Thatcher tried to stop British university honoring Mandela


Margaret Thatcher’s government attempted to thwart the University of Lancaster’s plan to award an honorary degree to Nelson Mandela, who at the time was 22 years into his jail term under the South African apartheid regime, documents show.

Worried the move may embarrass the British royal family, Foreign Office minister Richard Luce wrote to the university in 1982, urging it to “quietly drop” plans to have Princess Alexandra, who was then chancellor of the university, award Mandela the honorary doctorate.

In the mid-1980s, Thatcher famously likened the African National Congress (ANC) to a “typical terrorist organization” and was steadfast in her opposition to comprehensive sanctions against South Africa, where her husband had business interests. However, Thatcher did speak out against apartheid on principle, decrying the system of exclusion as unjust and in conflict with her beliefs in a meritocracy.

In 1986, the Tory leadership banned the Federation of Conservative Students (FCS) after its members began wearing stickers reading: “Hang Nelson Mandela.”