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A life in politics (and how much fun it all was)
on 28 December 2008
As a young woman, Betty Boothroyd flirted briefly with a stage career before returning to her first love: politics. Forty years later she achieved a curious kind of stardom when she became the first woman Speaker of the House of Commons.
The only child of working class parents, Betty paints a vivid picture of her childhood in the Yorkshire mill town of Dewsbury. Limited educational opportunities meant that she had to set about earning her keep from the day she left school. From this unpromising background, Betty forged a career based on hard work, quick-wittedness and a gift for making friends with people from every walk of life.
Much of the book is taken up by a fascinating and acutely observed insider's view of Parliament (Betty was an MP's secretary long before she became an MP) and the British Labour Party from the 1950s to the beginning of the 21st century. Whilst her heart was in domestic politics, the internationally-minded Boothroyd travelled widely, including a spell working for the Kennedy campaign in the early 1960s.
Crucially, however, it's about parliamentary democracy: how it works and why it matters.
Passionate, plain-speaking and good-humoured, Betty Boothroyd writes as she has lived: at a breathless pace with occasional breaks for a cup of tea or a gin and tonic. This is a highly readable and thoroughly honest account of a life in politics (and how much fun it all was).