A Tory MP was behind a successful legal bid to block an honour for Nelson Mandela. Just two months after the ANC leader had been released from prison in 1990, Bob Blackman took Brent councillors to the High Court to stop them awarding him the ‘freedom of the borough’ when he visited the area’s Wembley Stadium for a marquee concert broadcast in 60 countries.
With the borough set to host an event regarded by Mandela himself as an official international reception, opposition led by Blackman meant that Labour and Liberal Democrat groups on the council came just one vote short of the two-thirds supermajority required to confer the award. When Labour members attempted use the mandate of their simple majority to proceed on a semi-official basis, Blackman obtained an injunction from the High Court.
His actions resulted in the local Labour leader and race relations adviser Dorman Long and mayor Len Williams (a retired blind man) being lumbered with a legal bill of £11,000 — that’s more than £20,000 in today’s money. Mandela was finally awarded the hand-lettered scroll and engraved casket after a unanimous vote in June this year.
When he finally took to the stage on 16 April 1990, the first eight minutes were taken up by a standing ovation. Just look at that smile …
Blackman — who also wants to reintroduce homophobic Section 28 — is surely an exemplar of the Tories’ ‘Nasty Party’ tendency.