Posts Tagged ‘Lancaster House’

Barbara Castle Talks about Leading an Anti-Apartheid Demonstration during Commonwealth Summit

May 12, 2016

This is another clip I found of an historic Labour politician. Yesterday I found one of the Nye Bevan talking about the foundation of the NHS, which is even now being attacked and privatised piecemeal by the Conservatives. This is a clip of Barbara Castle, one of Britain’s most famous female politicos. Lobster published an article a few years ago about James Callaghan’s period as head of the Labour party and Prime Minister in the 1970s. The article said at one point that Castle was one of his rivals as head of the party, and could possibly have become Britain’s first woman prime minister. No-one really knows quite what would have happened, if something had occurred, despite the various ‘counterfactual’ history books informing us what could have happened if Hitler had one the War, or Napoleon won a particular battle. It’s possible that Castle would have been a better premier than Callaghan, had she won, and certainly she would have been much better for the country had she been the first female leader of Her Majesty’s Government. It would, at any rate, have taken away the Tory’s claim to be more progressive than they really are, because of Maggie’s leadership. Thatcher has been held up as a feminist pioneer, who should be admired and supported by every woman, despite the fact that Thatcher didn’t see herself as a feminist, and her policies largely hit women the hardest.

In this clip, Castle talks about her work in the early 1960s leading a 48 hour silent vigil outside Lancaster House in protest at the Sharpeville massacre of Black protesters by the South African government. She states that she spent two days in the basement of the House of Commons plotting it with Abdul Minty, the head of the anti-apartheid campaign. There was a Commonwealth meeting at the Lancaster House, and Castle and Minty organised the vigil to put pressure on the Commonwealth leaders to have South Africa thrown out. They organised the vigil to be carried out by people in two hours shifts, everyone just standing there in silence. Coffee and other refreshments were provided. She states that during the night, some journos came to see if they really would go all through the night with the protest. They believed it was just a hoax. They were wrong. ‘But’, she says, ‘we were there.’

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