Friday, 14 March 2014

The man who tried to take off the Queen's head

A long lasting era in Britain's modern monarchy came to an end in the early hours of this morning when the leading Labour politicians, Tony Benn, died at his home at the age of 88.  Tony Benn was one of the loudest voices in opposition to the monarchy remaining as it is now and over the course of his public life, which lasted more than sixty years, he more than once called for radical changes to the way that Britain is governed and the role given to the Queen within the country.  As he leaves the political stage, that era comes to an end.


Tony Benn, a fierce opponent of the role the Queen had in modern Britain, has died at the age of 88

Anthony Neil Wedgewood Benn was born in London in 1925, the second son of theologian, Margaret Holmes, and politician William Wedgewood Benn who began life as a Liberal but crossed the floor to join the Labour Party in 1928 before being made a peer in 1942.  Anthony was elected to the Commons in 1950 but the death of his older brother in an accident meant that when their father died, in 1960, he became Viscount Stansgate and lost his seat in the Commons.  He fought to renounce his peerage, with some commentators claiming his moves harmed the monarchy, and succeeded in 1963 allowing him to return to the Commons soon afterwards.  And when he was made Postmaster General by Harold Wilson in 1964, Tony Benn set his sights on getting rid of the Queen's head.


The Queen as seen on 21st century stamps - in the 1960s Tony Benn wanted her removed from postage

Benn began a campaign to have the Queen's head taken off decorative stamps - he argued at one time that it would give the creators more room for their pictures.  He never succeeded but tried several times to have the monarch removed from stamps.  He also spoke vociferously about the role of the monarchy in 20th and 21st century Britain, arguing that the Head of State should be elected.  In later years, he talked and blogged about the Queen becoming a private figure head, still living in Buckingham Palace but self funded and with no constitutional role at all.  


Tony Benn as Postmaster General in the 1960s when he argued that removing the Queen's head should be removed from decorative stamps

He left the Commons at the 2005 general election and in later years was a well known anti war campaigner and public speaker.  As he grew older even those who disagreed with his views couldn't disagree with his loyalty to his beliefs and his determination to fight for what he believed to be right. As he passes into history, an era in Britain's modern monarchy comes to an end.  And the man who refused to be a lord because he wanted to be a commoner is remembered by many across Britain as an elder statesmen.



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