Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Tony Benn dead: Veteran Labour politician passes away aged 88

Labour politician Tony Benn has died
Labour politician Tony Benn has died

Tony Benn, the veteran Labour politician has died. The left-wing activist, born Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn, was 88.

The former cabinet minister died this morning at his home in west London surrounded by family members.

Mr Benn, who served in the cabinets of both Harold Wilson and James Callaghan, finally stood down as an MP in 2001 so he could "spend more time on politics".

In a statement his children Stephen, Hilary, Melissa and Joshua said: "It is with great sadness that we announce that our father Tony Benn died peacefully early this morning at his home in west London surrounded by his family.

"We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all the NHS staff and carers who have looked after him with such kindness in hospital and at home.

"We will miss above all his love which has sustained us throughout our lives. But we are comforted by the memory of his long, full and inspiring life and so proud of his devotion to helping others as he sought to change the world for the better.

"Arrangements for his funeral will be announced in due course."

Mr Benn first entered parliament in November 1950 and served in the cabinet under Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan. He narrowly missed out on election as Labour deputy leader in 1981, and was instrumental in party's 1983 manifesto.

In 2001 Mr Benn stepped down from parliament in order to 'spend more time on politics'.

He remained an active and outspoken member of the Labour party. In recent years he had been a central member of the anti-war movement.

He recently moved into sheltered accommodation near his home in Holland Park, London, following a stroke last year.

Last month he was taken into hospital, where his condition was reported as "seriously ill".

His most recent public appearance was in December when he spoke at a service remembering Nelson Mandela.

Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to the Labour veteran on Twitter.

He said: "Tony Benn was a magnificent writer, speaker and campaigner. There was never a dull moment listening to him, even if you disagreed with him."

Labour MPs also took to the social network to pay warm tributes.

Former cabinet minister Peter Hain said: "Tony Benn was a giant of socialism who encouraged me to join Labour in 1977: wonderful inspirational speaker and person: will be deeply missed."

Diane Abbott said: "Admired so many things about Benn: unwavering principles; always open to new ideas; stellar political speaker but unfailingly courteous."

Barry Sheerman, who entered parliament in 1979 and served alongside Mr Benn for many years, said : "Sad news of Tony Benn death. I had my differences with him but he was a "big beast" in our political life and party history."

Lucy Powell, one of the party's newest MPs added: "Very sorry to hear the sad news about Tony Benn. He was a political giant of the last century, principled and passionate."

Further reading

Tony Benn: Protest is vital to a thriving democracy

Tony Benn: 'Newsnight would have treated suffragettes as troublemakers' 

You ask the questions: Tony Benn

Tony Benn interview: Peace in Northern Ireland is worth working for 

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