Reaction to Tony Benn's death

Key Points

  • Veteran politician Tony Benn has died at home surrounded by his family. He was 88.
  • The former cabinet minister and formidable left-wing campaigner had been seriously ill.
  • He first entered Parliament in 1950 at a by-election in Bristol South-East.
  • Labour leader Ed Miliband has led tributes, describing him as an "iconic figure of our age".
  • Conservatives have also paid tribute. "There was never a dull moment listening to him, even if you disagreed with him," David Cameron said.

    Hello and welcome to our coverage of reaction and tributes to veteran Labour politician Tony Benn who has died at his home at the age of 88.


    Tony Benn had been seriously ill. His family said he died peacefully at home this morning in west London surrounded by his family.


    In a joint statement his four children thanked hospital staff for their care, adding: "We will miss above all his love which has sustained us throughout our lives. But we are comforted by the memory of his long, full and inspiring life and so proud of his devotion to helping others as he sought to change the world for the better."


    Labour leader Ed Miliband called Tony Benn "an iconic figure of our age - he will be remembered as a champion of the powerless, a great parliamentarian and a conviction politician".


    Labour leader Ed Miliband added, of the man who was a frequent critic of the new Labour agenda: "Tony Benn spoke his mind and spoke up for his values. Whether you agreed with him or disagreed with him, everyone knew where he stood and what he stood for."


    Prime Minister David Cameron said: "Tony Benn was a magnificent writer, speaker and campaigner. There was never a dull moment listening to him, even if you disagreed with him."


    Tony Benn was one of the best known and highest profile figures in British politics over the past half century - in the 1960s he was the minister behind the development of the Concorde project.


    He was a fervent campaigner against British membership of the European Union, putting the case for "No" in the 1975 referendum on the issue, while serving as minister for energy.

    Peter Evans

    emails: The man was a political legend. Despite what your political affiliations he was honest as the day is long and fought for worthy causes. A real passionate politician and a genuine human being. I had the privilege of seeing him speak at a fringe meeting at the Unison Conference in Brighton in the 90's. He bowled me over!


    Lots of politicians are paying tribute on Twitter. Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman said: "Tony Benn's extraordinary life has come to an end. His legacy will endure. Our challenge to take it forward. Our thoughts with his family."

    Farah Ali

    tweets: inevitable day. He was one of the first people whose account I searched for immediately after joining Twitter. #Tony Benn RIP

    Neville Jacob, Southampton

    emails: I once organised a conference in Winchester at which Tony Benn was the speaker. Although it received an unfavourable write up in his diary, my two memories of the event are of distributing tickets and meeting with great warmth and enthusiasm for his presence beforehand, and then the battle to get a seat in the car when I drove him back to London afterwards. He was very warm, very honest and very approachable. He lived an immense life and remained an Edwardian socialist to the end.


    More on Tony Benn's career - he stood for the Labour leadership, losing to Jim Callaghan in the 1970s and Neil Kinnock in the 1980s. But his battle for the deputy leadership with Denis Healey was the closest he got, coming within a whisker of the job.

    Foday Johnson

    emails: I am very saddened but also proud, to have known Tony Benn. I have never met him, but he was the one that made me watch PMQT. I took him to be a, champion of the underprivileged and a great humanitarian. Coming from Africa to Great Britain, Tony made me to feel that I have a voice to speak on my behalf.

    The Furious Owl

    tweets: RIP Tony Benn. Whilst I disagreed with a lot of what he said, he was at least a man of principle. And a lot better than the other Tony B

    Jacqui Ferguson

    tweets: Sad to hear about Tony Benn. Remember watching an OU programme when he predicted that Internet would mobilise working class. Always astute.

    Fauzia Khan, Manchester

    emails: I met Tony Benn the last time he came to Manchester and sat and chatted with him for a few minutes. He showed an interest in everyone he spoke to. I gave him some small examples of my artwork and he was very kind and asked me questions about my family which I thought was very sweet. What moved me tears was the fact that he had a serious fall and still came to the event to speak, as he was passionate about peace and justice. From Allah we come and to Him is our return. He will be sorely missed. May his family find patience in this difficult time and may they find solace in the fact that he was much loved.

    Brian O'Connell, writer and broadcaster

    tweets: #Tony Benn one of the most charming people I encountered at Westminster. Not given to short interview answers but always instructive! RIP


    In recent years Tony Benn had lived up to his pledge on leaving Parliament in 2001 that he wanted to "spend more time on politics". He packed out audiences at events like Glastonbury and sold theatres for speaking events. He was also president of the Stop the War Coalition, which was the huge campaign against the Iraq War.

    Claude Gardener, Enfield

    emails: I shall miss him for he always had time for the man on the shopfloor. When he came to the Cheshunt Civic Centre a short time ago, the place was sold out and the public just loved him.


    Former Labour leader Gordon Brown has added his tribute to a "powerful, fearless relentless advocate for social justice and people's rights".


    Gordon Brown predicted that Tony Benn's speeches will continue to have a "profound influence on generations to come".

    Jeremy Young, photographer

    tweets: Had the privilege to shoot #Tony Benn portrait on a couple of occasions. A very generous man, stimulating and memorable conversation.


    tweets: RIP Tony Benn. In Parliament MPs will be saying they can often smell pipe smoke. Tony's still watching you!!!


    Former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett told Today: People who heard him speak up and down the country will never forget it. He had such a clarity of expression, he opened people's eyes and he made them think."

    Malcolm Kinney, Liverpool

    emails: I walked with him on a unemployment march in Liverpool in the early 1980s. He was very friendly and was deeply concerned about the plight of the poor. He has always been an inspiration and was very much a part of my own ideological journey through life. A truly wonderful man. I later met, though only briefly, him at several conferences and always took inspiration from what he had to say.


    Mr Benn entered Parliament in 1950 at a by-election in Bristol South-East. See his life in pictures here.

    Tony Benn
    Andy McManus, Worcester

    emails: I worked with Tony Benn one evening in the early 1990's when he spoke at the branch of Waterstone's in Leeds on the publication of his then, latest volume of diaries. I remember the evening so well as Tony was not only down to earth, welcoming and without the heirs and graces of so many authors, but the audience was the biggest we ever had for a visiting author.


