Former Labour MP Tam Dalyell dies aged 84

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Former Labour MP Tam Dalyell, known for his determined harrying of Margaret Thatcher over the sinking of the General Belgrano during the Falklands War, has died aged 84.

A family statement said the parliamentary veteran, who spent 43 years as an MP, died after a short illness.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn led tributes, describing him as a “titan of parliamentary scrutiny”, while Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said he was a “real giant” of Scottish politics.

An Old Etonian who inherited a baronetcy, although he never used the title, Mr Dalyell made an unlikely Labour leftwinger.

First elected as MP for West Lothian in Scotland in 1962, he made a name for himself for his dogged pursuit of a series of often unfashionable causes in which he passionately believed.

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Over the years, his tenacious questioning made him a thorn in the side of successive prime ministers, both Labour and Conservative.

A fervent opponent of Scottish devolution, his famous constitutional challenge – why should Scottish MPs at Westminster be able to vote on English matters when English MPs would be unable to vote on Scottish issues – became known as the “West Lothian question”.

He was a frequent critic of Britain’s military interventions overseas. One of his first campaigns was against Labour prime minister Harold Wilson’s plans to hand over a coral atoll in the Indian Ocean to the United States to use as an airstrip.

A supporter of the Troops Out campaign in Northern Ireland, he branded Tony Blair a war criminal over the invasion of Iraq.

He was most famous however for his remorseless harrying of Mrs Thatcher over the sinking of the Argentine warship General Belgrano, and was twice expelled from the Commons chamber for calling her a liar.

There were tributes from across the political spectrum, with Ms Sturgeon describing him as “a real giant of Scottish politics”, while Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said he was “unique – thoughtful, gracious, dignified and utterly tenacious”.

Mr Corbyn said Mr Dalyell had been “fearless in pursuit of the truth”, fighting to expose official wrongdoing and cover-ups – from the miners’ strike to Iraq.

“The title of his autobiography summed Tam up to a tee: The Importance Of Being Awkward,” he said.

“But he was much more than that. Tam was an outstanding parliamentarian, a socialist and internationalist, and a champion of the underdog, here and abroad.”

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said he was “a fine socialist and a parliamentarian of the first order”.

“He was a man of absolute principle, determined to speak truth to power and hold government to democratic account,” he said.

His family said in a statement: “Tam Dalyell devoted his life to public service in Scotland, in the UK, and beyond. He made an enormous contribution in many spheres.”

Former prime minister Gordon Brown said: “For four decades Tam Dalyell was one of the truly great characters of Scottish political life. He was a leader – widely respected and admired for his insight, his integrity and his eloquence.”

Linlithgow MSP Fiona Hyslop said: “I am so sorry to hear of the passing of Tam Dalyell – a remarkable political force whose sharp intellect and tenacity commanded respect both nationally and in his former West Lothian constituency.

“While his politics were anti-establishment, he was truly an institution in Scottish politics.

“Visiting him at the House of the Binns in recent years, I enjoyed our stimulating historical and political discussions.

“Tam Dalyell will be sorely missed by all who knew him and my thoughts are with Kathleen and his family at this sad time.”


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