Tony Benn and the Whitstable Postal Workers at the Gulbenkian Theatre, January 2011
Tony Benn and the Whitstable Postal Workers at the Gulbenkian Theatre, January 2011
Tony Benn meets CJ Stone, Gulbenkian Theatre, Canterbury, January 2011
Tony Benn meets CJ Stone, Gulbenkian Theatre, Canterbury, January 2011

So sad to hear of the death of Tony Benn.

I first met him in 1994 at a march and rally against the Criminal Justice Bill. Benn was one of the speakers and I was one of the organisers.

As soon as I saw him I went up to shake his hand. There was no hesitation. How often do you get to meet a national hero face to face?

What struck me was how open he was. He paid attention. I felt that I mattered to him, that he was genuinely interested in what I had to say.

The next time I met him was in October 2000. I wrote to him at the House of Commons requesting an interview. I met him at his house in Notting Hill and was shown into a spacious basement room lined with books.

He was very easy to spend time with. He made a pot of tea which he brought out on a tray. After this he filled his pipe and lit it. He was puffing away on his pipe and sipping tea throughout the interview.

You can read the results of that meeting here.

The last time I met him was in the Gulbenkian Theatre in Canterbury in January 2011 during the campaign to keep the Whitstable delivery office open. Benn had agreed to say a few words.

He was as gracious as always, listening with careful attention and fixing me with his eyes. After that the press took over and we were shuffled about this way and that to provide photographs for the newspapers.

And that was the last time I met him. Of course I was saddened by his passing, so close on the heels of the death of Bob Crow, but I don’t think it would be right to regret his demise. Old age and death come to all of us, and it’s how we live our lives that matters.

Tony Benn remained an inspiration to the last, showing dignity and grace even in the midst of his final illness, telling us not to fear our end.

For an extended version of this article please go to: http://cjstone.hubpages.com/hub/TonyBenn

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