SHE may be Bolton's first female council leader, but heavy metal fan Barbara Ronson says she has more in common with rock group Iron Maiden than the Iron Lady.

Gareth Tidman asked her how she intends to keep the men in tune.

SHE is the shopkeeper's daughter who blew away an ailing Labour administration to become the first female leader of an historic power-wielding chamber.

But there most similarities between Margaret Thatcher and Bolton's new council leader, Cllr Barbara Ronson, come to an end.

It is hard to imagine the famously-named Iron Lady rocking out to Led Zeppelin or jamming with her family on the tin whistle when she was in power.

Yet this is exactly how Cllr Ronson likes to wind down after a hard day in the corridors of power.

Despite their obvious political and lifestyle differences, there is one last thing the two women share.

Both have a single minded determination to succeed against the odds.

When Cllr Ronson took the Horwich seat she was to make her own in 1986 for the Social Democratic Party (SDP), she found herself joining a council chamber faction of precisely one.

In fact, at that time, the SDP -- which formed when the famous 'gang of four' split with Labour -- had only one other councillor in the whole of Greater Manchester.

But that will all seem so very long ago to the 61-year-old when, if as expected, she is voted in as the first Liberal Democrat leader at the council's annual general meeting tonight.

Her Lib Dem group grew from the smallest to the largest in the council chamber overnight as a result of their stunning success in the June 10 local election.

Not bad for a retired teacher who claims she entered politics reluctantly only to keep the peace at home.

She said: "I was a regular Labour voter and my husband Bob voted Conservative, so when the SDP emerged I thought 'here is a chance to make life a bit easier'!

"We had regular family arguments about there being nobody decent to vote for and eventually I got pushed into it myself."

It was the alliance between the SDP and the Liberal Party, which led to the formation of the Lib Dems in the late 1980s, that saw her begin to play a more prominent role in politics.

In the new party's difficult early years, she became a driving force that helped to bind members of the two groups together and allowed the Lib Dems to establish itself as a local force.

Her standing in the party was such that 10 years ago she was elected as leader.

But Cllr Ronson's new hectic political lifestyle was doing anything but making things easier for her.

Help was at hand, however, when her husband Bob followed her on to both Horwich Town Council and the local authority in the late 1980s.

The pair had fallen in love after meeting in the pews of the Church of the Saviour, on Deane Road, Bolton, in 1959. They were married five years later.

She said: "Bob has been a rock and an inspiration to me for many years and it certainly helped when he joined the council and realised how much work was involved."

As well as being in tune with her politically, Bob is also quite capable of backing her up in her musical exploits.

He is regarded as a skilled exponent of the traditional Lancastrian percussion instrument, the bones, played by clicking two pieces of bone together.

Together with their two grown-up sons, Robert and Michael, the couple are regular visitors to the region's folk festivals and have even be known to take part in the odd jam session.

But Cllr Ronson's love for music doesn't stop there.

An avid opera buff with a passion for Verdi and Wagner, Cllr Ronson also admits to a fondness of heavy metal music.

She said: "One of my sons played in a metal band for years and over time I grew to like it.

"I still listen to the odd metal album these days, but only the good bands like Led Zeppelin."

Cllr Ronson was born in 1943 at 'Townley's', as the Bolton General Infirmary was known in those days.

Her mother ran a corner shop on Spa Road while her father was away serving with the army in Africa and the Far East.

She attended Brandwood Street and Pikes Lane primary schools before winning a scholarship that allowed her to go on to study O-levels and A-levels at Bolton School.

Rather than go straight to university, she instead decided to work for a year and took up a job as a librarian in the Lancashire County library near Ramsbottom.

Roles involving librarian work and teaching followed at colleges in Newton-le-Willows and Leigh.

It was not until 1979 that she re-entered education, studying a part-time degree course in Literature and Philosophy at Bolton Institute.

She became the head of literacy and numeracy at Rochdale College in 1984, a position she held for 11 years.

Cllr Ronson has hinted she might step down as council leader if she is able to mount a successful challenge to Labour's Ruth Kelly in the Bolton West constituency at the next general election.

But for now her aims are to bed her party into power and to ultimately achieve outright control of the council for the Lib Dems.

She said: "Not having a majority, we are going to have to rely on our opposition to a certain extent and this puts us on a wing and a prayer.

"It is going to be tough and we do not expect to be perfect right away but we just hope the other parties will realise the need for consensus to bring stability to the borough."

She also hopes her achievements will allow other women to follow in her footsteps.

"I am delighted to be the first female leader but I just hope I am not the last," she said.

"The door is open for others to follow, I hope

"I would like for people to remember me as someone who kept a sense of fun and didn't take themselves too seriously -- and that I had a wonderful family life outside of politics."