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Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Ed Miliband's Thatcher apartheid hypocrisy

Well, maybe not personal hypocrisy, but certainly Labour hypocrisy. Mr Miliband today told Parliament that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made "the wrong judgement about...sanctions in South Africa".

As a kid in the 80s, I certainly thought that she had made the wrong judgement in opposing sanctions, with her attitude summed up in a comment about "not (being) in favour of trade sanctions partly because, even if fully effective, they would harm the people we are most concerned about - the Africans and those white South Africans who are having to maintain some standard of decency there."

Except that comment wasn't made by Margaret Thatcher, it was made by the Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson, soon after his government had reneged on its full-throated support for sanctions upon taking office in 1964.

The same happened again when Labour governed from 1974 to 1979, when it did absolutely nothing to bring in sanctions against South Africa.

Of course, the very minute Labour entered opposition in 1979, it started campaigning romantically for the same sanctions that it had itself just spent five years not-introducing; throughout the 80s Labour adopted a principled posture that, while it enraptured a generation of teenagers, sat ill with the reality of a Labour government whose leading lights (Denis Healey, Michael Foot, Tony Benn) had themselves done nothing to impose sanctions on South Africa.

Labour's myth is that it heroically fought apartheid while the wicked Tories didn't, and its record in government shows that it is just that, a myth. If Margaret Thatcher was wrong to oppose sanctions, then so was Labour, but don't expect Labour to admit that today.

But then what else does one expect of a party that, in 1968, stripped thousands of British citizens of their citizenship ( Reminds me again why I'm Liberal, not Labour...

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