Tony Benn helped force us into opposition for 18 years, says Worcester Labour councillor

Worcester News: Tony Benn: died last week, aged 88 Tony Benn: died last week, aged 88

ONE of Worcester's best-known Labour politicians has criticised Tony Benn - saying he was partly responsible for "forcing the party into opposition for 18 years".

Councillor Richard Udall says the veteran former Government cabinet member, who died on Friday aged 88, caused "divisive bitterness" across the country.

Cllr Udall, secretary of Worcester Labour Party in the 1980s, also said "the poor paid the real price" of Mr Benn's refusal to budge from his principles.

He said: "He was a brilliant parliamentarian who know what he fought for - he was at times brilliant, humorous and talented, but he was also divisive.

"Both he and the Labour Party suffered from his insistence to follow firm principles, even when they were clearly unpopular and against the tide of popular thinking. "He would have made a formidable Prime Minister and could have changed the course of history.

"We will remember Tony Benn with affection and respect, nobody could do anything else; a lifetime of public service deserves nothing less.

"However, I also sadly recall the divisive bitterness of the 1980’s, when he allowed himself the luxury of self destruction within the party which contributed to the electoral success of our opponents and forced Labour into opposition for 18 years.

"It was the poor who paid the real price to allow him to keep his clear conscience and firm principles."

It is the first time any politician from Worcestershire has stuck their neck out and criticised Mr Benn's legacy.

Cllr Udall represents St John's on both Worcester City Council and the county council.

Mr Benn, one of the most revered figures in British political history, first became an MP in 1950 and served in the Government under both Harold Wilson and James Callaghan.

A fierce campaigner for the left, he retired from the House of Commons in 2001 and in recent years was a popular speaker, anti-war campaigner and diarist.

His tours in recent years took him to Worcestershire, including Q&A sessions at Huntington Hall in Worcester and Malvern Theatres.

Comments (10)

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3:22pm Tue 18 Mar 14

High Time says...

Another load of claptrap from Mr Udall.
Another load of claptrap from Mr Udall. High Time
  • Score: 8

3:58pm Tue 18 Mar 14

Marant says...

Several other local councillors have also seemed to think 'sticking to your principles' is a bad thing, and that one should follow popular opinion come what may in order to get votes and get elected, regardless of whether you think it's the best thing for the country.

It's called integrity, and some local councillors could do with looking the word up in a dictionary.

Not that long ago, in the 1980s, there were three clear parties, all with clear principles and policies. Each was distinct and you knew where they stood. Now all three major parties are simply chasing the 5% of floating voters and you can't get a razor blade between most of their policies.

Other than the general gist that labour tries to buy votes with hand-outs and imported voters and the Conservatives would quite like people to stand on their own two feet and keep some of what they earn.
Several other local councillors have also seemed to think 'sticking to your principles' is a bad thing, and that one should follow popular opinion come what may in order to get votes and get elected, regardless of whether you think it's the best thing for the country. It's called integrity, and some local councillors could do with looking the word up in a dictionary. Not that long ago, in the 1980s, there were three clear parties, all with clear principles and policies. Each was distinct and you knew where they stood. Now all three major parties are simply chasing the 5% of floating voters and you can't get a razor blade between most of their policies. Other than the general gist that labour tries to buy votes with hand-outs and imported voters and the Conservatives would quite like people to stand on their own two feet and keep some of what they earn. Marant
  • Score: 17

4:14pm Tue 18 Mar 14

Chipper Dinosaur says...

Imagine having principles, Mr Udall.
Imagine having principles, Mr Udall. Chipper Dinosaur
  • Score: 13

10:15pm Tue 18 Mar 14

Samboy says...

Well said Marant. I have been banging on for years about New labour abandoning the workers to their fate in the scramble for votes. Integrity is a dirty word with the modern 'professional' politicians.
Well said Marant. I have been banging on for years about New labour abandoning the workers to their fate in the scramble for votes. Integrity is a dirty word with the modern 'professional' politicians. Samboy
  • Score: 9

11:30pm Tue 18 Mar 14

liketoknow says...

I notice he waited til he was dead to criticise him
I notice he waited til he was dead to criticise him liketoknow
  • Score: 11

12:55am Wed 19 Mar 14

Jabbadad says...

Although I frequently disagree with some of Richard Udalls politcal views, at meetings I saw him as a devils advocate, or as the naughty lad at the back of the class, and he frequently brightened up an otherwise very dull meeting, both City & County.
However I was concerned to see a recent photograph in this paper where it seemed he has aged considerably and perhaps should show concern to his health & weight..
Although I frequently disagree with some of Richard Udalls politcal views, at meetings I saw him as a devils advocate, or as the naughty lad at the back of the class, and he frequently brightened up an otherwise very dull meeting, both City & County. However I was concerned to see a recent photograph in this paper where it seemed he has aged considerably and perhaps should show concern to his health & weight.. Jabbadad
  • Score: 0

6:05pm Wed 19 Mar 14

The_Walrus says...

I never heard of this Udall fellow.

Tony Benn was a political giant, and it was Tory lies that got them in and kept them in, same as this time.

