Tony Benn – an appreciation

 

By Chris Mullin

During his long political career Tony Benn went through many incarnations: pillar of the Labour establishment, Cabinet minister, tabloid bogeyman, and serial dissident…national treasure.  Former Labour minister and fellow diarist, Chris Mullin, for 35 years one of one of Benn’s closest friends,offers a sympathetic but not uncritical assessment of one of the most significant politicians of the post-war era.

Tony Benn (1925-2014)

Tony Benn (1925-2014)

Tony Benn was a British MP for 47 years. He died on 14th March 2014 at the age of 88. Benn led an eventful life, he enlisted in the Royal Air force during the Second World War. He had to renounce his hereditary peerage in 1963, in order to take a seat in the House of Commons, which created huge sympathy for him as he had been denied a seat in spite of coming first in an election.

He opposed entry to the Common Market, served as Chairman of the Labour Party as well as in several cabinet posts and stood a few times for the leadership of the Labour Party. Tony Benn was a colourful politician, always in the thick of the action and controversy, very much as a leftwinger in the Labour Party and he loved to debate. As President of the “Stop the War Coalition” against the invasion of Iraq he spoke at what was probably the largest march/demonstration ever to take place in Britain in 2003.

Tony Benn has left behind a huge library of published diaries of his activities, books and texts of speeches.

Chris Mullin will speak about his friend and colleague on Saturday morning 1st August at the Maldron Hotel, Cork at 10.30am  

Chris Mullin to speak at Cork Mother Jones Festival 2015

Chris Mullin was a member of the British House of Commons for Sunderland South from 1987 to 2010. He studied law at the University of Hull and trained as a journalist. He wrote Error of Judgement – the truth about the Birmingham Bombings, which was later made into an acclaimed drama documentary by Granada Television and  contributed hugely to the success of the campaign to free the Birmingham Six.

Chris Mullin

Chris Mullin

 

Chris was a great supporter of the late Tony Benn and regularly gives public talks and lectures about a man he holds in the highest esteem. He has described Tony Benn as a “life enhancer, a man who fizzed with ideas, who constantly questioned why the world is as it is”. For 35 years he was a friend and colleague of Tony Benn’s and edited two of his books, Arguments for Democracy and Arguments for Socialism.

Chris Mullin was often savagely attacked in the tabloid press but he continued to write, as an activist and being regularly the very first MP to be declared elected to Parliament in each general election.

In 1982 he wrote the novel“A Very British Coup” which portrayed how a radical left-wing government was destabilised by the conservative forces in the United Kingdom. The television version of this book, which made a huge impact won BAFTA and Emmy Awards and has been shown in more than 30 countries.

He has also written three volumes of his diaries, including “A View from the Foothills” in 2009 about his time in Government.

He served as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary in a number of government departments from 1999 to 2005 and was also Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee. He was the Africa minister in the Foreign Office and regarded his time in this office as thoroughly enjoyable.

Chris Mullin has lead a very varied career which has embraced political activism, defender of human rights, advocate of social justice, a sharp observer of and commentator on political events and he has also found fame as a noteworthy and acclaimed author. In addition he spent 23 years in Parliament and eventually announced his retirement in 2010. He is very much regarded as an independent thinker, a man who like Mother Jones is utterly fearless in saying what he believes in and what he stands for.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is honoured to announce that Chris Mullin will speak at the 2015 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival which takes place in Shandon, Cork City from Wednesday 29th July until Saturday 1st August 2015.

See Chris Mullin’s website: www.chrismullinexmp.com