Michael Henderson, writing in The Daily Telegraph, had a go at Tony Benn: "interviewed in the newspaper, it wasn't hard to hear the tone of that smug, self-satisfied voice. What an unctuous man he is.... ever eager to conceal an overwhelming vanity within the cloak of modesty."
I can't say I agree with him though I do find Benn hard to take these days. Once, whenever he was interviewed on TV, I use to listen to him and think "yes, I agree" with everything he said..... For a couple of minutes only. Then I'd analyse in retrospect what he had said and did not agree at all.
I first saw him in the flesh in Cardiff many years ago at a Miners' Rally. They were held every year in Sophia Gardens, a large park near the city centre. Miners turned up in thousands having first marched through the streets of Cardiff, cheered all the way.
A year or so before Benn spoke there, Aneurin Bevan gave an address. Now there was a speaker. Strong, sing-song, rather high-pitched Welsh accent, heaps of humour followed by vicious attacks on the Tory party; he could make you laugh one minute and make you angry the next.
Tony Benn did not have Bevan's powers. He spoke in a sensible, slow way, making strong arguments against the opposition; logical it seemed, reasonable in its quiet tone it seemed. Yet it seemed to me there was, beneath the cultivated, well brought up personage a steely wrath, an almost vengeful fire burning there. There was a look of passionate hate in his eyes which I have never forgotten. You don't see it now. Now you see this reasonable old man with a manner of a logician, taking opponent's arguments apart and shredding them.
Inside that civil servant's-like body there's a radical firebrand still struggling to get out.