14/03/2014 Newsnight


Peace campaigner or the man who split Labour. Who was the real Tony Benn? Dennis Healey tells us. Mark Urban is in Ukraine. David Hare on his new film.

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Not many politicians have followers so devoted that they take their


name, to one generation the begin nights were the hard -- the Bennites


were the ones that split Labour. But to others the people with the


courage to stand up with the poor and powerless. Who was the real


Anthony Wedgwood Benn. We're here to start a new political movement. I we


talk to Denis Healey, the man who stopped his rise to power. In my


view he was an artificial lefty. An artificial lefty? I think he was


trying to prove he was working-class. He was very ashamed


of his upper-class background really. So will he be remembered for


dripping poison into his party or all that's best of British? In


Crimea they prepare for the referendum on leaving Ukraine and


joining Russia. But is the vote just a prelude to a greater conflict.


This is battle of wills that the Russians intend to win, starting


with that referendum here on Sunday. And this. Back in the old days it


would take a whole lifetime to destroy the reputation of a


politician or banker. But now, as we know, someone just hits send and it


can happen overnight. Playwright David Hare turns his fire on the


books. We talk to the man who has delighted and challenged audiences


from stage left. Tony Benn, who died aged 88 believed with words


parliament had tamed kings, restrained tyrants and averted


revolution. Yet with his own golden tongue he entertained and infuriated


in equal measure. Arguably he helped split the Labour Party in the 1980s.


Although he had been on the Government payroll as a minister, he


came to believe there wasn't much point in just improving the system.


Instead it had to be transforeign minister all -- transformed all


together. Despite his profile and popularity, achieving that kind of


change alluded him. Tony Benn, not a wide-eyed trot, but a very English


phenomenon. English phenomenon. There are many who fit the cliche,


socialist when young, capitalist with age. Tony Benn properly bucked


the trend. He was a towering figure within the Labour Party, serving as


an MP for more than half a century. The British public have been


awakened, not just on the mining industry, but to the whole rotten


philosophy of the 1980s, that it is all about cash and you bring in a


chartered accountant andest tells you what to do. It isn't about that,


it is about whether our society puts people in a place of dignity and


service them or whether you just hand over your money to gamblers who


don't create any wealth at all. It was the appeal he had outside


parliament that really captured his achievements. He came to


Glastonbury, he even appeared with Ali G. Come on you are not living in


the real world, you are living in a world where everybody is so bloody


greedy that there is no hope of building a better society and that's


why we are in a mess. Fool you! Tony Benn constantly questioned


where power came from? And how it was used. Passionate and articulate,


with a clipped tones and pronounced vowells even after he relinquished


his title, Sir Anthony Wedgwood Ben, there was no descent into mockney to


prove he was a man of the people. This is a matter that would have to


be decided by Bristol. I'm a servant of the people of the Bristol. They


have to decide if they wanted me. I'm a member of the Labour Party, so


the Labour leaders would have to be brought into such a discussion.


To the generations who came after him, he appealed as a true


conviction politician. When he took to the stump, campaigning against


the Iraq War, millions listened. We are here today to found a new


political movement worldwide. The biggest demonstration ever in


Britain, the first global demonstration and its first cause is


to prevent a war against Iraq. And yet many within his own party will


remember him as a truly devisive figure. He served as Secretary of


State in the Wilson and Callaghan Governments, but it was after Labour


was ousted in 1979 that things got bitter. Every day I'm getting more


messages, and I think the reason is very clear. People want the next


Labour Government to do what it says it will do. He waged a destructive


battle as the champion of the left against Denis Healey, for the deputy


leadership of the party. Ultimately he lost. Tony Benn, 49. 574. Denis


Healey 50. 426. While his conviction was dedoubtable, his failure to


compromise and his manoeuvrings were also seen as flaws.


He eventually left parliament to, in his words, concentrate on politics,


he was a prolific diary writer and deeply thoughtful man. Happy to


admit he had the kind of self-doubt that often led him to question his


decisions. I think anyone has to be self-critical if they are going to


make sense of their own experience and opinions. And I often ask myself


am I right about this, am I wrong about it?


