WEARSIDERS have been paying tribute to Labour stalwart Tony Benn who has died at the age of 88.
The at times controversial member of parliament for 50 years, a cabinet minister under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan, died peacefully at home this morning, his family said.
Aged just 25 when he first entered Parliament, Mr Benn subsequently renounced his peerage, which he inherited on his father’s death, to remain in the House of Commons.
Benn, who was married to Caroline and had four children, including son Hilary who followed in his footsteps to become an MP, retired from parliament in 2001, famously announcing that he wanted to concentrate on politics.
Tributes have been flooding in on Twitter as news of his death spread, with Northumbria police and crime commissioner Vera Baird QC tweeting: “1st met Tony Benn Durham Miner’s Gala in 70s. He said he didn’t know there were young lawyers. We should sack some old judges & make room.”
Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson said: “Very sad news about Tony Benn. An incredible orator who captivated his audience. Thoughts with @hilarybennmp and the whole family.”
Sunderland Minster’s Revered Chris Howson tweeted: “Tony Benn, hero of the left, has died. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”
“So sad, the death of Tony Benn, a towering figure to the Labour movement, my thoughts are with @hilarybennmp and all of the Benn family,” tweeted Sunderland Central MP and energy minister Julie Elliott,
And Sunderland Conservative Dominic McDonough’s tweet read: “Very sorry to hear about the passing of Tony Benn. A man who stood up and fought for his beliefs with passion and determination.”
Sunderland People’s Assembly Against Austerity tweeted: “RIP Tony Benn co-founder of @pplsassembly and indefatigable campaigner against austerity, war and oppression.”
Easington MP Grahame Morris tweeted: “The passing of a political legend. RIP Tony Benn. Principled radical, great orator but always decent polite and kind.”
In a statement, his children Stephen, Hilary, Melissa and Joshua said: “It is with great sadness that we announce that our father Tony Benn died peacefully early this morning at his home in west London surrounded by his family.
“We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all the NHS staff and carers who have looked after him with such kindness in hospital and at home.
“We will miss above all his love which has sustained us throughout our lives. But we are comforted by the memory of his long, full and inspiring life and so proud of his devotion to helping others as he sought to change the world for the better. Arrangements for his funeral will be announced in due course.”