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Authors: Tony Benn

Dare to Be a Daniel

Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Also by Tony Benn

Title Page

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgements

Part One: My Faith

Honest Doubt

Part Two: Then

1. Family Tree

2. My Parents

3. Life at Home

4. Growing Up

5. Michael, David and Jeremy

6. How I Became a Philistine!

7. The Outbreak of War

8. From Oxford to the RAF

9. Caroline

Part Three: Now: Essays and Speeches

Introduction

1. The Reality of Parliament

2. Whitehall Behind Closed Doors

3. The New Roman Empire

4. A New Foreign and Defence Policy

5. Peace

6. Justice

7. Democracy

8. Socialism

Picture Section

Copyright

About the Book

Born into a family with a strong, radical dissenting tradition in which enterprise and public service were combined, Tony Benn was taught to believe that the greatest sin in life was to waste time and money. Life in his Victorian-Edwardian family home in Westminster was characterised by austerity, the last vestiges of domestic service, the profound influence of his mother, a dedicated Christian and feminist, and his colourful and courageous father, who was elected as a Liberal MP in 1906 and later served in Labour Cabinets under Ramsay MacDonald and Clem Atlee.
Dare to Be a Daniel
feelingly recalls Tony Benn’s years as one of three brothers experiencing life in the nursery, the agonies of adolescence and of school, where boys were taught to ‘keep their minds clean’, and the shadow of fascism and war with its disruption and family loss; and describes his emergence from the war as a keen socialist about to embark upon marriage and an unknown political future. The book ends with some of Tony Benn’s reflections on many of the most important and controversial issues of our time.

About the Author

Tony Benn was first elected to the House of Commons in 1950 and retired in 2001 ‘to devote more time to politics’. He is the longest serving Labour MP of all time and has held senior Cabinet and party posts. In 2002, the year after his retirement, he was voted Politician of the Year by Channel 4 viewers.

He is the author of many books, including his powerful case for constitutional change,
Common Sense
(with Andrew Hood),
Arguments for Socialism, Arguments for Democracy
and eight volumes of diaries.

Tony Benn has four children and ten grandchildren. He was married for 51 years to Caroline, socialist, teacher and author, who died in 2000.

Also by Tony Benn

The Regeneration of Britain

Speeches

Arguments for Socialism

Arguments for Democracy

Parliament, People and Power

The Sizewell Syndrome

Fighting Back: Speaking Out for Socialism in the Eighties

A Future for Socialism

Common Sense (
with Andrew Hood
)

Free Radical: New Century Essays

Years of Hope: Diaries 1940–1962

Out of the Wilderness: Diaries 1963–1967

Office Without Power: Diaries 1968–1972

Against the Tide: Diaries 1973–1976

Conflicts of Interest: Diaries 1977–1980

The End of an Era: Diaries 1980–1990

The Benn Diaries: Single Volume Edition 1940–1990

Free at Last!: Diaries 1991–2001

DARE TO BE A DANIEL

THEN AND NOW

TONY BENN

Edited by Ruth Winstone

Illustrations

1.
Great grandfather Julius Benn

2.
Electric tramlines on Victoria Embankment

3.
Grandfather John Benn reviewing the London Fire Brigade

4.
Portrait of John Benn

5.
Father in Alexandria 1946

6.
Great grandfather Eadie

7.
David Lloyd George (
Getty Images
)

8.
Grandfather Holmes

9.
Mother as President of Congregational Federation

10.
Terrace of House of Commons 1913

11.
40 Grosvenor Road

12.
Benn Brothers at the seaside

13.
Stansgate in 1899

14.
Stansgate in 2004

15.
Family on beach 1929

16.
Cousin Margaret (Rutherford) (Getty
Images
)

17.
David as a busman

18.
TB at Gladstone’s school

19.
Oswald Mosley (Corbis)

20.
TB as scout and at Scout Camp

21.
Nurse Olive Winch with David

22.
Grandparents with David

23.
TB aged 6

24.
TB and Uncle Ernest at chess

25.
The Ragamuffins

26.
Family sailing

27.
Mother and Father at Stansgate

28.
Boys with Olive Winch

29.
Benns on active service 1940

30.
Westminster School bombed 1941

31.
Family photo 1943

32.
TB as Private, Pilot Officer and Sub-Lieutenant 1942–45

33.
Fairchild Cornell and Airspeed Oxford planes

34.
‘Wings’ parade

35.
TB meets Caroline 1948

36.
Caroline and Tony Crosland

37.
TB and Caroline at Stansgate

38.
Caroline on car

39.
Caroline on day of wedding 1949

40.
Beautiful bride

41.
Nurse Olive with Stephen

42.
The family in Cincinnati 1959

43.
The special bench 1979

44.
Caroline’s gravestone at Stansgate

45.
TB and Speaker Martin 2001

46.
Family photo 2003

Unless
otherwise attributed, all the photographs are from the author’s collection

Acknowledgements

Writing this account of the influences, incidents and events which shaped my early childhood and growing up has been a challenging experience. It has allowed me to recall a comfortable but austere world in which my family was rooted in dissenting non-conformity, radicalism and commercially successful Victorian enterprise. But in the background was an awareness, while I was still a small child, of international danger looming.

The book serves as a prelude to the eight volumes of published diaries which together cover my life as I approach eighty. It was my son Joshua who first suggested that it should be written, proposing
The Weetabix Years
as a title because it conveyed the idea of a happy family at breakfast.

This became the working title and I wrote to the Chairman of Weetabix for his agreement; Sir Richard George replied to reassure me on that point but felt he ought to tell me that Weetabix was not available when I was born.

‘Dare to be a Daniel, Dare to stand alone’ was the advice my dad gave me and was a phrase that greatly influenced my life, and it became the title.

The book owes much to Ruth Winstone, the editor of all the volumes of my diaries. I merely provided the raw material. She cross-examined me on it, clarified the ideas, and tried to unravel family anecdotes, myths and relationships. Working with her has
been
a real pleasure over the course of nearly twenty years. Jessie Fenn worked on the first draft with good humour, and Mandy Greenfield and Mary Chamberlain helped greatly on the manuscript, copy-editing and proof-reading with care and attention to detail.

I must also thank my brother David and his wife June. David’s phenomenal memory has provided missing dates and incidents, and June, as a writer, provided valuable guidance on structure and content. To my own family I owe a great debt for their unending love, support and advice, the more so since my wife, Caroline, died in 2000.

Tony Whittome of Hutchinson has devoted much of his own time to this book and indeed my publishers have become good friends, in particular Emma Mitchell, my publicity ‘minder’ who has guided me through the mysteries of the literary world.

Tony Benn

June 2004

Part One

My Faith

Honest Doubt

I WAS BORN
in 1925 into an Edwardian household influenced by Victorian values. Although I enjoyed a degree of security and privilege denied to most people, I was also the child of radical, non-conformist parents, and life at home was shaped by a tradition of austerity lightened by my father’s sense of fun. Writing this book about my childhood, and its domestic, family and political events and experiences, has led me to examine how these elements combined during my growing up in the inter-war years to determine my character and beliefs.

The discipline of recalling childhood events and memories, and the origins and development of my own faith, has also helped me to analyse more specifically than ever before the nature of my belief, and why and how my views have developed over the years.

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