Thatcher – and Many Still Active Tories – Did Support Apartheid 895

I am delighted that Sir Patrick Wright, former head of the Diplomatic Service, has confirmed that Margaret Thatcher did support apartheid. There has been a polite media airbrushing of this aspect of Tory history. For the first two years of my life in the FCO I spent every single day trying to undermine Thatcher’s support for apartheid. As I published last year of the FCO’s new official history:

Salmon acquits Thatcher of actually supporting apartheid. I would dispute this. I was only a Second Secretary but the South Africa (Political) desk was just me, and I knew exactly what was happening. My own view was that Thatcher was a strong believer in apartheid, but reluctantly accepted that in the face of international opposition, especially from the United States, it would have to be dismantled. Her hatred of Mandela and of the ANC was absolute. It is an undeniable statement that Thatcher hated the ANC and was highly sympathetic towards the apartheid regime.

By contrast the Tory FCO junior ministers at the time, including Malcolm Rifkind and Lynda Chalker, shared the absolute disgust at apartheid that is felt by any decent human being. The Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe was somewhere between these two positions, but very anxious indeed not to anger Thatcher. South Africa was an issue in which Thatcher took an extreme interest and was very, very committed. Not in a good way.

British diplomats were almost banned from speaking to any black people at all. Thatcher favoured the Bantustan or Homelands policy, so an exception was made for Gatsha Buthelezi, the Zulu chief who was regarded as anti-ANC and prepared to oppose sanctions and be satisfied with a separate Zulu “homeland” for his Inkatha movement and essentially accept apartheid exclusions. That may be unfair on him, but it was the policy of the UK government to steer in that direction. Our Consulate General in Johannesburg was permitted to talk to black trades unionists, and that was our main angle in to the black resistance movement. These contacts were made by the excellent Tony Gooch and Stuart Gregson, and before them the equally excellent Terry Curran, then my immediate boss in London. Neither Terry nor Tony were “fast-track” public school diplomats. None of those talked to black South Africans at all.

I flew off the handle when I discovered, when dealing with the accounts of the Embassy in Pretoria/Capetown (a migratory capital), that the British Ambassador, Patrick Moberly, had entertained very few black people indeed in the Residence and the vast majority of Embassy social functions were whites only. In 1985 most of the black people who got in to the British Ambassador’s residence in South Africa were the servants. I recall distinctly the astonishment in the FCO that the quiet and mild-mannered young man at the side desk had suddenly lost his rag and got excited about something that seemed to them axiomatic. Black people as guests in the Residence in Pretoria? No, Craig, I was told, we speak with black people in Johannesburg. Different culture there.

Wright’s account collaborates mine both in general and in detail, eg on being banned from any contact with the ANC. Eventually we managed, as a tentative first step and unknown to No.10, to arrange a meeting, ostensibly by accident in the margins of a conference, between myself and a brilliant young man from the newly launched trades union federation named Cyril Ramaphosa. I wonder what happened to him? 🙂 I was the recipient of his justified ire at Tory government policy.

Tories who actively supported apartheid are still very influential in the Tory party, notably the St Andrews Federation of Conservative Students originating group, including Michael Forsyth. Even David Cameron’s contacts with South Africa in this period are a very murky part of his cv. It is important the Tories are not allowed off the hook on this. The moral taint should rightly be with them for generations.

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895 thoughts on “Thatcher – and Many Still Active Tories – Did Support Apartheid

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  • James Chater

    Apartheid is alive and well in South Africa, only nowadays it is economic, not racial. Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine, has a very revealing chapter showing how neoliberal policies were imposed on S. Africa as a condition for supporting the dismantling of the apartheid regime.

  • FranzB

    One aspect of Thatcher’s backing for apartheid was her anti-communism as reported in an Independent article:-

    “As she told a startled press conference at the Commonwealth summit in Vancouver, in 1987: “A considerable number of the ANC leaders are Communists… When the ANC says that they will target British companies, this shows what a typical terrorist organisation it is. I fought terrorism all my life… I will have nothing to do with any organisation that practises violence. I have never seen anyone from ANC or the PLO or the IRA and would not do so.”

    This would have been fed to some extent by the fact that the MPLA in Angola together with Cuban forces would give the South African troops who turned up from time to time a sound thrashing.

