Tony Benn's Covert Plaques: By Such Means Was Democacy Won

Abby Zimet

We have lost Tony Benn, tireless British Parliamentarian, socialist and anti-war activist who died this week at 88, but the plaques he secretly placed in the House of Commons - his private testimony to "the people who fought for democracy" - remain. Benn, who in 2001 left Parliament after 50 years "to spend more time on politics" and head the Stop The War Coalition, revealed in his final speech to the House that he had erected several plaques, "quite illegally, without permission - I screwed them up myself," to ensure "we are a workshop and not a museum." One he dedicated "in loving memory" to suffragette Emily Wilding Davison; he put it in the broom cupboard where Davison hid herself the night of the 1911 census so she could record her address for the census as the House of Commons, "thus making her claim to the same political rights as men." Benn added, "By such means was democracy won for the people of Britain." 
On more than one occasion, Benn said he would like his epitaph to be, "He encouraged us." That he did. RIP.

 Benn's famed "five little democratic questions" if one meets a powerful person: "What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?"


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