What of the Labour of then, and the Labour of now? On a personal level


he knew Ed Miliband has family friend, today the leader of the


opposition described him as a champion of the powerless. The thing


about Tony Benn is you always knew what he stood for and who he stood


up for. And I think that's why he was admired right across the


political spectrum. Today those who felt his to be the "wrong sort of


Labour" may stay silent. But there are some on the left who see Tony


Benn not just as iconic, but as prophetic. His politics were not


always easy to swallow. But they were consistent, provocative and to


many inspiring. As Emily suggested, Tony Benn's most devisive battle was


perhaps with the former Labour Chancellor, Lord Healey, now 96


years old. Who he fought for the deputy leadership of the party, and


lost, just. This afternoon I went to talk to the man who was Tony Benn's


enemy, but later in life became his friend. I asked him what Benn was


like when the pair were first elected to parliament in 1952. Well


he was, me my view, an artificial lefty at that time. An artificial


lefty? I think he was trying to prove he was working-class. He was


very ashamed of his upper-class background really. At the worst


time, when the party was full of splits, when he stood against you,


how much bitterness was there? There was quite a lot of bitterness,


really. Because I felt he was doing the party enormous damage, and I'm


sure he was at that time by the way he behaved, not just his views. But


as I say all that disappeared in later life. What do you mean by the


way he behaved? Well, that he would be extremely route and offensive in


what he said. Rude to you, offensive to you? Yes, a little bit, but then


I was offensive to him. Was he toxic to the Labour Party? It was damaging


to us, without question. But what was most damaging was the divisions,


caused by the views. Because most people knew nothing about the issues


we disagreed on. But they disagreed, that they disliked immensely hearing


people in the same party being rude to one another. Was that his fault?


I think it was, mainly, yes. How did he go from being such a toxic figure


in the Labour Party to becoming a national treasure sure, almost a


grandfather of British politics? I think his views softened enormously.


And you know, he was at one time leading a toxic left-wing and I mean


people like Michael Foot loathed him, because he did the party so


much damage by the way he talked. Although Michael shared many of his


views. What was he like? Tony at the end, well he was still you know a


man with a golden tongue, but he was totally unaggressive. Where as when


he was young he was very aggressive, and indeed. And I think that was


partly his need to prove that he had broken with his family background. I


think he really wanted to prove he was left-wing. He couldn't prove he


was working-class because he wasn't, it was the opposite. Did you like


him? I disliked him intensely when we disagreed with one another, but


we had very good relations in our late life. Tony Benn also famously


said that broadcasting is too important to be left to the


broadcasters. With me are the Liberal Democrat peer, Shirley


Williams, Labour MP Diane abbot, and Tim Montgomerie, comment editor at


the Times. Diane abbot, it is rare a politician captures the imagination


of so many people. Do you accept what was said there that Tony Benn


did damage to the Labour Party? It wasn't his views softened, it was


positions he took up in relation to Ireland, issues like gay marriage,


race, women, they became very mainstream. People forget part of


Tony Benn's victory, in a lot of the things he espoused early on in his


career became mainstream. The damage you could argue was it the SDP


walking out to cause the damage or people talking about party democracy


causing damage. It was a difficult period. But he was an inspirational


gig that brought people into politics. In the end people like


people who they think really believe what they are saying. I came this


evening from a birthday party, with a lot of black and minority ethnic


people there, they wanted me to say tonight that people need to remember


how much black people loved Tony Benn, you guys are in the political


bubble. For the people outside the political bubble, Tony Benn spoke


for people who didn't have a voice. It is rare to have that, and we will


come back to that. Shirley Williams you were one of the people who


walked out and you started as young MPs together. Was it his views that


led you and your colleagues to the exit door, how instrumental was he


in that? Not really. I think Tony in the 60s was a mainstream politician,


and a very good minister for technology. I think frankly in the


70s he had subscribed to a great extent to a pretty far left with


militant tendency. No he didn't. He was never a member of the militant


left. I know becau I was on the national executive. I was there. I


was on the national executive week after week after week and you were


not. He was not a member of the militant tendency. I was on the NEC


Not for the whole period. Here is an example of how devisive he could be.


He was never a member of the Militant Tendency. When I started I


said he subscribed to some of the views. You can check the record I


did not say he was a member. I did say and I mean it that he was


supportive of them. And when issues came up at the national executive,


like the appointment of the National Youth Officer. , the best national


agent the Labour Party had, that was laid on the table, never opened


again and that was partly because Tony was chairman of the Home Policy


Committee and said we are not going to open it. He was instrumental in


making things happen. I think he was pretty instrumental. He was


outrageous in the way he treated Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan,


they were not traitors to the Labour Government, which I think Tony


implied. They were men who worked very hard, especially Jim Callaghan.


