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« We'll back the pub but they won't back us | Main | Hotels that offer a welcome for smokers »

Tony Benn helps launch Big Brother Watch

I attended the official launch of Big Brother Watch, the new Taxpayers Alliance campaign, in London last night. If I'm honest, I had a little too much to drink which masked my cold during the event but I'm feeling it this morning.

Venue was Vanilla, a modern bar restaurant a short walk north of Oxford Street. We were in the cocktail bar downstairs. It reminded me of Xenon, the first and only London nightclub I have ever been to - and that was in the Eighties. An odd place, perhaps, to launch a new political campaign but no-one was complaining. It's nice to see these things done with a little panache.

All the usual suspects were there - Mark Littlewood (IEA), Shane Frith (Progressive Vision), Philip Booth (No2ID), Simon Richards (Freedom Association), Eamonn Butler (Adam Smith Institute) - and many more.

Guest speakers were David Davis and Tony Benn. Benn is 85 and, officially, a national treasure. Call me old-fashioned, but I do find it a bit galling to hear people on the right sucking up to him as if he's some sort of hero.

I interviewed him in Edinburgh seven years ago for a magazine called The Politico. He was touring the country with his one-man show and he was very charming and hospitable. Politically, however, Benn has never changed. He's the same one-eyed socialist he was in the Sixties and Seventies when Britain was led to the edge of bankruptcy and national humiliation.

Anyway, it was an excellent night and I wish Big Brother Watch well. Alex Deane, the director, is young and very bright and I am sure we will hear a lot more of the campaign in the coming months and years.

Click HERE for more information.

Reader Comments (16)

'Call me old-fashioned, but I do find it a bit galling to hear people on the right sucking up to him....' - yes, so do I. I remember Tony Benn MP addressing a load of miners in Wakefield in the early 1970s. Many were virtually starving (due to strikes/disputes) whilst he was a happy champagne socialist. Sadly many of them were taken in by him back in those days!

January 19, 2010 at 10:26 | Unregistered CommenterJenny of Yorkshire

Irrespective of whether you agree with Tony Benn's politics he is a political giant and man of deeply held convictions. Compare him to the Camercons and Bliars of this world who only want to steal your vote and then shaft you.

As for the miners, more should have listened to him and there might be a mining industry left in the UK. The UDM got sucked by Thatcher and greed and allowed her to kill the industry. There are no miners left to talk to.

January 19, 2010 at 13:40 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Peoples

Er....don't like to spoil your dreams Micheal, but the industrial revolution was a long time ago. People complain now if they smell a whiff of tobacco smoke, can you imagine the outcry if we still had coal fires?

January 19, 2010 at 13:48 | Unregistered CommenterRebus

In the recent cold spell the price of gas doubled and we are at the mercy or Eastern European countries as to whether we get supplied enough gas to operate the power stations. Many are adaptable and were switched to coal burning to keep the price of electricity down but the stock of coal is low and again we are obliged to bring it in from abroad.

The Industrial Revolution may be over but we still need coal.

January 19, 2010 at 14:02 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Peoples

Rebus, I still have a coal fire - so do most folks round these parts ...

January 19, 2010 at 15:24 | Unregistered CommenterRose Whiteley

Where do you get the coal from Rose, according to Michael, there are no coal miners left in this country?

The last time I saw an open fire, was in a pretty little pub in Devon I believe, but even they didn't use coal. I think it was some specially treated wood, which probably cost them the earth, but it looks lovely.

January 19, 2010 at 15:55 | Unregistered CommenterRebus

Yuk, filthy dirty stinking open fires in pubs, pumping all those toxic fumes and carcinogens into the air and making my clothes and hair smell (at least, that's what would happen if I had any hair)...

Well, honestly - my local pub currently has a chalkboard outside advertising "Two wood burning fires". I'm sorely tempted to go and write underneath "and yet you can't smoke - how daft is that?"

