Tony Benn

Knowledge Identifier: +Tony_Benn

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Tony Benn

Retired British Labour Party politician who was a Member of Parliament for 50 years and a Cabinet Minister under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan add

Category: Politics

Born in 1925.

Countries: United Kingdom (81%), India (5%), (5%)

Main connections: Denis Healey, Michael Foot, Eric Heffer

Linked to: Conservative Party, Labour Party, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Chartism

 

Timeline


 

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Tony Benn was born in 1925 add something


1926

Benn met Caroline Middleton DeCamp over tea at Worcester College in 1949 and nine days later he proposed to her on a park bench in the city add something


1929

He was appointed Secretary of State for India by Ramsay MacDonald in 1929, a position he held until 1931 add something


1931

David Lloyd George when he was 12 and Mahatma Gandhi in 1931, while his father was Secretary of State for India add something

 

Benn publicly circulated the Cabinet minutes from the 1931 National Labour Government of Ramsay MacDonald, which cut unemployment benefits in order to secure a loan from American bankers and resulted in the splitting of the Labour Party add something


1941

He was elevated to the House of Lords with the title of Viscount Stansgate in 1941; the new wartime coalition government was short of working Labour peers in the upper house add something


1942

Benn's father had been created Viscount Stansgate in 1942 when Winston Churchill 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 add something


1943

In July 1943, Benn joined the Royal Air Force add something


1945

From 1945 to 1946, he was the Secretary of State for Air in the first majority Labour Government add something


1947

Benn went to Westminster School and studied at New College, Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics and was elected President of the Oxford Union in 1947 add something


1950

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 add something

 

On 1 November 1950, he was unexpectedly selected to succeed Sir Stafford Cripps as the Labour candidate for Bristol South East, after Cripps stood down because of ill-health add something

 

He won the seat in a by-election on 30 November 1950 add something


1951

He became the "Baby" again in 1951, when Teevan was not re-elected add something


1955

Dickson Mabon - He was elected as Labour Co-operative member of parliament for Greenock at a by-election in December 1955, replacing Tony Benn as Labour's youngest MP. He held that seat until 1983


1960

In November 1960 Viscount Stansgate died and Benn automatically became a peer and was thus prevented from sitting in the House of Commons add something


1961

Insisting on his right to abandon his peerage, Benn fought to retain his seat in a by-election caused by his succession on 4 May 1961 add something


1963

Benn's campaign to renounce his hereditary peerage was instrumental in the creation of the Peerage Act 1963 add something

 

The Peerage Act 1963, allowing renunciation of peerages, became law shortly after 6 pm on 31 July 1963 add something

 

Benn returned to the Commons after winning a by-election on 20 August 1963 add something

 

Alec Douglas-Home - The Peerage Act became law in 1963 after a three-year campaign by Anthony Wedgwood Benn, who had reluctantly inherited his father's peerage in 1960


1964

In the 1964 Government of Harold Wilson, Benn was Postmaster General, where he oversaw the opening of the Post Office Tower, the UK's tallest building, and the creations of the Post Bus service and Girobank add something


1965

BT Group - In March 1965, Tony Benn, the acting Postmaster General, wrote to Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister, proposing that studies be undertaken aimed at converting the Post Office into a nationalised industry


1967

By the time the bill became law in 1967, Benn had been promoted to Minister of Technology, which included responsibility for the development of Concorde and the formation of International Computers Ltd. The period saw government involvement in industrial rationalisation, and the merger of several car companies to form British Leyland add something

 

Eric Heffer - In August 1967, Wilson, who recognised his abilities, asked Heffer to take a junior post at the Ministry of Technology under Tony Benn


1968

MIRA Ltd. - Marking the increasing concern with secondary safety at the time was the opening by the Minister of Technology Tony Benn, in April 1968, of MIRA's indoor rig for crash-testing cars in head-on impacts


1969

Eric Varley - He served briefly as a junior minister under Tony Benn at the Ministry of Technology from 1969


1970

By the end of the 1970s, Benn had migrated to the left wing of the Labour Party add something

 

He has been a vegetarian since the 1970s add something

 

Patricia Hewitt - Hewitt's political career began in the 1970s as a high-profile left-winger and supporter of Tony Benn, even being classified by MI5 as an alleged communist sympathiser


1972

The Shadow Cabinet voted to support a referendum on 29 March 1972, and as a result Roy Jenkins resigned as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party add something


