Tony Benn died today after a long life of service to the people of his country (rather than his country itself) as, perhaps, the definitive figure of the Labour party’s left. More iconic than Labour leader in recent memory. He was the antithesis of the ‘interchangeable suits’ that now rule the entire Western World.
Benn was a principled politician, though – of course – not infallible. Someone who knew the value of science and technology, was consistently one of Britain’s most popular politicians (confounding the idea that we’re naturally conservative), and was strongly involved in protest movements including the anti-war protests over Iraq and Afghanistan.
Benn gave up his privileged, hereditary peerage to remain an MP, a case of ‘putting your money where your mouth is’ that changed the law and proved him a principled man above ideological suspicion.
A feminist and social justice advocate from when both those terms had clear and useful meaning, he was a career politician when that wasn’t an insult, genuinely dedicated to reform and progress.
He was a politician I didn’t hate. That’s the best accolade I can think of.