Thoughts inspired by Tony Benn

I was thrilled to have an opportunity to hear Tony Benn speak this week. I know I am not alone in admiration of this man,  and while I have listened to speakers  from the Labour Party including Harold Wilson, Michael Foot,  John Smith and Tony Blair, this was the first time I had heard Tony Benn in person. There are many who begin life as militant firebrands, only to find their policies  watered down in parliament and pledges to the electorate overturned. Tony Benn is not one of those, if anything the movement has been further to the Left in his lifetime by his own admission.I was struck by his faith in democracy.  No one  could but admire his respect for the electorate, for their sense of justice, and knowledge of right and wrong, despite what the media would have us believe.  Defence of democracy at all costs should be our priority.

We will not reach the electorate by jargon. The voters know what needs to be done in order to develop a fairer society, and  they will not be swayed through long words and clever tongues. Tony Benn’s advice is,

“Say what you mean and mean what you say.”

Even Enoch Powell and Margaret Thatcher did that,  however  appalling their policies. The spin and lies of politicians will not fool the voters. Benn’s sincerity and integrity is clear when he speaks. Straight talking, honesty and truth is evident to all.  The voters know that not all politicians speak honestly, hiding behind the press.

Scepticism not Cynicism

Benn acknowledges our need to be sceptical when listening to our politicians, but points out the futility of cynicism.  Cynicism can only lead to negativity, and inactivity. This approach cannot further the cause for socialism and a fairer society. Splits in the opposition will not oust this coalition.Where his admiration for others who speak sincerely is clear, of Labour leaders he worked with, Atlee impressed him most in driving socialist policies into statute.  But his  respect for Ghandi and for Nelson Mandela was unsurpassed.


It was clear from the audience, many held Benn himself in similar self esteem, yet he regards achievements as the result of teamwork, as a true socialist, in valuing the contribution we all make to society.  For himself, he aspires to encourage others, to instill confidence in what can be achieved. Benn’s opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is well known, and as an ambassador for peace he told of his meetings with Saddam Hussain among others, always feeling that war is no answer for resolving international disputes. The danger of  war and nuclear missiles concerned him. He told of his feelings when meeting after WW2 of the victims of Hiroshima in August 1945.

Indeed, when questioned about regrets and mistakes, he admitted that if there was anything he would change it was his support of civil nuclear power when Energy Secretary in a Labour government, now realising the real dangers following the disasters of Chernobyl and Fukushima, and the dangers of enriched uranium falling into the wrong hands.

New Labour is Dead 

Unbridled capitalism has been allowed to fester and has led to a global crisis.  Bankers and financiers gambling serve their own interests and have no care for the effect on others. Benn advocates that since banks serve the people, they should be a public service much like schools and hospitals.

Most significant for me, and I think for those who turn their backs on the Labour movement, walking away following the New Labour experiment, is that Tony Benn never did. Like Michael Foot he remained in the Labour Party,  the party formed by the Trade Union movement in order to represent the working people.

Tony Benn feels the Liberal Democrats destiny was decided when the party joined the Conservatives in government where no party had won the General Election in 2010, and in supporting Conservative policies they are unlikely to be supported widely at the next election. Benn’s  disdain for New Labour is clear, but so was his statement that New Labour died in 2010. Benn speaks of Ed Miliband as a man of integrity, and hopes for a new Labour government and an end to the Coalition with Conservative policies.

I agree, and believe is up to us to unite as a movement against the Coalition government. Do not walk away. Blair’s way is no longer Labour’s way. Labour must represent the people in 2015.

Let us be united in opposition.

Let us allow scepticism, but not cynicism.

Let us  all say what we mean and mean what we say.

Let us encourage others so that they can build a  better world and a have life worth living.

This time, there is no alternative.

Video Tony Benn: Democracy – Big ideas that changed the world


Think Left: New Labour excluded the parliamentary left in a sealed tomb. )

18 thoughts on “Thoughts inspired by Tony Benn

    • What a pity that with such a refreshing view of politics that Tony Benn has you can only refer to this one issue. No wonder politics is in such a miserable state with public perception.


  1. One issue that runs through the demise of democracy in politics at the present time is the increase in the public relations industry. Ever since Blair really started to employ the PR people the public’s distrust of politics and the majority of politicians has increased.

    We are now at the point where we have the ultimate triumph of PR stupidity over the democratic process with a second hand PR man as the Prime Minister.

    No wonder people are turned off by politics.


  2. Christoff , couldn’t agree more.The media tried to demonise Benn and Foot. Now we have PR and ThinkTanks. Politicians would do well to listen to those they represent democratically, and take note of those like Benn. There is much to be done.


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  4. Throught the nineteen-eighties I was led to believe via the media that people like Benn and Foot were nothing more than leftie buffoons. I now know that I was wrong to belive what I was fed by the establishment. Tony Benn was right and oh how I wish I could turn back time…


  5. Tony Benn is a complex character, a man who has, in some respects, reversed the typical political journey in life from radical to conservative. Undoubtedly a man who has stuck by his principles since the early eighties. He is also one of the most courteous people you could ever meet, or correspond with.In 1988, as a seventeen year old, I voted Benn/Prescott in the leadership election, and sent him a letter of commiseration – he sent one back, saying “Don’t worry, it has always been hard!” – handwritten! And sent a return christmas card that year as well.
    However, looking back on his deputy leadership bid in 1981, it did far more harm than good, and although it helped gain him “grand old man” status now, it was an act of disloyalty to Michael Foot, who was trying to unite the Party in the face of tremendous odds. Still, there is much to admire in the man.


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  7. Pingback: Tony Benn – an inspiration to the end – and beyond. An interview with Tony Benn. | Think Left

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