‘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, 1 November 2015

William Wedgwood Benn's recipe for a healthy life

As a teetotaller, William Wedgwood Benn's health was preserved from the ravages of alcohol which affected so many politicians, including Asquith, Masterman, Clement Davies and John Smith. Benn was a tea drinker - but not to quite the extent of his son, Tony who was calculated to have drunk 29,000 gallons over the course of his life. The timing of Benn’s tea drinking may not have helped his overall well-being though, given that a good night’s sleep seems to correlate with good health. Benn used to take a thermos of tea to bed with him. He found that if he woke up in the night (typically at about 03.00), his mind was usually clear and he could have a productive thinking session, prolonged by the tea. As most people have found out though, this is not an ideal way to get back to sleep. As with most other aspects of his life, Benn kept detailed records of his health. In amongst mentions of ‘bad nights’, ‘coughs’ and ‘tight chest’ are more prosaic entries such as ‘left nostril closed’ and ‘slight vomiting’ [an unusual ailment, as for most people it tends to be more of an all-or-nothing occurrence], but there were other more positive entries, even past the age of eighty, such as ‘very well’ and ‘all night party at the Savoy did no harm’.

This is an extract from Political Wings, my biography of William Wedgwood Benn, first Viscount Stansgate, published by Pen & Sword

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