YORK politicians paid tribute to Tony Benn following the former cabinet minister’s death, aged 88.
The ex-Labour MP, who served Parliament for more than 50 years and was also a renowned public speaker and diarist, passed away yesterday at his London home.
York Central MP Hugh Bayley said: “He was one of a tiny number of MPs who the chamber would fill up for when it was their time to speak - there might be only ten or 20 people in there, but when it was his turn, within five minutes there would be a couple of hundred.
“They came because they were interested in his ideas and what he had to say, and because he spoke so well. It was theatre as well as politics, and he had a wonderful sense of humour and way with words.”
Mr Bayley said Mr Benn’s legacy would be initiating House of Lords reform by renouncing his hereditary peerage to remain an MP, as “a champion of British manufacturing”, and as a people’s politician. He said: “He believed politics is about giving people a voice, reflecting what they say in Parliament, and that’s what I learned from him more than anything.”
Guildhall councillor Brian Watson, during his time as a shop steward at aircraft manufacturer Hawker Siddeley, met Mr Benn on several occasions and said: "I always found him not only a very knowledgeable person, but a straightforward and honest speaker and negotiation - there was no spin with Tony.
"He would have said 'if it needs spin, it isn't worth bothering with". It is a sad day indeed for socialism, and he will be long remembered by those of us who were lucky enough to have met him in a work environment."
Coun Janet Looker, who also represents Guildhall, said: “He was always hugely inspirational and I admired the energy he put into keeping debate and dialogue going – he had a voice we don’t seem to have in politics any more, and I think we will miss that.”
Council leader James Alexander tweeted: “So sad at the loss of Tony Benn...the movement has lost a hero.”