POLITICIANS and activists across Bolton have paid tribute to veteran Labour politician Tony Benn, who has died aged 88 after a long illness.
A stalwart of the Labour party who served as an MP for more than 50 years, Mr Benn was renowned as a fearless and tireless campaigner on a range of issues, including supporting the miners’ strike during the 1980s and against the invasion of Iraq.
Julie Hilling, MP for Bolton West, said she was ‘lost for words’ when she heard the news.
The two were friends for years, with Mr Benn endorsing Ms Hilling as a Labour MP.
She said: “He was one of my absolute heroes.
“His passion and his commitment to make life better for ordinary people, and particularly his great emphasis on young people.
“He had an amazing life and a passion and fire for politics that continued until the age of 88.”
David Crausby, MP for Bolton North East, said Labour has lost one of its leading lights.
He said: “He was a charismatic politicians, and I remember hearing his speaking in Liverpool on an unemployment march and he was, in my opinion, the best public speaker I ever heard.
“He will be very sadly missed by the Labour movement.”
Bolton south east MP Yasmin Qureshi said she was ‘incredibly sad’ by Mr Benn’s death.
She said: “I actually had the pleasure of meeting his several times, and shared a political platform with him — it was the moment I felt that I had really arrived in politics.
“He really was a man who believed in his principles — in equality, in fairness, in representing the vulnerable and the poor.
“The equality legislation that we take for granted now was pushed on by people like him. We owe him a lot.”
Bernadette Gallagher, branch secretary of Bolton Unison, said the whole organisation offers its sincere condolences to Mr Benn's bereaved family and friends.
She said: “Tony is a sad loss to the labour and trade union movement; he was a great parliamentarian and a loyal friend of the trade union movement.
“He is famously remembered as retiring from the House of Commons to “devote more time to politics”, and was a relenting campaigner for unilateral disarmament.
“In an era when many view politics and politicians with huge cynicism, the politicians of today should take a lesson from Tony Benn, a true conviction politician and the world would be a better place.”
Cllr Cliff Morris, the Labour leader of Bolton Council, met Tony Benn when he travelled to Chesterfield to help him during an election campaign.
He said: “He was a lovely man, sometimes he might not agree with his politics but he was principled and stuck by what he believed.
“He will be sadly missed. He helped the Labour party to become what it is today.”