Burnley leaders pay tribute to ‘inspirational’ politician Tony Benn

Tony Benn
Tony Benn
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Leading Burnley figures have paid tribute to veteran Labour politician Tony Benn who has died aged 88.

Messages of condolence have flooded in for the former cabinet minister and veteran left-wing campaigner who died at his home after a long illness.

Benn, who became an MP in 1950, was a regarded as a great orator, a radical politician, an outspoken campaigner for peace and a leading anti-establishment figure – despite serving on the Government.

Burnley Council Leader Julie Cooper called Benn a “dedicated and inspirational man who genuinely wanted to make the world a better place for everyone” in a message on Twitter.

Speaking to the Express, Coun. Cooper said: “I met Tony Benn on three occasions and every time I saw him he really inspired me.

“He was a man of passion who saw politics as having the ability to change everything and I agree with him on that.

“He was a very strong figure for people who could not stand up for themselves. He was not afraid to speak out for people who needed it even if it made him unpopular.

“As an aspiring MP and as a person I respect him for that and his strength of character. It is a really sad day – the country has lost a true giant.”

Former Burnley MP Peter Pike, who worked alongside Benn, said the London-born politician had twice spoken in Burnley and praised him as one of the last great political orators.

He said: “Many people admired him – he was a great speaker and had tremendous commitment.

“I did not always agree with him but he was a lovely man and a 100% committed socialist working to make this a better world.

“I was drafted in to work alongside him for three weeks during his by-election campaign in Chesterfield and then had the next desk to him in the House of Commons until 1987 so I got to know him very well.

“He worked very hard for peace. He was very much against the Iraq war. He believed in a fair society and was a strongly committed Christian.

“My sincere sympathy to his family. His death is a sad loss of an outstanding British politician of great integrity.”

Burnley Liberal Democrat MP Gordon Birtwistle said: “He was a major figure in British politics for many years. He gave up his peerage to become a Member of Parliament.

“He stood for a lot and fought for what he believed in. I didn’t particularly agree with a lot of his politics but he did it for the right reasons and I always admired his tenacity.”

Clarets fan and former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell took to Twitter with a tribute which read: “RIP Tony Benn. A fighter all his life, fought death with the same courage he lived life.

“A large and loving family there with him to the end.”