Andrew Whitaker’s hagiographical account of Tony Benn (Perspective, 29 October) portrays a diarist who, by his own account, never made a mistake or held an incorrect political opinion. In fact Viscount Stansgate, public schoolboy and president of the Oxford Union, tried to hide his privileged background when he assumed leadership of the 1960s radical chic.
His ludicrous appointment to Secretary of State for Industry by Harold Wilson seemed wholly symbolic of the death-wish of the disastrous 1970s Labour government. After supporting the miners’ strike he spent the rest of his parliamentary career trying to present his Commonwealth of Britain Bill, effectively abolishing the monarchy.
Sadly, the national treasure’s reputation never recovered from a Gordon Brown moment when he shouted down housewives’ favourite Jimmy Young in his Radio 2 interview.
Political memoires are typically self-serving but can be informative and on occasion (eg Rab Butler) of literary merit but Tony Benn’s Last Diaries are pretty much the former.
(Dr) John Cameron