Shirley Williams

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There can be a Fascism of the Left as well as Fascism of the Right.

Shirley Vivian Teresa Brittain Williams, Baroness Williams of Crosby (née Catlin; 27 July 1930 – 11 April 2021) was a British politician and academic. Originally a Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP), she served in the Labour cabinet from 1974 to 1979. She was one of the "Gang of Four" rebels who founded the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1981 and, at the time of her retirement from politics, was a Liberal Democrat.

Quotes[edit]

  • I continue to believe that the best opportunity we have to advance our socialist objectives lies in forging the closest possible links with our fellow socialists and trade unions across the Channel.
    • Letter to Harold Wilson (10 April 1972), quoted in Edmund Dell, A Strange Eventful History: Democratic Socialism in Britain (1999), p. 413
  • We are seeing the increase of unemployment throughout the industrial world, and it is a problem for which we still have no real answer.
    • Speech to the "Youth Charter towards 2000" conference in Wembley (1 February 1977), quoted in The Times (2 February 1977), p. 3
  • There are other reasons to be worried. One is the increasingly anti-parliamentarian rhetoric in which Benn engages. When he speaks about the primacy of the activists, he virtually parrots Lenin. He speaks a language which despises the ordinary party worker, again Lenin-like. The supremacy of party and activist is a central Leninist tenet, and Shirley believes she has read more Lenin and Marx than Benn has. She thinks he does not really know what he is saying. Also, that he is to some extent being used by people much harder than he is: Maynard-type, Richardson-type, Militant sympathisers.
    • Remarks to Hugo Young (6 June 1980), quoted in Hugo Young, The Hugo Young Papers: Thirty Years of British Politics – Off the Record, ed. Ion Trewin (2008), p. 147
  • There can be a Fascism of the Left as well as Fascism of the Right.
    • Speech to the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool (29 September 1980), quoted in The Weekly Review (1980), p. 19
  • We are going to fight to save the party and by God we think we can. We are going to start fighting for a Labour Party worthy of the name.
    • Speech to a fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool (1980), quoted in Mervyn Jones, Michael Foot (1994), p. 457
  • David has had the idea that the voters to try and win are defecting Tories... I personally have always held that we must try to replace the Labour Party.
    • Remarks to Hugo Young (8 August 1984), quoted in Hugo Young, The Hugo Young Papers: Thirty Years of British Politics – Off the Record, ed. Ion Trewin (2008), p. 206
  • There was a feeling of tremendous dedication in the air, a feeling that we didn't care what happened, this is the way we were going to vote, we were going to put our names on the line... I think it was the beginning of the ultimate split in the Labour Party into an SDP and a Labour Party, and that was, when I look back on it, really where it all began.
    • On the Labour MPs who voted in favour of entry into the EEC in the House of Commons on 28 October 1971, quoted in Phillip Whitehead, The Writing on the Wall: Britain in the Seventies (1985), p. 341
  • Bill and I were much more of the Labour ethos than probably David or Roy were... It seemed much more a whole life that was going and I guess that we were more reluctant to face the fact that probably the Labour Party was by that time irrecoverable.
    • Phillip Whitehead, The Writing on the Wall: Britain in the Seventies (1985), p. 360

Quotes about Shirley Williams[edit]

  • Shirley is, without doubt, the most reactionary person I know.
    • Tony Benn, diary entry (2 August 1974), quoted in Tony Benn, Against the Tide: Diaries 1973–1976 (1989), p. 212
  • Shirley is surrounded by a beatific light that shields her from the harm and criticism which would be heaped on ordinary people.
    • Roy Hattersley, Who Goes Home? Scenes From A Political Life (1995; 2003), p. 114
  • I...thought it a good idea to run through my speech with her, which I did, and she said it was more or less all right... She merely asked for a change at the end where I referred to a possible revival of Liberal and Social Democratic Britain. She said, 'Couldn't you use small letters and leave out the "and" – "liberal social democratic Britain"?' Thinking that if Paris was worth a Mass, Shirley was certainly worth an 'and' (and a lower case) I decided to do so, after which we rang off on terms of great amity. She said she was sure we would all be together in six months or so.
    • Roy Jenkins, diary entry (8 June 1980), quoted in Roy Jenkins, European Diary, 1977–1981 (1989), pp. 608-609

External links[edit]

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