(5 June 2012, Asked about a country which could soon become foreign, depending on the outcome of a referendum),

“I think it would be a tragedy for us to have a frontier between us and Scotland. It wouldn't make sense to me.”
(2003, media interview at the Labour Party Conference, on the concentration of power under Tony Blair's leadership),

"When I look at 'New Labour' I wonder whether it wasn't like trying to light a bonfire on a frozen lake - looked marvellous, bright lights, shining white, but you melted away your own support."
(2007, ITV debate on Harold Wilson's government in the 1970s, in discussion with Steve Richards, Roy Hattersley and Dr David Owen),

"...'A bird can't fly only on its right wing', and I think that; and Jim (Callaghan) was just the same - Jim kept people together..."
"If you can find money to kill people...you can find money to help people"
(13 May 1989, Channel Four's 'After Dark' programme broadcasted live; discussion about the unaccountability of the security services; Benn was in argument with Miles Copeland Jr, former CIA Officer, who was closely involved in major foreign-policy operations from the 1950s to the 1980s; Benn answers Copeland's question about what is wrong with governments keeping secrets, in so far as the CIA having influence over the British Atomic Energy Authority during the 1970s, when Benn was Minister for Energy),

"What I'm saying is when people vote it's because a democracy is about people knowing enough to make a choice. Now, you say you hear things said at meetings - that they say things only because it is private?
Well, some things are secret. When you know there is going to be an attack, or a terrorist attack, you don't reveal it because you hope to catch the person concerned. But the test of political integrity is that wherever you are - in the cabinet, here, at home, at a meeting, you say the same thing, your philosophy and view doesn't alter. Once you start saying that security protects hypocrisy - to preserve democracy - you're saying what I said, which is that the way the intelligence service operates (and governments are the main offenders, I'm not denying it, after all they're supposed to control them, I don't know they do) they are really then destroying the democracy that the security service is supposed to be there to maintain.
Actually, the security service is there to maintain the status quo, which is quite a different thing from maintaining democracy. And that's the point. I'm not getting at you. I don't know what you've done in your life. Candidly, I don't want to make it about individuals. I think we ought to understand - we're talking about how we're governed, by whom, and whether the public have rights in the matter or not. That's my interest throughout this discussion."
(14 March 2012, at the London School of Economics, on socialism in the Labour Party')

'It isn't a socialist party but it has socialism in it - I've been a socialist in the party and it is tricky but I think it's possible. You succeed in mobilising support for what you want done and you'll be popular, and then the Tories will be come along and say it's all a waste of public expenditure, because they realise themselves what a threat democracy is to their privilege.'
"It's the same each time with progress. First they ignore you, then they say you're mad, then dangerous, then there's a pause and then you can't find anyone who disagrees with you.”
(on the news that Sunday Telegraph readers have nominated him for the Magna Carta award during 2013, from 'A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine: The Last Diaries'),

“If I'm a national treasure in the Telegraph, something's gone wrong."
(5 August 2013, The Daily Mirror, on Ed Miliband’s opponent, David Cameron, and 'his growing army of spin doctors and advisers?'),

“No, I don’t care very much for him. It is nothing personal but he is reproducing Mrs Thatcher on a slightly more skilful, PR’d basis.”
(5 August 2013, Daily Mirror, on the current economic period in the UK),

“I have always tried to be optimistic, because optimism is, I believe, the fuel of progress. Cynicism is encouraged by people who don’t want anything to happen or to ever change. If you can persuade people that whoever they vote for doesn’t matter then that discourages them from making progress. You have to keep hope alive. And I have drawn comfort from looking at historical examples of how we have got rid of slavery, how women got the vote and how it was all achieved when people ­organised and campaigned.
When you do that you go through various stages. First you are ignored. Then they say you’re mad, then dangerous and then finally you win and then you can’t find anyone at the top who doesn’t claim to have thought of it in the first place.
That’s how change happens. That’s why however bleak things might appear, I do still believe if people organise and if the streets were full of people demanding different policies then something would happen.”
(5 May 2013, asked by PressTV(Iranian international news network) about the surge in UKIP popularity, if it is simply just the economics in the UK or to do with foreign policy),

"Well I think there is an element of international policy involved, certainly as far as Europe is concerned because UKIP, this new party that has grown up, is very hostile to Europe and a lot of people feel that in this situation that we’re in, the control of British policy by Europe, is banded into our interests."
(December 2006, Guardian Unlimited, extract from interview with Nick Stadlen QC. Asked a probing question about Labour's radical socialist manifesto in 1983, and failed 1983 general election result),

