Five lesser-spotted things Tony Benn gave the UK

Pictures of Tony Benn; Concorde; Radio 1 logo; postage stamp

Tony Benn was known for his radical politics, but his career left a legacy of uniquely British artefacts he helped develop, writes Jon Kelly.

1. British stamp design. As Postmaster General from 1964-6, the republican Benn wanted to permit the introduction of "non-traditional" designs - of landscapes, portraits of composers and so on - without the Queen's head, but he faced resistance from Buckingham Palace. The compromise that resulted from his campaign - a small cameo silhouette in the corner of pictorial stamps - can still be seen to this day.

2. The postcode system. Since the late 1950s, the Post Office had been trialling a method of six-digit alphanumeric codes to sort mail in the Norwich area. In October 1965, under Benn's watch as Postmaster General, the Post Office announced it would extend the system to the rest of the country. Benn also oversaw the opening of the Post Office Tower, now the BT Tower.

3. BBC Radio 1. Benn introduced the 1967 Marine Broadcasting Offences Act that closed down the pirate radio stations which were transmitting offshore around the coast of Britain. The legislation made it almost impossible for the likes of Radio Caroline to keep going and paved the way for the launch of Radio 1 in September of the same year.

4. E in Concorde. As minister of technology from 1966-70, Benn was responsible for the development of the Anglo-French supersonic airliner. Others can take credit for designing and building it, but Benn successfully resisted Treasury efforts to cancel it because of spiralling costs. He also restored the letter "e" to the project's name, which had been removed by former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan after a falling out with Charles de Gaulle. "E stands for excellence, for England, for Europe and for the entente cordiale," Benn said.

5. The rucksack with a built-in seat. Long a keen amateur inventor - he bolted a chair onto the roof of a car for his 1970 election campaign - Benn proudly showed off his creation, the "frontbencher", at the age of 83. "I was carrying around a stool and a rucksack and thought it would better if I put them together," he said. Less successful than his other innovations, he offered Sir Richard Branson the opportunity to manufacture it, but the tycoon turned him down.

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