POLITICAL leader Shirley Williams, who died today aged 90, played a huge role in a key part of Warrington's political history.

Back in 1981, Warrington was at the heart in the first act of the renowned 'Gang of Four' who established the Social Democratic Party in the UK.

The political eyes of the country were focused on Warrington as the four – Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, David Owen and Bill Rodgers – who were responsible for splitting the Labour party, visited the town to join the by-election campaign trail.

As a Labour minister, Lady Williams, served in the governments of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan in the 1970s rising to become education secretary.

However in 1981, having become disillusioned with Labour's drift to the left under Michael Foot, she was one of the original 'Gang of Four' to leave the party to form the new centrist SDP.

Sir Ed Davy, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said that her bravery continued to inspire Liberal Democrats to this day.

Indeed she accompanied former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg when he visited Warrington before the 2010 General Election.

The party had high hopes of winning the Warrington South seat for the party.

But candidate Jo Crotty lost out to Conservative David Mowat. Although Mr Clegg did end up in Government as the Liberal Democrats joined a Conservative coalition.



Lord Jenkins was the SDP candidate in the notorious Warrington North by-election of 1981, when Doug Hoyle, seeking election for Labour only narrowly held on to the traditionally strong Labour seat.

After a closely fought battle, Labour held on to the seat with a majority of less than 2,000.

Lord Jenkins served as both Home Secretary and Chancellor under Labour Governments in the 1960s and oversaw radical social reforms on issues such as abortion, divorce, homosexuality and penal reform.