Baroness Betty Boothroyd dies aged 93 as tributes paid to first female speaker of the Commons

27 February 2023, 11:52 | Updated: 27 February 2023, 12:54

Ms Boothroyd has died
Ms Boothroyd has died. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

The first female Speaker of the House of Commons Betty Boothroyd has died aged 93, Sir Lindsay Hoyle announced today.

The serving speaker paid tribute to her, describing her as "inspirational" and praising her approach to the job.

Sir Lindsay said: “Not only was Betty Boothroyd an inspiring woman, but she was also an inspirational politician, and someone I was proud to call my friend.

“To be the first woman Speaker was truly ground-breaking and Betty certainly broke that glass ceiling with panache.

“She was from Yorkshire, and I am from Lancashire - so there was always that friendly rivalry between us. But from my point of view it was heartening to hear a northern voice speaking from the Chair.

Read more: King Charles will meet Ursula von der Leyen 'for tea' before new Brexit deal announced

“She stuck by the rules, had a no-nonsense style, but any reprimands she did issue were done with good humour and charm.

“Betty was one of a kind. A sharp, witty and formidable woman - and I will miss her.”

Baroness Boothroyd was born in Dewsbury in 1929. Raised in a working class family, her mother was in Labour.

She did not immediately embark on a political career – instead holding dreams of becoming a dancer on the West End – but she then contested four election unsuccessfully before winning the West Bromwich seat in the 1973 election.

Baroness Boothroyd has died aged 93
Baroness Boothroyd has died aged 93. Picture: Alamy

After becoming a strong advocate for Britain’s membership of the common market – a position she would hold for decades as she campaigned for a “people’s vote” on Brexit – Baroness Boothroyd became deputy speaker in 1987, then became the first speaker after being elected in 1992 when Bernard Weatherill stepped down.

“Call me madam,” she told and MP who asked how he should refer to her.

"Elect me for what I am, and not for what I was born," she said.

Known for her no-nonsense approach to presiding over the Commons, Baroness Boothroyd helped to modernise the appearance of the speaker, refusing to wear the traditional wig.

Read more: Elon Musk sacks Twitter exec who bragged of sleeping at the office amid 200 lay-offs

She said her most memorable moment during her time in the job was Nelson Mandela’s state visit in 1996.

She stood down in 2000 and was made a life peer in 2001, then received the Order of Merit from the Queen in 2005.

Most recently, she was a prominent voice for a second referendum on Brexit, and was sharply critical of Boris Johnson's handling of partygate.

Baroness Boothroyd spent years in the speaker's chair
Baroness Boothroyd spent years in the speaker's chair. Picture: Alamy

Tony Blair, whose first years as prime minister were during Baroness Boothroyd's final years, said: "It was a testament to Betty's many fine qualities that she became the first female Speaker and the first from the Opposition benches.

"She was a truly outstanding Speaker, presiding with great authority, warmth and wit, for which she had our deep respect and admiration.

"It was a privilege to be in Parliament during her tenure and to know her as the big-hearted and kind person she was. My thoughts are with her family and many friends."

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

William appeared at Ascot

Prince William shares tender moment with Kate's mother as she suffers mishap at Ascot

Jay Slater's family have warned people about donating to fake pages

'I just want my baby back': Mother of missing Brit Jay Slater, 19, issues plea after 'false sighting' delays search

Keir Starmer came out on top after LBC’s two exclusive phone-ins

Keir Starmer comes out on top after LBC phone-ins – as Rishi Sunak seen as ‘overwhelmingly negative’

OceanGate co-founder Guillermo Söhnlein is pictured with CEO Stockton Rush, who died on the Titan sub

Oceangate co-founder claims he can 'safely' send 1,000 people to Venus

Labour must ditch 'phoney fiscal rules' and borrow to invest in public services, says boss of UK's largest trade union

Labour must ditch 'phoney fiscal rules' and borrow to invest in public services, says boss of UK's largest trade union

Theo Paphitis speaks to LBC.

'They've lost the plot': Ex-Tory donor and Dragons' Den star Theo Paphitis reveals why he's switched support to Labour

Exclusive
Sir David Ormand has criticised the Conservatives for suggesting Keir Starmer is a security risk

Former spy boss criticises 'disreputable' Tory suggestion that Putin and Xi would welcome Starmer as Prime Minister

Justin Timberlake was arrested on Tuesday

'We'll have a lot to say': Justin Timberlake's lawyer vows to 'vigorously defend' singer after DWI arrest

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday

Rishi Sunak set 'to become first PM to lose seat' in election wipeout with Conservatives down to just 53 MPs, poll finds

Starmer and Neville

Keir Starmer tells Gary Neville he needs to win British people's trust, as he warns turning UK around will take 10 years

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrives for a visit to Great Wood Farm Early Years Centre, Grantham in East Midlands, June 17

Sunak close protection officer arrested over alleged election date bets

Allen Morgan, 73, said he was locked in a "passionate but forbidden" affair with his now wife Margaret, 75, when he hired a hitman to kill his then-partner Carol

Pensioner found guilty of conspiring to murder wife after hiring hitman amid 'passionate but forbidden' affair

Charlie Cosser

Teenager jailed for life for murdering 17-year-old Charlie Cosser on dance floor at party

Police were called to a property at Shorncliffe Road shortly after 3pm on Sunday

Baby girl mauled to death in dog attack at family home in Coventry

The tourists trying to stop Stonehenge being vandalised

Moment hero tourists grab Just Stop Oil spraying paint on Stonehenge, as activists 'damage rare lichen'

Anthony Hill disappeared on Monday morning

CCTV images show last sighting of Martin Lewis' MoneyExpertSaving colleague before going missing on 37th birthday