stop the War Coalition
The Stop the War Coalition is a United Kingdom group set up on 21 September 2001 that campaigns against what it believes are unjust wars....

, and was asked to become its President, an offer he accepted. He thus became a leading figure of the British opposition to the War on Iraq, and in February 2003 he travelled to Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

 to again meet, and interview, Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

. The interview was shown on British television. He also spoke out against the Iraq war at the February 2003 protest in London organised by the Stop the War Coalition
Stop the War Coalition
The Stop the War Coalition is a United Kingdom group set up on 21 September 2001 that campaigns against what it believes are unjust wars....

, attended by over 1 million people. In February 2004 and 2008, he was re-elected President of the Stop the War Coalition.

He has toured with a one-man stage show and also appears a few times each year in a two-man show with folk singer Roy Bailey
Roy Bailey (folk singer)
Roy Bailey MBE , is a British socialist folk singer. Roy began his singing career in a skiffle group in 1958.Colin Irwin from the music magazine Mojo said Bailey represents "the very soul of folk's working class ideals.....

. In 2003, his show with Bailey was voted 'Best Live Act' at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards
BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards
The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards celebrate outstanding achievement during the previous year within the field of folk music. The awards have been given annually since 2000 by British radio station BBC Radio 2....

. In 2002 he opened the "Left Field" stage at the Glastonbury Festival
Glastonbury Festival
The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts, commonly abbreviated to Glastonbury or even Glasto, is a performing arts festival that takes place near Pilton, Somerset, England, best known for its contemporary music, but also for dance, comedy, theatre, circus, cabaret and other arts.The...

. In October 2003, Benn was a guest of British Airways
British Airways
British Airways is the flag carrier airline of the United Kingdom, based in Waterside, near its main hub at London Heathrow Airport. British Airways is the largest airline in the UK based on fleet size, international flights and international destinations...

 on the last-ever scheduled Concorde
Concorde
Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde was a turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner, a supersonic transport . It was a product of an Anglo-French government treaty, combining the manufacturing efforts of Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation...

 flight from New York to London. In June 2005, Benn was a panellist on a special edition of BBC1's Question Time. The special edition was edited entirely by a school age film crew selected by a BBC competition.

On 21 June 2005, Benn presented a programme on democracy as part of the Channel 5 series Big Ideas That Changed The World, he presented a left-wing view of democracy as the means to pass power from the "wallet to the ballot". He argued that traditional social democratic values were under threat in an increasingly globalised world in which powerful institutions such as the International Monetary Fund
International Monetary Fund
The International Monetary Fund is an organization of 187 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world...

, the World Bank
World Bank Group
The World Bank Group is a family of five international organizations that makes leveraged loans, generally to poor countries.The Bank came into formal existence on 27 December 1945 following international ratification of the Bretton Woods agreements, which emerged from the United Nations Monetary...

 and the European Commission
European Commission
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. The body is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union's treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union....

 remain unelected and unaccountable to those whose lives they affect daily.
On 27 September 2005, Benn was taken ill at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton
Brighton
Brighton is the major part of the city of Brighton and Hove in East Sussex, England on the south coast of Great Britain...

 and taken by ambulance to the Royal Sussex County Hospital
Royal Sussex County Hospital
The Royal Sussex County Hospital is an acute teaching hospital in Brighton, England. Together with the Princess Royal Hospital , it is administered by the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust...

 after being treated by paramedics at the Brighton Centre. Benn reportedly fell and struck his head. He was to be kept in hospital for observation, but was described as being in a "comfortable condition". He was subsequently fitted with an artificial pacemaker
Artificial pacemaker
A pacemaker is a medical device that uses electrical impulses, delivered by electrodes contacting the heart muscles, to regulate the beating of the heart...

 to help regulate his heartbeat. In a list compiled by the magazine New Statesman
New Statesman
New Statesman is a British centre-left political and cultural magazine published weekly in London. Founded in 1913, and connected with leading members of the Fabian Society, the magazine reached a circulation peak in the late 1960s....

 in 2006, he was voted twelfth in the list of "Heroes of our Time".

