Over a few years I have read most of the books that have been written by Tony Benn. Below are some of my notes and thoughts.
Part of the Editor’s note, written by Chris Mullin, from ‘Arguments for Democracy’ (1981), sums up Tony Benn quite nicely. “Mr. Benn asks questions that a lot of important and influential people would rather were not raised. Questions which large numbers of people who do not enjoy power or influence are very keen to see raised. What is more, he has not been bough or silenced by office or the prospect of office.
I really liked the book ‘Arguments for Democracy’ and would be an interesting read for all AS Politics students.
Unfortunately it is out of print; I have however scanned a chapter Arguments on Democracy
Dare to be a Daniel
“Father once said to me, ‘Never wrestle with a chimney sweep’, which was a curious piece of advice to give an eight-year-old, but I now understand exactly what he meant: ‘If someone plays dirty with you, don’t play dirty with him or you will get dirty, to.’ My attempt to keep personal abuse out of political controversy has been shaped by that simple phrase about how to steer clear of chimney sweeps.”
‘Free at Last’ – Diaries 1991-2001
“Breakfast in the hotel [currently in New York]. Worked on my speech and then took a taxi to the Peace with Cuba Office, and the cab driver was a Hispanic, I would think. HE had served in the Vietnam War, HE said there wasn’t a single homeless person in NY who wasn’t responsible for it, either through lack of education, because they were illiterate or had mental problems. A real potential Nazi supporter.”
– Saturday 24th January 1992
“Went to St. Pancras, where I had agreed to meet Danish television at eight, before I caught the 8.30 to Nottingham. Left my bags on the train and went and the interview on Maastricht and the referendum.
As I went back into the station I heard over the loudspeaker: ‘Leave the station immediately. Everyone is to evacuate the station.’
I got to the platform and the security officers and I couldn’t go on. There were two security women and a huge gathering of people. They said ‘There is an unidentified bag on the train.’ And I said , ‘It’s mine.’ So I took them and opened my bag and showed my thermos and sandwiches. They were a bit cross”
– Friday 12th June 1992
In addition to Tony Benn’s diaries I have also been reading Alan Clark’s; they are very different in tone and reveal a very different persona.
This quote personifies Alan Clark for me:
“I was in a vile mood this morning, even on arrival. I had done a lot of washing-up, drying, wiping, etc., at Albany, and I always find this enervating. I do it so badly and so slowly. For someone as great and gifted as me it is the most uneconomic possible use of time.”
– Tuesday 10th April 1984 (Alan Clark Diaries – In Power 1983-1992).