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The Importance of Being Awkward
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Autobiography & Biography, Biography
Publication Date
01 August 2012
Paperback (also available as an eBook)
Out of Stock
Birlinn Limited
16pp b/w plates

The Importance of Being Awkward

The Autobiography of Tam Dalyell

Foreword by Peter Hennessy


eBook also available at the iBookstore


'A story of principle and persistence from a politician whose like we shall surely not see again, at least in the ranks of any of the mainstream parties,' – Journal of the Law Society of Scotland

'The review of The Importance of Being Awkward: the Autobiography of Tam Dalyell (Birlinn) in The Herald described Dalyell as a 'titan of thrawness'. There is plenty of material here to support this description of a politician who was always committed to independence of thought and a deep sense of principle. But there also much more to enjoy from a man whose career spanned the administrations of no less than eight Prime Ministers, from McMillan to Blair.' - Tom Devine, Scottish Review of Books

'Charting the campaigns that have shaped his by turns heroic and cussed years in Westminster' – The Herald

When veteran Labour MP Tam Dalyell retired as Father of the House in 2005, the Commons lost one of its most colourful and outspoken politicians. 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 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. And as the originator of The West Lothian Question, his warnings about devolution and the disintegration of the United Kingdom have proved to be remarkably prescient. 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. 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.

Peter Hennessy is Attlee professor of Government at Queen Mary, University of London. He has written widely on British contemporary history.

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