'A remarkable woman': Theresa May pays tribute to Betty Boothroyd
Betty Boothroyd: 8 October 1929 – 26 February 2023 | Alamy
Betty Boothroyd mastered an often unruly Commons with a mixture of charm, wit and, when necessary, a rod of iron. I doubt we shall see her like again
From high kicking on the theatrical stage to reigning over the tumultuous stage of the mother of parliaments is quite a journey but Betty Boothroyd took it all in her impressive stride. Breaking the 700-year tradition of a male speaker, Betty mastered the often unruly Commons with a mixture of charm, wit and, when necessary, a rod of iron.
I was privileged to enter the House when Betty was speaker. She was a woman of conviction, as her previous years as a Labour MP had shown, but in the Chair she understood the role of speaker and the importance of not just maintaining but enhancing the reputation of her beloved House of Commons.
What was particularly impressive was her ability to know when to diffuse a situation
What was particularly impressive was her ability to know when to diffuse a situation with an amusing remark, a gentle put down to a Member, or a strict rebuke. But what came across most of all both in the Chamber and outside was her warmth, her humanity and her sense of fun. This was particularly visible at the soirees she hosted in Speaker’s House entertaining MPs and old friends, like the late Thora Hird, alike. These evenings invariably ended with a turn on the piano, singing and a camaraderie which belied the fierce exchanges of the Chamber.
Betty Boothroyd showed, as she herself asked people to recognise, that what mattered was the person not what she was born into. What mattered was her abilities not her gender. A lifelong commitment to politics and democracy culminated in an impressive eight years in the Speaker’s Chair during which time she defended the rights of MPs and enhanced the reputation of the speaker.
I was fortunate to know her. Parliament was wise to choose her. Betty Boothroyd: formidable, impressive, hospitable, charming, witty, warm, fun – she was all of these things. Betty was a remarkable woman and I doubt we shall see her like again.
Theresa May is Conservative MP Maidenhead and former prime minister
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