About the Book
About the Author
Also by Tony Benn
Title Page
Brief Chronology
Editor’s Final Note
Who’s Who
1 1940–49
2 1950–60
3 1960–64
4 1964–66
5 1966–70
6 1970–74
7 1974–75
8 1975–76
9 1976–79
10 1979–81
11 1981–83
12 1983–87
13 1987–90
14 1991–97
15 1997–2000
16 2001–2009
Picture Section

Also by Tony Benn












OUT OF THE WILDERNESS: Diaries 1963–1967

OFFICE WITHOUT POWER: Diaries 1968–1972

AGAINST THE TIDE: Diaries 1973–1976

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST: Diaries 1977–1980

THE END OF AN ERA: Diaries 1980–1990

FREE AT LAST!: Diaries 1991–2001


MORE TIME FOR POLITICS: Diaries 2001–2007



THE BEST OF BENN: Speeches, Diaries, Letters and Other Writings


This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorized distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

Epub ISBN: 9781473539389
Version 1.0

Published by Hutchinson 2017

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

Copyright © The Estate of Tony Benn 2017
Cover photograph: Getty Images

Tony Benn has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.

First published by Hutchinson in 2017

The Penguin Random House Group Limited
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Hutchinson is part of the Penguin Random House group of companies whose addresses can be found at

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN 9781786330765


  1 Tony with parents and brothers, Stansgate 1930s

  2 With RAF Wings, 1945

  3 With friends in Africa during the war

  4 Lord Stansgate and Michael Benn c. 1941

  5 Debating tour of the USA, 1947

  6 Tony at bay?! 1950s

  7 Trafalgar Square, during the Suez and Hungary crises of 1956

  8 Seretse Khama with the Benn children, c. 1957–8

  9 Lady Stansgate and Margaret Rutherford

10 Stephen and Hilary campaigning in the 1959 General Election

11 The 1959 Election: Hugh Gaitskell, Barbara Castle and Nye Bevan

12 Harold Wilson’s Cabinet 1968–70

13 The Queen and Tony as Postmaster General, 1965

14 Experimenting with futuristic transport

15 Sharing a joke with President Kosygin, 1967

16 Minister of Technology at the controls

17 The Benns and the Wilsons, c. 1967–8

18 Canvassing on the doorstep in Bristol, 1974

19 The TEABAGS Summer School at Stansgate, 1991

20 The Left, post-Election, 1983

21 At Speaker’s House, 2013

22 Doing the festivals, 1990s

23 On the set of Will and Testament

Brief Chronology

3 April 1925 Anthony Wedgwood Benn (Tony Benn) born
December 1941 Tony Benn’s father created a Labour peer, Lord Stansgate
July 1943 Tony Benn joins RAF
June 1944 Michael Benn (Tony’s older brother) killed
July 1945 General Election. Labour Government – Clem Attlee PM
August 1945 Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
January 1946 Benn to New College, Oxford
June 1949 Marriage to Caroline de Camp
February 1950 General Election. Labour Government – Clem Attlee PM
June 1950 Korean War
30 Nov 1950 Benn elected Labour MP for Bristol South East in by-election
October 1951 General Election. Conservative Government – Winston Churchill PM
April 1955 Churchill resigns. Anthony Eden PM
May 1955 General Election. Conservative Government – Eden PM
December 1955 Hugh Gaitskell elected Labour leader
June-Nov 1956 Suez Crisis and Hungarian uprising
January 1957 Eden resigns. Harold Macmillan PM
October 1959 General Election. Conservative Government – Macmillan PM
November 1960 Lord Stansgate dies. Benn inherits title. Disqualified from Commons
May 1961 By-election in Bristol South-East. Benn re-elected but is refused admission to the Commons
July 1961 Election Court unseats Tony Benn as MP
January 1963 Hugh Gaitskell dies. Harold Wilson leader of Labour Party
July 1963 Peerage Act allows Benn to renounce Stansgate peerage
20 August 1963 By-election. Benn re-elected as MP for Bristol South-East
October 1963 Macmillan resigns, succeeded by Lord Home as PM
October 1964 General Election. Labour Government – Wilson PM. Benn becomes Postmaster General. Edward Heath elected Leader of the Conservative Party
January 1965 Winston Churchill dies
March 1966 General Election. Labour Government – Wilson PM
June 1966 Benn is made Minister of Technology
June 1970 General Election. Conservative Government – Edward Heath PM
1971/2 Benn chairman of Labour Party
Nov 1971 Benn contests deputy leadership of Labour Party
January 1973 UK joins the Common Market (European Economic Community)
February 1974 General Election. Minority Labour Government – Wilson PM. Benn made Industry Secretary
October 1974 General Election. Labour Government – Wilson PM
February 1975 Margaret Thatcher elected Leader of the Conservative Party
June 1975 Referendum to withdraw from Common Market (EEC) lost. Benn moved to Department of Energy
March 1976 Wilson resigns. Benn contests leadership. James Callaghan becomes leader and PM
May 1979 General Election. Conservative Government. Margaret Thatcher PM
November 1980 Michael Foot elected Labour leader
June 1981 Benn in hospital with Guillain-Barre syndrome
September 1981 Tony Benn contests deputy leadership of Labour Party
April-June 1982 Falklands war
June 1983 General Election. Conservative Government – Thatcher PM. Benn loses seat
October 1983 Neil Kinnock elected Labour leader
March 1984 Tony Benn elected Labour MP for Chesterfield. Miners’ strike begins.
June 1987 General Election. Conservative Government – Thatcher PM
October 1988 Benn contests leadership of Labour Party
November 1989 Berlin wall opened, disintegration of communist bloc
August 1990 President Saddam Hussain of Iraq invades Kuwait
November 1990 Benn visits Hussain in Iraq. Margaret Thatcher resigns. John Major wins Conservative leadership and becomes PM
January 1991 Operation Desert Storm against Iraq
August 1991 Yugoslavia civil war and disintegration. Bosnian war follows
April 1992 General Election. Conservative Government – John Major PM
July 1992 John Smith elected Labour leader
January 1993 European Commission introduces single market of 375 million people and Treaty on European Union (Maastricht Treaty)
May 1994 John Smith dies
July 1994 Tony Blair elected Labour leader
1996 Taleban control most of Afghanistan
May 1997 General Election. Labour Government – Blair PM
July 1997 IRA cease-fire
April 1998 Anglo-Irish peace talks
December 1998 Operation Desert Fox against Iraq
1998–9 Kosovo war
22 November 2000 Caroline Benn dies
June 2001 Tony Benn retires. General Election. Labour Government – Blair PM
Sept-Oct 2001 Al-Qaeda attack on United States followed by US/Nato invasion of Afghanistan
January 2003 Benn returns to Iraq to interview Saddam Hussain
February 2003 Yugoslavia abolished
March 2003 Iraq war, to remove Saddam Hussein, begins
July 2005 Four suicide bomb attacks on London
May 2005 General election. Labour Government – Blair PM
June 2007 Blair resigns. Gordon Brown becomes leader of the Labour Party and PM
2007 Bulgaria and Rumania become 26th and 27th members of the EU
2009 Benn has hospital operation leading to deterioration of health
May 2010 General Election. Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition – David Cameron PM, Nick Clegg Deputy PM
14 March 2014 Tony Benn dies

