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Tony Benn He Encouraged Us

Left to Right Tony Mulhearn, Tony Benn, Eddie Loyden, Hugh Dalton, Eric Heffer and Derek Hatton in November 1983

Left to Right Tony Mulhearn, Tony Benn, Eddie Loyden, Hugh Dalton, Eric Heffer and Derek Hatton in November 1983

“He encouraged us.” These were the words Tony Benn said he would most like to see on his grave stone. Today the Labour Movement, indeed the world is bereft of a true champion of working people. He can rest now, safe in the knowledge that he truly encouraged and inspired all of us.

There are many tributes today, far more eloquent and moving than anything I could pen. I would refer you to this one in the Liverpool Echo or this one to Benn and fellow fighter Bob Crow. Tony stood by the city of Liverpool when politicians obsessed with their careers abandoned it in the pursuit of popularity.

He rejoiced along with us when politicians on Merseyside, campaigning on the socialist ideals he had espoused his whole life cleaned up in election after election. Meanwhile careerists campaigning elsewhere were vanquished at the polls. Tony Benn’s socialist ideals were popular after all. This was a lesson lost on the Labour leadership at the time, it still is.

He fought tirelessly against war, poverty, and for better conditions for working people. He spoke passionately and articulately on behalf of workers in struggle. The Liverpool Dockers, The Miners, and the Women of Greenham Common all received his unequivocal support. He was a beacon.

Today’s youth have no faith in politicians, and it’s no surprise. The word politician is synonymous with corruption and greed. They appear to exist only to perpetuate a system that keeps them in power. There is a growing sense of resignation, and a feeling that voting is pointless. Russell Brand has become the poster boy for this movement of the disillusioned, but he is not to blame. Today’s vacuous politicians are.

I was lucky. When I became politically aware we had real leaders such as Tony Mulhearn, Terry Fields, Dennis Skinner, Arthur Scarghill and Tony Benn to look up to. They encouraged us, and we were willing to fight with them. How we miss their likes at the top of the movement today.

The thing I will admire most about Tony Benn though, is his steadfastness, and relentless consistency. He was still campaigning, and speaking up for his beliefs at the age of 88. In the end only death could stop him, but in our hearts and minds his legacy lives on. He encouraged us.

Rest in peace Tony.

 

4 Comments »

  1. Just watched the BBC thing about him. All the Labour boys turning on him now as they did then, Roy Hattersley saying he was a ‘bad team player’ – suggesting it was he and his unbending principles that kept Thatcher in power.
    But what would have happened if they had all got behind him? An eloquent man, raised from birth to be a politician, forcing a change in electoral law to enable him to renounce a non democratic place in parliament in order to be able to win a democratic place? A man privileged and educated enough to see through and stand up to the establishment. Yes he was dangerous. Effing dangerous. But who to?
    Neil Kinnock was on. He said Benn was very much against Thatcher’s ‘right to buy’ policy for council houses – saying those houses belonged to the state, not the tenant. Kinnock said Benn only had the right to comment if he paid a mortgage or paid rent. What do we think now about that policy, who do we think was right?
    All those Labour moderates suggested now as they pointed fingers then that he was a militant. A dirty word. He was a socialist. I think that because socialism has also become a dirty word we are now living in a country where people are having to decide between heating or food, where workers turn against each other simply for exercising the right to strike (also now a dirty word) for a decent living wage, decent conditions, decent education, decent health service and a just legal system for all.
    Where would we have been if we’d have listened to him, and let him fight our battles instead of the others? Who knows?

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    • I agree with your analysis Jeanette. Thanks for commenting. I would just say this about the word Militant – it’s not in my view a dirty word. Another hero of mine Terry Fields once said “a Militant is a moderate who got off his Knees”

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    • All those Labour grandees turning on Benn now ignore one vital point – they failed, they lost elections over and over again. While at the same time those arguing his ideals in Merseyside won election after election. Ye Blair won in 97 but anyone on a Labour ticket could have won at the fag end of the tory governement. They sold out Benn didn’t.

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