"Well, half a minute. A few months, or a year or two earlier, 10% of the Labour MPs left the Labour Party, including two deputy leaders, and formed up a new party which got massive press support. Two of our previous leaders attacked the manifesto during the election -  Wilson and Callaghan both made speeches in the election denouncing the manifesto, and truthfully, I'm not surprised that that happened.
But, and I think was it not just after the Falkland's War? At the Falkland's War, where wars always make unpopular leaders popular. I mean the circumstances were such, and maybe looking back on it, it was too radical, but I don't think if we'd adopted the Kinnock policy in '83 we'd have won, because he's tried in '87, he didn't win; he tried in '92 and he didn't win. I don't think it was that.
I think the circumstances at the time were very difficult. We'd been in power for a long time. Mrs. Thatcher had massive support, and so on and so on. But anyway, if you hold a belief, you don't give it up because you're defeated! I mean, I think you have a duty to say what you mean, mean what you say, do what you say you'll do, and if you don't win - well then you go on!
You don't say, 'Oh well! It shows the whole thing's a disaster'.
I mean I'm glad they haven't modernised the Ten Commandments. I can imagine what they'll be - thou shall not kill unless Bush tells you too; thou shalt not commit adultery unless she's very attractive; and thou shalt not steal unless you need the money.
I mean, really it's got to the point where everything people will believe in has been abandoned in the hope of getting office. They've got office - but they haven't got power"
(8 April 2013, commenting on the legacy of Baroness Thatcher),

"She did make war on a lot of people in Britain, and I don't think it helped our society"
(9 April 2013, as reported in The Guardian),

"Margaret Thatcher was a very powerful, rightwing force in society. She followed her beliefs and had clear objectives. Her policy was to reverse the trends in modern politics that were made possible by the trade unions being legalised. She decided to eradicate the power of the unions, undermine local government and privatise assets - and these were the three policies of the labour movement.
It was a major attack on democracy and at first it carried some public support, but then it became unstuck, and in the end, it was rejected. But ideas always come back and the modern Tory party is influenced by her ideas.
Although I thought she was wrong, she said what she meant and meant what she said. It was not about style with her; it was substance - I don't think she listened to spin doctors, she just had a clear idea and followed it through.
I remember her at the funeral of MP Eric Heffer. I was asked to make a speech and as I was waiting, there was someone behind me coughing. It was Mrs Thatcher, and at the end I thanked her for coming and she burst into tears. She had come out of respect for someone whose opinions she disagreed with."
(17 October 2000, interview with PSB, On keeping corporate influence in check),

"I don't think anybody, even for a moment, suggested you shouldn't be able to buy a cheap bar of soap in one shop against another that's more expensive. That's not the point. It's corporate power that it's about. I mean, the political power of a big corporation -- I've dealt with them all my life. I mean, I was the energy minister, so I used to deal with the oil companies. And Esso once came to me and said, "We're not working with you because you're of a different political philosophy." So I said, "Thank you very much," and they went out. I had all the North Sea oil and I had to allocate it, so I didn't give any to Esso. They came back a year later, and they were on their knees. Amoco wouldn't cooperate, so they didn't get any more North Sea oil, so they sacked their top management and came back and got it [from me]. I mean, we're much more powerful in dealing with big corporations than anyone believes. I remember IBM tried to cancel out our devaluation of the pound by raising the price of all their goods. So I put pressure on them, and they had to capitulate. But you've got to fight for the people you elect."
(17 October 2000, interview with PSB, asked what his argument is against digging up coal in Britain at twice the world price),

"Oh, very simple. I mean, I was in charge of nuclear power for a long time, and I remember when I was told that nuclear power was cheap, safe, and peaceful. It turns out nuclear power is three and a half times the cost of coal. Far from being safe, it's deadly dangerous, as we know from Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. And thirdly, it's far from being peaceful. All the plutonium from our civil nuclear power stations went to America to make warheads for the bombs. We were lied to about nuclear power. And the British mining industry had the cheapest deep-mined coal in the world. Of course I know you get coal strip-mining and open pits more cheaply, but that destroys the environment, whereas deep-mined coal goes under. No, Mrs. Thatcher fought a civil war against the miners because she didn't like the miners' union. It had no economic justification whatever."
(21 July 2002, interviewed by Peter Sissons on BBC Breakfast with Frost,)

"You see I was in the Labour Cabinet in 1976 when the IMF told us we had to cut £4 billion off our public expenditure. Denis Healey was the Chancellor, very fair man, wrote afterwards it wasn't necessary, it led to huge cuts in public expenditure which triggered the trouble over that winter. So I think the, what you might call the conventional view that it was the left or the trade unions that destroyed the Labour government, I think it was the IMF myself."
(1983, Addressing a fringe meeting and ASTMS union members (Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs)),

"You've got to have a socialist perspective. Now, the word socialism is spat out on the media as if it was a sort of disease. They get a picture of somebody, sometimes me, with his hands out and his eyes open,"SOCIALISM!" they say, and the children are put to bed (laughs in audience) and Mother has another Ovaltine and settles down to her novel from the Boots library, and people hope it'll all go away.But that's not how it's pronounced. It is a social-ism. It's about trying to construct a society round production from need and not just for profit! Around meeting people's needs, that's what it's about!"
(Quote from interview for the four part BBC Documentary about the Labour Party from 1979 to 1995. Aired December 1995),

"The term activism became a term of abuse. I mean, if you are a vicar in the church you're a Christian activist; if you're an entrepreneur you're a capitalist activist; if you're an editor of a paper you're a journalist activist. And the word activism, made, er, gave the impression of contempt for people who did anything........just to play bowls, and, or cricket, and watch telly and, 'you're just the sort of Labour man we want - we don't want any involvement, please, don't tell us what you think, your job is to get us there and shut up'."
(26 August 2012, extract from interview in The Scotsman, on David Cameron),

