The enormous respect and affection of the British public for Betty Boothroyd has its roots in a strong belief in what she stands for: fair play, an unshakeable sense of honour and a passionate belief in the sovereignty of Parliament. Her convictions, she has said, are set in 'Yorkshire granite'. Born into a working class family in Dewsbury in 1929, there was little money, but Betty grew up in a home that radiated love and warmth. Betty was popular and a talented dancer who eventually went on to become one of the celebrated Tiller Girls - the full story of which she tells here for the first time. But by the age of twenty-five, Betty's dreams of taking the West End by storm had crashed - and her father's ambition of seeing her settled with a nice safe job had been abandoned. Undaunted, she won a national speaking award, stood for election to the local council and became a full-time worker for the Labour Party. Nothing would ever part Betty Boothroyd from politics again. In 1953 Betty began work at the House of Commons for Barbara Castle and Geoffrey de Freitas. She speaks candidly about the devastation of losing two by-elections and the time she spent in America campaigning for JFK.
Back in Britain, Betty landed a top job with millionaire Labour Minister Lord Harry Walston and the Yorkshire girl became part of the inner circle of the socialist elite, which included Hugh Gaitskell and Roy Jenkins. She describes the elation she felt on becoming an MP at last in 1973, the huge debt she owes her mother for her support, and the full story behind her role in the struggle to save the Labour Party from the hard left. Betty Boothroyd's long political career reached its apogee in 1992 when she was appointed the first woman Speaker of the House of Commons with overwhelming support from both sides of the House. Her term of office coincided with John Major's attempts to defend his slim majority. Detailing many of the true stories behind the headlines, she writes of the sleaze scandals that beset the Major government, her feelings when Labour won their landslide election in 1997 and her strongly held views on the role of Parliament. Finally, she tells why she decided to retire, her plans for the future and - in retrospect - what she feels about her decision to put public service above marriage.
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(179mm x 111mm x 34mm)
Arrow Books Ltd
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UK Kirkus Review »
Readers hoping for the vicarious thrill of reading about the former Speaker's Tiller Girl experiences or romantic liaisons will be disappointed by the lack of detail, but the rest of the book is ample compensation. 'Madam Speaker', with her wigless informality and no-nonsense 'Time's up' catchphrase became famous throughout the world, wherever proceedings in the House of Commons were shown on television. Her slightly exotic past - in fact, the reality was somewhat less glamorous than the myths that sprang up around her - sometimes tended to obscure her real achievement in rising from a poor but happy working-class background in Dewsbury, Yorkshire to the political heights. Her no-nonsense manner pervades the book, and she comes across as a likeable and confident woman, as at ease entertaining the Queen, Prince Philip and assorted dignitaries as dealing with the people in her constituency when she was a Labour MP. Her real sense of devotion to her beloved Labour Party is much in evidence - and we are treated to a no-holds-barred account of her battle with the militant wing for the hearts and minds of the party faithful in the 1980s - but her respect for the due process of Parliament supersedes even her party allegiances, and she expresses her disappointment at New Labour's penchant for announcing initiatives at press conferences rather than in Parliament. Two of the most compelling episodes in this autobiography are the visit to Westminster of Nelson Mandela and Boothroyd's speech welcoming him (she was a veteran anti-apartheid demonstrator who had campaigned vigorously for his release from jail) and her fascinating account of the months she spent working in America for JFK's election campaign. In all, a lively and heartwarming read that will be of interest to the lay reader as well as the politically minded. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Betty Boothroyd
Betty Boothroyd was born in 1929, the daughter of a Yorkshire textile worker and weaver. In the mid-50s, after a career as a dancer with the Tiller Girls Troupe, she turned to politics. In 1973, after several unsuccessful attempts to enter parliament, she was finally selected as Labour MP for Bromwich, and served as an MEP from 1975 to 1977. In 1987 she became one of three deputy speakers in the House of Commons. But she is best known for becoming the first woman Speaker of the House of Commons, a post she held from 1992 to 2000. She was a popular choice, admired for her firmness, good-humour, fairness and ability to deal with a rowdy and mostly male House of Commons. Her straightforward, no-nonsense approach made her something of a celebrity. In 2001 she became a Life Peer and took her seat in the House of Lords as Baroness Boothroyd of Sandwell.