Hilary Benn

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Person.png Hilary Benn   Powerbase Twitter WebsiteRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Hilary Benn.jpg
BornHilary James Wedgwood Benn
26 November 1953
Hammersmith, London
Alma materUniversity of Sussex
Parents • Tony Benn
• Caroline Benn
Spouse • Rosalind Caroline Retey (1973–1979)
• Sally Christina Clark (1982–present)
Member ofLabour Friends of Israel
Warmongering son of the great peace and social justice activist Tony Benn, proving that the apple sometimes land far from the tree.

Employment.png Chair

In office
19 October 2016 - 16 January 2021
EmployerExiting the EU Select Committee

Employment.png Shadow Foreign Secretary Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
11 May 2015 - 26 June 2016
Succeeded byEmily Thornberry

Employment.png Shadow Leader of the House of Commons Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
8 October 2010 - 7 October 2011
Succeeded byAngela Eagle

Employment.png Secretary of State for International Development Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
6 October 2003 - 28 June 2007
Preceded byValerie Amos

Employment.png Member of Parliament for Leeds Central

In office
10 June 1999 - Present

Hilary Benn is a British Labour Party politician who was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Leeds Central in 1999, and has served both as a Minister in government and as a member of the shadow cabinet in opposition. Having reportedly "lost confidence" in Hilary Benn, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn sacked him from his post as Shadow Foreign Secretary on 26 June 2016.[1]

On 19 October 2016 Benn was elected Chair of the House of Commons Exiting the EU Select Committee.[2]

Hilary Benn sponsored the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019, consequently also known as the Benn Act, which received Royal Assent on 9 September 2019 and obliges Prime Minister Boris Johnson to seek a third Brexit extension if no Withdrawal Agreement has been reached at the next European Council meeting on 17/18 October 2019.[3]


Born in Hammersmith, the son of Caroline and Tony Benn, Hilary Benn studied Russian and East European Studies at the University of Sussex. He then worked for two trade unions, Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs (ASTMS) and Manufacturing Science and Finance (MSF). After joining the Labour Party, Benn was elected a councillor on Ealing Borough Council on which he served for several years, and was twice the unsuccessful parliamentary candidate for the Ealing North constituency. After the 1997 general election, Benn was a special adviser to David Blunkett before winning a by-election in Leeds Central in 1999.

Hilary Benn served in the cabinet as Secretary of State for International Development from 2003 to 2007 and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from 2007 to 2010. In opposition he served as Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2010, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons from 2010 to 2011, and Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government from 2011 to 2015.

Shadow Foreign Secretary

Following the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party in September 2015, Hilary Benn retained the role of Shadow Foreign Secretary in Corbyn's shadow cabinet.

In November 2015, after the Paris attacks that had occurred a few days earlier, Benn initially agreed with Corbyn's position rejecting the proposal for Britain to launch airstrikes against ISIL in Syria and any intervention.[4] Subsequently, Benn supported plans laid out by the Prime Minister David Cameron, and said he would not resign over his disagreement with Corbyn because he was "doing [his] job as the Shadow Foreign Secretary".[5][6] Benn had voted in favour of the Iraq War and the 2011 NATO bombing of Libya.[7]

On 2 December 2015, Benn made the closing speech for the official opposition in the House of Commons debate on airstrikes against ISIL in Syria. The speech opposed the position espoused by Jeremy Corbyn against the government's motion.[8] The speech was applauded by MPs on both sides of the house,[9] a gesture not usually permitted in the Commons.[10] Along with a minority of shadow cabinet colleagues, he voted for airstrikes in Syria and the motion passed by 397 to 223 votes.[11] Benn's speech was described as "one of the 'greatest' in Parliamentary history".[12] Speaking to the BBC the following day, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell compared Benn's speech to that given by Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2003 ahead of the Iraq War. McDonnell described it as an "excellent" piece of oratory, but added: :"The greatest oratory can lead us to the greatest mistakes."[13]

Entering the realm of fascism

On 8 December 2015 Media Lens analysed Hilary Benn's speech,[14] and concluded:

The myth of commercially-controlled media impartiality – vital for retaining readers' support - makes it hard for structurally pro-war media to declare too openly in favour of the West's endless wars. What they can do is celebrate speeches that just happen to be pro-war. To applaud skills of oratory, courage, leadership – to note that numerous politicians and journalists (all with a lucrative, warmongering axe to grind) admired the speech - is a powerful way of supporting war without looking too obviously biased. In his article, Mark Curtis wrote:

"I've been monitoring the mainstream media for 30 years and cannot remember a time like this: literally everything is being thrown at Jeremy Corbyn."

Indeed, the propaganda war being waged on Corbyn and the related support for war and Benn's wretched speech have moved beyond mere bias. The British corporate media are no longer merely channelling distorted news and views to democracy; they are openly working to undermine democracy. In effect, state-corporate power is telling the 250,000 people who voted for Corbyn, and anyone else who supports anti-war politics, that the Corbyn option is not allowed. Democracy is one thing, but his brand of politics goes too far.

When elite interests determine what is and is not politically possible, we are entering the realm of fascism.[15]

Personal life

In 1973, whilst at university, Hilary Benn married fellow student Rosalind Retey. She died of cancer at the age of 26 in 1979.[16] Benn subsequently married Sally Christina Clark in 1982.[17] He has four children.[18]

Like his father, who died in March 2014, he is a teetotaller and vegetarian.[19]


Events Participated in

WEF/Annual Meeting/200823 January 200827 January 2008Switzerland
WEF/Annual Meeting/200923 January 200827 January 2008World Economic Forum


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Corbyn fans should welcome this attempted coup, the Blairites are committing political suicidearticle26 June 2016Kerry-anne MendozaIn these uncertain days after the Brexit vote, when the Labour party needed to rally UK progressives to prevent a right-wing Brexit from the European Union – a small number of Labour MPs have instead chosen to mount a coup against leader Jeremy Corbyn. But Corbyn supporters should be ecstatic, because this opportunistic and ignorant move is an act of political suicide for the Blairites.


  1. "Hilary Benn sacked as Corbyn faces 'no confidence' pressure"
  2. "Hilary Benn wins election to chair Brexit Select Committee"
  3. "Can a no-deal Brexit still happen?"
  4. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/hilary-benn-shadow-foreign-secretary-says-labour-wont-back-air-strikes-on-syria-a6734651.html
  5. https://www.politicshome.com/party-politics/articles/story/hilary-benn-i-wont-quit
  6. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/nov/27/hilary-benn-wont-resign-over-support-syria-airstrikes?CMP=twt_gu
  7. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/10669/hilary_benn/leeds_central/votes
  8. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34980504
  9. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34990957
  10. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32913113
  11. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/syria-air-strikes-majority-of-shadow-cabinet-backed-jeremy-corbyn-but-more-than-a-third-of-labour-a6758166.html
  12. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/12032191/hilary-benn-labour-party-leader-jeremy-corbyn.html
  13. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34993438
  14. "Hilary Benn: Syria air strikes speech in full"
  15. "Manufacturing Consensus - Hilary Benn's Speech"
  16. Benn, Anthony (1995). Winstone, Ruth (ed.). The Benn Diaries. Hutchinson. p. 476. ISBN 0-09-1792231.
  17. Benn, Anthony (1995). Winstone, Ruth (ed.). The Benn Diaries. Hutchinson. p. 538.
  18. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/12030864/Who-is-Hilary-Benn-Labours-leader-in-waiting.html
  19. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2006/nov/09/labour.hilarybenn
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