Nelson Mandela: From 'terrorist' to tea with the Queen
Nelson Mandela: Once vilified by the Government, he will be acclaimed as a hero this week
Tuesday 09 July 1996
'This hero worship is very much misplaced'- John Carlisle MP, on the BBC screening of the Free Nelson Mandela concert in 1990
'The ANC is a typical terrorist organisation ... Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land' - Margaret Thatcher, 1987
'How much longer will the Prime Minister allow herself to be kicked in the face by this black terrorist?' - Terry Dicks MP, mid-1980s
'Nelson Mandela should be shot' - Teddy Taylor MP, mid-1980s
The fuss that Parliament is to make over Nelson Mandela this week will mark a stark contrast with the 20-year Commons silence that followed his imprisonment in 1962.
On Thursday, the President of South Africa is to be accorded the rare honour of addressing both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall, when ministers, MPs and peers will gather to pay homage to a world statesman.
But an Independent survey of Commons Hansard records suggests that even in the immediate aftermath of his imprison- ment, Mr Mandela's name was not uttered in the chamber.
Hansard Indices, which cover speeches, statements and oral questions and answers in the Commons, as well as written questions and answers, suggest that the first time Nelson Mandela's name was mentioned in the House was on 9 March 1983, in a question from Labour MP Ken Eastham.
In his autobiography, Conflict of Loyalty, former foreign secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe says that even as late as October 1987, at a press conference following the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Vancouver, Mrs Thatcher was quick to dismiss the African National Congress as "a typical terrorist organisation". Sir Geoffrey added sadly: "Absolutism still held sway."
But Mrs Thatcher was expressing a common view on the right of the Tory party.
In the mid-Eighties, Conservative backbench MP Teddy Taylor said: "Nelson Mandela should be shot" - though he later claimed it was meant jokingly. "Unfortunately, I do still regard him as an ex-terrorist," he said two years ago.
In 1990, when Mr Mandela declined to meet Mrs Thatcher on a trip to London, Conservative MP Terry Dicks asked: "How much longer will the Prime Minister allow herself to be kicked in the face by this black terrorist?"
John Carlisle, Tory MP for Luton North, was furious at the BBC's screening of the 1990 Mandela concert in London. "The BBC have just gone bananas over this and seem to be joining those who are making Mandela out to be a Christ-like figure," Mr Carlisle said.
"Many will remember his record and the record of his wife as they take the podium. This hero worship is misplaced."
That same year, another Tory MP, Andrew Hunter, now chairman of the Conservative backbench committee on Northern Ireland, called for an investigation into alleged secret links between Mr Mandela's African National Congress and the IRA.
Labour frontbencher Brian Wilson yesterday challenged John Bercow, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Buckingham and former political adviser to Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, to offer regret for the abuse that had been heaped on Mr Mandela by the Federation of Conservative Students when he was its chairman.
He said FCS conferences had been littered with slogans like "Hang Nelson Mandela", and Mr Wilson added: "Mr Bercow must now make it clear that he deeply regrets the behaviour of FCS members.
"Silence would only show that we've still got the same old Tories with the same old story of intolerance and bigotry."
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