Sir Peter Tapsell MP tribute to Tony Benn

Sir Peter Tapsell MP
Sir Peter Tapsell MP

Sir Peter Tapsell has paid tribute to former Labour MP Tony Benn, who died last week.

Speaking to the Leader, the Louth and Horncastle MP called him one of the best speakers in politics he had ever known.

Sir Peter said: “I knew him quite well over a long period of years. In his private life he was very gentle and kind with extraordinary good manners and a lot of charm.

“About 35 years ago my wife found herself sitting next to him at a dinner and of course did not know who he was. Afterwards she said that he was the most delightful man. Everyone who knew him privately would say the same.

“As soon as he got on a platform he had a different personality. He was a brilliant orator. It always seemed to me he talked absolute nonsense. He spoke so well he carried you along with him.

“He wrecked the Labour Party. Harold Wilson could not stand him. He famously said of him, ‘Benn immatures as he gets older’. That actually was one of his attractive qualities. He retained the boyishness and irresponsibility of a young man.

“He was always exceptionally kind to me. He once said to me about one of my speeches, ‘It was one of the best I have heard in the House of Commons.’ He was a very good man in the proper sense of the word.”

Sir Peter recalled when Tony Benn was a minister and he visited his office ‘he always drank nothing but tea in a huge tin mug.’

Sir Peter also knew Tony Benn’s father Viscount Stansgate.

He has been able to say to Tony Benn’s son Hilary, currently a Labour MP, that he knew his grandfather.

In 1960 when Viscount Stansgate died Tony Benn became a peer and was prevented from sitting in the House of Commons.

Tony Benn became the first peer to renounce his title and returned to the Commons after winning a by-election.

Sir Peter was involved in that historic event.

He said: “When his father died he inherited his father’s title. He desperately wanted to reverse that. It eventually came to the House of Commons for a vote and I was one of a relatively few number of Conservatives who voted in favour of that.

“That enabled him to come back into the House of Commons. He always remembered I had voted for him to renounce his peerage.”