Veteran British politician designs travel seatJune 9th, 2010 - 3:29 pm ICT by IANS
By Venkata Vemuri
London, June 9 (IANS) He met Mahatma Gandhi as a child, replaced Sir Stafford Cripps of the controversial Cripp’s Mission to India to begin his first term in the British parliament, was a member of the cabinet and now at 85, has designed a travel seat that costs 30 pounds.
Veteran Labour politician Tony Benn stopped contesting from his safe seat in Bristol nine years ago, but still continued to look for a comfortable seat until he designed the “seat case”, a small case or rucksack with a flick-down canvas steel-framed fisherman’s stool.
The seat was first assembled at home one-and-a-half years ago. Then he called in a designer. The prototype passed tests last week at the Furniture Industry Research Establishment in Hertfordshire. It is ready to be marketed complete, or as an attachment for a case or backpack, for about 30 pounds.
Benn, a former technology minister who oversaw the development of the Concorde, showed off the case to The Times in London.
“It really is a dream and the secret is that it is light and easy to carry. It is also small enough to be allowed in the cabin on flights,” said Benn who still travels at least 640 km a month by train, flies occasionally and travels widely closer to home.
“At my age it really is nice to always be able to find a place to sit down. I have used it on the Tube, on trains and at airports. If I can get it into production I’m sure people will take it to their hearts,” said Benn.
Grahame Herbert, an architect and designer of the airframe folding bicycle, helped Benn design the seat. “The real trick was to find a way of attaching the seat without getting in the way of the zips. It would be very annoying if people couldn’t easily get out a pullover or book from their case.”
James McDiarmid of Tripp, one of Britain’s biggest luggage companies, said: “I would be willing to try it. We would need at least 500 and see how they went over two to three months.”
Following Benn’s business venture, a section of the media has already dubbed him the “leftist turned capitalist”, but the epithet pales before his stature. He is the son of William Benn, the Lord of Stansgate, who served as secretary of state for India. Benn inherited the peerage, but disclaimed it in 1963, on the very day the Peerage Act became law.
Benn was first elected to Parliament in a by-election in 1950 from Bristol, when he was asked to replace Sir Stafford Cripps.
He never lost an election, except in 1961. When his father died in 1960, Benn automatically became a peer and therefore, could not sit in the House of Commons.
He was in the cabinet twice for a five-year stretch under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan.
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