101 Facts About Tony Benn


Tony Benn was the Member of Parliament for Bristol South East and Chesterfield for 47 of the 51 years between 1950 and 2001.


Tony Benn later served as President of the Stop the War Coalition from 2001 to 2014.


The son of a Liberal and later Labour Party politician, Tony Benn was born in Westminster and privately educated at Westminster School.


Tony Benn was elected for Bristol South East at the 1950 general election but inherited his father's peerage on his death, which prevented him from continuing to serve as an MP.


Tony Benn fought to remain in the House of Commons and campaigned for the ability to renounce the title, a campaign which succeeded with the Peerage Act 1963.


Tony Benn was an active member of the Fabian Society and served as chairman from 1964 to 1965.


Tony Benn served in Harold Wilson's Labour government, first as Postmaster General, where he oversaw the opening of the Post Office Tower, and later as Minister of Technology.


Tony Benn served as Chairman of the National Executive Committee from 1971 to 1972 while in Opposition.


Tony Benn retained that post when James Callaghan succeeded Wilson as Prime Minister.


Tony Benn was widely seen as a key proponent of democratic socialism and Christian socialism, though in regards to the latter he supported the United Kingdom becoming a secular state and ending the Church of England's status as an official church of the United Kingdom.


Tony Benn was an influence on the political views of Jeremy Corbyn, who was elected Leader of the Labour Party a year after Benn's death, and John McDonnell, who served as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer under Corbyn.


Tony Benn was born in Westminster, London, on 3 April 1925.


Tony Benn had two brothers, Michael, who was killed in the Second World War, and David, a specialist in Russia and Eastern Europe.


William Benn was elevated to the House of Lords and Tony Benn was titled with the honorific prefix, The Honourable.


William Tony Benn was given the title of Viscount Stansgate in 1942: the new wartime coalition government was short of working Labour peers in the upper house.


Tony Benn's mother, Margaret Tony Benn, was a theologian, feminist and the founder President of the Congregational Federation.


Tony Benn was a member of the League of the Church Militant, which was the predecessor of the Movement for the Ordination of Women; in 1925, she was rebuked by Randall Davidson, the Archbishop of Canterbury, for advocating the ordination of women.


Tony Benn believed that it was a "great mistake" to assume that the teachings of Christianity are outdated in modern Britain, and Higgins wrote in The Benn Inheritance that Benn was "a socialist whose political commitment owes much more to the teaching of Jesus than the writing of Marx".


Later in his life, Tony Benn emphasised issues regarding morality and righteousness, as well as various ethical principles of Nonconformism.


Tony Benn was granted an emergency commission as a pilot officer on 10 March 1945.


Tony Benn relinquished his commission with effect from 10 August 1945, three months after the Second World War ended in Europe on 8 May, and just days before the war with Japan ended on 2 September.


In later life, Tony Benn removed public references to his private education from Who's Who.


In 1972, Tony Benn said in his diaries that "Today I had the idea that I would resign my Privy Councillorship, my MA and all my honorary doctorates in order to strip myself of what the world had to offer".


Caroline Tony Benn died of cancer on 22 November 2000, aged 74, after a career as an educationalist.


Two of Tony Benn's children have been active in Labour Party politics.


Tony Benn's eldest son Stephen was an elected Member of the Inner London Education Authority from 1986 to 1990.


Tony Benn's second son Hilary was a councillor in London, stood for Parliament in 1983 and 1987, and became Labour MP for Leeds Central in 1999.


Tony Benn was Secretary of State for International Development from 2003 to 2007, and then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs until 2010, later serving as Shadow Foreign Secretary.


Tony Benn was a first cousin once removed of the actress Margaret Rutherford.


Tony Benn cited the decision of his son Hilary to become vegetarian as an important factor in his own decision to adopt a vegetarian diet.


Tony Benn won the seat in a by-election on 30 November 1950.


Tony Benn became the "Baby" again in 1951, when Teevan was not re-elected.


Tony Benn's father was 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, Tony Benn's elder brother Michael, then serving in the RAF, was intending to enter the priesthood and had no objections to inheriting a peerage.


