Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn
Son of William Wedgwood Benn, 1st Viscount Stansgate, PC and Margaret Benn, Viscountess Stansgate
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About Rt Hon Tony Benn
Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn PC (born 3 April 1925), formerly 2nd Viscount Stansgate, is a retired British Labour Party politician who was a Member of Parliament (MP) for 50 years and a Cabinet Minister under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan.
Benn's campaign to renounce his hereditary peerage was instrumental in the creation of the Peerage Act 1963.
Benn has topped several polls as the most popular politician in Britain. He has been described as "one of the few UK politicians to have become more left-wing after holding ministerial office." Since leaving Parliament, Benn has become involved in the grass-roots politics of demonstrations and meetings, and has been the President of the Stop the War Coalition for the last decade. He has been a vegetarian since the 1970s.
Early life and family
Benn was born in London on 3 April 1925. Benn's paternal grandfather was John Benn, a successful politician who was created a baronet in 1914, and his father William Wedgwood Benn was a Liberal Member of Parliament who later crossed the floor to the Labour Party. He was appointed Secretary of State for India by Ramsay MacDonald in 1929, a position he held until 1931. He was elevated to the House of Lords with the title of Viscount Stansgate in 1941; the new wartime coalition government was short of working Labour peers in the upper house. From 1945 to 1946, he was the Secretary of State for Air in the first majority Labour Government.
Both his grandfathers, John Benn (who founded a publishing company) and Daniel Holmes, were also Liberal MPs (respectively, for Tower Hamlets, Devonport and Glasgow Govan). Benn's contact with leading politicians of the day dates back to his earliest years; he met Ramsay MacDonald when he was five, David Lloyd George when he was 12 and Mahatma Gandhi in 1931, while his father was Secretary of State for India.
Benn's mother, Margaret Wedgwood Benn (née Holmes) (1897–1991), was a dedicated theologian, feminist and the founder President of the Congregational Federation. She was a member of the League of the Church Militant, which was the predecessor of the Movement for the Ordination of Women – in 1925 she was rebuked by Randall Thomas Davidson, the Archbishop of Canterbury, for advocating the ordination of women.
His mother's theology had a profound influence on Benn, as she taught him that the stories in the Bible were based around the struggle between the prophets and the kings and that he ought in his life to support the prophets over the kings, who had power, as the prophets taught righteousness.