In September 2006, Benn joined the "Time to Go" demonstration in Manchester the day before the start of the final Labour Conference with Tony Blair as Party Leader, with the aim of persuading the Labour Government to withdraw troops from Iraq, to refrain from attacking Iran and to reject replacing the Trident missile
Trident missile
The Trident missile is a submarine-launched ballistic missile equipped with multiple independently-targetable reentry vehicles . The Fleet Ballistic Missile is armed with nuclear warheads and is launched from nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines . Trident missiles are carried by fourteen...

 and submarines
Vanguard class submarine
The Vanguard class are the Royal Navy's current nuclear ballistic missile submarines , each armed with up to 16 Trident II Submarine-launched ballistic missiles...

 with a new system. He spoke to the demonstrators in the rally afterwards along with other politicians and journalists, including George Galloway
George Galloway
George Galloway is a British politician, author, journalist and broadcaster who was a Member of Parliament from 1987 to 2010. He was formerly an MP for the Labour Party, first for Glasgow Hillhead and later for Glasgow Kelvin, before his expulsion from the party in October 2003, the same year...

 and members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is an anti-nuclear organisation that advocates unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United Kingdom, international nuclear disarmament and tighter international arms regulation through agreements such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty...

. In 2007, he appeared in an extended segment in the Michael Moore
Michael Moore
Michael Francis Moore is an American filmmaker, author, social critic and activist. He is the director and producer of Fahrenheit 9/11, which is the highest-grossing documentary of all time. His films Bowling for Columbine and Sicko also place in the top ten highest-grossing documentaries...

 film Sicko
Sicko
Sicko is a 2007 documentary film by American filmmaker Michael Moore. The film investigates health care in the United States, focusing on its health insurance and the pharmaceutical industry. The movie compares the for-profit, non-universal U.S...

 giving comments about democracy, social responsibility, and health care.

A poll by the BBC2
BBC Two
BBC Two is the second television channel operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom. It covers a wide range of subject matter, but tending towards more 'highbrow' programmes than the more mainstream and popular BBC One. Like the BBC's other domestic TV and radio...

 The Daily Politics
The Daily Politics
The Daily Politics is a British television show launched by the BBC in 2003. Presented by Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn, the programme takes an in-depth and sometimes irreverent look at the daily goings on in Westminster and other areas across Britain and the world, and includes interviews with leading...

 programme in January 2007 selected Benn as the UK's "Political Hero" with 38.22% of the vote, beating Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

 with 35.3% and five other contenders including Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond
Alexander Elliot Anderson "Alex" Salmond MSP is a Scottish politician and current First Minister of Scotland. He became Scotland's fourth First Minister in May 2007. He is the Leader of the Scottish National Party , having served as Member of the Scottish Parliament for Gordon...

, Leader of the Scottish National Party
Scottish National Party
The Scottish National Party is a social-democratic political party in Scotland which campaigns for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom....

; Clare Short
Clare Short
Clare Short is a British politician, and a member of the Labour Party. She was the Member of Parliament for Birmingham Ladywood from 1983 to 2010; for most of this period she was a Labour Party MP, but she resigned the party whip in 2006 and served the remainder of her term as an Independent. She...

, Independent MP; Neil Kinnock
Neil Kinnock
Neil Gordon Kinnock, Baron Kinnock is a Welsh politician belonging to the Labour Party. He served as a Member of Parliament from 1970 until 1995 and as Labour Leader and Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition from 1983 until 1992 - his leadership of the party during nearly nine years making him...

, previous Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 Leader; Norman Tebbit
Norman Tebbit
Norman Beresford Tebbit, Baron Tebbit, CH, PC , is a British politician. A member of the Conservative Party, he served in the Cabinet from 1981 to 1987 as Secretary of State for Employment...

, previous Conservative Party
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 Chairman and Shirley Williams, one of the 'gang of four' who founded the Social Democratic Party
Social Democratic Party (UK)
The Social Democratic Party was a political party in the United Kingdom that was created on 26 March 1981 and existed until 1988. It was founded by four senior Labour Party 'moderates', dubbed the 'Gang of Four': Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams...

.

In the 2007 Labour Party leadership election
Labour Party (UK) leadership election, 2007
The 2007 Labour Party Leadership Election was formally triggered on 10 May 2007 by the resignation of Tony Blair, Labour Leader since the previous leadership contest on 21 July 1994...

, Tony Benn backed the left-wing MP John McDonnell
John McDonnell (politician)
John Martin McDonnell is a British Labour Party politician, who has been the Member of Parliament for Hayes and Harlington since 1997; he serves as Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group, the Labour Representation Committee, and the "Public Services Not Private Profit Group"...

 in his ultimately unsuccessful bid. In September 2007, Benn called for the government to hold a referendum on the EU Reform Treaty. In October 2007, at the age of 82, and when it appeared that a general election was about to be held, Benn reportedly announced that he wanted to stand, having written to his local Kensington and Chelsea
Kensington and Chelsea (UK Parliament constituency)
Kensington and Chelsea was a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It was one of the safest Conservative seats in the United Kingdom, and since its creation in 1997 became a prestigious seat, with MP Alan Clark, the former Defence Secretary...

