‘Honoured that you are writing my father’s biography’ the late Tony Benn, ‘...wonderfully written’ Hilary Benn

‘Sparkles with fascinating detail…a remarkable story of Liberal and Labour politics in the first half of the twentieth century.’ Michael Crick, Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News

‘Casts much light both on the evolution of British radicalism, and on the legacy which he bequeathed to his son, Tony. Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King's College, London

‘Brilliant biography…wonderful reading about the father and...discovering more about the son.’ Steve Richards of The Independent

‘Well-written and carefully researched, this fascinating biography brings to life a major figure in British political history…an excellent job of weaving together the strands of a complex life…as well as filling in the background of the Benn family’ Richard Doherty, military historian

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Authors' Foundation Award for William Wedgwood Benn Biography

A very welcome surprise Christmas present arrived today in the form of an Authors' Foundation grant for my research and writing on my forthcoming biography of William Wedgwood Benn, First Viscount Stansgate and father of Tony Benn.

William Wedgwood Benn was an ardent follower of Asquith, elected in the Liberals' 1906 landslide. He turned down Lloyd George's offer of the post of Joint Chief Whip in 1916 and instead remained on active service at a seaplane base. Had he accepted, he could have changed the course of Liberal history.

In 1927 Benn took the unusual step of resigning his seat on transferring his allegiance to the Labour Party. Although this put him out of Parliament for over a year, he went on to serve in the cabinets of two very different prime ministers, Ramsay MacDonald and Clement Attlee. Benn again risked his life in the RAF in the Second World War, but survived until he was 83. He was created Viscount Stansgate in 1942 and sat in the Lords until his death in 1960. His son, Tony Benn was able, eventually, to free himself of the inherited viscountcy, so that he could continue his career in the Commons. His grandson, Hilary also served in the cabinets of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

There is a fascinating story to be told and I am very grateful to the Society of Authors for the funding to enable me to write it.

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