Bill Rodgers was born in Liverpool at 4 Westgate Road, off Smithdown Road, L15 on 28th October 1928, the son of William Arthur Rodgers, a clerk working for the city council, and Gertrude Helen née Owen. Not long after his birth they moved to a larger house at 6 Horringford Road L17, off Aigburth Road and then to comfortable semi at 104 South Sudley Road L19.
He attended Sudley Road primary school and then won a scholarship to Quarry Bank High School. In his autobiography he writes about his days at Quarry with a great deal of affection and his academic record was reflected in his being awarded an Open Exhibition in Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford. He chose to complete his National Service before going up to university and joined the Liverpool King’s Regiment, finishing his time in the army as a sergeant in the Education Corps.
Having been drawn to the Labour Party from an early age, he began his path towards a political career by becoming Assistant Secretary of the Fabian Society in 1951. After two years he was selected to become the Society’s General Secretary, the other candidate being another Quarry Bank old boy, Peter Shore. He left the Fabians in 1960 for a job with the Consumers’ Association but was sacked after just six months consequent to the high-profile role he was playing in political campaigning. He entered Parliament as member for Stockton-on-Tees via a 1962 by-election. Between July 1968 and September 1976 he filled various junior ministerial posts before entering the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Transport under Jim Callaghan, a position he retained until Labour’s defeat at the 1979 general election.
Bill Rodgers is nowadays probably better remembered for his actions when Labour were out of power in the 1980’s rather than when he was in office. With the perceived drift of Labour to the left he aligned himself with the main social democrat figures in the party and, as one of the ‘gang of four’ was a key figure in the founding of the Social Democratic Party. Despite headlining-making by-election wins such as Shirley Williams at Crosby and Roy Jenkins at Glasgow Hillhead, the SDP could not retain seats and Rodgers was defeated in the 1983 general election in a closely fought three-horse race for Stockton.
He unsuccessfully stood as the SDP candidate for Milton Keynes in the 1987 general election and did not return to parliamentary life until entering the Lords in 1992. In the interim he was Director-General of the Royal British Institute of Architects and Chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority. On entering the Lords he took the title Baron Rodgers of Quarry Bank. From 1997 to 2001 he was the Liberal democrat leader in the Lords.
The Rodgers' family home at the time of his birth in 1928. In his autobiography he described the street as being "at the better end of Smithdown Road".
The first of the Rodgers' family's steps up in the world.
The comfortable home from which Rodgers travelled daily to Quarry Bank High School
His autobiography Fourth Among Equals [Politico Publishing 2000] is the most detailed account of his life and career. It is a self-effacing and well-written work, with quite a bit of detail about his life growing up in Liverpool in the 1930's and 40's. The Wikipedia entry is really just the bare bones of an account.
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