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4.8 out of 5 stars86
4.8 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 5 November 2013
This is a delightful, unique book possibly destined to become a future classic.

Poignant, warming and sometimes quite funny, it is, sadly, the final diaries of one of the great Parliamentarians of the age.

While I believe Benn has been mostly wrong throughout his life - on everything from lauding Chairman Mao to opposing the relaxing of licensing laws - he's always worth listening to.

Detailing the years from 2007 to present, the book has Benn stoically facing up to death, wondering whether he has been too egotistical down the years, coming up with new invention the seat-case, calling Gordon Brown a disaster, and working, working, working.

This man in his eighties would, for example, get up at 5am, walk to the tube, get a train up north, attend a few meetings, come back down to London, give a speech or two at a peace rally in Trafalgar Square, then at night attend a party for Shami Chakrabarti (while never touching a drop, of course).

He is often `very, very tired', frequently depressed (particularly in the morning) and has unending problems with his computer and his broadband.

There are all sorts of surprises: he calls the Observer rubbish - `I'd rather read The Sunday Telegraph'; David Cameron tells him he enjoyed Benn's Arguments For Democracy; he ponders whether he has been wrong about everything; he wraps 140 Christmas presents for his family.

Benn comes across as incredibly industrious, fearless, honourable and full of integrity. He cares for many people and has time for folk no matter what their politics. He loves his Parliament. The adoration he feels for his family and that they feel for him is clear, and very touching. His writing style is accessible (almost child-like at times), he never swears and can be endearingly old fogeyish - `Jarvis Cocker from the Pulp group' comes to visit him at one point.

A smashing book for anyone interested in, well, life: I struggled to put it down and was sad when it was over.
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on 19 December 2013
As always the Benn Diaries are an enjoyable and entertaining read, even though I would recommend anyone to read and buy a copy, be prepared for an emotional rollacoaster of a journey through each page, as the various stages as chronicled by Benn of coping with creeping old age and ill health, is very upsetting including the last chapter covering his hospitalisations and the reasons now why this has meant that he now longer has the strength to keep continuing with his diaries very sad.
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on 31 December 2013
I have been reading Tony Benn's diaries for twenty years or more; it's a little sad to consider that physical frailty has meant the end of his diaries when there is so much intellectual life left in the man and so much left to share. You would expect the final volume, written by a man in his eighties, to be the work of a spectator. In fact, he makes strenuous efforts to be at the centre of things by keeping his friendships with key figures in good repair, making extensive use of his Commons pass years after resigning his seat.

Because he dictates his diaries at the end of each day, before committing them to paper, this is as raw as it gets. When he forgets a name, however notable, he just leaves it in there. Because we are being provided with a largely unedited stream of consciousness as the thoughts pass through his fatigued brain last thing at night (he rises at 5 most mornings), all of the contradictions are very much on display, provoking raw reactions in the reader too, as no doubt intended. I felt frustration at the author as he reacted to the detention of a teacher, imprisoned by an Islamic regime for the naming of a teddy bear, by merely criticising the extent of the press coverage and how well the poor woman was treated in prison. No questions are asked about whether or not she was given a fair trial by a jury of her peers - of course she was not. By contrast, he campaigns tirelessly against detention without trial of terror suspects in the UK. Ours is not to ask how Sinn Fein and Hamas, both of which he champions and admires, would fare if held up to the standards he demands of a Western democracies when lamenting the decline of 'civil liberties' in the West. When he marvels at technological advances and the low cost of shopping at Tesco, you wonder if he asks himself whether all of this would be possible if goods and services were nationalised and provided by a cooperative state, in consultation with strong trades unions.

The reason these thoughts do not detract from my pleasure in the book is that the book puts all of these views out in the open, hiding nothing. The more he puts out there, the more food for thought he throws out to the reader. All of these questions are meant to be asked of him, and he answers those which he chooses to answer and not others. The phrase I like best, used time and again is along the lines of 'I need to think more about this'. We are in a dialogue with someone thinking things through and speaking his mind as he does so; what more can we ask?
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on 24 February 2015
If you have followed all of Tony Benn's diaries then this one will feel slightly odd. It follows him engaged in politics still but also facing up to old age and his own death - it is surprising how often he reflects on whether the day may be his last. The last section is an interesting summary of his last years but not written in diary format. The impression given is that he thought of himself as less relevant to politics in his final years - the outpouring of grief when he died suggested that this was not the case. It is still entertaining and interesting and - as ever - even if you do not agree with his conclusions, his enthusiasm for asking difficult questions and the sheer hope he has can only be inspiring. You might not get a lot of political debate from this volume, but you do get something very human.
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on 24 February 2015
Many years ago, when my dad was still alive, I asked him his opinion of Tony Benn, the man who wrote lots of diaries. Dad thought carefully before responding with ‘He’s either a genius or a complete idiot, and I haven’t worked out which yet.'
I never had chance to ask Dad if he had decided. What I do know is that Tony Benn is still missed because he cared about the little people. Recently I have been researching my family tree, going back through several stages of great grandparents to the start of the 19th century. As with most families, there are tales of happy times despite poverty. One of my great grandmothers in a census was described as ‘a pauper’ at age 79. It would be easy to get over-sentimental and say that for all her hard work and endurance that was what her life amounted to: poverty. Nothing more, nothing less.
We have to remind ourselves that these ancestors I write about are only a few generations away. I thought that these days of hardship were at an end. That was until I was involved in caring for my mother when she was discharged from hospital too soon. Evidently it is common practice for patients to be discharged from hospital before they have recovered because they need to free up the beds. I had no intention of complaining to hospital staff who were already over-worked, along with the social workers and carers, who tirelessly go about their work. I wrote to Jeremy Hunt, hoping that I would get a response from the man himself. Ah, but no, silly me, I am just one of the little people. After he got one of his sidekicks to write to me, I then wrote back to him again, hoping this time I would get a reply. Nope. Third time lucky? I don’t think I’ll bother. I’ll just remind myself of his indifference when the General Election comes around.
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on 6 July 2014
This diary provides a real insight into politics and politicians and is written with a humanity that is impressive. I could not put the diaries down, even though I had recently finished two of his earlier diary volumes. A remarkable, caring and astute, family man who did what he could to improve this Country and internationally.
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on 13 November 2013
Just when you think the good guys have all gone this comes along and renews you. Tony Benn is, was, and always will be one of, if the top, parliamentarian of our age. To give us consistent diaries since 1940 all fun of fun and thought provoking insights makes him my hero

Forget your politics and buy and read this book you will not regret it.

Amazon have provided me with many books across the years but none as good as this one.
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on 29 June 2014
Tony Benn had more passion for ordinary people and their hopes and fears, then any of the M.P's we have today.
His warmth and humanity shine through every page, yes he was not always correct, but he was not a phony,or, dis-honest
He never stopped questioning, something many of us in older years forget to do. The world is a colder place since his death.
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on 16 November 2013
Frank, open, insightful and thought provoking...loved this from beginning to end. There may be some political views expressed which might not agree with every reader but the promotion of tolerance, consideration for others and love of the family shines through. Put any prejudices or ideologies to one side this is a talented and erudite man expressing thoughts on a range of issues many of which cross the political divide. Most of all the belief that the world is there for all to share and improved only through debate and discussion - not war.
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on 13 July 2014
Have read most of his diaries and leant a lot about the political machinations that go on behind the scenes, but what shines out mostly is the character of a gentle, eccentric, kindly, loyal, intelligent gentleman of principle. Truly an honourable man.
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