Tam Dalyell: last of the Gentleman Leaders?

In Uncategorized on January 27, 2017 by kmflett


Tam Dalyell (1932-2017) or Sir Thomas Dalyell of the Binns, 11th Baronet to give him his official title was a Labour MP of note from 1962-2005. His upbringing was not that of the working class leader. He went to Eton and Kings College Cambridge where he was  a Tory. He moved to the left and joined Labour in 1956.

Dalyell was by background in the mould of the Gentleman Leader. That is someone not from the working class who goes on to play a role as politician representing the working class. There is a long line of such people who were either born into a privileged background or attained status via qualification.

The Chartist leader Feargus O’Connor had been an Irish landowner of some note, while the leader of late Chartism, Ernest Jones, was the son of a British Army Major who qualified as a lawyer. In more recent times Clement Attlee, while of modest background, also qualified as a lawyer attaining the professional status that goes with the role.

The notable thing about all these people is firstly that they are all men, hence ‘gentleman’ and that they worked in the labour movement to advance the cause of the less well off, rather than promote their own careers. Some might argue that in more recent times the reverse has applied with people from privileged backgrounds becoming Labour MPs as part of their career trajectory. This is not an entirely a new thing. Lord Robens had been a Labour MP from 1945 before resigning mid-term in 1960 to head up the Coal Board for example. One does wonder though if Tam Dalyell was the last of the Gentleman Leaders. Firstly because there appears to be a lack of successors to such a title around and secondly because it is to be hoped that politics has now advanced far enough for women, of whatever background, to feature much more prominently.



2 Responses to “Tam Dalyell: last of the Gentleman Leaders?”

  1. Tam was a cpmpetent beekeeper at the same time as an MP-not sure which role he considered the most important

  2. Worth recalling his time in the Army: he was called up, but failed the officer entry exam, and served his time as a trooper. So a gentleman, but not an officer…..

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