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Shirley Williams

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One of the Gang of Four, who left Labour to form the SDP and was a Labour Cabinet Minister between 1974-1979, has passed at the age of 90.

May one of the most empowering Parliamentarians, of the 20th century rest in peace.

Veteran politician and Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Shirley Williams has died at the age of 90, the party has announced.
She was hailed as a "Liberal lion and a true trailblazer" by Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey.
Originally a Labour MP, she was part of the "Gang of Four" who quit the party to found the Social Democratic Party.
She was a leading member of the 1970s Labour government and one of the first women cabinet ministers.
 
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mikeg

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Indeed a powerful figure. Despite partisan differences following her defection I have to say it's a sad loss for British politics.
 

NorthOxonian

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You have to admire her stamina when dealing with the media too - she's one of only two politicians to appear more than fifty times on Question Time (including well into her eighties). She's definitely been an inspirational figure and this is very sad news.
 

Butts

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You have to admire her stamina when dealing with the media too - she's one of only two politicians to appear more than fifty times on Question Time (including well into her eighties). She's definitely been an inspirational figure and this is very sad news.

Shirley Williams came from an era when Labour Cabinet Ministers were household names not nonentities like most of the albeit Shadow Cabinet are Today. That goes for Tories as well.

I'm intrigued, who is the other person that has appeared more than 50 times on Question Time - Ken Clarke ?
 

NorthOxonian

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Shirley Williams came from an era when Labour Cabinet Ministers were household names not nonentities like most of the albeit Shadow Cabinet are Today. That goes for Tories as well.

I'm intrigued, who is the other person that has appeared more than 50 times on Question Time - Ken Clarke ?
Yep, he's been on there 59 times. Shirley Williams was on there 58, then there's a big gap before you hit third (Menzies Campbell on 47).

I had thought she had appeared the most times, but it seems like Ken Clarke overtook her in 2019.
 

Butts

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Yep, he's been on there 59 times. Shirley Williams was on there 58, then there's a big gap before you hit third (Menzies Campbell on 47).

I had thought she had appeared the most times, but it seems like Ken Clarke overtook her in 2019.

Has Ken Clarke appeared with every host - ie Robin Day right up to Fiona Bruce ?
 

NorthOxonian

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Has Ken Clarke appeared with every host - ie Robin Day right up to Fiona Bruce ?
Given there were a few hosts who only presented a handful of episodes, no - but he has appeared with all the hosts with more than 10 episodes (Day, Sissons, Dimbleby, Bruce).
 

Butts

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Given there were a few hosts who only presented a handful of episodes, no - but he has appeared with all the hosts with more than 10 episodes (Day, Sissons, Dimbleby, Bruce).

Wonder if he will ever be on again since he retired as Father of the House at the last Election did he not ?
 

Busaholic

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Shirley Williams was also omnipresent on the radio 4 equivalent to Question Time, Any Questions. She appeared on the 60th anniversary edition of the programme in 2008 which, like the first, came from Winchester's Guildhall. Her bete noire, in political terms, Tony Benn used to hold the record for most appearances on the show, I think. His first shows probably saw him introduced as Anthony Wedgwood Benn, before he decided to reinvent himself!
 

Butts

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Shirley Williams was also omnipresent on the radio 4 equivalent to Question Time, Any Questions. She appeared on the 60th anniversary edition of the programme in 2008 which, like the first, came from Winchester's Guildhall. Her bete noire, in political terms, Tony Benn used to hold the record for most appearances on the show, I think. His first shows probably saw him introduced as Anthony Wedgwood Benn, before he decided to reinvent himself!

Not Viscount Stansgate ?
 

Typhoon

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Not Viscount Stansgate ?
He disclaimed the title in 1963, Question Time started in 1979 so anyone calling him by the title would be doing so to annoy him (so a possibility with Robin Day).

Interestingly, his eldest son is known as Viscount (of) Stansgate!
 

Busaholic

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He disclaimed the title in 1963, Question Time started in 1979 so anyone calling him by the title would be doing so to annoy him (so a possibility with Robin Day).

Interestingly, his eldest son is known as Viscount (of) Stansgate!
I had a summer job delivering wine for Peter Dominic and one of the recipients was a Mr Wedgwood Benn, one of Anthony's brothers, who insisted on his full name being used, otherwise no tip: come to think of it, no tip anyway!
 

Butts

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I had a summer job delivering wine for Peter Dominic and one of the recipients was a Mr Wedgwood Benn, one of Anthony's brothers, who insisted on his full name being used, otherwise no tip: come to think of it, no tip anyway!

Peter Dominic...that's a blast from the past.

Same vintage as Victoria Wine and Unwins good old Off Licences.
 

Busaholic

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Peter Dominic...that's a blast from the past.

Same vintage as Victoria Wine and Unwins good old Off Licences.
Threshers and Victoria Wine were the 'big boys' where I lived, but the small branch of P.D. quietly stocked far better wine than them and were the only ones to deliver, which was very profitable when you use a beat-up old wine driven by an impecunious student who was expected to rely on his charm to elicit tips to 'top up' his meagre pittance. Unwins were on secondary/tertiary commuter routes locations, with 11 p.m. desperation pricing to match!
 

DynamicSpirit

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That does feel sad to lose someone like Shirley Williams. My main memory of her was from her pivotal role in setting up the SDP - something that could have been groundbreaking at a time when both Labour and the Tories were very unpopular, but sadly got scuppered by a combination of the Falklands War restoring the Conservative's popularity, followed by the UK's electoral system doing it's usual pushing the boot into 3rd parties. I do sometimes wonder what politics would be like today if the SDP was still around as a major force.

I have to admit, beyond that, I'm not entirely sure what her legacy is. I don't often watch Question Time, and I'm not old enough to remember anything she did when she was in Government. Reading a couple of obituaries seems to suggest her main achievement was the converting of lots of grammar schools to comprehensives - something which with hindsight I feel somewhat open minded as to how much of a good thing that really was. Of course, in those days, actually getting that far as a woman must've been a huge achievement in itself, given the cultural standards of the time. Be interested to see if anyone who has more knowledge of her can say any more about what influence she's had.
 
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