Tony Benn
in English radicalism in the twentieth century
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Benn was the most prominent figure on the Labour Left from the early 1980s until his death in 2014. He came from a highly political, Labour, household and was immersed in Labour politics from childhood. Although as a young MP he was a supporter of Gaitskell (and an early enthusiast for new technology), he moved steadily to the left and by the late 1970s had become the de facto leader of the Left in the PLP, advocating workers’ control of industry and a radical, redistributive economic and political programme. He advocated combining parliamentary campaigning for socialism with extra-parliamentary activism-in trade unions and peace movements, for example. Benn was an able administrator, conscientious and efficient in his numerous ministerial roles, and above all an effective, articulate and witty communicator. However, he was unpopular with his colleagues and regarded by many as untrustworthy. He was a regular contributor to political discussion programmes on radio and television; and he did much to popularise, and make accessible, radical ideas in the second half of the twentieth century.

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