Nelson Mandela had many gifts, chief among them the ability to forgive. Equally important was an ability to communicate with his political foes, even to respect them when respect was due.
Mandela was fond of a particular saying: “It seems impossible until it’s done.” So he could sit down with de Klerk, once his implacable enemy, and map out a way forward which secured freedom without bloodshed.
Last week there was another example of respect between “enemies”, and from an unlikely source.
Norman Tebbit was reminiscing on Radio Four about the early days of the Thatcher government.
He noticed that a bust of Ernie Bevin was missing from its place in the entrance to the Foreign Office.
He asked where it was. “We took it down because we thought you wouldn’t want it there”, was the answer. “That man was the greatest Foreign Secretary this country has known,” Tebbit said, “Put it back.”
Now we have to see whether or not South Africa truly is a Rainbow Nation.
Perhaps Mandela was the glue which held disparate sections together, sections which will now pull apart.
But as I watched the massed mourners, black and white side-by-side, sometimes embracing, equally sorrowful and respectful of one another, I felt hopeful.
:: The issue of the Italian woman whose baby is up for adoption here in Britain has made me ashamed of my country.
She came here for two weeks on a course and during it experienced a mental health episode. She was pregnant.
British authorities held her in a psychiatric unit against her will for 10 weeks. Imagine being in such a unit surrounded by people who do not speak your language.
Not the recipe for a peaceful pregnancy. At the end of that time she was refused breakfast one day because, they told her, she was to have a Caesarean section.
No one had asked her permission or sat down and discussed it with her. A closed court had decided her fate.
They took her baby, not allowing her to breast feed or bond, and now it is placed for adoption with a British couple.
The arrogance of the whole affair stuns me. I do not know whether or not she is a fit parent.
What I do know is that she is an Italian citizen and the disposal of her baby should have been left to authority in her own country. Family courts are keen on placing children with their own ethnicity.
Why, then, allow a child to grow up believing it is British, only to find out, if it chooses to seek its roots, that it is not? Why, during that first 10 weeks, was she not stabilised, sedated and flown back to Italy . . . in a chartered flight if necessary?
It would have been cheaper than keeping a baby fostered for 15 months at £400 per week and the legal costs which will ensue as the mother fights for her baby in court, with the Italian government threatening to get involved.
The whole thing is Kafkaesque and chilling.
:: I yield to no one in my admiration for the men and women of our fighting services, but I think the military authorities had to prosecute the Royal Marine who executed an injured Taliban fighter. The judge told him “This was not an action taken in the heat of battle or immediately after you had been engaged in a firefight.
Nor were you under any immediate threat – the video footage shows that you were in complete control of yourself, standing around for several minutes and not apparently worried that you might be at risk of attack by other insurgents”.
Given the horror of combat in Afghanistan, there are extenuating circumstances and I hope the sentence will be reduced on appeal but sentence there had to be.
However, I disagree profoundly with the decision to reveal his name.
Now his family are targets for every would-be jihadist.
Think of that other case being played out at the moment, the murder of Lee Rigby for no other reason than that he was a soldier.
There are dangerous idiots about. By naming the offender, the judges have surely increased the risk of revenge attacks on his family, a worse punishment than anything the court could bestow.
:: As I’ve said before, I don’t really mind the look of wind farms.
I just question their efficacy. Over a year they reportedly contribute about 5-7% of demand.
But figures from the National Grid seem to show that when demand was at its highest, wind was able to satisfy only 1.5% of that demand, perhaps because the coldest weather is often associated with high pressure and low wind speeds. The green lobby tells us green energy brings jobs but, of more than 100 major contracts awarded in 20 offshore projects, only a minute percentage – 4% or 5% – have reportedly been awarded to British companies.
If that’s true, a hell of a lot of our money is going elsewhere. The trouble is that we never get an impartial view. Figures, projections, promises are all different depending from whence they come – climate changers or climate deniers.
I can’t believe a word the Energy Secretary Ed Davey says because green is his god.
So I simply hug my camping stove, the one I bought for when the coal-fired power stations shut down and the lights go out, and hope there’s someone in government who knows what they’re doing.