Shirley Williams

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]


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
Junior ministerial offices
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
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
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

      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, having been one of the last surviving members of the Labour governments of the 1970s.