The Importance of Being Awkward: The Autobiography of Tam Dalyell

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Birlinn, Aug 12, 2011 - Political Science - 320 pages
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When veteran Labour MP Tam Dalyell retired as Father of the House in 2005, the Commons lost not only one of its most colourful and outspoken politicians, but also one of its most deeply principled members. In a parliamentary career that spanned 43 years and the administrations of eight Prime Ministers (from Macmillan to Blair), Dalyell was never a stranger to controversy. His vehemently independent and firmly-held views might have denied him a career on the front bench, but have ensured that his name has seldom been out of the headlines. An outspoken critic of both Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, he famously harried the former over the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands conflict, and argued fiercely against the Gulf War of 1990 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He also spoke out against military action in Kosovo, and has been a leading figure in the attempt to uncover the truth about the Lockerbie bombing. In this memoir, based on personal papers as well as official documents - many of them only recently declassified - he looks back over a lifetime of dedicated service as MP for West Lothian and Linlithgow and talks of his family connections to the area: the Dalyells have lived at the historic House of the Binns, near Linlithgow, for almost 400 years. Insightful, witty and urbane, this is a fascinating book which offers a unique perspective on many of the key moments in Britain's political life over the last fifty years.

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About the author (2011)

Sir Thomas Dalyell Loch of The Binns, 11th Baronet - better known as Tam Dalyell - was born in Edinburgh in 1932 and inherited the Baronetcy of the Binns via his mother in 1972. Educated at the Edinburgh Academy and Eton College, he did his National Service with the Royal Scots Greys from 1950 to 1952 as an ordinary trooper having failed his officer training. He studied History and Economics at King's College, Cambridge, where he was Chairman of the Conservative Association. Following teacher training at Moray House College in Edinburgh, Tam taught at a non-selective school and a ship school. He joined the Labour Party in 1956 after the Suez Crisis and became an MP in 1962, defeating William Wolfe of the Scottish National Party. Tam was an MP in the House of Commons from 1962 to 2005, first for West Lothian and then for Linlithgow. He became Father of the House after the 2001 General Election, when Sir Edward Heath retired, and was a Member of the European Parliament from 1975 to 1979 and a member of the Labour National Executive from 1986 to 1987 for the Campaign group. In 2003 Tam was elected Rector of the University of Edinburgh.

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