All About Parliament
Case Study – Betty Boothroyd First Female Speaker of The House of Commons
In 1992 after 700 years the House of Commons elected a woman to the post of Speaker. Betty Boothroyd, 62 at the time was the Labour Member of Parliament for West Bromwich West and a Deputy Speaker since 1987.
About Betty Boothroyd
She was born in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire to parents who were textile workers. Before becoming an MP in 1974, she was a chorus line dancer in the 1940s and served as a secretary to high-profile Labour MP Barbara Castle.
How did she become The Speaker?
Speaker Boothroyd was elected with a majority of 134 votes. John Major’s Conservative Party led the government at the time; therefore, it also marked the first time post-world war two someone had held the post from the opposition party, in this case the Labour Party.
It was a contested elected for the first time since 1951 and two well-known conservatives former Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Brooke and former minister Sir Giles Shaw stood against her. More than seventy conservative MPs chose to support the Labour MP.
Prime Minister John Major said:
“You have become our Speaker-elect because this House trusts you. It believes you enjoy in abundance the qualities necessary to protect and sustain the House and to safeguard its rights. The fact that it was a contested election adds, I believe, to your success.”
MPs broke with Commons protocol by standing and applauding her to her chair.
Speaker Boothroyd said:
“I wish to thank the House for the very great honour it has bestowed on me. I pray that I shall justify its confidence and I pledge that I shall do all in my power to preserve the Speakership and its traditions.”
Re-election & Retirement
Speaker Boothroyd was reelected unopposed in 1997 before eventually retiring in October 2000. Michael Martin MP, who famously resigned during the MPs Expenses Scandal, succeeded her.
In January 2001, Boothroyd joined the House of Lords with the title Baroness Boothroyd of Sandwell.
In April 2005, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Baroness Boothroyd to the Order of Merit.
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