Margaret Beckett

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Margaret Beckett, born 15 January 1943, is a British Labour Party politician. She was the first woman to hold the office of Foreign Secretary, and between May and July 1994 was also the first woman to serve as leader of the Labour Party.[1][2]


Beckett was born in 1943 in Ashton-under-Lyne, England; her maiden name was Margaret Jackson. Her mother was a Roman Catholic,[3] and her sister is a Catholic nun. She attended Notre Dame High School, a state-funded Catholic school in Norwich, England.

She is married to Leo Beckett, who is 15 years her senior.[4]

Political career

She was elected in 1974 to the House of Commons, representing Lincoln. She served as a Labour Party Whip in the government of then-Prime Minister James Callaghan. However, she lost her seat in the 1979 general election.

Elected again to Parliament representing Derby South in 1983, she was elected as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in 1992, the first woman to hold that position. On the death of former party leader John Smith in May 1994, she served as leader of the Labour Party between May and July 1994, when Tony Blair was elected as party leader.

In government

After the Labour victory in the 1997 election, she held several posts in Cabinet. Between 2001 and 2006, she was Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

During 2006, her department was blamed for a mismanagement of European Union farm subsidies which cost the British government £500 million in EU fines. A Parliamentary committee report published in March 2007 called on her to resign because of this failure. [5] She was replaced as Foreign Secretary by David Miliband that June.


  1. UK has first woman foreign secretary, CNN, 5 May 2006
  2. Margaret Beckett - Profile at the 10 Downing Street official website
  3. Margaret Beckett, Guardian Unlimited
  4. Margaret Beckett: Pack it in! Leave it alone!, The Independent, 22 June 2007
  5. Beckett should be sacked over farm payments fiasco, say MPs, Daily Telegraph, 30 March 2007