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Late Developer

Paul Foot, 22 February 1990

Against the Tide: Diaries 1973-1976 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 512 pp., £20, October 1989, 0 09 173775 3
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... MPs have been going to Parliament to change the world, but have ended up changing only themselves. Tony Benn is unique. He went to Parliament to change himself, but has ended up determined only to change the world. This extraordinary conversion has taken place not on the backbenches, where a young socialist’s revolutionary determination is often ...

Tony and Caroline

Ben Pimlott, 26 November 1987

Out of the Wilderness: Diaries 1963-67 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 592 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 09 170660 2
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... chastity and continence, prayed the youthful Augustine, but do not give it yet. Perhaps the young Tony Benn, slithering up the greasy poll, made similar entreaties. For this, his fascinating first volume of diaries, is the story of an attractive, vital, boundlessly energetic young man having the egocentric time of his life without a thought for the ...

Post-Bourgeois Man

Peter Jenkins, 1 October 1981

Arguments for Democracy 
by Tony Benn, edited by Chris Mullin.
Cape, 257 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 224 01878 7
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Manifesto 
by Francis Cripps, John Griffith, Frances Morrell, Jimmy Reid and Peter Townsend.
Pan, 224 pp., £1.95, September 1981, 0 330 26402 8
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... He has come a long way. Born the Hon. Anthony Wedgwood Benn, he inevitably became by public-school nickname ‘Wedgie’ and later, by his own socialist deed-poll, plain ‘Tony Benn’. Today he is more often referred to simply as Benn – a hard word spat out like ‘Lenin ...

Family History

Miles Taylor: Tony Benn, 25 September 2003

Free at Last: Diaries 1991-2001 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 738 pp., £25, October 2002, 0 09 179352 1
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Free Radical: New Century Essays 
by Tony Benn.
Continuum, 246 pp., £9.95, May 2003, 9780826465962
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... have passed since tea and talk in Baghdad; the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein remain unknown, but Tony Benn is alive and well and coming soon to a concert hall near you. Leaving Parliament in 2001 to devote more time to politics, Benn joined the B-list of political celebrities. He has appeared at the Glastonbury ...

Gospel Truth

Ian Aitken: Tony Benn and the end of parliamentary socialism, 19 February 1998

The End of Parliamentary Socialism 
by Leo Panitch and Colin Leys.
Verso, 341 pp., £40, September 1997, 1 85984 109 0
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... a quarter of a century ago, shortly after Ted Heath’s surprise defeat of the Wilson Government, Tony Benn addressed a Fabian Society meeting in a gloomy Westminster basement. With his usual happy choice of language, he described how fired-up he had been on eventually becoming a minister in Wilson’s Cabinet; he had always wanted to get his hands on ...

Radical Democrats

Ross McKibbin, 7 March 1991

Conflicts of Interest: Diaries 1977-80 
by Tony Benn, edited by Ruth Winstone.
Hutchinson, 675 pp., £20, September 1990, 0 09 174321 4
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Words as Weapons: Selected Writings 1980-1990 
by Paul Foot.
Verso, 281 pp., £29.95, November 1990, 0 86091 310 4
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... When historians come to account for the dégringolade of modern British politics both Tony Benn and Paul Foot will find a place: Benn as actor, Foot as an observer. The two have much in common: both were born into very similar families; both see their lives as a continuing re-education, a casting aside of cultural baggage packed with the detritus of a worn-out social system; both have come to discover a superior morality within socialism and the organised working class ...

Off with her head

John Lloyd, 24 November 1988

Office without Power: Diaries 1968-72 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 562 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 09 173647 1
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... In June of this year Tony Benn took part in a radio discussion on the working of Parliament, together with John Biffen and Roy (Lord) Jenkins. Asked by the chairman, Peter Hennessy, if he did not think that the Lords now functioned as a ‘focus of opposition’, Benn responded that it was, instead, ‘part of an attack on democracy ...

Customers of the State

Ross McKibbin, 9 September 1993

... warns the judiciary not to intrude on Parliamentary privilege and quotes the Bill of Rights; Tony Benn warns the judges likewise and also quotes the Bill of Rights. The Evening Standard eulogises the same Tony Benn as the ‘last of the radicals’, while Lord Rees-Mogg takes the Government to court for ...

