Lib Dem peer Shirley Williams, one of the ‘Gang of Four’ ex-Labour Cabinet ministers, dies aged 90 

Lib Dem peer Shirley Williams, one of the ‘Gang of Four’ disenchanted former Labour Cabinet ministers who quit the party in the 1980s before eventually forming the Lib Dems, dies aged 90

Shirley Williams, one of the ‘Gang of Four’ Labour MPs who lead a breakaway from the party in the early 1980s, has died at the age of 90.

The peer, who represented the Liberal Democrats in the Lords – was one of the disenchanted ex-Cabinet ministers who rocked politics when they set up the short-lived Social Democratic Party.

She was a former Education Secretary under James Callaghan who, along with William Rodgers, David Owen and Roy Jenkins, quit Labour after its defeat by Margaret Thatcher in the 1979 election.

She had lost her Hitchen seat and, after Callahan was replaced by Michael Foot in 1980, quit in fury at the party’s disastrous lurch leftward which would see if defeated again in 1983.  

When the SDP merged with the Liberal party to form the Liberal Democrats she was made a peer and was the Lib Dem leader in the House of Lords between 2001 and 2004.  

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said: ‘This is heartbreaking for me and for our whole Liberal Democrat family.

‘Shirley has been an inspiration to millions, a Liberal lion and a true trailblazer. I feel privileged to have known her, listened to her and worked with her. Like so many others, I will miss her terribly.

‘Political life will be poorer without her intellect, her wisdom and her generosity. 

The peer, who represented the Liberal Democrats in the Lords – was one of the disenchanted ex-Cabinet ministers who rocked politics when they set up the short-lived Social Democratic Party.

Shirley Williams (second left) was a former Education Secretary under James Callaghan who, along with (left to right) William Rodgers, Roy Jenkins and David Owen, quit Labour after its defeat by Margaret Thatcher in the 1979 election.

Shirley Williams (second left) was a former Education Secretary under James Callaghan who, along with (left to right) William Rodgers, Roy Jenkins and David Owen, quit Labour after its defeat by Margaret Thatcher in the 1979 election.

She had lost her Hitchen seat and, after Callahan was replaced by Michael Foot in 1980, quit in fury at the party's disastrous lurch leftward which would see if defeated again in 1983.

She had lost her Hitchen seat and, after Callahan was replaced by Michael Foot in 1980, quit in fury at the party’s disastrous lurch leftward which would see if defeated again in 1983.

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