Beckett, Margaret 1943

English (British)

(b. 1943) Member of Parliament

Beckett was elected to Parliament in 1974 in the governments of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan. She lost her seat in 1979, but returned to the House of Commons in 1983 representing Derby South. She was appointed to Neil Kinnock's Shadow Cabinet and elected Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in 1992, becoming the first woman to hold that role. When John Smith died in 1994, she became the first woman to lead the Labour Party.

In 1997 Beckett became a member of Tony Blair's Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade but later became the Leader of the House of Commons and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. In 2006 she became Foreign Secretary and was again the first woman to hold that position. Beckett was not initially given a position by Gordon Brown but was soon appointed Minister of State for Housing and Planning in 2008. She left work in the government in 2009.

Beckett is currently the longest-serving female MP in the House of Commons and one of the few remaining MPs who served in the Labour governments of the 1970s. In the 2013 New Year Honours for public and political service Beckett was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.