Tony Benn – April 3rd 1925 – March 14th 2014

Why is politics so boring these days ? Everyone seems to be on the same ticket appealing to the middle ground. They are all career rather than conviction politicians, just looking to attain power and will stand for whatever is needed to get there.  It was not always so, there was a time when British politics was the most entertaining show with powerful personalities standing strongly by their beliefs and fighting their corner.

Whether or not they agreed with his views most people would recognise Tony Benn was possibly the most principled politician of the last century.

Tony Benn

His honourable status was evident from the very beginning of his career. Benn’s father had been created Viscount Stansgate which would mean Tony inheriting the peerage. He was elected as an MP in 1950 and made several attempts to renounce his title, but they were unsuccessful.

In November 1960 his father died and Benn automatically became a peer and was thus prevented from sitting in the House of Commons.  Continuing to maintain his right to abandon his peerage, Benn fought to retain his seat in a by-election caused by his succession on 4 May 1961. He was re-elected but the seat was given to the Conservative runner-up, Malcolm St Clair.

Benn continued his campaign outside Parliament, and eventually the Conservative Government of the time accepted the need for a change in the law. The Peerage Act 1963, allowing renunciation of peerages, became law and Benn was the first peer to renounce his title and he returned to the Commons after winning a by-election in August 1963.

This episode is an interesting reflection of an aspect in Tony Benn’s chart. He has an exact square aspect between Mars in Gemini in the 10th house of career and his Virgo Ascendant. Virgo is a sign that will usually support the underdog. It is the sign of the workers and the one that is most symbolically linked to the Labour Party.

Mars in Gemini in the 10th would indicate a strong drive to succeed in a career based on oratory and communication. He was always recognised as powerful speaker and his published diaries are perhaps the most extensive in modern political life.

The fact that these two points in his chart are linked by an exact square aspect points to an important theme in Benn’s life. His support for the workers ( Virgo rising ) will forge a very powerful career drive ( Mars in the 10th ) but will ultimately undermine any achievement of high office ( square aspect ) because the pull in different directions would be too strong.

Labour’s return to power in 1964 after 14 years in opposition was caused by that powerful revolutionary conjunction of the mid sixties between Uranus and Pluto in Virgo which began that year.

The episode of Tony Benn’s struggles with his inherited peerage is tied up with the coming together of these two planets. Between 1960 and 62 Pluto was conjunct Benn’s Ascendant and square his Mars as his father died and he lost his seat because he had to be in the House of Lords.

Uranus the planet of political change and modernisation arrived at the same point in 1963 when the law was changed and he was able to resume in the House of Commons.

Tony Benn was the most driven of men, continuing to stand by his socialist principles despite a level of media opposition that would give the impression he was the most hated or feared man in Britain.

Its always an interesting challenge to look at a personality and a life of a particular type and imagine how that person would look if expressed astrologically.

The astrological pattern that most strongly drives someone in a particular direction is the T Square because the tensions implicit in the opposition between the two planets force the person powerfully in the direction of the apex planet. The Sun is obviously the most important point in the chart and it rules the person’s essential life path so if it is the apex planet, the person becomes very powerfully and constantly thrust in that direction. If the Sun is in an assertive, single minded sign, then the individual will powerfully pursue their own route regardless of any opposition, in fact any obstructions and restraint will push them even more strongly.

Tony Benn had a T Square based on a Jupiter / Pluto opposition which focused on an apex Sun in the most assertive sign of Aries.

The fact that the other planets involved were Jupiter and Pluto creates an even bigger impact. Jupiter always expands everything it touches and Pluto can build things up to the point where they can become obsessive.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Tony Benn’s Jupiter / Pluto / apex Sun T Square was the person he shared it with.

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher was his arch enemy, his nemesis and the epitome of everything that Tony Benn fought so strongly against, yet they have the same astrological pattern dominating their charts and lives.

Thatcher was born 6 months after Benn, long enough for the Jupiter / Pluto opposition to be still in place and in Thatcher’s case it had become much more powerful as the opposition in October 1925 was exact. But in that six months, the Sun had travelled half way round the zodiac from Aries to Libra so Thatcher’s apex Sun was opposite Benn’s.

So these two figures had the same Jupiter / Pluto opposition but they were forced by it onto exactly opposite paths. They were the astrological antithesis of each other and if you looked at the whole of history you’d struggle to find two people who were as equally determined to drive themselves in an antagonistic direction.

Its also interesting that they both had the Moon in Leo, which would give them the view that they were born to lead their people in those directions.

The extraordinary thing about them was their lives were defined by the simultaneous Pluto transit to those T Squares between 1975 and 80.

