Learning From Legends

When you get to hang out at parliament - as I now do thanks to you - you bump in to legends around every corner. Every now and then I’ve managed to entice them for long enough to have a cup of tea so I can listen and learn from their experience.

So it is with these two. One is a household name, Baroness Betty Boothroyd. The other is no less influential but less well-known because she always chose roles that brought about change behind the scenes - Baroness Joyce Gould.

Joyce now lives in Hangleton and is one of the most formidable organisers in the Labour Party’s history. In the 1980’s she was in the frontline of rooting out the Militant Tendency and paving way for Labour to become electable again after a period in the wilderness. More recently she has been a pioneering champion for sexual health, people living with HIV/AIDS, and also support to people living into old age.

Joyce has always given me the most robust advice - reprimanding me for being too late, too scruffy, or ill-prepared… always in a way that was tough, caring and supportive. Her mentorship enabled me to become the Labour candidate for Hove and Portslade and now that we work in the same building it continues to this day.

We were joined by Betty Boothroyd for tea the other day. Betty is a living legend - not only as the first ever female Speaker in the House of Commons but perhaps it’s most formidable. She ruled the chamber with an indomitable character in an age of very big characters. She elevated the Commons in an era where government was all-powerful due to having huge electoral landslides. If you have a few minutes spare look her up on YouTube, there are some truly amazing moments in political history on display, and some very entertaining ones too!

I asked Betty what advice she had for me, a novice Member of Parliament. She replied with words that are hard to forget, “It’s as simple as this Ducky: only speak if you’ve got something worth saying. If not, keep your trap shut”. What made the moment more special was the fact that I’d not been called ‘Ducky’ since my Nan died - that’s what she always called me. All the best, Peter

 

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