Friday, 12 June 2015

A tale of two Benns


In his first Parliamentary speech - at the beginning of June - as Labour’s new shadow foreign secretary, Hilary Benn’s made some important observations and arguments.

Adorned in the garb of a great social liberal, he powerfully argued: “The most important human right is the right to life, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the suspension of capital punishment in Britain, which was followed by its abolition four years later. I hope that, as we oppose the use of the death penalty in all circumstances...”( Hansard, 1 June 2015 : Column 334)

But oddly in the same speech he opined: “The ultimate responsibility of Government is to defend the nation, and we remain committed to a minimum credible independent nuclear capability delivered through continuous at-sea deterrence while supporting global, multilateral disarmament negotiations and further reductions in stockpiles and numbers of weapons. (Hansard, 1 June 2015: Column 331,

Any use of nuclear weapons of mass destruction would result in the deaths of not individuals by judicial fiat, but tens of millions of innocent civilian men, women and children, by political direction. Yet Mr Benn argues in favour of this system to  ”defend the nation.”

His father, the great teacher and orator, long time MP and minister, the late Tony Benn, had diametrically opposite views on the nature of nuclear weapons to his curiously misguided  son.

Hilary Been was very sensitive to criticism, especially  calling his late dad’s socialist and humanitarian views to attention, when I e-mailed him  recently after his advocacy of Trident nuclear WMDs in Parliament.

Here are just a few (of hundreds) denunciations of nuclear WMDs by his dad.

What’s the point of nuclear weapons? You can’t use them…multilateralism.. It’s an illusion.” (Total Politics 2009, (

"You see, I resigned from the front bench fifty years ago because I was a defence spokesman, the first Shadow job I had, because I couldn't contemplate circumstances where we would ever be able to use nuclear weapons."

(14 July 2008, Interviewed by Andrew Neil, )

“…under the arrangements that Britain has with the US that allow us access to their nuclear technology in the Trident programme, America has long insisted that it should have access to all our intelligence material.” (In the name of security, Guardian, 22 June 2005,

In Tony Benn’s Letters to my Grandchildren, published in June 2010, he argued against developing Trident. He describes how our nuclear weapons are dependent on the US (because we use their technology), and thus   we don’t have an independent nuclear deterrent. He questions whether nuclear weapons work as a deterrent for war anyway, and cites the Falklands war and various other wars. He also mentions money spent on Trident, and the planetary disaster of a nuclear war.  He says that any person with good sense would not sanction the use of nuclear weapons, and he refers to some wartime officer or other to back him up. In response to this, a prime minister who supports nuclear weapons would have to reassure everyone that he or she would be prepared to use nuclear weapons. That is, the prime minister would be reassuring us that he or she is prepared to approve the killing of millions of people.

Hilary Benn -  and the Labour Party leadership nationally- should reconsider this betrayal of humanity he , and they, now advocate, in backing Trident nuclear WMDs and their renewal at a cost of £100 billion to British taxpayers..


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