    Sir Gerald Howarth the Conservative MP for Aldershot tells BBC Surrey: "I used to marvel at listening to him, he was so fluent ... I used to find myself being almost being carried along on this wave of almost logical argument about the case for socialism."

    Diane Abbott MP

    Admired so many things about Benn: unwavering principles; always open to new ideas; stellar political speaker but unfailingly courteous.

    Stephen Skeet

    emails: My memory of Tony was meeting him on Brighton station late one night the week he had lost the deputy leadership battle to Dennis Healy. I was the constituency delegate for a Yorkshire constituency, who had been mandated to vote for Dennis. I said hello and commiserated with him, and told him I had voted against him, not my personal choice but my constituency choice, he was sympathetic towards me and we discussed the ethics of representative democracy, and conference politics generally.

    Helen Cherry

    tweets: Tony Benn was an inspiration. Always knew he meant what he said & really cared about the people.Rare in a politician!


    In a statement, veteran Labour MP Paul Flynn has said: "His enthusiasm, curiosity and passion for noble causes are prodigious. 'A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine' affirms the longevity of hope and endless re-creations of idealism. May it long shine."


    Our full obituary of Tony Benn begins with the line: Tony Benn was one of the few British politicians who became more left-wing after having actually served in government. Here's the link to read more.

    Tony Benn addressing the Oxford Union in 1948
    Dean Nelson

    tweets: RIP Tony Benn - the 1st politician I heard speak at a CND rally in Trafalgar Sq when I was 15. Made u feel there'd be a revolution next week


    Cabinet office minister Francis Maude describes Mr Benn as "extraordinarily articulate". He tells BBC's Today programme: "He was a towering figure, very compelling. There is no point in being in this business unless you try to give effect to what you believe and you say what you believe."

    Karen Hyland

    tweets: Saddened to wake to news #TonyBenn has died. Met him as a nipper when he was MP for #Chesterfield A man of sense and reason #RIPTonyBenn

    Foreign Secretary William Hague

    tweets: "Sad to learn of the passing of Tony Benn. My sincere condolences to his family and friends"

    Nick Clegg

    tweets: "Very sad to hear about the death of Tony Benn. A towering figure in British politics and a fervent defender of what he believed."


    In a statement Commons Speaker John Bercow said Tony Benn would be "sorely missed" as he reflected on the loss today of a man of "deep socialist principle, obvious humanity and great personal warmth. A brilliant Parliamentarian, he penned amongst the most memorable political diaries."

    Tony Benn outside Parliament
    Ade Thomas, Oxford

    emails: I was a young researcher for Radio 4 and still living at my (Tory) parents' home. I had contacted Tony Benn's office for some information a day or two before, but hadn't heard back. Then, after my parents' bedtime, I had a call from Mr Benn himself: his voice booming out right next to their room. I found myself discussing the decommissioning of nuclear submarines with him in tones that were hushed enough not to wake up my mum and dad, which at the same time didn't make me seem like a meek church mouse to a definitively powerful speaker.

    Ed Balls

    tweets: "RIP Tony Benn, a great orator & campaigner, principled but with a streak of mischief. When he spoke his opponents always listened & learned."

    Barrie Dalby, Rotherham

    emails: I briefly met Tony Benn at an event, at which he was speaking, held in Locke Park, Barnsley in May 2004 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Miners' Strike. He was very friendly and kindly agreed when I asked if he would pose for a photograph. He was not afraid to passionately defend his beliefs and the current Parliament could only benefit from someone like Tony Benn who would speak up for those whose voices are ignored.


    Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA transport and travel trade industries union describes Mr Benn as a "true socialist and a firm friend and defender of the trade unions and working people everywhere". He says: "He fought his cause with eloquence and commitment throughout his long life."

    Tony Benn in 1998

    Veteran former Labour MP Tam Dalyell said Mr Benn had "genuine respect" for people with different views and describes him as "an educator". He tells BBC News: "He had this distinction between kings, those people in authority, and profits, who were educators, of whom he was one."

    Marie, St Albans

    emails: 'Man of the people' is said so easily. But Tony Benn was. He literally spoke to everyone in the same way. And enjoyed speaking with everyone. I would see him often in the British Library in the late 90s. He would sort of 'hold court' in the foyer. Not deliberately. He just couldn't get away once anyone - staff, user, member of the public started chatting. His diaries and papers are safe in the national library I believe. So he remains with us.


    Former home secretary David Blunkett tells BBC's Today programme: "I think he did bring 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."

    David Lammy MP

    tweets: "Wherever they are, I'm imagining Maggie Thatcher sat on a park bench flanked by Tony Benn and Nelson Mandela. Who is smiling? #RIPTonyBenn"


    In one of his final interviews, Tony Benn told the BBC that he had "made every mistake in the book" and politics had been "my life and I can't think of a better way of occupying a life". He added: "But it is very exhausting and you get tired out arguing - on the other hand if you're not arguing you are not doing what you're supposed to do."

    Tony Benn in 2001
    Paul Goldsmith, London

    emails: I contacted Tony Benn to ask him to come and speak to my A-level politics class in 2008. When he came to my school to speak - I had my class of 12 kids in the room, but also a bunch of teachers came because to them (this was a state school in Kilburn) he was a hero and they just wanted to hear them. In my time as a politics teacher I have never ever heard someone so able to explain complex concepts to young people. They hung on his every word, and his use of language was so clear and concise that they remembered much of what he said. Politics needs people like him to engage young people in proper debates about proper political issues. Politics just needs more people like him.


    When, in the 1960s, as postmaster general, he tried to have the Queen's head removed from stamps, he said: "If the Queen can reject the advice of a minister on a little thing like a postage stamp, what would happen if she rejected the advice of the prime minister on a major matter? If the Crown personally can reject advice, then, of course, the whole democratic facade turns out to be false."

    Kambiz Shahri, Johannesburg, South Africa

    emails: I have tears streaming down my face on the news of the passing of Tony Benn. I never met him in person, but throughout my teens and later life, he was a figure often on TV that made me so very very proud of my BRITISH heritage. To stand steadfast in the face of often incredible odds, and to stand for JUSTICE is so quintessentially British, that none of my tears are either wasted or a sign of cheap crassness. Rest in peace Tony Benn your work is done, and it is for Labour to honour what you strove for with this and the next generations to come.

