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1966 and all that

Michael Stewart

20 December 1984
The Castle Diaries. Vol. II: 1964-70 
by Barbara Castle.
Weidenfeld, 848 pp., £20, October 1984, 0 297 78374 2
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... out on 5 January, and those who are still hard at it on 31 December. We are surely fortunate that Barbara Castle – like the late Dick Crossman – is in the second category. And when Mrs Castle keeps a diary, she doesn’t mess about: she really keeps a diary. The indefatigability of her labours was first revealed ...

Keeping Left

Edmund Dell

2 October 1980
The Castle Diaries 
by Barbara Castle.
Weidenfeld, 778 pp., £14.95, September 1980, 0 297 77420 4
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... Barbara Castle’s diary of the period 1974-76 shows more about the nature of cabinet government – even though it deals with only one Cabinet – than any previous publication, academic, political or biographical. It is, I think, better than Crossman. It gives a greater impression of immediacy; as a result, it is compulsive reading; and although I have made no checks, and it recounts many events of which I had no direct knowledge, it seems to me to be as accurate as one can expect of so personal a record ...

Viva Biba

Janet Watts

8 December 1988
Very Heaven: Looking back at the 1960s 
edited by Sara Maitland.
Virago, 227 pp., £4.95, October 1988, 0 86068 958 1
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... if so, where did it go? The easy answer, implicit in many contributions, is ‘into feminism’. Barbara Castle, Labour MP for Blackburn from 1945 to 1979, has a different one. In 1960 she was 50, and had decided that she possessed a mind as well as a vagina. Sex was ‘a powerful, creative and potentially disruptive force’, but one whose domination ...
31 May 2017
... until midnight, it hosted meetings addressed not just by usual suspects such as Michael Foot, Barbara Castle, Kenneth Tynan, the publisher John Calder, Doris Lessing, Michael Redgrave and Wolf Mankowitz, but also such distinguished figures as William Empson. ‘Events’ were held in the basement where various tendencies including ‘skiffle, trad ...

Mount Amery

Paul Addison

20 November 1980
The Leo Amery Diaries 
edited by John Barnes and David Nicholson, introduced by Julian Amery.
Hutchinson, 653 pp., £27.50, October 1980, 0 09 131910 2
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... as sublime social columnists who happened to sit in the House of Commons. Richard Crossman and Barbara Castle were heavyweights and professionals, and the eternal grind of committee life is reflected in their accounts. Yet both were writing with the special excitement of socialist voyeurs. Determined to expose the secrets of Whitehall while the story ...

Just Like Cookham

Neal Ascherson: Stanley Spencer in China

19 May 2011
Passport to Peking: A Very British Mission to Mao’s China 
by Patrick Wright.
Oxford, 591 pp., £20, October 2010, 978 0 19 954193 5
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... assorted mob from the wider Labour movement: a constellation of leftist Bevanite MPs including Barbara Castle, accompanied by MPs from the pro-American right of the party and assorted trade unionists (some of them ‘allegedly quite ignorant freeloaders’, as Wright puts it, others equally ignorant fellow-travellers, and a few who remained shrewd and ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Blair’s comedy turns

7 September 2006
... When Barbara Castle told Harold Wilson that renegotiating Britain’s membership of Europe would end in ‘a messy middle-of-the-road muddle’, Wilson replied that he felt ‘at his best in a messy middle-of-the-road muddle’. This from Wilson’s official biographer, Philip Ziegler. Wilson had one or two good jokes, unlike Callaghan or poor Attlee, so often the butt of other people’s ...

The Angry Men

Jean McNicol: Harriet Harman

14 December 2017
A Woman’s Work 
by Harriet Harman.
Allen Lane, 405 pp., £20, February 2017, 978 0 241 27494 1
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The Women Who Shaped Politics 
by Sophy Ridge.
Coronet, 295 pp., £20, March 2017, 978 1 4736 3876 1
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... rights for women and so on, they were often reluctant to be ‘cast in the feminist role’, as Barbara Castle put it. Class had always been the primary determinant of Labour Party policy: you improved the position of women by helping their class, and you did that chiefly by helping their fathers and husbands earn a decent ‘family wage’. Labour ...

Coalition Phobia

Brian Harrison

4 June 1987
Labour People, Leaders and Lieutenants: Hardie to Kinnock 
by Kenneth O. Morgan.
Oxford, 370 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 19 822929 1
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J. Ramsay MacDonald 
by Austen Morgan.
Manchester, 276 pp., £19.50, June 1987, 0 7190 2168 5
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Sylvia Pankhurst: Portrait of a Radical 
by Patricia Romero.
Yale, 334 pp., £17.50, March 1987, 0 300 03691 4
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Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst 
by Barbara Castle.
Penguin, 159 pp., £3.95, May 1987, 0 14 008761 3
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... single-parenthood was an achievement indeed – an achievement which Romero curiously underrates. Barbara Castle is more perceptive here, describing the book as ‘massive, detailed, vivid and highly subjective’, and as bristling ‘with facts, personal emotions and shrewd political analysis’. This raises the question of whether good biography can ...
4 June 1987
Prime Minister: The Conduct of Policy under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan 
by Bernard Donoughue.
Cape, 198 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 224 02450 7
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Time and Chance 
by James Callaghan.
Collins, 584 pp., £15.95, April 1987, 0 00 216515 5
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... down and reach for relief to the two diarist-contemporaries of Callaghan, Richard Crossman and Barbara Castle. Their less solid and perhaps even less accurate accounts are made so much more readable by the authors’ (perhaps unconscious) admissions of their own weaknesses. Sunny Jim plods cautiously on through his long and distinguished political ...

Short Cuts

Chris Mullin: Parliamentary Priorities

24 May 2018
... number of female MPs. Since the war there has always been a handful of formidable female MPs – Barbara Castle, Bessie Braddock, Margaret Thatcher, Gwyneth Dunwoody – but never enough to change the boys’ club culture. It was not until the Blair revolution of 1997, which saw the election of 101 Labour women, that the tide began to turn. Since then ...

Short Cuts

Patrick Wright: The Moral of Brenley Corner

6 December 2018
... de Gaulle was right after all, we are not ready for the Common Market, not on the A2 anyway.’ Barbara Castle, Labour’s minister for transport in the late 1960s, had refused to yield to Kentish requests that the M2 be extended all the way to Dover, but the bypasses were on the way by 28 June 1973, when the conservative MP for Canterbury, David ...

Enfield was nothing

P.N. Furbank: Norman Lewis

18 December 2003
The Tomb in Seville 
by Norman Lewis.
Cape, 150 pp., £14.99, November 2003, 0 224 07120 3
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... he wanted one of ‘British woman’, one asks oneself, whom would he have chosen as his model: Barbara Cartland, Edith Evans or Barbara Castle? His remark that ‘to a Vietnamese all Europeans looked exactly the same’ demands much probing.) But a great strength of his writing, here as elsewhere, is ...
8 December 1994
Years of Hope: Diaries, Papers and Letters, 1940-62 
by Tony Benn, edited by Ruth Winstone.
Hutchinson, 442 pp., £25, September 1994, 0 09 178534 0
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... often in lockable, leather-bound volumes. He generated even more words than Dick Cross-man and Barbara Castle, so many that the work of selection and editorship has been too much for him to attempt alone. He has therefore always relied on an academic editor. Unlike Addison, he has not apparently exercised editorial control over the selection, nor have ...

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