British Labour veteran Tony Benn is seen during a rally in Hyde Park, London, on September 24, 2005. File picture: Matt Dunham

London - Veteran British Labour politician Tony Benn, who was born into the aristocracy but became one of Britain's pre-eminent left-wingers, has died aged 88, his family said on Friday.

Benn was a member of parliament for 50 years and a cabinet minister for 11 years. A divisive figure at the peak of his career, in later years he became a public favourite as a straight talker.

In a statement, his four children said Benn had died peacefully early on Friday at his home in west London surrounded by his family after being seriously ill.

“We will miss above all his love which has sustained us throughout our lives. But we are comforted by the memory of his long, full and inspiring life and so proud of his devotion to helping others as he sought to change the world for the better,” they said in the statement published by the BBC.

Tributes from politicians of all sides were quick to flow for Benn, whose father and grandfather were politicians and whose son Hilary was a cabinet minister in the last Labour government. Benn's granddaughter Emily is also pursuing a political career.

“Tony Benn was a magnificent writer, speaker, and campaigner. There was never a dull moment listening to him even if you disagreed with him,” Prime Minister David Cameron said on Twitter. - Reuters