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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Fri 14-Mar-14 17:21:26

Guest post from Louise Mensch: "Tony Benn represented something truly valuable in the world"

Tony Benn, a formidable force in left-wing politics for over half a century, has died aged 88. In this guest post Louise Mensch explains why, despite opposing his politics, she had an unwavering respect for the man she calls "a genuine servant of the people".

Do read the post, and share your thoughts on the thread.

Louise Mensch

Author, blogger and former MP

Posted on: Fri 14-Mar-14 17:21:26

(496 comments )

Lead photo

Tony Benn, who has died aged 88

I was so sad to hear - via Mumsnet in fact - of the death of Tony Benn, a man I never actually met. I did once tell his son Hillary, a Labour MP, how much I admired his father - but that was a close as I got.

Tony Benn represented something truly valuable in the world. He acted on what he believed. For his love of socialism, he was prepared to walk away from a peerage, and even from the nobility of his family name. No longer Viscount Stansgate, he wouldn't even allow people to call him Anthony Wedgewood-Benn - he was to be "Tony Benn". And so he remained, until he died.

There was that rumpled, brilliant look about the man that is so endearing to our clever, messy nation. Like JRR Tolkien, whom he resembled, he loved to smoke a pipe; a particularly English vice. He drank tea, and was well-read. He seems never to have regretted walking away from "my Lord" and the bowing and scraping of the era.

He had convictions; he lived those convictions. He was true to himself, bright, and kind. He was raised by a feminist mother, and it showed, in the best possible way.


Benn also possessed, as well as conviction, a great generosity of spirit. His respect and affection for Margaret Thatcher showed him to be a man who understood that political opposition does not have to, and should not, equal enmity (more Labour MPs wrote me kind notes after I resigned my seat than Conservative ones, by the way). Benn said of Thatcher "she was a signpost, not a weathervane". That was why he respected her; and it is why I respected him.

He had convictions; he lived those convictions. He was true to himself, bright, and kind. He was raised by a feminist mother, and it showed, in the best possible way. Labourlist drew my attention to his generous piece on Thatcher which told this story:

"I remember her at the funeral of MP Eric Heffer. I was asked to make a speech and as I was waiting, there was someone behind me coughing. It was Mrs Thatcher, and at the end I thanked her for coming and she burst into tears. She had come out of respect for someone whose opinions she disagreed with."

I believe that there are a great many MPs and commentators who did not share any of Benn's beliefs, but who realise today that in him, we have lost a national treasure; a genuine servant of the people, who did not need to be a nobleman, to be a noble man. May many of us involved in politics on all sides learn from his lessons of authenticity, humility, generosity, and kindness.

By Louise Mensch

Twitter: @LouiseMensch

Ecclefechan Thu 20-Mar-14 06:54:30

Maybe Louise aspires to being a Page Three girl - nothing would surprise me. How anyone can claim to be a feminist and write for The Sun is beyond me but I am a simple soul.

DrankSangriaInThePark Thu 20-Mar-14 07:06:55

" I don't care too much what the tiny fraction of those readers who are bitter enough to post hideous things about the author of a tribute to a very kind, ideological public servant underneath that tribute instead of concentrating on him."

Proofread, Louise, proofread.

Anyway.

We get that you don't care. We get that you are only interested in the clicks, and how many people read you. As you have confirmed.

I wonder if the people who take the time to write you nice things, for there must be some, know that you don't give a flying fuck as long as they have coughed up the £££s for the book?

Because if comments don't matter, that goes for all comments, no?

That you are now lamenting that we are somehow debasing TB's "tribute" by making it about you shows how far into the last chance saloon you have ventured with your "both barrels". (Have you read it, btw, Last Chance Saloon- superior chick lit, you might like it?)

This thread is about you. It was always going to be about you, from the minute HQ approached you.

But that's the way you like it, isn't it?

And fear not, the tiny minority of MNers who want to remember TB are still doing so. Just not on a thread about LM.

Is saying this 'tribute' a bad piece of writing a 'hideous' thing now? Crikey. The ego of the writer is a delicate flower indeed isn't it?

barleywood Thu 20-Mar-14 08:17:04

HRH....spot on. Long term lurker here. I have written and deleted many posts on this thread.

