Tony Benn, the former British Labour party politician has died at the age of 88. He will be missed by a number of supporters for his radical decisions, including giving up his aristocratic title. No cause of death has currently been given, but his family did say that it was peaceful and at home.
When he was 36, he was nearly forced to give up his 11 year political career due to his father’s death. His father had been created Viscount Stansgate in 1941 by George VI. The title should have passed onto Benn’s brother, Michael, but he was killed in 1944.
The law states that anyone with a title is not allowed in the House of Commons. He would have had to sit in the House of Lords and it would have affected his position as a politician. Many lords and ladies have opted for the House of Lords, and Benn surprised the world when he chose not to.
It was not an easy decision to make, and it did mean a change in the law. Luckily for him, despite not being able to take his seat in the House of Commons, his constituency stood by him and voted him in for another term. It took three years for a law to be created that would allow hereditary peers to give up titles bestowed upon them.
His political career lasted five decades, and his son Hilary opted to follow in his father’s footsteps. The memories of Benn’s career and positions as a British politician still live on after his death at 88.
In 1974, he was finally given the prestigious position in the Labour party cabinet. Harold Wilson made him the Industry Secretary, but he only remained there for a year. After a cabinet reshuffle, he was given the job of the Energy Secretary. It turned out that his pro-union and left-wing ideologies were too much of an influence in his previous position.
His beliefs and ideologies had never changed over the years. He favored the abolishing of the British monarchy and for Britain to leave the European Union. He even clung onto his beliefs when his party started to change to a more middle ground. New Labour under the guidance of Tony Blair as a leader started to wipe out the ideologies of the original government due to the disastrous defeat to the Conservatives in 1979 under Margaret Thatcher.
Benn even lost his seat during the 1979 election. For a year he was left without a job in politics but was elected in a former coal mining town, Chesterfield, the next year. The north had been severely hit by Thatcher’s policies, which included a Poll Tax and the closing of mines.
It was because of him that some of the radio stations, like Radio 1, were able to flourish. He introduced the Act of Parliament that would lead to the closure of the pirate radio stations, including Radio Caroline. Radio 1 only launched the same year that the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act was introduced.
Prime Minster David Cameron made a poignant note saying that “there was never a dull moment…even if you disagreed with him.” Many British politicians have expressed their condolences to the Benn family after the death at the age of 88.
By Alexandria Ingham
The Washington Post