Tributes to Tony Benn, ‘iconic figure of our age’

Tony Benn (88) veteran Labour Politician has died after a long illness. Pictured here with Arthur Scargill at the Durham Miners Gala, July 1996. Paul Macnamara/rossparry.co.uk

Tony Benn (88) veteran Labour Politician has died after a long illness. Pictured here with Arthur Scargill at the Durham Miners Gala, July 1996. Paul Macnamara/rossparry.co.uk

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Friends and foes alike have paid tribute to Tony Benn, the veteran left-winger who was MP for Chesterfield for 17 years.

The former Cabinet minister who has died aged 88, won a by-election in the town in 1984, having lost his seat in Bristol the year before.

He was soon at the heart of the Miners’ Strike, staunchly supporting Arthur Scargill and the NUM during the year-long struggle.

After the return to work he attempted unsuccessfully to introduce a bill in the Commons giving an amnesty to all miners imprisoned for offences during the strike.

And after Labour’s third successive election defeat in 1987, he stood for the leadership against Neil Kinnock but was heavily defeated.

Mr Benn stood down as member for Chesterfield in 2001.

Labour leader and Doncaster MP Ed Miliband said he was ‘an iconic figure of our age’.

He said: “He will be remembered as a champion of the powerless, a great parliamentarian and a conviction politician.”

Prime Minister David Cameron also joined the tributes, saying: “Tony Benn was a magnificent writer, speaker and campaigner. There was never a dull moment listening to him, even if you disagreed with him.”

And Sheffield Hallam MP and LibDem leader Nick Clegg added: “He was a towering figure in British politics and a fervent defender of what he believed.”

Left-wing Bolsover MP Dennis Skinner said Mr Benn was his ‘socialist colleague’.

“He was one of the greatest assets the Labour Party has ever had. He was a campaigner and a teacher. His whole idea was about trying to influence people, not just in parliament but outside too,” he added.

MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough David Blunkett said Mr Benn was one of those rare politicians who brought people hope.

“He was an educator and he did persuade people the politics in their own lives, in the community and in their workplace could be for them. But, paradoxically, he also made people feel that leaders, politicians, were almost bound to let them down.”

Former constituent Sarah Galvin said she had grown up during the Tony Benn era.

“Despite his high profile at national level, he remained a very visible presence and everyone knew who he was. He was as at home in Chesterfield marketplace as he was in the House of Commons.”

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