"To the men and women of West Lothian – Labour, SNP, Conservative, Liberal, Communist – who, whatever their political opinions, were kind to me in all sorts of ways over 43 years as their representative in the House of Commons."
As one of those Liberals in West Lothian who in the latter years would have been included in that tribute I can know why the people of all political persuasions were kind to him. It was because he was always kind to them. In today's politics where pro-Independence and RemaIN Scots are at loggerheads and Brexiteers and Remainers similarly it says something that the MP for one area for 43 years was so universally respected.
That respect went well beyond just Tam and indeed before the recent rise of the SNP in the last decade and the call for independence it was still thus in West Lothian politics. Sometimes you would see three poster teams all at the same location and the ladders would stay put when the climbers moved between them. At counts and hustings there would be a camaraderie between all of those who were involved in politics of whatever hue.
Tam and I would have disagreed on a number of policy issues. But we both agreed on the importance of scientific evidence and factual evidence to base our policy on, even if the end results were different. It was something that I did write in a letter that I had in my pocket at my first Westminster count in 2005, the election that would for the first time in over 4 decades not see Tam Dalyell on the ballot. I wrote that while we disagreed on policy in a number of way I respected the way he had represented the people of West Lothian for all those years. I added that whoever filled his shoes would have a hard task, but if they put the people first as he had done they would earn the same respect that he himself had done.
His handwritten response (once I deciphered his scrawl) is still one of my greatest possessions. He wrote that he thought I had a bright future in politics, something that has been echoed by other Labour representatives in that area. But there are other comments in that that show why the people of West Lothian of all political hues respected him. He respected them, put them first and stood up for them whoever they may be, whoever they had voted for.
By all accounts he enjoyed his decade away from the daily hustle and bustle of Westminster of politics. The former Guardsman, hereditary Baronet with a famous ancestor of the same name, was first and foremost always just Tam to everyone whose life he impacted on.
Rest in Peace Tam.