Tony Benn He Encouraged Us

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.

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