Thursday, October 18, 2007

'There is a passion in Benn's writing and speaking that far transcends the miserable aspirations of most contemporary politicians' Paul Foot, Guardian

I finally got to meet Tony Benn last night!

What a fabulous man – he spoke without notes for 40 minutes then answered questions for another 45 minutes.

The person who introduced Tony last night said, quoting from one of the reviews of his new book. 'Tony Benn is a player'

I think that is a great description of the man. Many politicans today are 'spectators' and change to suit the latest opinion poll. Paul Foot's description above is also right on the button.

Absolutely brilliant – no hesitation in his speech, no uncertainty of thought, mentally ‘sharp as a tack’ and looking great physically. Not bad for 82 years of age and 51 years as a Labour MP.

Tony retired in 2001 as an MP - as he puts it - ‘to spend more time on politics’

He is now 82 and busier than ever. He is a cult figure to young people who want to see change and he is now regarded as the most loved politician in Britain – he speaks every year at the world famous Glastonbury rock festival to thousands of young people!

He takes part in every anti-war demonstration in the UK and his diary of speaking engagements is full. He regularly appears on our national media outlets both radio and TV. Tony puts many 40 year old men to shame with his energy and passion.

Last night Annie and I went to see him speak at the Birmingham Book Festival - he was guest speaker for the week of the festival. The occasion marked the publication of his latest book – ‘More Time for Politics’ – It is really Tony’s diaries from 2001 to 2007 and I bought a copy. I've read the first few pages and it is riveting stuff, brutally honest and as you would expect from Tony, no punches pulled. I highly recommend it.

This got me thinking …

I have another 27 years before I am 82 – so I now know I have only just started!!

Tony is the best role model I have come across – his skills, talent and experience are only exceeded by his honesty, humility and integrity. If I can be remembered for my honesty, integrity and humility, that will be good enough for me.

At the end of his talk Tony said;

Someone asked me the other day what would I like on my tombstone … I thought ... That’s a cheerful question … I thought about it and said … All I want is ‘He encouraged us’

That is awesome and says it all about the man!


Anonymous said...

How cool! "...the miserable aspirations of most contemporary politicians..." pretty much sums it up on both sides of the Atlantic, I'm afraid. How about if we add "and most contemporary managers" as well? I can only hope to be as healthy and sharp as Mr. Benn at his age, but I think the key to his health and longevity is his passion.

Trevor Gay said...

Mike – thanks for your insight as always and I agree with you 100%.

Most managers do just enough to keep their jobs and are frightened of their own shadow in case they get criticised.

Throughout Tony Benn's life he has rattled cages and saying it as it really is. He has often been in a minority.

He remains (at 82!) a breath of fresh air as far as I am concerned. What does that tell us about modern day politicians?!

Hearing him speak and meeting him in the flesh made me realise how dull, predictable and boring today's politicians are all round the world quite frankly. They rely on image and spin and they are more worried about their own image than trying to show us what they stand for. One can never say that about Tony Benn

Tony often quotes his favourite words that his father taught him as child:

‘Dare to be a Daniel
Dare to stand alone
Dare to have a purpose firm
Dare to make it known’

It is all about standing up for what you believe to be right.

Anonymous said...

And this from today's column by American editorial writer George Will: "Many politicians pander,... with gusto, to Americans' current penchant for self-pity. Hence the incessant talk about "the forgotten middle class." Because such talk is incessant, it of course refutes itself."

Trevor Gay said...

Self-pity is not a disease only present your side of the pond Mike rest assured. Many people in Britain look to blame others for their own predicament. It takes a bit of courage and more important passion to get up and fight back when life kicks you in the teeth. The easy option is to sink into self pity.