Editor’s Final Note

Tony Benn was a contradiction. One of the great political figures of the twentieth century and an effective minister, he was essentially a loner. He was self-deprecating and analytical but was guilty of egotism. He was scathing in his analysis of how the news media operated, but loved their attention. He was fascinated by technological progress and invention, but refused to make changes to the disaster-zone that was his family home in London for over fifty years and which provided many a drama in his daily life. He was politically and personally very courageous, but also susceptible to flattery and misjudgement. This complex character I have tried to reflect here in the first edition of the complete diaries.

Tony Benn’s seventy years of diary-keeping begin and end with him contemplating his own mortality, as a teenage trainee pilot and in his mid-eighties from a hospital bed. The intervening years saw massive changes politically and technologically across the world, which he was both an observer of and a participant in – as an active young anti-colonial Member of Parliament, as a minister in technology, industry and energy and as a campaigner against war. He predicted that the constant violence and intervention of the 1990s and 2000s would produce catastrophe in the Middle East and beyond. At the same time one of the highlights of 2009 (his last year as a diarist) was to see Obama inaugurated as President of the USA. It has been a challenge to decide what to include and what to excise but I have been guided by the belief that the small details are as interesting as the bigger picture and that the absurd and the profound go hand-in-hand. If some obvious and major events and incidents have been removed – for example the account between 1960–63 of his successful legal battle to renounce his title – it is in the knowledge that they are still available in the individual volumes of diaries.

It was a great privilege to work on the Benn Diaries and Tony was huge fun to work with. I count myself lucky to have been a friend to the last.

Ruth Winstone
December 2016


Since the publication thirty years ago of the first of the Benn Diaries, many individuals have contributed to their editing, production and promotion. For this edition Sally Sargeant undertook the checking, proofreading and copy-editing of extracts from ten volumes, in different formats and with scribbled instructions, which she did with admirable patience and efficiency.

At Hutchinson, Emma Mitchell was more closely associated than anyone else with the Diaries and with Tony himself for the later years of his life. She oversaw all aspects of the book, and Tony increasingly relied on her; she was fun, always good-natured and totally professional, and he adored her.

Ruth Winstone

Who’s Who

ADAMS, Gerry. President of Sinn Fein.

ALLAUN, Frank (1913–2002). Labour MP and President of Labour Action for Peace.

ASHDOWN, Paddy. Liberal, then Liberal Democrat MP, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, 1988–99. Democrat MP. High Representative for Bosnia and Hercegovina, 2002–06.

ANNAN, Kofi. Secretary-General of the UN, 1997–2006.

ARNOLD-FORSTER, Mark (1920–81). Political commentator.

ASHTON, Joe. Labour MP. PPS to Tony Benn, 1975–6.

ATTLEE Clement (1883–1967). Leader of the Labour Party, 1935–55. Prime Minister, 1945–51.

BALOGH, Thomas (1905–85). Oxford economist of Hungarian birth. Economic adviser to Harold Wilson in the 1950s and early 1960s and to the Cabinet, 1964–8.

BANKS, Tony (1942–2006) Labour MP. Minister of Sport, 1997–9. Last Chairman of Greater London Council, 1985–6.

BECKETT, Margaret. Labour MP. Leader of the House of Commons, 1998–2001. Foreign Secretary, 2006–07.

BEVAN, Aneurin (Nye) (1897–1960). Labour MP. Minister of Health, 1945–51; Minister of Labour and National Service, 1951. Married to Jennie Lee.

BIFFEN, John (1930–2007). Conservative MP. Leader of the House of Commons, 1982–7.

BLAIR, Cherie (née. Booth), QC. Barrister and lecturer. Labour candidate in 1983. Married to Tony Blair.

BLAIR, Tony. Labour MP. Leader of the Labour Party, 1994–2007. Prime Minister 1997–2007. Special Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, 2007–15.

BLUNKETT, David. Labour MP. Secretary of State for Education and Employment, 1997–2001. Home Secretary, 2001–04.

BOOTH, Albert (1928–2010). Labour MP. Minister of State, Department of Employment, 1974–6, and Secretary of State, 1976–9.

BOOTHROYD, Betty. Labour MP. Speaker of the House of Commons, 1992–2000.

BROWN, George (1914–85). Labour MP. Deputy-Leader of the Labour Party, 1960–70. Ardently pro-Common Market. Joined the SDP.

