Matthew Parris

We have to tell the truth about Tony Benn now. Who will hear it later?

The convention to speak only good of the dead should not be applied to politicians

22 March 2014

9:00 AM

22 March 2014

9:00 AM

I could start by remarking that we should not speak ill of the dead, quoting the pertinent Latin phrase: de mortuis nil nisi bonum (‘of the dead, only good’). But this would be to miss a key qualification because the whole quote (from Diogenes Laertius, circa ad 300) adds ‘dicendum est’: ‘is to be said’.

And that puts a different complexion on things. Commentators have preferred to describe the advice as an established social convention rather than necessarily their own opinion. Indeed it is often used as a sly way of indicating (without stating) the speaker’s disapproval of the deceased.

But if the phrase has been thrown once at my head by my newspaper readers this week, it has been thrown a score of times.

I have sailed into a storm over the late Tony Benn. A column I wrote for the Times the day after his death laid into his legend, and readers’ subsequent comments (though many of them supportive) underline how familiar we British are with the idea that the (recently) dead should not be criticised.

The BBC, meanwhile, has gone crazy for Mr Benn, apparently feeling no duty to achieve the balance of bouquets with brickbats that it made such elaborate efforts to contrive when Margaret Thatcher died; and even clearing the airwaves to rebroadcast favourites from his Secret Diary of Adrian Mole-style diaries: a grisly example of self-absorption without self-examination.


In an intimate diary it is to be hoped that awkward self-criticism and uncomfortable self-knowledge of the kind the diarist has previously shrunk from admitting in public will emerge in the small-hours silence of the confessional; but in Mr Benn’s case the widely promoted modesty of the public man is cast aside in the confessional, where immodesty is displayed in all its horror.

Twelve years ago Lord (Tom) McNally, one of Mr Benn’s old comrades-in-arms, remarked (as the Independent’s John Rentoul recalled): ‘One of the reasons why I want to live a long life is to be around when Wedgie pops his clogs and they all start maudlin remembrances of what a great old man he was and I have to remind them what a treacherous bastard he was!’

I would not go quite so far; Tony Benn was one of the finest political orators it has been my privilege to hear; and his behaviour towards people who didn’t matter was always kind. But it’s fair to say that his political prescriptions would have been ruinous for his party and for Britain; and he left many close colleagues nursing an undying resentment of the ways in which he undermined them.

I rehearsed this assessment in what I wrote. Probably the most oft-repeated rebuke I received from my readers runs, typically, thus: ‘A balanced assessment of an individual’s contribution to history can await unhurried consideration. But while the corpse is not yet cold we should reflect on the deceased’s personal qualities, and mourn him as an individual.’

I totally disagree. We obituarise people who are in some way celebrated, people who have done big, notable things in their lives. A useful and honest obituary has to go straight to these, the reason why the deceased’s death is newsworthy in the first place. All the rest, the ‘personal’ picture, is secondary, helpful though it may be in warming and enlivening a piece of writing.

It may be true — and probably is — that a man like Mr Benn was a faithful and devoted husband and an adoring father, and I myself can testify to his meticulous regard for the ordinary courtesies of polite society. But thousands of people die every day in our country, and scores of them will be distinguished by their kindness, devotion and courtesy. Their obituaries are never written: they rest, as George Eliot remarked, in unvisited tombs. We — and by ‘we’ I mean the public at large — are only interested in a man like Benn for what he achieved as a politician.

He achieved (I wrote) little. He made a splash, but as the waves subside we’ve been able to see he was wrong about almost everything, preached a creed that would have been disastrous if followed, and was ruthless and guileful in shin-kicking and privately wounding Labour comrades who tried to teach a more realistic view of politics. On the whole polite to enemies outside his circle, he was merciless towards colleagues within it and often less than straightforward in his dealings with some of them.

There’s no point in my repeating what I’ve already written elsewhere because my point here is not so much about one individual to whom — in life as well as death — I think we have been too kind; but about honesty generally in our immediate treatment of the deaths of the famous. When I submit that a balanced view, warts and all, is the objective, I suppose few will disagree. But what of my readers’ opinion that this should wait until later?

