When we think of the modern era of disillusionment with Westminster politics and politicans, it’s worth reflecting that it was not always so. Betty Boothroyd was Member of Parliament for West Bromwich West from 1973 to 1992. From 1992 to 2000, she served as Speaker of the House of Commons, the first woman to do so in the history of Parliament. Despite her busy schedule, she was assiduous in her duties in her local constituency – and a great supporter of Jubilee Arts, as were the other local M.P.’s Peter Archer, Peter Snape and Andrew Faulds. She could be regularly seen at events and our featured image is a press cutting from West Bromwich town centre in 1983, Betty assisting with the face painting. This was not simply a photo opportunity. She stayed over an hour, chatting with local people and painted at least a dozen faces herself, with a few tips from Peter Chaplin.
Upon her retirement, Betty (by then a Baroness) gave away to the local community many of the gifts, artefacts and memorabilia she had collected over her many years in politics. Two items of note were donated to the Beacon Centre for the Blind: a framed oil painting of Cimentiere Colliery in Yorkshire by Edna Lamb, H 694 mm x W 1,100 mm; and a signed limited edition print of Bedford School (No. 551 of 850), from an original drawing by John Western.
These were auctioned in due course, as part of an annual Celebrity Auction. They faced stiff competition and did not raise as much as expected. Other items that were auctioned included signed photos from Graham Norton, Jordan, The Wombles, Michael Caine, Luciano Pavarotti, Albert Finney, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Margaret Thatcher and the entire casts of both Channel 4’s ‘Brookside’ and BBC’s ‘Casualty’; an autograph from David Beckham; signed books by Nick Hornby, Melvyn Bragg and Germaine Greer; Hilary Benn’s 2001 election address; Nick Ross’s script from ‘Crimewatch’ with his notes; a Match of the Day script (England v Italy, 27th March 2002) signed by Gary Lineker; a book donated by Carl Chinn but not signed; a Parker pen used by Noel Edmunds; earrings worn by Julie Goodyear; Barbara Windsor’s coat from ‘Eastenders’; an original suit by Vivienne Westwood; ties from both Bruce Forsyth and the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone; sketches by Tony Hart and Rolf Harris; a float vest signed by former Olympic swimmer Sharon Davis; Warren Mitchell’s West Ham scarf worn in the comedy series ‘In Sickness and Health’ and miscellaneous items donated by West Bromwich Albion.
Some of the items at this particular auction were in quite poor condition but nevertheless sold for a tidy sum, including the signed photo from Caroline John, who in 1970 played the Doctor’s companion opposite Jon Pertwee in ‘Dr. Who’.
What would our contemporary local M.P.s offer for auction from their personal collections we wonder?