Betty Boothroyd

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The Right Honourable
The Baroness Boothroyd
OM PC
Boothroyd Westminster Hall 2011.jpg
Baroness Boothroyd (wearing green) sits between George Osborne and Douglas Alexander to watch President Obama give a speech in Westminster Hall, May 2011
Speaker of the House of Commons
In office
27 April 1992 – 23 October 2000
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by Bernard Weatherill
Succeeded by Michael Martin
Member of Parliament
for West Bromwich West
In office
28 February 1974 – 23 October 2000
Preceded by Constituency created
Succeeded by Adrian Bailey
Member of Parliament
for West Bromwich
In office
24 May 1973 – 28 February 1974
Preceded by Maurice Foley
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
Personal details
Born (1929-10-08) 8 October 1929 (age 84)
Dewsbury, Yorkshire, England
Nationality British
Political party Crossbencher 2001 – present
Other political
affiliations
None 1992 – 2000
Labour 1973 – 1992

Betty Boothroyd, Baroness Boothroyd, OM, PC (born 8 October 1929) is a British politician, who served as Member of Parliament (MP) for West Bromwich and West Bromwich West from 1973 to 2000, initially for the Labour Party and, from 1992 to 2000, as Speaker of the House of Commons. She was the first, and to date only, female Speaker.

Early life[edit]

Boothroyd was born in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, in 1929, to Archibald and Mary Boothroyd, textile workers. She was educated at council schools and went on to study at Dewsbury College of Commerce and Art. In the 1940s, she worked as a dancer, as a member of the Tiller Girls dancing troupe.[1]

In 1960, she travelled to the United States to see the Kennedy campaign. She subsequently began work in Washington as a legislative assistant for an American Congressman, Silvio Conte, between 1960 and 1962. When she returned to London she continued her work as secretary and political assistant to various senior Labour politicians. In 1965 she was elected to a seat on Hammersmith Borough Council, in Gibbs Green ward, where she remained until 1968.

Member of Parliament[edit]

Running for the Labour Party, she contested several seats – Leicester South East in 1957, Peterborough in 1959, Nelson and Colne in 1968, and Rossendale in 1970 – before being elected Member of Parliament (MP) for West Bromwich in a by-election in 1973.

Boothroyd's career then flourished. In 1974 she was appointed an assistant Government Whip and she was a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from 1975-1977. In 1979 she became a member of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, until 1981, and of the Speaker's Panel of Chairmen, until 1987. She was also a member of the Labour Party National Executive Committee (NEC) from 1981–87 and the House of Commons Commission from 1983-87.

Deputy Speaker and Speaker[edit]

She became a Deputy Speaker in 1987. In 1992 she was elected Speaker, being the first woman ever to hold the position. There was some debate as to whether or not Boothroyd should wear the traditional Speaker's wig upon her election. She chose not to but also stated that any subsequent Speakers would be free to choose to wear the wig.[2] In 1993, the Government won a vote on the Social Chapter of the Maastricht Treaty due to her casting vote (exercised in accordance with Speaker Denison's rule). However, it was subsequently discovered that her casting vote was not required, as the votes had been miscounted and the Government had won by one vote. She was keen to get young people interested in politics, and in the 1990s even made an appearance as a special guest on the BBC's Saturday morning children's programme Live & Kicking.

On 12 July 2000, she announced in a statement to the House of Commons that she would resign as Speaker after the summer recess. Both Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Prime Minister John Major described her as an "outstanding Speaker".[3] Blair added that she was "something of a national institution".[3] She resigned as Speaker and as an MP (by the device of the Chiltern Hundreds) on 23 October 2000.

Life Peerage and recent activity[edit]

Boothroyd was Chancellor of the Open University from 1994 until October 2006 and has donated some of her personal papers to the University's archives. She is an Honorary Fellow of St Hugh's College, Oxford. In March 1995 she was awarded an Honorary Degree from the Open University as Doctor of the University. Boothroyd has also been given an Award of Doctor of Civil Law honoris causa by City University London (1993).

In 2001 she was created a Life Peer, taking as her title Baroness Boothroyd, of Sandwell in the County of West Midlands,[4] and her autobiography was published in the same year. In April 2005 she was appointed to the Order of Merit, an honour in the personal gift of the Queen.

Two portraits of Boothroyd are part of the parliamentary art collection.[5][6]

Boothroyd is a Vice President of the Industry and Parliament Trust and the Patron of the Jo Richardson Community School in Dagenham, East London, England, as well as being President of NBFA Assisting the Elderly.

Boothroyd in January 2011 posited that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's plans for some members to the upper house to be directly elected could leave Britain in constitutional disarray: “It is wantonly destructive. It is destruction that hasn’t been thought through properly”. Boothroyd said she was concerned that an elected Lords would rival the Commons, risking power-struggles between the two.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Never married and without children, Boothroyd has remained physically active, taking up paragliding while on holiday in Cyprus in her sixties. She has described the hobby as both "lovely and peaceful" and "exhilarating". She has long held an interest in lighting and became an Honorary Fellow of the Society of Light & Lighting (SLL) in 2009.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "Betty Boothroyd: To Parliament and beyond". BBC Online. 24 October 2001. Retrieved 21 January 2009. 
  2. ^ BBC Parliament coverage of the election of the Speaker of the House of Commons, 22 June 2009;
  3. ^ a b "Boothroyd praised as 'national institution'". BBC News. 12 July 2000. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  4. ^ London Gazette Issue Number 56095, p. 719; accessed 21 March 2014
  5. ^ Art in Parliament: THE RT. HON BETTY BOOTHROYD CHOSEN SPEAKER IN THE YEAR 1992; parliament.uk; accessed 21 March 2014.
  6. ^ Art in Parliament: Baroness Boothroyd
  7. ^ Betty Boothroyd attacks Nick Clegg's 'destructive' Lords reform

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Offices held[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Maurice Foley
Member of Parliament for West Bromwich
1973–1974
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for West Bromwich West
1974–2000
Succeeded by
Adrian Bailey
Preceded by
Sir Paul Dean
Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means
1987–1992
Succeeded by
Dame Janet Fookes
Preceded by
Bernard Weatherill
Speaker of the House of Commons
1992–2000
Succeeded by
Michael Martin
Academic offices
Preceded by
The Lord Briggs
Chancellor of the Open University
1994–2006
Succeeded by
The Lord Puttnam