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What would a 1980s Tony Benn premiership look like?

#1
I know there are a few threads on here that ask about how to make the late (and great, to some including myself) Tony Benn PM in the 1980s, however there doesn't seem to be much talk about what his government might look like, the kind of policies it would implement in office, and how successful it might or might not be in those endeavours. Whilst already aware of Benn's own personal views & policies, it's also a question of what could/would be passed by the Labour Party ITTL.

I would like to put such a proposal forward to you, my comrades; the starting point is Heath successfully retaining a majority at the Feb. 1974 general election as most opinion polls pointed to at the time. Ensuing leadership fights within Labour eventually see Benn assume the mantle in the mid-to-late '70s and we see an earlier SDP split accordingly. The economic and social unrest of the late '70s take place, allowing the foundations for an electorate to seek refuge from the status quo of Heath's Tories, hedging their bets with Tony Benn as PM.
 

David Flin

It's not how long one lives, but how well.
#3
Off the top of my head, and based on the year I've researched heavily (1976), we've got some fairly clear general trends.

The Nationalised Industries would continue their trajectory. That's not good news for the British economy.

Benn was a strong supporter of Sinn Fein and a united Ireland, and would work towards that end. Of course, the Unionists in Northern Ireland wouldn't be happy, and the Troubles would become even more unpleasant than they were with an existential threat hanging over them. Trust me when I say it would not have been pleasant. His comments on the IRA (not Sinn Fein, although in the 1970s, the two are very linked), when shorn of incoherent evasion, came down to it being OK for the IRA to murder civilians because that's the sort of thing that happens in an armed struggle, and if the Loyalists in Northern Ireland didn't like it, too bad.

He was strongly opposed to membership of Europe, and claimed that he would pull Britain out at the first opportunity.

According to Crossland, Benn was happy that Labour lost the 1979 election; Benn believed that being in opposition would enable the Labour Party to shift decisively and irrevocably to the Left, and that this would be rewarded by the electorate at the next election. Further, he supported various moves on the constitution of the Labour Party that were to form a fundamental part of the Militant entryism.

At the time in question, he held Mao in high regard, calling him a great man.
 

Avalanches

FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD
Location
Tampa, FL
#4
Off the top of my head, and based on the year I've researched heavily (1976), we've got some fairly clear general trends.

The Nationalised Industries would continue their trajectory. That's not good news for the British economy.

Benn was a strong supporter of Sinn Fein and a united Ireland, and would work towards that end. Of course, the Unionists in Northern Ireland wouldn't be happy, and the Troubles would become even more unpleasant than they were with an existential threat hanging over them. Trust me when I say it would not have been pleasant. His comments on the IRA (not Sinn Fein, although in the 1970s, the two are very linked), when shorn of incoherent evasion, came down to it being OK for the IRA to murder civilians because that's the sort of thing that happens in an armed struggle, and if the Loyalists in Northern Ireland didn't like it, too bad.

He was strongly opposed to membership of Europe, and claimed that he would pull Britain out at the first opportunity.

According to Crossland, Benn was happy that Labour lost the 1979 election; Benn believed that being in opposition would enable the Labour Party to shift decisively and irrevocably to the Left, and that this would be rewarded by the electorate at the next election. Further, he supported various moves on the constitution of the Labour Party that were to form a fundamental part of the Militant entryism.

At the time in question, he held Mao in high regard, calling him a great man.
Would anything good come out of a Benn ministry, in your view?
 

David Flin

It's not how long one lives, but how well.
#5
Would anything good come out of a Benn ministry, in your view?
I don't know. He was a strong supporter of science and technology, and I can well see him as being a very effective Minister of Education. Science and Technology in general. I'm also very much an admirer of his "tests for democracy".

Pulling out of Europe at the time he proposed might have been viable. I'm not sure it would have been necessarily the best course of action, but potentially viable.

My reading of him is that he thought about an issue, and once he came to a decision about it, his view never changed over the years, regardless of changing circumstances.