Until later? They can only mean until the subject has ceased to be of great public interest. We should all like discussion of our defects to be postponed until little notice will be taken; and you and I could debate now the follies of Herbert Morrison, Stafford Cripps or Anthony Crosland, but we should not find much of an audience. To some degree a reputation is fixed (or, at least, the first draft of a reputation is issued) in the days and weeks after death. The period during which, metaphorically, the corpse has yet to go cold may be critical in striking the tone.

Editors keep on file the pre-drafted obituaries they will sooner or later be needing. Pinned to each draft should be an anti-obituary, a hatchet-job; and when the time comes the dialectic should be rehearsed: thesis coolly assessed against antithesis and — as Karl Marx and Tony Benn, at least, should agree — a synthesis found.

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Show comments
  • Sam Carwenne

    You back up your unkind words with no evidence. I disrespect you as journalist and find your spirit wanting in kindness.

    • Cymrugel

      Agreed. Parris is an odious soft spoken little creep.
      But Benn was in fact a monster

      • Doggie Roussel

        Parris is a hermaphrodite jellyfish with the sting removed from its tentacles…

    • CortUK

      Maybe you should have actually read the article:

      “There’s no point in my repeating what I’ve already written elsewhere…”.

      Now go to one of the web’s many search engines.

      • anyfool

        Ignore this fool, nothing can remove blinkers from the eyes of the unthinking mass that serve as socialist apologists.
        They still think the Soviet Union was a force for good despite the approximate 50 million who died to keep this beast alive.

        • Samuel Kaine Wheeler

          There are rather fewer socialists who remain apologists for the USSR than there are conservatives who remain apologists for Empire, despite the comparable death tolls.

          • anyfool

            That figure is one you pulled from thin air, just another lie by the self hating socialists.
            At the height of Empire the British were mechanically incapable of such industrial slaughter.
            Most countries were policed by small cadres of British, your self delusion is quite staggering.

          • Samuel Kaine Wheeler

            And your 50m figure was plucked from thin air. Most of the deaths in the USSR were not from industrial scale slaughter like the gas chambers, they were from starvation of populations, either as a side effect or as deliberate policy. By that measure we can count the Irish Famine, the mass deaths of Afrikaaners in British run concentration camps and the horrendous death tolls from starvation in the Indian sub-continent. Not to mention the thousands of British men, women and children executed for the most minor of property crimes by the avaricious Georgian and Victorian elite.

            That’s before we mention the slave trade, which had a pretty good run up until 1807.

            But as I say, you’ll excuse or downplay all this without a hint of irony. I have no problem condemning the horrendous brutality of Stalin’s regime that took a tremendous opportunity and throttled it, along with millions of people.

          • First L

            Britain ended the slave trade remember, it was also a far smaller player in it than the Spanish, Portuguese or Arabs. No one in Soviet Russia attempted to end any deaths.

            No one knows for sure about these death totals, therefore if you are maximising the British Empire’s totals, the largest total you can lay at the door of the British Empire is 1 million. The largest estimate for the Soviet Empire is 200 million. No comparison.

          • Daniel Maris

            Kruschev did stop the mass killing of people in the Soviet Union.

            Millions of people died in avoidable famines in Ireland and India under British rule, so your one million figure is ridiculously low.

          • First L

            To accept your point I would have to ask for evidence that British Rule in India was a direct cause of famine. This is not a point that is proven, but rather argued over. Wiki, for example, offers five different views by eminent historians or original sources of the famines under the British, of which two discount the British entirely. Considering that India had suffered from severe famine on a regular basis before and after British occupation – right up until modern investment in agriculture, I would suggest that there is no proof whatsoever that famine was caused by the British or – unless you have some stonking original sources, that they were actively negligent in dealing with or actively exacerbated natural famine. You have used the word ‘avoidable’. As is noted in wiki, with over 90 known famines in India in its history until modernisation, I would posit that any famine prior to modernisation in India was not avoidable.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Famine_in_India

            The Irish famine on the other hand was caused by the arrival of Potato blight. The British did actively attempt to help the Irish in stopping the famine, but failed because of bureacracy/incompetence.

