British politician, on the left of the Labour Party.
Benn was Labour MP for Bristol South-East from 1950 to 1960, when he inherited the title Viscount Stansgate and was consequently debarred from sitting in the House of Commons. His subsequent campaign for the right for individuals to disclaim hereditary titles achieved its aim with passage of the Peerage Act 1963. Benn was then re-elected as MP for Bristol South-East. He held office in the Wilson and Callaghan administrations as postmaster-general (1964), minister of technology (1966–70), minister for trade and industry (1974–75), and secretary of state for energy (1975–79). He was chairman of the Labour Party Executive (1971–72) and of the Home Policy Committee. In 1979 he refused a place in the shadow cabinet, and in 1981 made a bid for the deputy leadership, which he lost to Denis Healey. He was also an unsuccessful candidate in the party leadership elections in 1976 and 1988. Benn lost his seat in the 1983 election, but was re-elected to parliament in a by-election at Chesterfield in the following year.
Benn's underlying conviction is that the state apparatus (and the parliamentary Labour Party) should be made more accountable to the people; for similar reasons he is a leading opponent of the transfer of sovereignty to EU institutions. He is one of the most gifted orators in contemporary British politics; his publications include five volumes of diaries.
Subjects: Politics — Contemporary History (Post 1945).