Tony Benn: in his own words

We remember the former cabinet minister with some of his best quotes

Tony Benn died this morning at the age of 88. We remember him in his own words.

  • … Ideas are more powerful than guns. (Interview with Wikinews August 2007)
  • If one meets a powerful person - Adolf Hitler, Joe Stalin or Bill Gates - ask them five questions: “What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?” If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system. (Speech to the House of Commons March 2001)
  • People in debt become hopeless and hopeless people don’t vote. They always say that that everyone should vote but I think that if the poor in Britain or the United States turned out and voted for people that represented their interests there would be a real democratic revolution. (Interview with Michael Moore 2007)
  • First they ignore you, then they say you’re mad, then dangerous, then there’s a pause and then you can’t find anyone who disagrees with you. (Observer 1991)
  • When you think of the number of men in the world who hate each other, why, when two men love each other, does the church split? (On same-sex marriage)

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  • Having served for nearly half a century in the House of Commons, I now want more time to devote to politics and more freedom to do so. (Independent 1999)
  • The key to any progress is to ask the question why? All the time. Why is that child poor? Why was there a war? Why was he killed? Why is he in power? And of course questions can get you into a lot of trouble, because society is trained by those who run it, to accept what goes on. Without questions we won’t make any progress at all. (Interview in Creating Freedom 2013)
  • I was born about a quarter of a mile from where we are sitting now and I was here in London during the Blitz. And every night I went down into the shelter. 500 people killed, my brother was killed, my friends were killed. And when the Charter of the UN was read to me, I was a pilot coming home in a troop ship: ‘We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.’ That was the pledge my generation gave to the younger generation and you tore it up. And it’s a war crime that’s been committed in Iraq, because there is no moral difference between a stealth bomber and a suicide bomber. Both kill innocent people for political reasons. (Question Time 2007)
  • If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people. (Interview with Michael Moore 2007)

 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I liked Tony Benn about Westminster, agree or not with his views, I allways got the feeling. this man was not about sleeze. ( a rather large box that I tip most polititians in at the first oppertunity)
    For this reason I admired and respected him. His well thought out comments were also thought provoking. I wish we has people of his caliber today.
    RIP.

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