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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


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

Badvoc Fri 14-Mar-14 21:07:56

Of all the people......

Custardo Fri 14-Mar-14 21:08:47

louise supports some vile politics, the guest blog is awful, and i feel she is superficially dabbling.

TippiShagpile Fri 14-Mar-14 21:13:06

Ah, ok. You were looking for Rentagob.

Such a shame when there are so many knowledgeable people who could have given a genuinely insightful opinion.

Badvoc Fri 14-Mar-14 21:14:25

Ffs, it'll be Katie Hopkins next!

SarahMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 14-Mar-14 21:16:37

Hey Tippi and all - sorry you feel we've got it wrong. Please do tell us whom you'd like to hear from; we can't promise anything, obviously, but we can ask.

LRDtheFeministDragon Fri 14-Mar-14 21:20:46

Good lord. Sorry, I can't be arsed to read much more than the first two responses, which sum it up perfectly.

How disrespectful.

Badvoc Fri 14-Mar-14 21:21:01

How about a current politician, maybe even someone who was in cabinet with him?
Someone who actually bloody knew him would be a start!

Badvoc Fri 14-Mar-14 21:22:04

I agree LRD.
Hugely disrespectful.
Not really sure what going on at MNHQ ATM.

OddFodd Fri 14-Mar-14 21:22:27

Idiotic and embarrassing.

teaandthorazine Fri 14-Mar-14 21:22:38

SarahMumsnet - call me an old fart but I remember when it was enough for Mumsnetters to give their opinions on an event, without the need for professional attention seekers bloggers at all...


Idotry Fri 14-Mar-14 21:25:21

I think I'd rather hear an opinion by a member of Towie.

thinking101 Fri 14-Mar-14 21:25:51

Oh dear...

RIP Tony Benn

KoalaFace Fri 14-Mar-14 21:27:04

I agree Russell Brand's piece about Thatcher was a good read and I'd enjoy reading his thoughts on Tony Benn. I know he's not the most popular of people though.

I heard Nigel Farrage talking about Bob Crow on Radio 2 the other day. At least he had something relevant to say about him (other than "he drank tea". As fascinating as that is, obviously). I don't think anyone takes offense at someone of opposing political views writing about Benn, but a more relevant and interesting piece would show more respect I think.

SarahMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 14-Mar-14 21:37:09

Hey, teaandthorazine - we've had the thread on Tony Benn's death in discussions of the day since first thing this morning, and of course that's where the main discussion around his life and legacy is happening. The hope with guest posts is simply to add something to the mix, and by and large we think folks have welcomed them; this week Nick Clegg came on to talk about the Children and Families Act, and a trustee from National Numeracy wrote about how we can help our kids to get on better with maths. Again, if you feel we've got it wrong this time, do let us know whom you'd like to read - we'll do our best.

SarahMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 14-Mar-14 21:38:55

KoalaFace, thanks for the suggestions - we'll certainly ask.

SarahMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 14-Mar-14 21:41:29

and DrankSangriaInThePark - just spotted you said the same upthread smile

Hawkshaw Fri 14-Mar-14 21:44:32

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

SheherazadeSchadenfreude Fri 14-Mar-14 21:53:37

I can't quite believe you've got it so wrong. Was there really no-one else you could have approached - someone who knew him personally, or at least someone who had something sensible to say? "He drank tea and was well read." You could probably say that about every single Mumsnetter.

I tell you what - I've never met The Queen, but I did have a bit of a chat with her son once - when she pops off, would you like me to write a little "think piece" on her?

DearPrudence Fri 14-Mar-14 22:02:52

Got it wrong is an understatement.

SheherazadeSchadenfreude Fri 14-Mar-14 22:12:26

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

Northernlurker Fri 14-Mar-14 22:13:51

Louise Mensch doesn't have the political weight for this sort of situation.

Tony Benn was a colossus. If you want to know what he was like then read his diaries and his other books. Listen to him in his own words. The opinions of Mensch et al are the definition of triviality.

Northernlurker Fri 14-Mar-14 22:16:13

Oh and Louise - I take serious offence at 'He was raised by a feminist mother, and it showed, in the best possible way' - seriously what do you mean by that and is there anyway in which it is not a) deeply patronising and b) lazily offensive.

GobbySadcase Fri 14-Mar-14 22:17:49

I can't think of a more inappropriate person to comment on a man with as much integrity as Tony Benn.

This is horrendous.

Mintyy Fri 14-Mar-14 22:20:16

I would far sooner read a guest post about Tony Benn from his cleaner, or his neighbour, or his oldest friend (with their unique and personal insight). But, hey, I guess they are not interested in getting themselves out there in the blogosphere.

Viviennemary Fri 14-Mar-14 22:21:08

Why on earth does anyone care what Louise Mensch thinks. Sorry. But really!!

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