THE words Castle and Tower featured prominently this week in parliament. This was nothing to do with medieval history however, but with two figures who will surely go down in history as people who changed things for the better.

Let's talk about the Castle first. Barbara Castle died recently, and a commemoration of her life was held this in the very building where the Labour Party was founded, Westminster Methodist Hall, across the road from the House of Commons.

The event was hosted by Neil Kinnock and had a line up consisting of the big beasts of Labour politics: Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Jack Straw, Glenys Kinnock and Michael Foot. But there was also a touching personal tribute from her niece, who described how Barbara's fierce questioning of suitors drove away a few potential boyfriends. She also organised an annual ‘voice projection competition' for all her nephews and nieces in the hope that they might follow her into politics.
Michael Foot, before he became MP for Ebbw Vale, tried to teach Barbara to drive in the 1930s. It all ended in tears when she pranged his beloved Austin 7. He reflected on the irony that 30 years later she became the Transport Minister who brought in the breathalyser.

Other speakers reminded the audience that Barbara was, above all, a fighter. Her autobiography was called Fighting All the Way. In the relatively short time she was in government, her achievements were remarkable. For example between 1974 and 1976, when the government barely had a majority in the Commons, she brought in the Equal Pay Act, Earnings Related Pensions and Child Benefit. In 1964 she set up the Department for Overseas Development.
Perhaps most surprising was the observation of the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who was her special adviser in the 1970s.

Behind him on the stage, hidden beneath a red velvet cloth, was a sculpted head. I wondered whether it was the recently decapitated head from the marble statue of Mrs. Thatcher.

In fact it was a new bust of Barbara commissioned by the House of Commons. Jack Straw revealed that despite their polarised politics, Barbara had a touching fellow feeling for Margaret Thatcher. Like her, she had fought her way to the top in the macho world of politics. But she also had a wistful sense that Mrs. Thatcher was first where she might have been.

She may have succeeded Harold Wilson as Labour Prime Minister had she not fallen out with the trade unions in the late 1960s. This was the period that allowed Jim Callaghan, the MP for Cardiff South, to emerge as the probable successor.

From Castle to Tower. The man who led the miners of Tower Colliery in saving their own pit was in the Commons this week launching a book about the worker's buy-out and his life.

Tyrone O'Sullivan is an authentic working class hero who typically will not accept that praise, but insists that the men and their families were the real heroes. But there is no doubt that Tyrone's passionate leadership was crucial in persuading the miners to plough their savings and redundancy money into a mine which British Coal said could not pay.

Seven and a half years later they are still going. Tyrone was introduced by the excellent Ann Clwyd MP, who spent 29 continuous hours underground in 1994 in a protest to keep the mine open.

Tower and castle, Tyrone and Barbara, two people linked by a common trait; a determination to fight to leave the world a better place that they found it.