Barbara Castle

In the centre of Blackburn, between the college and King George’s Hall, is a life-size bronze of the town’s former MP, Barbara Castle. She is one of the greatest politicians that the British Labour Party has ever produced and, like Margaret Thatcher whose policies she would have despised, climbed to the top of the political ladder despite her sex then being considered a hindrance. Many of her policies I continue to admire, for example, the imposition of permanent speed limits on roads and the testing of drivers’ breath for alcohol. She also passed through Parliament the Equal Pay Act, which demanded that both men and women doing the same work receive the same level of remuneration. These things we now take for granted but it was the likes of Mrs Castle who fought for their granting to begin with.

As with many British socialists other than that first pioneering generation, I see little evidence of meaningful spiritual life. Although they were inspired by great Christian principles of equality and justice, the saving dynamism of gospel truth was quietly bypassed. The Castles retired to a farm called Hell Corner, one which doubtless drew mirth from her many visitors. The God of the Bible demands we treat other people, especially the weak, with love, equity and respect, but these do not themselves afford us the ticket away from hell’s corner and into paradise. Salvation is not based upon how well we treated other people, important though that is, but on what we did with the Son of Man. I like Barbara Castle, and I am pleased that the town she represented so well in the British Parliament sees fit to commemorate her and her many achievements. I only hope that she received the help of God Himself in the person of Christ to graciously rescue her soul.