Tam Dalyell

From Academic Kids

Sir Thomas Dalyell of the Binns, 11th Baronet (born August 9, 1932), more commonly known as Tam Dalyell (pronounced 'dee-yell'), is a British politician and was a Labour member of the House of Commons from 1962 to 2005.

Dalyell was born in England but raised in the family home (The Binns) near Linlithgow; his father was an "old school" Empire civil servant and through his mother he is an hereditary baronet, although he never uses the title. He was educated at Eton College and did his national service with the Royal Scots Greys from 1950 to 1952. He then went to King's College, Cambridge to study history and economics, where he ran the Conservative Association. Unusually, he then trained as a teacher at Moray House College in Edinburgh and taught at a non-selective school and a ship school. He joined the Labour Party in 1956 after the Suez Crisis. He has been a MP since June 1962, when he defeated William Wolfe of the Scottish National Party in a hard fought by-election contest for West Lothian. From 1983 onwards he represented Linlithgow (basically a renaming of his West Lothian seat) and easily retained his position as their representative. He became Father of the House after the 2001 General Election, when Sir Edward Heath retired. He was a MEP from 1975 to 1979, and a member of the Labour National Executive from 1986 to 1987 for the Campaign group.

Dalyell was outspoken in Parliament and true to his own views. His stance ensured his isolation from significant committees and jobs. His early career was promising and he became Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Richard Crossman. But he annoyed a number of ministers and was heavily censured by the privileges committee for a leak about the biological weapons research establishment Porton Down to the newspapers (though he claimed that he thought the minutes were in the public domain). When Labour failed to hold power in 1970 his chances of senior office were effectively over. He was opposed to Scottish devolution and first posed the famous "West Lothian question", although it was given its name by Enoch Powell. He continued to argue his own causes: in 1978 to 1979 he voted against his own government over 100 times, despite a three-line whip.

Dalyell is vocal in his disapproval of military action and 'imperialism'; from his opposition to action in Borneo in 1965 he has contested almost every British action - arguing against action in Aden, the Falklands War (especially the sinking of the General Belgrano), the Gulf War and action in Kosovo and Iraq, saying, "I will resist a war with every sinew in my body". When invited by a television journalist to rank Tony Blair among the eight Prime Ministers he had observed as a parliamentarian, he cited policy over Kosovo and Iraq as reasons for placing his party leader at the bottom of the list. He was also a strong presence in Parliament concerning the Lockerbie bombing and Libya. In sharp contrast to many members of the Campaign Group, he is pro-Europe.

He has a genuine interest in science and has been a columnist for the New Scientist magazine since 1967. A Conservative critic once said that Dalyell must be the only member of the Campaign Group to have a peacock collection at his country house.

Following his outspoken opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and criticism of the government, Downing Street suggested that he might face withdrawal of the Labour whip. In May 2003 he was accused of anti-Semitism, after claiming, in an interview with Vanity Fair magazine, that Tony Blair was unduly influenced by a "cabal of Jewish advisers". He denied that the remarks were anti-Semitic.

On March 7, 2003 Dalyell was elected Rector of Edinburgh University by the staff and students. His term of office will be three years.

It was announced on 13 January, 2004 that he intended to stand down at the next election and he duly left the House of Commons in April 2005 after forty three years as a member of the Commons. He was succeeded as Father of the House by Alan Williams.

He married Kathleen Wheatley, a teacher, on December 26, 1963. They have one son and one daughter, both of whom are lawyers. He is 6th cousins with Harry S. Truman through the daughter of the 1st Baronet Dalyell of the Binns.

External links

Preceded by:
Edward Heath
Father of the House
Succeeded by:
Alan Williams
Preceded by:
Robin Harper
Lord Rector of Edinburgh University
Succeeded by:

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