Shirley Williams


Shirley Williams, one of the most influential female Labour politicians of the 20th Century, has died aged 90. The daughter of Vera Brittain, Williams was a journalist and actress when she turned to politics. She stood stood three times before winning the seat of Hitchin in the 1964 general election. She was an education minister under Wilson, and became Education Secretary in 1976 under Jim Callaghan. However, in the 1979 election, she lost her seat. She had run for the leadership in 1976 and was seen as a potential future leader of the Labour party. However, in 1981, she quit the Labour party over what she viewed as growing Euroscepticism, and helped form the SDP as part of the Gang of Four with Roy Jenkins, Bill Rodgers and David Owen. Later that year, she returned to parliament by sensationally winning the Tory safe seat of Crosby in a by-election. She held it until the 1983 election, where despite a 13% swing in her favour from the previous general election, the Tories regained the seat.

Williams became a major supporter of the merger between the Liberal party and the SDP, and was given a life peerage by John Major (this had previously been blocked by Thatcher) in 1993. In the Lords, she served as the Lib Dem leader, and was frequently speaking on matters until well into her 80s. After her first husband left her, she had a long friendship with the late psephologist Anthony King, which the press tended to refer to as an affair, despite the fact one had been dumped and the other was widowed. Her autobiography, Climbing the Bookshelves, comes recommended.  She was picked by 3 teams, including veterans The Long Awaited Return of the Blackpool Jury

Shirley Williams
27 July 1930 – 11 April 2021
3 teams