The family of former Member of Parliament Tony Benn has announced that the Labour Party fixture died on Friday at the age of 88 in his West London home. No cause of death was given, though he had reportedly been in ill health as of late. Benn was known, among other things, for being a devoted socialist and proponent of issues such as the early 2000s antiwar movement, state-funded education, and labor union advocacy.
Prime Minister David Cameron calls Benn a "magnificent writer, speaker and campaigner," adding that "there was never a dull moment listening to him, even if you disagreed with him."
Born in 1925, Benn joined the House of Commons, Parliament's lower house, in a 1950 by-election. He had previously served in the Royal Air Force during World War II. Throughout his time in Parliament, he embraced a political position that The New York Times notes was eventually further to the left of many of his Labour Party colleagues. The Guardian, meanwhile, calls him a "rebellious leftwing outsider." He was a Cabinet Minister under PM Harold Wilson, which he partly attributes to his leftward shift.
In 1963, Benn renounced his peerage title of Viscount Stansgate, which passed to him when his father died. Until Peerage Act 1963 was passed, acquiring a title disqualified MPs from retaining their seat. The new law began allowing renunciations, making Benn the first to do so and remain in the Commons.
In later years, Benn was critical of the Iraq War and Britain's involvement. He traveled to Baghdad in 2003 for Britain's Channel Four to talk with Saddam Hussein about "what the paths to peace may be." Following his retirement in 2001, he accepted the offer to become president of the Stop the War Coalition, a position he retained until his death.
Benn is survived by three sons, a daughter, and 10 grandchildren. His wife, Caroline DeCamp, passed away in 2000.