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.
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 Parliament
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.
Gang of Four
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. 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.
- Berrington, Hugh (1984). Change In British Politics. London: Frank Cass and Company. p. 83. ISBN 0203013271.
- "No. 52836". The London Gazette. 17 February 1992. p. 2711.
- "Oral history: Rodgers, William (b.1928)". The History of Parliament. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
- "Lord Rodgers of Quarrybank interviewed by Mike Greenwood". British Library Sound Archive. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
- "Lady Rodgers of Quarry Bank". The Times.
- "Silvia Rodgers". Guardian.
- Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank profile at the site of Liberal Democrats
- Recent Speeches in the Lords
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by William Rodgers