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Bill Rodgers, Baron Rodgers of Quarry Bank

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William Thomas Rodgers, Baron Rodgers of Quarry Bank, PC (born 28 October 1928), usually known as William Rodgers, but also often known as Bill Rodgers, is 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, and later served as that party's leader in the House of Lords.

The Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords
In office
19 December 1997 – 7 June 2001
LeaderPaddy Ashdown
Charles Kennedy
Preceded byThe Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
Succeeded byThe Baroness Williams of Crosby
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
In office
14 June 1979 – 8 December 1980
LeaderJim Callaghan
Michael Foot
Preceded byFred Mulley
Succeeded byBrynmor John
Shadow Secretary of State for Transport
In office
4 May 1979 – 14 June 1979
LeaderJim Callaghan
Preceded byNorman Fowler
Succeeded byAlbert Booth
Secretary of State for Transport
In office
10 September 1976 – 4 May 1979
Prime MinisterJim Callaghan
Preceded byJohn Gilbert (Minister of State)
Succeeded byNorman Fowler (Minister of State)
Minister of State for Defence
In office
4 March 1974 – 10 September 1976
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Jim Callaghan
Preceded byGeorge Younger
Succeeded byJohn Gilbert
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
12 February 1992
Life peerage
Member of Parliament
for Stockton-on-Tees
In office
5 April 1962 – 9 June 1983
Preceded byGeorge Chetwynd
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
Born (1928-10-28) 28 October 1928 (age 91)
Liverpool, Lancashire, England
Political partyLabour (Before 1981)
Social Democrats (1981–1988)
Liberal Democrats (1988–present)
Alma materMagdalen College, Oxford

Early lifeEdit

Rodgers was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, and educated at Quarry Bank High School in Liverpool and at Magdalen College, Oxford. 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 ParliamentEdit

Rodgers first entered the British House of Commons at a by-election in 1962, 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 EEC. 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.[1]

Gang of FourEdit

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.[2] 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.[3][4]

Personal lifeEdit

Rodgers married in 1955 Silvia Szulman (1928-2006), a Berlin-born artist and writer, who became a political hostess.[5] The couple had three daughters, Rachel, Lucy and Juliet.[6]


  1. ^ Berrington, Hugh (1984). Change In British Politics. London: Frank Cass and Company. p. 83. ISBN 0203013271.
  2. ^ "No. 52836". The London Gazette. 17 February 1992. p. 2711.
  3. ^ "Oral history: Rodgers, William (b.1928)". The History of Parliament. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  4. ^ "Lord Rodgers of Quarrybank interviewed by Mike Greenwood". British Library Sound Archive. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  5. ^ "Lady Rodgers of Quarry Bank". The Times.
  6. ^ "Silvia Rodgers". Guardian.


External linksEdit

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

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