Tony Benn naturally radiated ‘charm, warmth and honour’

14 03 2014

Tony Benn

SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has expressed his sadness at the death of Labour stalwart Tony Benn.

Mr Durkan, who recently spoke to the veteran left-wing campaigner during Commons tributes to Nelson Mandela, said:

“Tony Benn was passionate in his politics, compassionate in his outlook and compelling in debate.

“For him politics was a battle of ideas, not a contest of image.

“He was always ready to argue issues on the basis of the interests at play and the rights at stake.

“Articulate in his own ideology, he also appreciated when others argued in terms of clear ideas – even when he disagreed with them.

“Tony Benn was a great parliamentarian, wonderful platform orator, and both personable and impressive in private conversation.

“Whether in the Chamber or in the corridor, on the stump or in the studio, he was a wonderful communicator because he spoke with conviction in terms that really related to people.

“He was a man who just naturally radiated charm, warmth and honour.

“He was no longer an MP when I entered the Commons, but you always noticed the mood and the word that spread among parliamentary staff when he came into the House.  It was clear that they all had lots of reasons to hold him in special regard and it was also clear that they enjoyed mutual esteem from this pillar of parliament and champion of workers.

“The last occasion in which I spoke to Tony Benn was when he came into the House for the tributes to Nelson Mandela.  He had been a stalwart of the Anti-Apartheid Movement with his distinctive indignation at the violation of rights, sense of justice and spirit of democratic struggle.

“He lent that same campaigning character to the quest of the Bloody Sunday families and other victims of unaccountable power.”

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