Silence should not be taken as approval, more like a reluctance to fan the flames.

Dreadful decision by MN in response to the death of a huge political figure. The fact that this thread is still going strong shows that it is less about TB than it should have been.

Kudzugirl Thu 20-Mar-14 08:35:18

Mumsnet talk threads soon separate the wheat from the chaff- those who cannot construct a sentence without a sub holding their hand grin.

And again, you seem completely unable to understand that we do not object to a Right Winger Op-ED. it is the fact that Mumsnet chose such a political lightweight mistakenly assuming we cared about your opinion. As said upthread, a tribute from one of the HoC cleaners would have carried more weight. At least they would have met the man.

And a stablemate of Katie Hopkins (Thrush). You must be so proud.

teaandthorazine Thu 20-Mar-14 10:54:39

Well, maybe we misjudged LM after all.

It takes a true political brain to spin hundreds of negative comments into proof that the piece has been well-received by the (strangely silent) majority.

Bravo, Louise.

Viviennemary Thu 20-Mar-14 12:19:06

I'd hard call somebody who was an MP for barely two years a real politician.

Viviennemary Thu 20-Mar-14 12:20:05

'hardly' I wish they'd delete this thread!

gertiegusset Thu 20-Mar-14 12:42:19

Where do you get the two years from Viv?

In 2001, after 51 years as a Labour MP, Benn retired from the Commons “to spend more time on politics”.

Ecclefechan Thu 20-Mar-14 13:19:38

gertie - I think Viv is talking about Louise, not Tony.

TeacakeEater Thu 20-Mar-14 13:37:38

Yes, the spotlight was shifted a while back.

gertiegusset Thu 20-Mar-14 16:12:36

My mistake, apologies.

Ecclefechan Thu 20-Mar-14 20:53:28

Louise, dear, here are some examples of how to pay tribute properly.

TeacakeEater Thu 20-Mar-14 21:06:38

Dare to be a Daniel indeed.

Tony Benn RIP.

Kudzugirl Thu 20-Mar-14 21:11:18

<sob> and unlike you Louise, I have met him.

Ecclefechan Thu 20-Mar-14 21:49:05

"He was barred from entry to the chamber on the instructions of the Speaker because, it was alleged, his blood was blue," said his son.

"His blood was never blue; it was the deepest red throughout his life."

Hilary Benn

It was a fantastic session in the House today. Full of affection and respect and absolutely 100% about Tony Benn from people who knew him and benefited from his kindness and his legacy.

tribpot Thu 20-Mar-14 22:35:24

Some fantastic speeches today. Hilary Benn was of course particularly moving, and seemed only just to be able to hold it together as he finished his speech.

I am very pleased he will spend the night before the funeral in Parliament's chapel. No-one deserves that honour more.

LouiseMensch1 Fri 21-Mar-14 18:12:16

Hillary Benn is a wonderful MP and person. What a touching thing to say. It's an interesting dynamic because Benn the younger took a different path than his father and is one of the most moderate Blairites. This difference of political opinion never ripped their family apart the way it did the Milibands, to their mutual credit.

tribpot Fri 21-Mar-14 18:31:23

I loved the tribute - was Diane Abbott? - who quoted the older Benn as stating "Benns move to the left as they get older" smile Wishful thinking perhaps but touching nonetheless.

Ecclefechan Sat 22-Mar-14 06:33:26

Hilary is only 60, tribpot, he has time to become a less "moderate Blairite" as he ages wink

angeltulips Sat 29-Mar-14 07:01:28

Wow. Just saw this. A 43 year old woman resorting to rolling out her A-levels to rebut an allegation that wasn't actually made by a woman she allegedly doesn't care about? I'm embarrassed for you, Louise <titters>

And, whilst you might not like it, you must understand that many people - of which I am one of them - find anything you have to say on the topic of public service irredeemably tainted by the fact you couldn't be bothered serving just the one term you were elected by your constituents to serve. Bleating on about how you "didn't have a choice" and you "can't say more" doesn't alter the fact that you DID have a choice, you just chose to bin your duty in favour of getting married. Not cool.

Love from a Tory-voting feminist with an Oxbridge first (yes! A first! And I had time to go to gigs too!!) and a healthy appreciation of chick lit.

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