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Tony Benn, elder political figure, colossus of the left…

…and apologist for the greatest mass murder in human history, Mao Tse-tung, has died. He outlived by some 38 years the 50–60 million people who were murdered directly or starved to death at the behest of the Chinese Communist Party that he so admired in his moronic youth.

42 comments to Tony Benn, elder political figure, colossus of the left…

  • I wonder how the BBC would respond if people started singing “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” in response to Benn’s death.

  • <<--- sings "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead”

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Edward Heath was equally bad on the Mao front. I think Benn came across as a naive fool rather than simply loathesome, like Heath. The whole schtick about the lisping old fellow with the pipe who drank tea fooled a lot of people. The old “national treasure” thing.

    Benn gets some merit badges for his stance on civil liberties, though. He was against ID cards.

    He also gets a bow for helping keep Maggie in power during the 1980s.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    BBC Radio Scotland had about 20 minutes on this on the way into work (out of a 1 hour news programme). You have to wonder if a member of the Tory party had just died who, although long lived, hadn’t really gone anywhere career-wise, would it merit the same coverage?

  • AndrewWS

    Benn, unlike Heath, was right about the EU.

  • bloke in spain

    Many years ago, worked with a cousin of the second Lord Stansgate.
    Mean bastard who treated those who worked for him appallingly, was the impression I was given

  • […] UPDATE: Perry de Havilland is less diplomatic. […]

  • Stuck-Record

    Wonder if the Beeb will mention his anti-Euro stance?

    [sound of wind blowing through empty street]

  • I’d like to think Perry got the idea from me. ;)

  • george

    funny thing is bloke in spain you hear that sort of thing quite often

    I knew an ex copper who looked after a few politicians, prime ministers included and he told me that the labour ones tended to be arseholes while the tories tended to be nice and friendly.

  • george

    and wasn’t Tony Benn the champion of ramblers also involved in a court case to keep walkers off his estate?

  • Mr Ed

    Benn, unlike Heath, was right about the EU.

    His objection was based on it being the European Union, not the Soviet Union. Just like maths, check the working.

  • bloke in spain

    @george
    Used to have an assortment of the left as customers. They’re no less chiseling reluctant payers than their rightist equivalents. More so, as they’re less hesitant to be downright dishonest. Best people to deal with are the “riff raff” of the working class. Preferably the criminal elements. They do understand the relationship between having something done & paying for it.

  • RAB

    Wasn’t it Harold Wilson who said that Benn grew more immature as he got older.

    He was a Bristol MP for a long time before he lost his seat in a boundary change and had to seek a safe one elsewhere. You’d see him around the town doing photo ops getting down with “the workers” but getting it all horribly wrong. He’d go into a Greasy Spoon cafe for a cuppa, but he always brought his own mug, and it was the size of a pint pot. The poor waitress would look askance. Quite apart from what it implied about the hygene of their crockery, filling it would drain half the tea urn. Then he’d go into a pub and because he didn’t drink would have half a shandy. Who the fuck did he think he was fooling? Well quite a few people I’ll warrant as the tributes and Obits come flooding in.

    Two extremely dangerous old Lefties gone in a week… Things are looking up!

  • Tono-Bungay


    He’d go into a Greasy Spoon cafe for a cuppa, but he always brought his own mug, and it was the size of a pint pot. The poor waitress would look askance.

    I would, too. Jesus… :)

  • bloke in spain

    “He’d go into a Greasy Spoon cafe for a cuppa, but he always brought his own mug, and it was the size of a pint pot.”
    It’s the tactic of claiming & holding ground. Quite popular with pop-stars in contractual requirements for dressing rooms. And faux vegetarians requiring special treatment at meals.
    It’s a dominance strategy.

  • george

    renounced his title but not the money and land.

    “how did your family get that land tony?”

  • Stuck-Record

    He was against hereditary titles, the rich, and private education.