            F.S.L. Lyons characterised the initial response of the British government to the early less severe phase of the famine as “prompt and relatively successful.”[55] Confronted by widespread crop failure in the autumn of 1845, Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel purchased £100,000 worth of maize and cornmeal secretly from America. Baring Brothers & Co initially acted as purchasing agents for the Prime Minister. The government hoped that they would not “stifle private enterprise” and that their actions would not act as a disincentive to local relief efforts. Due to weather conditions, the first shipment did not arrive in Ireland until the beginning of February 1846.[56]

            “The maize corn was then re-sold for a penny a pound.[57] The corn when it arrived had not been ground and was inedible[dubious – discuss], and this task involved a long and complicated process if it was to be done correctly and it was unlikely to be carried out locally. In addition, before the cornmeal could be consumed, it had to be ‘very much’ cooked again, or eating it could result in severe bowel complaints.[56] Because of maize’s (commonly) yellow colour, and the fact that it had to be ground twice, it became known in Ireland as ‘Peel’s brimstone’. In 1846, Peel then moved to repeal the Corn Laws, tariffs on grain which kept the price of bread artificially high. The famine situation worsened during 1846 and the repeal of the Corn Laws in that year did little to help the starving Irish; the measure split the Conservative Party, leading to the fall of Peel’s ministry.[58] In March, Peel set up a programme of public works in Ireland but was forced to resign as Prime Minister on 29 June.”[59] This fall came on 25 June, when he was defeated in the House of Commons on a motion that the Irish Coercion Bill be read a second time. According to Michael Doheny, the majority against him was 73, and it was made of the “Whig party, the extreme Conservatives, the ultra-Radicals and Irish Repealers.” Ten days after, Lord John Russell assumed the seals of office.[60]”

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Famine_(Ireland)

            So yes, this was clearly an avoidable famine, but it was not for want of trying – as opposed to the Russian famines where whole cities were just left to starve with no effort put in to saving them. Deaths for the potato famine are around 1 million, so fair enough – double my estimate.

            Sam Wheeler was right concerning my Soviet Union estimate. Sorry, my mind was probably elsewhere, was probably throwing Mao in there too. 80 million is the accepted figure for the USSR. That’s 78 million more than my current British estimate.

          • Marie Louise Noonan

            ‘Kruschev did stop the mass killing of people in the Soviet Union.’

            Ah, that was nice of him. Wasn’t he a political commissar during the war?

          • Samuel Kaine Wheeler

            The Irish Famine alone gives you a million. Unless you’re bundling every Communist state in with the USSR I can’t see how you get 200m, and if you’re doing that we might as well bundle all of NATO together too.

          • vieuxceps2

            The famine in Ireland was caused by a blighting disease of the potato crop, not some thing engineered by Britain. It may be that more could have been done to help, but you cannot lay the blame for the famine at anyone’s door but nature’s own calamity.

          • Samuel Kaine Wheeler

            Ireland produced more than enough food to feed its population, and was exporting produce throughout the 1840s. The decision not to cease export and to restrict relief was a deliberate policy of the British government based upon deeply mistaken notions of laissez-faire.

          • davidshort10

            Where are your figures?

          • Samuel Kaine Wheeler

            As I say it would depend on what we assign to what. It’s a deeply complicated question of historiography assigning deaths. That was my point to the initial glib question.

          • Grytpype

            “It may be that more could have been done to help”

            Understatement of the last millennium??

          • Marie Louise Noonan

            Oh do shut up!

          • Samuel Kaine Wheeler

            Get yourself made a moderator of this website and you can make me. Until then…

          • davidshort10

            Erm, potato blight.

          • Samuel Kaine Wheeler

            The potato crop had failed in previous years without the same cataclysmic effect in part because of a determination by the British state to intervene.

          • Daniel Maris

            A very fair summary. Someone recently counted up how many countries our armed forces have invaded or occupied – it came to a staggering total – 90% of all countries I think. Nearly every country on the planet.

            We would hardly recommend such behaviour to other countries would we?