January 19, 2010 at 17:05 | Unregistered CommenterRick S

I have a coal fire and also burn logs. The coal I believe comes from Poland but the best coal used to be Welsh. Unfortunately we have to burn foreign coal while millions of tonnes of the stuff lies underground throughtout the UK and millions of people are unemployed.

Thatcher's economic policies for you whereas Benn wanted to save the industry.

January 19, 2010 at 17:15 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Peoples

Tony Benn comes across as a 'political giant' etc. because he is being compared with politicians with the IQs and common sense of a bunch of garden gnomes (although garden gnomes are genuinely decorative and not paid to be so and I have more respect for them!). Some people may admire him, but I, personally, have never really been so impressed by him. The mining industry has been destroyed - like many other industries - by various governments, individuals and movements. (Oh, and I had family members who were miners and worked in various pits in West Yorkshire, and in the textile industry and in engineering.) All these have gone to the dogs now, like our traditions, liberties and very many public houses, clubs, caf├ęs, bingo halls and so on.

January 19, 2010 at 18:18 | Unregistered CommenterJenny of Yorkshire

Spot on Jenny.
Then after the greedy pigs destroyed the communities.
They dumped the working classes in sink estates .
These communities have still not recovered.
I know because even though I am an IT worker now I went through that as well.
It was very hard.
I was a steel worker then, 19 years old.
We should have all stood shoulder to shoulder with the miners.
Millions of us.

January 19, 2010 at 21:01 | Unregistered CommenterSpecky

Maybe it's not proper coal we burn ... come to think of it, the lumps are quite big. Probably some kind of new-fangled health and safety approved cancer-free coal :) Still, it works.

January 19, 2010 at 22:14 | Unregistered CommenterRose

Simon, was Tony Benn smoking his pipe? I have heard that he ignores the smoking ban, (on trains and Q&A sessions etc), and the authorities ignore him!!

January 19, 2010 at 22:37 | Unregistered Commentertimbone

The completely insane thing about the UK energy polcy at the moment is that clean burn coal technology is available now.
We are sitting on trillions of tons of coal.
Clean burn power stations work.
Problem is we have an environmental bunch of nut jobs who think windmills are the answer.
I see a wind farm fairly near me, problem is no wind no power.
The war is over, burn coal ,cleanly.

January 19, 2010 at 23:34 | Unregistered CommenterSpecky

Yes, given the oft-repeated observation in the Seventies that we are sitting on a three-hundred-year supply of coal, it DOES seem rather perverse that we should not now be seeking more humane and technologically advanced ways of extracting it.

But any obstacles to THAT particular aspect of the looming energy crisis (if such it is) must NOWADAYS be laid at the door of the Greens (long ago infiltrated by the agents of communism AND international corporate thuggery).

THEY are the real enemy - not the political corpse of Margaret Thatcher (who wanted CHEAPER coal - not NO coal).

As to Tony Benn (whom I've always liked - despite his dingbat policies), since WHEN was a Millionaire Socialist a PARADOX ?

Forget the posters on the wall (and over the student's bed).

The Communist Revolution in Russia was not FINANCED by the Oppressed Masses (any more than the French Revolution or the National Socialist Revolution were) - but by...........

Think things are any different now ?

January 22, 2010 at 11:02 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

No Martin - history repeats itself. That's something that I have always maintained - and it will happen again - this time, here in the UK.

January 22, 2010 at 17:23 | Unregistered CommenterJenny of Yorkshire

Tony Benn is a great man. He has been consistent in his views and has campaigned tirelessly for over 60 years for the principles and convictions he and many without a voice hold dear. He is still making a difference at almost 85 and lang may his lum reek as we say in Scotland. As a point of fact, he is neither a millionaire (unlike Cameron and his cronies) nor a champagne socialist (he's been tea-total all his life). He is a proud socialist however, unlike any of New Labour and he represents a view and movement many people around the world share. His is an optimistic vision of what society could be without being dominated by market forces and colonial wars for resources. Fairness, eradication of poverty and human decency, the needs of the many over the needs of the elite. I'll drink some tea to that.

January 23, 2010 at 10:59 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

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