The Benn Diaries: 1940-1990

BOOK: The Benn Diaries: 1940-1990
13.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


About the Author

Also by Tony Benn

Title Page


Brief Chronology

Preface to the 2005 edition

Foreword to the first edition


Chapter 1: 1940–49

Chapter 2: 1950–60

Chapter 3: 1960–64

Chapter 4: 1964–66

Chapter 5: 1966–70

Chapter 6: 1970–74

Chapter 7: 1974–75

Chapter 8: 1975–76

Chapter 9: 1976–79

Chapter 10: 1979–81

Chapter 11: 1981–83

Chapter 12: 1983–87

Chapter 13: 1987–90

Picture Section

Principal Persons



About the Author

Tony Benn was first elected to the House of Commons in 1950 and retired in 2001 ‘to devote more time to politics’. He is the longest serving Labour MP of all time and has held senior Cabinet and party posts. He is now a visiting professor of government and politics at the LSE.

He is the author of many books, including his powerful case for constitutional change,
Common Sense
(with Andrew Hood),
Arguments for Socialism, Arguments for Democracy,
nine volumes of diaries and
Dare to be a Daniel,
Benn’s memoir of childhood.

Tony Benn has four children and ten grandchildren. He was married for 51 years to Caroline, socialist, teacher and author, who died in 2000.

Ruth Winstone has edited all volumes of Tony Benn’s Diaries and several biographies of political figures. She is associate editor of the
Times Guide to the House of Commons
; and currently works as a Library Clerk in the Commons.

Also by Tony Benn











OUT OF THE WILDERNESS: Diaries 1963–1967

OFFICE WITHOUT POWER: Diaries 1968–1972

AGAINST THE TIDE: Diaries 1973–1976

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST: Diaries 1977–1980

THE END OF AN ERA: Diaries 1980–1990

FREE AT LAST!: Diaries 1991–2001


MORE TIME FOR POLITICS: Diaries 2001–2007

The Benn Diaries
Tony Benn
Selected, Abridged and
Introduced by
Ruth Winstone

Clement Attlee
The Hulton Deutsch
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Nikita Khrushchev

Jawarhalal Nehru

Joshua, Melissa, Stephen & Hilary Benn

Winston Churchill & Anthony Eden

Harold Macmillan & Hugh Gaitskell

By-election congratulations

John F. Kennedy

Lord Home

Tony Benn with HM The Queen

De Gaulle
Daniel Angeli/Camera Press London
Edward Heath
The Hulton Deutsch Collection
Tony Benn at the BBC
Financial Times/Trevor Humphries
Tony Benn & Harold Wilson
Camera Press London
Tony Benn with Old Bristolians
Bristol United Press
Margaret Thatcher
The Hulton Deutsch Collection
James Callaghan at Party Conference
Lionel Cherruault/Camera Press
Michael Foot with Tony Benn
The Hulton Deutsch Collection
Snookered in Chesterfield
Srdja Djukanovic/Camera Press London
Office politics – Tony Benn’s basement
Caroline Rees
Ronald Reagan
The Hulton Deutsch Collection
Nelson Mandela
The Hulton Deutsch Collection/Reuters
Neil Kinnock
Srdja Djukanovic/Camera Press London
Billy Bragg with Tony Benn
Paul Slattery
Mikhail Gorbachev with John Major
The Hulton Deutsch Collection/Sportsphoto
With Claire Rayner & Bill Owen
Grimsby Evening Telegraph

Line drawings
: Vicky ©
Evening Standard
; © Garland,
New Statesman
; Garland ©
Daily Telegraph
; Franklin ©
The Times, The Sun
; Cummings ©
Daily Express
; © Steve Bell,

