Tony Benn compares war protester Joe Glenton with India’s Mahatma Gandhi

By Mark Stead 26 March 2010

A soldier whose protest against the war in Afghanistan sent him to jail has been compared to Mahatma Gandhi.

Lance-Corporal Joe Glenton’s decision to oppose the British Army’s role in the conflict – which earned him a nine-month prison sentence – was described as being in the “tradition” of Gandhi’s beliefs by long-standing former MP Tony Benn when he spoke at York Minster this week.

Answering a question from the mother of the 27-year-old after giving the latest Ebor Lecture to be staged at the cathedral, Mr Benn gave the soldier his support.

L/Cpl Glenton, from New Earswick, went absent without leave from the military rather than serve a second Afghan tour and subsequently spoke out against the war.

He was sentenced earlier this month after admitting a charge of going AWOL for 737 days at a court martial, although his legal team are hoping his prison term will be reduced on appeal.

Responding to Sue Glenton’s question about what he thought of her son being jailed, Mr Benn said: “He should be supported – it takes as much courage to stand up against the Army as it does to go to war. History is made by people prepared to make that kind of sacrifice.”

Talking about people such as Gandhi who had been prepared to stand up against authority for their beliefs, even if it meant imprisonment, Mr Benn then said: “I think Joe is in that tradition and should be supported.”

Mrs Glenton said: “I’m sure when Joe hears about this, he will have a wry smile, because I don’t think for a minute that he would see himself as anything like that.

“I’m just proud of Joe for sticking to his guns. I don’t think he could ever foresee what would happen to him – nobody would – but we tell him about the support he is getting and it motivates him.

“He believes he is doing the right thing and is defiant to the end. He will get through this.”