BROWN, Gordon. Labour MP. Leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister, 2007–10. Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1997–2007.

BURROWS, Saffron. Actress, political activist.

BUTLER, David. Political scientist and broadcaster, whose special subject is the study of elections; the first person to coin the term ‘psephology’. Co-author of British Political Facts 1900–83. Lifelong friend.

CALLAGHAN, James (Jim). (1912–2005). Labour MP. Prime Minister, 1976–9. Leader of the Labour Party, 1976–80. Home Secretary, 1967–70. Foreign Secretary, 1974–6. Married to Audrey Callaghan (1938–2005).

CAMERON, David. Conservative MP. Prime Minister, 2010–16. Leader of the Conservative Party, 2005–16.

CAMPBELL, Alastair. Political Editor of the Daily Mirror, 1989–93. Press Secretary and Official Spokesman for the Prime Minister, 1997–2000. Director of Downing Street Strategic Communications Unit, 2000–03.

CASTLE, Barbara (1910–2002). Labour MP. Leader of the British Labour Group in the European Parliament, 1979–85. Secretary of State for Social Services, 1974–6; dismissed by James Callaghan when he formed his government in 1976.

CHURCHILL, Winston (1874–1965). Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, 1940–5. Prime Minister, 1951–5. Parliamentary career began in 1900 as Conservative MP for Oldham, and ended in 1964 as Conservative MP for Woodford, Churchill sitting as a Liberal MP, 1904–22. Out of Parliament for only two years, 1922–4.

CLARK, Alan (1928–99). Diarist and Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton 1974–1992 and Kensington & Chelsea, 1997–1999.

CLEGG, Nick. Liberal Democrat MP. Leader of the Liberal Democrats, 2007–15. Deputy Prime Minister, 2010–15.

CLEMENTS–ELLIOTT, Julie. Personal Secretary to Tony Benn, 1976–84.

CORBYN, Jeremy. Labour MP for Islington North since 1983. Leader of the Labour Party, 2015–.

CORSTON, Jean. Labour MP for Bristol East, 1992–2005.

COUSINS, Frank (1904–86). General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, brought into the Labour Cabinet as Minister of Technology in 1964. Labour MP for Nuneaton, 1965–6.

CRIPPS, Francis. Economic adviser to Tony Benn, 1974–9. Founder member of the Cambridge Economic Policy Group.

CROSLAND, Anthony (1918–77). Labour MP. Foreign Secretary from 1976 to his sudden death in February 1977. Married journalist Susan Barnes in 1964. A personal friend from the war years.

CROSSMAN, Richard (1907–74). Labour MP and senior Cabinet Minister in the 1964–70 Wilson governments; his Diaries of a Cabinet Minister were published posthumously.

CUDLIPP, Hubert “Hugh” (1913–98). Succeeded Cecil King as Chairman of Daily Mirror Newspapers, 1963–8. Deputy Chairman, then Chairman, of International Publishing Corporation (IPC), 1964–73.

CUNNINGHAM, John (Jack). Labour MP. PPS to Jim Callaghan, 1972–6.

DALTON, Hugh (1887–1962). Labour MP. Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1945–7. Forced to resign over inadvertent Budget leak in 1947.

DALYELL, Tam (1932–2017). Labour MP. PPS to Richard Crossman, 1964–70.

DAVIES, John (1916–79). Conservative MP. Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry, 1965–9.

DELL, Edmund (1921–99). Labour MP. Secretary of State for Trade, 1976–8. 1969–70. Joined the SDP.

DERER, Vladimir (1919–2014). Founder member of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, 1973.

DIAMOND, John (“Jack”) (1907–2004). Labour MP. Chief Secretary to the Treasury, 1964–70. Became leader of the SDP in the House of Lords.

EDEN, Anthony (1897–1977). Conservative MP for Warwick and Leamington. Foreign Secretary, 1951–5. Prime Minister, 1955–7.

EMMETT, Bryan. Principal Private Secretary to Tony Benn at Department of Energy, 1975–6.

ENNALS, David (1922–95). Labour MP. Secretary of State for Social Services, 1976–9.

FLETCHER, Simon. One of the TEABAGS (see here) who worked in Tony Benn’s office in the early 1990s. Chief of Staff to Ken Livingstone 2000–08 and Jeremy Corbyn 2015–.

FOOT, Michael (1913–2010). Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, 1979–80. Leader, 1980–3. Labour MP for Devonport, 1945–55, Ebbw Vale, 1960–83, and Blaenau Gwent, 1983–92. Biographer of Aneurin Bevan. Married to Jill Craigie.

GAITSKELL, Hugh (1906–63). Labour MP. Leader of the Labour Party, 1955–63. Held office, 1945–51, as Minister of Fuel and Power, Minister of State for Economic Affairs, and Chancellor of the Exchequer.

GARDINER, Gerald (1900–90). Lord Chancellor, 1964–70. Chairman of the National Campaign for the Abolition of Capital Punishment.

GENTLEMAN, David. Designer of stamps for the GPO in the 1960s. Member of the Design Council, 1974–80.

GERMAN, Lindsey. Political activist and founder member of Stop the War Coalition.

GORMLEY, Joe (1917–93). President of the National Union of Mineworkers, 1971–82.

GUNTER, Ray (1909–77). Labour MP. Minister of Labour, 1964–8. Resigned from the Labour Party, 1972.

HAGUE, William. Conservative MP. Leader of the Conservative Party, 1997–2001. Foreign Secretary, 2010–14. Secretary of State for Wales, 1995–7. Minister in the Department of Social Security, 1993–5.

HAINES, Joe. Chief Press Secretary to Harold Wilson, 1969–76, previously political correspondent of the Sun.

HART, Judith (1924–91). Labour MP. Minister for Overseas Development, 1974–5. In the 1964–70 Government she was Paymaster-General and Minister for Overseas Development.

