Tower Hamlets politicians pay tribute to left-winger Tony Benn, who died today aged 88
PUBLISHED: 15:40 14 March 2014 | UPDATED: 17:27 14 March 2014
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Politicians in Tower Hamlets were today paying tribute to veteran Labour politician Tony Benn, who died this morning aged 88.
The former cabinet minster’s children - Stephen, Hilary, Melissa and Joshua - announced this morning that their father passed away peacefully at his west London home surrounded by his family.
Jim Fitzpatrick, MP for Poplar and Limehouse, called Benn an “amazing man”.
He said: “Tony Benn’s campaigning in the late 70s and early eighties helped bring me back into the Labour Party which I left because of the Fire Brigade strike of 1977.
“He was an amazing man, I owe him for that alone. I had the honour to work as minister with his son Hilary who was my Secretary of State at DEFRA.”
Mr Fitzpatrick added: “Tony was a one off, there will never be another.”
Lutfur Rahman, mayor of Tower Hamlets, said he was “deeply saddened” to hear about the death of Tony Benn.
He said: “He was a lifelong campaigner for the voiceless, who stood for justice, equality and peace.
“In Tower Hamlets we have a family connection to Tony. Both his father and grandfather represented the St George’s Constituency in our borough, and, even though Tony did not directly follow in the family tradition and run here, in his life in parliament he was a stalwart representative of the working people who make up most of our voters.
“In his passing, the poor, the vulnerable, the working class, ethnic minorities - have lost a valiant champion.”
Mr Rahman added: “I extend my deepest sympathy to his family, and join with millions of others in mourning not just the death of a giant figure, but also the passing of an era.”
John Biggs, Labour candidate for mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “Tony Benn was a massive figure in our party and beyond. He constantly reminded Labour of the values upon which our party was founded, and which he sometimes felt we had strayed from.”
He added: “I didn’t always agree with him but I admired his authority, and his passion. And he of course came from a political family which had connections with the East End - I recall discussing the family link with the old constituency of St George’s with him, and more recently with his son.”
Cllr Peter Golds, leader of the Conservative group, said: “I once experienced his well known charm and politeness, when after a meeting that he addressed I approached him for some clarification.
“He asked me for my name and address and a day or so later a cassette of the entire speech arrived, at his expense. A gent!”