    Yet lived in a £3 million Holland park house, sent his son went to private fee-paying school, and helped him be an MP and Minister. His grandaughter (educated at the very Grammer schools Benn tried to ban for others) was parachuted into a Parliamentary labour seat (against local opposition) at the age of 18!!!!! – and lost.

    Judged suitable to be an MP at 18. Solely on her merits. Obviously.

    So, some kinds of hereditary titles, money, and private education are acceptable.

    I commend his service in the RAF, and his 5 questions about power (though every time I heard that other bloody quote about the US being the biggest supplier of weapons to Saddam Hussein i wanted to throw a brick through the TV). For that he deserves all thanks, but for everything else…?

  • bloke in spain

    Favorite Benn debating tactic.
    “Thank you. That’s a very interesting question. But the one I think we need to answer is……”

  • Sam Duncan

    “Of course we need good government. Of course we need it to have policies that deliver greater social justice and equality. But the more influential government becomes the more it is essential that it respects our liberties. Its obligation must be to serve the people, not rule over them. We have to insist on this principle. It is not a matter of left or right, Tory or Labour.”

    Quoted in Big Brother Watch’s tribute.

    It just shows the naïveté of the man. Yes, let’s have a big interventionist regulatory state, and lots of it. But it had jolly well better behave itself, or… or… well, or else. Did it never occur to him that the bigger a government gets, the harder it becomes to make it respect people’s liberty, and that’s why some of us want to keep it small?

    A man has died, people have lost a family member. I’m not going to dance on his grave. But I never understood why he was held in such great esteem.

  • John Mann

    Benn, unlike Heath, was right about the EU.

    On the other hand, the fact that Benn opposed EU membership probably gave the EU undeserved credibility. Perhaps a lot of people would have been more wary of the EU if Benn and the Labour left not been so hostile to it.

  • John Mann

    I’m not going to dance on his grave. But I never understood why he was held in such great esteem.

    Well, for a start, he was a nice guy – as far as most of us could see. He loved tea and drank it out of a large mug. He was unconventional. He was a conviction politician. There was never a hint of financial corruption about the man.

    But, as you say, he was utterly naive, and the policies he advocated were generally completely stupid. I remember, 30 years ago, going to a meeting that he was speaking at. He was entertaining, but, IMHO, delusional.

  • Mr Ed

    I never understood why he was held in such great esteem.

    I ask that in respect of all Marxists with murder in their hearts, and those with it on their hands.

  • Mr Ed

    He was a conviction politician. There was never a hint of financial corruption about the man.

    I know nothing of Pol Pot being corrupt. He was a conviction politician.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Now that’s what i call a fair and balanced obituary.
    WRT John Mann’s comment:

    Well, for a start, he was a nice guy – as far as most of us could see. [...] He was a conviction politician. There was never a hint of financial corruption about the man.
    But, as you say, he was utterly naive [...]

    I don’t know about Tony Benn, but after a few years in England i started to think that too many British people tend to confuse moral vanity with niceness.

  • Snorri Godhi

    WRT ID cards i find it comical that an advocate of totalitarianism is against ID cards.
    But then, being unable to impose ID cards is not much of a hindrance to a government that controls GCHQ.
    Personally i tend to think that you can have a welfare state or a state without ID cards, but not both; and if you have GCHQ/NSA, then you might as well have ID cards too.

  • John Mann

    I know nothing of Pol Pot being corrupt. He was a conviction politician.

    And the same, of course, could be said of Hitler – though Hitler’s manners were not as good as those of Benn.

    But the question was “Why was he held in such esteem?” – and his good manners and niceness and being a conviction politician and lack of corruption would certainly make some sort of impact on political correspondents, the chattering classes, and even, to some extent, on the man on the street.

    And, as the quote on Big Brother Watch indicates, he was far from being either a Hitler or a Pol Pot.

    I think that it could also be said that after 1983, few people really took him seriously. Labour’s defeat in the election that year effectively consigned him to being (to use Iain Martin’s phrase) a “national treasure” – with no real influence.

