William Rodgers, Baron Rodgers of Quarry Bank
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The Lord Rodgers
of Quarry Bank

Official portrait of Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank crop 2.jpg
Lord Rodgers in 2019
Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords

19 December 1997 - 7 June 2001
LeaderPaddy Ashdown
Charles Kennedy
The Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
The Baroness Williams of Crosby
Ministerial offices
Secretary of State for Transport

10 September 1976 - 4 May 1979
James Callaghan
John Gilbert (Minister)
Norman Fowler (Minister)
Parliamentary Representation
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal

12 February 1992
Life peerage
Member of Parliament
for Stockton-on-Tees

6 April 1962 - 13 May 1983
George Chetwynd
Constituency abolished
Personal details
Born (1928-10-28) 28 October 1928 (age 92)
Liverpool, Lancashire, England
Political partyLabour (Before 1981)

Liberal Democrats (1988-present)
Alma materMagdalen College, Oxford

William Thomas Rodgers, Baron Rodgers of Quarry Bank, PC (born 28 October 1928) is a British politician who served as a cabinet minister in the 1970s, and was one of the 'Gang of Four' of senior British Labour Party politicians who defected to form the Social Democratic Party (SDP). He subsequently helped to lead the SDP into the merger that formed the Liberal Democrats in 1988, and later served as that party's leader in the House of Lords between 1997 and 2001.

Early life

Rodgers was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, and educated at Quarry Bank High School in Liverpool. After national service in the King's Regiment, he studied Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford on an Open Exhibition.[1] He was general secretary of the Fabian Society 1953-1960 and a councillor on St. Marylebone Borough Council 1958-62. He also fought a by-election at Bristol West in 1957.

Member of Parliament

Rodgers first entered the British House of Commons at a by-election in 1962, representing Stockton-on-Tees, and served in Labour Governments under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan, becoming Secretary of State for Transport in Callaghan's Cabinet in 1976. Within the Labour Party he was known for being a highly effective organiser around centrist causes such as multilateral nuclear disarmament and Britain's membership of the European Economic Community. He held the post until Labour's defeat in the 1979 general election. From 1979 to 1981 he was Shadow Defence Secretary. With Labour drifting to the left, Rodgers joined Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins and David Owen in forming the Social Democratic Party in 1981. In September 1982, Rodgers stood to become President of the SDP, but took only 19.4% of the vote, and a distant second place behind Williams.[2]

Gang of Four

At the 1983 general election the SDP-Liberal Alliance won many votes but few seats, and Rodgers lost his seat of Stockton North (known as Stockton-on-Tees before the boundary changes of 1983). He remained outside Parliament, unsuccessfully contesting Milton Keynes for the SDP in the 1987 general election, until he was created a life peer as Baron Rodgers of Quarry Bank, of Kentish Town in the London Borough of Camden on 12 February 1992.[3] During that interval he was Director-General of the Royal Institute of British Architects and also became Chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority.

In 1987, Rodgers was chairman of the successful "Yes to Unity" campaign within the SDP in favour of merger with the Liberal Party. He became the Liberal Democrats' Lords spokesman on Home Affairs in 1994 and was its leader in the Lords between 1997 and 2001. His autobiography was titled Fourth Among Equals, reflecting his position as the least prominent of the SDP's founders. Rodgers was interviewed in 2012 as part of The History of Parliament's oral history project.[4][5]

Personal life

In 1955, Rodgers married Silvia Szulman (1928-2006), a Berlin-born artist and writer, who became a political hostess.[6] The couple had three daughters, Rachel, Lucy and Juliet.[7]

On 8 May 2001, Rodgers suffered a stroke at his home and was treated at the Royal Free Hospital and attended speech therapy sessions at North Middlesex Hospital for two and a half years. He said he was "very, very lucky not to have suffered any physical damage" as a result.[8] He has since been a keen advocate for better treatment and care for stroke victims.[9]

References

  1. ^ "Lord William Rodgers". Liverpool John Moores University. Retrieved 2021.
  2. ^ Berrington, Hugh (1984). Change in British Politics. London: Frank Cass and Company. p. 83. ISBN 0203013271.
  3. ^ "No. 52836". The London Gazette. 17 February 1992. p. 2711.
  4. ^ "Oral history: Rodgers, William (b.1928)". The History of Parliament. Retrieved 2016.
  5. ^ "Lord Rodgers of Quarrybank interviewed by Mike Greenwood". British Library Sound Archive. Retrieved 2016.
  6. ^ "Lady Rodgers of Quarry Bank". The Times.
  7. ^ "Silvia Rodgers". The Guardian.
  8. ^ "House of Lords - Stroke Victims: Treatment on 23 May 2006".
  9. ^ "House of Lords - NHS debate - 25 June 2009 Hansard".

Bibliography

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Donald Chapman
General Secretary of the Fabian Society
1953-1960
Succeeded by
Shirley Williams
Preceded by
Peter Townsend
Chair of the Fabian Society
1966-1967
Succeeded by
Arthur Blenkinsop
Preceded by
The Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords
1997-2001
Succeeded by
The Baroness Williams of Crosby
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
George Chetwynd
Member of Parliament
for Stockton-on-Tees

1962-1983
Constituency abolished
Political offices
Preceded by
John Gilbert
as Minister of State for Transport
Secretary of State for Transport
1976-1979
Succeeded by
Norman Fowler
as Minister of State for Transport
Preceded by
Norman Fowler
Shadow Secretary of State for Transport
1979
Succeeded by
Albert Booth
Preceded by
Fred Mulley
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
1979-1980
Succeeded by
Brynmor John
Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom
Preceded by
The Lord Craig of Radley
Gentlemen
Baron Rodgers of Quarry Bank
Followed by
The Lord Wilson of Tillyorn

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