MEMBERS of a miners’ association were among the crowds at the funeral of “revered” former Labour minister Tony Benn.
Six representatives of the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) executive committee raised a banner outside of St Margaret’s Church, Westminster, in central London, as a mark of respect for the veteran politician who died on March 14 at the age of 88.
Among the six who had travelled to the capital for the grand event, was the organisation’s general secretary Dave Hopper who said he was “honoured and privileged” to attend the funeral and raise the banner at the request of Mr Benn’s family. He said: “It was a very, very moving service. His family spoke very well and it was a grand occasion. The place was packed to the gunnels and there were supporter’s lining the streets outside. It was a fitting tribute to the man. He was revered by lots of people and he was a great friend of ours and an honourary member of the DMA. His work and dedication to us during the miner’s strike was second to none.”
He added: “It was a privilege and an honour to be there. It was a very important day for a very important man.
“I learned a lot through the man and always looked up to him as all of the Durham miners did. It was great to represent the miners and to pay our respects to the man and his family. It was very satisfying to be part of that. We loved him through life and we will love him through death.”
Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, could not attend the funeral to due a personal engagement but paid tribute to Mr Benn.
He said: “Tony Benn was an iconic standard bearer for the Labour and Trade Union Movement. He was a fine and thoughtful orator being without equal as a passionate and inspiring public speaker both inside and outside of Parliament. On a personal level he was warm and kind. I consider myself privileged to have met him. His socialist beliefs were the bedrock of his lifelong commitment to peace and social justice. He championed the cause of the powerless and realised the importance of holding powerful elites to account.”
The funeral was held yesterday and was attended by hundreds of banner-wielding trade unionists, anti-war campaigners and other well-wishers who burst into applause as the funeral cortege arrived at the church.
His body lay in rest before the funeral service in the Palace of Westminster’s Chapel of St Mary Undercroft. He was only the second politician to be granted the honour after Baroness Thatcher. The procession was led by the chaplain to the Commons Speaker, the Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who had kept an overnight vigil beside the body.
The funeral was followed by a private family cremation yesterday afternoon.