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'A dear friend': Lord Cormack pays tribute to Betty Boothroyd

Baroness Boothroyd: 8 October 1929 – 26 February 2023 | Alamy

2 min read

A truly great speaker, Betty Boothroyd was also a wonderful, warm human being

Betty Boothroyd’s last outing was to see the musical inspired by her career. She attended the last evening of its run in Manchester last month and was given a rapturous reception. When she returned she rang my wife, exhilarated but exhausted.

Betty was a dear friend. She stayed with us on a number of occasions in my constituency and opened our church fete. She was a special guest at our golden wedding in Lincoln. But it is over the last three years, since lockdown, that we have had the most frequent contact, speaking every week and sharing her hopes and disappointments.

After her memorable 90th birthday party in 2019 she gave up her London flat and her appearances in the House were far less frequent. But on one thing she was determined: to make a valedictory address and, as she put it, to go out with a bang.

From her days as speaker she had deplored the increasing power of the executive. Government was answerable to Parliament and not Parliament to government and that was going to be a theme of her final speech.

From her days as speaker she had deplored the increasing power of the executive

Sadly it was not to be. When I visited her in hospital after four-hour heart surgery in December, she was in fighting form. Things began to go downhill after Christmas and her eyesight continued to deteriorate. It was that that led to a fall and a broken femur. Although she had rallied a little when I spoke to her 10 days ago, and was still taking a keen interest in what was going on, she was clearly worried about her health.

I met her on her first day in Parliament in 1973. I was there when she used those immortal words “Call me Madam” after becoming speaker. She became a truly great speaker but, more than that, was a wonderful, warm human being. Counting her as a true friend has been one of the greatest privileges of my parliamentary life.

Lord Cormack is a Conservative peer and life president of The House magazine

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