I thought he was very damaging to the Labour movement at that point. I


don't think it was through the 60s, but during the 70s it is hard to


argue anything else. The Sun called him the most dangerous man in


Britain, do you think Conservative voters or people leaning that way


really thought that. Did they really believe that? While sections of the


left had some internal conversations? Absolutely, by the


end of the 1970s, the Government I by which Tony Benn was a leading


part, people felt was ungovernable to many people. And the split


between Diane and Shirley, that split on the left of British


politics was the reason or one of the key reasons why Margaret


Thatcher was able to win those decisive majorities she did. The


split on the left with the decisive fact in British politics for a long


period. It was the unreasonableness of Tony Benn, testified to there by


Denis Healey, that created that division. But do you think people


really thought he was dangerous, some kind of bogeyman, that is


hyperbole, headline writing? I don't think so, if you look at some of the


positions he took, particularly on nuclear disarment. That was a period


when many people genuinely feared what the Soviet Union represented.


That was a time in the world when people were very frightened. His


support for giving up our nuclear weapons, leaving Britain potentially


defenceless against what Ronald Regan correctly described as the


evil empire, people worried about that. People weren't frightened of


him. When he went out in the 80s and 90s and spoke to people, the same


blue rinse brigade, and he was extremely popular and his ideas were


popular, to call him a member of the militant tendency is bizarre. I did


not say that, I said he subscribed to some of its ideas. In terms of


that do you accept there was a nervousness amongst many voters


about the positions he took. You said his views were mainstream, but


for many people they weren't? His views on thing things like on the


Iraq War. Tabloid newspapers said he was clinically insane, the terrible


things they used to write. No wonder Tory ladies were frightened of him.


What he did have, no doubt Shirley Williams, if you look at the green


benches he was a politician people believed, and they believed that he


believed what he was saying? That is perfectly true. I accept that, and I


think that tony said what he believed, and fought it very


strongly. I think the implication he's unique in that annoys me.


Somebody like Michael Foot, who was very different in his attitude


towards, particularly parliament, which he vastly admired, much more


than Tony Benn was not treated. Do we have that now? No, a lot of the


more colourful characters have moved on. Now we have politicians who seem


rather like one another. That is partly because the divisions have


narrowed between political parties quite substantially, I think. And


partly because of some of the things Tony addressed. What is interesting


is he was yearning for a world that had gone. I don't think he was


tremenduously a man of the modern world. Hang on you can have your


opinion in the minute. Speaking at Glastonbury, packing out Town Halls


around the country. Let me finish the sentence. He didn't really


recognise that the world was becoming global and he wasn't in


that sense a politician who had a global view? What do you say to


that? I think he was a great internationalist, whether it was his


position on Iraq, on apartheid. I was against Iraq too, so was my


party. Was he someone whose time had passed? It is extraordinary, he's so


popular, not with the blue rinse ladies but with young people. He was


an inspirational figure. He was also actually a very kind man and


incredibly courteous, if all politicians had his intellectual


curiosity and his curtesy parliament would be a better place. I'm going


to talk, you two are never going to agree, Shirley we will come back to


you in one second. But Tim, where are the equivalents, whether on the


left or right, or somewhere in the middle. Are those characters there?


I think there are some characterists, like Dan Hannon, they


agree with Tony Benn on democracy. Lots on the right think where he


stood on Europe, the idea I think he once said that outside of the


Kremlin there is no organisation where there is less accountability


than the European Union. His belief that we should be able to change the


people who make our laws in a democracy, he would be standing with


all sorts of the most interesting people in politics on that


democratic question. Interesting that none of those people are in


particularly senior positions. Shirley, finally to you, you knew


him for the longest time. What was he like and what will you remember,


briefly you if you could? He was a fine thinking, he was an interesting


man who came up with new ideas. He was not unique in being for example


against Iraq, some remember that the entire party which I happened to be


involved in was against Iraq and he was, for example, not unique in


being in favour of gay marriage, because Roy Jenkins who was the


other extreme, the right-wing of the Labour Party was the man who brought


in the actual legislation about homosexuality in a way that Tony


wasn't in a position to do. I think with great respect that Diane is


giving him credit for all sorts of things which other Labour


politicians absolutely aspired. You two can continue this conversation,


but I am afraid we have run out of time. Thank you all very much for


coming in this evening. Now, the Russian and American foreign policy


bosses at least talked face-to-face today about Ukraine. But as soon as


emerged that John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov had booked separate venues


for their press conferences, it was thought nothing could be achieved.