"I've only spoken to him once, briefly. He told me his interest in politics began when he read a book I wrote called Arguments for Democracy. I said to him ‘I take it you didn’t read Arguments for Socialism then?’ He said no."
(26 August 2012, extract from interview in The Scotsman),

"Well, I voted for Ed Miliband because he came to work in my office when he was 14. I know his parents. I think he’s the right leader. And I think he will be a good Prime Minister."
(12 August 2012, Reaction to London 2012. Published in The Independent),

"The party spirit and togetherness caught me when I didn't expect it – on my journey home from the Olympic Park. Packed into a hot overland train where us Brits are normally stony-faced, pissed off and uncommunicative, I found that practically everyone had launched into lively conversations and laughter about their day. I had assumed that the group I was talking to had all arrived together. I was wrong. They had met just an hour before in the queue for the train. Will we all go back to ignoring each other when this is over?"
(14 July 2008, BBC News 24, On Tony Blair's style of leadership),

"..He said, 'I thought I was right', well perhaps he did, but democracy isn't just to have a leader who thought he was right, it's a leader who gets consent, and discusses, and listens, and I don't think there was much of that."
(14 July 2008, Interviewed on BBC News 24 by Mr Andrew Neil, On Tony Blair),
 
'I think without any doubt he was the worst Labour leader we ever had. He abandoned the committment to a fairer society. After all, what was wrong with Clause IV, trying to get a fair reward for your labour? What's wrong with the United Nations charter, which he tore up. Why didn't he consult his cabinet, he didn't. Why didn't he consult parliament, he didn't. Why didn't he listen to the Labour Party Conference, he didn't. I mean he ran it like a medieval monarch!'


Interrupted by Mr Andrew Neil, Tony was asked why Tony Blair was the only Labour leader to win three general elections in a row,

'Well, I think because the British Establishment couldn't believe their luck. They had Thatcherite policies carried through by a Labour Prime Minister, able to call on the Labour Party to support him out of loyalty, and although he got sniping in the press.....I think New Labour has had the best press. Why? Because they were following the policies of Mrs Thatcher. That's my conviction.'
(14 July 2008, Interviewed by Andrew Neil on , on the question of nuclear weapons),

"You see, I resigned from the front bench fifty years ago because I was a defense spokesman, the first Shadow job I had, because I couldn't contemplate circumstances where we would ever be able to use nuclear weapons."
'Cynicism is a policy adopted by the right wing media in order to discourage people following the course they believe in'
(28 October 2009, The Daily Telegraph, On British banks being nationalised as evidence of Marxism,)

'Not at all. A classic case of the state funding capitalism. If it were Marxism you wouldn’t have this continuation of the bonus culture. The economic crisis we have now is a product of Thatcherism and Blairism applied to the economy. No one has said the trade unions are responsible for the credit crisis.’
(28 October 2009, The Daily Telegraph),

‘Socialism? Socialism is a democratic idea. The most socialist thing we ever did was the most popular thing we ever did, the NHS.’ But isn’t socialism just a polite version of communism? ‘Oh that’s just the media. The two attempts at socialism in my lifetime have failed because the communists weren’t democratic, and the social democrats adopted capitalism. Margaret Thatcher said Tony Blair and New Labour was her greatest achievement, and she was right,’ he says.
(28 October 2009, The Daily Telegraph, on the MP expenses scandal),

‘I think you should always be suspicious of people who want power. I don’t mean cynical, but someone who has power is someone you have to watch carefully,’ he says. ‘When my father was elected there was no pay for MPs at all. He was a journalist who went to the House in the afternoon. The interesting thing for me about the expenses scandal is that it shows the importance of having a Freedom of Information Act. If that had been around at the time, no one would have been claiming expenses. The government want to know everything about us, but it doesn’t want us to know about them.’
(28 October 2009, The Daily Telegraph),

"..Neil Kinnock. When he started in 1970 he wrote to me saying he believed everything I believed. Politicians are divided into signposts and weathercocks. Neil Kinnock gave up everything he believed in to get power and ended up with no one believing him about anything. That makes him a weathercock. Margaret Thatcher was a signpost. The trouble was, I thought her sign pointed in the wrong direction. She was not affected by spin-doctors, she said what she meant and people knew what they were voting for. I see myself as being more of a signpost, like her,"
(28 October 2009, The Daily Telegraph),

"Experience is the only real teacher and if you keep a diary you get three bites at educating yourself – when it happens, when you write it down, and when you reread it and realise you were wrong. Making mistakes is part of life. The only things I would feel ashamed of would be if I had said things I hadn’t believed in order to get on. Some politicians do do that."
(28 October 2009, The Daily Telegraph),

"I am kindly and old. But I am not harmless."
(2007 Film, "Sicko"),
"An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern."
"When my wife Caroline was dying, seven years ago, she said, 'You should tell people you're leaving Parliament to devote more time to politics.'"
"I hope I haven't given offence today; it has happened occasionally. I got my first death threat last summer - I was so chuffed."
"Clement Attlee had as much charisma as a mouse. He was absolutely monosyllabic. People say conversation is supposed to be like a game of tennis, but with Attlee it was like tossing biscuits to a dog."
"I told Gordon Brown that his budgets remind me of what my great-grandfather used to say to his son: 'It's time to go to bed: you've had enough pleasure for one day.' Gordon laughed."
"As you get older, all desire goes - medical conditions help with that - so I think of myself now as a biological Buddhist."
"Britain today is suffering from galloping obsolescence."
(12 December 2008, Sir David Frost Show, BBC One),