1973

In October 1973 he announced on BBC Radio that he wished to be known as Mr Tony Benn rather than as Anthony Wedgwood Benn, and his book "Speeches" from 1974 is credited to "Tony Benn" add something

 

Alex Eadie - Wilson appointed Eadie opposition spokesman on energy in 1973, and served as junior minister for Energy during the Labour government of 1974 to 1979, serving under ministers Eric Varley and Tony Benn


1974

Eric Heffer - In March 1974, Harold Wilson invited Heffer to be Minister of State at the Department of Industry under Tony Benn

 

Alan Marre - When the Court Line group collapsed in August 1974, complaints were made to the Ombudsman about statements made in the House of Commons by the Secretary of State for Industry, Tony Benn

 

Clarksons Travel Group - The Trade Minister, at the time, Tony Benn assured customers that none would lose money as a result of the collapse, perhaps mindful that a second General Election in 1974 was likely, as indeed it turned out


1975

In 1975 he was appointed Secretary of State for Energy, immediately following his unsuccessful campaign for a "No" vote in the referendum on the UK's membership of the EEC add something


1976

In autumn 1976 there was a sterling crisis, and Chancellor of the Exchequer Denis Healey sought a loan from the International Monetary Fund add something

 

In the 1976 edition, almost all details 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 the draft entry with everything else struck through add something

 

This power was revealed even more clearly in 1976 when the IMF secured cuts in our public expenditure add something

 

Eric Heffer - Despite Heffer's friendship with Tony Benn, he voted for Michael Foot in the Labour leadership election of 1976


1977

However, some miners 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 add something

 

In the 1977 edition, Benn's entry disappeared entirely add something


1979

Labour Party (UK) - After its defeat in the 1979 election the Labour Party underwent a period of internal rivalry between the left-wing, represented by Michael Foot and Tony Benn, and the right-wing represented by Denis Healey


1980

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 add something

 

In a keynote speech to the Labour Party Conference of 1980, shortly before the resignation of party leader James Callaghan and election of Michael Foot as successor, Benn outlined what he envisaged the next Labour Government would do add something

 

James Lamond - Lamond supported Tony Benn in his unsuccessful bid to become the Labour party's deputy leader in 1980


1981

In 1981, he stood against incumbent Denis Healey for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, disregarding the appeal from Michael Foot to either stand for the leadership or abstain from inflaming the party's divisions add something

 

Allan Roberts - As a supporter of Tony Benn in the Deputy Leadership election of 1981, Roberts was unopposed for reselection that June

 

Neil Kinnock - In 1981, when still Labour's Education spokesman, Kinnock was alleged to have effectively scuppered Tony Benn's attempt to replace Denis Healey as Labour's deputy leader by first supporting the candidacy of the more traditionalist Tribunite John Silkin and urging Silkin supporters to abstain on the second, run-off, ballot

 

Michael Welsh (Labour politician) - In the Labour Party Deputy leadership election in 1981, Welsh voted for the left-wing candidate Tony Benn in both ballots

 

Robin Cook - When Tony Benn challenged Denis Healey for the party's deputy leadership in September 1981, Cook supported Healey


1982

After Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in April 1982, Benn argued that the dispute should be settled by the United Nations and that the British Government should not send a task force to recapture the islands add something

 

Eric Heffer - Heffer joined with Foot and Denis Healey in an NEC motion calling for negotiations with the United Nations Secretary-General after the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands on 28 April 1982, in opposition to a motion from Tony Benn calling for a ceasefire and withdrawal of the British taskforce


1983

For the 1983 Benn's Bristol South East constituency was abolished by boundary changes, and he lost to Michael Cocks the battle to stand in the new seat of Bristol South add something

 

His second son Hilary was a councillor in London, and stood for Parliament in 1983 and 1987, becoming the Labour MP for Leeds Central in 1999 add something

 

His second son Hilary was a councillor in London, and stood for Parliament in 1983 and 1987, becoming the Labour MP for Leeds Central in 1999 add something

 

In the period since Benn's defeat in Bristol, Michael Foot had stepped down after the general election in June 1983 and was succeeded in October of that year by Neil Kinnock add something

 

Michael Meacher - During opposition he was in the Shadow Cabinet for fourteen years and concurrently lectured at the LSE. He was seen as a figure on the left and an ally of Tony Benn and stood as the left's candidate against Roy Hattersley in the 1983 deputy leadership election

