The Baroness Williams of Crosby

Williams in 2014
Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords
In office
7 June 2001 – 24 November 2004
LeaderCharles Kennedy
Preceded byThe Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
Succeeded byThe Lord McNally
President of the Social Democratic Party
In office
7 July 1982 – 29 August 1987
Leader
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byJohn Cartwright
Secretary of State for Education and Science
In office
10 September 1976 – 4 May 1979
Prime MinisterJames Callaghan
Preceded byFred Mulley
Succeeded byMark Carlisle
Paymaster General
In office
10 September 1976 – 4 May 1979
Prime MinisterJames Callaghan
Preceded byEdmund Dell
Succeeded byAngus Maude
Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection
In office
5 March 1974 – 10 September 1976
Prime Minister
Preceded byPeter Walker (as Trade and Industry Secretary)
Succeeded byRoy Hattersley
Ministerial offices 1967–⁠1974
Shadow Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection
In office
4 May 1973 – 5 March 1974
LeaderHarold Wilson
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded bySally Oppenheim-Barnes
Shadow Home Secretary
In office
19 October 1971 – 4 May 1973
LeaderHarold Wilson
Preceded byJames Callaghan
Succeeded byRoy Jenkins
Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Services
In office
19 June 1970 – 19 October 1971
LeaderHarold Wilson
Preceded byRichard Crossman
Succeeded byBarbara Castle
Minister of State for Home Affairs
In office
13 October 1969 – 23 June 1970
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byThe Lord Stonham
Succeeded byRichard Sharples
Minister of State for Education and Science
In office
29 August 1967 – 13 October 1969
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byGoronwy Roberts
Succeeded byAlice Bacon
Parliamentary offices
Member of the House of Lords
Life peerage
1 February 1993 – 11 February 2016
Member of Parliament
for Crosby
In office
26 November 1981 – 13 May 1983
Preceded byGraham Page
Succeeded byMalcolm Thornton
Member of Parliament
for Hertford and Stevenage
In office
28 February 1974 – 7 April 1979
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byBowen Wells
Member of Parliament
for Hitchin
In office
15 October 1964 – 8 February 1974
Preceded byMartin Maddan
Succeeded byIan Stewart
Personal details
Born
Shirley Vivian Teresa Brittain Catlin

(1930-07-27)27 July 1930
Chelsea, London, England
Died11 April 2021(2021-04-11) (aged 90)
Political party
Spouse(s)
(m. 1955; div. 1974)
(m. 1987; died 2003)
Children1
Parents
Academic background
Alma mater
Academic work
InstitutionsHarvard Kennedy School
Main interestsElectoral politics

Shirley Vivian Teresa Brittain Williams, Baroness Williams of Crosby, CH, PC (née Catlin; 27 July 1930 – 11 April 2021)[1] was a British politician and academic. Originally a Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP), she served in the Labour cabinet from 1974 to 1979. She was one of the "Gang of Four" rebels who founded the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1981 and, at the time of her retirement from politics, was a Liberal Democrat.[2]

Williams was elected to the House of Commons for Hitchin in the 1964 general election. She served as Minister for Education and Science from 1967 to 1969 and Minister of State for Home Affairs from 1969 to 1970. She served as Shadow Home Secretary from 1971 and 1973. In 1974, she became Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection in Harold Wilson's cabinet. When Wilson was succeeded by James Callaghan, she served as Secretary of State for Education and Science and Paymaster General from 1976 to 1979. She lost her seat to the Conservative Party at the 1979 general election.

In 1981, dismayed with the Labour Party's left-ward movement under Michael Foot, she was one of the "Gang of Four"—centrist Labour figures who formed the SDP. Williams won the 1981 Crosby by-election and became the first SDP member elected to Parliament, but she lost the seat in the 1983 general election. She served as President of the SDP from 1982 to 1987 and supported the SDP's merger with the Liberal Party that formed the Liberal Democrats.

Between 2001 and 2004, she served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords and, from 2007 to 2010, as Adviser on Nuclear Proliferation to Prime Minister Gordon Brown. She remained an active member of the House of Lords until announcing her retirement in January 2016, and was a Professor Emerita of Electoral Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University at the time of her death at age 90.

