Tony Benn’s Funeral

March 31st, 2014

 

It was a real honour for me to have been invited to Tony Benn’s funeral at Westminster Abbey on Thursday. He made some enemies over the years but a lot more friends so the more intimate St Margaret’s Church in the Abbey was full to the rafters. It looked more like a demonstration outside as we went into the church with miners strike banners from the 80’s and Stop the War Coalition banners from the noughties , a huge crowd that he had encouraged and inspired over the decades. I found myself sitting next to , or in close proximity to Alastair Campbell, Peter Tatchell and George Galloway, quite a formidable trio.

As Tony Benn became almost a “National Treasure” in later life, after he had retired, it’s easy to forget just how radical his politics was with mourners like Arthur Scargill, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness in the congregation. In fact I remember the afternoon after one of our morning sittings Gerry Adams was due to have a meeting with Tony Benn in his basement office.  This would have been back in 1997 , still the very early stages of the peace process and I seem to remember shortly after this Benn was the first politician to invite Adams into the House of Commons for which he got a lot of stick from the press at the time.

I also thought it was interesting to see Shirley Williams and David Steel there too after Williams , one of the Gang of Four who broke away from the Labour party in the early 80’s to form the SDP , largely due to the direction Tony Benn and Michael Foot were taking the Labour Party which caused a huge rift.  Tony Blair didn’t make the funeral , he sent Cherrie but something tells me Tony Benn wouldn’t have missed him.

His 3 son’s and daughter made extremely emotional and articulate speeches towards the end of the service , the Benn spirit of oratory was in them all.

Although I was only really an acquaintance of the family Hillary Benn made me feel like the closest family friend  when he greeted me which is quite a skill. It certainly felt like the end of an era in many ways but he definitely lives on through his family. Photo’s courtesy of  The Guardian.

Entry Filed under: News


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