Remembering the Late TONY BENN: That Lone Voice in the Political Wilderness…

Posted: March 24, 2015 in (All Things) CULTURE, (Politics) CURRENT AFFAIRS
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Tony Benn once said, when summing up his long, colorful career in politics, that “first they ignore you, then they say you’re mad, then dangerous, then there’s a pause and then you can’t find anyone who disagrees with you.”

Much to his own bemusement, he became a national treasure in his later years, but to the very end he continued to speak out zealously and eloquently against imperialism, oppressive capitalism and immoral foreign policies, while increasingly being embraced by even younger generations as someone who spoke for the ignored, the maltreated or disenfranchised masses.

A London event coming up this weekend will commemorate the birthday of the late Tony Benn, who died little over a year ago. Organised by the Stop the War coalition that Benn had been President of from its founding until the day he died, the event on the 29th March will feature, among others, the MP George Galloway and comedians Shappi Khorsandi and Ava Vidal. If interested, you can find out more about the event here.

I wrote at the time of his death a year ago, ‘It feels like his passing marks the departure of the only such figure of substance and gravitas left in the British political arena; an arena which now basically amounts to what I’ve been calling ‘The Clone Wars’; as in a continuous factory-line, conveyor belt of watered-down, career-orientated politicians all cut from the same cloth, all with the same bearing, the same haircut, the same teeth, the same glib family unit, and increasingly the same politics and discourse. Against the dull backdrop of unengaging, uninspiring, corporate-sponsored politicians, Benn often seemed like the lone voice crying in the wilderness. A voice that has now fallen silent. One wonders when or if another voice of equal substance and authenticity might come along; probably not any time soon.’

I, along with I’m sure many others, feel that way about politics even more in the year since then.

The DVD of the film Tony Benn: Last Will & Testament, released last year, is now available from various on-line retailers. Below is the trailer for the documentary film.

In commemoration of the recent anniversary of his passing, I’ve gathered a couple of very good Tony Benn videos here. This is my personal favorite Tony Benn television clip, when the BBC, which had explicably imposed a ban on any promotion of the Gaza Humanitarian Appeal of the time, tried to censor Mr Benn from even mentioning the humanitarian crisis in Palestinian territories (but of course he mentioned it anyway).

This second video is of his Benn’s last ever TV interview, which he gave to RT’s Going Underground presenter Afshin Rattansi; it’s longer, but very interesting and worth the watch.

I recently wrote on this blog about Winston Churchill as an orator; it seems to me that Tony Benn, although utterly the opposite to Churchill in most political and ideological respects, is probably the closest thing this country has had to another orator on the level of a Winston Churchill. I won’t use this space to regurgitate long passages of speeches; but anyone unfamiliar with Tony Benn can look up some of his speeches on-line, which are well worth the time.

In regard to many of our present social, political or societal problems and preoccupations, something he said fairly late in his life often comes to mind. “I think there are two ways in which people are controlled,” he said. “First of all frighten people and secondly, to demoralize them.”


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