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The Labour education secretary who could have been Britain's first woman PM

Shirley Williams had the best of intentions for schools, according to Mark Peel's admiring biography

19 October 2013

9:00 AM

19 October 2013

9:00 AM

Shirley Williams Mark Peel

Biteback, pp.461, £25, ISBN: 9781849546041

Decent, clever, charming, eloquent, hard-working, conscientious and terribly, terribly nice, Shirley Williams is one of Britain’s best-loved politicians.

Mark Peel’s admiring biographybegins in Chelsea in 1930. Shirley, as he matily calls her, was the eldest daughter of the political philosopher George Catlin and the bestselling author Vera Brittain. Life at home was affluent, comfortable and high-minded.

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