  • Richard Thomas

    I know he got my uncle out of prison (apparently) though having learned a bit more about my extended family over the years, I am no longer sure that was a good thing.

  • Mr Ed

    And, as the quote on Big Brother Watch indicates, he was far from being either a Hitler or a Pol Pot.

    Well if he was closer to Mao that’s a distinction without a difference, the most that we can say is that he did not have an opportunity to demonstrate quite how far he would have gone had he had the chance. He was far from having the opportunity, but if you recall the Labour Party of the early 1980s and the malignant scum lurking behind the Leader, we might have got a lot closer to finding out how far away he was had they won power in 1983.

  • This is what I posted on Big Brother Watch:

    It is always fascinating to hear a life long proponent of pervasive intrusive government saying things like that. In effect he is arguing that as long as said powerful and pervasive state is ‘nice’ when it decides who is entitled to what, well, that’s ok then.

    Naivety or tactical disingenuity? I met the guy a couple times and I tend to think the later. But either way this man was no friend of liberty, at least in any sense of the word not subjected to Orwellian inversion.

    Spluttering outrage in 3, 2, 1…

  • Stonyground

    The news report on independent radio had a clip of Mr. Benn expressing outrage at the striking miners being described by Maggie as “The enemy within”. I believe that, at the time, said miners were using violence and intimidation to try to prevent other workers from going about their lawful business.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    John Mann
    March 14, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    I know nothing of Pol Pot being corrupt. He was a conviction politician.

    And the same, of course, could be said of Hitler – though Hitler’s manners were not as good as those of Benn.

    I’ve read that the Nazis were good at putting their senior people onto corporate boards, which then paid them exceedingly well not to show up. Hitler certainly didn’t lack for Horches, Mercedes and palaces, either. But as far as his manners are concerned, it ought to be said that the vegetarian, nonsmoking Hitler served a meat course to his dinner guests and invited them to light up after dessert. Try that with your modern bien pensant!

  • Runcie Balspune

    We used to have a law preventing the chinless swivel-eyed inbred toff loonies from leaching into the “common” parliament, but he managed to overturn that. I think he’s been the only beneficiary of that ruling.

    Like Chavez abolishing the two term rule, he was nothing more than a hereditary political carpetbagger prepared to wave aside democracy for or power and prestige.

  • Mr Ed

    RB, not so re peerage, Alec Douglas-Home renounced his Earldom to become Prime Minister and an MP.

    PfP I have read that Marshal Mannerheim of Finland lit up in the Austrian Corporal’s presence during a tense point in negotiations late in the Continuation War, and by Hitler’s passive reaction, concluded that he was weak and so pursued his plan to extricate Finland from the embrace of their co-belligerent. Mannerheim also reported said to a boorish Wehrmacht liaison officer during a formal dinner during that War, when asked if it would bother him if the German smoked before the end of the meal ‘I don’t know, no one has ever tried it.’. He didn’t.

    Stonyground Indeed, and also taking money from the Eastern Bloc and Libya.

  • John Mann

    if you recall the Labour Party of the early 1980s and the malignant scum lurking behind the Leader, we might have got a lot closer to finding out how far away he was had they won power in 1983.

    And that is a question that we can speculate about, but never answer. I really wonder what would have happened if Labour had won power in 1983. I suspect that the infighting would have been pretty serious, and in practice it would have been pretty much like the Hollande story in France.

  • Mr Ed

    John, Pat Wall, a sometime Labour MP in the 1980s and Marxist, said this in 1987:

    “A Marxist Labour government would mean the abolition of the monarchy, the House of Lords, the sacking of the generals, the admirals, the air marshals, the senior civil servants, the police chiefs and in particular the judges”.

    Of course, he made no mention of camps, but who does before an election?

  • Tono-Bungay


    But as far as his manners are concerned, it ought to be said that the vegetarian, nonsmoking Hitler served a meat course to his dinner guests and invited them to light up after dessert. Try that with your modern bien pensant!

