Betty Boothroyd – The Autobiography

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 says, are set in Yorkshire granite. Born into a working-class family in Dewsbury, Betty grew up in a home with little money, but one that radiated love and warmth. Her father, a textile worker and union activist, was often unemployed and her mother was forced to be the family breadwinner. Betty was a bonny lass, popular and a talented dancer who became a local pantomime star, entertained troops during the war and went on eventually to become one of the celebrated Tiller girls. But by the age of nineteen Bettys dreams of taking the West end by storm had crashed. 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 to work at the House of Commons for Barbara Castle and Geoffrey de Freitas. She speaks candidly about these early years, the devestation of losing elections and time spent in America campaigning for JFK in the 1960 Presidential election. Back in Britain, Betty landed a job with millionaire Labour peer Harry Walston and the Yorkshire girl became part of the family. 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 Boothroyds long political career reached its apogee in 1992 when she was elected the first woman Speaker of the House of Commons with overwhelming support form all sides of the House. Her term of office coincided with one of the most turbulent periods in British politics of recent times as John Major tried to hold the Conservative Party together and Tony Blair led Labour to a landslide victory. She unravels many of the stories behind the headlines and her fight to defend the reputation and rights of Parliament. The unexpected announcement of Betty Boothroyds retirement in October 2000 brought unprecedented tributes from a wide spectrum of people both inside and outside politics and of all shades of political opinion. Written to appeal to the wide audience which has responded so warmly to her and to the values she represents, Betty Boothroyds autobiography is destined to become a classic.