you have suffered at the hands of the south african state; you end up spending 27 years in prison for your part in trying to bring down the apartheid regime. you even end up married to a woman who probably comes closest to destroying your reputation. none of this matters as you are nelson mandela, and you got to be the first democratically elected president of south africa. not only that but you got to do it while wearing your favourite batik style shirts.
while president you manage to reintegrate south africa into the community of nations. you manage to oversee a successful transition from apartheid to majority rule. even when you retire from the presidency you are man enough to admit you could have done more about hiv/aids in south africa.
although you have retired you still manage to attack as an international statesman, helping smooth over the differences between libya and the west. you speak out for peace, you speak out for africa and you speak out about hiv/aids.
you are probably one of the few people in the world who is both recognisable and respected. you have been honoured by all and sundry.
you are nelson mandela.
true this amount of reverence costs people such as bono will be quick to visit you in order to get credibility for themselves.
but what has nelson done to deserve a visit it from david “hoodie” cameron? obviously this is david’s attempt to usurp some of the international statesman role that tony blair does so well.
cameron is there to discuss the challenges that face africa, this being a “key part of modern conservatism”, though you have to wonder why as they care about the poor in africa as they surely don’t care about the poor in the uk.
he also pointed out that mandela’s "insights into the challenges facing south africa, the continent of africa and the wider world" were "hugely valuable".
perhaps being in the company of one of the most respected statesman of the modern age has forced cameron into spitting out platitudes and soundbites that say nothing meaningful or new, though this is probably a result of not having much to say but a desire to be seen next to a great man.
however if this is the first step in cameron’s plans to make the tories a less parochial party and one that welcomes the diversity of the world then perhaps it is a very canny move on the conservative leader’s part. by engaging with african and african issues the conservatives can appeal to the young and trendy who want to help africa (just think of the votes you can get from the live8 crowds) and of course in this act of diplomacy you signal that you are moving beyond the previous tendency to remain aloof from the world and move beyond the interests that have crippled them over europe.
the question is does david cameron need to do this? more and more there is a distinct chance that the voters will say goodbye to new labour and give the tories a chance to see if they can do it better. so if you do not follow through with these concerns you run the risk of quickly losing those new voters.
as blair returns from his holidays he is facing more and more pressure from his own party to move on, all of which plays into the tories hands.
will a meeting with nelson mandela elevate cameron in the eyes of the country? i would like to think, as the track record of the tories is that they really don’t care for anyone other than themselves. but in a world obsessed with style over content i think cameron has scored a serious point.
as for nelson mandela i think he has suffered enough and he should never have to meet a tory mp again!å