On the Politics Show, Sunday 14 January 2006, Jon Sopel interviewed Tony Benn, winner of the Political Heroes vote.
INTERVIEW WITH: TONY BENN:
JON SOPEL: Tony Benn, congratulations.
TONY BENN: Well it's a little embarrassing 'cos I don't believe in heroes, but still, thank you very much.
JON SOPEL: Well you're here, so you must have - well, I mean you are a modest man with not a lot to be modest about, to paraphrase Churchill's sort of rather acerbic comment on Atlee, why do you think you won?
TONY BENN: Well, I don't know. I mean I have a lot of experience, I'm eighty two in April. I don't want anything. I've got four lovely children, ten lovely grandchildren and I left parliament to devote more time to politics and I think that what is really going on in Britain is a growing sense of alienation. People don't feel anyone listens to them.
They don't believe what they're told. We're being managed all the time and my interests in life has always been in democracy, so what I've done since I left parliament - and I've been busier than ever - go around campaigning for the causes I believe in, for peace, pensioners offer means tests, no student fees, civil liberties, no privatisation.
That's what I campaign for. And I think people want someone to support them. That's what matters.
JON SOPEL: Interestingly, the emails that we got, a lot of people, citing the reasons why they voted for you, were exactly the same reasons that they cited for voting for Margaret Thatcher.
TONY BENN: Well I mean Mrs Thatcher said what she meant, meant what she said and did what she said she'd do. And no spin about that woman and although I thought her policies were catastrophic, at least you knew where you were with her. But in a world of spin doctors and think tanks and focus groups, nobody knows what's going on and I think there is a serious alienation, people don't feel that they're being represented, they're being managed.
Everyone's got a new idea to do this to you, or do that to you, or do that and what about our role? In a democracy people have to decide and historically, all campaigns for progress came from the bottom: suffragettes, environment, trade unions, that's how - the vote - that's how it all came.
JON SOPEL: Interestingly, no one nominated Tony Blair and he's the first guy to take Labour to three election victories, does that surprise you?
TONY BENN: Well I don't know how these things are done, but I mean I'm loyally waiting for the election of a Labour Government. I've been a member of the Labour Party sixty five years, and I remain in it, but I think it's all about campaigning for justice and peace and if you do that you get a lot of support.
JON SOPEL: Right. Well we can bestow no greater honour upon Tony Benn and the greatest living tea drinker as well, now our political hero, to give you a Politics Show mug.
TONY BENN: Oh, how kind of you.
JON SOPEL: And so you may enjoy that. So you know, what, so you're going to carry on campaigning just as...
TONY BENN: Well, as long as I can. I mean you've got to be about a hundred to be interesting nowadays - eighty two is nothing. I did a meeting the other day in Tavistock Square to commemorate Hiroshima and there was a woman in a wheelchair who got up and... passion speech, got back in the... she was a hundred. So at eighty two is...
JON SOPEL: So you're a stripling youth?
TONY BENN: Pardon.
JON SOPEL: You're a stripling youth!
TONY BENN: Well a lot of people are going to get older and I mean we see, when you get older, I don't want to be... back on a means test, cos a young MP I voted against the means test.
At the end of my life I was told to vote for it for pensioners, I' m not in favour of means tests for pensioners or anybody.
JON SOPEL: Tony Benn, good to have you on the programme. Thank you very much for being here.
END OF INTERVIEW WITH TONY BENN
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NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.
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The Politics Show Sunday 14 January 2007 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.
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