Honorary Fellow Baroness Williams of Crosby (PPE, 1948) has been made a Companion of Honour in the New Year’s honours list.
The Liberal Democrat peer, who retired from the House of Lords earlier this year, was recognised for her services to political and public life. The Order of the Companions of Honour is limited to 65 people at any one time and includes Stephen Hawking, Sir David Attenborough and Dame Judi Dench.
In 1981, as the Labour party was becoming increasingly left wing, Baroness Williams joined with fellow senior Labour MPs Roy Jenkins, David Owen and Bill Rodgers (known collectively as the ‘Gang of Four’), to form the Social Democratic Party.
In the same year following a by-election, she became the country’s first SDP MP. Following a split in the SDP in 1987, the majority of its members voted in favour of a merger with the Liberals which became the foundation of the modern day Liberal Democrat party.
Tim Farron was among those to pay tribute to Baroness Williams. The Lib Dem leader said:
‘Shirley is a liberal lion. She is a hero of mine and many, many others. She is a tireless and doughty campaigner for progressive politics. Britain is a better place because of her. Shirley is also an inspiration for female politicians across the world. She is a trailblazer who has shown girls, like my own, that they can do anything they want to with skill, determination and passion. Shirley Williams gives politics a good name.’
Dick Newby, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords also paid tribute:
‘Shirley has a passionate view that the world can be made a better place by enlightened political action. She combines this with a unique ability to connect with people from all groups and formidable energy. She is truly inspirational.’