Baroness Shirley Williams
27.07.30 – 12.04.21
Daughter of Vera Brittain (author of A Testament to Youth) and George Caitlin, Shirley held many positions over her life time including: MP, Cabinet Minister, a member of the Gang of Four who founded a new political party - the SDP, President of the SDP, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, a Professorship at Harvard University and much more.
I had the great privilege of knowing her and being supported by her throughout my political career. She was intellectual but at the same time so warm, approachable and down to earth. She continued to deliver absolutely amazing speeches without notes right up to her retirement just 6 years ago. She gave service in supporting causes in which she passionately believed and to people who would promote those causes – reducing inequality being just one of those causes. She was a role model for me and many other women and she stands out as a successful female politician who was true to her own style and convictions, who used reasoned arguments and never appeared abrasive.
Locally she has connections, having attended Talbot Heath School in Bournemouth during the second world war. In 1981 she came to address an SDP public meeting held at Corfe Hills School. So many people tried to attend this meeting that the traffic came to a standstill in Corfe Mullen and Broadstone. As secretary of our local SDP group, I sat alongside her on the platform. She paid a memorable visit to the Courtyard Centre during the 2001 General Election campaign where she met activists including our own Gang of Four – Lesley Jones, Susan Jefferies, and Sandra Moore and me wearing our hats with yellow ribbons. I was duly elected an MP in 2001. Our paths crossed many times during my parliamentary career but a highlight was when she was present when I was awarded Dods, female MP of the year award in 2010. She went on to give support to Vikki Slade’s General Election campaign in 2015
She will be greatly missed but also remembered with fondness and pride by all those who were able to meet her, and as somebody who steadfastly followed her liberal principles and who was an inspiration for more women to participate in politics.
Dame Annette Brooke (MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole, 2001 – 2015)