TRIBUTES have been paid across Gwent to “political battler” Tony Benn, who died at home on Friday at the age of 88.
Paul Murphy, Labour MP for Torfaen, said he still cherished a cassette tape of an address Mr Benn gave to the Pontypool Labour Party in the late 1970s.
“Tony Benn was a giant of the British Labour movement and politics won’t be the same without him. I served in three Parliaments with him and found him to be an extremely courteous and fascinating individual,” said Mr Murphy.
The Labour MP for Newport West, Paul Flynn, said Mr Benn’s diaries “remain a continuing inspiration to politicians of conviction, passion and principle.
“Sadly he retired from parliament but he did not retire from his high principles and passion. To the final months he continued his tireless campaign to teach, enlightened and inspire,” he said.
Islwyn Labour MP Chris Evans said: “Whether you agreed with him or not, Tony Benn was one of the figures who shaped the political landscape of Britain over the past 40 years.”
David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouth, said Mr Benn was “completely the opposite politically of the Conservatives and even New Labour.”
But he said he “always respected a political battler”: “He stuck to his guns even after the Labour party moved a long way from his position.”
Plaid AM for South Wales East Lindsay Whittle said: “Although I did not always agree with him I respected his views. Most were identical to my own. I send his family my sympathy on their loss.”
Chris Evans, Newport Labour Rogerstone councillor, said: “Tony Benn was a political trailblazer, and inspirational writer, who I read extensively growing up. Whilst my politics are now firmly in the ‘centre ground’, Tony certainly helped spark my interest in politics.”
Dimitri Batrouni, Monmouthshire council opposition Labour group leader, said: "He was clear on his views and beliefs, something I think the public wants more of from politicians of all colours. Sadly, there is not many conviction politicians like him anymore."
Hedley McCarthy, Labour leader of Blaenau Gwent council, said it was particularly sad with the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike “that we should lose Tony Benn at this time having played such a big role in that struggle.”
Cllr McCarthy said Mr Benn had spoken in Abertillery twice during the strike.
Jessica Morden, Labour MP for Newport East, said: “I remember when he came to the Riverfront in 2010 to speak after a play about the Chartists. He was inspiring and principled as ever – he always took time to speak to young people wanting to get involved in politics.”
Her counterpart in the Assembly John Griffiths added: “People who were left wing very often got involved either in the Labour party or politics generally because Tony Benn was such an inspiring figure.”
First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, said: “Tony Benn will be remembered as one of Britain’s most prominent politicians. He was a man of great principle who worked tirelessly in the world of politics all through his adult life. Even when he stood down from the House of Commons, he remained active and was an inspiration to many who believed passionately in social justice.
“I am sure he will be missed by those across the political spectrum, and my thoughts are with his family.”
Cllr Bob Bright, leader of Newport City Council, said; “I was fortunate to have met Tony Benn on number of occasions in recent decades – a quiet, compassionate man who always spoke with integrity, purpose and vision, and whose words and opinions inspired generations."