Tony Benn made several unsuccessful attempts to renounce the succession.


Tony Benn automatically became a peer, preventing him from sitting in the House of Commons.


An election court found that the voters were fully aware that Tony Benn was disqualified, and declared the seat won by the Conservative runner-up, Malcolm St Clair, who was at the time the heir presumptive to a peerage.


Tony Benn returned to the Commons after winning a by-election on 20 August 1963.


Tony Benn proposed issuing stamps without the Sovereign's head, but this met with private opposition from the Queen.


Tony Benn led the government's opposition to the "pirate" radio stations broadcasting from international waters, which he was aware would be an unpopular measure.


Tony Benn is a far stronger character than Mr Heath.


The mainstream press attacked Tony Benn for using language deemed as intemperate as Powell's language in his "Rivers of Blood" speech, and Tony Benn noted in his diary that "letters began pouring in on the Powell speech: 2:1 against me but some very sympathetic ones saying that my speech was overdue".


Tony Benn "was stridently against membership", and campaigned in favour of a referendum on the UK's membership.


On his trip to the Chinese embassy after Mao's death, Tony Benn recorded in an earlier volume of his diaries that he was "a great admirer of Mao", while admitting that "he made mistakes, because everybody does".


Tony Benn later attributed the collapse of the Wilson government to cuts enforced on the UK by global capital, in particular the International Monetary Fund.


Tony Benn withdrew from the second ballot and endorsed Michael Foot; James Callaghan eventually won.


Underlining a wish to counter international market forces which seemed to penalise a larger welfare state, Tony Benn publicly circulated the divided Cabinet minutes in which a narrow majority of the Labour Cabinet under Ramsay MacDonald supported a cut in unemployment benefits in order to obtain a loan from American bankers.


Callaghan allowed Tony Benn to put forward the Alternative Economic Strategy, which consisted of a self-sufficient economy less dependent on low-rate fresh borrowing, but the AES, which according to opponents would have led to a "siege economy", was rejected by the Cabinet.


Tony Benn ascribed his move to the left to four lessons:.


Tony Benn's philosophy consisted of a form of syndicalism, state planning where necessary to ensure national competitiveness, greater democracy in the structures of the Labour Party and observance of Party Conference decisions.


Tony Benn was vilified by most of the press while his opponents implied and stated that a Benn-led Labour Government would implement a type of Eastern European state socialism, with Edward Heath referring to Benn as "Commissar Benn" and others referring to Benn as a "Bollinger Bolshevik".


Tony Benn publicly supported Sinn Fein and the unification of Ireland, although in 2005 he suggested to Sinn Fein leaders that it abandon its long-standing policy of not taking seats at Westminster.


Tony Benn stood against Denis Healey, the party's incumbent deputy leader, triggering the 1981 deputy leadership election, disregarding an appeal from Michael Foot to either stand for the leadership or abstain from inflaming the party's divisions.


Tony Benn defended his decision insisting that it was "not about personalities, but about policies".


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


Tony Benn stood for election as party leader in 1988, against Neil Kinnock, following Labour's third successive defeat in the 1987 general election, losing by a substantial margin, and received only about 11 per cent of the vote.


Tony Benn supported various LGBT social movements, which were then known as gay liberation; Tony Benn had voted in favour of decriminalisation in 1967.


Tony Benn presented an account of his proposal in Common Sense: A New Constitution for Britain.


In 1997, the Labour Party under the leadership of Tony Benn Blair won the general election in a landslide, after 18 years of Conservative Party rule.


Tony Benn supported the introduction of the national minimum wage, and welcomed the progress towards peace and security in Northern Ireland.


Tony Benn was supportive of the extra money given to public services in the New Labour years but believed it to be under the guise of privatisation.


Several months prior to his retirement, Tony Benn was a signatory to a letter, alongside Niki Adams, Ian Macdonald QC, Gareth Peirce, and other legal professionals, that was published in The Guardian newspaper on 22 February 2001 condemning raids of more than 50 brothels in the central London area of Soho.


