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The UK version of Nehru-Gandhi clan

October 07, 2003 18:54 IST

India's political traditions have started to seep through into British public life following the appointment of Hilary Benn as cabinet minister in charge of international development.

Until Hilary's appointment no British family had come close to matching the Nehru-Gandhi clan's legacy.

Winston Churchill's son, Randolph, tried and failed to win a parliamentary seat; Harold Macmillan's son, Maurice, was employment secretary for four years between 1970 and 1974; Lloyd George's son, Gwilym, was home secretary between 1954 and 1957; Malcolm MacDonald, son of the first Labour prime minister Ramsay MacDonald, was dominions secretary during the 1930s.

Hilary's is now the third in his family to be made cabinet minister.

His grandfather was William Wedgwood Benn, first viscount Stansgate, who was secretary of state for India in 1929.

Hilary's father, Anthony Wedgwood Benn, was a member of both the Wilson and Callaghan cabinets and his decision to give up his hereditary title in the 1960s resulted in a three-year constitutional battle before he won the right to sit in the House of Commons representing a Bristol constituency.

Hilary is a loyal supporter of Prime Minister Tony Blair and describes himself as a Benn, not a Bennite, a reference to the committed left-wing idealism of his father.

He started his political life as a local councillor in Ealing, West London, and worked as special adviser to education secretary David Blunkett before entering parliament four years ago.

As international development secretary, Hilary is expected to be a regular visitor to India where Britain administers aid worth more than £100 million.

Shyam Bhatia in London