Jeremy Corbyn leads tributes to ‘wise and witty’ former Morning Star editor Bill Benfield
LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn has led tributes in honour of the Morning Star’s “wise and witty” former editor Bill Benfield who sadly passed away yesterday.
Mr Benfield, who edited the paper for three years from January 2009, died in the early hours aged 69 after a long-running battle with a respiratory illness.
“The passing of Bill is very sad,” said Mr Corbyn who described him as “a real stalwart of socialist journalism,” writing on all the subjects that many other papers would not touch.
“Reading through some of his older articles I was really struck by his perceptions and challenging orthodoxy,” Mr Corbyn said.
“He used the endless media hype of Black Friday shopping to challenge Walmart and its employment practices, his challenges to the orthodoxy and misery of the Osborne budgets and his wonderful tribute to Mandela, Farewell Madiba, showed his knowledge and strength of writing.
“Left-wing journalism needs an outlet and the survival of the Morning Star has often been a challenge and Bill as a long-term editor knew that so well.
“He also realised we had to not be challenged by social media but embrace and use it, hence the strong presence of the Star online.”
The Islington North MP credited Mr Benfield for giving him the opportunity to contribute a weekly column since 2005, writing over 500 articles over more than a decade.
He added: “Thanks Bill, for keeping the Star going, keeping writing so well and giving us the legacy of communicating with each other, and bringing forward a new generation to struggle for real justice.”
Mr Benfield was employed in various roles at the paper for almost 25 years.
He took the top job from John Haylett, who edited the paper from 1995 and now works as its political editor.
Mr Haylett said: “Bill Benfield had no appetite for boasting about the role that he played at the Morning Star, but no individual had a greater claim to safeguarding its continued existence.
“His ability to think outside the box, as deputy editor and head of production when I was editor, and thereby breathe fresh life into a clapped-out typesetting system was nothing less than miraculous.
“Bill’s dedication to our paper and his personal loyalty through difficult times will stay with me forever.”
The newspaper’s current editor Ben Chacko remembers Mr Benfield as a “wise and witty man” who taught him “a great deal” before and after taking the helm.
“Bill was always at the end of the phone when I needed advice, which was all the time,” Mr Chacko said.
“He continued to help out at the paper after his retirement whenever I asked, most recently on Budget day just two weeks ago.
“Everyone who was privileged to have worked with Bill at the Morning Star will miss this outstanding editor and great communist.
“Our thoughts are with Helen and the family at this time.”
Mr Benfield leaves behind his partner Helen and two grandchildren.