Week 49: Hero – Hilary Benn

by Charlie_East_West on December 6, 2015


Our hero of the week award goes to the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn, for delivering a barnstorming closing speech to the Syria airstrikes debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

It can be argued that Hilary Benn has always lived in the shadow of his father, Tony Benn. He is a man who, while being a pretty decent politician, lacks the natural charisma and oratory of his iconic lefty late father.

Hilary Benn will never be a darling of the left wing. In terms of going to war, he voted for Iraq and he supports airstrike intervention in Syria. This clearly places him on the other side of the British military intervention debate to his late great father. But what Hilary Benn did on Wednesday evening will never be forgotten. He gave one of the great parliamentary speeches of the modern era.

I profoundly disagree with Britain’s seemingly endless imperialistic need to drop bombs in the Middle East. History has taught us that it inevitably makes a bad situation even worse. But sometimes in life it is important to recognise great arguments on the other side of the debate. So credit where credit is due to Hilary Benn. He framed his argument for war in a much more compelling way than David Cameron. Our Prime Minister’s argument for bombing Syria was basically, “we are Britain. God only knows whose side we are on, but we must be seen to be doing something”. Hilary Benn’s argument was much more nuanced and with a huge insight into the complexities of the region. It was also delivered with humility, grace and with that trademark of his father – a beguiling passion.

So just when we were witnessing a marathon Commons debate that was full of dud speeches and endless braying and shouting down of political opponents, Benn stood up and delivered the best speech of his life. It was so mesmeric that the whole speech didn’t have any interventions. When he finished his speech and sat down, there was the rather unedifying spectacle of largely Tory MPs applauding a Labour MP who had effectively done Cameron’s bidding for war.

It was a confusing spectacle borne out of a great speech. The tragedy being that Benn’s speech came with the wrong overall conclusion that Britain, yet again, should go to war in the Middle East.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

nino December 9, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Sure you haven’t got your heroes and prats mixed up? When he cited the Spanish Civil War in his “great” speech I was left wondering whic side he would have supported in that conflict!


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