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Tam Dalyell: Labour MP who died this week said MPs should 'have the balls' to block Brexit

‘They should have the balls to say so and vote accordingly. This is a matter of cowardice if they don’t’

Peter Walker
Friday 27 January 2017 12:28 GMT
Late MP Tom Dalyell says MPs should have 'the balls' to block Brexit

Tam Dalyell said MPs should “have the balls” to vote honestly on Brexit in a candid interview less than eight months before he died.

The stalwart Labour backbencher, who spent 43 years as an MP and died yesterday, said politicians were being cowards if they did not vote with their guts.

His comments, aired on 29 June, six days after the referendum on the UK leaving the EU, are particularly poignant this week after Jeremy Corbyn announced a three-line whip urging his MPs to vote in favour of Article 50.

In a previously unseen edit, released yesterday by BBC journalist David Grossman, who interviewed him for Newsnight, Mr Dalyell tests the water before going on record.

“Am I entitled to say that MPs should have the ‘balls’ or should we discuss the ‘guts’?” asks the 84-year-old.

Mr Grossman says: “Balls is good, balls is fine,” and a colleague chimes in: “Absolutely.”

Mr Dalyell continues: “MPs should have the balls to use their best judgement because Parliament is sovereign and if their best judgement, [which] as I understand it is the best judgement of 450-more, is that Britain should remain in the European community.

“They should have the balls to say so and vote accordingly. This is a matter of cowardice if they don’t.”

Mr Corbyn, who has insisted the Labour Party would not block the triggering of Article 50, is facing a shadow Cabinet rebellion after ordering MPs to vote accordingly.

Any minister or shadow minister who breaks the three-line whip – so called because the instruction is underlined three times on paper – is typically forced to resign from the front bench.

Shadow early years minister Tulip Siddiq has resigned over the dispute already.

Mr Dalyell was a keen pro-European, anti-imperialist and anti-war MP.

He famously and repeatedly asked subsequent prime ministers the so-called “West Lothian question”, which argued against giving Scottish MPs votes on English-only matters.

Mr Corbyn paid tribute to a “titan of parliamentary scrutiny” while Nicola Sturgeon said he was a “real giant of Scottish politics”.

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