They couldn't be further apart on this crisis. The Americans say this


referendum on Crimea is illegal. Russia, not surprisingly will


respect the result. Well we're there tonight. Is there anything more the


west can do to stop this vote from actually happening? Well, it is


fascinating question, one of the things that's become really clear in


this is President Putin's desire to control this crisis. If you like the


escalate or deescalate controller. We have seen that today with what


was said in London. For example there has been another example in


Ukraine of violence between pro-Russian and anti-Russian people.


Will it lead to issues in Ukraine, you have no ideas from the London


meeting with Lavrov today. John Kerry said one thing clear was


President Putin didn't want to make any decisions on the crisis until


after the Sunday referendum in Crimea. Countries opposed to what


he's trying to do will have their say in the United Nations tomorrow.


We know of course that Russia will veto that. And meanwhile, everything


is building up towards that vote and you get an absolutely clear


impression on the ground of Russia's determination to prevail here.


Crimea's political connection to Ukraine is now a slender slither of


land. Coming in by train you speed past a Ukrainian army checkpoint


that effectively marks a border with part of their own country. Arriving


here locals with armband, Russians are there to ensure order and stop


new comesers to search them. For some people, like the couple of


hundred who lined the roads, this is a future they don't want to share.


It is to show not everyone in Crimea supports Russia, and actually a lot


of people are for Ukraine, and we don't want to be a Bart of Russia.


But Travelling an hour east along the road we found out how hard it is


to stand in the way of Crimea's return to Russia. Just above the


town is a huge zoo and tourist attraction. Falling in behind his


referendum battle wagon, we joined its owner, an ardent supporter of


the union with Russia, who took us on a tour of Europe's largest


collection... Of tigers and lions. And where as President Putin might


like the idea of wrestling lions, Oleg actually does. I have been in


some tricky situations, I wasn't quite expecting to find myself


face-to-face with lions, while discussing the Crimea referendum.


The lion park's owner is not only wealthy and well connected, but he


has helped organise the local self-defence group as well as the


referendum and is convinced where Crimea's destiny lies. TRANSLATION:


I think our future is Russia, separation was a mistake by crush


shove, this will be corrected. Nobody could imagine the events that


the USSR would collapse, and the Crimea would transfer to the Ukraine


and with such consequences. Who would believe it would end in such a


dirty trick. The spirit here is more Russian than Ukrainian. Down here


there is resistence, in this community of 50,000, the mayor


refused to carry out Sunday's referendum. TRANSLATION: I initially


addressed the citizens, urging them in such difficult times we should


all remain calm, not to be addressive or provocative to each


other. I did this to prevent the situation getting out of control. To


risk a sma spark ignighting a big fire. The mayor's warning has been


ignored, he has been bypassed by local officials, who are now working


hard to prepare ballot papers for Sunday's vote. They invited us in to


see. It is no mean feat, since the sudden announcement of the poll left


no time for a new electoral register The mix of identities here causes


this split. While the tatas, of whom the mayor is one have dark memories


of Soviet times, local Russians would gladly have them back.


TRANSLATION: To me this is a historical moment, a restoration of


what became a smaller motherland to my great motherland that is Russia.


