Barbara Castle

British politician (1910–2002)

Barbara Anne Castle, Baroness Castle of Blackburn, PC, GCOT (née Betts, 6 October 1910 – 3 May 2002) was a British Labour Party politician who was the Member of Parliament for Blackburn from 1945 to 1979, making her the longest-serving female MP in the history of the House of Commons, until that record was broken in 2007 by Gwyneth Dunwoody. She later became the Member of the European Parliament for Greater Manchester from 1979 to 1989. One of the most significant Labour Party politicians of the 20th century, she served in the Cabinet under Prime Minister Harold Wilson in a number of roles, including as Secretary of State for Employment, Secretary of State for Health and Social Services, and First Secretary of State.

The poverty and unemployment which we came into existence to fight have been largely conquered.


  • We of the rank and file of the constituency parties say to the trade union movement that the Beveridge issue is as axiomatic to us as the Trade Disputes Act is to them. ... Jam yesterday and jam tomorrow, but never jam today.
    • Speech to the Labour Party Conference (1943), quoted in Barbara Castle, Fighting All The Way (1993), p. 116
  • The poverty and unemployment which we came into existence to fight have been largely conquered.
    • Statement (1959), quoted in Nicholas Timmins, The Five Giants: A Biography of the Welfare State (1995), pp. 254-255
  • This means a pension increase of 72p – a fair price for a bag of peanuts.
    • Speech to the Labour Party Conference (1999), attacking the government for fixing state pensions to inflation rather than earnings, quoted in 'Barbara Castle: Pensioners' champion', (3 May 2002)

Quotes about CastleEdit

  • Whenever you were with Barbara you felt plugged into a power station – she absolutely vibrated with energy. She had a great sense of humour and was just fun to be with – but there was nobody she did not have a row with. She had many with me and I look back on them with pleasure. Whatever she did she thought out and then when she had come to a conclusion she argued for it with passion and conviction.
  • [Barbara Castle was] an extraordinary pioneer for women in politics. Barbara Castle was one of the dominating figures of the Labour movement of the last 50 years. She was courageous, determined, tireless and principled, she was never afraid to speak her mind or stand up for her beliefs. Britain has lost one of its great political figures and the Labour movement a great heroine.
  • Barbara was a heroine of the Labour movement who brought in equal pay for women, and right up to her death was campaigning for the cause of justice for the elderly. She made a massive contribution to the 20th century and her achievements will never be forgotten.
  • She was a wonderful fighter for socialism from her early days to the last. She gave her whole being to the Labour movement. Her last fight was for the pensioners and she helped to change that too.
  • Her passion blazed and her courage held steady throughout her long life. [Her] dazzling charm and low cunning won and kept the admiration and affection of the Labour movement for nearly 60 years. She was fiery, funny, stylish and a socialist to her last breath.
  • Barbara Castle was a woman of fire and conviction who was also elegant, attractive and consciously so. She had been shaped by the great depression, the war, and the determination of a post-war Labour government that the old class-ridden Britain must be transformed. She was an ideologue and a class warrior, but one committed to the poor and the unemployed, an icon of Old Labour. She was also considerate and brave.
  • The best man in my Cabinet.
    • Harold Wilson, quoted in Melanie Phillips, The Divided House: Women at Westminster (1980), p. 27

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