 Constituency Labour Party
Constituency Labour Party
A Constituency Labour Party is an organisation of members of the British Labour Party who live in a particular UK parliamentary constituency in England, Scotland and Wales. The Labour Party in Northern Ireland has, since February 2009, been organised as a province-wide Constituency Labour Party...

 offering himself as a prospective candidate for the seat held by the Conservative Malcolm Rifkind
Malcolm Rifkind
Sir Malcolm Leslie Rifkind KCMG QC MP is a British Conservative Party politician and Member of Parliament for Kensington. He served in various roles as a cabinet minister under Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major, including Secretary of State for Scotland , Defence Secretary and...

. No election, however, was ultimately held in 2007, and the Kensington and Chelsea
Kensington and Chelsea (UK Parliament constituency)
Kensington and Chelsea was a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It was one of the safest Conservative seats in the United Kingdom, and since its creation in 1997 became a prestigious seat, with MP Alan Clark, the former Defence Secretary...

 seat was abolished.
In September 2008, Benn appeared on the DVD release for the Doctor Who
Doctor Who
Doctor Who is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC. The programme depicts the adventures of a time-travelling humanoid alien known as the Doctor who explores the universe in a sentient time machine called the TARDIS that flies through time and space, whose exterior...

 story The War Machines
The War Machines
The War Machines is a serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in 4 weekly parts from 25 June to 16 July 1966...

 with a vignette discussing the Post Office Tower
BT Tower
The BT Tower is a tall cylindrical building in London, United Kingdom, located at 60 Cleveland Street, Fitzrovia W1T 4JZ, London Borough of Camden. It has been previously known as the Post Office Tower, the London Telecom Tower and the British Telecom Tower. The main structure is tall, with a...

; he became the second Labour politician, after Roy Hattersley
Roy Hattersley
Roy Sydney George Hattersley, Baron Hattersley is a British Labour politician, author and journalist from Sheffield. He served as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party from 1983 to 1992.-Early life:...

 to appear in a feature on a Doctor Who DVD. Also in 2008, Benn appeared on track 12 "Pay Attention to the Human" on Colin MacIntyre
Colin MacIntyre
Colin MacIntyre is a Scottish singer, song-writer, multi-instrumentalist and producer. MacIntyre, with the group Mull Historical Society, has released and toured worldwide three albums: Loss , Us and This Is Hope , and has achieved four UK Top 40 Chart hits and two UK Top 20 Chart albums...

's The Water
The Water (album)
The Water is the first solo album by Scottish indie pop singer Colin MacIntyre, who previously made three albums with Mull Historical Society.-Track listing:#"You're A Star"#"Be My Saviour"#"The Water"#"I Can I Will"#"Famous For Being Famous"...

 album.

At the Stop the War Conference 2009, he described the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as "Imperialist war(s)" and discussed the killing of American and allied troops by Iraqi or foreign insurgents, questioning whether they were in fact freedom fighters, and comparing the insurgents to a British Dad's Army, saying "If you are invaded you have a right to self defence, and this idea that people in Iraq and Afghanistan who are resisting the invasion are militant Muslim extremists is a complete bloody lie. I joined Dad's Army when I was sixteen, and if the Germans had arrived, I tell you, I could use a bayonet, a rifle, a revolver, and if I'd seen a German officer having a meal I'd have tossed a grenade through the window. Would I have been a freedom fighter or a terrorist?"

In an interview published in Dartford Living in September 2009, Benn was critical of the Government's decision to delay the findings of the Iraq War Inquiry until after the General Election, stating that "people can take into account what the inquiry has reported on but they’ve deliberately pushed it beyond the election. Government is responsible for explaining what it has done and I don’t think we were told the truth." He also stated that local government was strangled by Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

 and hadn't been liberalised by New Labour.

During the autumn of 2009, Tony Benn was again admitted into hospital and as a result of this, "An Evening with Tony Benn", scheduled to take place at London's Cadogan Hall was cancelled. He resumed a tour of these shows in 2010. He has most recently performed his show "The Writing on the Wall" with Roy Bailey at St Mary's Church, Ashford, Kent (Sept 2011) as part of the arts venue's first Revelation St Mary's Season. In July 2011 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University Of Glamorgan, Wales.

In November 2011, it was reported that Benn had moved out of his home in Holland Park Avenue, London and taken up residence in a smaller £750,000 flat nearby which benefits from a warden.

Diaries and biographies

Benn is a prolific diarist: eight volumes of his diaries have been published (the first six collected as ISBN 0-09-963411-2, the penultimate available as ISBN 0-09-941502-X). Collections of his speeches and writings were published as Arguments for Socialism (1979), Arguments for Democracy (1981), (both edited by Chris Mullin
Chris Mullin (politician)
Christopher John Mullin is a British Labour Party politician and diarist who was the Member of Parliament for Sunderland South from 1987 to 2010...

