- Shirley Williams, Baroness Williams of Crosby
The Right Honourable
name = Shirley Williams
Baroness Williams of Crosby, PC
birth_date = birth date and age|1930|07|27|df=y
office = Paymaster General
10 September 1976
4 May 1979
Secretary of State for Education and Science
10 September, 1976
4 May 1979
office3 = Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection
28 February 1974
8 April 1976
predecessor3 = "office created"
alma_mater = nowrap|
Somerville College, Oxford
party = Labour Party (1964 - 1981) SDP (1981 - 1988) Liberal Democrats(1988 - present)
Shirley Williams, Baroness Williams of Crosby PC (born
27 July 1930), is a British politicianand academic. Originally a Labour Member of Parliament(MP), she was one of the "Gang of Four" rebels who founded the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1981. [The SDP later merged with the Liberal Party to form the Liberal Democrats.] In 2001-2004, she served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, and now serves as an Advisor on Nuclear Proliferation to Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Williams also serves as Emeritus Professor of Electoral Politics at the Kennedy School of Governmentat Harvard University.
Born Shirley Vivien Teresa Brittain Catlin, Williams is the daughter of political scientist and philosopher Sir George Catlin, and renowned pacifist and writer
Vera Brittain. She was educated at Talbot Heath Schoolin Bournemouth, Dorset, and Somerville College, Oxford. After graduation, she began her career as a journalist. She also was a Fulbright Scholar and studied at Columbia Universityin New York City.
Member of Parliament
At the 1964 general election, Williams was elected as Labour MP for the constituency of Hitchin in
Hertfordshire, and rose quickly to a junior ministerial position. Between 1971 and 1973 she served as shadow Home Secretary. In 1974 she became Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protectionunder Harold Wilson, and, when Wilson was succeeded in 1976 by James Callaghan, she became Secretary of State for Educationand Paymaster General, two cabinet positions held at the same time.
Creating the SDP
Williams lost her seat to
Bowen Wellsin the Labour Party general-election defeat of 1979 (her seat was renamed Hertford and Stevenage in 1974). In 1981, unhappy with the influence of the far left in the Labour Party, she resigned from it to form the SDP, along with Roy Jenkins, David Owenand Bill Rodgers. Later that year, following the death of Conservative Sir Graham Page, she won a by-election in Crosby in Merseyside, becoming the first elected SDP MP.
General Election defeat and after
Despite becoming SDP President, she lost her seat in the 1983 general election. She then stood for Cambridge in the 1987 general election, but lost to the Conservative candidate. Williams supported the SDP's 1988 merger with the Liberal Party to form the
Liberal Democrats. Also during this time, Williams served as a BBC broadcaster on "In Conversation with Shirley Williams" and has appeared on many television and radio programmes, including as a commentator on BBC's "Question Time" more than any other panelist.
In 1988, Williams moved to the
United States, to serve as a full professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Governmentuntil 2001 and thereafter as Public Service Professor of Electoral Politics, Emerita.However, she remained active in politics and public service in the UK, USA, and internationally. Williams helped draft constitutions in Russia, Ukraine, and South Africa; served as director of Harvard's "Project Liberty", an initiative designed to assist the emerging democracies in Central and Eastern Europe; as UN Special Representative to the former Yugoslavia; and as a member of the European Union's "Comite des Sages", among other top policy positions. Upon her elevation to the House of Lordsin 1993, however, she returned to the UK to continue public life.
Williams was awarded a
life peerage with the title The Baroness Williams of Crosby, PC, in 1993 and subsequently served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords from 2001 to 2004.
Among other nonprofit boards, Williams serves on the council of management of the
Ditchley Foundation, and on the advisory councils of the Institute for Public Policy Research, (USA) the Council on Foreign Relations(CFR), Chatham House(president), the Twentieth Century Fund, and the Washington-based think-tank Nuclear Threat Initiative(NTI).
In June 2007, after Gordon Brown replaced Tony Blair as Prime Minister, Williams conditionally accepted a formal Government position as Advisor on
Nuclear Proliferationprovided she could serve as an independent advisor. The Office of Prime Minister is currently reviewing her conditions.
Williams has been married twice. In 1955, she married the philosopher Sir
Bernard Williams. The marriage was dissolved in 1974. In 1987, she married the Harvard professor and presidential historian Richard E. Neustadt. Neustadt died in 2003.
Baroness Williams, among other ongoing activities, is reportedly working on her autobiography.
In the media
Williams was interviewed about the rise of
Thatcherismfor the 2006 BBCTV documentary series " Tory! Tory! Tory!".
Shirley Williams has published several books including:
* "God and Caesar: Personal Reflections on Politics and Religion" (2003)
* "New Party - The New Technology" (1988)
* "A Job to Live" (1985)
* "Politics is for People" (1981)
There is a substantial article on Shirley Williams by
Phillip Whiteheadin the "Dictionary of Labour Biography", by Greg Rosen (ed), Politicos Publishing, 2001.
* [http://www.libdems.org.uk/people/baroness-williams-of-crosby Baroness Williams of Crosby] (profile on the
Liberal Democrats' website)
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