    Jeremy Corbyn MP

    tweets: "Devastated that our friend for peace, humanity and democracy has passed. Worked with and been inspired by Tony for over 40 years. RIP"


    Tony Benn was one of the more quotable politicians and a forceful orator. In November 1960, he said: "I am not a reluctant peer but a persistent commoner."

    Tony Benn
    Philip Grant, Edinburgh

    emails: I met Tony Benn only once, when I was just six - it must have been in 1983 before his Bristol SE seat was abolished. My dad was a local Labour Party activist and he came to our house. What they discussed I don't know, but I do remember him talking to me and taking an interest. I already had a keen interest in politics and of course would have voted for him had I had the chance. I am sad to hear of his passing. Only last year I thought of going to hear him speak at the Edinburgh Festival, but didn't, thinking he'd be back this year. I now regret that very much.

    Karen O'Donnell

    emails: I grew up in Chesterfield and every year one of our teachers would organise an A Level general studies trip to London that included a tour round the Houses of Parliament. Tony Benn was the tour guide and was a highlight of this tour proving to be knowledgeable, interesting and delighted to spend time with some young people of his constituency. On the odd occasion that Tony couldn't do the day, he would draft his son Hilary in as replacement! He was an inspiration for ambitious, rural kids like me. Sadly missed.


    Tony Benn was a regular attendee of Gastonbury Festival and told Radio 5 live it was a "wonderful collection of people" that almost persuaded him "anarchy is possible".

    David Nebesnuick

    emails: I remember Tony Benn at the memorial service for Edward Heath at Westminster Abbey. He was one of the very few Labour politicians to go but he was there, respecting a leading political opponent. There are very few conviction politicians today but he was clearly one.


    Bristol South MP Dawn Primarolo, who knew Mr Benn for nearly 40 years, says "politics in Britain has lost a great man". "He inspired a generation of young Labour activists with his passionate beliefs in democracy and social justice, and that party politics can change our communities for the better. For much of his life, Tony was vilified by his opponents, but in recent years he had come to be respected for his principled opinions."


    MP Dennis Skinner has also paid tribute to his "socialist colleague" Tony Benn, saying: "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."

    Michael Foot, Dennis Skinner and Tony Benn during the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool
    Michael Vallance, South Wales

    emails: I bought my Meriden Triumph Bonneville thanks to Tony Benn who saved the motorcycle factory. I still have it too. Mr Benn is the only politician over the years I have listened to with such trust. Like my Bonneville, there has never been a dull moment. May he rest in peace.


    Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights campaign group Liberty has hailed "a great friend of Liberty and human rights" and shared a story about Tony Benn ripping up a speech moments before he was about to address a crowd. She says: "I shall never forget his many kindnesses to me, including when he ripped up a prepared speech he was about to deliver, in order to make my own nervous and novice remarks sound slightly less unplanned. In an age of spin, he was solid, a signpost and not a weather-vane."

    Christine Castle

    emails: I met Tony Benn in 60's. Our polling station was at the top of our road on the green, Lee Road in Perivale, Middlesex (now known as "West London".) I was about 12 or 14 and we were helping Molloy the Labour Candidate who had his offices in a house on Bilton Road. We delivered flyers etc. Politics aside, he was a nice man, genuine, friendly and spoke to us as "us" not because it looked good. Not like politicians now day. Sad loss to his family.


    You can watch 10 key moments from Tony Benn's life here.

    Tony Benn speaking in 1981
    Nick Boles MP

    tweets: "Not sure I ever agreed with Tony Benn on policy but admired him as a politician because he was his own man and not a party robot."

    Sarah Galvin

    emails: I grew up in north Derbyshire in the 80s & 90s when Tony Benn was MP for Chesterfield. Despite his high profile at national level, he remained a very visible presence at local level and everyone knew who he was. He was as at home in Chesterfield marketplace as he was in the House of Commons.

    Louis David Berk

    emails: When I was a student at the London School of Economics in the 1970s Tony Benn was invited by the student body to speak to us several times. Unlike other politicians who were invited, who used the opportunity as a platform to 'thump the tub' and promote their narrow party policies, Tony Benn always spoke about a topic from the history of the labour movement, speaking with passion and illumination about political figures he admired. If there was a party political element it was never apparent and in this way I judged him to have far more integrity and intelligence than other politicians who were given a similar platform by the students.


    Tony Benn's last broadcast interview can be heard here. He spoke to James Naughtie from BBC Radio 4's Today programme about his political career a few weeks before his death.

    Tony Benn
    David Wheeler, Loughborough

    emails: I am saddened to hear the news of Tony Benn's death. My lasting memories of him will be his wonderful story telling with Roy Bailey, his heartfelt oratory at many Levellers' Day celebrations in Burford and him sitting on a wall eating an ice cream at Tolpuddle with my six year old grand daughter. He lived for a better world for the people.

    Shirley, Feltham

    texts: When shall we see the like of Crow and Benn again...? We have lost two giants of the socialist cause. They were both inspirational.


    Communication Workers Union general secretary Billy Hayes, describes Tony Benn as "a Labour colossus, whose principles remained unshakeable throughout his". He says: "He was an honorary member of the CWU because of his role as postmaster general, and he never stopped fighting for the rights of all workers. "It was a huge privilege to work so closely with Tony Benn, who was a sincere friend of the union. Britain has today lost one of its greatest politicians."

    Tony Benn in 2003
    Judy Steele

    emails: I have wonderful memories of hearing Tony Benn speak locally but mostly at Glastonbury on a Sunday lunchtime at the Leftfield stage. At a time when socialism had and has been marginalised and the idea of 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his need' has gone out of the window in favour of rampant ambition and consumerism it was comforting to hear Tony articulate and endorse a caring politics and to be inspired to carry on believing that these things are right and might again take their place one day. I was moved to tears when I heard of his death and Sunday morning at Glastonbury won't be the same without him


    In an interview last year Mr Benn, who had been ill for some time, said he was "not afraid of dying".


