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Margaret Beckett
 
Born in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester in January 1943, Margaret Beckett trained as an apprentice engineer before moving towards politics. In the early 1970s she became a party official and special adviser to minister Judith Hart, and in 1974 she became MP for Lincoln until she lost her seat in 1979. Later that year she married Leo Beckett, chairman of her local Labour party.

She returned to the Commons as MP for Derby South in 1983 and has sat on the front bench since 1984. Mrs Beckett was the first woman to serve as deputy leader of the party under the late John Smith, and was acting leader of the opposition for three months in 1994. After Labour's general election victory in 1997, she was briefly trade and industry secretary but moved in 1998 to become leader of the House of Commons, a role in which she earned praise from all parties.

After the 2001 election she became the first secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs. In May 2006 she became the UK's first female foreign secretary. 

 
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