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Short Cuts

Chris Mullin: Anonymous and Abuse, 21 November 2019

... at whoever happens to be the bogeyman of the hour. In the 1970s and early 1980s my old friend Tony Benn was on the receiving end of a prolonged tabloid hate campaign. The Daily Express once printed a photograph of Benn daubed with a Hitler moustache. The Daily Mail – at the time engaged in one of its periodic ...

An Address to the Nation

Clive James, 17 December 1981

... right wing loudly calls the left wing cranks And no one stays calm in the altercation Except for Tony Benn, who sucks contentedly On his prop pipe and stares ahead dementedtly. What does he see there in the depths of space? Still half-defined, it sets his large heart beating. The vision clarifies and lights his face. He sees some vast canteen in which a ...

Short Cuts

Tariq Ali: So much for England, 23 January 2020

... manifesto was the democratisation of the antiquated political structure of this country that Tony Benn used to argue for. (He also thought the first past the post system should be left intact: a mistake, I thought, but he was obstinate on the question.) Johnson is in favour of a constitutional commission, but one can imagine its composition. Labour ...

At the Barbican

Rosemary Hill: The Eclecticism of the Eameses, 3 December 2015

... house. Their many visitors included at various times Billy Wilder, a party of fifty nuns and Tony Benn, whose thank-you letter in the form of a limerick appears in the exhibition. Their entertaining style fell somewhere between dinner party and performance art, masks might be involved, candles were pre-burned to exact heights. But the ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Hitler’s Last Day, 7 May 2015

... At midnight, von Below leaves the bunker. At 2 a.m. it starts snowing in South-East England. Tony Benn, on a train from Cairo to Jerusalem, polishes his and his friends’ shoes. Hitler, who has spent much of the day planning his suicide, goes to bed at 4.30 a.m., ‘as the first light of dawn begins to brighten the smoky Berlin sky’. The Times ...

‘Wisely I decided to say nothing’

Ross McKibbin: Jack Straw, 22 November 2012

Last Man Standing: Memoirs of a Political Survivor 
by Jack Straw.
Macmillan, 582 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 1 4472 2275 0
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... have been successful. Although he at first seemed to align himself with the broad left, voting for Tony Benn in the extremely close Benn-Healey deputy leadership contest of 1981, for example, he seems to have taken a New Labour position almost before such a thing existed. As shadow education minister in the late 1980s ...

Right, Left and Centre

Jeremy Harding: Keith Kyle, 6 August 2009

... for the North American Service (‘that position,’ he writes, ‘had in fact been vacated by Tony Benn’). He worked underground in the broadcasting bunkers dug for the war; ‘in some of the studios the river Fleet could be heard rushing beneath the floorboards.’ In 1953 he was hauled up into the light of day by the Economist. From his posting ...

Staggering on

Stephen Howe, 23 May 1996

The ‘New Statesman’: Portrait of a Political Weekly, 1913-31 
by Adrian Smith.
Cass, 340 pp., £30, February 1996, 0 7146 4645 8
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... of its first manifestation, and does not seem to be a great admirer of either Ramsay MacDonald or Tony Blair. Few of the major personalities involved in founding the paper emerge with unmixed credit from Smith’s account, least of all Clifford Sharp. Sharp’s political judgment is subjected to repeated censure, but his personal qualities leave even more to ...

The Sacred Sofa

E.S. Turner, 11 December 1997

The House of Lords: From Saxon Wargods to a Modern Senate 
by John Wells.
Hodder, 298 pp., £20, October 1997, 0 340 64928 3
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... into passing a law to limit the reporting of evidence in divorce cases. As this book reminds us, Tony Blair raised a loud laugh against the Lords by summarising the vicissitudes of a latter-day noble creation. The first of the line bought his peerage from Lloyd George, the second was a Nazi sympathiser and the third ‘was a jailbird who had first attended ...


Glen Newey: Life with WikiLeaks, 6 January 2011

... free. Still, information is power; reputation of power is power. Assange has both. The questions Tony Benn asks of those in power then become pertinent. What power have you got? Where did it come from? In whose interests do you use it? To whom are you accountable? How do we get rid of you? The answer to the last question, at least, is that we ...

After the Battle

Matthew Coady, 26 November 1987

by Tam Dalyell.
Hamish Hamilton, 152 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 241 12170 1
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One Man’s Judgement: An Autobiography 
by Lord Wheatley.
Butterworth, 230 pp., £15.95, July 1987, 0 406 10019 5
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Changing Battlefields: The Challenge to the Labour Party 
by John Silkin.
Hamish Hamilton, 226 pp., £13.95, September 1987, 9780241121719
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Heseltine: The Unauthorised Biography 
by Julian Critchley.
Deutsch, 198 pp., £9.95, September 1987, 0 233 98001 6
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... of the anger in John Silkin’s posthumously published book is directed against Anthony Wedgwood Benn. Labour’s internal wars of the late Seventies are refought here, culminating in the 1981 election for the Party’s deputy leadership, in which Silkin stood as standard-bearer for the non-Bennite Left. Although he was eliminated in the first ...


W.G. Runciman: Like a Prep School, 10 January 1991

... in by the Reaper. It is true that renunciation is now possible, thanks to Lord Stansgate aka Tony Benn. But in my case, that would merely leave me a baronet, and you can’t formally renounce that; all you can do is conceal it, like Indian villagers who, by changing their names and their districts, can sometimes manage to pass as belonging to ...


A.J.P. Taylor: Hungarians and Falklanders, 17 February 1983

... to reliance on force already. The only man who has shown common sense from the beginning is Tony Benn. He still shows it every time he speaks, and in my opinion is now the only man fit to lead the Labour Party if that party wants to free itself from the taint of imperialism and sabre-rattling. One small disadvantage of living in Hungary was that I ...

Tatchell’s Testament

Anne Sofer, 22 December 1983

The Battle for Bermondsey 
by Peter Tatchell.
Heretic Books, 170 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 946097 11 9
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... But no. It has all been, and will continue to be, a miserable business. To make sure of that, Tony Benn has written a pompous and pretentious preface: ‘This book, in my considered judgment, is one of the most important political documents to have been published about the Labour Party since the war ...’ Well, I doubt whether it is that, much ...

Cowboy Coups

Phillip Knightley, 10 October 1991

Smear! Wilson and the Secret State 
by Stephen Dorrill and Robin Ramsay.
Fourth Estate, 502 pp., £20, August 1991, 9781872180687
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... from the permanent government continued. After Labour had won the election of October 1974, Tony Benn was appointed Secretary of State at the Department of Industry. On his first day in the office he was greeted by his Permanent Secretary, Sir Anthony Part, with the words: ‘I presume, Secretary of State, that you do not intend to implement the ...

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