Friday 14 March 2014

Thank You Tony Benn - A Life Well Lived

So many of us will have happy memories of Tony Benn, a man who appeared whenever a good cause needed supporting. His political life is amazing, even prior to becoming an MP in 1950. Unlike Bob Crow who died earlier this week - there is no sadness or shock at the news of his death - Tony had a full life and lived it to the upmost.

My first meeting with him was one of the most inspirational moments in my life. I was 18 years old, and earnestly doing my politics A level. We had been taken to Westminster Methodist Central Hall to listen to speakers from all the mainstream parties.

Tony was clear, funny and impressed everyone there. But it was his answer to one question that struck me most. I was at the time, heavily into the left, but had also recently become a Christian, and found myself suffering huge derision from my comrades who could mostly not accept my faith. When Tony was asked why he had become a socialist, he gave a remarkable reply.

"It is easier to say why I became a Christian" he said, and explained how he had rejected mainstream religion, but had encountered Jesus as a person who believed that the world could be a better place, and followed that belief to the very end.

That response meant so much to me, an acknowledgement that my faith journey could also be a political one. I was so moved I did the oddest thing. I wanted to thank him, so I chased after him when the conference ended. He disappeared into a room, so I followed him in. Embarrassingly, it turned out to be the toilets! He looked a little surprised, but graciously shook my hand and accepted my thanks!

I encountered Tony on many occasions since, mostly on demos and conferences for socialism and for peace - but I'll never forget that first meeting.

Tony, you leave a huge legacy - we will miss you greatly. Thank you for a life well lived.

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