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Baroness Shirley Williams' death: Uttlesford's Liberal Democrats pay tribute to 'great friend'



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The leader of Uttlesford District Council's Liberal Democrats has paid tribute to "national and local treasure" Baroness Shirley Williams.

Stansted North's Cllr Alan Dean said the 'Gang of Four' rebel who changed the face of politics in the UK 40 years ago was a "great friend" to party members in the village and in Saffron Walden.

Her death at the age of 90 was confirmed on Monday (April 12). Cllr Dean said: "She was an inspirational and kindly person. I had several conversations with Shirley whilst driving her to and from her home on the outskirts of Bishop's Stortford to events in Stansted. I will truly miss those chats and hearing her voice.

Cllrs Janice Loughlin and Alan Dean, Baroness Shirley Williams, and Cllrs Melvin Caton and Geoffrey Sell (46135402)
Cllrs Janice Loughlin and Alan Dean, Baroness Shirley Williams, and Cllrs Melvin Caton and Geoffrey Sell (46135402)

"Our first encounter was in the garden of the late Lord Sainsbury at Toppesfield in Social Democratic Party days. She was late, in line with her reputation.

"The last time was at the afternoon tea on April 22, 2017, at Stansted Day Centre. Shirley was a national and local treasure."

Disillusioned by Michael Foot's leadership of the Labour party, the former Education Secretary helped found the Social Democratic Party in 1981.

Shirley Williams at a tea party in Stansted (46135400)
Shirley Williams at a tea party in Stansted (46135400)

She had previously been Labour MP for Hitchin after winning the seat in the 1964 General Election, and it was then that she moved to a cottage in Furneux Pelham.

She lost her seat, renamed Hertford and Stevenage, in 1979 to Conservative Bowen Wells. When the seat was abolished at the 1983 election, he went on to become the member for Hertford and Stortford.

Meanwhile, Mrs Williams turned her attention to Merseyside and won the Crosby by-election in 1981, becoming the SDP's first MP, but lost the seat in 1983. Her efforts to win a seat for the party in Cambridge failed in 1987.

A Harvard professor, she became a Liberal Democrat peer in 1993 as Baroness Williams of Crosby, of Stevenage in Herts, and she had a flat in Little Hadham in buildings converted from the former Hadham Hall secondary school.

Shirley Williams chatting to Carol Wilde of Elsenham. (46135398)
Shirley Williams chatting to Carol Wilde of Elsenham. (46135398)

She was her party's leader in the House of Lords from 2001 to 2004, ending her term the year after her second husband, fellow Harvard professor and presidential historian Richard Neustadt, died.

Baroness Williams retired from parliament in 2016 but remained active in public and political life.



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