Its difficult to tell what Benn was aiming to produce with Dare to be a Daniel. The introduction calls it a prelude to his published diaries (all eight volumes). It gives both a selection of his essays and speeches a look at his life before beginning his political life, and how his family life and early experience shaped his socialist, pacifist and republican tendencies which shaped 50 years as a member of the House of Commons, including standing down from a hereditary lords seat.
The title of the book is based on the lines of a hymn sung in childhood “Dare to be a Daniel, Dare to stand alone” and how this influenced his attitude towards the changing nature of politics and economics.
I enjoyed the stories of family life and the look at a privileged upbringing immediately prior to and throughout the Blitz. They painted an image of a time and a particular type of political belief which showed how the socialist state was built in the aftermath of the Second World War. More interesting however was the collection of speeches made to the House arguing for greater British independence, international peace and the need for social justice.
There are large gaps in this autobiography, which leaves me wanting to read his full set of diaries, and it is important to bare in mind that by its very nature it will reflect well on the subject”s beliefs and actions. However I think that seeing the perspective that individuals have of themselves is important to understand why they took the options they did.