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.
Author, blogger and former MP
Posted on: Fri 14-Mar-14 17:21:26
(496 comments )
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
What a shame. I opened this expecting to see you use the word 'integrity', but you haven't.
I wonder why that could be?
Louise Mensch doing a guest post on Tony Benn. The nerve.
I am sick to death of Tony Benn's name being taken in vain to spout shite.
I woke up this morning to the news that he'd died and Tony Blair had said he was "entertaining". Fuck you Blair. And go away please Louise Mensch. Drank tea did he? Who would have thought it. Going to google him now and see if anyone actually managed a decent obituary. RIP Tony.
Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.
Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.
To explain our thinking - there aren't many political figures with the kind of cross-party respect which Tony Benn earned during the course of his long parliamentary career. We thought that, since obits from one's own party can tend toward hagiography, it would be interesting to hear from someone from the 'other side', so to speak - particularly since Louise Mensch is both a former MP and a MN blogger. But if you'd like to hear from someone else as well, let us know on the thread and we'll try to make it happen.
A quick reminder here about our talk guidelines.
Why have the positive posts been deleted?
Both of the removed posts contained personal attacks so we have removed them, robust comments are fine but it would be good to keep it civil.
Oh dear sigh.
Guest post? not really sure what that is.
Louise Mensch? utterly confused as to why we get to hear her opinion on the mighty Tony Benn, let alone any other.
Isn't her blog about clothes or style or something?
Why are we being presented with random stuff from LM in this way?
How sad that Tony Benn has gone and this thread is focussing on who wrote the obituary. Admittedly the obituary here is crap and does not do justice to a giant of British politics but let's not let the general shitness overshadow him.
He was a strong man with the courage of his convictions, we are all poorer for his passing
She met his son once and was pleased that he liked thatcher?
Well, that's a really good reason to let her on mn and spout drivel isn't it?
A man of true integrity.
(Look it up, Louise)
Can't we just have the thread by MNers as testimony to him?
Love the fact she only realised he was dead when HQ rang her to rush-write her piece.....
Could we not have had Russell Brand? Can't stand the man, but his piece on Thatcher was a bit bloody good actually.
But Louise Mensch was an MP for 5 minutes.
And she didn't realise Tony Benn had died until YOU TOLD HER.
This is too depressing. It's like comparing night with day.
Did she approach you by any chance?
I think we should be fair to MN on this. They have picked a former Tory MP to show how much Tony Benn was respected across the political divide. Louise has said that "Tony Benn represented something truly valuable in the world". There are probably many Tories that she would not say that about.
Perhaps they should have asked someone like heseltine or tebbit then claig?
Since the death of Bob Crow and now Tony Benn I feel we've had nothing but 'the other sides opinion' in the media and now mumsnet - how about hearing from people who had the same agenda for a change.
Could anyone tell me why TB sent Hilary to independent schools? Just seems odd in modern times for a labour politician, though obviously he was from a pretty privileged background himself.
But they are not bloggers and probably don't post on forums etc
Honestly, MNHQ? What planet are you lot living on atm?
Why on earth would you imagine any of us would be interested in knowing what Louise bloody Mensch thinks of Tony Benn?
Quite apart from anything else, it's a shit piece of writing. Reads as if it was cobbled together in the back of a taxi. It's barely even about him.
It's what she thought about him tea!
Which is obv very important.
Claig...that's exactly why they should have been asked. Because they aren't "professional" bloggers!
Hello DrankSangriaInThePark and TippiShagpile: to clarify, it was we who approached Louise, who's five hours behind us in New York. She'd already heard the sad news though - possibly (we can't speak for her, obviously) via the MN thread in our Discussions of the Day.
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