Tony Benn will be remembered long after this sad little man whose name I have already forgotten has sneaked off and joined the Tories.
I never heard of this Udall fellow. Tony Benn was a political giant, and it was Tory lies that got them in and kept them in, same as this time. Tony Benn will be remembered long after this sad little man whose name I have already forgotten has sneaked off and joined the Tories. The_Walrus
  • Score: -4

10:53pm Wed 19 Mar 14

Europeanist64 says...

I'm afraid Cllr Udall has got this totally wrong, he ignores or is ignorant of Labour's recent history.

The reasons why Labour was in opposition for 18 years are as follows:

Lost the 1979 election because Jim Callaghan went to the IMF who bailed Britain out and insisted that Labour adopted the "Thatcherite" policies of reducing public spending and mass unemployment began to blight Britain. Thatcherism was in operation well before Margaret Thatcher. Working class people and public sector workers felt disillusioned, and abandoned by Labour. (As many do now, when I go out campaigning)

Lost the 1983 election because of the SDP, who garnered 24% of the vote,
and most of this was at the expense of Labour. Were it not for the SDP, Labour under Michael Foot would have won a splendid victory.

Lost the 1987 election for largely the same reason as the 1983 election. Professor Peter Kellner polled 10,000 voters and found Labour was preferred by most voters on the top 4 salient issues: NHS, Unemployment, Crime and Education. But the SDP were lurking again.

Lost the 1992 election, when they had a constant 3-5% opinion poll lead, due to the way the Murdoch press and the Daily Mail vilified Neil Kinnock.

I knew Tony Benn personally and I visited him last, in early December 2013, a frail body by then, but a sharp and brilliant mind. We discussed how many of his prophecies of how New Labour had adopted Thatcherist policies and this then alienated Labour from its traditional supporters. We are now only beginning to reconnect.

Tony Benn was the only senior Labour politician to unreservedly and steadfastly support the miners from 1984 until he died. Again, he demonstrated how Britain would become dependent on Russia (a real trade partner - not!) and an increasingly unstable middle east for energy, without British coal.

Tony Benn was an enlightened man, and was prepared to stand-up for the powerless and vulnerable in the ultra-market economy, so beloved by the Tories and New Labour.

Could you say that the likes of Mandelson, Blair and Alan Milburn would ever give the growing numbers of unemployed and low-waged in Britain a moment's thought?
I'm afraid Cllr Udall has got this totally wrong, he ignores or is ignorant of Labour's recent history. The reasons why Labour was in opposition for 18 years are as follows: Lost the 1979 election because Jim Callaghan went to the IMF who bailed Britain out and insisted that Labour adopted the "Thatcherite" policies of reducing public spending and mass unemployment began to blight Britain. Thatcherism was in operation well before Margaret Thatcher. Working class people and public sector workers felt disillusioned, and abandoned by Labour. (As many do now, when I go out campaigning) Lost the 1983 election because of the SDP, who garnered 24% of the vote, and most of this was at the expense of Labour. Were it not for the SDP, Labour under Michael Foot would have won a splendid victory. Lost the 1987 election for largely the same reason as the 1983 election. Professor Peter Kellner polled 10,000 voters and found Labour was preferred by most voters on the top 4 salient issues: NHS, Unemployment, Crime and Education. But the SDP were lurking again. Lost the 1992 election, when they had a constant 3-5% opinion poll lead, due to the way the Murdoch press and the Daily Mail vilified Neil Kinnock. I knew Tony Benn personally and I visited him last, in early December 2013, a frail body by then, but a sharp and brilliant mind. We discussed how many of his prophecies of how New Labour had adopted Thatcherist policies and this then alienated Labour from its traditional supporters. We are now only beginning to reconnect. Tony Benn was the only senior Labour politician to unreservedly and steadfastly support the miners from 1984 until he died. Again, he demonstrated how Britain would become dependent on Russia (a real trade partner - not!) and an increasingly unstable middle east for energy, without British coal. Tony Benn was an enlightened man, and was prepared to stand-up for the powerless and vulnerable in the ultra-market economy, so beloved by the Tories and New Labour. Could you say that the likes of Mandelson, Blair and Alan Milburn would ever give the growing numbers of unemployed and low-waged in Britain a moment's thought? Europeanist64
  • Score: 5

11:54pm Wed 19 Mar 14

Jabbadad says...

Good interesting posting Europeanist 64.
Good interesting posting Europeanist 64. Jabbadad
  • Score: -1

7:21am Mon 24 Mar 14

green49 says...

I notice that whenever there is critisium of theTories on here there seems to be an awful lot of minus votes on the comments wonder why? who is pulling the strings WN?

Tony Benn was a voice who got peoples attention when he spoke even if you disagreed with what he said, pity the country didnt listen a bit more, likened him to Mr Powell who was
an highly educated and a brilliant mind, his so called MP mates were intimidated by him as he always had an answer.
I notice that whenever there is critisium of theTories on here there seems to be an awful lot of minus votes on the comments wonder why? who is pulling the strings WN? Tony Benn was a voice who got peoples attention when he spoke even if you disagreed with what he said, pity the country didnt listen a bit more, likened him to Mr Powell who was an highly educated and a brilliant mind, his so called MP mates were intimidated by him as he always had an answer. green49
  • Score: 4

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