William_Wedgwood_Benn,_1st_Viscount_Stansgate

William Wedgwood Benn, 1st Viscount Stansgate

William Wedgwood Benn, 1st Viscount Stansgate DSO DFC PC (10 May 187717 November 1960) was a British Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) who later joined the Labour Party.

Born in Hackney, Benn was the second son of Sir John Benn, MP, and his father-in-law Daniel Holmes was also an MP. He was educated at the Lycée Condorcet in Paris and at University College, London. In 1906 he was elected as a Liberal MP for the St George's division of Tower Hamlets in east London, a seat he held until 1918. He served with the Royal Naval Air Service during World War I, seeing service at Gallipoli. He was a Liberal Whip 1910–1915. In 1918 he was elected for Leith in Scotland, a seat he held until March 1927, when he resigned from the Liberal Party and from Parliament. In 1920 he married Margaret Holmes.

In 1928 Benn was re-elected as a Labour member for Aberdeen North. He was Secretary of State for India in Ramsay MacDonald's second government (1929–1931). He refused to follow MacDonald into the National Government coalition with the Conservatives, and at the 1931 election he lost his seat.

Benn was elected as Labour MP for Gorton near Manchester in 1937.

World War II

Although in his early 60s at start of World War II, Benn returned to military flying joining the Royal Air Force as a pilot officer. Following his promotion to air commodore, Benn served as Director of Public Relations at the Air Ministry.

In 1942 he was created Viscount Stansgate and in 1944 he was appointed Vice President of the Allied Control Commission which was charged with reconstructing a democratic government in Italy.

Post war

In 1945 he became Secretary of State for Air in Clement Attlee's Labour government, a position he held until October 1946. He then sat as a backbench Labour peer until his death in Westminster in 1960, when he was succeeded as Viscount Stansgate by his son Tony Benn, who succeeded in getting the law changed to allow him to disclaim the peerage.

His grandson, the Labour MP for Leeds Central Hilary Benn, is currently the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

References

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