Women MPs lead Commons tributes to former speaker Betty Boothroyd
The House of Commons has paid tribute to “icon for Parliament” Betty Boothroyd.
Women MPs from both sides of the House led tributes to Baroness Boothroyd, the first and so far only female Commons speaker, after her death aged 93.
Mother of the House Harriet Harman, a Labour MP and former Cabinet minister, told the Commons of a “sad but a very proud moment”.
Ms Harman said: “A proud moment for all of us women in the House, she was the first and only woman speaker, and she was brilliant in the chair. A proud moment for Labour, as a woman from a working class Yorkshire background who blazed a trail for Labour in politics.
“And a proud moment for the House. She was an icon for Parliament. She was admired and respected not only in this country but also abroad.”
She added: “Nothing smoothed her path. Let’s remember, it was not an asset to getting into Parliament to have been a secretary, it was not an asset to get into Parliament to be a woman, and it was certainly not an asset to get into Parliament to have been a dancer. But she overcame all those odds.
“And this was at a time when Parliament was overwhelmingly male-dominated. She joined the Commons when only 3% of MPs were women, 97% were men, but she not only got into Parliament, she got her voice heard.
“And she did this through a combination of charisma, commitment, through more energy than anybody else, and bottomless resilience. She was smart, and she was tough, and my goodness she had to be.”
Conservative former prime minister Theresa May said: “As the woman who broke that glass ceiling and became the first woman speaker in 700 years, Betty Boothroyd will always have her place in history.”
She added: “She reminded us of the importance in this place of humanity, because she showed that so well through everything that she did.”
Ms May said Baroness Boothroyd “supported this place” and “enhanced the role of speaker”.
The former prime minister added: “May she rest in peace. We will always remember a remarkable, amazing, impressive woman.”
Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt described Baroness Boothroyd as a “remarkable figure” who “cut-through” with the public.
She said: “Hers was a character that was forceful enough to transcend time, parliaments, partisanship and generations.”
Shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire described Baroness Boothroyd as a “giant of our Labour Party and a giant of this House”.
The Labour frontbencher added: “Born in Dewsbury, part of the world I know well, Betty’s story is one of a proud working-class Yorkshire lass taking on the many challenges stacked against a woman from her background.
“She was a Labour woman who rose to the very top of her game, but she set a profound example to all women of this House who came after her, and we all thank her for it.”
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, current Commons Speaker, said: “Yesterday, when her passing was announced formally, there was shock and sadness all around because Betty was one of a kind.
“Not only was she the first woman speaker, she was a force to be reckoned with.”
Labour MP John Spellar (Warley) said Baroness Boothroyd “changed this Parliament and this country for the better”.