          • First L

            He did – it was also propaganda. He counted every country where we have ever had a soldier set foot in anger, regardless of the consequences or circumstances – so it included Belgium because we fought WW1 there, even though we never fought the Belgians, they were our allies, and left at the end of the war. It included Pacific Islands which Americans had invaded to repel the Japanese, which had a few British troops attached.

            Hardly scientific.

          • Marie Louise Noonan

            ‘90% of all countries I think.’

            Seriously? Excellent!

          • Marie Louise Noonan

            So how long do you suggest we flagellate ourselves for all this and what purpose would it serve. (although I do believe some people enjoy that sort of thing.)

          • Samuel Kaine Wheeler

            I don’t suggest anyone flagellate themselves. Barely anyone still living could have played a major part. By the same token however, I don’t see why anyone should defend it, or take pride in it.

          • Doggie Roussel

            You look up for a good dose of flaj, Luv…. your agonised avatar screams pain and injustice …

          • Marie Louise Noonan

            ‘pain and injustice?’ I thought it was just a cartoon! Interesting.

          • Marie Louise Noonan

            A lot of Indians wanted to retain the British Raj so…

          • In A Flap

            the empire was a great force for good and development of the world. Socialism has done nothing but put millions in their graves

          • Samuel Kaine Wheeler

            Case in point.

  • mikewaller

    Apart from his recent appalling lapse with regard to the Ukraine, I think Parris an outstanding commentator. However, I am not sure that he is right about the BBC’s intentions. Surely only those wishing to destroy Benn’s reputation would air again extracts from his execrable diaries.

  • MikeF

    Tony Benn enjoyed two great pieces of fortune as far as his posthumous reputation is concerned. The first is that he failed to become Leader of the Labour Party and so never had to have his intentions judged against their reality in practice. The second is that he lived long enough to be able to develop an apparently avuncular personality that is the impression of him that a lot of people are now left with. The truth was that at his political peak he was a relentless ideologue and arguably a demagogue. How he might have used real power had he got it remains unknown, but it was probably a good thing for more than just his reputation that he did not.

    • greggf

      He had a couple of dodgy spells as Postmaster General then Minister of Technology with Wilson and then Min of Tech again under Wison/Foot later in 1974.
      He hadn’t a clue about any technical knowledge that might be needed so in theory couldn’t do much damage – Whitehall decided that.
      Clever in a way except Whitehall is hardly much better, but I suppose that’s par for the course in Britain.

    • Arden Forester

      Excellent contribution, MikeF

    • Daniel Maris

      He was a demagogue, if a rather mild British one, because he failed to engage in debate.

  • Doggie Roussel

    Benn was essentially lightweight… he had neither the intellect of Enoch Powell nor the presence or charisma of, say, Churchill.

    He was born into privilege and, with no need to work for a living, he espoused what he thought were the needs of the working classes from his lofty perch in Holland Park.

    He eschewed adultery and incontinence in favour of drinking endless cups of tea and stuffing his pipe with the cheapest Virginia shag.

    Essentially, he was a consummate wanker…

    I hope he enjoys a huge stiffie as he lies in state in the Palace of Westminster…

    • scampy1

      Fuckin brilliant I hope Tony the phony Blair is reading this.

      • Doggie Roussel

        Thank you scampy1… I know that Blair is going to receive a much worse press than Phony Benn… Blair was known as a total lightweight by the late Clarissa Dixon Wright, who was a trainee barrister at the same time as Bliar.

        He was known, apparently, as Miranda and considered a thick and shifty shit.

        In the light of his, alleged, dalliance with the fearsome Rupert’s favourite Chow Mein, I fear that Tone’s goolies will soon be appearing on the menu of one of Lupert’s favourite New York Chinese restaurants.

        One can only live in hope.

      • manonthebus

        Language, Timothy!!!

    • Marie Louise Noonan

      But he was a war hero and that’s all I care about.

      • Doggie Roussel

        Do you mean a class-war hero, Marie ?

        I don’t believe Viscount Stansgate ever stood to arms.

        • Marie Louise Noonan

          ‘I don’t believe Viscount Stansgate ever stood to arms.’