"..You see there are two flames burning in the human heart all the time. The flame of anger against injustice, and the flame of hope you can build a better world. And my job at 83 is going round and fanning both flames...because people need encouragement. Everyone needs encouragement if you're going to do the best you can."
(12 December 2008, Sir David Frost Show, on President Elect Obama),

"..Well, what interested me about Obama was he gave people hope. And people have been so depressed. So worried. And now here's this young Afro-American came along and said 'we can do it. Yes we can'. Now what happens we'll have to wait and see.."
(21 March 1996, Hansard, on the intergovernmental conference, and European Union),

"Let me put it more simply still: communism run by commissars from Moscow did not work, and nor will capitalism run by Commissioners in Brussels. Both deny people their right to develop in their own way."
(2 December 1992, Hansard, Treaty on The European Union),
"Another point which has not been touched on is that, because of the way law making is done in the Community, even if it is by qualified majority, it is easy to make a law but there has to be the same majority or unanimity to repeal it.
For many years it has rightly been a principle of this House that no Parliament can bind its successors. In European union every decision binds its successors because one cannot change it. Even if a British Government were elected on the issue of repealing a piece of this legislation, prospective Members of Parliament would not be able to tell the electorate that they would repeal it because the mechanism to do so would not exist. European Community legislation is like a lobster pot—it is easy to get in but very difficult to get out."
(2 December 1992, Hansard, Treaty on The European Union),

"The idea that somehow the third world will benefit if we enter this arrangement is an illusion. It is not true, and it encourages the idea that we are no good. I have never believed in the conspiracy theory, but I do not believe that democracy is such a powerful force that some people have wanted to try to take it back. Not long ago the suffragettes had their problems. I put a plaque in the broom cupboard in the Crypt to the memory of Emily Wilding Davidson. There are no memorials in this place to the people who fought for democracy.
The best way to get round democracy is to pass the real power to someone who is not elected and cannot be removed. This treaty is an anti-chartist, anti-suffragette campaign. We have been told for years that this nation is not good enough to govern itself, that it has to be governed from Brussels. We have been told that we cannot defend ourselves but must have NATO, and that we cannot organise our economy and must have the IMF. We are told that this is a nation of lazy workers—militant shop stewards, inefficient managers and football hooligans—a nation waiting for discipline. Of course, the discipline will come from Europe."
(24 September 1992, Hansard, on economic policy, extracted from a speech),

"I will not make a political speech, but my own opinion is that this country's problems will be solved in Britain, by us—and only when we have solved them will we be able to have satisfactory relations with other countries. If we want an industry, we must see to it that there is an industry. We do not leave the police, Army and hospitals to market forces; we decide to have them. Agriculture has been sustained that way. No economic magic—devaluation, floating pound, exchange rate mechanism or independent central bank—will guarantee that Britain retains and expands its industrial base.
The real cause of the problem stretches across the House. In the 1980s, most, if not all, of us were persuaded that market forces would provide a prosperous economy. They do not, because one cannot close down Rolls-Royce today and open it tomorrow, any more than one can close down a farm today and reopen it tomorrow. That is the only controversial point that I will make.
This is not an economic debate but a political debate. Longer ago than the 1980s every party—my own was
equally involved—reached the conclusion that, because world capital was so powerful, the country must integrate itself deeper and deeper into a structure in Europe, where power was to be moved from the electors of the Parliaments to the European Commissioners and to a Council of Ministers, which makes laws in secret. It must be the only Parliament in the world that meets in secret. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) asked why the Council of Ministers should meet in public, as though it were a Cabinet—but it is a parliament.
We are rapidly moving towards full European union. I do not use the word "Maastricht" any more, because it does not mean anything to a pensioner who cannot manage on his money. If we ask, "Do you want this country absorbed into a full European union?" people know exactly what we are saying. A referendum does not mean much to people. But if we ask, "Do you think that you have the right to decide before this country is put into a full European union?" the public understand. Let us not use terms such as Maastricht, referendum, or managed exchange rates—let us call a spade a spade. The people have the right to decide the future of this country.
The treaty that was meant to unite Europe has divided every nation, every party in Europe and every party in the House. I have never known anything more divisive. I will not mention the treaty's name because I do not believe in it, any more than I believe in talking about Thatcherism. I can only say that I only represent Chesterfield and Denmark tonight, so I have a bigger constituency. I also represent half of France, so I cannot be described as holding isolated views, or be called a typical little Englander when the Danes agree with me.
To talk of being pro-Europe or anti-Europe is a plain lie. We were born Europeans and will die Europeans. It is a matter of geography. The question is what sort of Europe it will be. Am I anti-British because I do not like the Prime Minister or his policies? Of course not. Is one anti-American because one does not believe that they should have done this or that in Panama? We are discussing our own future and that of Europe. I introduced the
Commonwealth of Europe Bill, and when the Maastricht treaty—there, I have said it now—dies, I believe that that Bill will acquire greater relevance."
(March 2005, The Guardian),