    Former PM Harold Wilson once said Tony Benn "immatures with age". He said: "Tomfool issues, barmy ideas, a kind of ageing, perennial youth which immatures with age."

    Barbara Castle, Harold Wilson and Tony Benn sing Auld Lang Syne at the conclusion of the 1971 Labour Party Conference

    Former prime minister Tony Blair has joined the tributes to Tony Benn, saying he was "one of those rare things - a genuine radical for all his life. He said: "He was a fearless campaigner and a legendary figure for the Labour movement. Even when I disagreed with him, I always had enormous respect for his brilliance, his passion and his commitment to the people of Britain and of the world. My thoughts are with his family - with whom he was very close."

    Treasury minister Sajid Javid

    Tweets: "As young boy in Bristol, grew up admiring Tony Benn, despite politics. Very sad to hear he has passed away. A man of principle and compassion."


    Paul Lanagan sent us this picture of of Tony Benn with Paul's wife Lyndsay and son Sabe at Dubmire School, Houghton-le-Spring, Durham, in 2004. Mr Benn was there to support the unveiling of a commemorative colliery banner.

    Tony Benn with Lyndsay Lanagan and her son Sabe at Dubmire School, Houghton-le-Spring, Durham, in 2004

    Speaking in the same week as the death of Bob Crow, Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union senior assistant general secretary Mick Cash said: "Our world has been rocked to its core." He said: "No post-war political figure did more to support and inspire the working class movement. From the town hall, to the picket line to the Glastonbury Festival, Tony Benn rose above the vilification of the right wing press to provide real leadership through some of our toughest battles.


    Another tribute from a union leader; Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, the train drivers' union, describes Tony Benn as "a true man of the people, and a man of principle". He said: "He was a wonderful public speaker and a true friend of the trade union movement whose death leaves an enormous vacuum."

    Sir Graham Watson, Lib Dem MEP for SW England and Gibraltar

    emails: I served as an assistant to my party leader in the House of Commons from 1983 to 1987. I first met Tony Benn there. Unlike some other MPs, he deigned to talk to mere assistants like me and I came to know and like him, though rarely sharing his political views. When I embarked on a political career of my own in 1989, as a candidate for the European elections, I asked him about lecterns, since he famously designed and built his own. He was kind enough to share with me a series of his homegrown designs for converting briefcases into makeshift lecterns, some of which I tried. The humble lectern is an important tool in politics, hiding the waistline and bringing one's speaking notes that much closer to the eye to allow for the ravages of age on eyesight and better audience eye contact.


    He was known for getting stuck in - here he is pictured decorating the Labour Party offices at St George, Bristol, in 1958.

    Tony Benn pictured decorating the Labour Party offices at St George, in Bristol, in 1958.
    Maureen Smith

    emails: I used to work for the Labour Party in the 90s. I remember turning corners at annual conferences and seeing Tony Benn, pipe in hand, sitting in a corridor with a gathering of young people cross-legged on the floor around him, hanging onto his every word. You never saw that with any other politician. I always found it very moving for some reason.


    BBC Radio Sheffield has spoken to Margaret Vallins, Tony Benn's constituency secretary in Chesterfield for a number of years, who said "not only was he a good boss, he was a very close family friend". She said: "I was extremely sad and very upset when I heard the news. He was very kind, very thoughtful. He trusted you, which was a compliment. He was a socialist and there's not very many of them around as far as I'm concerned. He understood people and he listened to people. He said he learned more of what people's problems were in Chesterfield rather than in Westminster. He would never forget your birthday."

    Tony Benn in the yard of Arkwright Colliery, near Chesterfield
    Mike Redford, Stonehouse

    emails: In 1989 as a first year undergraduate at Oxford University I attended a debate hosted by Tony Benn in the St Cross buildings. About 30 of us crammed into a small room and Tony made his entrance. He set up his tape recorder on the small table sitting on the barely raised stage and then addressed us. I can't remember a word that he said but do remember being completely entranced by him. By the end of the meeting I would have followed him anywhere. He had that rare gift of oratory, the tradition that had been passed down from Greece through Rome and onwards to every debating chamber in the world.


    Tony Benn was a "stalwart of the peace and anti-nuclear movement," CND general secretary Kate Hudson said. "We carry the torch of his beliefs in a better world and his determination to end the sorrow of war." She said: "His convictions in a world without nuclear weapons and his vision of equality and peace are a legacy which we will maintain and continue with all our strength. We will miss him deeply, but we know that his fighting spirit will continue to inspire us as we stand shoulder to shoulder for peace in his memory."

    Tony Benn, speaking in London's Trafalgar Square, in 1999

    Former Tory deputy prime minister, Michael Heseltine, once said of his Labour adversary: "He has these extraordinary theories into which he can fit all the facts, and this gives him a great flow, like a huge river which is unmistakably coming from somewhere and going somewhere, but the longer you listen, the more you realise he is trying to push water uphill."

    Lorraine Smith

    emails: I met Tony Benn several times at his constituency meetings at Bristol South Labour Party where he served our city with enthusiasm and integrity for many years. He would take the train from Paddington to Temple Meads station where someone would pick him up. Unassuming and gracious he would arrive carrying either a well worn briefcase or a backpack and in one of these would always be his little flask of tea, I never saw him without this, even years later when he did an Audience with Tony Benn at the Colston Hall.

    Anton, Bratislava, Slovakia

    emails: I have met Tony Benn on a number of occasions, when I studied International Relations and Political Science at Richmond University in London from 1993 to 1996. He used to give us - students at that time - a number of lectures, which were interesting indeed. Although I might not have agreed with him on all occasions due to his political views on some issues, it was indeed a pleasure to listen and discuss with Tony Benn anything about British politics and/or European politics. I would miss his political insights during current and future challenging times in British and European politics.


    Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, has described Mr Benn as an "outstanding figure whose career encompassed several political generations". He said: "Like many young parliamentarians I found Tony Benn supportive and helpful, regardless of political differences and it was on his unfailing courtesy to opponents that much of his cross-party respect was founded. His political reputation will transcend the internal Labour Party battles of the 70s and 80s and be founded instead on a politician whose writings and campaignings reinvigorated grass roots politics."

