In Brief

Tony Benn dies at 88: 'the loss of an iconic figure of our age'

The 'lodestar for the Labour left' made enemies but was regarded with a good degree of affection

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TRIBUTES have poured in for veteran Labour politician Tony Benn, one the country's most outspoken MPs, who has died at the age of 88.

His children, Stephen, Hilary, Melissa and Joshua, today announced that their father had passed away peacefully at his home in west London early this morning surrounded by his family.

"We will miss above all his love which has sustained us throughout our lives. But we are comforted by the memory of his long, full and inspiring life and so proud of his devotion to helping others as he sought to change the world for the better," they said.

Benn had suffered from ill health since a stroke in 2012, reports The Guardian, which describes him as "the lodestar for the Labour left for decades, orator, campaigner, diarist and grandfather" who came to be regarded as an anti-establishment voice for democracy.

Benn entered Parliament in 1950 as MP for Bristol South East, becoming the youngest member of the house at the age of 25. After the death of his father, Viscount Stansgate, in 1960 he became the first peer to renounce his title in order to go on sitting in the House of Commons. During his 50-year parliamentary career, he served as minister for technology, industry and energy, and campaigned against EU membership and the invasion of Iraq.

Labour leader Ed Miliband, who undertook work experience with Benn when he was 16, said his death represents "the loss of an iconic figure of our age". He added that Benn "will be remembered as a champion of the powerless, a great parliamentarian and a conviction politician".

RIP Tony Benn, a great orator & campaigner, principled but with a streak of mischief. When he spoke his opponents always listened & learned.

 

— Ed Balls (@edballsmp) March 14, 2014

Former foreign secretary Dame Margaret Beckett described Benn as a "brilliant speaker" who "opened people's eyes" and "made them think". She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "He was fantastic. Delightful, friendly, very open minded and interested always in new ideas... a really charming, nice man.

"He made enemies and kept enemies but on the whole I think most people regarded him with a good degree of affection, long before he got sufficiently old, as he said himself, he can't do any more harm."

Tony Benn was a magnificent writer, speaker and campaigner. There was never a dull moment listening to him, even if you disagreed with him.

 

— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) March 14, 2014

In an interview with the Daily Mirror last year, Benn said he was not frightened about death: "I don't know why, but I just feel that at a certain moment your switch is switched off and that's it. And you can't do anything about it."

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