"No party leader should decide who should stand for parliament regardless of the views of those who chose him or her. The use of organisational methods to suppress dissent in politics is deeply undemocratic and could initiate a procedure that might - if carried to its logical conclusion - allow a party leaders to nominate members of the House of Commons.
..And it is for the same reason that proportional representation on a list system, where the list is drawn up by the party leaders, would be so dangerous. MPs should be loyal to their own beliefs, their constituencies and their parties and not be worrying all the time about whether their party leader might take them off the list for being independent."
(June 2005, The Guardian),

"The Commons does not elect our commissioner in Brussels and we are only allowed to vote for a party list in the European elections, leaving the prime minister to select all the Labour MEPs just as he chooses all the members of the House of Lords. This explains what Peter Mandelson meant when he said years ago that "the era of representative government is coming to an end".
In 1834, when the Commons burned down, crowds stood on the other side of the Thames and cheered because they had lost confidence in it. If that ever happened again, the responsibility would lie with those ministers and MPs who are undermining democracy in the name of security and using fear to push it through."
(June 2005, The Guardian),

"Since the attack on the twin towers, in which many innocent Americans were killed, we have been told that we are engaged in a war against terrorism that threatens our way of life and our liberties. From that moment on we have been asked to adopt a whole range of measures that pose what many believe could be a greater threat to those very liberties and to our way of life.
That fact obliges us to examine them, one by one, as a part of the whole, lest we slip into an acceptance of a situation where we can be seen as acquiescing to restrictions on our political and personal freedoms that would have been unthinkable a few years ago."
(November, 2005, The Guardian),

"Most astonishing of all, in the light of the present discussions, is that the problem of Iran developing such a huge nuclear capacity caused no problems for the Americans (in 1977) because, at that time, the Shah was seen as a strong ally, and had indeed been put on the throne with American help.
There could hardly be a clearer example of double standards than this, and it fits in with the arming of Saddam to attack Iran after the Shah had been toppled, and the complete silence over Israel's huge nuclear armoury, which is itself a breach of the non-proliferation treaty.


...As I am strongly opposed to nuclear weapons and civil nuclear power, these comments should not be taken as endorsing what Iran is doing; but Britain's past nuclear links with Iran should encourage us to be very cautious and oppose those whose arguments could be presented as justifying a case for war, which cannot be justified."
(January 2006, The Guardian),

"The Labour party must start preparing for the leadership election that will follow Tony Blair's resignation. The most important task is to begin identifying the issues around which it will be centred. The idea that Gordon Brown will succeed without an election and move quietly into No 10, carrying through the policies now being introduced by New Labour - of which he was a founder member - all wrapped up in the union jack is a complete illusion
No one seriously believes that, after the Tories and Liberals have elected their leaders, members of the Labour party will settle for an automatic succession that denies them any choice.
Indeed, this election could and should provide the opportunity for a real and open public discussion about the future, now that David Cameron and the Liberals have joined Tony Blair in an informal post-Thatcherite consensus - which we are told is in the centre but is actually out on the right of British politics, relying on Rupert Murdoch to support it whichever party comes to power.

The greatest challenge will be to reintroduce democracy into a stagnant political system where the centralisation of power has fatally eroded it. Any candidate who came out against the Iraq war, privatisation and the crude commercialisation of our school system, with a hidden return to selection, at the expense of local education authorities, could be sure of party and public support, as would those who argued for pensions linked to earnings, an end to student fees, and a non-nuclear energy policy based on renewables and conservation.
Few would disagree that the rail services should be returned to public ownership and that trade union rights should be brought into line with the provisions of the International Labour Organisation, to which Britain is a signatory.
There is also an urgent need for a re-assertion of our civil liberties, including the principle of jury trials, the presumption of innocence, and a proper supervision of the security services - which may soon be authorised to bug MPs.
Such a programme would require substantial increases in the highest levels of income tax and reductions in public expenditure made possible by our withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan and a clear decision not to waste billions on upgrading the Trident system or on costly and unwanted identity cards.
These are all modest proposals but, if the party campaigned for them between now and polling day, I believe they would have a wide popular appeal that would restore confidence in the parliamentary process. This has been seriously eroded by the present system, where hordes of unaccountable advisers debate policies in private and then try to force them on us by using batteries of focus groups and spin doctors, who grossly underestimate our intelligence and expect us to do what we are told."
(on his father),

"What I learned from him was so simple and so important: that I should think for myself, say what I believe, and never attack people personally."
(January 2007, letter to The Guardian, on the party vote on who will succeed Tony Blair),