 

Robin Cook - When the constituency boundaries were revised for the 1983 general election, he transferred to the new Livingston constituency, beating Tony Benn to the selection, which he represented until his death


1984

On the day of the by-election, 1 March 1984, "The Sun" newspaper ran a hostile feature article "Benn on the Couch", which purported to be the opinions of an American psychiatrist add something

 

Bill Maynard - In 1984, Maynard stood against Tony Benn in the by-election at Chesterfield as an Independent Labour candidate

 

The Sun (United Kingdom) - On 1 March 1984 the newspaper extensively quoted a respected American psychiatrist claiming that British left-wing politician Tony Benn was "insane", with the psychiatrist discussing various aspects of Benn's supposed pathology


1985

In June 1985, three months after the miners admitted defeat and ended their strike, Benn introduced the Miners' Amnesty Bill into the Commons, which would have extended an amnesty to all miners imprisoned during the strike add something


1986

Benn's children have been active in politics; his first son Stephen was an elected Member of the Inner London Education Authority from 1986 to 1990 add something


1988

Benn stood for election as Party Leader in 1988, against Neil Kinnock, following Labour's third successive defeat in the 1987 general election, and lost by a substantial margin add something


1991

In 1991, with Labour still in opposition and a general election due by June 1992, he proposed the Commonwealth of Britain Bill, abolishing the Monarchy in favour of the United Kingdom becoming a "democratic, federal and secular commonwealth", a republic with a written constitution add something


1996

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


2000

Caroline Benn died of cancer on 22 November 2000, aged 74, after a prominent career as an educationalist add something


2001

Benn did not stand at the 2001 general election; as he explained it, he was "leaving parliament in order to spend more time on politics" add something

 

It was read in Parliament a number of times until his retirement at the 2001 election, but never achieved a second reading add something

 

Helen Goodman - Following the retirement of Tony Benn at the 2001 general election she tried unsuccessfully to be selected for Chesterfield losing out for Labour's nomination to the former MP for Wood Green Reg Race

 

Reg Race - For the 2001 general election, Race was selected as Labour candidate for the Chesterfield constituency on the retirement of its MP, Tony Benn


2002

In 2002 he opened the "Left Field" stage at the Glastonbury Festival add something


2003

He was Secretary of State for International Development from 2003 to 2007, and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs until 2010 add something

 

In 2003, his show with Bailey was voted 'Best Live Act' at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards add something

 

Stop the War Coalition - He spoke against the war at the February 2003 protest in London organised by the Stop the War Coalition, attended by over 1 million people add something

 

He thus became a leading figure of the British opposition to the War on Iraq, and in February 2003 he travelled to Baghdad to meet Saddam Hussein add something

 

In August 2003, London DJ Charles Bailey created an album of Benn's speeches set to ambient groove add something

 

In October 2003, he was a guest of British Airways on the last scheduled Concorde flight from New York to London add something

 

Roy Bailey (folk singer) - In 2003, Bailey together with Tony Benn were awarded "Best Live Act" at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for their programme "Writing on the Wall"

 

George Galloway - The National Constitutional Committee held a hearing on 22 October 2003, to consider the charges, taking evidence from Galloway himself, from other party witnesses, viewing media interviews, and hearing character testimony from former Cabinet Minister Tony Benn, among others


2004

In February 2004 and 2008, he was re-elected President of the Stop the War Coalition add something


2005

He publicly supported Sinn Féin and the unification of Ireland, although in 2005 he suggested to Sinn Féin leaders that it abandon its long-standing policy of not taking seats at Westminster add something

 

In June 2005, Benn was a panellist on a special edition of BBC1's "Question Time" edited entirely by a school-age film crew selected by a BBC competition add something

 

On 21 June 2005, Benn presented a programme on democracy as part of the Channel 5 series "Big Ideas That Changed The World" add something

 

On 27 September 2005, Benn became ill while at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton and was taken by ambulance to the Royal Sussex County Hospital after being treated by paramedics at the Brighton Centre add something


2006

In a list compiled by the magazine "New Statesman" in 2006, he was voted twelfth in the list of "Heroes of our Time" add something

 

In September 2006, Benn joined the "Time to Go" demonstration in Manchester the day before the start of the final Labour Party 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 and submarines with a new system add something

