Benn bequeaths diaries to British Library

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TONY BENN'S political archives will stretch for almost half a mile on British Library shelves when the former Viscount bequeaths them on his death, it emerged yesterday, writes Marianne Macdonald.

But the collection will not be untouched. The Labour MP has stipulated his most private papers must be censored to avoid libelling or offending political contemporaries. Some personal family references will also be removed.

The condition was agreed with Dr Alice Prochaska, director of special collections at the British Library. She said: 'It would be quite wrong to go on about censorship. But we've discussed the principle.' Some letters and diary entries will be kept back until an agreed date. The papers, at present divided between garden sheds, his basement office in Holland Park, west London, and a garage, include all Mr Benn's speeches since 1946, hundreds of Labour party documents, conference reports, press cuttings and pamphlets.

There are 13 boxes of political correspondence alone and the Benn diaries, transcribed from original tapes. The Labour MP spends an hour a day dictating the daily accounts.

The final home of the archive has been the subject of years of debate and is considered a triumph for the British Library. It will be of immense value to 20th-century historians of government, industrial policy and the Labour Party.