"And if a candidate of the left received sufficient nominations, then party members would have the chance of giving their judgment on, say, the Iraq and Afghan wars, Trident, privatisation, trade union rights, civil liberties, education, pensions. The result, whatever it was, would reveal the true strength of those who do not support New Labour, and would introduce a new and electorally significant element inside and outside parliament.
In short, what matters now is not so much the name of the candidates but how the debate shapes up and how those who are candidates respond to policy arguments, different from the ones they now support, for they will all have to answer questions put to them by anyone who has the vote, and their replies will be studied with great care. It is also important that these debates take place in an atmosphere that is not completely dominated by the mass media and that public meetings take place where party members can put questions themselves and join in the discussion.
All those who are candidates must receive fair coverage in the press, radio and TV, for if all the reporting centres around those candidates who are held to be acceptable to the establishment, the alternative views may be effectively censored."
"Believing, as I do, that all progressive change comes from below, parliament has to be seen as the buckle that links demands in the streets to laws in the statute book, demonstrations to Downing Street, and that requires a much more powerful House of Commons that is seen as a representative of the popular will, and not an instrument of management used to control the public."
"We must also deal with the absurdity of the Lords, a house based solely on appointment, which can only be resolved by a fully elected chamber in line with the recent vote in the Commons, whose decisions we are now told must be respected."
(July 2007),

"..My experience since I left the Commons has been that many are angry that no one seems to be listening, and do not believe what they are told. These reactions are highly political but do not connect with the way our democracy is functioning. Spin has played some part in this but the real problem is much deeper, and may best be identified as the progressive centralisation of power in the hands of the previous prime minister, who took all the decisions himself, ignoring the cabinet, parliament, party and the public, and was able to do so because of the patronage, deriving from the prerogative, that he exercised and abused."
(Stop The War Coalition march, October 2007, letter to The Guardian,)

"The authority for this march derives from our ancient right to free speech and assembly enshrined in our history, of which we often boast and which we vigorously defended in two world wars."
(February 2008, in The Guardian),

Dear Member of Parliament,

I am writing to ask you to make it possible for me - and every elector in Britain - to vote on the
Lisbon Treaty
in a referendum. For the Lisbon Treaty transfers important powers which belong to us, to others in Europe we do not elect, cannot remove, and who therefore do not have to listen to us in the way that MPs listen to their constituents.
Britain must work closely with its European neighbours, but if this cooperation is to succeed, the arrangements must be democratically approved by all the people of Europe.
There is a case for a fully federal Europe. But surely those who take that view should, as democrats, want to win a majority for it in a referendum. That is why this decision must be made by the British people as a whole, because it will affect us all irrevocably and the Lisbon Treaty can never be amended or repealed by any future government that we elect.
Moreover, if three-line whips are imposed, telling any MPs how they must vote, it could not then even be argued that parliament had decided the matter freely. For all these reasons I hope you yourself will feel able to vote for a referendum, thus safeguarding the rights of your electors.


