Late Chesterfield MP Tony Benn’s personal archive gifted to British Library

Tony Benn served as MP for Chesterfield from 1984 to 2001.
Tony Benn served as MP for Chesterfield from 1984 to 2001.

A personal archive of the late Chesterfield MP and Labour veteran Tony Benn, spanning several decades over his political career, has been donated to the British Library.

The unique collection of artefacts along with ‘funny, outrageous and abusive’ letters was gifted to the library by the family of the ‘prolific diarist’, who died in 2014 at the age of 88.

The donation will save Mr Benn’s family £210,000 in inheritance tax under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, thanks to the collection’s historical and cultural significance.

Mr Benn, who represented Chesterfield between 1984 and 2001, is regarded as one of the country’s most famous post-war politicians and is said to have influenced current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins said he was ‘delighted’ the extensive archive had been acquired for the nation.

He added: “Tony Benn was an incredibly important figure in Chesterfield’s history.

“But he was also significant in national politics and a great orator, playing a key role in the ideological battles of the Labour Party over many years.

“Tony was always supportive of me. He was somebody who had strong beliefs in the importance of education and giving people from all walks of life the opportunity to realise their maximum potential.

“More broadly, his sense of patriotism and dedication to social justice issues has been a great informer of my own politics.”

The Benn Archive includes audio recordings, 33 boxes of letters, some of the late MPs famous pipes and scissors used to cut the ribbon for Concorde.

British Library chiefs say the collection is a ‘very substantial addition’ to the library’s contemporary archives in the field of politics and activism.

It is hoped the archive will be made available to view through the library’s Reading Rooms at St Pancras.