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Commemorating the Life of Shirley Williams

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Baroness Shirley Williams of Crosby passed away this month at 90 years of age. Throughout her life, Williams was a prominent Parliamentary member taking on a wide array of positions – Leah Langley takes us through her esteemable career.

Initially elected to the House of Commons, for, Hitchin, after the 1964 General Election, Williams served at the Minister for Education and Science form 1967 until 1969. After leaving this post, she became the Minister of State for Home Affairs from 1969 until 1970. From 1971 until 1973 she was the Shadow Homes Secretary before taking on the role of Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection in 1974. She served in the Labour cabinet between 1974 and 1979, and after being succeeded by James Callaghan, Williams served as the Secretary of State for Education, and the Science and Paymaster General from 1976 until 1979.

The 1979 General Election saw her lose her seat to the Conservative Party. Williams was most noticeable for being one of the “Gang of Four” rebels who helped to found the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1981. After winning the Crosby By-Election, she became the first member of the SDP elected to Parliament, before she ultimately lost the seat during the 1983 General Election. Serving as the SDP president from 1982 until 1987, Williams supported the merger of the Liberal Party with the SDP to form the Liberal Democrats. The merger led to Williams leading the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, between 2001 and 2004.

Between 2007 and 2010, she was the Adviser on Nuclear Proliferation to the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Before her retirement in January 2016, Williams remained as an active member of the House of Lords, and she was also a Professor Emerita of Electoral Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Her death led to an outpouring of love and support from political members across the country. Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, described Williams as, “a kind and thoughtful member of the once radical centre left,” and he said that even when they disagreed, “she had the gift of sounding completely reasonable at all times.”

Lord Steel, who led the Liberal Party during the Alliance, said, “she was a very, very popular person,” and stated that she was a “tremendous public inspirer and communicator, and a real humanitarian.” Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Ed Davey, said that Williams was an “inspiration to millions,” “a liberal lion and a true trailblazer,” and he stated that, “political life will be poorer without her intellect, her wisdom, and generosity.”

 

Header designed by Annabel Smith – Assistant Head of Design

Articled edited by Connor Wade – Politics Editor

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