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Tributes paid after Chesterfield’s former MP Tony Benn dies

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Tributes have been paid following the death of former Chesterfield MP Tony Benn.

The veteran Labour politician, who represented the town between 1984 and 2001, died at home aged 88 after being seriously ill.

He was considered one of the most famous post-war politicians and a great orator.

In a statement, his children Stephen, Hilary, Melissa and Joshua said Mr Benn died peacefully early this morning at his home in west London surrounded by his family. He had been ill and in and out of hospital for many weeks.

“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,” the family said.

“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.”

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins said: “Tony was a kind and generous man, a political giant and one of the great orators of this time or any era.

“He was clearly a significant global figure who was also very proud to be MP for Chesterfield.”

NE Derbyshire MP Natascha Engel said: “Tony will be remembered as a great socialist, parliamentarian and MP. It’s a sad day for Derbyshire.

“His 51 years in the House of Commons were a record for any Labour MP. But on this 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike, it will be his support in 1984 to 1985 for which he will be best remembered in the area.”

Chesterfield Borough Council leader and Councillor John Burrows said: “The thoughts of us all are with Tony’s family at this time.

“He was a great constituency MP in Chesterfield and his international profile contributed to Chesterfield’s profile.

“As president of the constituency Labour party during Tony’s first 10 years as MP in Chesterfield, I got to know him well on a personal level. Our relationship was political and professional and we were also good friends.

“I have the utmost regard for a politician of principle, regard and integrity.

“He will be sadly missed by all in the Labour movement at its broadest level.”

The flag at Chesterfield Town Hall is flying at half-mast.

Cllr Anne Western, leader of Derbyshire County Council, said: “Tony was a hugely influential and popular politician, the likes of whom we’ll never see again.

“He was a conviction politician and lived by his values, which inspired trust and belief in those who voted for him, who he served faithfully.

“His contribution to public life, at both local and national level, during his long and distinguished career was immense.

“His life’s work helped make a difference to countless Derbyshire residents and his legacy will live on.

“He will be missed and our thoughts are with his family.”

Colin Hampton, co-ordinator of Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centre, said: “Tony was a champion of peace and wished to see a more equal and truly democratic society.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “The death of Tony 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.

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

“For someone of such strong views, often at odds with his party, he won respect from across the political spectrum.

“This was because of his unshakeable beliefs and his abiding determination that power and the powerful should be held to account.”

Prime minister David Cameron said: “Tony was a magnificent writer, speaker and campaigner. There was never a dull moment listening to him, even if you disagreed with him.”

BBC Question Time presenter David Dimbleby said: “Audiences loved and loathed what Tony had to say and whatever he said they regarded him as a national treasure.”

Mr Benn, who lived in London, was the son a hereditary but renounced his peerage and said he would not become a peer or go into the House of Lords.

He entered Parliament in November 1950 and served as Minister of Technology, Industry and Energy in the Wilson and Callaghan Cabinets.

He opposed joining the Common Market, was pipped to the Deputy Leadership by Dennis Healey and backed the miners’ strike.

In recent years Mr Benn – who regarded Tony Blair as the worst leader Labour have had – was president of the Stop the War campaign as well as a popular public speaker.

He has topped several polls as the most popular politician in Britain.

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