Tony Benn became a leading figure of the British opposition to the War in Afghanistan from 2001 and the Iraq War, and in February 2003 he travelled to Baghdad to meet Saddam Hussein.


Tony Benn spoke against the war at the February 2003 protest in London organised by the Stop the War Coalition, with police saying it was the biggest ever demonstration in the UK with about 750,000 marchers, and the organisers estimating nearly a million people participating.


Tony Benn toured with a one-man stage show and appeared a few times each year in a two-man show with folk singer Roy Bailey.


Tony Benn continued to speak at each subsequent festival; attending one of his speeches was described as a "Glastonbury rite of passage".


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


Tony Benn presented a left-wing view of democracy as the means to pass power from the "wallet to the ballot".


Tony Benn argued that traditional social democratic values were under threat in an increasingly globalised world in which powerful institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Commission are unelected and unaccountable to those whose lives they affect daily.


On 27 September 2005, Tony Benn became ill while attending the annual Labour Party Conference in Brighton and was taken by ambulance to the Royal Sussex County Hospital after being treated by paramedics on-the-scene at the Brighton Centre.


Tony Benn was kept in hospital for observation and was described as being in a "comfortable condition".


Tony Benn was fitted with an artificial pacemaker to help regulate his heartbeat.


Tony Benn spoke to the demonstrators in the rally afterwards.


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


In October 2007, aged 82, and when it appeared that a general election was about to be held, Tony Benn reportedly announced that he wanted to stand, having written to his local Constituency Labour Party offering himself as a prospective candidate for the newly drawn Kensington seat.


However, there was no election held in 2007, and so the boundary changes did not take effect until the eventual election in 2010, when Tony Benn was not a candidate and the new seat was won by Rifkind.


In early 2008, Tony Benn appeared on Scottish singer-songwriter Colin MacIntyre's album The Water, reading a poem he had written himself.


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


Tony Benn 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.


In July 2011 Tony Benn was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Glamorgan, Wales.


Tony Benn headed the "coalition of resistance", a group which was opposed to the UK austerity programme.


Tony Benn claimed in 2010 that Blair had lost the "trust of the nation" regarding the war in Iraq.


In 2012, Tony Benn was awarded an honorary degree from Goldsmiths, University of London.


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


Tony Benn gave a speech at the People's Assembly Conference held at Westminster Central Hall on 22 June 2013.


In 2013, Tony Benn reiterated his previous opposition to European integration.


In 1990, Tony Benn was diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukaemia and given three or four years to live; at this time, he kept the news of his leukaemia from everyone except his immediate family.


Tony Benn suffered a stroke in 2012, and spent much of the following year in hospital.


Tony Benn was reported to be "seriously ill" in hospital in February 2014.


Tony Benn died at home on 14 March 2014, surrounded by his family, less than a month shy of his 89th birthday.


Tony Benn's funeral took place on 27 March 2014 at St Margaret's Church, Westminster.


Tony Benn's body had lain in rest at St Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster the night before the funeral service.


Tony Benn's body was then cremated; the ashes were expected to be buried alongside those of his wife at the family home near Steeple, Essex.


Figures from across the political spectrum praised Tony Benn following his death, and the leaders of all three major political parties in the United Kingdom paid tribute.


The thing about Tony Benn is that you always knew what he stood for, and who he stood up for.


Tony Benn made public several episodes of audio diaries he made during his time in Parliament and after retirement, entitled The Benn Tapes, broadcast originally on BBC Radio 4.


American Michael Moore dedicates his book Mike's Election Guide 2008 to Benn, with the words: "For Tony Benn, keep teaching us".


In 2011, Tony Benn unveiled a plaque in Highbury, North London, to commemorate the Peasants' Revolt of 1381.


In Bristol, where Tony Benn first served as a member of parliament, a number of tributes exist in his honour.


Tony Benn was widely seen as a key proponent of democratic socialism.


Tony Benn was described as "one of the few UK politicians to have become more left-wing after holding ministerial office".


Harold Wilson, his former boss, maintained that Tony Benn was the only man he knew who "immatures with age".