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Labor Party firebrand Tony Benn dies at age 88

March 14, 2014 at 11:49 AM   |   Comments

LONDON, March 14 (UPI) -- Longtime British Labor Party leader and leftish lawmaker Tony Benn died at his home in London after a long illness Friday, his family said. He was 88.

His children said in a statement, "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," the Guardian reported.

"We will miss above all his love which has sustained us throughout our lives," the statement said. "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."

Benn had been in ill health since he had a stroke in 2012.

At 25, Benn entered Parliament in 1950 as a representative for Bristol South East, becoming the youngest member of the House of Commons.

He left the House 10 years later because the death of his father, a Labor peer, meant he inherited the title of Viscount Stansgate. Benn campaigned for the law to be amended and returned to his seat three years later after renouncing the title.

Benn was minister for technology, industry and energy and campaigned against Britain's membership in the European Union and oversaw the development of Concorde supersonic jetliner.

After a successful Cabinet career, Benn worked in Labor Party politics for many years, but saw his influence wane as the party moved more toward the center.

He left parliament in 2001, after the first term of Prime Minister Tony Blair's government.

Benn was a divisive figure within the Labor Party because of his support for traditional socialism, the Guardian said.

"The death of Tony Benn represents the loss of an iconic figure of our age. He will be remembered as a champion of the powerless, a great parliamentarian and a conviction politician," Labor leader Ed Miliband said.

"Tony Benn spoke his mind and spoke up for his values," Miliband said. "Whether you agreed with him or disagreed with him, everyone knew where he stood and what he stood for."

Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: "Tony Benn was a magnificent writer, speaker and campaigner. There was never a dull moment listening to him, even if you disagreed with him."

Benn was preceded in death by his wife, Caroline, and is survived by four children.

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