William Thomas Rodgers, Baron Rodgers of Quarry Bank,  is a British politician who served as Secretary of State for Transport from 1976 to 1979, and was 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 in 1988, and later served as that party's leader in the House of Lords between 1997 and 2001.(born 28 October 1928)
Rodgers was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, and educated at Quarry Bank High School in Liverpool. After national service in the King's Regiment (Liverpool), he studied Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford on an Open Exhibition. He was general secretary of the Fabian Society from 1953 to 1960 and a councillor on St Marylebone Borough Council from 1958 to 1962. He was instrumental in lobbying the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party to reverse its vote in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament in 1961. He also unsuccessfully 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, representing Stockton-on-Tees, 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 European Economic Community. 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.
In November 2023 Rodgers announced his intention to retire from the House of Lords on 12 December 2023.
On 8 May 2001, Rodgers suffered a stroke at his home and was treated at the Royal Free Hospital and attended speech therapy sessions at North Middlesex Hospital for two and a half years. He said he was "very, very lucky not to have suffered any physical damage" as a result. He has since been a keen advocate for better treatment and care for stroke victims.
In popular culture
- "Rodgers of Quarry Bank, Baron, (William Thomas Rodgers) (born 28 Oct. 1928)". WHO'S WHO & WHO WAS WHO. 2007. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u32981. ISBN 978-0-19-954088-4. Retrieved 5 May 2021.
- "Lord William Rodgers". Liverpool John Moores University. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
- Thorpe, Andrew (1997). A History of the British Labour Party. London: Macmillan Education UK. p. 151. doi:10.1007/978-1-349-25305-0. ISBN 978-0-333-56081-5.
- 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.
- "House of Lords Business - Retirement for 30 November 2023". UK Parliament. Archived from the original on 30 November 2023. Retrieved 30 November 2023.
- "Lady Rodgers of Quarry Bank". The Times. 10 October 2006.
- "Silvia Rodgers". The Guardian. 9 October 2006.
- "House of Lords - Stroke Victims: Treatment on 23 May 2006".
- "House of Lords - NHS debate - 25 June 2009 Hansard".
- "David Tennant, Roger Allam and more at Limehouse opening night". WhatsOnStage.com. 9 March 2017. Retrieved 23 February 2023.