Power and Democracy

Tony Benn

In this lecture Tony Benn describes the historic demand for democratic control and the opposition which it has always faced in Britain and world-wide.

He argues that democracy, which potentially confers real power on the hitherto powerless, is and always has been seen as a threat by those at the top who have power and fear that they may lose it.

He draws a comparison between Communism and Capitalism, under both it being possible to pick the leaders, but much harder to discuss the systems or to challenge their basic assumptions - a characteristic shared in nations where religious organizations are in power.

He draws attention to the impact of globalization and the media upon existing democratic institutions and suggests some ways in which greater democratic control over those with power might be secured, here and worldwide.


Tony Benn Biography

Born into an aristocratic family and educated at Westminster and New College, Oxford, Tony Benn trained as a pilot during the second world war. He was elected to Parliament in 1950. Anticipating that inheritance of his father's peerage would disqualify him from continuing to serve in the House of Commons, he campaigned for a bill to permit him to renounce the title; this struggle lasted until 1963 when the Peerage Act was passed. As MP for Bristol South East, he served as a cabinet minister in the Wilson and Callaghan governments from 1964 to 1970 and from 1974 to 1979. In 1984 he became Member of Parliament for Chesterfield, and increasingly took on the role of unofficial leader of the Labour party's radical left. In 2001 he gave up his parliamentary seat because he "wanted to devote more time to politics". 

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