Since 2011, in partnership with the British Library, we have been interviewing as many former MPs as we can about their lives and careers in parliament. 155 of our completed interviews have now been deposited at the British Library. Our growing archive contains a wide variety of experiences and views of parliament: from ‘big names’ (Denis Healey, Michael Heseltine, David Owen, David Steel, Jonathan Aitken, Ann Taylor) to those who sat for just a few years (Denis Coe); from old political families (Hilary Armstrong, Douglas Hurd, Olga Maitland) to those who felt themselves outsiders (Maria Fyfe and Mildred Gordon).
Most of our interviews are open, but until recently those who wanted to listen to them would have to make the trip to St Pancras to do so. Now, the wonderful team at the Sound Archive in the British Library are making our interviews available online, available for anyone to listen to wherever they are in the world.
So far 28 of our interviews are available here, in the British Library Sound Archive. Over the course of 2018 more will be made available, including a special release of some our interviews with former women MPs to mark the anniversary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act (for more on some of our interviews with female MPs now, see ‘Women in Democracy during the 1970s and 1980s‘)
As the British Library add our interviews online, we’re also adding new short biographies on our website of some of our interviewees, including short extracts from their interviews. These include reflections from Sir Edward du Cann (Taunton, 1956-87), longstanding Chair of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee, on its involvement in Margaret Thatcher’s election to Conservative party leader in 1975:
The Labour MP Ronald Murray (Leith, 1970-79) described his opposition to Britain’s entrance into the Common Market during the 1970s, despite his opinions on Europe changing later:
[For more from our oral history project on the debates on entering the Common Market in the 1970s, see ‘The Parties and Europe 1: Labour and the 1975 Referendum’]
And Liberal/Liberal Democrat Eric Lubbock, 4th Baron Lubbock (Orpington, 1962-70) remembered his successful Private Members Bill, the Caravan Sites Act 1968, which mandated local authorities to find sites for gypsies and travellers:
Stay tuned in the New Year for more from our oral history project: both on our website and in the British Library Sound Archive.