13 July, 2008

Tony Benn

Anthony "Tony" Neil Wedgwood Benn, formerly 2nd Viscount Stansgate, is a British socialist politician.

He was instrumental in the creation of the Peerage Act 1963. During the 1970s and 1980s, he was the prominent figure on the left of the Labour Party.

In the 1970s Harold Wilson government, he initially served as Secretary of State for Industry before being transferred to Secretary of State for Energy. When Wilson retired in 1976, Benn retained his post under the new Prime Minister, James Callaghan.

After John Parker, he is Labour's longest serving member of parliament. He is known as one of the few UK politicians to have become more left-wing after holding ministerial office. He also has become ever more interested in the grass-roots politics of demonstrations and meetings, and ever less in parliamentary activities. He has been a vegetarian since the 1970s.

In 1990, Benn was diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukemia and given three or four years to live; at this time, he kept the news of his leukemia from everyone except his immediate family. Benn said: "When you're in parliament, you can't describe your medical condition. People immediately start wondering what your majority is and when there will be a by-election. They're very brutal." This was revealed in 2002 with the release of his 1990–2001 diaries.

Benn suffered a stroke in 2012, and spent much of the following year in hospital. He was reported to be "seriously ill" in hospital in February 2014. Benn died at home on 14 March 2014, surrounded by his family, less than a month shy of his 89th birthday.

Benn's funeral took place on 27 March 2014 at St Margaret's Church, Westminster.

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