Early life and education

Born in Chelsea, London, Williams was the daughter of the political scientist and philosopher Sir George Catlin and the feminist and pacifist writer Vera Brittain. She was educated at various schools, including Mrs Spencer's School in Brechin Place, South Kensington; Christchurch Elementary School in Chelsea; Talbot Heath School in Bournemouth; and St Paul's Girls' School in London. During the Second World War, she was evacuated to Minnesota in the United States for three years.[3] While living in the US, she took a screen test to play Velvet Brown in the 1944 film National Velvet; the role was eventually taken by Elizabeth Taylor. On the sea voyage returning to Britain she narrowly avoided being gang-raped by a group of sailors.[3]

While she was an undergraduate and Open Scholar at Somerville College, Oxford, Williams was a member of the Oxford University Dramatic Society (OUDS) and toured the United States playing the role of Cordelia in an OUDS production of Shakespeare's King Lear directed by a young Tony Richardson. In 1950, she became the first woman to chair the Oxford University Labour Club.[1] After graduating as a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy, politics and economics, Williams was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and studied American trade unionism at Columbia University in New York City for a master's degree, awarded by Oxford in 1954.[4]

On returning to Britain, she began her career as a journalist, working firstly for the Daily Mirror and then for the Financial Times. In 1960, she became General Secretary of the Fabian Society, a role she held until 1964.[5][1]

Parliamentary career

After unsuccessfully contesting the constituency of Harwich at the 1954 by-election and the general election the following year, as well as the constituency of Southampton Test at the 1959 general election, Williams was elected in the 1964 general election as Labour MP for the constituency of Hitchin in Hertfordshire. She retained the seat, renamed Hertford and Stevenage after boundary changes in 1974, until 1979.[1] As Minister for Education and Science (August 1967 – October 1969), Williams launched the first Women in Engineering Year in 1969.[6]

Between 1971 and 1973, she served as Shadow Home Secretary. In 1974, she became Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection in Harold Wilson's cabinet. When Wilson announced his resignation in 1976 and was succeeded by James Callaghan, she became Secretary of State for Education and Paymaster General, holding both cabinet positions at the same time. Williams stood for the Labour deputy leadership in October of that year but lost to Michael Foot.[1]

Comprehensive schools

While serving as education secretary between 1976 and 1979, Williams pursued the policy introduced by Anthony Crosland in 1965 to introduce the comprehensive school system in place of grammar schools.[3] Previously, in 1972, as her daughter Rebecca approached secondary school age, Williams had moved into the catchment area of the voluntary aided school Godolphin and Latymer School allowing her daughter to gain a place there.[7] However, when Godolphin and Latymer School subsequently voted to go independent in 1977, Rebecca chose to leave that school and instead went to Camden School for Girls because it had chosen to go comprehensive.[8][better source needed]

Europeanism

Always a passionately committed supporter of European integration,[9][10] Williams was one of 68 Labour MPs to defy a three-line whip in the 28 October 1971 Commons vote on membership of the European Communities.[1][11][12] Four years later, she was one of the leaders of the Britain in Europe campaign during the 1975 European Communities membership referendum.[10] Labour's anti-Europeanism during the Michael Foot years was one of the factors that drove her to abandon the party in 1981.[10]

In her 2016 valedictory speech to the House of Lords before that year's second membership referendum, she described the UK's European Union (EU) membership as "the most central political question that this country has to answer" and said it was the reason for her retirement. In closing, she called on her colleagues to "think very hard before allowing the United Kingdom to withdraw from ... its major duty to the world—the one it will encounter, and then deliver, through the European Union".[9][13]

Social Democratic Party

Williams lost her seat (renamed Hertford and Stevenage) when the Labour Party was defeated at the 1979 general election.[14] Her defeat came two years after her appearance and arrest on the Grunwick picket lines, for which she had been harshly criticised in the press.[1] When, soon afterward, she was interviewed by Robin Day for the BBC's Decision 79 television coverage of the election results, both Norman St John-Stevas – the Conservative's Education Spokesman who had frequently clashed with her at the despatch box – and Merlyn Rees, the outgoing Home Secretary, paid tribute to her.[15]

Following the election, she hosted the BBC1 TV series Shirley Williams in Conversation, interviewing, in turn, a number of political figures, including former West German chancellor Willy Brandt, former Conservative prime minister Edward Heath and her recently deposed colleague James Callaghan.[16] She later appeared on many television and radio discussion programmes in Britain – in particular, the BBC's Question Time, where her 58 appearances earned her a "Most Frequent Panellist" award.[3][1] During this period, Williams remained a member of the National Executive of the Labour Party.[17] From 1980 to 1981, she was Chairman of the Fabian Society.[5]

