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Champion of the powerless; TONY BENN 1925-2014 DEATH OF A GIANT OF SOCIALISM Political friends and foes pay tribute to Labour stalwart and staunch peace activist.

Byline: TOM MCTAGUE reporters@dailyrecord.co.uk

LABOUR veteran Tony Benn was hailed by political friends and foes alike yesterday after his death at the age of 88.

The party's longest-serving MP died peacefully at his home in London with his family at his bedside.

His four children announced his death in an emotional statement, saying he had "sought to change the world for the better".

Labour leader Ed Miliband led the political tributes, praising the Leftwing stalwart as a "champion of the powerless".

Benn, whose wife of 51 years, Caroline, died in 2000, was admitted to hospital for treatment last month after feeling unwell but was allowed to return home on March 4. His children Stephen, Hilary, Melissa and Joshua said: "We will miss above all his love which has sustained us throughout our lives.

"But we are comforted by the memory of his long, full and inspiring life and so proud of his devotion to helping others as he sought to change the world for the better."

Benn was also hailed by MPs from across the political divide.

Prime Minister David Cameron said he was a "magnificent writer, speaker, diarist and campaigner".

Born Anthony Wedgwood Benn, Benn was elected to the Commons in 1950.

But in 1960, he was disqualified from serving as an MP when he inherited his father's title of Viscount Stansgate - as peers were barred from sitting in the Commons.

Benn campaigned for - and won - a change in the law to allow him to give up his title. He then returned to the Commons after winning by-election the same year.

g a He went on to hold several Cabinet posts, including industry secretary and energy secretary, under Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan.

ed He stood unsuccessfully for the Labour leadership in 1976 and 1988.

eid nd en When he finally quit the Commons in 2001, he famously said it was because he wanted to "spend more time on politics". He then became president of the Stop The War Coalition.

Despite serving as an RAF pilot in World War II, he was a frequent opponent of military action, speaking out against the Falklands war and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

First Minister Alex Salmond said yesterday: "His comment that he left Parliament in 2001 to spend more time in politics is one of the great political quotes of this period and all the more relevant since it coincided with his campaigning against the wars.

"I found Tony Benn supportive and helpful, regardless of political differences and it was on his unfailing courtesy to opponents that much of his cross-party respect was founded."

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: "This is a sad day Lamon but we can all celebrate an amazing life at the heart of British politics and public life."

Miliband said: "He will be remembered as a champion of the powerless, a great parliamentarian and a conviction politician.

"Tony Benn spoke his mind and spoke up for his values."

Miliband spoke of doing work experience with Benn as a 16-yearold and described him as "an incredibly kind man", adding: "I may have been just a teenager but he treated me as an equal. It was the nature of the man and the principle of his politics.

"I saw him for the last time a couple of weeks ago in hospital.

"He may have been ailing in body but was as sharp as ever in mind. As I left he said, 'Let's have a proper talk when you have more time.'" Cameron said: "There was never a dull moment listening to him, even when you disagreed with everything he said."

Former Tory PM John Major called Benn "a true political warrior" while Tony Blair said he was a "genuine radical for all his life".

He added: "He was a fearless campaigner and a legendary figure for the Labour movement. Even when I disagreed with him, I always had enormous respect for his brilliance and commitment to the people of Britain and the world."

Mike Kirby, the Scottish Secretary of public sector union UNISON, said: "We have lost a true friend. An abiding memory for many of us will be his speech at the STUC's People First March in October 2011.

"After marching through Glasgow in the worst rain imaginable, he gave a marvellous spirit-lifting address."

Labour MP Diane Abbott recalled Benn's softer side, speaking of his emotional response to son Hilary's maiden speech as an MP. She said: "Tony came into the chamber, he sat a few rows in front of Hilary and his eyes were streaming with tears."

Former MSP Tommy Sheridan revealed Benn had sent him a book with the inscription: "Thinking of you and Gail. In Unity" when he was jailed for perjury.

He added: "He once advised me not to be personal when criticising opponents. If you dance with the chimney sweeps, you will only end up getting dirty, he said.

"He was able to rise above personalities and tackle the real issues. Total Respect. Love and Solidarity, Comrade. RIP Tony Benn."

CAPTION(S):

MARCH Benn in Glasgow in 2011

SOLIDARITYBENN marches with shipyard workers during the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders 1971, led by Jimmy Reid, to Benn's left

SWITCH-ON Benn symbolically started North Sea oil flow, left, as reported in Record, above

RESPECT Tony Benn
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 15, 2014
Words:885
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