Tributes have been paid to the former Labour MP and cabinet minister Tony Benn who died at his London home at the age of 88 this morning (Friday 14 March).
The former Labour MP for Hove and Defence Minister Ivor Caplin told BBC Sussex that Mr Benn was a charismatic figure and “an immense character in the Labour movement”.
He said that he and Mr Benn may have disagreed over the Iraq war – Mr Benn was the president of the Stop the War Coalition – but he was always respectful.
He added that Hilary Benn, who served as a government minister alongside Mr Caplin, was a friend and his sympathies were with Mr Benn’s family.
The former Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown Des Turner also shared his memories on air, describing Mr Benn as a man of principle.
But he proved divisive at times, Mr Turner said, damaging Labour’s election prospects for many years.
Lord Bassam of Brighton – former Brighton and Hove Council leader Steve Bassam – said that he was great at arguing the case for social justice, equality and fairness.
The long-serving Mr Benn came to Brighton many times for Labour Party conferences. It was where he lost the contest for the deputy leadership in 1981 when Denis Healey triumphed by a narrow margin.
He collapsed during the 2005 conference in Brighton and was taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital. He had a pacemaker fitted.
After retiring as an MP, Mr Benn, an avid diarist, attracted enthusiastic audiences for his speaking tours, with even political opponents keen to hear him. He was one of the best-known names in the line-up for the Brighton Fringe last year.
This year he was scheduled to speak at the Fringe at the Brighthelm Centre on Saturday 31 May alongside Nancy Platts who is running for Labour in Brighton Kemptown at the general election next year.
Mr Benn was educated at Westminster School and New College, Oxford. He was first elected to Parliament in 1950 at the age of 25 having served as a pilot in the Royal Air Force towards the end of the Second World War. He also worked briefly for the BBC after the war.
When he stood down from the House of Commons in 2001 it was, he said, so that he could “devote more time to politics”.
Mr Benn inherited his father’s peerage in 1960 but refused to sit in the House of Lords as Viscount Stansgate.
After a political and legal battle he forced a change in the law allowing him to renounce his peerage.
The Conservative MP who had taken his Bristol South East seat, Malcolm St Clair, resigned and Mr Benn returned to the Commons. He later represented Chesterfield.
Former Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson described Mr Benn as someone who “immatures with age”.
He sometimes described himself as a Puritan although he lived in an increasingly pragmatic age.