In 1981, unhappy with the influence of the more left-wing members of the Labour Party, she resigned her membership to form – along with fellow Labour resignees Roy Jenkins, David Owen and Bill Rodgers – the Social Democratic Party (SDP). They were joined by 28 other Labour MPs and one Conservative. Later that year, following the death of the Conservative MP Sir Graham Page, she won the Crosby by-election and became the first SDP member elected to Parliament. Two years later, however, having become the SDP's President, she lost the seat at the 1983 general election. At the 1987 general election, Williams stood for the SDP in Cambridge, but lost to the sitting Conservative candidate Robert Rhodes James. She then supported the SDP's merger with the Liberal Party that formed the Liberal Democrats.[1]

Harvard University

Sitting beside Peter Ustinov during an episode of the late-night TV discussion programme After Dark, 1989
Sitting beside Peter Ustinov during an episode of the late-night TV discussion programme After Dark, 1989

In 1988, Williams moved to the United States to serve as a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, remaining until 2001, and thereafter as Public Service Professor of Electoral Politics, Emerita.[18] Nonetheless, she remained active in politics and public service in Britain, the United States and internationally. During these years, Williams helped draft constitutions in Russia, Ukraine, and South Africa.[1] She also served as director of Harvard's Project Liberty, an initiative designed to assist the emerging democracies in Central and Eastern Europe; and as a board member and acting director of Harvard's Institute of Politics (IOP). Upon her elevation to the House of Lords in 1993, she returned to the United Kingdom.[19][20]

Life peer

Williams was created a life peer on 1 February 1993 as Baroness Williams of Crosby, of Stevenage in the County of Hertfordshire,[21] and subsequently served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords from 2001 to 2004.[22]

Among other non-profit boards, Williams was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the EU's Comité des Sages (Reflection Group) on Social Policy,[23] the Twentieth Century Fund, the Ditchley Foundation, the Institute for Public Policy Research, and the Nuclear Threat Initiative. She also served as President of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, as Commissioner of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament and as President of the Cambridge University Liberal Association. Williams was also an attendee of the 2013 and the 2010 Bilderberg conferences in Watford, Hertfordshire, England, and Sitges, Spain, respectively.[24]

In June 2007, after Gordon Brown replaced Tony Blair as Prime Minister, Williams accepted a formal Government position as Advisor on Nuclear Proliferation provided she could serve as an independent advisor; she remained a Liberal Democrat. Her interest and commitment to education continued, and she served as Chair of Judges of the British Teaching Awards. Williams was a member of the Top Level Group of UK Parliamentarians for Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament and Non-proliferation, established in October 2009.[25]

Williams was originally opposed to the Cameron–Clegg coalition's Health and Social Care Bill, describing it as "stealth privatisation" during 2011.[26] The government made some changes to the Bill, described by Williams as "major concessions",[27] but dismissed as "minor" by Guardian commentator Polly Toynbee.[28] Williams urged Liberal Democrats to support the amended Bill during the conference in March 2012,[29] saying "I would not have stuck with the bill, if I believed for one moment it would undermine the NHS."[30]

Williams spoke against gay marriage in the House of Lords, saying that "equality is not the same as sameness. That is the fundamental mistake in this Bill" and that women and men "complement one another", arguing that marriage between people of the same sex should not be called marriage but should have "different nomenclature".[31] In late 2015, she announced her intention to retire from the House of Lords.[32] On 28 January 2016 she made her valedictory speech in the chamber, and on 11 February she officially retired, in pursuance of Section 1 of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014.[13] In the 2017 New Year Honours, Williams was appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour for "services to political and public life".[33]

Personal life

Williams married twice. At Oxford she met Peter Parker (the future head of British Rail) and they had a relationship. In her autobiography (Climbing the Bookshelves) Williams said that "...by the spring of 1949 I was in love with him, and he, a little, with me...". In 1955, she married the moral philosopher Bernard Williams. Bernard left Oxford to accommodate his wife's rising political ambitions, finding a post first at University College London (1959–64) and then as Professor of Philosophy at Bedford College, London (1964–67), while she worked as a journalist for the Financial Times and as Secretary of the Fabian Society. The marriage was dissolved in 1974;[34] Bernard Williams subsequently married Patricia Skinner and had two sons with her.[35] Shirley said of her marriage to Bernard:

