There’s Only One Tony Benn

Excellent tribute to one of the greatest and most genuinely inspiring politicians of the late 20th century. He was an undoubted man of principle. I think his stance on NATO would have been too far to the Left for most of the electorate, who would have seen it as giving in to the power of the Warsaw pact, or worse. He was, however, right about the Iraq invasion, and I’ve read articles which suggest that he may well have been right about leaving NATO. According to this, by the 1970s and ’80s the Soviet Union was well past its expansionist phase, and rather than wishing to expand the frontiers of militant ‘scientific socialism’, the ruling party elite were mostly concerned simply with holding onto power while arranging visits to the West so they could pick up consumer goods to sell in the hard currency stores back home.

The video of Benn’s speech at the end is also well worth watching. Benn is exactly right. He states that this country does not value skill. Perfectly true – it does not value the skilled members of the working classes who physically made and built Britain and its products, nor the skilled technicians and bureaucrats, who founded the welfare state. One of the complaints of one of the contributors to Lobster was exactly Benn’s in the speech below: when the news turns to analyse the economy, they first interview the financiers, as if they are the only part of the economy whose opinion matters. Thus manufacturing was not only neglected, it was destroyed by Thatcher. As for ‘market forces’ – again, this was responsible for the rise of poverty. Philiip Blond, Cameron’s mentor, attacks market forces in his book, Red Tory. Once in power, however, the mask slipped and market forces, privatisation and vicious welfare attacks on the poor came back with a vengeance. Which just about shows that the Tories, despite Cameron’s attempt to present them to the contrary, really are an intellectually bankrupt, post-Thatcherite party, solely interested in looting the remains of this fine nation and its people.

And Benn’s also right about one last thing. Margaret Thatcher aimed to create a new, capitalist Briton, the antithesis to Homo Sovieticus: Homo Monetarensis. There was going to be a new, entrepreneurial, capitalist Britain. But polls still show most people want the essentially utilities run by the state. They do not want the NHS privatised, and they don’t want to see the East Coast railway handed over to private industry either. That aspect of Thatcherism has also failed. Unfortunately, none of the parties has yet woken up to this yet, or, more likely, are afraid of scaring they paymasters in big business by daring to admit it.

Guy Debord's Cat

Tony Benn: the greatest Prime Minister we never had.

After the sudden death of Bob Crow earlier in the week, I never thought that I would be writing two tributes to two fine men in the space of five days. Tony Benn, the veteran Labour politician died yesterday at the age of 88. I once shared a stage with Tony Benn at a gala on Newcastle’s Town Moor in 1989, at which I was compèring. I can remember introducing him to the crowd but I also remember being too much in awe to actually say anything to him. To this day, I wish I had. Tony Benn was a very approachable man, who was always willing to chat and have his photo taken with people. He was a fine orator and a first-rate parliamentarian. The like of which we may never see again. These days many Westminster politicians are too…

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