    I think it’s also important to remember that Hitler was not only a consummate politician, but also a skilled manipulator of people (or do I repeat myself). That is, it wasn’t unknown for him to ‘give a little’ in order to achieve a desired goal.

    With that in mind, yes, I can see him serving a meat course to his guests and, yes, I can see him inviting his guests to light up, too. What I can’t see him doing is allowing his guests to partake in things he didn’t approve of and keep his mouth closed about it; he wasn’t exactly known as the Gary Cooper of Germany.

    I can’t speak to whether he subjected smokers to a browbeating whilst they smoked (anyone?), but, according to the below, if you ate meat in Hitler’s presence, you didn’t do it in peace:


    For a start, his distaste for meat knew no pity of animals. At mealtimes he often boasted – in graphic detail – of a slaughterhouse he had visited in Ukraine. It amused him to spoil carnivorous guests’ appetites. As they put their forks down in disgust, he would harangue them for hypocrisy. “That shows how cowardly people are,” he would say. “They can’t face doing certain horrible things themselves, but they enjoy the benefits without a pang of conscience.”

    His appetite-suppressing tales from the slaughterhouse aside, the rest of Hitler’s table talk seems to have left a lot to be desired as well. So much so that, apparently, one of the worst places to be on the German side during the war wasn’t the Ostfront, but at Hitler’s dinner table.

    It seems Hitler was so fond of talking endlessly about nothing in particular that people ended up nodding off on the fuhrer (!). Years later, Albert Speer (hardly a Hitler hater) recalled ‘the sense of stifling boredom’ felt by dinner guests and Magda Goebbels is actually on record as privately remarking:


    “It is always Hitler who talks! He can be Führer as much as he likes, but he always repeats himself and bores his guests.”

    Hitler was a lot of different things: mass murderer, kind-hearted lover of animals, Yoga instructor*, and part-time lingerie model.* However, given his penchant for treating people well only so long as it suited him, I’m not entirely convinced that ‘considerate dinner host’ was necessarily one of them. :)

    *Yes, I am kidding about these last two.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Benn’s socialism may have been innocent error. And he indeed serve his country during World War II and support British independence from the European Union.

    His standard tactic (of shows such as the BBC’s “Any Questions”) of defending his politics with “factual” appeals to history (and so on) is harder to explain away. Mr Benn’s “facts” were nothing of the kind. His statements were false.

  • Mr Ed

    A Spitting Image sketch gives a remarkably accurate flavour of the time in the mid-1980s, News at Benn.

  • Tim Carpenter

    Tono:’…and part-time lingerie model.”

    You are getting confused with Göring.

  • Jake Haye

    One has to wonder what role Benn saw for his upper class millionaire self in his socialist nirvana.

    My guess is it didn’t involve much mucking in with the ‘workers’.

    Like all leftists the fucker had evil running through him like letters through a stick of rock.

    The only reason the likes of Benn are seen as ‘authentic’ is that they are socialists of the juvenile rabble-rousing union thug variety rather than the boring technocratic tickbox variety, something middle class leftists find exciting and edgy.

    May he rest in pieces.

  • Tono-Bungay


    Tono:’…and part-time lingerie model.”

    You are getting confused with Göring.

    Yes, I was aware of Göring’s purported* transvestism (it was alluded to in the first season of Red Dwarf).

    However, I freely admit to working very, very hard not to think about it because, well, the thought of Göring got up as a woman is enough to put me off my corn flakes (if not luncheon and dinner as well). :(

    Anyway, in my opinion, nothing upsets fascists (even long-dead ones) more than a piss-take, which is why I said what I did.

    *Though it’s never been entirely clear to me whether Göring was an actual queen, or simply a fop who didn’t know when to say when (with rumour doing the rest). In any case, I’ve deliberately tried to focus on other matters for the reason mentioned above.