... [T]here was something of a strain that comes from two things. One is that we were both too caught up in what we were respectively doing — we didn't spend all that much time together; the other, to be completely honest, is that I'm fairly unjudgmental and I found Bernard's capacity for pretty sharp putting-down of people he thought were stupid unacceptable. Patricia has been cleverer than me in that respect. She just rides it. He can be very painful sometimes. He can eviscerate somebody. Those who are left behind are, as it were, dead personalities. Judge not that ye be not judged. I was influenced by Christian thinking, and he would say "That's frightfully pompous and it's not really the point." So we had a certain jarring over that and over Catholicism.[35]

Following the annulment of her first marriage in 1980,[19][36] she married the Harvard professor and presidential historian Richard Neustadt in 1987. Neustadt died in 2003. She had a daughter, Rebecca, with Bernard Williams, a stepdaughter, and two grandchildren[37] Williams was a Roman Catholic, and from 2009 had attended church every Sunday.[38] In Who's Who, she listed her recreations as "music, poetry, hill walking".[5]

Williams died on 11 April 2021, at the age of 90. Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey called Williams a "Liberal lion and a true trailblazer".[39]

Honours

Williams was made an Honorary Fellow of her alma mater, Somerville College, Oxford, in 1970, and of Newnham College, Cambridge, in 1977. Williams received a number of honorary doctorates:

Works by and about

Shirley Williams wrote several books, including:

For details of Williams's early life see:

There is a substantial article on Shirley Williams by Phillip Whitehead in the Dictionary of Labour Biography, edited by Greg Rosen, Politico's Publishing, 2001, and one by Dick Newby in the Dictionary of Liberal Biography, edited by Duncan Brack, Politico's Publishing, 1998.

See also:

Arms

Coat of arms of Shirley Williams
Coronet
A Coronet of a Baroness
Escutcheon
Per chevron Azure and Or three Lions passant guardant in pale counterchanged a Bordure engrailed Ermine
Motto
Quamdiu (Until)