Those who oppose the referendum will boycott it, that is not just tatas,


we found local Ukrainians planning to as well. TRANSLATION: I think


this is an occupation. Occupiers have invaded our land. We have lived


with Russians in peace and harmony since ancient times, and now he


wants to start world war three, we don't want war. That message on the


banner, that Crimea is Russian, is one that most people in the


territory would subscribe to. But this town is split. And pushing the


referendum through will leave a legacy of bitterness that could sow


the seeds of future strife. This man already senses victory, a powerful


majority for union with Russia, leaving the Catholicics penned in by


their own ideas. Does art get at the truth before


history can write it. Sir David Hare, one of our most celebrated


playwrights has sent 40 years chronicling many of our biggest


events. Normally from stage left. His play, The Permanent Way


dramatised the sell-off of the railways. The latest work, a trilogy


for TV takes on the spooks, with plots that could have been torn from


the headlines and a stellar cast too. In a moment he will talk to us,


mere is a thriver. What do you do? I'm financial PR. What is that? If


you haven't heard of Gladstone. Years ago it would take a lifetime


to destroy the reputation of a Dr Or a banker -- doctor or a banker, now


you just hit send and it can happen overnight. It is my job to keep the


company's good name. Does Gladstone have a good name? Good enough. Sir


David is here with us now. In modern times we have always had the


Security Services, there has always been intrigue around them, whether


that is James Bond or Le Carre. Why did you choose to take on this


subject at this moment in time? Because everything changed for them


in 2001, they weren't ready for it. At the end of the last century they


thought that they were facing decline. I knew some people inside


the building and they were really worried that it was going to be a


very bad time for spies, with Northern Ireland settled the Cold


War over it appeared to be a low movement in spies' fortunes. They


didn't see the direction that trouble was coming from, they


weren't ready for t and they weren't ready for some of the moral problems


raised in the last ten years. So a boom time for the Security Services


has given you new fodder? I think it is that John Le Carre is somebody we


all admire as a great writer in the field. But he had the Cold War, or


he wrote brilliantly about the cold war, but nobody has been writing


about the particular issues that have come up since the invasion of


Iraq and 9/11. Those are about the means by which intelligence is


gathered. And the scruples or lack of them that exist inside MI5, I


know less about 5. MI 6, but the scruples that exist within the


intelligence community and the argument that is go on inside the


community about how they should be behaving. What were the arguments?


There is people inside MI5 that believe the ends justify the means


and there are those who don't. There is absolutely no doubt we have been


complicit in illegal ways of torturing people to gather


information. We know we have. You know, they look at information and


they say, well this is strangely good, how on earth can it be so


good. They claim not to then take the next step where they say how can


this intelligence be so good. Some people favour these methods, and


politicians, unfortunately are forced to lie about it. But the


Government denies that, it is quite an accusation to say politicians lie


about this all the time. Are you saying people inside the Security


Services have been open with you about that? It is quite an


allegation? Oh yeah. Categorically? Yes, of course. And why then do you


think that in the same era where we have Edward Snowden, we have Bradley


Manning, and wicky ks putting huge amounts of information about the


services out into the public domain, why do we need to have writing about


it, given that information bursts out from everywhere? I'm writing


because it is entertaining, I'm writing about a jolly Warwick,


imagined character within MI5, it is not documentary what I write, it is


fiction. But it is fiction that is based on what is closely going on.


And I hope these films are extremely entertaining. That is what they are


meant to be. You have never shied away from taking on political


subjects and famously you stopped voting Labour because of the Iraq


wax and then I understand voted Liberal Democrat in 2010. Bringing


out All myment painful secrets. I thought the ballot box was private.


What do you make of the Government now, despite the comments about the


Security Services. What do you make of the coalition for the Liberal


Democrats you voted for. I think foreign policy has been donated to


Washington, they are giving away their power all the time. The things


the state used to own they give away. They have recently given away


the Royal Mail. Politicians seem more and more diminished and seem to


be happy to be. In other words to delegate authority now seems to be


what politicians want to do because they are frightened of taking


responsibility for things. You are sounding a bit like Tony Benn? I


think that the interesting thing about what's been said today about


Tony Benn is that everybody's been saying he was very eloquent and he's


a great speaker and wonderful orator, but oratory is about


content. The reason he was interesting is because he had


interesting ideas. Eloquence doesn't arrive on top of ideas, it is the


expression of ideas. The reason the current leaders are boring and


effectively that is what your speaker has just said, there is


nobody who speaks interestingly any more, that is because they don't


have interesting ideas, not because they are not great rhetorician.


Isn't it easy to say these things from a North London intellectual


life? I used to feel the opposite. I wrote about Neil Kinnock and the


1991 election. I was convinced on both sides, John Major a man I


admired very much, and Neil Kinnock whom I also admired. I was convinced


that politicians were working for the public good. I think it is very


hard after the Iraq War and the ex-PEPses scandal to believe that


they are any more. It has to be two way. They can't ask us to respect


them unless they respect us. That's why writing about MI5 is so


interesting. Because you know if they are to respect us, they


actually have to tell us something about what's going on. Just let me


finish, that means not shutting down the Gibson Inquiry, and it means


taking the Chalcot inquiry seriously. Thank you very much for


coming in and speaking to us. The Warwick trilogy starts tomorrow on


BBC Two. That is all from us tonight. We will leave you with one


more reminder of the words of Tony Benn who died this morning, and the


way he put the personal and political together to fight for his


cause. As you will hear, never more so than during his battle against


the war in Iraq. Good night. I was born a quarter of a mile from where


we are sitting now, I was here in London during the blitz, every night


I went down to the shelter, 500 people killed, my brother was killed


and my friends were killed. When the charter of the UN was read to me,


"we the peoples of the United Nations determine to save succeeding


generations from the scourge of war" that was the pledge my generation


gave to the younger generation and you tore it up, it is a war crime


that has been committed in Iraq. There is no moral difference.


LINEBREAK APPLAUSE Between a stealth and suicide


bomber, both kill people for political reasons.


The weekend is upon us, for many of us not looking too bad. Some rain


around, notably across the