          Really? I’ll take your word for it then.

          But you simply must correct *these* people:

          ‘In July 1943, Benn enlisted in the Royal Air Force as an aircraftman 2nd Class. His father and brother Michael (who was later killed in an accident) were already serving in the RAF. He was granted an emergency commission as a pilot officer(on probation) on 10 March 1945. As a pilot officer, Benn served as a pilot in South Africa and Rhodesia. He relinquished his commission with effect from 10 August 1945, two months after the European Second World War ended on 8 May, and just days before the war with Japan ended on 2 September.’

          It IS wikipedia.

          • Doggie Roussel

            South Africa & Rhodesia were hardly the Battle of Britain theatre of war… or am I missing something… I don’t believe that Messerschmidts & Fokkers were tearing up the skies in South Africa…

            I expect the Viscount-in-Waiting spent much of his war taking aerial photographs of elephant migrations…

          • Doggie Roussel

            So Tony Benn had a couple of scary months flying about empty skies in South Africa…. a real war hero !

  • D Whiggery

    Tony Benn was always the living personification of what the Labour party would like to have been if it had been a) courageous enough or b) stupid enough. Sometimes you need courage to be stupid.

    He was their comfort blanket and an absolute raving lunatic politically, but outwardly a very kind and polite one.

    The BBC is in Mandela mode again.

  • David Lindsay

    Matthew Parris is such an important voice for the foreign policies that were advocated by Tony Benn, that his attack on Benn so soon after the latter’s death is therefore especially sad.

    If Labour had won the 1979 Election, then Benn was to have been the Minister responsible for putting the North Sea oil revenue into a sovereign wealth fund.

    By that means, Norway has acquired the highest per capita income in the world.

    That could have been Britain.

    Benn’s Britain.

    • Cosmo

      And the nation could have marched forward into a Socialist utopia. Like Tony Benn, you let idealism trump realism.

    • James Allen

      Yes, neverminding the teensy-weensy difference in population and reserve size, but we’ll skirt over that as don’t want to interrupt your fantasy….

    • We could put a tutu on your scenario and give it a magic fairy wand and it wouldn’t be any less illusory and ridiculous.

      By the way, I sincerely hope that Scandinavia isn’t the ticking bomb it looks like, but time will tell.

    • The Laughing Cavalier

      It would have all been put into workers co-operatives and lost.

      • Daniel Maris

        Benn is not to be forgiven for funding failing companies as co-ops. He should have funded conversion of successful enterprises into co-ops.

    • Tim Patmore

      Wait a second… “If Labour had won the 1979 Election, then Benn was to have been the
      Minister responsible for putting the North Sea oil revenue into a
      sovereign wealth fund.”

      When did Tony Benn ever say he’d do this? What evidence is there that Benn would have saved the oil money, and not seen it spent on feeding expensive socialist policies?

      Never and none, I think you’ll find.

      I think you are employing wishful thinking and applying it to a man who you obviously think was the bees’ knees. Just because you think it would have been nice does not mean your hero would therefore have done it.

      Methinks you have misapplied the wet dream of Scottish Nationalists onto a man who doesn’t deserve the epaulettes of your hindsight.

  • HD2

    Benn was a monumental hypocrite and a thoroughly nasty piece of work in all matters political. A Marxist/Maoist in his mind-set and one who, more than 50 years ago was described to me as having ‘dangerous, maniac-type eyes’

    The question is why those with half a brain within the Labour Party ever tolerated him.

    Oh…

  • rick hamilton

    I am ambivalent about Benn.

    His blundering intereference in our motor industry in the late 1960s – based as usual upon zero personal experience of business – led to the disaster of British Leyland. The ultimate closure of hundreds of suppliers and parts makers as well as the sale of the viable car and truck plants into foreign ownership should be laid at Benn’s door, not Thatcher’s.

    ( An old friend who worked at BL predicted that it would be sold to the Germans and renamed Wedgwood-Benz AG ).

    On the other hand Benn said “Why should the citizens of the EU obey its laws when they are made by people whom they did not elect, who will not listen to them and whom they cannot get rid of?”. Quite so.

