Sad news that Shirley Williams is retiring:
Baroness Williams, one of the ‘Gang of Four’ MPs to leave Labour and found the Social Democrats in 1981, will leave the upper chamber after 22 years.
Liberal Democrat MPs and peers are holding an event this evening to mark her “outstanding contribution” to politics and the party.
An email to Lib Dem members from Lord McNally pays tribute to her “hugely influential” career.
“We as Lib Dems should be grateful for the fact that when she had genuine opportunities to take jobs which would have given her more influence, power and prestige, she chose to stick with us and argue her case in committees, on the conference floor and in countless face to face meetings with both the doubters & the committed,” Lord McNally said.
“Tonight we will be celebrating an exceptional career, an exceptional parliamentarian and an exceptional woman. Shirley is intending to retire from the Lords early on in the New Year, so it is right that we mark her extraordinary career and a life steeped in politics…
“Often on a Friday I would ask Shirley what she was doing for the weekend, to be told that she was speaking at the AGM or Annual Dinner of a local party which would involve a long round trip. There can be no part of the country which Shirley has not visited nor any kind of Lib Dem function, meeting or campaign event that she has not graced with her presence.”
To echo that final point, not only did Shirley Williams regular travel round supporting the grassroots, she always had that modest touch which made people feel she was grateful for meeting them.
As I wrote back in 2010 about Shirley Williams:
I still remember the first time I met Shirley Williams on the campaign trail, back in York in the 1992 general election. She was on her way between two different target seats and had about 30 minutes spare between trains at York station. Rather than welcoming this as a pause on the campaign trail, she kindly offered herself up for a quick local media interview and some glad handing of other people waiting for trains. Her ability to stalk up to complete strangers and charm them – on the subject of politics no less – was deeply impressive.