Today

by Harry on March 29, 2014

In one of the TV discussions of Tony Benn’s death, Diane Abbott pointed out that much of what Benn had fought for, and been ridiculed and despised for, had simply become mainstream. I’d never thought of it that way, because I had focused on those things he fought for that parted even farther from the mainstream. But she was right. For example, 30 years ago, nobody would have taken you seriously if you’d said that, in 30 years time, gay and lesbian Britons would be able to marry the person they loved, let alone under a law passed by a Conservative government. Not that anybody would have said that, because it was such a manifestly ridiculous thing to say. Congratulations to all those who fought for this, apparently absurd, goal. Today, just celebrate.
(posted 3/28 in the US, but 29/3 in the UK)

{ 9 comments }

1

P.M.Lawrence 03.29.14 at 1:16 am

Actually, 29/3 or 29.3 in the U.K. (and here in Australia).

2

Abbe Faria 03.29.14 at 5:44 am

Are you saying Benn supported gay marriage 30 years ago? Lots of things he did campaign for came true – like the NHS, welfare state and end of colonialism. But while he opposed section 28 and supported equalisation of the age of consent, I think his support for gay marriage is much more recent. That’s not a criticism, just an observation – even the gay rights movements postion on marriage has dramatically reversed in that time.

3

Tim Worstall 03.29.14 at 9:38 am

” Lots of things he did campaign for came true – like the NHS, welfare state and end of colonialism. “

That’s also a bit odd.The NHS came into being in 1948. It was in the 45 manifesto (when Benn was 20 years old) He entered Parliament in 1950. The welfare state was largely the Beveridge Plan, from what, 1943? 44? And the beginnings were with Lloyd George in 1909. Indian independence in 1947.

Benn may well have thought that all of these were very good things, he certainly supported them later on. But it’s a bit of a stretch to say that he was campaigning for them before they arrived.

4

Harry 03.29.14 at 2:16 pm

No, I didn’t mean that; I was just musing that among the things that would get you ridiculed as a looney lefty (and who was ridiculed more than he was? — oh yes, Ken Livingstone) was support for gay rights. And it wasn’t a popular cause even in the left of the labour movement, so it mattered that Benn was visibly on the right side.

5

Abbe Faria 03.29.14 at 4:39 pm

Thanks Tim. Point taken. But what has gone mainstream of Benn’s positions if we take that standard? His anti-war position and euro-scepticism are certainly the two ones with most salience today (and not coincidently positions with considerable support on the right). But I’m not sure what else, definitely not his industrial policy…

Harry. I completely agree some of the ‘loony left’ agenda is mainstream – like anti-discriminatory support for sexual and racial equality and support for gay rights. It’s interesting to take the other perspective too, adoption hasn’t been wholesale, the early gay right movement opposed marriage as a oppressive institution – that position has been reversed – and AIDS toned down some of the more sexually extreme aspects of gay liberation. Support for a united Ireland and liberal attitudes towards child sexuality, were other loony left positions now abandoned. There’s stuff that went mainstream, but also parts that are much less acceptable now than then.

6

Matt Heath 03.29.14 at 9:29 pm

Saying co-ops should control a significant part of the economy went from a Bennite policy to the Big Society.

7

bad Jim 03.30.14 at 6:21 am

Let’s just celebrate. It’s kind of a big deal. America’s been experiencing a rolling celebration, as one state after another accedes to the gay agenda, and since it’s been going on for a while you’d think it was no big deal, but everyone gets so emotional it’s hard not to share the joy.

8

Tim Worstall 03.30.14 at 1:19 pm

“No, I didn’t mean that; I was just musing that among the things that would get you ridiculed as a looney lefty (and who was ridiculed more than he was? — oh yes, Ken Livingstone) was support for gay rights.”

Even that I’m not sure about. Roy Jenkins wasn’t particularly seen as a looney lefty but his decriminalisation in 1967 (?) was the first step along the way. Or if we step it back a bit to Wolfson it also wasn’t particularly “left” was it? Rather more classical liberal than anything else.

9

Katherine 04.02.14 at 4:28 pm

Roy Jenkins wasn’t “classical liberal”, he was left. Don’t try to rewrite history Tim.

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