HATTERSLEY, Roy. Labour MP. Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, 1983–92. Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection, 1976–9. Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1974–6.

HAYWARD, Ron (1917–1996). General Secretary of the Labour Party, 1972–82.

HEALEY, Denis (1917–2015). Labour MP. Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, 1980–3. Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1974–9; Secretary of State for Defence, 1964–70.

HEATH, Edward (1916–2005). Conservative MP. Leader of the Conservative Party, 1965–75. Prime Minister, 1970–4.

HEATHFIELD, Peter (1929–2010). General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, 1984–1992. Previously Secretary of the Derbyshire Area, NUM.

HEFFER, Eric (1922–91). Labour MP. Minister of State at the Department of Industry, 1974–5; sacked by Harold Wilson over the Common Market.

HESELTINE, Michael. Conservative MP. Minister for Aerospace and Shipping, 1972–4. Secretary of State for Environment, 1979–83, and for Defence until his resignation in 1986. Contested party leadership, 1990.

HILL, John (1921–2008). Chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, 1967–81, and of British Nuclear Fuels, 1971–83.

HOGG, Quintin (1907–2001). Conservative MP for St Marylebone, 1963–70. Disclaimed his peerages in 1963 during the contest for the Conservative Party leadership. Previously sat as MP for Oxford City, 1938 to 1950, when he succeeded his father as 2nd Viscount Hailsham. Held ministerial posts in the House of Lords during the 1951–64 Conservative governments, including Secretary of State for Education in 1964. Returned to the Lords with a life peerage in 1970. Lord Chancellor, 1970–4 and 1979–87.

HOLLAND, Stuart. Labour MP. Economic Assistant, Cabinet Office, 1966–7. Personal Assistant to Prime Minister, 1967–8.

HOUGHTON, Douglas (1898–1996). Labour MP. Chairman of the PLP, 1967–74.

HOWE, Geoffrey (1926–2015). Conservative MP. Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1979–83. Foreign Secretary, 1983–9.

HUBACHER, Sheila. Private secretary to Tony Benn for most of the 1990s.

HURD, Douglas. Conservative MP. Home Secretary, 1985–9. Foreign Secretary, 1989–95. Contested party leadership, 1990.

INGHAM, Bernard. Chief Press Secretary to the Prime Minister, 1979–90. Director of Information at the Department of Energy, 1974–8. Reporter on the Yorkshire Post and the Guardian, 1952–67.

JAY, Douglas (1907–96). Labour MP. President of the Board of Trade, 1964–7.

JENKINS, Clive. General Secretary of the Association of Scientific Technical and Managerial Staffs, 1970–88. Member of the General Council of the TUC, 1974–8.

JENKINS, Roy (1920–2003). Labour MP. President of the European Commission, 1977–81. Home Secretary, 1965–7. Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1967–70. Home Secretary, 1974–6. Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, 1970–2.

JONES, Jack (1913–2009). Assistant General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, 1963–9. General Secretary, 1969–78.

JOSEPH, Keith (1918–95). Conservative MP. Secretary of State for Social Services, 1970–4, for Industry, 1979–81 and Education and Science, 1981–6.

KAPLINSKY, Natasha. Newsreader and television presenter.

KAUFMAN, Gerald. Labour MP. Minister of State, Department of Industry, 1975–9. Labour Party press officer, 1965–70. Previously journalist on Daily Mirror and New Statesman.

KEARTON, Frank (1911–92). Chairman and Chief Executive of the British National Oil Corporation, 1975–9. Chairman of Courtaulds, 1964–75. First Chairman of the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation, 1966–8.

KING, Cecil (1901–87). Chairman, International Publishing Corporation (IPC), 1963–8. Chairman of Daily Mirror Newspapers Limited, 1951–63.

KINNOCK, Neil. Labour MP. Leader of the Labour Party, 1983–92. Served as a European Commissioner and Chairman of the British Council.

LANSMAN, Jon. Coordinator of Benn’s deputy leadership campaign, 1981.

LEE, Jennie (1904–88). Labour MP. Under-Secretary, then Minister at the Department of Education and Science, 1965–70, responsible for establishing the Open University. Widow of Aneurin Bevan.

LESTOR, Joan (1931–98). Labour MP. Under-Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1974–5, and at the Department of Education and Science, 1975–6.

LEVER, Harold (1914–95). Labour MP. Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, 1974–9. Financial Secretary to the Treasury, 1967–9. Paymaster-General, 1969–70.

LIVINGSTONE, Ken. Labour MP. Leader of Greater London Council, 1981–6. Mayor of London, 2000–08.

MABON, Dickson (Dick) (1925–2008). Labour MP. Minister of State at the Department of Energy, 1976–9. Chairman of the European Movement between 1974 and 1976. Physician. Joined the SDP.

McDONNELL, John. Labour MP. Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, 2015–.

McELHONE, Frank (1929–82). Labour MP. Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, 1975–9. PPS to Tony Benn, 1974–5.

McGAHEY, Michael (Mick) (1925–99). Vice-President, National Union of Mineworkers, 1973–87. President, Scottish Area of the NUM, 1967–87. Chairman of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1974–8.

MACLEOD, Iain (1913–70). Conservative MP. Leader of the House of Commons, 1961–3, and Chairman of the Conservative Party during that period.

MACMILLAN, Harold (1894–1986). Conservative MP. Prime Minister 1957–63, Minister of Defence, 1954–5. Foreign Secretary, 1955. Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1955–7.

MAHON, Alice. Labour MP for Halifax 1987–2005.

MAJOR, John. Conservative MP. Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party, 1990–7 (resigned and re-elected as Leader in 1995). Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1989–90. Foreign Secretary, 1989. Chief Secretary to the Treasury, 1987–9.