  • giyane

    We have, on Unity FM, Birmingham’s Islamic Radio Station 93.5 and online, an excellent Sheikh called Mufti Ishmael Menk. I heard him recently describe the blessings of living in Zimbabwe and mentioning that they should not be taken for granted. So I asked myself what he could possibly mean.

    Maybe it is that authoritarian governments, like Saddam’s, Assad’s, or Jordan’s, will crack down immediately on the tiniest emergence of political Islam, as a sure sign of the CIA trying to subvert their country. Political Islam flourishes in liberal democracies like our own. The UK is a breeding ground for this savage Islamism.

    God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.

  • SA

    Colonialism is inherently racist and capitalism and neoliberalism are if not directly racist, enhance the current dominant ideology. All of these systems are based on exploiatation of the many by the few. The systems are seemingly unstoppable because they define groups of people who stand to benefit from them to different degrees so that for example even the poorest in U.K. are still much better than the exploited Egyptian felaheen.
    This is why the left is in turmoil and up against a wall of resistance even from people who would benefit from thier policies. Throw in certain diversions such as religion and you have a totally irrational apparently democratic process leading the majority of people lemming wise to thier own enslavement

    • Macky

      What’s worse than the evil of Colonialism ? Fascism, and it modern digital driven manifestation. In railing against the “diversion” of Religion, you are unknowingly embracing your own enslavement.

      “Yet there’s a reason why freedom of religion and freedom of speech are guaranteed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: it’s because one cannot exist in practice without the ethical and moral authority of the Other, and because everything else follows. Also because the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were written in the Age of Reason, at the apogee of critical thought: a deliberate and rational process that always begins with a skeptical mind and an ethical question.”

      • SA

        I am not rampantly anti-religion just think that it is something you practice in your own private state and of course everyone is free to do so as they also are to have free political thoughts.
        What I object to is that religion is used to divide between people on the basis of a belief that make one people feel more superior than others because they have the key to the real ‘truth’, and moreover they use a script written by men in the name of a god, to justify thier action. Look no further than one of the causes close to your heart in the ME to see what I mean.

        • Macky

          What people do in the name of their interpretation of a religion is not the same thing as Religion.

          If your concern is on the issues that divide people, there’s something called class that oppresses most of humanity & keeps them in poverty, and then there’s the new insidious promotion of ID Politics, that’s also very good at dividing us, much to the relief of the Elites.

          • SA

            I agree with you that identity politics is another issue that that divides people. But much more division is caused by religion because it is one of the core divide and rule methods used in the ME. The sectarianism in the wars in Iraq and Syria are not incidental but have been used to stoke the flames of division in the region. And the whole of the Arab Israeli problem is based on some religious text. I would like to post a link for you to read written by will self in the Guardian which explains some of these issues from one angle.

          • Macky

            A lot of what Religion is blamed for is fact Tribalism; groups would fight each other whatever the religion(s), and even if no religion was involved.

          • SA

            Whatever. It still remains that most religions claim the insight into the ‘truth’ and demand faith, something we can quickly see could not be the case when several religions claim the same ownership of alternative truths.

          • giyane

            I forgot to listen to Aaronvitch indoctrinating us about Syria this evening and ended up reciting La ilaha illallah by the fireside instead. There is none worthy of worship except God. Not only am I spiritually closer to the truth by this exercise, but I am probably much less intellectually divided and ruled. Contemplating truth is the purpose of Islam, while the pulpit of Radio 4 does what you say religion does, make you feel superior to everyone else. Garbage in garbage out. Truth in, I don’t know with what result, it’s in the bank.

          • Macky

            “several religions claim the same ownership of alternative truths”

            And so ? How many ideologies claim to be the “truth” ? Countless victims have been the result.

            You are superficially reaching for the lazy low branch to pin human conflict on Religion.

          • SA

            No I am not I am merely saying it is one of the oldest but now probably most important in the context of the ME but not in the context of the evil money worship of neoliberalism in the West.

        • SA

          I am sure you are not personally divided or ruled but some sadly, are. Some had thier crusades and some had thier jihads. Religion of course is a great refuge for many but as you yourself have written many times in this blog, can also be used by some unscrupulous people for thier violent purposes.

  • Shatnersrug

    Hey Craig I think it should be corroborate not collaborate in the first paragraph after the quote? A spellcheck misfire if ever I saw one

  • reel guid

    The Scottish Government has given the Mail, Express and Telegraph 28 days to apologise for their false stories of SG policy concerning flags. About time the media was taken on by the SNP over the relentless misreporting.

