British Conservative leader: Thatcher was wrong to support apartheid

Observer on Thatcher and apartheid

From The Observer in England:

Cameron: we got it wrong on apartheid

· Tory leader dumps key Thatcher legacy
· Ex-PM’s allies attack ‘terrorists’ U-turn

Ned Temko, chief political correspondent

Sunday August 27, 2006

David Cameron dramatically denounced one of Margaret Thatcher’s flagship foreign policies last night, saying that she was wrong to have branded Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress as ‘terrorists’ and to have opposed sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa.

The Tory leader, who met Mandela in Johannesburg last week, made his most forceful break yet with the Thatcher years in an article written for today’s Observer.

His remarks were welcomed by veterans of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, who engaged in a fierce political battle with Thatcher during the 1980s as violence escalated in South Africa’s townships while she resisted growing international pressure for sanctions to be imposed.

But his intervention drew sharp criticism from some of the ex-Prime Minister’s closest allies.

Her former spokesman, Sir Bernard Ingham, said: ‘I wonder whether David Cameron is a Conservative.’ …

Lady – then Mrs – Thatcher, in close alliance with American President Ronald Reagan, championed a policy of ‘constructive engagement’ with Pretoria in order to urge reform on a government which they saw as a bulwark against Soviet-backed radicalism.

To the fury of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, she described the ANC as ‘terrorists’.

In 1987, she said that anyone who believed the ANC would ever rule South Africa was ‘living in cloud-cuckoo-land’. …

Labour’s Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Hain, who was a prominent anti-apartheid activist, reacted to the comments with a mix of scepticism and bitterness.

‘I remember Conservative students of David Cameron’s generation wearing “Hang Nelson Mandela” badges on campus,’ he said.

‘For those of us in the struggle – a bitter struggle, a life-and-death struggle – the Tories were the enemy as much as Pretoria.

On the one hand: better late than never, one might say.

On the other hand one might wonder: IF the apartheid regime would have managed to hang on with US and British support until today, and the ANC would still be illegal opposition, would Mr Cameron then have denounced Thatcher now as well?

Is this principle or political expediency?

Cameron smoked cannabis: here.

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