Right of Reply: Mark Seddon

The editor of Tribune responds to Gerald Kaufman's assessment of Tony Benn's career
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The Independent Culture
WITH CHARACTERISTIC malevolence, Gerald Kaufman ("No tears for a departing politician", 28 June) is delighted to learn that Tony Benn is to leave the Commons.

Anyone who could claim that a Labour veteran such as Benn could leave behind a legacy devoid of blemishes would be an unreliable witness. But it is possible to say that Tony Benn's record as a radical socialist is a considerable one. Quite the reverse for Gerald, I'm afraid, who will best be remembered for demanding that Michael Foot step down as leader of the Labour Party just days before our calamitous defeat in 1983.

Tony Benn spoke at the first rally I attended as a dewy-eyed Labour Party member on a damp Saturday in Trowbridge. Only last week he volunteered to send his trade- mark pipe to my constituency party for a fund raiser.

He has done more to nurture the grass roots than a thousand Gerald Kaufmans. As an eloquent spokesman for the underdog - and 14 million poverty stricken Britons fall into this category - there is no equal. Strange to say, I am at pains to recall if Gerald has ever made a memorable speech which moved the soul.

Whatever Tony has said and done, he has provided arguments for doing so on the record. Whatever Gerald has said and done has been by twists and turns, in calculated secrecy. And with each twist, Gerald has miraculously ended up supporting whoever holds the reins of power.

Like Tony, Gerald will have had the same letter that was sent to all Labour MPs of a certain age by the party's general secretary, demanding to know by tomorrow, Wednesday, if they were intending to retire from the Commons at the next election.

Gerald, there is still time for you to meet that deadline too.