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.