Betty Boothroyd would phone and put me right, Speaker Lindsay Hoyle tells funeral
Sir Lindsay Hoyle has revealed that Baroness Betty Boothroyd, the only female speaker of the House of Commons, would ring him up and give him advice if she believed he was doing the job incorrectly.
The present speaker spoke at his predecessor’s funeral in Cambridgeshire, which was attended by Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer.
Lady Boothroyd, who was born in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, was elected as Speaker in the spring of 1992 and served until 2000, died last month at the age of 93.
Mourners entered the small 12th-century church in Thriplow, Cambridgeshire, to Climb Ev’ry Mountain, sung by her close friend Dame Patricia Routledge, the Keeping Up Appearances actress.
The Conservative and Labour leaders arrived at St George’s Church just before the private service began at noon.
Four pallbearers carried Lady Boothroyd’s coffin, adorned with a white floral tribute, into the stone church as organ and choir music played.
Mr Sunak called her “remarkable” as he led the tributes, saying: “Parliament stands taller because of her service."
Missing Prime Minister’s Questions for the occasion, he said: “Today we come together from across the political spectrum to remember one of our greatest Speakers – the remarkable Betty Boothroyd.”
Speaking after the service, Sir Lindsay said Lady Boothroyd was one of the “greatest women” he had ever known, adding that he would always be “in awe”.
“She supported me to become Speaker and she always gave me advice, whether I wanted it or not – Betty would ring up and just put me right,” he said.
He said when he became an MP in 1997 she was a Speaker who “ruled the House, but with respect as well. We all had respect for her”.
“She smashed that glass ceiling to smithereens,” he said. “She became the first and only woman Speaker we’ve ever had. Well, I’ve got to say, what a fantastic Speaker.
“She is one of the greatest Speakers ever known, one of the greatest women that I can honestly say that I have known. I will always be in awe and always thank her for her kindness and her advice.”
Referring to the entry music, Sir Lindsay said the funeral “was Baroness Boothroyd to the end”.
“Didn’t she climb some hills, from Yorkshire to the hills of Westminster. She took every challenge in her stride, and didn’t she know how to do it,” he said.
The rector of Thriplow, who conducted the service, said the funeral reflected how highly Lady Boothroyd was regarded in all walks of life.
Rev Angela Melaniphy said: “It was Betty’s service. She’d planned it, she’d chosen all the music. The entry music was Climb Ev’ry Mountain, sung by Dame Patricia Routledge, who was a very close friend of Baroness Betty Boothroyd’s.
“What was lovely about it was that her family was there, her very close friends were there, members of the village were there and Members of Parliament were there.
“And so it was a service that included all of her life, and each part of that reflected how highly she was regarded.”
The service concluded with the congregation singing The Battle Hymn Of The Republic.
Lady Boothroyd, a former Labour MP, shattered more than 700 years of parliamentary tradition when she became the first woman to be elected Speaker and entered the Lords as a crossbench peer in January 2001.
Born to mill worker parents in Dewsbury in 1929, Lady Boothroyd attended Eastborough school in the town. She was a professional dancer from 1946 to 1948, and appeared in pantomime in London’s West End before going into politics.
She unsuccessfully contested four parliamentary seats before being elected to West Bromwich, later to become West Bromwich West, in May 1973.
In her later years, she moved to Cambridgeshire. Last year, Maxine Peake starred as Lady Boothroyd in a musical based on her life.