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on 22 November 2012
I enjoyed reading these diaries, which take us through what for me are the most interesting years of Benn's career - the 1980s. They are well-written and provide a great deal of useful information for anyone interested in politics, especially students of politics. Benn's combines serious, in-depth thoughts with lots of humorous and frivolous observations, so there is something here for everyone.

Tony Benn is really from a lost, colourful era when politics really existed and there was at least the pretence of an ideological cleave between the two main parties. That era is now long-gone, replaced by managerial attitudes and spin.
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on 10 May 2013
I've just finished reading this and it has certainly been an easy read.

Unfortunately with a diary or an autobiography you're always going to end up reviewing the person rather than the book....

There are some curious anomalies in his account - for a teetotaller he certainly goes to a lot of parties! And this champion of the working classes attends dinner parties where the ladies withdraw. And then he gets to run the Post Office (which must have also included telephones though they don't get much of a mention) and he gets totally preoccupied with getting the Queen's image off the stamps rather than improving the service, or reducing the costs to the user. And he also comes into contact with the sort of dead management hand that public services generally have - and criticises it: which is odd given that he spends most of the rest of his life wanting to impose it on everything.

But it is disarmingly honest. He does not hold back for admitting that when he turns up in Corby to sympathise with the steel works being shut down, he had been in the Cabinet that had authorised the closure! Though he admits this in the book - not to the steelworkers of the day. And there is the time in the seventies when he goes to the dentist and realises that all the equipment there is made overseas: so who killed UK manufacturing if it was already dead in the seventies? He was of course Secretary of State for Energy when an awful lot of mines were closed - though the book is silent on that. Perhaps that is in entries not selected by Ruth Winstone. But then he also admits later on in the book that the destination of the Plutonium reprocessed from the Magnox reactors was never revealed to him when he did that job either.

When I picked this substantial (600+ page) book up, I did not really expect to finish it and the fact that I did finish it is a tribute to the way it's written.
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on 10 July 2014
Tony Benn was one of Britain's best-known politicians for over 50 years and for most of those years he also kept a highly detailed diary which he dictated every night before bed. This book brings together his writings from 1940-90, including diary entries and letters from his early years in the Royal Air Force in Africa during World War Two.

From early on one can see how Benn made such an impact. He was always a highly opinionated person who held deep socialist convictions from his early 20s. It is true he did radicalise somewhat during his time as a minister (something which is rare in British politics for all politicians) but he always believed in the rights of the people to choose and that the state should have a role. These diaries accurately display that.

Benn's writings are highly insightful, be it on personal issues like love and parentage or the political issues of the day. The sections on his time as a Cabinet minister are a particularly interesting document on the workings of the civil service in the 1960s and '70s. Some might say the culture is still the same now in the 2010s as it ever was.

The arguments for his various standpoints are always well-argued and structured. I personally disagree with many of his views but one cannot flaw his reasoning and his integrity as a thinker is never in doubt. By the end you find yourself highly in tune with his philosophy - a testament to the personality of these diaries.

This book acts as a detailed historical document from one of history's actors, an insight into British politics of the second half of the 20th century and a handbook to the Bennite philosophy. Recommended to all those with an interest in history, politics and biography.
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on 24 November 2013
I have read most of Tony Benn's diaries, but this pulls together the essential points without losing any of his inimitable style.
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on 1 April 2014
Described by some as Britain's foremost socialist - he gave up a hereditary peerage to become the MP for Bristol South East.

His political career has spanned half a century, but it started here in Bristol back in 1950, when Tony Benn became the Labour MP for Bristol South East .

When he took up his seat in 1951, Tony Benn became the youngest MP, or "Baby of the House".

But Tony Benn was the son of an hereditary peer. His father had been created Viscount Stansgate in 1942.

Tony Benn had an older brother Michael who had no objections to inheriting a peerage, but Michael was later killed in the Second World War, and this left Tony Benn as the heir to a peerage.

He made several attempts to remove himself from the line of succession but they were all unsuccessful.

In November 1960, Tony Benn's father died and as his heir he became a peer and as a result he was prevented from sitting in the House of Commons.

Still insisting on his right to abandon his unwelcome peerage, Tony Benn fought to retain his seat in the by-election on 4 May 1961 caused by his succession.

Although he was disqualified from taking his seat, the people of Bristol South East re-elected him.

An election court found that the voters were fully aware that Tony Benn was disqualified, and gave the seat to the Conservative runner up in the by-election, Malcolm St Clair, ironically also the son of a peer.

Outside Parliament Tony Benn continued his campaign, and eventually the Conservative government accepted the need for a change in the law.

The Peerage Act 1963, allowing renunciation of peerages, became law shortly after 6 pm on 31 July 1963.

Tony Benn was the first peer to renounce his title, at 6.22 pm that day.

Malcolm St. Clair had already given an undertaking that he would respect the wishes of the people of Bristol if Tony Benn became eligible to take his seat again, and therefore he resigned his seat immediately.

Tony Benn returned to the Commons after winning a by-election on 20 August 1963 and held the seat for the next twenty years - until June 1983, when the constituency was abolished.

He then went on to become the MP for Chesterfield.

Tony Benn in the 1950s was an MP with middle-of-the-road or soft left views, who refused to become a member of the group around Nye Bevan.

In the 1960s government of Harold Wilson he became Postmaster General. He later became Minister of Technology where he was responsible for overseeing the development of Concorde.

In the Labour government of 1974 Tony Benn became Secretary of State for Industry, but in 1975 he was moved to Secretary of State for Energy.

By the end of the 1970s Tony Benn had migrated to the left-wing of the Labour Party. He attributed this political shift to his experience as a minister in the 1964-1970 Labour government.

Tony Benn's philosophy became known as "Bennism" and in the late 1970s he was vilified in the press although he was overwhelmingly popular with Labour activists. A survey of Labour Conference delegates of 1978 found that by large margins they supported him for the leadership.

In 1981 he stood for election against the incumbent Denis Healey as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, and Denis Healey emerged victorious by a margin of barely 1%.

He stood for election as Party Leader in 1988 and was defeated again, on this occasion by a substantial margin.

In 2001 he retired from Parliament, but remains involved in politics and is a prolific diary writer.

In a list compiled by the magazine New Statesman in 2006, he was voted twelfth in the list of "Heroes of our time"

In October 2007, at the age of 82, Tony Benn announced that he wanted to come out of retirement and return to the House of Commons.
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on 28 April 2014
i found it very convenient to have all the diaries bound together in one volume. Each diary deals with the challenges of the times and Benn's observations and views on those challenges.The single volume bridges all the changing times through which he lived.
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on 29 April 2014
A whistle-stop of fifty years of British political history, chronicled by an insider. Tony Benn was arguably the best diarist of his generation.
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on 7 December 2013
Whilst I haven't read the unedited Benn diaries, this condensed version (still containing considerable detail) seems to have been edited to give the reader a window into the key moments of the history of the time as well as of Benn's own life. Transcribed (mostly) from tape-recorded diaries, the book is enjoyable and easy to read.

The book has made me want to fill up on the accounts of his younger days, to look for an insight into how he developed his ideals, as well as the period after 1990.
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on 30 April 2014
I was always a big fan of Tony Benn's, but that said these diaries provide a fascinating incite into the politics of the period.
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on 4 May 2014
Bought as a gift for someone who is interested in Benn's life and politics. Covers a long period of his political life.
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