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Langdon, Julia (12 April 2021). "Lady Williams of Crosby obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  2. ^ The SDP later merged with the Liberal Party to form the Liberal Democrats.
  3. ^ a b c d "Shirley Williams: Pioneer who tried to reshape politics". 12 April 2021 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  4. ^ Marquand, Robert (3 April 1991). "Shirley Williams". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d "Williams of Crosby, Baroness, (Shirley Vivian Teresa Brittain Williams) (born 27 July 1930)". WHO'S WHO & WHO WAS WHO. 2007. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u39901. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  6. ^ "The Woman Engineer Vol 10". www2.theiet.org. Retrieved 7 March 2020.
  7. ^ Shirley Williams Climbing The Bookshelves: Autobiography of Shirley Williams, Virago, 2009, p. 206.
  8. ^ Agar, Stephen (24 April 2021). "Rod's Wrong". The Spectator: 31.
  9. ^ a b Hansard, House of Lords, 28 January 2016, c1470-71.
  10. ^ a b c Kettle, Martin (17 December 2015). "Britain's pro-Europeans need to find a Shirley Williams". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  11. ^ Ludlow, N. Piers (19 November 2014). "Safeguarding British identity or betraying it?: the role of British 'tradition' in the parliamentary great debate on EC membership, October 1971" (PDF). Journal of Common Market Studies. John Wiley & Sons on behalf of UACES. 53 (1): 18–34. doi:10.1111/jcms.12202. ISSN 0021-9886. S2CID 145092199.
  12. ^ Hansard, European Communities, HC Deb 28 October 1971 vol 823 cc2076-217.
  13. ^ a b "Shirley Williams makes her final speech to House of Lords (video)". BBC News. 28 January 2016. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  14. ^ "BBC Rewind: Shirley Williams loses Hertford and Stevenage. Clip taken from Decision 79, first broadcast 4 May 1979". BBC News. 17 November 2014. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  15. ^ Heffer, Simon (7 February 2020). "Free speech in an uncivil society". The Critic Magazine. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  16. ^ "Bfi | Film & Tv Database | Shirley Williams In Conversation". Ftvdb.bfi.org.uk. Archived from the original on 17 October 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  17. ^ "MPs and Lords: Baroness Williams of Crosby". UK Parliament. Retrieved 13 April 2021. Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, 1 July 1970 – 1 March 1981
  18. ^ "Shirley Williams (In Memoriam)". Harvard Kennedy School. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  19. ^ a b "Shirley Williams, Labour Cabinet minister who left her party to help form the SDP – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 12 April 2021. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  20. ^ "Shirley Williams: One of the UK's best-loved politicians". The Independent. 12 April 2021. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  21. ^ "No. 53207". The London Gazette. 4 February 1993. p. 2049.
  22. ^ "Shirley Williams". Liberal History. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  23. ^ "Commission Establishes a 'Comité des Sages' on Social Policy", 4 October 1995 Retrieved 11 June 2011
  24. ^ Bilderberg Meetings official website 2010 attendee list "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 June 2010. Retrieved 17 June 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ Borger, Julian (8 September 2009). "Nuclear-free world ultimate aim of new cross-party pressure group". The Guardian. London.
  26. ^ Helm, Toby (12 March 2011). "Shirley Williams urges Lib Dems to fight Andrew Lansley's NHS plan". The Guardian. Manchester. Retrieved 19 March 2012.
  27. ^ Williams, Shirley (3 February 2012). "Our NHS bill amendments represent a major concession by the government". The Guardian. Manchester. Retrieved 19 March 2012.
  28. ^ Toynbee, Polly (12 March 2012). "Sorry, Shirley Williams, but I have to nail your health bill myths". The Guardian. Manchester, UK. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
  29. ^ Trilling, Daniel (11 March 2012). "Could NHS reform be the Lib Dems' downfall?". New Statesman. UK. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  30. ^ Wintour, Patrick (11 March 2012). "How Nick Clegg and Shirley Williams lost the great NHS debate". The Guardian. Manchester. Retrieved 19 March 2012.
  31. ^ "House of Lords 17 June 2013". Hansard. 17 June 2013.
  32. ^ Mason, Rowena. "Shirley Williams to retire from Lords after 50 years in politics". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  33. ^ "No. 61803". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2016. p. N27.
  34. ^ "Mrs Williams agrees to divorce". The Glasgow Herald. 4 May 1974. p. 11. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  35. ^ a b Jeffries, Stuart. "The Quest for Truth" The Guardian, 30 November 2002.
  36. ^ Jeffries, Stuart (30 November 2002). "The quest for truth". Guardian Books. Retrieved 12 April 2021. After the divorce in 1974, Bernard married Patricia, but Shirley Williams had to wait for the Catholic church to annul the marriage before she could remarry.
  37. ^ Padman, Tony (15 May 2015). "Shirley Williams: My family values". the Guardian.
  38. ^ Williams, Shirley (2009). Climbing the bookshelves (1st ed.). p. 294. ISBN 978-1-84408-476-0.
  39. ^ "Baroness Shirley Williams: Former cabinet minister dies aged 90". BBC News. 12 April 2021. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  40. ^ webperson@hw.ac.uk. "Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh: Honorary Graduates". www1.hw.ac.uk. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  41. ^ Toynbee, Polly (3 October 2009). "Climbing the Bookshelves by Shirley Williams | Book review". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  42. ^ Williams, Shirley (September 2003). "God & Caesar: Personal Reflections on Politics and Religion". The International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law. 6 (1). Retrieved 13 April 2021 – via International Centre for Not-for-Profit Law (www.icnl.org).
  43. ^ Williams, Shirley (1 January 1993). Ambition and Beyond: The Career Paths of American Politicians. Institute of Governmental Studies Press, University of California, Berkeley. ISBN 9780877723387. Retrieved 13 April 2021 – via Google Books.
  44. ^ Williams, Shirley (1 July 1988). The New Party – the New Technology. Liberal Democrat Publications. ISBN 9781851870752. Retrieved 13 April 2021 – via Google Books.
  45. ^ "Politics is for People — Shirley Williams". Harvard University Press. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  46. ^ Gollard, Russell (13 April 1996). "Vera Brittain: A Life (review)". Literature and Medicine. 15 (2): 266–270. doi:10.1353/lm.1996.0017. S2CID 142574197 – via Project MUSE.
  47. ^ Vera Brittain. "Testament of Experience: An Autobiographical Study of the Years 1925-50". google.co.uk/books.
  48. ^ "Roy Jenkins: A Well Rounded Life review – 'a magnificent biography'". the Guardian. 23 March 2014. Retrieved 13 April 2021.