A CAMPAIGN to put up a statue of trailblazing former Blackburn MP Barbara Castle in the town centre is launched today.

A special appeal hopes to raise £50,000 from the public to pay for the high-profile landmark paying tribute to her contribution to the town and the role of women in public life.

The former Labour cabinet minister was the Blackburn MP from 1945 to 1979, a life peer and a Euro MP in a long and celebrated political career.

Supporters, who want a lifelike statue located in a prominent position in the town centre, chose International Women’s Day for the appeal launch in memory of one of the 20th century’s most important female politicians.

The campaign has been backed by her successors Jack Straw and Kate Hollern.

A possible location is outside Blackburn College’s Victoria Building.

It is the third attempt to mark Lady Castle’s legacy with a physical tribute after £19,000 was raised by the local Labour party in the 1980s for a community centre named after her and a failed bid for a statue in 2004.

Now Ewood councillor Maureen Bateson has launched a social media appeal for £50,000 to top up this amount via the site https://www.gofundme.com/BarbaraCastle.

Baroness Castle, who died aged 91 in 2002, held five high-profile government posts and as transport minister introduced the breathalyser, confirmed the 70mph maximum speed limit and legislated for seat belts on new cars.

Close friend Cllr Bateson, who has been championing International Women’s Day, said: “I’m delighted to be supporting this campaign.

“As one of the country’s most famous female politicians the statue could quite easily have gone to London. Blackburn is by far the best place for it.

“She chose the title Baroness of Blackburn when she was invited to enter the House of Lords.

“This is the perfect time for us to honour somebody who was such a force for good and a champion of women’s rights in her unique style.”

Blackburn with Darwen Council will work with supporters of the project to ensure that the statue can be commissioned once the full £69,000 is secured.

Mr Straw, her assistant before becoming Blackburn MP from 1979 to 2015 and a senior cabinet minister, said: “This is a great idea, far better than naming a dual carriageway or health centre after her.

“Barbara did an immense amount for Blackburn and for women in public life.”

Mrs Hollern said: “Barbara was a giant figure in Blackburn politics, arguably the most significant figure in the political history of the town.

“Her role in advancing women’s working conditions was without doubt crucial.

“As this year is 100 years since women were given the right to vote, it is important to remember what Barbara achieved in encouraging and inspiring other women to get involved in public life.”

Former Rossendale and Darwen MP Janet Anderson, another former assistant to Lady Castle, said: “This is fantastic idea. Barbara would have been very proud.”

Former borough council Tory leader and current Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen Colin Rigby said: “She was significant figure in Blackburn and national public life. This is appropriate as long as no council taxpayers’ money is involved.”

Part of the town’s orbital route and its Barbara Castle Way health centre are already named after her.

Blackburn has two town-centre statues of famous men, William Gladstone in Northgate and William Hornby outside the town hall, but only one woman – Queen Victoria in the Cathedral Square.

When Mrs Castle was born in 1910 women did not have the vote, yet by the end of the 1960s she was consider one of the four most powerful people in the country.