    Keith Kettlewell, Bristol

    emails: In paying tribute to the man I am not being in the least mealy mouthed when I say, although Tony Benn was not of my political persuasion, I for one will miss this truly great politician for his undoubted humanity, compassion, humility and honesty. Approachable to all. A valuable man of immense standing he will be very sadly missed.


    Tony Benn was also a prolific diarist, writing many volumes of his diaries - the final instalment of which came out last year. Gail Rebuck, the chair of his publisher company Penguin Random House UK, said his diaries "will live on", adding: "We at Hutchinson and Penguin Random House are proud to have been Tony's publishers throughout his long writing career and are privileged to have known him both as a wonderful author and also as a friend."

    Tony Benn at Edinburgh Literary Festival

    Labour leader Ed Miliband has just told BBC News that Tony Benn will be remembered as "a champion of the powerless". Mr Miliband, who did work experience with Mr Benn as a teenager, said: "He inspired me to see the importance of politics, adding, "it was a measure of the man and the character of Tony Benn that whether you were 16 or whoever you were, whatever background you came from, he treated you as an equal to him."

    Ed Miliband
    Elliot Glynn, Hampstead

    emails: My grandfather led a trade union, and was dear friends with Benn. I grew up with Tony Benn, and he would always visit us in Richmond. He was the kindest man I knew, and would always make time for you. Truly devastated by his loss.

    Peter Barratt, Wellingborough

    emails: I met Tony Benn in April 2010 when we were both invited onto the Radio 2 Jeremy Vine Show to speak about the suffragette movement (my great-grandmother being one). On our own in the green room I asked Tony about the forthcoming AV Referendum and its merits. Tony and I chatted for about 15 minutes and I found it a master class in British politics, spoken by an elder statesman. Telling Tony that my great-grandmother's local MP was Ramsey McDonald, Tony replied without hesitation 'I met Ramsey McDonald in 1932'. Brilliant! The nation will miss his pragmatic view on major issues of the day.


    PM David Cameron has spoken to BBC News about Tony Benn, saying he was an "extraordinary man, a great writer and a brilliant speaker" - but admitted he disagreed with "most of what he said". Mr Cameron said: "He was always engaging and interesting and you were never bored when reading or listening to him and the country has lost a great campaigner and writer." He said it was a "sad day for British politics".

    David Cameron
    Simon Garrett, Black Bourton, Oxfordshire

    emails: As a jobbing reporter in Westminster and at party conferences I had the incredible good fortune to interview Tony Benn on a number of occasions and to sit and chat with him. I have never known anyone who exuded such warmth and decency. Some years ago we had a conversation where I told him that my grandmother, a Conservative activist, had campaigned vigorously against him when he was trying to renounce his title and stand in her constituency in Bristol. I told him she regarded him as "a traitor to his class." He chuckled at this and then pointed out that whenever people shared anecdotes with him they used to be along the lines of, "I met your father once and he said.." but that today it was always, "My grandfather remembers when you.." He was just one of those people who made you think things could be all right. If everyone was as loving, decent and kind as him, I suppose they could be.


    A book of condolences has opened in Chesterfield, the town Tony Benn represented as MP between 1984 and 2001, while the town hall flag there is also flying at half mast as a mark of respect.


    "Every socialist, active trade unionist and progressive campaigner of the last 60 years or more will be bereft this morning," Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has said.


    "Tony fought for his ideals almost to the last breath of his life". Mr McCluskey added.

    Psymon Fallowfield-Cooper, Glastonbury, Somerset

    emails: In his long life as a politician, the only thing I disagreed with him over was the closing of the pirate stations down, which he instigated this as his role of Post-Master General... I still shook his hand though on one of the many demos we were both on... He will be sadly missed indeed, the left wing has lost a figurehead...


    In Chesterfield, the town Mr Benn represented for almost 20 years, council leader John Burrows told BBC News: "His ability to work with his constituents was unparalleled in my experience and I've got fond memories of the time he was with us in the town."

    John Burrows

    FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said Tony Benn's death is "a great loss to the labour movement".


    "No doubt people will try to sanitise his memory but he should be remembered as a radical and a rebel," the FBU general secretary says. "With the tragic loss of Bob Crow earlier this week, this is a very very sad week for the labour movement."


    A left-wing stalwart, Tony Benn once said: "It would be as unthinkable to try to construct the Labour Party without Marx as it would to be to establish university faculties of astronomy, anthropology or psychology without permitting the study of Copernicus, Darwin or Freud, and still expect such faculties to be taken seriously."

    Tony Benn addresses a meeting and rally at Notting Hill, 1984
    Ian Avery, Cheshire

    texts: Saw Tony Benn 'on tour' five years ago - in open air at Gawsworth Hall, he was very pleased he could smoke his pipe while 'working'! A man of real stature and intellect, a joy to listen to regardless of subject and how much/how little you agreed with his views.


    Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka says his "fondest memories are of being in the Leftfield tent at Glastonbury - packed with young people - and seeing him electrify the place simply by walking on the stage." He said Mr Benn was "a political giant who spoke with incredible clarity of vision and purpose".


    Former politician and left-winger Derek Hatton tells BBC News Tony Benn was an "amazing man in all sorts of ways" and says he was also a prolific tea drinker.


    Tony Benn famously quit politics in 2001, saying he wanted to spend "more time on politics".

    Tony Benn

    Derek Hatton also rejects the idea that Tony Benn was a divisive figure, telling BBC News: "I don't think in any way he was divisive. I think other people were and think, as time went on, people realise he as right."

    Derek Hatton

    However, the man who served as chief press secretary to former PM Harold Wilson in the 1970s, Joe Haines, says Tony Benn "symbolised the sort of left-wing nuttiness that nearly destroyed the Labour party in the late 70s and early 80s".


    But Mr Haines added: "He did one great thing in his life - he changed the constitution of the House of Lords."


    Another political giant pays tribute to Mr Benn, with London mayor Boris Johnson saying "politics will be duller with his passing".


    Mr Johnson added: "Tony Benn was a great democrat - even if his economic policies were eccentric. He once told me, the key question to ask anyone in power: 'Who elected you - and how can I vote to remove you from office?' That, as he rightly said, is the question that needs to be asked of Brussels today."