MANDELSON, Peter. Labour MP. Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, 1998 (resigned December). Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, 1999–2001 (resigned January). Labour Party’s Director of Campaigns and Communications, 1985–90. European Commissioner for Trade, 2004–08.

MARSH, Richard (1928–2011). Labour MP. Minister of Power, 1966–8. Minister of Transport, 1968–9. Resigned his seat and became Chairman of British Railways Board, 1971–6.

MARSHALL, Walter (1932–96). Chief Scientist, Department of Energy, 1974–7. Deputy Chairman of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, 1975–81. Chairman of the UKAEA, 1981–2, and Central Electricity Generating Board 1982–9. From 1968–75, Director of the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell.

MAXWELL, Robert (1923–91). Labour MP. Owner of Pergamon Press. Chairman of the Mirror Group of Newspapers.

MAYHEW, Christopher (1915–97). Labour and Liberal MP. Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy, 1964–66. Resigned from the Labour Party to join the Liberal Party. Sat as Liberal MP for Woolwich East for three months.

MAYNARD, Joan (1921–98). Labour MP for Sheffield Brightside, October 1974–87.

MEACHER, Michael (1939–2015). Labour MP. Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, 1974–9. Minister for the Environment, 1997–2003.

MELLISH, Robert (1913–98). Labour MP. Deputy Chairman of the London Docklands Development Corporation, 1981–5. Government Chief Whip, 1969–70 and 1974–6. Opposition Chief Whip, 1970–4.

MIKARDO, Ian (Mik) (1908–83). Labour MP. Chairman of the Labour Party, 1970–1.

MILIBAND, David. Labour MP. Foreign Secretary, 2007–10. Head of the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit, 1997–2001. Head of Policy to Tony Blair, 1994–7. Son of Ralph Miliband (see below) and older brother to Edward.

MILIBAND, Edward. Labour MP. Leader of the Labour Party, 2010–15. Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, 2008–10. Special Adviser to Gordon Brown, 1994–5 and 1997–2002. Member of the Teabags (see here).

MILIBAND, Marion. Socialist writer, mother of David and Edward, widow of Ralph Miliband.

MILIBAND, Ralph (1924–94). Professor of Politics, Leeds University, 1972–7. visiting Professor of the Graduate School, City University of New York. Founder and editor of the Socialist Register.

MONCKTON, Sir Walter (1891–1965). Conservative MP. Minister of Labour, Minister of Defence and Paymaster-General consecutively, 1950–7.

MORRELL, Frances (1937–2010). Leader of Inner London Education Authority, 1983–7. Political adviser to Tony Benn, 1974–9.

MORRISON, Herbert (1888–1965). Labour MP. Deputy Prime Minister, 1945–51. Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, 1945–55. Foreign Secretary, 1951. Leader of the London Country Council, 1934–40.

MORTIMER, Jim (1921–2013). Chairman, Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, 1974–81. General Secretary of the Labour Party, 1982–5.

MULLEY, Fred (1918–95). Labour MP. Secretary for Defence, 1976–9 and for Education and Science, 1975–6. Chairman of the Labour Party, 1974/5.

MULLIN, Chris. Labour MP. Editor of Arguments for Socialism and Arguments for Democracy by Tony Benn; editor of Tribune, 1982–4. Author of A Very British Coup, and Error of Judgement and three volumes of diaries. Ministerial jobs at Environment, International Development and the Foreign Office between 2001 and 2005 and spells as Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, 1997–2003.

MURRAY, Lionel (Len) (1922–2004). General Secretary of the TUC, 1973–84.

ORME, Stan (1923–2005). Labour MP. Chairman of the PLP, 1987–92.

OWEN, David. Minister, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, then Foreign Secretary 1976–9. Department of Health and Social Security, 1974–6. Physician. Labour MP 1966–81. SDP MP, 1981–92. Leader of the SDP, 1983–7.

PANNELL, Charles (1902–80). Labour MP. Minister of Public Building and Works, 1964–6.

PART, Antony (1916–90). Permanent Secretary at the Department of Trade and Industry, 1970–4, and the Department of Industry, 1974–6.

PORTILLO, Michael. Conservative MP. Chief Secretary to the Treasury, 1992–4. Secretary of State for Employment, 1994–5 and for Defence, 1995–7.

POWELL, Enoch (1912–98). Conservative MP 1950–74. United Ulster Unionist MP for Down South, October 1974–9, Official Unionist Party, 1979–87.

PRENTICE, Reg (1923–2001). Labour and Conservative MP. Crossed the floor in 1977. Minister for Social Security, 1979–81, in the Conservative Government.

PRESCOTT, John. Labour MP. Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, 1994–2007. Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, 1997–2001. Member of the European Parliament, 1975–9.

PRIMAROLO, Dawn. Secretary of Bristol South East Labour Party, 1979–83 then Labour MP. Minister, 1997–2010.

RAMPTON, Jack (1920–94). Civil Servant in the Department of Energy, 1974–80. Ministry of Technology and the Department of Trade and Industry, 1968–80.

REES, Merlyn (1920–2006). Labour MP. Home Secretary, 1976–9. Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, 1974–6.

RICHARDSON, Jo (1923–94). Labour MP. Chair of Labour Party, 1989/90.

ROBINSON, Geoffrey. Labour MP. Paymaster General, 1997–8. Chief Executive of Jaguar Cars 1973–5. Author of The Unconventional Minister.

RODGERS, William (Bill). Labour MP. Secretary of State for Transport, 1976–9. Founder member of the SDP in 1981. SDP MP, 1981–3.

ROGERS, Herbert (1896–1992). Election Agent for Tony Benn, Bristol South East 1951–70.

ROTHSCHILD, Lord (Victor Rothschild) (1910–90). Director-General of the Central Policy Review Staff (‘Think Tank’), 1970–4. Scientist and Chairman of Shell Research Ltd, 1963–70.

