Tony Benn, renowned British leftist politician, died Friday at the age of 88, surrounded by loving family.
Benn is commonly known for renouncing his family title, or hereditary peerage, in order to retain his seat in the House of Commons. He won his election despite the fact he was, technically, disqualified from his position due to his title, which he had recently inherited from his deceased father and, unfortunately, brother.
His determination to remain in Parliament was the instrumental move in creating the Peerage Act 1963, which allowed the renunciation of peerage for those peers seeking to remain or enter Parliament positions. His passionate commitment to public service and labor rights shone throughout his political career, start to finish.
Tony Benn's political leanings were leftist, on the radical side, matching his family history of radicalism. He was renowned as a strong proponent of labor rights and a member of the British Labour party.
Benn is also lesser known for proposing removing the Queen's image from British postage stamps, opposing the off-shore, "pirate" radio stations which cropped up in Britain in the 1960's, and as an early supporter of Margaret Thatcher. He was also a supporter of the 1984-1985 British miner's strike, which may be particularly interesting to the Kentuckians among us, like myself.
In the past decade or so, Benn had committed himself to promoting peace in Iraq. He petitioned Saddam Hussein for the release of prisoners in 1990. He interviewed Saddam Hussein himself in 2003, before Saddam's death in 2006.
He even extended his peaceful leanings to vegetarianism, a diet he retained until his death for ethical reasons.
Benn is survived by his daughter, Melissa, and his sons, Hilary, Stephen, and Joshua. His wife, Caroline Middleton DeCamp (an American), passed away in 2000, who he described as his "socialist soul-mate". Benn's death is truly a loss, not only for Britain, but for us all.
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