    Howard Brennan

    tweets: I met Tony Benn when I was 11 in 1981 in Hyde Park at the people's march for jobs with my mum & dad. R.I.P. #TONY BENN.


    Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, has said: "Tony's commitment to journalism and his support for broader trade union principles brought him the respect and admiration of members across the NUJ."


    The tribute comes after Mr Benn, speaking in 1968, said: "Broadcasting is really too important to be left to the broadcasters."

    Tony Benn in 1967

    Another former prime minister joins the tributes, as Sir John Major describes Tony Benn "as a true political warrior".


    Sir John said Mr Benn "fought for what he believed - right up to the very end," adding, "although he never led the Labour Party, he will always be remembered as a truly great parliamentarian. We would never share the same political philosophy, but he was a man for whom I had tremendous admiration, respect - and huge affection."


    Michael White, assistant editor of the Guardian, tells BBC News there remains a "deep bitter animosity" towards Tony Benn from some Labour Party members, as well as the affection.

    Yvette Vanson

    texts: Tony Benn will be greatly missed by those who recognised his principled stand for socialist values. Personally, I have such fond memories of several one to one meetings with Tony over many steaming mugs of tea discussing ideas for documentaries we wished to make together. Needless to say the broadcasters rejected them all, but he buoyed me up with his passion and optimism. He will remain a guiding spirit.

    Graeme Shinwell, Bo'ness

    emails: Sad to read about the death of Tony Benn. Like my uncle, he was a former Chairman of the Labour Party and a former Pipe Smoker of the Year. A great stalwart of the party, he also was not afraid to speak his mind, even if it upset his parliamentary colleagues! He will be sadly missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him. My condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.


    Michael White adds: "A lot of politicians of that period [the 1970s and 80s] and Labour politicians won't be on your programmes today, some of them I've spoken to and they say we don't want to speak ill of the dead. [There is] deep bitter animosity as well as affection towards Tony Benn and the Labour movement."

    Michael White
    Mohammed Akteruzzaman MBE, Dolhen A Wahid Memorial Trust

    emails: Tony Benn was one of the politician that I really admired throughout my life as an iconic symbol of the world of politics without any geographical boundaries. As I knew him, all his life he tirelessly fought for everybody in particular for those who can't speak and stand up for themselves. He was very outspoken, honest, courageous, decent human being and the worst enemy of political hypocrisies and double standard often practice in politics globally.


    A book of condolence is opened at City Hall in Bristol, close to a statue of Mr Benn who, according to Bristol Mayor George Ferguson was: "undoubtedly the most remarkable politician to represent a Bristol constituency since Edmund Burke."


    Talking about Labour's collapse in the 1980s, Michael White says that Tony Benn deserves "some of the blame, not all of it".


    Michael White adds: "He brought hope but he also introduced this idea of politics always about betrayal and always being betrayed - so there is an up and a down side."


    Back to the union tributes, TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady says Tony Benn "believed history shows us that big progressive changes in society are driven not by political elites, but by the endeavours of ordinary working people."


    Radio 5 live listeners, including musician Bill Bragg, share their memories of Tony Benn.

    Tony Benn and David Owen at the 1979 Labour Party Euro Elections press conference
    Clyve Tanner, Colchester, Essex

    emails: A wonderful, committed, inspirational human being. How we need that counterweight to the direction of politics at present. Someone to speak for the majority of people in this country, this World community. Truly stand-up politicians are thin on the ground, we have lost Nelson and Tony too soon. Let's hope he is now with Bob Crow on that picket in the sky. Gosh there could be some thunder ahead!


    Labour MP John McDonnell tells BBC News: "He inspired me and he inspired my generation and the generations that followed us. He was one of the most articulate advocates for socialism that the movement has ever seen."

    John McDonnell

    Mr McDonnell also tells BBC News the Labour Party collapse in the 1980s was "not down to Tony Benn".


    Former Labour minister and Lib Dem peer Shirley Williams says Tony Benn always had time to listen to people: "Although he had passionate feelings he didn't let himself turn into a sour partisan like a lot of politics today. Look at prime minister's questions and what you get is a kind of football terrace effect without much thought. Tony did think about things, you see he thought about them carefully. And if he disagreed he would lay out his reasons for disagreement. All that was at his favour very much. Where I think he and I differed most was on what was the nature of democracy."


    Broadcaster Natasha Kaplinsky, a friend of Tony Benn, says: "Others have rightly paid tribute to Tony's status and significance as a political giant. I will miss him as a friend. Ours was an unlikely friendship. He was an endlessly kind and thoughtful man."


    Messages are being left in books of condolence, including this one at the Labour Club in Chesterfield

    Book of condolence

    Tony Blair's former spokesman Alastair Campbell tells the BBC that Tony Benn could be a "divisive figure" in the Labour Party at times but was an "extraordinary character".


    Mr Campbell says: "It was astonishing that he kept going right to the end. It was extraordinary to see the effect he had on people. What they loved about him was this sense of deep conviction within him and that drove him all his life."


    Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says Tony Benn was a hugely iconic figure: "Whether people agreed with him or disagreed with him, everyone knew who Tony Benn was. He was an extraordinary parliamentarian. He wrote beautifully. He was never shy of a controversy. He fairly often courted it."


    Mr Clegg adds: "Whatever people felt about his political views people knew he was a man who had very strong beliefs and he always stuck to those very strong beliefs, and that is why people will look back on his political life with the great affection that they do."

    12:52: Mark Rowantree, Glasgow, Scotland

    emails: A fighter for democratic socialism, peace and justice. In this current environment where cardboard cut-out politicians engage in a Gadarene rush for temporary popularity, Tony Benn's death robs us of a different type of politician altogether.


    A familiar and constant face at political protests, here is Tony Benn at "The March for the Alternative" rally in Hyde Park, London, organised by the TUC in 2011.

    Tony Benn at Hyde Park rally

    Tony Benn joked that unlike many radicals he'd become more left wing as he'd grown older. Harold Wilson quipped that Benn had "immatured with age". Read more from the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson as he writes about "the man who made me interested in politics".


    Another Tony Benn quote: "The civil service is a bit like a rusty weathercock. It moves with opinion then it stays where it is until another wind moves it in a different direction."

