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The Importance of Being Awkward

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Olivia Smart.

Talk starts at 19.30. There is also a Reception beforehand, at 18.30. Tickets: £25 Lecture Only; £40 Lecture and Reception. To apply for tickets, please email OSmart@nts.org.uk

On his first visit to London since 2005 when he retired as Father of the House of Commons, the heir to the House of the Binns, benefactor of the National Trust for Scotland, Labour MP for 43 years under eight Prime Minsters, originator of the West Lothian question, talks about family, Scotland and being a dissenter.

In 1944, as an eleven year old schoolboy, Tam Dalyell signed the deed of transfer of his historic family seat, the House of the Binns, to the National Trust for Scotland, making it the first country house to be handed over to the Trust. Thus began a relationship with the Trust which has stretched nearly seventy years. Tam and his wife, Kathleen, who manages the house on behalf of the Trust, continue to live at the Binns today.

Young Tam Dalyell showed a high-mindedness which marked him out in his ensuing political career. After Eton, National Service with the Royal Scot Greys, founded by his ancestor General Tam Dalyell, and Cambridge, he became a teacher before being elected to Parliament in 1962 as the Labour candidate for West Lothian. His next 43 years (including 11 general elections) ensured – given his vehemently independent views – that his name was rarely out of the headlines.

A critic of both Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, he famously harried the former during the Falklands War and argued fiercely with the latter over the Gulf War and the invasion of Iraq. He was also the originator of “The West Lothian Question’, which still informs the debate on Scottish devolution and independence today.

Don’t miss hearing Tam in person on his first visit to London since 2005. In an age of powerful government, Dalyell is a magnificent antidote, warts and all.

Reviews for his memoir The Importance of Being Awkward ‘utterly engrossing…Tam Dalyell is a titan of thrawnness, and I hope he makes a nuisance of himself for many years more.’ The Herald

‘…a magnificent pain in the neck.’ (Guardian)

This talk is part of the The National Trust for Scotland series.

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