Friday, April 1, 2011

Ask The Powerful Five Questions -- Tony Benn's Birthday

By Kathleen
By KathleenBB

My very good friend Joe sent me this graphic last night and brought on the third or so of many smiles this morning. You will understand why when I tell you that I love Tony Benn. I even had a teensy girly crush on him back in the day…….

However my true love for Tony is one of admiration.

Leadership roles came naturally to Tony Benn and when he returned to Oxford University, after having served as a Royal Air Force pilot during the second world war, he was made President of the Oxford Union. Past Presidents have included many notable names from the field of British politics.

Tony Benn's family have a history of being involved in politics and he himself became actively involved when he entered the British political scene on the 1st November 1950 having been elected as the Labour Party MP for Bristol South East. A seat that he battled to retain when his father Viscount Stansgate died in 1960. This was because his father's death immediately elevated Tony Benn to the House of Lords and subsequently under Parliamentary rules he was required to resign his place in the House of Commons.

In the past Tony Benn had tried on several occasions to renounce his succession to his father's peerage but his attempts were all unsuccessful. Despite these setbacks he was determined to remain as a representative of the people in the House of Commons and fought to regain his seat in the by-election that was a result of his inheritance. Unfortunately, even though he took the highest number of votes, Tony Benn's seat was given to his opponent. Not being one to take no for an answer he continued his petition to renounce his peerage and on the 31st July 1963 the Peerage Act 1963 was enacted enabling him to finally and legally refuse his elevation to the House of Lords. His opponent, Malcolm St Clair, as a gesture towards the original election results decided to step down and a new by-election was called.

The by-election was held on August 20, 1963 and Tony Benn regained his place in the House of Commons. He had battled with the powers of institutionalism and tradition that were deeply rooted in British politics and he had won. His victory was not a small one and is an example of his belief that people should stand by their convictions and not bow to pressure from those who say that it cannot be done.

Throughout his years as a politician, and later after he retired in 2001, Tony Benn has defended the rights of the people against those of institutions and those who have power because he recognised that on the whole such power is not exercised for the benefit of others but for themselves. The following video reveals Tony Benn at his best accusing the BBC of capitulating to Israeli pressure by refusing to air an appeal on behalf of the people in Gaza under the guise of media impartiality. He goes on to broadcast the appeal address himself not once but twice -- yet again refusing to accept that something cannot be done just because someone in power has deemed that it cannot be. It is just one example of the consistency of his belief, to borrow a phrase, that "Yes we Can!"

It was his insistence that ordinary people should take on the establishment that caused him to be constantly vilified by the media, especially during the 1980's when the SUN newspaper ran constant articles attacking him , one on the day of the Chesterfield by-election which concluded that he was certifiably insane.

Tony Benn is currently the President of the Stop the War Coalition and spends much of his time heading panels and conferences. He says that he does not protest but that he demands.

Did I say that I love him? Tony Benn is an inspiration, he has been my inspiration for much of my adult life.

On Sunday it is Tony Benn's birthday -- he will be 86 years old. I wanted to share a little of him with each of you because his message is clear. Stand up against people who wield power and the institutions of power because they do not have your interests at heart. Do not take no for an answer. Ask them Tony Benn's five questions.



Notes used:

BBC Profiles - Tony Benn

Wikipedia - Tony Benn

Thanks to Nomadic Joe for the graphic and inspiration.

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