Tony Benn, 1925 – 2014
‘Ask the powerful 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?
How can we get rid of you?
Only democracy gives us that right. That is why no-one with power likes democracy and that is why every generation must struggle to win it and keep it; including you and me, here and now.’
I encountered Tony Benn on only a few occasions: once at PCS Conference in 2006, when he addressed a Stop the War Coalition fringe meeting; then a few months later, at a mass lobby of Parliament; and later in 2010, when he addressed a conference in Birmingham. I’d been on the front row at the conference fringe meeting to secure good pictures; when he saw me in a similar place at the parliamentary lobby rally a few months later, he recognised and acknowledged me. Not much of a claim to fame, but the best I can do.
In one week, the British Left has lost two iconic figures: one, Bob Crow, general secretary of the rail workers’ union RMT, was one of the last traditional trade union leaders; the other, Tony Benn, was a member of the aristocracy who turned his back on his background and took up the cause of the Left. Both men polarised opinion; both held their views steadfastly whether they were popular or not. Of both men, colleagues and opponents alike have praised their personal integrity, steadfastness and honesty – qualities sadly lacking in so much of the political establishment nowadays.
More of my photographs of Tony Benn can be seen here.