Tony Benn: Ideas and movements change the world

27 March 2014

Today we laid Tony Benn to rest. I felt very privileged to be able to attend his funeral and pay my respects to such an inspirational and life-long campaigner for social justice.

His family shared touching and humourous memories of their dad and brother and spoke fondly of the values of love, encouragement and hope that he lived out and shared with his family.  His daughter explained that her dad was “an unabashed sentimentalist” who watched the film of The Railway Children countless times, and loved it so much that tears would roll down his cheeks during the opening credits.

We heard how Tony Benn’s mother read him Bible stories at bedtime – ‘struggles between Old Testament kings and prophets in which the Benns were naturally on the side of the latter’ and we were reminded of the words that hung on the wall of his office:

‘Dare to be a Daniel. Dare to stand alone! Dare to have a purpose firm! Dare to make it known!’ 

Words that reflected his passion for justice, his integrity and tenacity in refusing to compromise in striving for what he believed to be right.  Growing up in a household of politics and attending a public school also influenced his political views as did two other major incidents: receiving the news of  the death of his older brother whilst in action in 1943 and witnessing the  mistreatment of black African whilst serving for the RAF.

Tony Benn was, his son Hilary reminded us, was a firm believer that ideas and movements can change the world and that another world is possible. He lived out this belief with graciousness and good humour, tirelessly  championing  peoples’ rights – whether in the House of Commons or on the picket lines, encouraging collective action and struggles from below that force those with wealth and power to offer concessions.  He once said that he would like to earn the epitaph ‘He encouraged us’.

Her certainly did.

Thank you Tony Benn. RIP



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