Tony Benn
(2009, of the current recession),

"In this sense the present economic crisis is actually a crisis of democracy as the market has taken from parliament the power to shape the policy of the nation. Elected leaders, such as George Bush and the prime minister, have been left the role of commentators on the crisis and suppliers of endless cash in an attempt to save a system that failed us."
"It used to be clear that the ruling classes had the wealth, authority and power while those underneath did not. This started to change when the right to appoint our rulers moved from the wallet to the ballot. Now they are doing everything they can to preserve their power. This is why democratic rights and civil liberties are so important and essential. We must now preserve our right to speak, to assemble, to organise, to move around freely and protect our identity, and not become crushed by the state."
"I regard democracy as the most radical and revolutionary idea of our time. The powers that rule us talk about it. But they resist it with all the wiles and techniques at their command. "
"Each and every one of us has to be given confidence. If anyone asks me what I hope people will say of me after I have gone, I hope it will be, "Tony Benn - he encouraged us." I would like that written on my gravestone."
"My mother used to read the Bible to me every night. She told me that the story of the Bible is the story of the conflict between the kings and the prophets: the kings who have power and the prophets who teach righteousness. She taught me to support the prophets over the kings. It's got me into a lot of trouble in my life! But the older I get, the more relevant I find it."
"I've had lots of identity cards in my life. I don't mind an identity card with my name, my photograph and my address. This database is a deadly threat because it can be used for blackmail, we now know it probably can be left on a computer thing on a train and be bought by somebody else; and I give you an example: I had a new passport last year and it was using the biometric, it had a chip on it, and when it arrived it said I was a member of parliament. Now, I left parliament 8 years ago - if the government doesn't know by now I'm not a member of parliament how can you rely on anything on the ID cards and you will find when you are given your ID card you won't know what's on it, it maybe someone of a similar name and they made a mistake and you'll never go to America again? And remember this, all the information we gather we have to give to the Americans about our citizens as a deal was done when we got their bomb. We don't have nuclear weapons. They lend them to us - we have to give them all the details about every individual in Britain. It's pretty frightening isn't it?"
"Education is an escalator that goes along side us. But, once you break the tradition of the common school you do create classes in society - the elite who are clever and the rest who are taught to shut up and do what they're told"
"As a minister, I experienced the power of industrialists and bankers to get their way by use of the crudest form of economic pressure, even blackmail, against a Labour Government. Compared to this, the pressure brought to bear in industrial disputes is minuscule. This power was revealed even more clearly in 1976 when the IMF secured cuts in our public expenditure. These lessons led me to the conclusion that the UK is only superficially governed by MPs and the voters who elect them. Parliamentary democracy is, in truth, little more than a means of securing a periodical change in the management team, which is then allowed to preside over a system that remains in essence intact. If the British people were ever to ask themselves what power they truly enjoyed under our political system they would be amazed to discover how little it is, and some new Chartist agitation might be born and might quickly gather momentum."
"..and when I think with all the technological capacities we have now we could end the problems of world poverty or if we misuse them we could destroy the human race and sometimes I'm so gloomy I find it hard to do my diary and sometimes I'm so excited I wonder whether it's good for someone of 77 to feel as excited as I do!..."
"Years ago I came across a quotation by an old Chinese philosopher called Lao Tzu, who said, as to the best leaders - the people do not notice their existence. The next best - the people honour and praise. The next best - they hate. The next best - they fear. But when the best leader's work is done - the people say they did it ourselves. And that is my reading of how progress occurs."
"My experience of parliament, which I love, is that it's the last place to get the message. When parliament decides something you can be pretty sure the public made up it's mind 4 or 5 years ago, that may be true even about the tax increases to pay for the Health Service. And that's how progress comes"
"People do feel managed and not represented"
"The teachers explode a pyrotechnic in the sky and all for a moment you can see the landscape, where you come from, where you could go, whereas the kings and presidents shine a torch and say here is the path you must follow. So my starting point is knowledge frees you."
"the Tory party is the enemy of democracy"
"Democracy is not just voting every 5 years and watching 'Big Brother' in between and wondering why nothing happens. Democracy is what we do and say where we live and work"
"...and of course globalisation now has had a tremendous effect on democracy because power has moved. The World Trade Organisation, nobody elected them. They have enormous power. The IMF, which has just viritually destroyed the Argentine, nobody elects them, and The European Union as well. I was a member of the Council of Ministers for 4 years and in the period, in 1977, of the British presidency of the European Union I was the President of the Energy Council of Ministers and it was an extraordinary experience because it's the only committee I've attended in my life where even when I was the President of it I wasn't allowed to put a (white)paper in! I had to wait for the Commission to put a paper in, and they talk about a European Parliament but the European Parliament doesn't pass the laws at all. The European Parliament is an advisory body - the laws are made by the Council of Ministers, in secret. The only parliament in the world that meets in secret. And it can pass laws that repeal our laws and impose new laws on us without ever going through the British parliament, the French assembly or whatever, and this is, in my opinion, because I'm not a eurosceptic or anti-European in any way, but I'm not going to be governed by people I can't get rid of, and that is the issue that we will have to face when the time comes and centralised executive power is going on everywhere.
"You know, when I was born in 1925, women were not allowed to vote til they were 30. Men were so arrogant they patted the women on the head and said, you're not quite mature enough til you're 30, and women didn't get the vote because men woke up one moning and said we've been a bit unfair to the wife?! The Suffragetes chained themselves to the railings, one of them in the House of Commons, they were arrested, they were convicted, they went to prison, they went on hunger strike, they were forcibly fed, and in such a row that women got the vote but it all came out of the detemination of people to be properly represented and the Labour Party emerged from all that because when their trade unions had been established and the vote was there then working men and women said now we want to be represented in parliament, and Keir Hardie, one of the early Labour members of parliament, said the Labour representation committee is Labour's answer to the federation of masters and trusts, and that's where my convictions are about. People speak, if you hold the views I hold, as if you were a rebel. I'm not. I'm a traditionalist. But of a different tradition. Not the tradition of bowing and scraping to somebody better than yourself but the tradition of fighting for human rights and democracy and freedom and internationalism.
"the engineers, I think, are the real revolutionaries"
"...then, the final control of information of course is the government itself.The 30 year rule. Now there must be big debates going in Whitehall at the moment about Palestine, about Afghanistan, about possible war against Iraq and I won't know about it for 30 years.I'll be a 107 before I know what's going on now?..why can't we know now? and the reason is the government have a theory, all governments, nothing to do with this particular one, all governments have a theory that the national interest is the same as their own political interest, and it's not, and that is another particular aspect"