  • Tony

    Margaret Thatcher was much more right wing in her personal views than in her actions in government. She had a good sense of what she could get away with (until the Poll Tax).

    One of the greatest clashes that she had was when she took George Shultz to task for not trying to stop Reagan’s efforts to ban nuclear weapons. He explained to her that he agreed with him.

    On the other hand, she did respect people of conviction and was reportedly very upset when she attended Eric Heffer’s funeral.

    Tony Benn:
    “I remember her at the funeral of MP Eric Heffer. I was asked to make a speech and as I was waiting, there was someone behind me coughing. It was Mrs Thatcher, and at the end I thanked her for coming and she burst into tears. She had come out of respect for someone whose opinions she disagreed with.”

  • reel guid

    The BBC Question Time from Dumfries has a panel consisting of Tory peer Michael Forsyth, SNP minister Fiona Hyslop, Derbyshire Labour MP Chris Williamson, Maggie Chapman Scottish Greens co-convener and Peter Oborne of the Daily Mail.

    So an edition of QT from Scotland that has a panel that is 40% Tory, 40% English and 80% people not elected politicians in Scotland. And as with previous QT shows Dimbleby will not allow much time for discussion of Scottish political matters. How touching though that on 25 January the BBC are holding QT from Dumfries, a town associated with the UK poet Robert Burns.

    • Sharp Ears

      Ref Baron Forsyth of Drumlean, he’s doing OK.

      Category 1: Directorships
      Non-executive Director, J & J Denholm Ltd (parent company of Denholm Group which has four divisions: shipping; logistics; seafoods; industrial services)
      Chairman and non-executive Director, Secure Trust Bank plc
      Non-executive Director, Denholm Logistics Group Limited
      Director, Denholm Enterprise Ltd (investment company whose principal investments are shares in J & J Denholm and Denholm Oilfield Services)

      Category 4: Shareholdings (b)
      Safor Ltd (designs and retails handbags and other fashion accessories)

      Safor is Sarah Forsyth’s company. Daughter?

      • reel guid

        I voted to stay in the EU, not just because of the benefits, but also for the ethos. That’s not parochialism.

      • Republicofscotland


        No I think you’ll find that the parochialism of the Tory Brexiteers, and their UKIP buddies, who long for the empire and splendid isolationism from Jonny Foreigner, are the ones you should be setting your sights on.

    • Republicofscotland

      reel guid.

      I gave up watching QT a good while back, after the revelation that unionist plants filled the audience, and their aim was to attack the out numbered on every occasion SNP or indy rep.

      Dimbers is a joke in my eyes, you think he grow a pair and complain about the amount of times a party without one single MP appears on the show.

      That party is UKIP.

      • reel guid

        I rarely watch it Ros. I do take a look at their panel line ups though.

        As you say it’s been one of the main media arenas in recent years where UKIP have been puffed up.

        They even put the BNP on the panel more than once a few years ago.

        • Republicofscotland

          reel guid.

          One episode of QT has stuck in my mind, one where David Aaronovitch and George Galloway spent a third of the show arguing with each other as to who was the most communist.

          Aaronovitch: I’m all communist.

          Galloway: No David I’m more communist than you.

          It was tedious to say the least.

          • Carl

            I think you probably mean the episode where Galloway informed viewers that David Aaronovitch had been a communist, but was now a rightwing propagandist for Rupert Murdoch. George Galloway has never been a communist.

          • Republicofscotland

            You know what Carl, I think you’re right, after having a wee rummage through YouTube, I saw a clip again, at it looks like your spot on.

            Chees for the correction. ?

  • reel guid

    The SNP and OBFA showing sectarianism the red card.

    James Kelly and Labour showing sectarianism the red carpet.

    • Republicofscotland

      reel guid.

      Not forgetting Wee Willie Rennie, who Sturgeon rightly called at FMQ’s today, a pathetic attention seeker or there abouts.

      As for the fake news story of flag-gate, the lying unionist rags that pushed it, will wait and publish miscule retractions in their least read sections.

      Murdo Fraser and Colonel Rape Clause Ruth Davidson, helped spread the fake news. But then again everything about the Tories is fake to begin with.