Brief Chronology
April 1940
Anthony Wedgwood Benn 15 years old.
Dec 1941
William Wedgwood Benn MP is created a Labour peer, Lord Stansgate
July 1943
Tony Benn joins RAF
June 1944
Brother Michael killed in RAF
July 1945
General Election. Clement Attlee PM
Aug 1945
Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima
Jan 1946
Tony Benn to New College, Oxford
June 1949
Marriage to Caroline De Camp
Nov 1949
Tony Benn becomes producer with BBC
Feb 1950
General Election. Clement Attlee PM
June 1950
Korean War
30 Nov 1950
Tony Benn elected for Bristol South East in by-election
Oct 1951
General Election. Winston Churchill PM
Apr 1955
Churchill resigns. Anthony Eden PM
Dec 1955
Gaitskell elected Leader of Labour Party
June 1956
Nasser nationalises Suez Canal
June–Nov 1956
Suez crisis
Jan 1957
Eden resigns. Macmillan PM
Oct 1959
General Election. Macmillan PM
Nov 1959
Tony Benn elected to NEC
Nov 1960
Father dies. Benn disqualified from Commons
May 1961
By-election Bristol South East. Tony Benn re-elected but is refused admission to the Commons
July 1961
Election Court unseats Tony Benn
Jan 1963
Gaitskell dies. Harold Wilson Leader of Labour Party
Jan 1963
Joint Select Committee recommends reform of peerage law
July 1963
Peerage Act passed. Tony Benn renounces Stansgate peerage
20 Aug 1963
By-election, Bristol South East. Tony Benn re-elected
Oct 1964
General Election. Wilson PM. Tony Benn Postmaster General
Jan 1965
Winston Churchill dies
March 1966
General Election. Harold Wilson PM
June 1966
Tony Benn Minister of Technology
June 1970
General Election. Edward Heath PM
Tony Benn Chairman of Labour Party
Nov 1971
Tony Benn contests deputy leadership of Labour Party
Feb 1974
General Election. Harold Wilson PM. Tony Benn appointed Secretary of State for Industry
Oct 1974
General Election. Harold Wilson PM
Feb 1975
Margaret Thatcher becomes Leader of Conservative Party
June 1975
Common Market Referendum. Tony Benn moved from Department of Industry to Energy
March 1976
Harold Wilson resigns. Tony Benn contests leadership.
James Callaghan PM
Feb 1977
Anthony Crosland dies
May 1979
General Election. Margaret Thatcher PM
Nov 1980
Michael Foot elected Leader of Labour Party
June 1981
Tony Benn in hospital with Guillain-Barre syndrome
Sept 1981
Tony Benn contests deputy leadership of Labour Party
Apr–June 1982
Falklands War
June 1983
General Election. Margaret Thatcher PM
Tony Benn loses in Bristol following Boundary Commission changes to constituencies
Oct 1983
Neil Kinnock elected Leader of Labour Party
March 1984
Tony Benn elected MP for Chesterfield
June 1987
General Election. Margaret Thatcher PM
Oct 1988
Tony Benn contests leadership of Labour Party
Nov 1990
Tony Benn visits President Saddam Hussain in Iraq
Margaret Thatcher resigns. John Major PM
Preface to the 2005 Edition

Ten years have passed since this single volume edition of the diaries of Tony Benn was first published. Two further books have appeared: a memoir of Benn’s childhood,
Dare to be a Daniel,
Free at Last!: 1990–2001,
which records the last years of Tony Benn’s parliamentary career and his entry into a new phase of personal and public life. The very early years described in
are crucial to an understanding of a politician raised between two World Wars in the political tradition of radical non-conformism and in the culture of successful British entrepreneurship. This single volume edition should be read in conjunction with those two to appreciate the depth and unprecedented scope of the Benn Diaries.

By 2005, the year of publication of this book, the Labour Party had been in government for eight years consecutively, and for twenty-five of the preceding sixty years. But in the Election of May 2005, the proportion of the electorate voting for the government was the smallest in those sixty years. The distance the party has moved, and the bipartisanship of British political leaders at the beginning of the 21
century, has been meticulously chronicled by Tony Benn, himself a senior minister in the governments of the 1960s and 1970s, and an active participant in the Labour Party’s policy-making and organisational structures over the years. He thus also had a direct influence on the Party’s historic development, and witnessed the major ideological shifts which were accelerated in the 1990s under the banner of New Labour.

Chronicling – and interpreting – political life at the macro and micro level is a challenge to any serious political diarist. Tony Benn kept a regular daily record both as a Cabinet minister at the centre of governmental power and as a constituency MP (first in Bristol, and then in Chesterfield) confronted with his constituents’ wide-ranging individual and personal problems. As a result, the 15-million word diaries and associated archives present a coherent history of the massive transformation in technology, power, international relations and the social face of Britain.

This single volume edition will, I hope, reflect the essence of the five separate books from which it is distilled. I continue to believe, as I did ten
years ago, that, in the long run, it will be the small details of political life in the 20
century, as well as the major historical events and characters, which will endure and interest future generations of readers.

BOOK: The Benn Diaries: 1940-1990
13.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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