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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Barbara Castle: Your tributes
Former Labour minister Barbara Castle has died at home at the age of 91, her family have announced.
The former transport and social services minister served in the Wilson governments in the 1960s and 1970s.
She was a formidable champion of social causes, among them pensioners' rights, child benefits and union reform.
Prime Minister Tony Blair said she was "a radical and independent spirit" and "an extraordinary pioneer for women in politics".
Thank you for your tributes to Barbara Castle. Read a selection of your e-mails below.
I admire Barbara Castle, she stood for the principles that I believed in and I feel she would have made an excellent PM. What a loss to the country.
They don't make them like that anymore. Our politics would be much healthier if they did.
Unlike the majority of politicians, she didn't sell her soul to the party. She was the only politician who cared one jot for the plight of the UK pensioner and the way the Labour government is grinding them into poverty. Plenty of money for the depots of Africa though.
Where can we look to replace the likes of Barbara Castle? Intelligent, witty, and with principles. A far cry from today's identikit politicians.
Thank goodness Margaret Thatcher dismantled the socialist/communist welfare state Castle and the like installed.
Andrew Crane, Atlanta, USA
Sad to hear of the death of a lady who stuck to her principles throughout.
And so we lose another politician of principle and conviction. It seems there are fewer and fewer all the time.
What must it have been like for her to see the Labour party and all it used to stand for be transformed by Blair and his ilk into the Tory Lite McPolitics of New Labour TM?
One of her last fights was to upbraid the government over the insulting 75p pension rise and get it increased, which goes to show that even in these cynical, shallow, style over substance days, people of principle and social conscience can still make a difference.
There aren't many like Barbara Castle left. What will we do when they're all gone?
A wonderful, principled woman who will be greatly missed.
I cannot think of a better tribute than from our prime minister. Isn't it amazing this iron lady of the Labour party has been making headlines expressing her thought about public policy recently as few months ago? I wish I could live long like her and make active contribution to society.
Rod Garr, USA
Charisma, guts, principle, integrity - classic Labour.
Barbara Castle was one of the few conviction politicians. She said what she thought and thought what she said. Surely if she was born a few decades later she would have been Prime Minister. I shed a tear at the loss of the working class Queen Mum.
I would like to say that today my thoughts are with Barbara's family. She was one of the few politicians who say exactly what they mean. As such she was very rare indeed. We have lost one of the best.
If the Labour Party could regain some of her spirit they might start acting like a government.
James C. Harvey, USA
Barbara Castle enriched British politics by continually raising the public consciousness to the iniquities of class rule. She was a forthright champion of the poor and under-privileged and devoted her political life to the pursuit of social justice. Her like - is, unfortunately, not evident in today's Labour government.
Thank you, Barbara.
Does anyone remember her appearing on a Radio 4 program with Arthur Smith? They should repeat that, because she was obviously pin-sharp, witty, and very, very funny. What a wonderful lady she was.
A truly great figure in the Labour movement from before the war until the present day. She was the first great female minister in Wilson's government, and was tipped to become the first female PM while Margaret Thatcher was just a backbench MP. She was a lady of integrity of sincerity, and even in disagreement with her peers she did not alienate herself, and remained loyal to her party and her country throughout, a true patriot.
Sad to see one of Labour's last few links with socialism pass. She had an integrity that is sadly lacking from today's Labour party. A woman prepared to stick to her principles and beliefs and was sure of them , unlike Tony Blair and his crowd who have destroyed a once-great party
We have truly lost someone who spoke for the people. More than what the government does. Barbara Castle deserved to be prime minister.
The country should be proud of the contribution you made. Legislation protecting many workers such as pensions and many other areas of social concern affecting so many people have been helped by your reforming ideas. This is an indebtedness always worth remembering.
I was very sorry to hear of the death of one of our most original and outspoken politicians - ironically on the day after the local elections. As a child, I particularly recall the way Barbara Castle seemed to tower over many of her cabinet colleagues in the Wilson government, and her championing of pensioners' causes in more recent years should make many a younger present day minister hang their head in shame and promise to do better in future.
Robert Crosby, Nottingham, UK
Pity she was Labour. One of the old schools. It is a shame there are very few that can match her in today's Government
I agreed with very little she said or did, but I recognise quality and integrity when I see and hear it. She made us think and she made a difference; these were her gifts for which we should all be grateful.
One of the dinosaurs from the dark ages of immediate post-war socialism. One more gone thank goodness.
Barbara Castle was an outstanding politician who would have been a great prime minister had she had the chance. A woman who got things done for the benefit of the country, not for the benefit of herself. A true heroine. Without Barbara and her gritty determination to change what was bad, our world today might have been very different.