), Fighting Back (1988) and (with Andrew Hood) Common Sense (1993), as well as Free Radical: New Century Essays (2004). In August 2003, London DJ Charles Bailey created an album of Benn's speeches (ISBN 1-904734-03-0) set to ambient groove.

He has also made public several episodes of audio diaries he made during his time in Parliament and after retirement, entitled 'The Benn Tapes', broadcast originally on BBC Radio 4. Short series of these have been played periodically on BBC Radio 7. A major biography was written by Jad Adams and published by Macmillan in 1992; it was updated to cover the intervening 20 years and reissued by Biteback Publishing in 2011. Tony Benn: A Biography (ISBN 0-333-52558-2) A more recent 'semi-authorised' biography, with a foreword by Benn, was published in 2001: David Powell, Tony Benn: A Political Life, Continuum Books (ISBN 978-0826464156). An autobiography, Dare to be a Daniel: Then and Now, Hutchinson (ISBN 978-0099471530), was published in 2004.

There are substantial essays on Benn in both the Dictionary of Labour Biography by Phillip Whitehead, Greg Rosen [ed], Politicos Publishing, 2001 (ISBN 978-1902301181) and in Labour Forces: From Ernie Bevin to Gordon Brown, Kevin Jefferys [ed], I. B. Taurus Publishing, 2002 (ISBN 978-1860647437). Michael Moore dedicates his book Mike's Election Guide 2008 (ISBN 978-0141039817) to Tony Benn with: "For Tony Benn, keep teaching us".

Plaques

During his final years in Parliament, Benn placed three plaques within the Houses of Parliament as well as one in Highbury
Highbury
- Early Highbury :The area now known as Islington was part of the larger manor of Tolentone, which is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Tolentone was owned by Ranulf brother of Ilger and included all the areas north and east of Canonbury and Holloway Road. The manor house was situated by what is now...

, North London (to commemorate the Peasant's Revolt of 1381).

Two of the three parliamentary plaque's are in the 'Suffragette's room' (next to the Central lobby).

The first was placed in 1995 and reads as follows:

"This plaque is dedicated/ with respect, gratitude and affection/ to the many hundreds of thousands of men and women/ who lived and worked on these islands/ and who devoted themselves to the advancement of/ freedom
Freedom
-Philosophy:* Free will, the ability to make choices* Political freedom, in the context of the relationship of the individual to the state* Economic freedom-Computing:...

, civil liberties
Civil liberties
Civil liberties are rights and freedoms that provide an individual specific rights such as the freedom from slavery and forced labour, freedom from torture and death, the right to liberty and security, right to a fair trial, the right to defend one's self, the right to own and bear arms, the right...

, social justice
Social justice
Social justice generally refers to the idea of creating a society or institution that is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights, and that recognizes the dignity of every human being. The term and modern concept of "social justice" was coined by...

 and democracy
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

/ who campaigned for popular representation in Parliament

Including: Wat Tyler
Wat Tyler
Walter "Wat" Tyler was a leader of the English Peasants' Revolt of 1381.-Early life:Knowledge of Tyler's early life is very limited, and derives mostly through the records of his enemies. Historians believe he was born in Essex, but are not sure why he crossed the Thames Estuary to Kent...

, John Ball
John Ball
John Ball may refer to:* John Ball , English Lollard priest of the Peasants' Revolt* John Ball , English author and scholar* John Ball , American minister from Nova Scotia...

, William Tyndale
William Tyndale
William Tyndale was an English scholar and translator who became a leading figure in Protestant reformism towards the end of his life. He was influenced by the work of Desiderius Erasmus, who made the Greek New Testament available in Europe, and by Martin Luther...

, Thomas More
Thomas More
Sir Thomas More , also known by Catholics as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist. He was an important councillor to Henry VIII of England and, for three years toward the end of his life, Lord Chancellor...

, The Levellers,
John Lilburne
John Lilburne
John Lilburne , also known as Freeborn John, was an English political Leveller before, during and after English Civil Wars 1642-1650. He coined the term "freeborn rights", defining them as rights with which every human being is born, as opposed to rights bestowed by government or human law...

, William Walwyn
William Walwyn
William Walwyn was an English pamphleteer, a Leveller and a medical practitioner.Walwyn was a silkman in London who took the parliamentary side in the English Civil War. He advocated religious toleration and emerged as a leader of the Levellers in 1647 which led to his imprisonment in 1649...

