Oral History: Memories from MPs in their own words

Today we’re delighted to launch a new section of our website dedicated to our oral history project. In this section you’ll find pages dedicated to eighteen of our first interviewees, containing wonderful portraits by the photographer Michael Waller-Bridge, brief biographies, full interview summaries and extracts from the interviews themselves.

Our Oral History project has been up and running since the November 2011 and aims to interview all former MPs about their lives, constituency politics and Westminster experiences. Our fantastic team of volunteer interviewers, organised by Dr Priscila Pivatto, have so far completed over 50 interviews; thirty of which are now available to listen in full at the British Library. We’re extremely grateful to both the BL’s support and the generous financial and moral support from Dod’s,  publishers of the House Magazine and the Parliamentary Companion.

As part of this support Dod’s commissioned portrait photographer Michael Waller-Bridge to take a series portraits of some of our interviewees. The portraits were taken in the very intimate setting of the interviewees’ own homes, a setting the photographer said was a ‘privilege’. The first MPs to feature on our website are those photographed by Michael Waller-Bridge.

The interviews themselves cover a wide range of MPs and political issues from the Second World War until the 1990s and the extracts we have chosen reflect this range. There are some extremely prominent figures such as Denis Healey (Lord Healey), Geoffrey Howe (Lord Howe) and Michael Heseltine (Lord Heseltine) and backbenchers like Peter Jackson or Sir Peter Fry. Unfortunately there’s only one woman, Jill Knight (Baroness Knight), due to the relatively small number of women elected to parliament before 1997 – an experience Baroness Knight reflects on in the extract we have chosen. The other extracts demonstrate a whole range of subjects, such as early influences, election campaigns, international events such as the Suez Crisis of 1956, political campaigns, such as the 1967 Abortion Bill, important aspects of party history such as the Labour Party’s divisions in the 1970s and 1980s and, never far from political life today, the European issue.

We hope you enjoy these clips, but plenty more will come from our oral history project. For more information on the project as a whole visit our website, and watch this blog for more updates!


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