Rebecca Eeley, UK
The best memorial we can give Barbara is to continue to work for justice and equality.
She was a brilliant, courageous woman of integrity who was never afraid to speak her mind and stand up for what she believed in. She will be sorely missed. God bless you, Barbara.
We've lost a true champion, a great intellect, and a wonderful person. RIP.
Alan Duffill, Scotland
In my early 30s, at the 1983 general election, I was the Labour party candidate for the never-very-winnable Parliamentary seat of Hertford and Bishop Stortford. Meanwhile, Barbara Castle was campaigning in the Labour marginals. This took her to my home seat of Colne Valley in Yorkshire where, on a walkabout, she had am occasion to visit the pub where my mother was the Landlady. In front of the massed ranks of my mum's regular customers, the Labour agent introduced Barbara Castle to my mum who was serving behind the bar. My mum proudly announced that her son, John Carr, was a Labour Parliamentary candidate in Hertford and Bishop Stortford. Without a moment's hesitation, and without blinking, Barbara came back and said "Ah yes, we're all very proud of him." Needless to say, at that point I had never met Barbara Castle and I am absolutely certain she had never heard of me, but she made my mum very proud and impressed all her regulars no end.
Karen Mendis, Germany
Barbara Castle was outstanding in so many ways... as a politician who fought for her principles, and man did she fight, as a pioneer for women at a time when British politics was so sexist, and also as a minister where she was outstanding in her abilities. She would almost certainly have been a prime minister had her qualities been born into a male body.
Jack Oliver, England
I offer my condolences to the Castle family. Barbara was one to watch and never shy of using the most appropriate words. I believe that when Barbara was in the press or in the newspapers was a genuine socialist out for the people. I always listened to her arguments in the media and always found myself nodding in agreement with Barbara. Very sad day for Labour's socialists.
A grand lady with unshakeable ideals and the guts and energy to fight for them.
While not wanting to belittle a great political activist, I think that to be balanced her belief in the "command" economy - together with her old Labour colleagues - did much to reduce Britain to a state of a pauper country in the 1960s and 70s.
I wonder what sort of recognition this state will give to mark the passing of an elderly lady who really did make a major contribution to the nation? Well done, Barbara!
If the Trade Union movement had allowed her to push through her reforms we might have been spared years of strife under the Tories and still have a British coal mining industry. Otherwise she was a great success and a real socialist.
Derek Armstrong, Canada
A rare jewel, news of Barbara's death has left me and my wider family with a deep sense of loss tonight. All the more so knowing that too few, true socialists of her kind are to be found in British politics today. An apt epitaph for this shining light and remarkable woman - who led always with integrity and out of conviction - would be: "To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield". Please let us all make a point of laying flowers in Barbara's memory outside parliament house this weekend.
Barbara Castle should be a role model for all young women of today. She had courage, compassion and a sharp intellect. There is no one like her in politics today.
As a young boy in London in the 50s I saw great poverty and need but no obvious solution - except Labour. But they all seemed dull middle aged boring men. Barbara Castle was a breath of fresh air, dynamic, striking personality, with style and passion. Politicians talk a lot but achieve little. Barbara's work on road safety, pensions and equality will stand as a lasting monument to the improvement of society and people's lives.
In terms of lives saved and social inequalities remedied, Barbara Castle must rank as one of the most effective politicians of her generation. Mr Blair and other politicians of his generation would do well to learn from her example that politics is not merely about the acquisition of power but the effective use of that power once acquired for the betterment of society and of the individual lives of those within that society.
Neil Kelly, United Kingdom
The last time I saw Barbara was during the General Election campaign of 1997, out campaigning for the candidate in my constituency. She had such energy even and vitality even in her eighties. She set a standard for politicians that few will ever reach. The House of Commons would be a far better place if there were more like her. Thank you Barbara for all that you did.
Surely the greatest tribute to her is her legacy in government: the breathalyser, the Equal Pay Act, child benefit and the state earnings-related pension scheme. How many other ministers can point to such an outstanding record in government?
A true Labour lady! Maybe one of the great prime ministers the UK never had.
Barbara Castle represented the true beating heart of politics. A politician of total integrity and commitment. A true socialist and an eternal indictment on the formless, passionless, faceless thing UK politics has become.
Goodbye and much gratitude to you Barbara - to a wonderful person
Mark Scott, UK
She was my inspiration in becoming active in local politics, she will be sorely missed.
Mrs Castle stuck to her guns and for that was greatly respected. Taking a swipe at Mrs Thatcher whilst paying tribute to her is very sad.
I have just witnessed the patronising coverage of Barbara Castle's life on Newsnight. To describe her in a way that made her sound like a naive socialist dinosaur is a gross insult to the principles of which she dedicated her life too. If society had embraced "In Place of Strife" in the late sixties we would never have had the repugnant spectacle of Thatcherism in the 80s. In many ways Barbara Castle was years ahead of her time.