    Tony Benn demonstrating the "Trimphone" in 1965

    You can listen to the World at One live now on BBC Radio 4 as the programme looks back at Tony Benn's life.


    Michael Eavis, founder of the Glastonbury Festival, which Tony Benn regularly attended, says: "Tony Benn achieved legendary status in his own lifetime as he fought to improve the lot of the working-class people of this country."


    Glastonbury Festival's Michael Eavis continues: "As a politician, he presented his arguments in such a way that even his opponents couldn't resist his charm. We were very privileged to have him starring at the Left Field political forum on so many occasions. His absence this year will be really sad."


    Tributes are being paid to veteran Labour politician Tony Benn, who has died aged 88. He passed away at home in London following a long period of illness. Read our full BBC News story here.


    Members of the Labour Club in Chesterfield - Tony Benn's former constituency - drink tea under a portrait of the politician.

    Members of the Labour Club in Chesterfield drink tea under a portrait of Tony Benn.
    13:22: Kay Wright, Southampton

    emails: My first job in 1972 was secretary to Tony Benn, Secretary of State for Industry. An inspiration to work for and an influence throughout my life and career. The office was continually filled with leaders from the unions, Triumph Meridan, Jaguar, British Leyland etc. Such a warm, kind man too (as was his wife), who insisted we all call him Tony.


    The Green Party pays tribute to Tony Benn saying he was "a man who fully lived his personal values. He believed what he said and said what he believed".


    Tony Benn became the authentic voice of the radical left with the press coining the term Bennite to describe the policies espoused by those resisting attempts to move the Labour Party to the middle ground. Find out more about his life and work by reading our full obituary here.


    A spokesman for the Benn family says: "In response to a number of queries about where floral tributes to Tony Benn might be laid, they can be placed on the north side of Parliament Square."


    The flag at the town hall in Chesterfield - Tony Benn's former constituency - is at half mast following his death.

    The flag at Chesterfield town hall at half mast

    "A prodigious tea-drinker, he rarely went long without a mug of tea, estimating that he had drunk enough over the course of his life to float the QE2," writes Tim Stanley in the Daily Telegraph - which looks at why "he will be remembered as one of our greatest ever Englishmen".

    13:41: Simon Crouch, Reading

    emails: Although by no means a Labour supporter, I helped out on his Chesterfield by-election campaign in 1983. Many years later I was privileged to hear him speak in Lewes and to then end the evening with him in the pub. A charming gentleman and incisive political thinker.


    Tony Benn at his London home with his wife, Caroline, and four children-left to right- Hilary, Joshua, Melissa, and Stephen in 1961. The veteran politician died at home today at the age of 88, his family said in a statement. His family say they "will miss above all his love which has sustained us throughout our lives".

    Tony Benn at his London home with his wife and children

    Former Labour minister Chris Mullin tells BBC Radio 4's World at One that Tony Benn would have made a formidable party leader: "At the end of the 70s and in the early 80s he was a credible figure, and the reason he became a tabloid bogeyman was not because they thought he was powerless and would never get anywhere. It was because they thought he might well become prime minister, and they regarded that as a threat to the establishment and the vested interests that some of them represented."


    Tony Benn renounced his peerage, which he inherited on his father's death, to remain in the House of Commons. Here he shares a joke with a policeman at the entrance to the Commons on arrival for the ceremony of introduction. He later famously said: "I am not a reluctant peer but a persistent commoner."

    Tony Benn
    13:56: Graeme Watson, Whickham, Tyne and Wear

    emails: I am struck by how genuine the admiration is for Tony Benn from all aspects of society and politics. Perhaps this should inspire some of today's MPs to say what they believe, not what they have been told to say or what they think will make them more popular. It might even be the first step on restoring respect in Parliament.


    Conservative MPs have also been marking Mr Benn's passing. Chris Pincher tweets: "Sad news of the death of Tony Benn. A great parliamentarian and speaker and fine diarist."

    13:59: Luke Archer

    Took this picture of Tony Benn at his flat in 2011 as part of his Inheritance project. He says: "You could smell the pipe smoke from down the hall! He was a true gent, very interested in me and my project, and very patient with me whilst I fumbled round with the antique camera."

    Tony Ben with pipe

    Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams describes Tony Benn as a "true friend of the Irish people" following his support for a united Ireland. The former West Belfast MP says: "A principled politician and activist, he spoke up passionately for the idea of a united Ireland. He remained an avid supporter of Irish freedom throughout his life."

    14:10: Graham Folkes-Skinner, Southam, Warwickshire

    emails: I had the privilege of hearing him address the Anti-War March in Hyde Park in 2003. He had time for everyone and responded to my letter of thanks personally, which I will treasure. He inspired and helped. I will miss him being around and my thoughts are with his family.


    David Abrahams, vice-president of the Rusi defence think tank, has posted his tribute to his friend Tony Benn on the Huffington Post: "It is a testimony to Benn's mindset that he was befriended by those whose political beliefs were shivering polar opposites to his own. He will be missed by both sides of the House more than any other figure I can recall."


    Tony Benn's most recent public appearance was in December when he spoke at a service remembering Nelson Mandela.

    Tony Benn speaking at the Celebration of the Life of Nelson Mandela.

    "Stalwart of the political establishment and bastion of old Labour, Tony Benn stood firm on the left-wing of British politics for half a century." Phil Lewis looks back at how the Guardian and Observer covered his long career.


    Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont says: "This is a sad day but we can all celebrate an amazing life at the heart of British politics and public life. Whether you agreed with him or not, Tony Benn was always compelling, interesting and entertaining with unshakeable beliefs and a clear sense of right and wrong."


    Johann Lamont continues: "Tony was a giant of the Labour movement when I first joined the party and we were wrestling with big ideas about our future direction. But even in his later years, he remained relevant and influential with his wit and wisdom on a range of issues, from international affairs to Scottish devolution."

    14:30: Danièle Wichené, Chorleywood, Hertfordshire

    emails: Towards the end of the huge demonstration against the war in Iraq in March 2003, Tony Benn appeared on the podium, and what happened then amazed and moved me. All of us sitting by the podium just stood, then cheered and clapped for a long time. It felt "brotherly", warm, peaceful, hopeful, dignified. I am French, had lived in Britain for over ten years and learned to admire the man, but had no idea that he was so widely respected, by so many people who could feel and show respect to a good guy!

