Obituary: Political figures and former colleagues in Camden remember Tony Benn

15:00 19 March 2014

Tony Benn at home in Holland Park in 2008. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Tony Benn at home in Holland Park in 2008. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

© Nigel Sutton 17 Redington Rd,London,NW37QX. Phone 020 7794 3008. email

Political figures and former colleagues have remembered Labour stalwart Tony Benn following his death aged 88.

Tony Benn at an Animal Aid-sponsored walk on Hampstead Heath in 2006. Picture: Nigel Sutton.Tony Benn at an Animal Aid-sponsored walk on Hampstead Heath in 2006. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

The father-of-four, who served as a Labour MP between 1950 and 2001, died surrounded by family at his Holland Park home on Friday.

He is considered one of the most prominent left-wing Labour figures of the last century, described as an “iconic figure of our age” by Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Glenda Jackson, who spent nine years in Parliament with Mr Benn, said: “He was always interesting to speak to, even if rarely did I agree with what he had to say. He was always enormously courteous to everybody.

“It’s always sad when someone dies but equally he had a remarkably rich life and I think one should be grateful that we were around when he was.”

Mr Benn first entered Parliament in 1950 after winning a by-election in the now defunct constituency of Bristol South East, an office he held for a decade.

In 1960, Mr Benn was forced to step down following the death of his father, Viscount Stansgate, which meant he automatically became a peer and was thus prevented from sitting in the House of Commons.

He subsequently campaigned for the right to disclaim peerages and was instrumental in ensuring the passing of the Peerage Act 1963, which enabled him to dispense of his hereditary title and return to the commons as an MP for Bristol South East.

In the 1964 government of Harold Wilson, Mr Benn became postmaster general and worked with Camden Town artist David Gentleman, 84, in designing the first experimental postage stamps dispensing with the then mandatory portrait of the Queen.

Mr Gentleman, of Gloucester Crescent, said: “What changed was that he was prepared to widen the subjects that were considered possible [on stamps].

“When Churchill died, he was the first commoner ever to appear on the stamp and, at that time, this seemed noteworthy.”

In the Labour government of 1974, Mr Benn became secretary of state for industry and made a lasting impression on Kentish Town resident Lord Peter Melchett, 65, then a junior minister.

“He was extremely conscientious about drafting and redrafting letters to people who others might have seen as not being important enough,” said Lord Melchett.

“There were other sides to his politics that get lots of attention but that was the best example I saw of a representative taking the role seriously.”

Following the resignation of Mr Wilson as Labour leader and Prime Minister in 1976, Mr Benn competed in the leadership race but eventually pulled out to support close ally Michael Foot.

Former chairman of Hampstead Labour party Barry Peskin held a number of meetings in the area around this time to build support for Mr Benn’s leadership bid.

Mr Peskin said: “He’s a sad loss for the Labour movement and for that to happen in the same week as Bob Crow’s death is a big loss.”

When Labour was in opposition in the 1980s, Mr Benn became a prominent figure on the party’s left wing and the term “Bennite” was coined to describe someone with radical left-wing politics.

After leaving parliament, Mr Benn became president of the Stop the War Coalition from 2001 until his death.

Camden Council leader Cllr Sarah Hayward said: “Tony Benn has left an indelible mark on the history and direction of the Labour Party and left wing politics generally.”


Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories


Cyclists say they are lucky nobody was seriously injured after tacks were discovered on the roads inside Regents Park as the row over a proposed new cycle superhighway in north west London escalates.

Mental health campaigner Marjorie Wallace may have just won a Woman of the Year award, but she believes care is not much better than 30 years ago

Yesterday, 08:03

A colourful man-about-town has reformed his fringe political party on the back of the Brexit result - which he said is “a step in the right direction” towards abolishing the existing system

Fri, 16:26

Controversial plans to build a 10-storey “big ugly block” of luxury flats in Hampstead were last night waved through by Camden Council.

Fri, 07:00

A row has broken out over plans to dig out a basement car park and swimmming pool next to Hampstead Heath.

Thu, 17:15

A heritage campaigner has told of his devastation after he watched raiders ransack a disused pub that he fought to preserve.

Thu, 15:45

A historic red phone box in Highgate Village could soon be a tiny office space, complete with printing, scanning, copying and wifi

Thu, 11:00

Camden parents were forced to pay a total of £20,000 in school fines in the last year, new figures have revealed.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news


Show Job Lists

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot


Cosmetics, toiletries, vitamins and more. Boots is the number one choice when it comes to purchasing daily essentials.

If you’re obsessed with Apple or just love a good gadget, this is a prize that will blow you away! An incredible £3,333 to spend on Apple goodies! How would you like to be the proud new owner of the Apple Watch?

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now