Tony Benn

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Tony Benn

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Trivia and Quotes

  • Trivia

    • In a recent interview (November 2006), Benn suggested that Britain is practically a colony of the United States of America.

    • Benn has often been a leading voice on contentious issues such as the reunification of Ireland and the 1984-85 miners' strike. In recent years he has been hugely critical of the British approach in the War on Iraq.

    • Benn believes that life's greatest sins are a waste of time or money.

    • Despite Benn's aristocratic family heritage, he does recognise that it is due to a strong, radical and dissenting tradition; his grandfathers before him were Liberal MPs and it was only his father who was made a Lord.

    • Benn served as a pilot in the Royal Air Force in World War II.

    • Benn attended school at Westminster School and continued his university education in New College, Oxford.

    • British Airways selected Benn as one of their priviliged few guests on the last-ever scheduled Concorde flight from New York to London.

    • In a left-wing stance, Benn shortened his name from Anthony Wedgwood Benn to the simple Tony Benn so as to distance himself from class heritage.

    • Benn proposed to his wife just nine days after meeting her for the first time in 1949.

    • Benn's reason for retiring from Parliament is to "devote more time to politics" - the real kind, he says.

    • Benn once proposed issuing stamps without the Sovereign's head, yet this never happened as it was vetoed by the Queen.

    • On his tombstone, Benn would like the simple 'Tony Benn, he encouraged us' to be inscribed.

    • Benn is inspired in his general life by Thomas Paine, who claimed "My own mind is my church, the world is my country, to do good is my religion".

    • Benn unsuccessfully stood for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party in 1981. In 2007 he handed his old 'Vote for Benn' badges to his son, Hilary Benn, who is following in his father's footsteps by competing to be deputy of the New Labour party.

    • Whilst Benn has openly displayed his anger at the New Labour Party, his son, Hilary Benn, is a respected Cabinet Minister and New Blairite.

    • Audio diaries of Tony Benn's have inspired Welsh artist, Tracey Moberly who made sonograms based on her favourite quotes and passages from Mr Benn's diaries througout several decades. The artist explained that the peaks and troughs of the Benn's voice were particularly suited for her work.

    • Benn was first elected to Parliament in 1950, but was not allowed to take his rightful seat due to laws which didn't allow a Lord to become an MP. With the future passing of a new Parliament Act, Benn was able to reject his hereditay title in favour of true democracy, and claim his seat in the House of Commons in 1963.

    • Benn advised people to turn vegetarian to avouid catching BSE.

  • Quotes

    • Benn: If democracy is ever to be threatened, it will not be by revolutionary groups burning government offices and occupying the broadcasting and newspaper offices of the world. It will come from disenchantment, cynicism and despair caused by the realization that the New World Order means we are all to be managed and not represented.

    • Benn: Why vote for the Conservatives when you've got a party that is reflecting in its philosophy everything that Mrs Thatcher did? I mean it's as straightforward as that, real problem with the Conservative Party. There's no need for them.

    • Benn: I'm not a member of New Labour. And the Prime Minister said he'd set up a new political party called New Labour. And I'm not a member, I'm a member of the Labour Party. I'm not a member of old Labour, I mean he has no right to reclassify my party, I'm a Labour Party member, have been for 62 years, and the Labour Party's had socialists in it, and New Labour has no socialists in it, and doesn't like the trade unions.

    • Benn: If you look at the New Labour project, it was based on a very clear idea, if you wanted power, you had to satisfy the rich because they had power. They own the newspapers, they own the companies, they had lots of money to give, and this was a political project to distance yourself from the trade unions, to abandon any formal link with socialism, and to attract the rich to make you seem if not attractive, at least not dangerous, and that is what the project was about. Everybody understands that now, and it was about getting political power. It wasn't about helping British industry, I assure you.

    • Benn: It is as wholly wrong to blame Marx for what was done in his names, as it is to blame Jesus for what was done in his.

    • Benn: When I think of Cool Britannia I think of old people dying of hypothermia.

    • Benn: If I rescued a child from drowning the press would no doubt headline the story 'Benn grabs child.'

    • Benn: Whenever a Concorde flies, people look at it, it's very graceful, it's very beautiful, it is a symbol of peace and international understanding.

    • Benn: I am on the right wing of the middle of the road and with a strong radical bias.

    • Benn: We are not just here to manage capitalism but to change society and to define its finer values.

    • Benn: The House of Lords is the British Outer Mongolia for retired politicians.

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

    • Benn: All war represents a failure of diplomacy.

    • Benn: A faith is something you die for, a doctrine is something you kill for. There is all the difference in the world.