‘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

Sunday, 16 February 2014

‘As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted...’

Ken Livingstone, understandably, could not resist greeting his election as Mayor of London in 2000 with the remark ‘As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted 14 years ago...’ in reference to his service as Leader of the GLC until its abolition in 1986.

Other politicians have had to put up with serious interruptions to their careers. Gladstone served four non-consecutive terms of office as prime minister, starting in 1868 and ending in 1894, when he was 84 years old.

Winston Churchill endured a decade in the political wilderness. His rehabilitation in 1939 was marked by his appointment as First Lord of the Admiralty, a post he had previously held 24 years earlier.

Another minister with a large gap between periods of service is Lord Howell, father-in -law of George Osborne. As David Howell, he served as Margaret Thatcher's Transport Secretary until 1983. He returned to ministerial office as Minister of State at the Foreign Office in 2010 - a gap of 27 years.

Paul Tyler, now Lord Tyler, was elected as Liberal MP for Bodmin in the February 1974 general election, but lost the seat in the October. He made a comeback to the Commons 18 years later, winning North Cornwall for the Liberal Democrats in 1992.

But Tyler’s career pause was relatively short, compared to the 31 year gap which William Allen endured. Allen was Liberal MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme from 1892 until his defeat in 1900. He eventually returned to the House of Commons in 1931 as the Liberal National MP for Burslem.

It all goes to show that perseverance can overcome the rudest of interruptions.

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