SAWYER, Lawrence (Tom). Deputy Secretary of NUPE (UNISON) 1981–94. General Secretary of the Labour Party 1994–8.

SCANLON, Hugh (1913–2004). President of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, 1968–78.

SCARGILL, Arthur. President of the Yorkshire Area of the National Union of Mineworkers, 1973–81. President of the NUM 1981–2002. Founder of the Socialist Labour Party, 1996.

SEDGEMORE, Brian (1937–2015) Labour MP. PPS to Tony Benn, 1977–8.

SHEPHERD, Richard. Conservative MP. Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year 1995. Candidate for the Speakership in 2000.

SHORE, Elizabeth (Liz). Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the Department of Health and Social Security, 1977–85. Married to Peter Shore.

SHORE, Peter (1924–2001). Labour MP. PPS to Harold Wilson, 1965–6. Secretary of State for the Environment, for Trade and for Economic Affairs, 1967–79. President of the Labour Euro Safeguards Campaign for many years. Married to Liz Shore. (See above.)

SHORT, Clare. Labour MP. Secretary of State for Transport, 1995–6 and International Development, 1997–2003.

SHORT, Edward (Ted) (1912–2012). Labour MP. Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, 1972–6. Leader of the House of Commons, 1974–6.

SILKIN, John (1923–87). Labour MP. Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, 1976–9. Chief Whip, 1966–9.

SIMPSON, Alan. Labour MP and environmental campaigner. Contributor to Localisation – a Global Manifesto by Colin Hines.

SKINNER, Dennis. Labour MP. President of the Derbyshire NUM, 1966–70.

SLATER, Joe (1904–77). Labour MP. Assistant Postmaster General, 1964–9. PPS to Hugh Gaitskell and Harold Wilson.

SMITH, John, QC (Scotland) (1938–94). Labour MP. Leader of the Labour Party, 1992–4. Shadow Chancellor, 1987–92.

STEEL, David. Liberal Democrat Member for Lothians in the Scottish Parliament, and Presiding Officer, 1999–2003. Leader of the Liberal Party, 1976–88, and then joint Leader of the Liberal and Social Democratic Alliance during 1987.

STEWART, Michael (1906–90). Labour MP. Secretary of State for Education and Science, 1964–5. Foreign Secretary, 1965–6. Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, 1966–7.

STONEHOUSE, John (1925–88). Labour Co-operative MP. Minister of State at the Ministry of Technology, 1967–8. Postmaster General in 1968, and Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, 1969. Imprisoned for fraud, 1976.

STRAW, Jack. Labour MP. Home Secretary; Foreign Secretary; Leader of the House of Commons, 1997–2007. Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, 2007–10. Adviser to Barbara Castle and Peter Shore.

TEABAGS (The Eminent Association of Benn Archive Graduates). Students and other young people who worked in Tony Benn’s office for work experience, or as a labour of love, during the late 1980s and 1990s. The original Teabags were Edward Miliband, William Whyte, Hugh Scott, Hwyel Jarman, Andrew Hood, Charlie Crowe, Sean Arnold, Simon Fletcher, Saumiya Bhavsar, Martha Wharlley, Sarah Clancy, Laura Rohde, Assad Khan, Sara Lauchlan, Clare Smith, Kenny Seth, Paul Fisher.

THATCHER, Margaret (1925–2013). Conservative MP. Leader of the Conservative Party, 1975–90. Prime Minister, 1979–90. Secretary of State for Education and Science, 1970–4.

TRIMBLE, David. First Minister of Northern Ireland 1998–2002. Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party 1995–2005. UUP MP 1990–2005. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998. UUP Member, N.I. Assembly 1998–2007.

THOMAS, George (1909–97) Labour MP. Speaker of the House of Commons, 1976–83. Secretary of State for Wales, 1968–70.

THOMSON, George (1921–2008). Labour MP. Chairman of the Labour Committee for Europe, 1972–3; appointed an EEC Commissioner, 1973–7. Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs, 1967–8.

THORPE, Jeremy (1929–2014). Liberal MP for North Devon, 1959–79. Leader of the Liberal Party, 1967–76.

TILLING, Henry. Private Secretary to Tony Benn as Postmaster General, 1964–5. Secretary of the Post Office, 1973–5.

TODD, Ron (1927–2005). National Organiser of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, 1978–85. General Secretary, 1985–91.

UNDERHILL, Reg (1914–93). National Agent of the Labour Party, 1972–9.

VALLINS, Margaret. Chesterfield Labour Party District Councillor, 1987–91. Constituency Secretary to Tony Benn, 1984–2001.

VALLINS, Tom. Chesterfield Labour Party Election agent to Tony Benn, 1987–2001.

VARLEY, Eric (1932–2008). Labour MP for Chesterfield, 1964–84. Secretary of State for Energy, 1974–5, exchanging Cabinet jobs with Tony Benn to become Secretary of State for Industry, 1975–9. PPS to Harold Wilson, 1968–9. Retired in 1984 to become Chairman of Coalite Group, seat won by Tony Benn 1984.

VAUGHAN, Ron. Official driver to Tony Benn at the Ministry of Technology, 1968–70, and at the Departments of Industry and Energy, 1974–9.

WALKER, Peter (1932–2010). Conservative MP. Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, 1979–83. Secretary of State for Wales, 1987–90. Secretary of State for the Environment, 1970–2, and for Trade and Industry, 1972–4.

WHITELAW, William (Willie) (1918–99). Conservative MP. Home Secretary, 1979–83. Leader of the House of Commons and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, 1972–3.

WILLIAMS, Marcia. Personal and Political Secretary to Harold Wilson, 1956–95.

WILLIAMS, Shirley. Labour and SDP MP. Founder member of the SDP in 1981, President in 1982. Secretary of State for Education and Science, and Paymaster General, 1976–9.