Had she been born 20 years later, she would likely have been Britain's first woman prime minister. She will be sadly missed, even by her opponents.
Olivier Withoff, US
I'm too young to have conscious memories of her in government, but watching her career in the years since, I was left with nothing but admiration for her. Barbara Castle was unwavering in her political beliefs, outspoken when women were absolutely not supposed to be, a socialist in the most true 'social' meaning of the word, and dedicated to her causes well into the kind of age where most people would be thinking of taking it easy. She was, quite simply, unique.
I have just heard the sad news. She was a great person and the important thing about her, politically, is that she was always Real Labour and not New Labour.
I will miss her, her talent was endless. I still keep most of her books and read them regularly. God bless her.
A true socialist fighting for the rights of women, the old and the workers, to the end.
Tim Roll-Pickering, UK
Much as I might have disagreed with Barbara Castle's stridency and her views, I shall remember with thanks, her work in establishing the idea of the Pennine Way. With Tom Stephenson and others she gave her support in the early days - and even got out there and walked small sections.
The idea caught on and our national network of Long Distance Footpaths is one of many consequences.
An extremely talented woman who was unlucky not to be our first female prime minister. Tremendous intelligence and integrity.
She put fire into politics. She implemented one of the single most effective life savers on our roads - the breathalyser. Unfortunately she was the trail blazer for Mrs Thatcher as a woman in politics, but, then, no one is perfect!
Barbara Castle was a remarkable woman. Although I disagreed with many of her opinions, her commitment to the causes she espoused, especially the rights of pensioners, was never in any doubt. I well recall her rebellion against Blair over the issue of restoring the link between pensions and wages, and I remember feeling very sad that such an honourable woman should have fallen for Tony's smooth talk, and allowed herself to be used to avert what would have been an inevitable conference defeat simply on the basis of what turned out to be a hollow promise.
In her earlier career Barbara Castle did not make a special point of promoting women's rights and opportunities except by her own personal example of forceful intervention in the political processes right to Cabinet level. However, after retiring from active domestic politics and living in Brussels, she became increasingly outspoken as an advocate of women's rights to be everywhere in the open world, not confined to the domestic sphere.
She became a very great supporter of the all-party 300 group for women in politics started by British activist Lesley Abdela. Lesley met her on many occasions, including driving with her from the Gambia to Guinea Bissau in a battered Mercedes, Barbara in the back seat (already in her 80s) scribbling away at the biography she was writing.
D Brells, England
I'm not a great fan of Old Labour, but Mrs Castle was great. She got more women into the party and actually implemented policies which have saved people's lives. A great role model for anyone to look up to.
In the Brave New World of soundbites, opinion groups and popularity politics, we shall all miss your conviction politics. Hearing you speak in Redhill Public Hall in Surrey in the 60s, I have admired you since for your independence. Sleep well.
Oh, what sad news! Barbara Castle was such a great Labour figure. She had such honest conviction and an ability to move millions. The Labour movement has lost one of its greatest ever assets.
As a student nurse 1974-1977 taking home less than £70 a month I vividly remember the excitement, opening my first pay cheque showing the new scale and back pay, then rushing to Littlewoods and buying a bottle of cheap plonk and drinking to her health! Thank you again Mrs Castle.
Pete Scott, UK
Barbara was a true socialist and did the right things. Maggie spoiled all those good things.
As a poor working-class kid growing up in the 60s and 70s, I'm sure my lot, not to mention my kid's lot, would have not been as good without Barbara and her fighting for good. Good night, God bless Barbara.
What a wonderful woman! A socialist to the end, a real fighter for the rights of the poor. She was principled and honest - old Labour at its best. She will be sadly missed by the many people she helped and inspired.
The world is a better place for her having passed through it. Indeed, there are many of us who may not have survived to regret her passing if it had not been for the breathalyser and 70 mph speed limit. Then there was child benefit, equal pay for women...there's a list that goes on and on. Her life was dedicated to the service of others: a true socialist and a marvellous human being.
Born in 1952 and reaping the benefits of your fire and passion - bless you Barbara and rest in total peace. Some recognition please Tony, and especially Cherie.
Dick Quibell, Greenwich, UK
A great contributor to the fight for social justice and greater equality of opportunity for all.
I am sorry to hear about the death of such a wonderful lady - I wish we had some one like her in government today - I am very sorry!
She was a woman of vision and integrity - unlike the present leaders of the "Labour" movement.
Barbara Castle spoke with sincerity and conviction - but her actions spoke louder than her words. She made our world a better and safer place.
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