Funeral held for Labour stalwart Tony Benn

Tony Benn was given an emotional send-off yesterday as figures as diverse as a former IRA commander, hard-right Tory opponents and a television impressionist gathered in Westminster to pay their respects.

Tony Benn's coffin arrives at the church carried by his son Hilary Benn. Picture: PA

Cherie Blair joined leading Labour figures, including leader Ed Miliband, shadow chancellor Ed Balls and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper in St Margaret’s Church, which was packed to its 750-strong capacity, for the funeral of the former cabinet minister.

But, in a mark of Mr Benn’s influence and standing, the congregation also drew figures from across the political spectrum. Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, the former IRA commander who is now Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister joined Conservatives including chief whip Sir George Young, his predecessor Andrew Mitchell, Michael Heseltine and prominent backbencher Bill Cash along with former Liberal leader Lord Steel for the ceremony.

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Also among the mourners were Unite union boss Len McCluskey and impressionist Rory Bremner .

Tony Benn's coffin arrives at the church carried by his son Hilary Benn. Picture: PA

In an interview with The Scotsman last year, Mr Benn spoke out against Scottish independence, saying splitting up Britain would divide him in half with a knife.

Mr Benn said the fact that his mother Margaret Eadie, a famous theologian, was from Glasgow had a great bearing on his view.

He said: “If Scotland wants to be independent they have the absolute right to do so. But I think nationalism is a mistake.”