POLITICS

Watch Hilary And Tony Benn's Speeches Side-By-Side When Britain Was On The Brink Of War In Syria And Iraq

03/12/2015 14:42 GMT | Updated 03/12/2015 14:59 GMT

Hilary Benn’s plea to Labour colleagues to defeat ISIS “fascists” and back airstrikes in Syria has been lauded since the moment he sat down to applause in the House of Commons.

Many political commentators have been quick to draw comparisons with a similarly well-received speech in 1998 by his father, the late Labour MP Tony Benn. Here are four of many.

benns

Oratory

Most obvious are their shared gifts of speech, arguments made with clarity of delivery and thought. While Benn junior, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, made the case for intervention to confront the “evil” of Islamist extremists, Benn senior criticised the march to bombing in Iraq.

Both give vivid descriptions of, in turn, airstrikes and terror attacks. Tony speaks of living through the London blitz.

"Every night, I went to the shelter in Thames house. Every morning, I saw docklands burning. Five hundred people were killed in Westminster one night by a land mine. It was terrifying.

"Are not Arabs and Iraqis terrified? Do not Arab and Iraqi women weep when their children die? Does not bombing strengthen their determination?

"What fools we are to live as if war is a computer game for our children or just an interesting little Channel 4 news item."

Hillary graphically outlines the devastation wrought by ISIS.

"Daesh has killed 30 British tourists in Tunisia; 224 Russian holidaymakers on a plane; 178 people in suicide bombings in Beirut, Ankara and Suruç; 130 people in Paris, including those young people in the Bataclan, whom Daesh, in trying to justify its bloody slaughter, called them apostates engaged in prostitution and vice.

"If it had happened here they could have been our children.

"Daesh is plotting more attacks, so the question for each of us and for our national security is this: given that we know what it is doing, can we really stand aside and refuse to act fully in self-defence against those who are planning these attacks?"

Style

Both have similar physical mannerisms when in full flight. The restlessness as they speak. The sweep of the hand. Finger-jabbing. Eyes searching. Both command the audience they are speaking to.

MP's vote on Syria airstrikes

Moral case

Professional and amateur observers have been keen to stress the Benns come from “diametrically opposed” standpoints.

But the 'hawk' v 'dove' comparison is crude to the point of inaccuracy. Hilary was a huge influence on Ed Miliband’s decision to oppose military action in Syria two years ago, but has been convinced that the UK has to act.

And both Benns have their arguments rooted in the approval of the United Nations. Tony said the UN charter passed in 1945 was to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war".

"That was that generation's pledge to this generation, and it would be the greatest betrayal of all if we voted to abandon the charter, take unilateral action and pretend that we were doing so in the name of the international community."

Hillary also references the UN's formation, and argues the Security Council resolution passed after the Paris atrocities gives a clear mandate.

"The United Nations is asking us to do something; it is asking us to do something now; it is asking us to act in Syria as well as in Iraq.

"It was a Labour Government who helped to found the United Nations at the end of the Second World War. Why did we do so?

"It was because we wanted the nations of the world working together to deal with threats to international peace and security, and Daesh is unquestionably that."

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn features in both clips. In 1998, he was an outspoken backbencher. In 2015, the leader of the Labour Party. He looks less comfortable in his new berth.