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Cameron's crocodile tears

History tells us the PM's tribute to Mandela is pure lies and hypocrisy, says PETER FROST

David Cameron and his coalition partners paying tribute to Nelson Mandela would have you to believe they and their heroes had always been on the side of Mandela and his battle against the obscenity of apartheid.

It is all lies of course. Listen to Maggie Thatcher, Cameron's greatest inspiration on the great African leader and the organisation he led to victory. She is speaking in 1987 when Mandela was still in prison.

"The African National Congress is a typical terrorist organisation. Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud cuckoo land."

Here are a couple of other quotes from some other of Cameron's Tory forebears. Leading Tory Teddy Taylor voiced the thoughts of many conservative MPs and ministers when he announced in the mid-1980s that "Nelson Mandela should be shot."

"How much longer will the prime minister allow herself to be kicked in the face by this black terrorist?" asked another keen Thatcher supporter, Terry Dicks MP.

Young Tories and the Federation of Conservative Students (FCS) were among the most vocal in their support for apartheid.

Mark McGregor, who has held countless high Tory party offices, and current Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow were among the FCS key players.

They proposed motions calling for Nelson Mandela to be executed as a terrorist. They wore lapel badges screaming: "Hang Nelson Mandela."

So what was a young David Cameron, ex-Conservative student and by then a rising star of the Conservative Party research department, doing and saying at the time?

Less than two years after Maggie had condemned the ANC as terrorist and thrown her weight against economic sanctions to defeat the apartheid regime our present Prime Minister set off on an all-expenses-paid trip to apartheid South Africa.

The trip was organised and funded by Strategy Network International, a firm that had been specially set up by apartheid supporters with the sole aim of lobbying to end international trade sanctions against the apartheid regime.

Boycotts of South African goods in Britain and across the world were hitting the apartheid economy hard. Now the worldwide campaign for international sanctions was gaining ground everywhere - except that is among the British Conservative Party.

The lobbyists and their political guests like our present Prime Minister had the support of many large British companies and banks which were much more interested in their South African profits than the plight of exploited black workers. Or indeed jailed leaders like Nelson Mandela.

With the opposition to apartheid gaining ground civil servants, political advisers and researchers were being told not to go on such obvious propaganda trips.

Cameron arrogantly ignored such advice and set off on this sanction-busting junket showing his support for the obscene racist regime and his utter contempt for those who were campaigning for a free and democratic South Africa.

None of us deeply involved in the Anti-Apartheid Movement in Britain at the time will ever forget the young Tories with their T-shirts, badges and stickers demanding the noose for Mandela and his South African Communist Party and ANC comrades.

There is no doubt that the support for the apartheid state from the likes of Thatcher, Cameron and many other Tories helped the cruel system of white rule in South Africa to survive as long as it did.

Their support also helped keep Mandela and other activists behind bars inside the vile prisons of the apartheid state.

 

Thatcher supported the apartheid government when it was at its deadliest and most evil. Her oft-expressed view was that the apartheid regime was a bulwark against communism.

Remarks from FW de Klerk at the time of Thatcher's death spell out just how important her support was. They show how influential those South Africans believe she was on the fate of the last bastion of white-minority rule in Africa.

It was just as important of course for them to welcome the rising generation of Tory politicians to be sold the apartheid lie. Men like David Cameron.

The apartheid state was killing many of its dissident citizens in the late 1980s with state terrorism at home, as well as with illegal security force actions abroad. Both were legitimate tactics in the Tory's view.

Thatcher and her Cabinet gave tacit support to the postal bombings and cross-border raids on neighbouring states accused of harbouring guerilla fighters, and so too did the young David Cameron enjoying his all-expenses-paid trip.

Now the Tories and their apologists in the right-wing media are trying to rewrite history. Suddenly Thatcher and Cameron are being portrayed as champions of black South Africans and opponents of apartheid.

So has the Conservative Party really changed? Of course not.

Many of Cameron's fellow Tories who used to wear Hang Nelson Mandela badges at university are now sitting behind him in Parliament today. Others are sitting in the Lords or pontificating in the Telegraph or the Mail.

Today Cameron is paying tribute to Mandela and so he should. But sorry Mr Prime Minister - your crocodile tears won't fool anybody. Unfortunately for you some of us have long memories.

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