The Guardian, Thursday 2 October 2014 23.45 BST
Tony Benn: Will and Testament
He ‘immatured with age’ … Tony Benn in a still from Will & Testament
Only a curmudgeon would deny the charm and persuasiveness of this eulogy to Tony Benn. Benn emerges with consistency, dignity and good humour, and as someone whose views on the banking crisis, our punitive military adventures in the Middle East and the centrist timidity of New Labour have largely been vindicated. The film is careful to deride Britain’s fondness for toothless national treasures – and to quote Benn’s irritation with this duplicitous media phenomenon. Though emphasising Benn’s belief in the primacy of democracy, however, it doesn’t touch on Labour’s deputy leadership vote in 1981, which he lost to Denis Healey – an occasion of great bitterness.
Tony Benn is a romantic, a maverick, a non-team player with a streak of conceit – in some ways, not so different from Enoch Powell. Amusingly, the nearest the film gets to interviewing anyone who actually had to work with Benn is resurrecting the taped, exasperated voice of Harold Wilson, who said Benn “immatured with age”. Actually, it’s our dull, shallow political culture that looks immature without Benn. One footnote: a final acting credit for “young Tony Benn” appears to indicate that reconstructions have been used – presumably the photographs showing the undergraduate Benn with his soon-to-be-wife, Caroline, at Oxford.