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UK Politics

Cameron apologises for Thatcher apartheid policies

David Cameron has distanced himself from one of Margaret Thatcher's key foreign policies, saying that she was wrong to have called the ANC "terrorists" during the apartheid era.

The Conservative leader, who met Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg last week, said his party had made "mistakes" in the past by failing to introduce sanctions against apartheid in South Africa.

Lady Thatcher opposed international calls to introduce sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa and fought a bitter battle with campaigners in Britain. Writing in today's Observer, Mr Cameron said that Mr Mandela was "one of the greatest men alive". He said: "The mistakes my party made in the past with respect to relations with the ANC and sanctions on South Africa make it all the more important to listen now."

His remarks were sharply criticised by Sir Bernard Ingham, Lady Thatcher's former press secretary. He questioned Mr Cameron's Tory credentials, remarking: "I wonder whether David Cameron is a Conservative." But his comments were welcomed by veterans of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, who fought a fierce political battle with the Tories during the 1980s, as violence escalated in South Africa's townships.

This is not the first time that Mr Cameron has sought to distance himself from the policies of Lady Thatcher. In a reference to her remark, "there is no such thing as society", he has said: "There is such a thing as society; it's just not the same as the state."