Born in 1954 and educated at Jews Free School in Camden, Barbara Roche’s attitude to equality and diversity coupled with her natural aptitude for public speaking and debate allowed her to flourish in both of her areas of passion: politics and the law. When it came to choosing a path for university, the world of politics triumphed, with Barbara opting to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford. Here, in carrying out her role as President of the JCR and with her continued development of her already impressive debating skills, Barbara was honing the exact set of skills that would lend themselves to a career at the Bar. Recognising this, and with her appetite for the law not yet satiated, Barbara decided to train as a lawyer.
She spent around a year at Law School before passing her Bar Finals, and swiftly found a pupillage at a chambers. As can be expected by a woman as talented and ambitious as Barbara, the work here came in thick and fast and, as the chambers happened often to specialise in domestic violence work, she developed a propensity for helping others. From here, a job in a law centre seemed a natural move to make, and she therefore took up a job at a North Lewisham law centre. Here, the work she did for the community – she did most of the advocacy for the centre, even taking one case to the Court of Appeal – created a perfect foundation for a segue into politics. Barbara decided to realise her long-honed ambition to become a Member of Parliament. Her first bid to enter the political world came with a failed attempt at election as Labour MP for the safe Conservative seat of South West Surrey in 1987. However, success came in 1992, when Barbara became MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, a position which she held until 2005. She was able to translate the skills she had gleaned from her legal career to her work as an MP, which was also informed by her enormous sense of empathy for a diverse scope of people, allowing her to best serve all members of her constituency.
Throughout her political career, Barbara held many positions of great importance, such as Minister of State for Asylum and Immigration, and Financial Secretary to the Treasury. Additionally, Barbara was a staunch champion of women’s rights, and, upon her elevation to Minister for Women, she took great pains to promote family oriented policies and gender equality. She also set up the Castle Awards, which served to recognise those employers who were committed to equal pay. Her career is widely regarded to have been almost constantly successful, and her continued popularity in political circles on a personal level serves to demonstrate the high esteem in which she has always been held.