Tony Benn eyes Commons return

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The veteran left winger Tony Benn is plotting an audacious return to the political frontline at the age of 82. Mr Benn is bidding to become the Labour candidate for the new seat of Kensington. He retired from Parliament in 2001 –- more than 50 years after first becoming an MP – explaining he thought he could have more influence outside Westminster. Since stepping down, he has addressed more than 1,000 speaker meetings.

But he disclosed yesterday he had written to Labour chiefs in Kensington, who are yet to choose a candidate, to put his name forward.

He said: "If they would like me to stand I would like to be there. I'm not sure if I would be selected but I'd like to do it. I don't think my age would be a problem.

"I believe in saying the same thing inside and outside parliament. I believe in peace, not taxing students with enormous loans and I believe in securing a referendum on the EU."

The Kensington constituency is being created at the next election by the division of the Kensington and Chelsea seat, currently represented by Sir Malcolm Rifkind and one of the Tories' safest seats.

But electoral statisticians calculate that Labour could win the new constituency with a majority of 7.1 per cent. Theoretically there could be three generations of the Benn family in Parliament after the next election. His son, Hilary, the Environment Secretary, is the MP for the safe Labour seat of Leeds Central, and his granddaughter Emily, 18, is standing for the party in East Worthing and Shoreham, Sussex.

Mr Benn first arrived in the Commons when he won a by-election in Bristol South East in 1950. He lost the seat in the 1983 Thatcher landslide but returned a year later as the MP for Chesterfield, which he represented until his retirement.

After renouncing his peerage in 1963, he served as a Cabinet Minister under Harold Wilson and moved steadily to the left in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1981 he was narrowly defeated for the party's deputy leadership.