16 years ago the first woman Speaker was elected by the Commons

On Monday 27th April 1992 the House of Commons elected its first woman Speaker, Betty Boothroyd.
I was a rare government Minister voting for a Labour Speaker. I did so because I thought it time a good woman candidate should have the job after 700 years of men, and thought it important that Labour held a great office of state again after 13 years in the wilderness.
The mood was strange. Many of my Ministerial colleagues were buoyed up by the fourth election victory in a row, and had not detected the feelings of unease and unhappiness on the doorsteps. They did not seem to grasp that the Conservatives won the 1992 election despite the background and the ERM policy, not because of it.It seemed to me it would have been wrong to have flaunted the narrow victory by using the majority to have another Conservative Speaker, especially if that Speaker had been a Cabinet member in the recent past in the same administration that he would need to preside over.
Enough of my backbench colleagues took the same view, so Betty was elected easily.She proved to be a good Speaker, who brought a fresh approach to the job and was widely liked and respected on all sides of the House.

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6 Comments

  1. Geoff
    Posted April 27, 2008 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    (Deleted unflattering reference ot current Speaker)
    Mr. Redwood – could you consider following up this with a post as to who you think are the runners and riders for the next Speaker? There has been speculation elsewhere but you have the pulse of the House.

    Reply: too early to say, as there is no current vacancy.

  2. Rose
    Posted April 27, 2008 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    I liked her enormously as Speaker but thought it a pity Harold Walker was cut out solely on account of his sex. He had shown himself to be first-rate. Which is not to say that BB didn't turn out to be.

  3. Rose
    Posted April 27, 2008 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Your anniversaries haven't included Primrose Day!

  4. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted April 27, 2008 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    I think that is what we need today – a House of Commons Speaker who is respected by all sides . We do not have that with the present incumbent and given the questions over his expenses he ought to respect his office & go . Michael Martin has not been much good in the job – the way that Labour MP’s gave him the job rather than letting the Tories have a go was against the spirit of the thing . Sir Patrick Cormack , Sir George Young or Sir Menzies Campbell would bring bi-partisanship & integrity to the Speakers Chair . It is time for MP’s to have the guts to send Mr Martin off to the Lords and give the Mother of Parliaments the Speaker that such a great institution deserves .

  5. mikestallard
    Posted April 27, 2008 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    It says an awful lot for the John Major government that she was elected. The fact that she happened to be female is irrelevant. Conservatives electing a Labour speaker is the point.
    One of the most devastating things that has happened in the last ten years is that the Speaker's Office has become just another Labour sinecure.

  6. APL
    Posted April 28, 2008 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Matthew Reynoldson: "It is time for MP’s to have the guts to send Mr Martin off to the Lords .."

    Oh god no. Just put him back on the back benches.

    It is time we stopped rewarding (such people -ed).

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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