birth place: London, England
Anthony Wedgwood Benn was born in Westminster, in 1925, into a wealthy English family, and followed his father, William Wedgwood Benn MP, into politics.
In 1941, his father was made ‘Lord Stansgate’ a hereditary peerage. Tony Benn left Westminster School for Oxford University in 1942.
In July 1943, Benn joined the Royal Air Force to train as a pilot in the Second World War, following his brother, Michael, who had joined up in 1940. Michael Benn was killed in action in 1944.
Returning to study, Benn became President of the Oxford Union. Graduating, he worked for a time at the BBC’s North American Service.
Taking up politics, he was elected as Labour MP for Bristol South East, in November 1950, and also to the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee, in 1959.
Benn grew concerned that, upon his father’s death, his inheritance of the Stansgate peerage would disqualify him from serving in the House of Commons. He fought to avoid inheriting the title, and campaigned for a bill to permit him to renounce the title.
With his father’s death in 1960, Benn was forced to leave the Commons but, thanks to the Peerage Act of 1963, he returned as Commons MP for Bristol South East.
An outspoken advocate of open government and an enemy of violent intervention, he has remained a champion of socialism.
Under the Wilson Government, he was Postmaster General and Minister of Technology, until 1970. Under Callaghan, he was Secretary of State for Energy.
After defeat in his run for party leader in 1976, he narrowly missed election as deputy-leader of the Labour Party in 1981.
Gradually seen as the unofficial leader of Labour Party’s left, he became MP for Chesterfield in 1984.
An open critic of Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’ victory in 1997, Benn never regained cabinet office.
In 2001, Benn stood down from his Chesterfield seat to "devote more time to politics".