Tony Benn’s role in the 64 – 70 Labour government was fairly minor as postmaster General and Minister for Technology overseeing the building of the Post Office Tower and the development of Concorde.

In the Labour Government of 1974, Benn was Secretary of State for Industry and came into his own as a political force as he increased nationalised industry pay, provided better terms and conditions for workers and set up worker cooperatives to motivate and reform struggling industries.

An important stage in his career was the referendum on the UK’s continued membership of the European Community in 1975. Benn was strongly against the EEC, viewing it as a capitalist conspiracy basically run by Germany and campaigned strongly for a No vote. This was probably the only issue in his life that he agreed with Thatcher, although both took their stance for very different reasons.

He was made Energy Secretary in 1975 and when Harold Wilson resigned as Prime Minister in March 1976, the resulting leadership contest saw Benn come fourth. James Callaghan eventually won but kept Benn as Energy Secretary.

Owing to Pluto being opposite his Sun in 1977 – 78, Benn had migrated to the left wing of the Labour Party.  Benn attributed his move to his experience as a minister based on his understanding of how “the Civil Service can frustrate the policies and decisions of popularly elected governments”, the centralised nature of the Labour Party allowing the Leader to run “the Party almost as if it were his personal kingdom”, “the power of industrialists and bankers to get their way by use of the crudest form of economic pressure, even blackmail, against a Labour Government” and the power of the media, which “like the power of the medieval Church, ensures that events of the day are always presented from the point of the view of those who enjoy economic privilege “.

” These lessons led me to the conclusion that the UK is only superficially governed by MPs and the voters who elect them. Parliamentary democracy is, in truth, little more than a means of securing a periodical change in the management team, which is then allowed to preside over a system that remains in essence intact. If the British people were ever to ask themselves what power they truly enjoyed under our political system they would be amazed to discover how little it is, and some new Chartist agitation might be born and might quickly gather momentum.”

In a keynote speech to the Labour Party Conference of 1980, shortly before the resignation of party leader James Callaghan and election of Michael Foot as successor, Benn outlined what he envisaged the next Labour Government would do. “Within days”, a Labour Government would gain powers to nationalise industries, control capital and implement industrial democracy; “within weeks”, all powers from Brussels would be returned to Westminster, and abolish the House of Lords by creating one thousand peers and then abolishing the peerage. Benn was king of the conference and a hero for most of the grassroots labour activists.

A criticism that is often levelled against him was that Benn’s insistence on an extreme left wing direction, inflamed the divisions in Labour and made it impossible for the party to return to office thus handing Thatcher’s Tories a 2nd and 3rd term in office. There is a truth in this criticism and it could be seen from the Pluto transit to their respective Suns at the time. Pluto was conjunct Thatcher’s Sun and opposite Benn’s so its clear whose side the planet was on.

In 1981, he stood against incumbent Denis Healey for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, the contest was extremely closely fought, and Healey won by a margin of barely 1%. This effectively marked the end of any possibility of Tony Benn being in power and Labour were marginalised for a generation.

In a way the New Labour victory of 1997 marked a big change in his career. This brings us back to Benn’s Mars / Ascendant square aspect. His support for the workers and the downtrodden ( Virgo rising ) was never likely ( square aspect ) to give him a career role ( Mars in 10th ) in Tony Blair’s New World.

This was emphasised by the fact that Pluto was square Benn’s Ascendant and opposite his Mars from 1997 to 99.

Benn did not stand at the 2001 general election; as he explained it, he was “leaving parliament in order to spend more time on politics”. Which is exactly what he did continuing to campaign and speak for the dispossessed right up until his death.

Even the end of his life was as an astrological reminder of his arch enemy. When Pluto made the 2nd transit of a lifetime to Margaret Thatcher’s T Square she died in 2013. Tony Benn died on the 14th March 2014 with Pluto square to his Sun.

Tony Benn was what made politics interesting and exciting for Capricorn Research’s generation. Pluto was against him most of the time but that never stopped him fighting for the cause.

Compared with the self serving pygmies of today, he was a true giant and man of principle.


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2 thoughts on “Tony Benn – April 3rd 1925 – March 14th 2014

  1. Tony Benn is a political icon in my book. He wrote a very interesting book called “Dare to be Daniel.” His family were strong Christians and his Mother used to say to him and the other children ‘Dare to be Daniel.” (The story of Daniel is in the Old Testament.)
    Which basically meant if you know you are right, dare to stand against any forces, powers, enemies that stand in your way.
    Mr Benn certainly did that. I wonder what he would make of the present Labour Party difficulties?

    • Thanks Steve, Tony Benn was one of the few politicians that I could identify with. If he’d been around today he would have been leader and made a better fist of it than Corbyn. But he’d still get the same flak from media and PLP.

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