The British Labour movement has lost one of its most important figures. Tony Benn’s unflinching commitment to socialism and the daily fight of working people was an inspiration to generations of activists.
And most importantly, Tony’s influence will live on for generations to come. When I woke up to hear the news, my first thought was “how are we going to break it to our kids?” They have been brought up on a diet of Tony Benn, and having seen him speak every year at Tolpuddle Martyr festivals, his death is like losing a member of the family.
Like a lot of NUJ activists I had the pleasure of meeting Tony on a number of occasions. Often when you meet your heroes they turn out to be a massive disappointment. This was not the case with Tony – a political giant and generous in spirit – he was everything you would expect him to be.
His life and work is a priceless resource for the Labour movement. Any thought that Tony’s death is the “end of and era” or that “something has ended” must be banished, if we are to pay the ultimate tribute to the socialist veteran.
Tony’s spirit lives on. In the words of John Steinbeck, he is “part of the one big soul that belongs to everyone”. Where ever there is a fight against injustice, where every there is a fight against hunger, where ever there is a fight against poverty, where ever there is a fight against racism and fascism, he will be there.
We must never lose sight of that, and if we are to preserve Tony’s legacy all socialists must make a pledge today that his fight for a better world will continue.