  • Shorne

    1983 General Election, I was out campaigning for Labour (I was obviously much younger then) despite considerable misgivings about the manifesto Benn had helped write, “The longest suicide note in history” as it was so accurately described. Benn and his cronies going around in the “Battlebus” ‘turning Labour marginals into Tory strongholds’ as somebody described it. Result Labours worst performance since 1918, Benn lost his seat. Any contrition from Benn and Co.? Nope, he goes on TV and says,
    “The general election of 1983 has produced one important result that has passed virtually without comment in the media. It is that, for the first time since 1945, a political party with an openly socialist policy has received the support of over eight and a half million people.”
    . He then presumably went swanning back to his big house in Holland Park.
    I have imagined Benn as the captain of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg saying
    “This is excellent now all classes of people will have the means to chill their Champagne”

    • davidshort10

      Born rich. At the Durham miners’ gala he said to a working class man ‘Don’t call me ‘sir’, my good man!’ He was one of those people who didn’t understand their own absurdity, had no sense of humour and was embedded in self-seriousness. It is like armour. You get lots of people like that who never understand the absurdity of wasting your life working in something really boring but well-paid. Fund management comes to mind. Benn amused himself because of the family money that came from Benn Brothers publishing.

  • Marie Louise Noonan

    Matthew Who?

    • First L

      Hitler was more famous than the soldiers who fought against him.

      • Marie Louise Noonan

        Are you referring to Benn’s wartime record?

        No, of course you are not. A more charitable interpretation would be that you are rather cleverly proving your own point.

        Whatever. Of course `i have heard of Matthew Parris. I recall a piece he wrote for this very publication entitled ‘

        ‘Hedonistic? No, today’s gay men are civic-minded – and conservative.’

        I have never read a more nauseating piece of self-entitled, self promoting endorsement of identity politics.

        • First L

          Kind of missed the point of my comment didn’t you. In fact my first act upon reading this was to bring up a great big Picard facepalm. Just to iterate how hard you failed.

          My point was, it doesn’t matter how relatively famous either one is. It’s what they stand for that counts. I would take the most inexperienced Tommy over Hitler every time. As would you. Tony Benn stood for Communism, or as good as – stupid, illogical, destructive Socialism. Matthew Parris stands against that. You can say Matthew who till you’re blue in the face, it doesn’t detract from the force of the argument.

          And I remember the article you mention. It was actually the first decent piece on gay politics I’d read in a long time. Maybe you just need your gaydar calibrating.

          • Marie Louise Noonan

            ‘My point was, it doesn’t matter how relatively famous either one is. It’s what they stand for that counts. I would take the most inexperienced and anonymous Tommy over Hitler every time.’

            Yes, I got your point, love.

            You (hopefully deliberately) failed to get mine.

            ‘Tony Benn’s war years’: google it.

            Facepalm? A twitter thing? I’m not a Tweeter. I have better things to do with my time.

            Ciao Bella!

  • Terry Field

    I dealt directly with Benn in the seventies – in respect of an industrial dipute. I recall bloody minded arrogant and irresponsible attitudes from him. His private words ring down the decades for me.
    I loathed him after that, watched his absurd justification of Militant etc, all the other posturing nonsense, and then watched fascinated by his re-invention as cuddly grandad lover-of-democracy-concience-of-the-caring-hater-of-the-powerful-Wedgie-would-fix-it-all-if-only-those-pesky-power-elites-would-let-him pipe-chewing chappie.
    And of course we always have to remember his heroic setting aside of his StansgatehoodminibaronetcywhateverthelhellitwasbuthewassoNOBLEtodoit! bit.

    Can’t forget that can we!
    Hagiography or what.
    When it came down to it he behaved, as far as I could tell, as one would expect a patrician aristocrat of the minor league would behave after getting the socialist religion.
    We all had to know of his heroic principles, sacrifice, purity of mind and we were constantly enjoined to admire his spotless escutcheon.
    None of it worked for me; after the Meriden nonsense and the absurd cottage industry fantasies that were set up on the back of the state industrial fantasies under him, all of which came to little or nothing (and – of course – consumed considerable resources) – I just thought he was a lot more like Don Quixote

    The re-invention has been cleverly done; even more skill applied there than in the case of our friendly little anglo-hispanic train journey chappie – SUCH a nice man!
    What’s his name? ah yes, the kind sweet and reasonable Portillo.

