Shirley Summerskill

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Shirley Catherine Wynne Summerskill (born 9 September 1931) is a British Labour Party politician and former government minister.

Shirley Summerskill
Personal details
Born (1931-09-09) 9 September 1931 (age 85)
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) John Ryman 1957–1971 (divorced)
Alma mater Somerville College, Oxford

Early life[edit]

Summerskill was educated at St Paul's Girls' School and Somerville College, Oxford, and trained as a doctor at St. Thomas's Hospital. She was a member of the executives of the Socialist Medical Association and of the Medical Practitioners' Union.

Parliamentary career[edit]

After unsuccessfully contesting the Blackpool North by-election, 1962,[1] Summerskill was elected as Member of Parliament for Halifax in the 1964 general election. After being a Labour shadow minister for Health from 1970 to 1974, she served as a junior minister in the Home Office throughout the 1974–79 Labour government, under two Home Secretaries, Roy Jenkins and Merlyn Rees. In 1980 she was interviewed by the BBC's Panorama current affairs program about Britain's preparations for a nuclear attack.

When Labour returned to opposition after the Conservative victory in the 1979 general election, Summerskill became an opposition spokesperson on Home Affairs. She lost her seat in the 1983 general election to the Conservative Roy Galley.

Personal life[edit]

Sumerskill married lawyer and future Labour MP John Ryman in 1957; they divorced in 1971.[2]

Her mother Edith Summerskill had also been a Labour MP and government minister; her nephew, Ben Summerskill, is chief executive of the UK gay equality charity Stonewall.


  1. ^ "Centre for Advancement of Women in Politics: Women elected in the 1960s". Retrieved 2015-04-13. 
  2. ^ The New York Times Biographical Service. 6. New York Times & Arno Press. 1975. ISSN 0161-2433. Retrieved 2015-04-13. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Maurice Macmillan
Member of Parliament for Halifax
Succeeded by
Roy Galley