From my perspective, his view on Northern Ireland, and his willingness to bend over backwards and whitewash anything the Green balaclavas did, and blackwash anything the Orange balaclavas did makes him - in my mind - someone who really shouldn't be allowed anywhere near decision making over that region. For example, when the IRA murdered Jean McConville in 1972 for the crime of helping a wounded British soldier, he defended the IRA action. I find that difficult to forgive.
 

Yokai Man

Well-known member
#6
Off the top of my head, and based on the year I've researched heavily (1976), we've got some fairly clear general trends.

The Nationalised Industries would continue their trajectory. That's not good news for the British economy.

Benn was a strong supporter of Sinn Fein and a united Ireland, and would work towards that end. Of course, the Unionists in Northern Ireland wouldn't be happy, and the Troubles would become even more unpleasant than they were with an existential threat hanging over them. Trust me when I say it would not have been pleasant. His comments on the IRA (not Sinn Fein, although in the 1970s, the two are very linked), when shorn of incoherent evasion, came down to it being OK for the IRA to murder civilians because that's the sort of thing that happens in an armed struggle, and if the Loyalists in Northern Ireland didn't like it, too bad.

He was strongly opposed to membership of Europe, and claimed that he would pull Britain out at the first opportunity.

According to Crossland, Benn was happy that Labour lost the 1979 election; Benn believed that being in opposition would enable the Labour Party to shift decisively and irrevocably to the Left, and that this would be rewarded by the electorate at the next election. Further, he supported various moves on the constitution of the Labour Party that were to form a fundamental part of the Militant entryism.

At the time in question, he held Mao in high regard, calling him a great man.
Yeesh.That’s unpleasant.

I mean,I didn’t particularly like him before but still,what a twit.
 

David Flin

It's not how long one lives, but how well.
#7
Yeesh.That’s unpleasant.

I mean,I didn’t particularly like him before but still,what a twit.
There are many things, pro- and anti- one can say about him, but not twit.

His "Tests for Democracy", in which he proposed five questions that need to be asked of any institution to see if it is democratic remain sound.

What power have you got?
Where did you get it from?
In whose interests do you exercise it?
To whom are you accountable?
How can we get rid of you?

One can expand and develop those, but as a quick thumbnail check, it remains great.
 

Yokai Man

Well-known member
#8
There are many things, pro- and anti- one can say about him, but not twit.

His "Tests for Democracy", in which he proposed five questions that need to be asked of any institution to see if it is democratic remain sound.

What power have you got?
Where did you get it from?
In whose interests do you exercise it?
To whom are you accountable?
How can we get rid of you?

One can expand and develop those, but as a quick thumbnail check, it remains great.
Sorry about the twit thing then.
 

David Flin

It's not how long one lives, but how well.
#9
No worries. I find it easy to present one side of a view of someone, and then need to correct myself. Benn's very much a figure who attracts pro- and anti- views (in many ways, rather like Thatcher).

One factor that I haven't mentioned is that, unlike Thatcher, Benn was able to forge friendships with people who strongly disagreed with him. He's a complex figure.
 

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
#10
At the time he was in charge of energy policy, Benn was pro-nuclear power - so he might build more power plants (and regret it later).

The Alternative Economic Strategy is a big thing he'd want to do, though whether he can would depend on the Cabinet and if they'll rebel or not.

we see an earlier SDP split accordingly.
If Benn can win a majority despite a SDP-equivalent, the SDP would need to take more Tory voters than Labour (or at least "enough"). They did OTL pick up quite a number of Tory voters, so this might not take much change. If Labour's going 'loony left' but Heath messed up badly & the monetarists are snapping at his heels, where are you gonna go?
 

Makemakean

Rootless Rōnin
#11
At the time in question, he held Mao in high regard, calling him a great man.
Seeing it after all is the 1970s were talking about, on this point, I must admit I need a little more context to be able to judge Benn on that comment in particular. Many Western leaders would make favourable comments about Mao Zedong at the time owing to him opening up to the West, and you'll have no problems finding Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Pierre Trudeau, Georges Pompidou, etc. having said very positive things about Mao, and likening him to a statesman.
 