WHITTY, Lord (Larry Whitty). General Secretary of the Labour Party 1985–94. European Coordinator for the Labour Party 1994–7.

WILSON, Harold (1916–95). Labour MP. Leader of the Labour Party, 1963–76. Prime Minister, 1964–70, and 1974–6. Married to Mary Wilson, poet and writer.

WINSTONE, Ruth. Editor of: the Benn Diaries; Chris Mullin’s diaries; and Events, dear boy, events. Senior researcher, House of Commons, 1997–2007.

WISE, Audrey (1935–2000). Labour MP for Coventry South West 1974–9, and for Preston 1987–2000.

ZANDER, Michael. Professor in Law at the London School of Economics (retired 1998). Adviser to Tony Benn during the peerage campaign, 1960–3.

ZUCKERMAN, Solly (1904–93). Zoologist. Chief Scientific Adviser to Harold Wilson, 1964–70, and to the Secretary of State for Defence, 1960–6.


BENN, Caroline (1926–2000). Born in the USA. Married Tony Benn 1949. Founder member of the comprehensive education campaign in Britain and editor of Comprehensive Education. Author of educational publications including Half Way There with Professor Brian Simon (1970) and Challenging the MSC with John Fairley (1986). Biographer of Keir Hardie (1992). Member, Inner London Education Authority, 1970–7. Member, Education Section, UNESCO Commission, 1976–83. Four children:

BENN, Stephen. Son, born 1951. Children: Emily and Daniel

BENN, Hilary. Son, born 1953. Children: Michael, James, Jonathan, Caroline

BENN, Melissa. Daughter, born 1957. Children: Hannah and Sarah

BENN, Joshua. Son, born 1958. Son: William

BENN, David Brother (1928–2017)
BENN, June Wife of David Benn (1930–2006)
BENN, Piers Son of David and June
NESTOR, Frances Daughter of David and June
NESTOR, Michael Son of Frances and Michael Nestor

STANSGATE, Lady (1897–1991). Margaret Holmes. Mother of Tony Benn

STANSGATE, Lord (1877–1960). William Wedgwood Benn. Father of Tony Benn


When asked who she would be voting for in the hard-fought 1981 election for the Labour deputy leadership Barbara Castle replied, ‘Wedgie Benn, because he inspires people’. And so he did. In the ’70s and ’80s an entire generation of politically active young people, tired of the failures, compromises and disappointments of earlier governments, looked to him for leadership. Even David Cameron once remarked that Benn’s writing had helped to first arouse his interest in politics. In later life, too, Benn was one of the few politicians with a significant following among the younger generation.

He never lost his ability to inspire. In old age, though physically frail, he was reincarnated as a national treasure, filling theatres the length and breadth of the country. On one occasion, when Benn was in his mid-80s, I found myself sitting next to him at one of the monthly lunches organised by ‘The Oldie’ magazine. The guests were mainly prosperous Home Counties people who would have run a mile from the Benn of old, but within minutes he had them eating out of his hand. It must be said, however, that the very things that made him a hero with the idealistic and the disaffected caused him to be despised by some of his contemporaries. For years the very mention of his name drove otherwise reasonable people to apoplexy. One of the reasons he aroused such passions is because he was born into the establishment. He was one of them. ‘Most Labour politicians start on the left and end up in the House of Lords,’ he was fond of saying. ‘I did it the other way round’ (a reference to the unwanted peerage that he had inherited from his father). Of all the post-war leaders thrown up by the Labour left, Tony Benn, at the height of his powers, was the most credible. Having been a widely respected senior minister for 12 years, no one ever doubted his capacity to govern. For that very reason he posed a greater threat to the established order than any other left leader before or since.

I was a good friend of Tony Benn for nearly 40 years and, though in later years we had our disagreements, we remained close until the end of his life. To this day I am one of that small club who believe that, had he been Labour leader in the early ’80s, the party would never have sunk to the depths that it did. Margaret Thatcher would still have won the 1983 election, but she would have faced a much more formidable and coherent opposition and might conceivably have been defeated in 1987. Had Benn stuck to the centre ground that he occupied for his first 20 years in parliament, he might well have become Labour leader and possibly even prime minister. In the end, however, the die was cast when he opted to throw his weight behind the grass roots uprising against the party establishment. He once explained his disaffection thus, ‘I was brought up to believe that when you were elected to parliament, you were elected to control the statute book, the purse and the sword. But I have sat in a Commons that has abandoned control of the statute book to Brussels, control of the sword to the White House and the purse to the IMF’. Although a lifelong internationalist, had he lived long enough he would no doubt have been a Brexiteer, on account of the limits the EU placed on our sovereignty.

To those who knew him, Tony Benn will be remembered as a man capable of arousing great and contradictory passions. He was a life enhancer, a man who fizzed with ideas. Who constantly questioned why the world is as it is. He was also a man who was by turns inspiring, infuriating, courageous, occasionally irresponsible and always an amusing companion; right about some of the big issues of the day and plain wrong about others. Perhaps, however, his most enduring legacy will be his nine volumes of diaries covering a period of more than 60 years, so ably edited by Ruth Winstone. She has now produced this excellent compendium volume which I hope will continue to be read for many years to come.

Chris Mullin is a former Labour minister and the author of three volumes of diaries documenting the rise and fall of New Labour.



In May 1940 Tony Benn was still at school, his older brother Michael had joined the RAF and his younger brother David (nicknamed ‘The Proff’) was being taught at home, due to a childhood illness. Winston Churchill had replaced Neville Chamberlain as war-time Prime Minister; Clem Attlee was leader of the Labour Party in the coalition Government. At this stage also, William Wedgwood Benn, Tony Benn’s father, was Labour MP for Gorton, having left the Liberals, and was shortly to be made a Labour peer, with the title Lord Stansgate; his eldest son Michael would become heir to the title.