    SUCH nice fellows these ex-politicos!
    Bring them home for tea!

  • Gwangi

    I want to know what happened on Benn’s Chinese visit in 1971 or so; he was centre-right in Labour before that, apparently, then came back lecturing everyone about the need for revolution and Marxist hard line ideology (Callaghan and Wilson were stunned).
    So just what happened in China? Did they put something in his noodles?

    • He got religion ideology there, apparently.

    • Daniel Maris

      You think he was the Manchurian Candidate?

  • James Strong

    Lots of political views are legitimate. Ithink Benn was wrong about nationalised industries, but right about the EU. It’s possible to reasonably oppose either of those views.
    The sentence that I would take from Parris’ rather ill-natured article is
    ‘his behaviour towards people who didn’t matter was always kind.’
    Whether I die tonight or live another 50 years, I’d be happy to have that on my tombstone.

    • Curnonsky ^ doesn’t seem to think so.

  • Curnonsky

    One can easily picture Benn in his Mao suit, mug of tea at his side, taking a thoughtful puff on his pipe and then signing the execution order for one of his former comrades. His brand of blithe, ruthless delusion would have made him a valuable asset in any totalitarian regime.

  • Mark McIntyre

    ANWB – the Premier Political Paradox of our time – beyond

  • peterv11

    What a spiteful silly man Parris is. His increasingly flaccid journalism makes it a surprise he is still employed here and elswhere. There must be a pheromone he gives out that attracts right wing ninnies as below.

    • Marie Louise Noonan

      Right wing? I’m not even sure of that.

      ‘Op ed journalism is an oxymoron.

    • transponder

      Yes, how silly to tell the truth. Haven’t you got a gulag to run?

      • peterv11

        Of course like all extreme right wing tories he has the sword of truth – sound familiar? Gulag to run? How long did it take you to come up with that limp remark. Bit like go back to Russia you accursed bolshie.
        Truth by the way has always been in short supply with tories and never more so than now.

  • In A Flap

    didn’t he cancel the TSR2.

  • Sanctimony

    What next?

  • transponder

    I didn’t read Mary Wakefield’s piece — on which we are not allowed to comment — because I didn’t have the stomach for it. Mea maxima culpa barf.

    Anyone wanting a measure of the man should read David Pryce Jones, who had fortunately limited dealings with Viscount Stangate Mr Wedgwood Benn but in any case knows his biography.

  • Laura Zamora

    !!! How Dr.Ukaka Save My Broken Heart Of Marriage Today !!!

    My Name is Robert Rivas .I will love to share my testimony to all the people in the forum cos i never thought i will have my girlfriend back and she means so much to me..The girl i want to get marry to left me 4 weeks to our weeding for another man..,When i called her she never picked my calls,She deleted me on her Facebook and she changed her Facebook status from married to Single…when i went to her place of work she told her boss she never want to see me..i lost my job as a result of this cos i cant get myself anymore,my life was upside down and everything did not go smooth with my life…I tried all i could do to have her back to all did not work out until i met a Man when i Travel to Africa to execute some business have been developing some years back..I told him my problem and all have passed through in getting her back and how i lost my job…he told me he gonna help me…i don’t believe that in the first place.but he swore he will help me out and he told me the reason why my girlfriend left me and also told me some hidden secrets.i was amazed when i heard that from him..he said he will cast a spell for me and i will see the results in the next couple of days..then i travel back to US the following day and i called him when i got home and he said he’s busy casting those spells and he has bought all the materials needed for the spells,he said am gonna see positive results in the next 2 days that is Thursday…My girlfriend called me at exactly 12:35pm on Thursday and apologies for all she had done ..she said,she never knew what she’s doing and her sudden behavior was not intentional and she promised not to do that again.it was like am dreaming when i heard that from her and when we ended the call,i called the man and told him my wife called and he said i haven’t seen anything yet… he said i will also get my job back in 2 days time..and when its Sunday,they called me at my place of work that i should resume working on Monday and they gonna compensate me for the time limit have spent at home without working..My life is back into shape,i have my girlfriend back and we are happily married now with kids and i have my job back too,This man is really powerful..if we have up to 20 people like him in the world,the world would have been a better place..he has also helped many of my friends to solve many problems and they are all happy now..Am posting this to the forum for anybody that is interested in meeting the man for help.you can mail him on this e-mail; freedomlovespell@hotmail.com i cant give out his number cos he told me he don’t want to be disturbed by many people across the world..he said his email is okay and you can also contact him on his web site: freedomlovespelltemple.yolasite.com

