Barbara Castle: Labour's Fearless Fighter
Rose, Paul B., Contemporary Review
No woman has ever led the Labour Party. Only Shirley Williams has fought for the leadership. In Barbara Castle's heyday a quarter of a century ago, the cautious and conservative Trade Union bosses would have hardly countenanced the idea. However, had there ever been a woman leader of the Labour Party it would undoubtedly have been Barbara Castle. She has now given us a superb account of her career in her autobiography, Fighting All the Way.
In a curious way she shares many of the qualities of Britain's first woman Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Both were single minded. Both could be dismissive of opinions which differed from theirs. Both are tough. combative, passionate about their politics, and highly professional. Both are almost obsessive about their image and looks, both physical and political and what are now Commonly termed conviction politicians.
They emerged from two totally different traditions, neither patrician nor plebeian but both quintessentially English. Barbara Castle was reared on the romantic socialism of William Morris and, Margaret Thatcher upon the solid Victorian virtues of a shop keeper and Alderman. Although Barbara Castle's background was more difficult, her father worked for the Inland Revenue and was able to scrape enough together to give his children the education they merited. He imparted his individuality and some idiosyncratic non-conformism to his small redheaded daughter who was later to thrill Labour Party conferences with her passionate oratory. Barbara Castle is a shrewd observer of politics as well as being a clever and a down to earth politician for whom politics is oxygen itself.
I recall as a young member of the Labour League of Youth how I adored Barbara Castle as another might adore a film star and to chair a meeting on a smoggy day in Manchester when she addressed us was almost as exciting as the day I was selected to speak along with Nye Bevan to 9,000 of the Labour faithful. That was only ever outdone by sharing a platform with the diffident Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles and the Bishop of Salford. Between 1966 and 1968 as a young M.P., I was Barbara Castle's Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Ministry of Transport.
Her tenacity saw huge changes in the …
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Publication information: Article title: Barbara Castle: Labour's Fearless Fighter. Contributors: Rose, Paul B. - Author. Magazine title: Contemporary Review. Volume: 263. Issue: 1532 Publication date: September 1993. Page number: 127+. © 1999 Contemporary Review Company Ltd. COPYRIGHT 1993 Gale Group.
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