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Tuesday, August 3, 1999 Published at 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK

UK Politics

Dalyell rules out retirement

Tam Dalyell: A consistent critic of the government

Veteran Labour backbencher Tam Dalyell has ended speculation about his future by announcing that he intends to stand again at the next general election.

It had been thought that Mr Dalyell - an outspoken critic of the government - might stand down

The MP for Linlithgow has had a seat at Westminster for 37 years.

But his constituency party chairman Allister Mackie, announced on Tuesday that Mr Dalyell would be seeking the nomination to be Labour's candidate again at the next election.

'The Labour Party needs him'

Mr Mackie said: "I am delighted and very happy.

"It is good for the constituency because he is a unique person, because he does speak for people and he does speak for West Lothian.

[ image: The Belgrano: Tam Dalyell raised questions about its sinking]
The Belgrano: Tam Dalyell raised questions about its sinking
"The Labour Party needs him, the House of Commons needs him and West Lothian needs him.

"The decision was always his. We just simply said that if he wanted to stand we would be delighted."

Mr Dalyell, 66, has earned a reputation as a dogged MP who has campaigned on a variety of high profile, and in some cases unfashionable, issues which have sometimes brought him into conflict with his party.

These have included the sinking of the Argentine ship the Belgrano, the Lockerbie bombing and the Kosovo conflict.

Thorn in Blair's side

Like fellow left-wing veteran Tony Benn - who is to retire at the next election - Mr Dalyell has often gone against the party line.

The Old Etonian MP has been at odds with the government over three of the biggest issues that have faced Tony Blair since he swept to power - Iraq, Kosovo and devolution.

He was also the "inventor" in 1977 of the West Lothian Question, named after his former constituency.

[ image: Tony Blair was unfavourably compared to Napoleon by Tam Dalyell]
Tony Blair was unfavourably compared to Napoleon by Tam Dalyell
The question asks why, even in the light of a Scottish Parliament, a full quota of Scottish MPs at Westminster can still be allowed to vote on purely English matters.

In recent days, to the fury of government business managers, Mr Dalyell has announced that he has not got the "brass neck" to vote on such matters.

He reserved his most bitter attack on the prime minister for a face-to-face confrontation at a private meeting last month of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Mr Dalyell said that traditional Labour supporters would be permanently alienated by the "Napoleonic Blair presidency".

Activists who had "sweated their guts out" to deliver Labour's landslide victory in 1997 had deliberately stayed at home when the party was defeated in the European elections in June, he claimed.

At the beginning of this year he lamented: "The House of Commons is atrophying. In 36 years I have never known membership of the House being so marginalised."

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12 May 98 | People in Parliament
Tam Dalyell

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