"It seems to me that the most powerful religion of all, much more powerful than Christianity, Judaism, Islam and so on, is the people who worship ....money! That is really the most powerful religion and the banks are bigger than the cathedrals, the headquarters of the multinaional companies are bigger than the mosques or the synagogues. Every hour on the news we have the business news?! Every hour! It's a sort of hymn to capitalism....the idea that money is what it is all about!......and with it comes this extra ordinary cult of management consultants."
"....when the Europeans were in Africa we occupied the country, we stole the land, and we sold the people into slavery...and now we tell them that they must practise the highest democractic standards....now that is something they remember even if we are not told it."
"It's an old progressive saying, 'We are many, they are few'. But, if you want to do it..you've got to do it yourself. No good waiting for some new leader to gallop on to the stage on a white horse and wave at you and say, vote for me and I'll solve your problems. That's no solution. You have to do it yourself. The human race are like survivors in a life boat with one loaf of bread. There are only three ways of distributing it: - you sell it so the rich gobble it up, you fight for it so the strong get it all, or you share it. And that is the choice we have to make and that can only really be done in a democratic world, and that's why democracy is worth working for."
"The basis of democracy is the belief that we were all born equal and that equality must be accepted by those in power. Probably the main lessons are - if you don't keep up the pressure for democratic control ..you lose it. It's 'use it or lose it', and that is something people find hard to understand. There is never a final victory for democracy, it's always a struggle in every generation and you have to take up the cause time and time and time again."
"I did not enter the Labour Party forty-seven years ago to have our manifesto written by Dr. Mori, Dr. Gallup and Mr. Harris."
"People in debt become hopeless and hopeless people don't vote. So, they always say everyone must vote..but I think if the poor in Britain or in the United States turned out and voted for people who represented their interests there would be a real democratic revolution and so they don't want it to happen...I think there are two ways in which people are controlled. First of all, frighten people, and secondly demoralise them...an educated healthy and confident nation is harder to govern"
"..and this idea of choice which capitalists talk about all the time. 'You've got to have a choice'. Choice depends on the freedom to choose. If you're shackled with debt you don't have a freedom to choose."
"Well, it all began with Democracy. Before we had the vote all the power was in the hands of rich people. If you had money you could get health care, education, look after yourself when you were old, and what democracy did was to give the poor the vote and it moved power from the marketplace to the polling station, from the wallet...to the ballot."
"If there 's one remaining function of being 83, for the rest of my life I'd like to encourage people because throughout my life I've had such encouragement and I'm so appreciative of it, and if you encourage people they do better than if you kick them about and tell them they've failed their 11 plus. I hope I haven't given offence. It has happened before. Thank you very much."
"Well I came across Marx rather late in life actually, and when I read him, two things: first of all I realised that he'd come to the conclusion about capitalism which I'd come to much later, and I was a bit angry he'd thought of it first!; and secondly, I see Marx who was an old Jew, as the last of the Old Testament Prophets, this old bearded man working in the British Library, studying capitalism, that's what 'Das Kapital' was about, it was an explanation of British capitalism. And I thought to myself, 'Well anyone could write a book like that, but what infuses, what comes out of his writing, is the passionate hostility to the injustice of capitalism. He was a Prophet, and so I put him in that category as an Old Testament Prophet. "
"If you meet a powerful person--ask them five questions:
"What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?"
If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system."
"If democracy is destroyed in Britain it will be not the communists, Trotskyists or subversives but this House which threw it away. The rights that are entrusted to us are not for us to give away. Even if I agree with everything that is proposed, I cannot hand away powers lent to me for five years by the people of Chesterfield. I just could not do it. It would be theft of public rights."
"The general election of 1983 has produced one important result that has passed virtually without comment in the media. It is that, for the first time since 1945, a political party with an openly socialist policy has received the support of over eight and a half million people. This is a remarkable development by any standards and it deserves some analysis ... the 1983 Labour manifesto commanded the loyalty of millions of voters and a democratic socialist bridge-head in public understanding and support can be made. "
"Some people say there is no difference between left and right? maybe....but there is a difference between right and wrong"
"Having served for nearly half a century in the House of Commons, I now want more time to devote to politics and more freedom to do so."
"I was born about a quarter of a mile from where we are sitting now and I was here in London during the Blitz. And every night I went down into the shelter. 500 people killed, my brother was killed, my friends were killed. And when the Charter of the UN was read to me, I was a pilot coming home in a troop ship: 'We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.' That was the pledge my generation gave to the younger generation and you tore it up. And it's a war crime that's been committed in Iraq, because there is no moral difference between a stealth bomber and a suicide bomber. Both kill innocent people for political reasons."
"My Great-grandfather was a Congregational Minister and my Mother was a Bible scholar, and I was brought up on the Bible, that the story of the Bible was conflict between the kings who had power, and the prophets who preached righteousness. And I was taught to believe in the prophets, got me into a lot of trouble. And my Dad said to me when I was young, "Dare to be a Daniel, Dare to stand alone, Dare to have a purpose firm, Dare to let it (be) known."
"It was ridiculous. They threw me out of Parliament because apparently my blood had turned blue"
"You have to be positive....Hope is the fuel of progress. Fear is a prison into which we confine ourselves"
"To quote my grandmother, a tough, pragamtic Scot, " 'the good thing about your last journey..is you don't need to pack' "
"the real function of the United Nations is to act as the custodian of social justice. It should not just serve as a policeman"
"People talk about the 'special relationship'. (Harold)Wilson flew to Washington and told the Americans he refused to send British troops into Vietnam. President Johnson stood up and raised a toast "to our DISassociate", referring to our Prime Minister. The same goes for Attlee who flew to Washington to stop President Truman dropping the nuclear bomb on Korea."
"I do not share the general view that market forces are the basis for political liberty. Every time I see a homeless person living in a cardboard box in London, I see that person as a victim of market forces. Everytime I see a pensioner who cannot manage, I know that he is a victim of market forces"
"We may win elections from time to time. But all that is worthless unless our thoughts and actions are firmly grounded on moral truth"
"The Queen? Well, I get annoyed about people attacking her. She's done a very boring job for a very long time. It's a distraction. The Crown, however, is a totally different thing, it allows the Prime Minister to act alone, pass laws in Europe without listening to us. The monarchy has no power whatsoever"
"Labour has never been a socialist party..it has some socialists in it. Just like there are some Christians in The Church of England"
"It is wholly wrong to blame Marx for what was done in his name , as to blame Jesus for what was done in his"
"All war represents a failure of diplomacy."
"A faith is something you die for, a doctrine is something you kill for. There is all the difference in the world.”