Yokai Man

Well-known member
#12
Seeing it after all is the 1970s were talking about, on this point, I must admit I need a little more context to be able to judge Benn on that comment in particular. Many Western leaders would make favourable comments about Mao Zedong at the time owing to him opening up to the West, and you'll have no problems finding Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Pierre Trudeau, Georges Pompidou, etc. having said very positive things about Mao, and likening him to a statesman.
Say,when did it became better known in the West that he pretty much killed millions of people and is recognixed along with Hitler and Stalin as one of the worst human beings in history?
 

David Flin

It's not how long one lives, but how well.
#13
Seeing it after all is the 1970s were talking about, on this point, I must admit I need a little more context to be able to judge Benn on that comment in particular. Many Western leaders would make favourable comments about Mao Zedong at the time owing to him opening up to the West, and you'll have no problems finding Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Pierre Trudeau, Georges Pompidou, etc. having said very positive things about Mao, and likening him to a statesman.
That's true enough. I think the big difference is that while the view of Mao generally changed over the decades, Tony Benn's view on Mao didn't shift. In 2006, he described Mao as one of the greatest world leaders of all time.
 

Yokai Man

Well-known member
#14
That's true enough. I think the big difference is that while the view of Mao generally changed over the decades, Tony Benn's view on Mao didn't shift. In 2006, he described Mao as one of the greatest world leaders of all time.
Did

Did he not know by now that he killed millions of people
 

David Flin

It's not how long one lives, but how well.
#15
Did

Did he not know by now that he killed millions of people
I've no idea what he knew, suspected, regarded as probable propaganda, or anything else. Of course, it's difficult now to ask him. As a general rule, he was very consistent in not changing views.

Tony Benn: June 1996: "Had a long talk to the Chinese First Secretary at the embassy — a very charming man called Liao Dong — and said how much I admired Mao Tse tung or Zedong, the greatest man of the twentieth century."
 

Makemakean

Rootless Rōnin
#16
That's true enough. I think the big difference is that while the view of Mao generally changed over the decades, Tony Benn's view on Mao didn't shift. In 2006, he described Mao as one of the greatest world leaders of all time.
Tony Benn: June 1996: "Had a long talk to the Chinese First Secretary at the embassy — a very charming man called Liao Dong — and said how much I admired Mao Tse tung or Zedong, the greatest man of the twentieth century."
Okay, in 1996 or 2006 it's definitely not kosher.

In 1976, I can excuse it on the grounds of, well, Mao first dying on September 9th of that year, so if there's any particular year in history you're going to expect Western politicians to offer kind words about Mao Zedong, it's 1976.
 

Comisario

Hello Tony, I am 1952
Published by SLP
Location
London
#17
I've no idea what he knew, suspected, regarded as probable propaganda, or anything else. Of course, it's difficult now to ask him. As a general rule, he was very consistent in not changing views.

Tony Benn: June 1996: "Had a long talk to the Chinese First Secretary at the embassy — a very charming man called Liao Dong — and said how much I admired Mao Tse tung or Zedong, the greatest man of the twentieth century."
If you had to dislike every politician who praised Mao whilst in the presence of the Chinese First Secretary at the embassy, you’d run out of politicians to dislike.
 
#18
If you had to dislike every politician who praised Mao whilst in the presence of the Chinese First Secretary at the embassy, you’d run out of politicians to dislike.
I'm pretty sure that quote comes from his diary-so if he mentioned that without clarification, it's more than reasonable to assume that is reflective of his views.
 

David Flin

It's not how long one lives, but how well.
#19
I'm pretty sure that quote comes from his diary-so if he mentioned that without clarification, it's more than reasonable to assume that is reflective of his views.
It was indeed from his diaries.

He repeated the views more or less unchanged in a television interview in 2006. It's fairly clear he held Mao in high regard in 1976, in 1996, and in 2006.
 

Comisario

Hello Tony, I am 1952
Published by SLP
Location
London
#20
I'm pretty sure that quote comes from his diary-so if he mentioned that without clarification, it's more than reasonable to assume that is reflective of his views.
It was from his diaries (and it’s only a portion of the wider entry) and it isn’t completely reflective of his views. There are times in his diaries and his wider writings where he’s very critical of Mao, so I wouldn’t say he’s a Maoist or ignorant of crimes committed under Mao’s rule.