Twitter fact-check: David Cameron didn't want to "Hang Nelson Mandela" in the 80s

The prime minister did go on a dodgy trade trip to South Africa in 1989, but tweets alleging that he wanted Mandela executed while a student are mistaken.

As the news of Nelson Mandela's death broke, there were inevitable reminders from the left - and some on the right - that the Conservative Party's stance towards the apartheid regime in South Africa during the 1980s was not, to say the least, something its current members would be happy with.

Most infamously, there were the "Hang Nelson Mandela" posters, pamphlets, badges, and songs. One image in particular - you can see it above - contains two particular allegations about David Cameron's time as a young Tory in the 1980s. You can see it being passed around on Twitter right now.

The first claim is untrue. The "Hang Nelson Mandela" merchandise was produced by a faction of the notoriously extreme Federation of Conservative Students, an organisation that was fiercely libertarian and anti-communist. Former member Harry Phibbs - now a councillor for Hammersmith & Fulham - said its members were often frustrated that "the Thatcher government wasn't Thatcherite enough".

In 1985, when the image above was created, Cameron would have been 19, and by all accounts he was pretty uninterested in politics while at university. He wasn't close to being a part of the FCS, let alone a "top member" of the Tory party's most radical youth group. Phibbs has explained to the Independent that the images were created by a small splinter faction as a parody of the "Free Nelson Mandela" badges that many left-wing students were wearing at the time - there's no evidence that Cameron was part of this faction.

Phibbs, by the way, also wrote an article for the FCS paper in 1986 alleging that Harold McMillan was a war criminal for cooperating with the Soviet Union in WWII, a charge so ridiculous that it gave the thoroughly fed-up Norman Tebbitt no choice but to shut the FCS down.

The second charge, that Cameron took an all-expenses paid trip to South Africa in 1989 while working on policy for the Conservatives, and that it was paid for by a lobbying company that opposed sanctions, is true. Many Tories opposed sanctions during the 1980s, something a lot of them - including Cameron - have regretted since then.

In 2006, 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. The fact that there is so much to celebrate in the new South Africa is not in spite of Mandela and the ANC, it is because of them - and we Conservatives should say so clearly today.

It's your choice how much you wish to believe the sincerity of his apology for what was a murky time in the Conservative Party's recent past, but he has apologised.

The misleading image being passed around social media.

I'm a mole, innit.

Getty
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On the "one-state" solution to Israel and Palestine, what did Donald Trump mean?

The US President seemed to dismantle two decades of foreign policy in his press conference with Benjamin Netanyahu. 

If the 45th President of the United States wasn’t causing enough chaos at home, he has waded into the world’s most intricate conflict – Israel/Palestine. 

Speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump made an apparently off-the-cuff comment that has reverberated around the world. 

Asked what he thought about the future of the troubled region, he said: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like.”

To the uninformed observer, this comment might seem fairly tame by Trump standards. But it has the potential to dismantle the entire US policy on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Trump said he could "live with" either a two-state or one-state solution. 

The "two-state solution" has become the foundation of the Israel-Palestine peace process, and is a concept that has existed for decades. At its simplest, it's the idea that an independent state of Palestine can co-exist next to an independent Israel. The goal is supported by the United Nations, by the European Union, by the Arab League, and by, until now, the United States. 

Although the two-state solution is controversial in Israel, many feel the alternative is worse. The idea of a single state would fuel the imagination of those on the religious right, who wish to expand into Palestinian territory, while presenting liberal Zionists with a tricky demographic maths problem - Arabs are already set to outnumber Jews in Israel and the occupied territories by 2020. Palestinians are divided on the benefits of a two-state solution. 

I asked Yossi Mekelberg, Professor of International Relations at Regent's University and an associate fellow at Chatham House, to explain exactly what went down at the Trump-Netanyahu press conference:

Did Donald Trump actually mean to say what he said?

“Generally with President Trump we are into an era where you are not so sure whether it is something that happens off the hoof, that sounds reasonable to him while he’s speaking, or whether maybe he’s cleverer than all of us put together and he's just pretending to be flippant. It is so dramatically opposite from the very professorial Barack Obama, where the words were weighted and the language was rich, and he would always use the right word.” 

So has Trump just ditched a two-state solution?

“All of a sudden the American policy towards the Israel-Palestine conflict, a two-state solution, isn’t the only game in town.”

Netanyahu famously didn’t get on with Obama. Is Trump good news for him?

“He was quite smug during the press conference. But while Netanyahu wanted a Republican President, he didn’t want this Republican. Trump isn’t instinctively an Israel supporter – he does what is good for Trump. And he’s volatile. Netanyahu has enough volatility in his own cabinet.”

What about Trump’s request that Netanyahu “pull back on settlements a little bit”?

“Netanyahu doesn’t mind. He’s got mounting pressure in his government to keep building. He will welcome this because it shows even Trump won’t give them a blank cheque to build.”

Back to the one-state solution. Who’s celebrating?

“Interestingly, there was a survey just published, the Palestinian-Israel Pulse, which found a majority of Israelis and a large minority of Palestinians support a two-state solution. By contrast, if you look at a one-state solution, only 36 per cent of Palestinians and 19 per cent of Israel Jews support it.”

 

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.