Conservative councillor: my ‘personal debt’ to Tony Benn

As a former Tory MP and senior member of the Conservatives on Ribble Valley Borough Council, you might not expect Ken Hind to offer up a heartfelt personal tribute to leading left-wing stalwart Tony Benn, who died last week aged 88.

However, while he often disagreed with Mr Benn’s views, Coun. Hind had great respect for the man – and with good reason – as he explains below:

Tony Benn

Tony Benn

“For me personally I owe a great personal debt to Tony Benn. At the height of the first Gulf War, in 1990, he went (as did Ted Heath) to Baghdad to negotiate with Saddam Hussain. The Iraqi security forces had rounded up a number of hostages and threatened to use them as a ‘human shield’.

“At the time I was PPS to the Secretary of State in the Northern Ireland office. Unknown to the Iraqis, among the human shield hostages was a cousin of mine, Anthony Brummitt, who was working as an accountant in the Gulf states, but they had not made a connection between one of the hostages and a member of the British Government.

“The Foreign Office and NI Office were seriously concerned about my cousin’s personal safety. Discussions with the Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd MP led to Tony Benn being briefed and my cousin being included in a list of British citizens which he requested be released in his discussions with Saddam Hussain .

“The Iraqi government released my cousin without ever making the connection and never asked why an accountant in private practise from Manchester was so important to the British. This was a secret kept at the time between Tony Benn, my cousin’s employers, the Government ministers and departments involved.

“My family and I will always be very grateful to Tony Benn for this great service which typified the integrity and humanity of the man.

“He will always be remembered by this Conservative with respect and affection.”