Benn, Anthony Wedgwood

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Benn, Anthony Wedgwood

Anthony Wedgwood Benn (Tony Benn), 1925–2014, British politician, b. London, grad. New College, Oxford. After working for the British Broadcasting Corporation (1949–50), he was elected a Labour member of Parliament in 1950. He tried unsuccessfully to disclaim his title, Viscount Stangate, which he inherited in 1960, in order to keep his seat in the House of Commons. He was largely responsible for the passage of the Peerage Act (1963), which allowed peers to renounce their titles and run for a seat in the Commons, and, having won reelection in 1961, he became the first peer to shed his title (1963) and remain in the Commons. In Harold Wilson's first Labour government he served as postmaster general (1964–66) and minister of technology (1966–70). In the 1974 Wilson government he was secretary for industry (1974–75) and secretary for energy (1975–79). After 1979 he led the left wing of the party, advocating unilateral nuclear disarmament, withdrawal from NATO and the European Community (now the European Union), and further nationalization of industry. His policies had an increasingly narrow following, particularly with the inability of the Labour party to mount an effective challenge to the Conservatives in the 1980s. In 1988 he unsuccessfully challenged Neil Kinnock for the party leadership. The 1994 selection of Tony Blair as Labour leader amounted to a repudiation of Benn's wing of the party. Benn retired from Parliament in 2001. Benn's writings include Regeneration of Britain (1965), The New Politics (1970), Out of the Wilderness (1987), Office without Power (1988), and Against the Tide (1989). His diaries, written over a period of 60 years, were best sellers in Great Britain.

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