  • Laura Zamora

    !!! How Dr.Ukaka Save My Broken Heart Of Marriage Today !!!

    Glorious be unto Dr. Ukaka the great man and ever, my name is Sarah from Taxes city usa. since 1 and a half year I have witness what is called heart broken. my boyfriend that promised me marriage failed me and impregnate me and leave,he dump me,he stop calling” he stop picking my calls,and he no longer respond to me. I have be looking for solution,I fall into the hands of fake spell caster,they rough me off and took my money without help.I have cried,I have weep”and tears runs out of eyes. The silentness in my heart brought me to the deepest path of failure that I lost my job. Crying all day,because of my life was lonely. So thanks to Ukaka that came into my life and brought me the greatest joy that was lost. I saw his mail while browsing and I contact and tell him what I am passing through with no doubt because what saw about him,was enough to believe. And I was given words of solution on what to do. I can’t really help thinking about it I have tried to see what I can do, I manage to provide him some materials and he help me with the rest,after casting the spell, 12hrs later he came with rose on his hand and I was even about going out,i saw him in front of my door when he sees me he knee and said he is dying I should forgive him and accept him back he was crying,I can’t wait to let him finish I quickly crab him and kiss him, just then” he said he is restless without me, just as the prophet has said he will be. He brought out a ring and put it on my hand. Our wedding day was scheduled,1week after we got married. today makes it 2weeks and we are living happily I don’t know how to praise him enough, he has done me a thing I can never forget. And I can’t really share to myself alone, I want y’all to help me praise him because if it is wasn’t for him I already plan of committing suicide. But right now I am now so happy more than I was before. And you out there crying for help you’ve already got one,Ukaka is the man that you need in all rampart. contact his address if you need his service, freedomlovespell@hotmail.com also contact him on his web site: freedomlovespelltemple.yolasite.com

  • Caroline Louise

    What a nasty little pack of baying jackals you all seem to be. Who was it said “when you cut a man down to size, be careful you aren’t cutting him down to YOUR size”?

  • sacicr

    Read this article with great care: you will find that it says nothing. Empty air, but malicious.

  • DAngelo136

    When I read the comments below, I cannot help but to notice certain things regarding criticism by the right of people of the left. First, it’s chock full of personal attacks and specious argumentation. Secondly, it’s woefully short of facts and data. Compare the criticism of Tony Benn to the tribute given to Margaret Thatcher; a literal example of hagiography of politician that we haven’t seen since the last days of Winston Churchill. But unlike Mr.Benn, there IS actual data that Mrs. Thatcher can be scrutinized by. Yet, conservative supporters seem very reluctant to cite them as a means to support their contention that her governments were “successful”.

    Mr. Benn did have a portfolio as part of the Labour cabinet of Harold Wilson as Secretary of State for Energy and Industry as well as the position as Postmaster General and Minister of Technology. As Harold Wilson is held accountable for his government and the his appointees so should it be the same for Margaret Thatcher. The efficacy of ideology is bourne out by the results of the policies as they were administered and the long term effects afterward. The ultimate question that should be asked is “Did it work?” I believe that conservatives are afraid that when that question is put to their ideology, it will be found wanting. And rather than to face that fact, they would much rather prefer to attack their opposition while simultaneously being apologists for their failed policies that they will always excuse by asserting that the failure wasn’t in the ideology, it was because it applied insufficiently or betrayed.

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