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Son leads Commons tributes to Tony Benn and 'inspirational' life

Hilary Benn received a round of applause yesterday after he paid tribute to his father Tony for leading a life that "inspires and encourages" others.

Tony Benn renounced the peerage he inherited from his own father, his son told the House, because contrary to a once-held view that he was an aristocrat, his blood remained "the deepest red throughout his life".

Speaking in the Commons, on behalf of his family after his father died aged 88 last week, Mr Benn thanked MPs for their contributions, saying "just how much the words that we have heard today mean to us".

He said Tony Benn, who won 16 elections, "loved" Parliament and was devastated when he was barred from entering the Commons on his father's death in 1960, as "it was alleged that his blood was blue".

He said: "His blood was never blue, it was the deepest red throughout his life."

He said: "That moment taught him that the right of people to choose who will represent them in this place, the very foundation of our democracy, was never, ever granted by those in power; it had to be fought for."

He said his father "was at heart not just a socialist, he was a non-conformist dissenter".

Mr Benn added: "It is from the words and kindnesses of those whose lives he touched, that we, those who loved him most, take the greatest strength. After all, any life that inspires and encourages so many others, is a life that was well-lived."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "Tony Benn will be remembered as a dedicated constituency MP, a tireless campaigner and of course an astute political diarist."

Labour's shadow deputy prime minister Harriet Harman described the politician as a romantic, family man, who doted on his wife and children. "He proposed to Caroline only nine days after meeting her, explaining that it would have been sooner, but that he was quite shy," she told the House.

Father of the House Sir Peter Tapsell said: "In private life, he was a gentle, sweet, charming man with perfect manners." Although he acknowledged that his personality "changed a little" in front of an audience.

"I would rank him with Nye Bevan, Michael Foot and Enoch Powell as the four finest parliamentary debaters during my half century in the House."

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