    14:35: Carole Moss

    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay Don't criticise @TonyBenn. If we don't have radical left - more not less needed - how do we know what centre politics is?


    Here Tony Benn presents a selection of records on BBC Radio London (date unknown).

    Tony Benn presents a selection of records on BBC Radio London

    Tony Benn spoke passionately about the NHS, saying there would be a "revolution" if it was removed - and also argued for full employment. LabourList has posted a segment of what it calls "one of the most memorable interviews that Benn conducted in his later years" for a film by documentary maker Michael Moore.

    14:46: Dan Kelly

    tweets: I met Tony Benn once. I disagreed with him on most things but he was a very interesting man and seemed like a nice one.


    In memory of Tony Benn, BBC Parliament will tonight broadcast a special evening of programming from 19:15 GMT, which will included the 1959 Labour Party election broadcast, and Mr Benn's 1990 Commons speech from the vote of confidence debate on PM Margaret Thatcher - among other archive.


    "I was sad to hear about the death of Tony Benn. Not because I shared any of his political beliefs, obviously - he was wrong about everything, apart from the European Union - but because he was such a good advertisement for a classical liberal education," writes Toby Young in the Daily Telegraph.

    14:55: Turnstone Consulting

    tweets: RIP Tony Benn, the original + legit champagne socialist. MPs today of all stripes prolly wish they're half as popular/had half his integrity.


    Steve Richards, political columnist of the Independent newspaper, tells the BBC: "He was a fantastic speaker, the best I've ever seen in British politics, but he wasn't just a communicator. Some of his ideas around democracy and accountability are very fashionable now, and indeed not just in the Labour Party and in the Conservative Party too. His diaries are an extraordinary chronicle of the last 40 or 50 years of British politics."


    "With a 50-year parliamentary career, Benn was the longest-serving MP in the history of the Labour party and famously left parliament in 2001, after the first term of the Blair government, to 'spend more time on politics'." The Guardian asks its readers to share their memories of the former minister.


    Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg pays tribute to Tony Benn on a factory visit in Sunderland, saying: "He was a veteran parliamentarian, he was a great writer, he had great warmth and he had great conviction, never shied away from controversy."

    Nick Clegg on a factory visit in Sunderland

    Tony Benn became known for his campaign against the invasion of Iraq. Here he is with peace campaigner Brian Haw at an anti-war protest in Trafalgar Square, central London.

    Tony Benn and Brian Haw at an anti-war protest in Trafalgar Square, central London
    15:12: David Hood, Crewe

    emails: I had a brain injury in 1993 and eventually I went to a meeting at the Long Room with the Labour Party about the disability changes. After the meeting I went to the Commons to see Gwyneth Dunwoody. Obviously, I had to walk up the stairs which I found difficult because there was no handrail, 20 or 30 MPs walked passed me, and, Tony Benn very kindly assisted me up the stairs into the Commons. He highlighted to me what a caring and considerate person he was. Great respect and condolences.


    BBC Radio London has posted an interview on its website: listen to Robert Elms speaking to Tony Benn during a broadcast from The BT Tower on 14 September 2010.


    Respect MP George Galloway, who was expelled from the Labour Party, tells the BBC: "He was a really quite majestic figure, head and shoulders above so many of those who bit at his heals at the time. He was absolutely inspirational to millions of people."


    In one his final interviews on British television, Tony Benn spoke of his sadness at the passing of Nelson Mandela, explaining how he felt a kindred spirit had passed and how he too had been inspired by the plight of black Africans. Watch the ITV interview here.


    Tony Benn once said: "I try to operate on two unconnected levels. One on the practical level of action in which I am extremely cautious and conservative. The second is the realm of ideas where I try to be very free."

    tony benn

    Respect MP George Galloway adds: "There's one thing I think the media commentary has got wrong today. The point that's being made over and over again is that most people disagreed with Mr Benn but they admired him, and so on. But actually on the issues that he stood for, most people agreed with him, then and now, from his attempts to bring oil into public ownership in 1974 as the energy secretary right through to the war on Iraq and attitudes to nuclear weapons and the European Union."

    15:33: Lib Dem Lords

    tweet: Shirley Williams on Tony Benn: "Tony thought about things; you could see that he really thought about them carefully" RIP Tony Benn.


    Labour MP David Winnick says: "Tony Benn's contribution over more than half a century was undoubtedly an immense one both in the country and the Labour Party."

    15:37: Jenny Philip, Aberlour, Scotland

    emails: We should all regret the passing of a great socialist and campaigner for people's rights. He inspired me in the 70's and, like him, I have become increasingly radical as I have aged. I hope he is remembered for his fierce opposition to capitalist power and his great oratory as well as his anti-war campaigns.


    The Guardian posts an interview with Tony Benn on socialism from 2006.

    15:47: The Evening Standard

    tweets: 'He was always happy to dare to stand alone' - @TristramHuntMP 's personal tribute to Tony Benn


    Liberal Democrat peer Shirley Williams and Labour MP Clare Short share their memories of the late Tony Benn.

    15:52: Paul Robins, Guildford, Surrey

    emails: Perhaps the greatest 20th century politician not to become Prime Minister?


    More from the RMT union's Mick Cash: "RMT is deeply saddened by the death of our close comrade Tony Benn. Wherever members of our union were engaged in struggle it was a matter of course that Tony Benn would be standing at their shoulder."

    15:55: David Miliband Former Labour minister

    tweets: Condolences to the family of Tony Benn. 50 years as a passionate and determined Labour MP was remarkable service.

    15:59: Elizabeth Chapman, Hampshire

    texts: Tony Benn was an inspirational man and one of the last of a generation of the old style British MPs and who cared about ordinary people and how politics affected their lives and a voice for the millions. I never knew him personally, but grew up in seeing him on TV and in the newspapers. RIP Tony Benn you inspired a lot of people and spoke up for the masses.


    Tributes have been paid to Labour stalwart Tony Benn who has died at the age of 88. Labour leader Ed Miliband called him an "iconic figure of our age". Thank you following our live coverage, which is now coming to a close.

    tony benn

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