, The Diggers
The Diggers
The Diggers are a Scottish post-Britpop powerpop band, with a 1997 debut album, Mount Everest.-History:Members Miezitis and Moffatt had attended school together and began playing as an acoustic duo in the early 1990s. In 1991 they moved to Glasgow, and added members Eslick and Ross...

, Gerard Winstanley, Tom Paine,
Mary Wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft was an eighteenth-century British writer, philosopher, and advocate of women's rights. During her brief career, she wrote novels, treatises, a travel narrative, a history of the French Revolution, a conduct book, and a children's book...

, Robert Owen
Robert Owen
Robert Owen was a Welsh social reformer and one of the founders of utopian socialism and the cooperative movement.Owen's philosophy was based on three intellectual pillars:...

, The Tolpuddle Martyrs
Tolpuddle Martyrs
The Tolpuddle Martyrs were a group of 19th century Dorset agricultural labourers who were arrested for and convicted of swearing a secret oath as members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers. The rules of the society show it was clearly structured as a friendly society and operated as...

, The Chartists,
Keir Hardie
Keir Hardie
James Keir Hardie, Sr. , was a Scottish socialist and labour leader, and was the first Independent Labour Member of Parliament elected to the Parliament of the United Kingdom...

, Annie Besant
Annie Besant
Annie Besant was a prominent British Theosophist, women's rights activist, writer and orator and supporter of Irish and Indian self rule.She was married at 19 to Frank Besant but separated from him over religious differences. She then became a prominent speaker for the National Secular Society ...

, Charles Bradlaugh
Charles Bradlaugh
Charles Bradlaugh was a political activist and one of the most famous English atheists of the 19th century. He founded the National Secular Society in 1866.-Early life:...

, Robert Tressell
Robert Tressell
Robert Tressell was the nom-de-plume of Robert Croker, latterly Robert Noonan, an Irish writer best known for his novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.-Early life:...

,
The Suffragettes and Constance Markievicz

And many others whose names have never/ been recorded in our history"

The second plaque was placed in 1996 and is dedicated to all who work within the Houses of Parliament.

The third plaque is dedicated to Suffragette Emily Wilding-Davison
Emily Davison
Emily Wilding Davison was a militant women's suffrage activist who, on 4 June 1913, after a series of actions that were either self-destructive or violent, stepped in front of a horse running in the Epsom Derby, sustaining injuries that resulted in her death four days later.-Biography:Davison was...

 and was placed in the broom cupboard next to the Undercroft Chapel within the Palace of Westminster
Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Palace, is the meeting place of the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom—the House of Lords and the House of Commons...

 where Davison is said to have hid during the 1911 census
Census in the United Kingdom
Coincident full censuses have taken place in the different jurisdictions of the United Kingdom every ten years since 1801, with the exceptions of 1941 and in both Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State in 1921; simultaneous censuses were taken in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, with...

 in order to establish her address as the House of Commons.

See also

  • Labour Party
    Labour Party (UK)
    The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

  • Labour Representation Committee
    Labour Representation Committee (2004)
    The Labour Representation Committee is a British socialist pressure group within the Labour Party and wider labour movement. It is often seen as representing the most left wing members of the Labour Party.-Overview:...

  • Socialist Campaign Group
    Socialist Campaign Group
    The Socialist Campaign Group is a left-wing democratic socialist grouping of Labour Party Members of Parliament in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. It was formed in December 1982 as an alternative Parliamentary left-wing group to the Tribune Group...

  • Stop the War Coalition
    Stop the War Coalition
    The Stop the War Coalition is a United Kingdom group set up on 21 September 2001 that campaigns against what it believes are unjust wars....


Diaries

  • Out of the Wilderness: Diaries 1963-67, Hutchinson (1987) ISBN 978-0091706609
  • Office Without Power: Diaries 1968-72, Hutchinson (1988) ISBN 978-0091736477
  • Against the Tide: Diaries 1973-76, Hutchinson (1989) ISBN 978-0091737757
  • Conflicts of Interest: Diaries 1977-80, Hutchinson (1990) ISBN 978-0091743215
  • The End of an Era: Diaries 1980-90, Hutchinson (1992) ISBN 978-0091748579
  • Years of Hope: Diaries 1940-62, Hutchinson (1994) ISBN 978-0091785345
  • The Benn Diaries: Single Volume Edition 1940-90, Hutchinson (1995) ISBN 978-0091792237
  • Free at Last!: Diaries 1991-2001, Hutchinson (2002) ISBN 978-0091793524
  • More Time for Politics: Diaries 2001-2007, Hutchinson (2007) ISBN 978-0099517054

External links


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