From 1940 until 1950 Benn was continuously on the move, first as a wartime evacuee, then as a trainee pilot whose training took him to Southern Africa, and the Middle East, and after the war as a student at Oxford and in America. In family letters at this time Tony Benn is often called James.

During the war also, his father, at the age of 63, joined the RAF for the second time in his life.

Westminster School Report 1940

Wedgwood-Benn A Age: 15.8

Greek: Place 18 No. in set 22

Does not work hard enough in school or out. He prefers to think Greek is too difficult and therefore not worth attempting to master.

French: Place 24 No. in set 25

His learning French is really a quite unsatisfactory performance. He could do very much better but it would now cost him a great effort.

History: Place 14

Lively and intelligent, as always. He is keen to get on and works hard and I think he ought to do well in the Certificate. His knowledge is patchy, e.g. he will sometimes take a political allusion which no one else in the form sees, and at other times he is ignorant of commonplace matters. He still has a rhetorical style of writing which is unsuitable for history essays.


12 March 1942

My dear Mike

What a good weekend we did have. My first exploit on the motorbike was entirely your fault! When I join the RAF proper I shall probably see even less of you than I do now.

I am so glad that I found that you have the same view about females that I have. It is the only major omission that the parents have made in our upbringing. I suppose if we had a sister we should have met her friends. I don’t know anything about them. I don’t know what they are interested in, what they think about, and when I do meet them I feel most embarrassed.

We are having lessons in unarmed combat and I have bought an instructional book on the subject.

New College

29 January 1943

My dear Proff

Just a line to let you know how I’m getting on.

Last night we had another debate about helping the Jews in Europe. The motion was ‘that this House urges that a more energetic and practical policy be pursued by the Government towards the rescue of Jews in Europe’. At the beginning of the debate there were an equal number of people for and against the proposal. But after Victor Gollancz had spoken, everyone supported the motion, including those who had spoken against it. The motion for helping the Jews was carried by 188 votes to 21.

Much love

James (Tony)

Wednesday 9 June 1943

I regard my death in the RAF as very possible. I am aware in vague bursts that entering the RAF is a great and dangerous venture. When I think of the technical knowledge necessary before I can fly and the number of things I will have to think of and do it fills me with foreboding, but I suppose that all can be done if I work hard at my training. That is only the learning side; it is the problem of judging the exact moment for flattening out and worse still the problem of whether I can keep my nerve in a spin or when the flak is at me. I am filled with depression and then I cheer up and say, ‘Well, what if I do get killed? I shall be a hero and I won’t have to plan my life which I realise will be an almost impossible task.’ I think my new and most earnest wish is that Mike should survive the war unhurt …

RAF Elmdon

September 1943

My very dear brother

In case you haven’t had my last two air letters let me congratulate you on (1) your DFC and (2) your 22nd birthday. A junior brother and friend is very proud of you.

At last I am at an aerodrome and I am happier than ever before in my life. We are only here for three weeks but in that time we are really taught to fly Tigers – and go solo – I simply can’t believe it. We wear blue battledress and with my pipe I really look quite operational. We are called ‘pupil pilots’. On Sunday I shall have my first lesson. Details of the ’drome I can’t give you by letter but I know you will understand how every little aspect of this sort of life appeals to me.

1850035 AC2C BENN ANW
Hut 41
F Flight
No 1 Squadron
RAF Station
Heaton Park, Manchester

[December 1943]

Dear Family

Here is my address. I am almost certain that I have been selected for pilot training. This will be overseas though I cannot say where. On the nominal roll prepared by the RAF we are divided into two groups – potential officers and NCOs. I am in the first group. The prospects of leave are uncertain.

Conditions here are dreadful. Rains all the time. No baths, and no hot water. There are twenty of us in a Nissen hut which is unheated. But I mustn’t go on. I came into Manchester today to have a bath and write some letters. The latter is almost impossible in a crowded canteen and there isn’t a bath in the city.

Love James

Tuesday 25 January 1944 – SS Cameronia

I went along to a lecture on aircraft recognition which later turned into a discussion of the colour bar, and instructions on how to behave towards negroes and half-whites. We had a few phrases of kaffir language. I went downstairs and started an argument with Stan, Ken and Johnny on the colour bar and whether the Christian church could sanctify marriage based on the love of a black woman by a white man.

Wednesday 2 February

A tanker came alongside of us and while it was filling us up the mechanics on board the tanker sold us handbags, wallets and bracelets, which they sent by rope to the ship on previous receipt of money sent down in a tin.

We are more cramped now. There are twenty-eight on a table designed for eighteen as two tables have been given over to the army and there are a number of stories about women coming on board – WRNS, WACS, ATS and so on. I must say that I hope that they are true.

The Tannoy played music by Victor Sylvester and I lay watching the moon and stars and the lights of Suez.

[No date]

My Dearest Dad

Just a very short note to tell you that I have arrived at my port of disembarkation.

I was addressing a meeting on Saturday on board ship. The subject was ‘War Aims’. It is very different from the Union and my first experience of an ordinary public political speech with heckling and cat calls.

You’ve no idea how much I’ve thought of my Pa these last weeks on board and missed him.

Ever your loving son James (Tony)

Friday 25 February

In the afternoon we passed from Bechuanaland to Southern Rhodesia and by 7 o’clock we were at Bulawayo where we disentrained and were marched to Hillside Camp. There we were issued with bedding, given huts and a meal, and left. The camp had been a dairy farm and the buildings were originally cattle sheds.

Saturday 4 March

It is very amusing to hear the natives in the compound in the morning. A native comes in about 0615 and shouts in Bantu, interspersed with the emphatic imperative ‘WAKEY, WAKEY’. There is more shouting and laughing followed by silence when the ‘waker’ departs as sleep regains its prey. This continues until the man returns and reawakens us, which he may have to do two or three times.

Monday 10 April

Strawberry Blonde