 

Islamic Human Rights Commission - It has produced several critical works overviewing anti-terrorism laws, particularly in the UK. Its 2006 report 'Anti-terrorism: A Modern day Witch-hunt' by Fahad Ansari was praised by Tony Benn and Bruce Kent


2007

However, there was no election in 2007, and the Kensington and Chelsea seat was abolished add something

 

In 2007, he appeared in an extended segment in the Michael Moore film "Sicko" giving comments about democracy, social responsibility, and health care add something

 

In the 2007 Labour Party leadership election, Benn backed the left-wing MP John McDonnell in his unsuccessful bid add something

 

In September 2007, Benn called for the government to hold a referendum on the EU Reform Treaty add something

 

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 Constituency Labour Party offering himself as a prospective candidate for the seat held by the Conservative Malcolm Rifkind add something

 

Eric Faulkner - Glastonbury Festival - In 2007, Faulkner continued as a solo artist and appeared at the Glastonbury Festival as a protest singer in support of British politician Tony Benn

 

East Worthing and Shoreham (UK Parliament constituency) - The competitive hustings in September 2007 of the local Labour Party selected Emily Benn, granddaughter of Tony Benn and niece of Hilary Benn, former ministers of state, aged 17, to contest the 2010 general election, making her the youngest ever Labour parliamentary candidate: had she been elected, she would have been the youngest MP since the Reform Act 1832


2008

Also in 2008, Benn appeared on track 12 "Pay Attention to the Human" on Colin MacIntyre's "The Water" album add something


2009

At the Stop the War Conference 2009, he described the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as "Imperialist war" 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 add something

 

Benn led the government's campaign to close down the many off-shore pirate radio stations of the time, a campaign that formed the centrepiece of the 2009 film "The Boat That Rocked", and he was responsible for introducing the Marine Broadcasting Offences Bill add something

 

In 2009 Benn was admitted to hospital and "An Evening with Tony Benn", scheduled to take place at London's Cadogan Hall, was cancelled add something


2010

Benn's granddaughter Emily Benn failed to win East Worthing and Shoreham in 2010, becoming the Labour Party's youngest-ever candidate in the process add something

 

He resumed a tour of these shows in 2010 add something

 

David Davis (British politician) - Davis has supported civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch and in January 2010 he spoke with Tony Benn at the official launch


2011

In July 2011 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Glamorgan, Wales add something

 

He performed his show "The Writing on the Wall" with Roy Bailey at St Mary's Church, Ashford, Kent in September 2011 as part of the arts venue's first Revelation St Mary's Season add something

 

In November 2011 it was reported that Benn had moved out of his home in Holland Park Avenue, London, into a smaller £750,000 flat nearby which benefits from a warden add something


2012

He has now stopped writing them following a stroke, and in April 2012 was reportedly working on the final volume add something


2013

In February 2013 Benn was among those who gave their support to the People's Assembly in a letter published by "The Guardian" newspaper add something

 

He gave a speech at the People's Assembly Conference held at Westminster Central Hall on 22 June 2013 add something


2014

Benn was reported to be "seriously ill" in hospital in February 2014 add something

 

His funeral took place on 27 March 2014 at St Margaret's Church, Westminster add something

 

John Freeman (British politician) - Following the death of Tony Benn on 14 March 2014, he was the last surviving member of the 1950 and 1951 Parliaments


2015

As of 2015 he appears, alongside other famous people associated with the city, on the reverse of the Bristol Pound's £B5 banknote add something

 

Metropolitan Police Service - In 2015, former Metropolitan Police &Special_Branch officer Peter Francis revealed that the service has spied on several former and serving Labour MPs including Harriet Harman, Peter Hain, Jack Straw, Diane Abbott, Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Grant, Ken Livingstone, Tony Benn, Joan Ruddock and Dennis Skinner


2016

He was fired from his post on 226 June 2016 for admitting to the party leader at the time, Jeremy Corbyn, that he had lost confidence in Corbyn add something


2018

Steve Richards - In 2018, he presented another series of unscripted episodes for BBC Parliament, entitled "Reflections: The Prime Ministers We Never Had", which profiled Rab Butler, Denis Healey, Tony Benn, Roy_Jenkins, Neil Kinnock, Michael Heseltine, Kenneth Clarke, Michael Portillo, and David Miliband and Ed Miliband