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4 June, 2004

Troglodytes attack Castle

Like her or not, one has to acknowledge the late Barbara Castle, Blackburn's MP for 34 years and a MEP for a further 10 years before being ennobled as Baroness Castle of Blackburn, was somewhat more influential on defining modern Britain than the average MP.  As Transport Secretary in the Wilson governments, she introduced the breathalyser, the 70mph speed limit and legislation eventually leading to compulsory seat belts.  As Social Services Secretary, she was architect of the Equal Pay Act and introduced Child Benefit.  She remained an active politician until well into her eighties, particularly campaigning for the rights of pensioners.  As a BBC obituary said: "... one of the most impressive politicians of her generation."

As the Guardian reports, Blackburn's (Labour-controlled) council wanted to honour her with a statue, but Conservative councillors are less than receptive to the idea, ludicrously dismissing her as 'just another MP'.

"It's over the top," said Colin Rigby, the leader of the Conservative group. "She's already got a nice little bit of dual carriage-way named after her. We've got enough memorials to MPs."

'A nice little bit of dual-carriageway'? This isn't about party politics, it's an acknowledgement of high achievement. Perhaps the statue should be in Westminster rather than in her constituency, for her contribution to national and European politics - I have no idea whether she served the local community well whilst focusing on wider issues - but for some minority-party nonentity to indulge such petty vindictiveness is appalling.

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