Jingo Joe

Paul Addison, 2 July 1981

Joseph Chamberlain: A Political Study 
by Richard Jay.
Oxford, 383 pp., £16.95, March 1981, 0 19 822623 3
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... A century ago Joseph Chamberlain was the Tony Benn of his time, the bogeyman of moderate and conservative opinion. The point is familiar to historians of the period, but never easy to convey. Why, after all, should the upper classes have been scared of a Liberal? Were the Liberals not a party of property and wealth? Indeed they were, and from the gallery of the House of Commons one could observe a multitude of well-fed, broad-bottomed types on the Liberal benches ...

Scoutmaster General

Peter Clarke, 24 September 1992

Tony Benn 
by Jad Adams.
Macmillan, 576 pp., £20, July 1992, 0 333 52558 2
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The End of an Era: Diaries, 1980-1990 
by Tony Benn, edited by Ruth Winstone.
Hutchinson, 704 pp., £25, September 1992, 0 09 174857 7
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... and good-natured, eloquent and earnest, well-educated and well-connected, Anthony Wedgwood Benn had the best of both worlds. Father was a radical Liberal MP who switched to Labour in the Twenties and ended up representing the Party in the House of Lords as the first Viscount Stansgate. The family lived at 40 Grosvenor Road, Westminster, next door to ...

Labour Pains

Phillip Whitehead, 8 November 1979

Arguments for Socialism 
by Tony Benn.
Cape, 206 pp., £5.95
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Socialism without the State 
by Evan Luard.
Macmillan, 184 pp., £3.95
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Can Labour Win Again? 
by Austin Mitchell.
Fabian Society, 30 pp., £75
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Enemies of Democracy 
by Paul McCormick.
Temple Smith, 228 pp., £7.50
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... The first batch of books and pamphlets on Labour’s future is now emerging. Two former Ministers, Tony Benn and Evan Luard, have written books on the case for socialism as a liberating force, capable once more of converting men and women to its cause. Austin Mitchell, one of the few MPs with some training in political science, has described how urgent ...

Lessons for Civil Servants

David Marquand, 21 August 1980

The Secret Constitution 
by Brian Sedgemore.
Hodder, 256 pp., £7.95, July 1980, 0 340 24649 9
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The Civil Servants 
by Peter Kellner and Lord Crowther-Hunt.
Macdonald/Jane’s, 352 pp., £9.95, July 1980, 0 354 04487 7
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... that nothing much can be wrong with it. After all, an institution which manages to upset Mr Tony Benn, Lady Falkender, Mr Michael Meacher, Mr Joe Haines, the editor of the Spectator and the sub-editors of the Daily Express cannot be all bad; and from there it is a small step to conclude that it must be all, or nearly all, good. The step is a ...

On the State of the Left

W.G. Runciman, 17 December 1981

The Forward March of Labour Halted? 
by Eric Hobsbawm, Ken Gill and Tony Benn.
Verso, 182 pp., £8.50, November 1981, 0 86091 041 5
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... for Margaret Thatcher but might, even now, lead to their being switched to Roy Jenkins instead of Tony Benn. It is true that the record of an internal debate among the committed is not to be read as a prospectus for potential converts. But the cries of disappointment and betrayal, the denunciations of the media, Harold Wilson and the IMF, and the ...

Permissiveness

Paul Addison, 23 January 1986

The Writing on the wall: Britain in the Seventies 
by Phillip Whitehead.
Joseph, 438 pp., £14.95, November 1985, 0 7181 2471 5
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... have been a record of almost unrelieved bad news for Labour. The destruction by Harold Wilson of Tony Benn’s industrial strategy in 1975, the surrender of Callaghan to the IMF in 1976, and the creation of the Lib-Lab pact in 1977, divided and demoralised the Party. The one tangible achievement of the last Labour government, the reduction of ...

Labour Blues

Ross McKibbin, 11 February 1993

Defeat from the Jaws of Victory: Inside Neil Kinnock’s Labour Party 
by Richard Heffernan and Mike Marqusee.
Verso, 344 pp., £9.95, November 1992, 0 86091 351 1
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... some who sat on the National Executive of the Labour Party (NEC) and they have had access to Tony Benn’s huge personal archive. They are able to quote verbatim from NEC minutes and the minutes of its subcommittees and have made extensive use of the press and of published material like the proceedings of Labour Party Conferences – when they were ...

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