      • reel guid


        Wee Sillie Rennie seems to have been Lib Dem branch leader for yonks. But I honestly can’t remember him saying or doing anything constructive.

        See the Colonel was in Davos this week, doing her usual networking to personally get ahead.

        • JOML

          Well, Reel guid, Rennie did manage to delete the evidence of breaking the speed limit from a website, after jumping into his car following a ‘cycle on Parliament’ event – forgetting to remove his tag that monitored his cycling progress! He was doing well over 80 on the way back to Fife. However, I suppose that was just constructive from his perspective…

  • Republicofscotland

    Meanwhile there has been calls for Governor General Fluffy Mundell to resign, London’s man in Scotland broke his promise (a Tory certainty these days) that he’d make sure Clause 11 would be dealt with and that the 111 powers eminating from the EU would return to Scotland.

    Mundell, and the thirteen Scottish Tory traitors either deliberately or through sheer incompetence, failed to live up to his/their promise. Now the House of Lords a undemocratic and unelected, troughers club, packed to the rafters with bishops, failed politicians party cronies, and Michelle Mone of all people, will decide where those 111 powers will lie.

    I really can’t understand the mentality of those in Scotland that want to remain partially governed by this lot.

    • fred

      “…111 powers eminating from the EU would return to Scotland.”

      Return? When did Scotland ever have these powers?

      • reel guid

        The devo settlement that set up the Scottish Parliament decided that if ever powers were repatriated from Brussels, those returning powers that dealt with devolved matters would return to Holyrood. Only fair and reasonable and a protection against any wilful dismantling of devolution by a Westminster government.

        The Tories however are driving a coach and horses through the devolution settlement.

        • fred

          You can’t return to somewhere you have never been.

          The devolution settlement does not concern powers in the hands of Europe, the British government could not legally devolve European powers. Rest assured that after Brexit Scotland will have no fewer powers than we had before Brexit. The Scotland Act was passed by the British government and can legally be amended by the British government to take account of a situation not foreseen at the time of it’s passing.

          • Republicofscotland

            Westminster is the sovereign parliament, only a fool, would believe that those 111 powers will go to Holyrood.

            Oh some, shall we say less significant of 111 powers will be passed on to Holyrood as a gesture, but that’s it.

            Of course the likes of May, Mundell and Ruthie, will spout, the usual claptrap in the unionist media that Scotland is this most powerful devolved parliament in the world, and those less well informed will believe it.

          • JOML

            Fred, I once went to a show at the Edinburgh Fringe called, “That’s not how you spell pedantic!” The issue here is that there’s powers up for grabs, with the debate on where these should reside in the future. Your “return” point doesn’t add value to the debate, in my humble opinion. ?

          • fred

            They are powers the SNP didn’t want to have, they wanted Brussels to have them.

            They can hardly complain about not having powers they didn’t want.

          • fred

            “Your “return” point doesn’t add value to the debate, in my humble opinion.”

            I’d hardly describe a bunch of Nationalist shills churning out Nationalist propaganda and licking each others arses as debate.

          • JOML

            You should be applauded, Fred. It takes a big character to accept a person, who they previously despised, as a role model. Is this the start of a journey to Yes?

    • reel guid

      Yep Ros. Michelle Mone, Norman Tebbit and the Bishop of Salisbury get to decide if the devolution settlement stays and Scotland’s elected MPs get no say. Courtesy of the 13 Scottish Tory MP traitors.

      • Republicofscotland

        Yes reel guid, I can think of no other word for those who work against the best interests of their own country.

        Scotland is in a surreal, but very real position where, the majority (Greens aside) of the opposition political parties actively work in the best interests of a foreign government.

        The foreign owned media and newspapers only help to compound the situation. Throw in the chinless wonder gentry, who do very well sucking Scotland dry, and the anonymous owners of huge swathes of Scottish land, who don’t want to see any change, and it’s most certainly a uphill battle for those who seek to dissolve the union.

  • Sharp Ears

    I see that Ruth and an Oliver Mundell were in this group that visited an illegal settlement in the Occupied Golan Heights in 2016. Are Oliver and Fluffy related?

    ‘The delegation to Israel in August included the director of the Scottish Conservatives, Mark McInnes, Scottish Conservative chief whip, John Lamont along with shadow justice secretary Douglas Ross, shadow economy, jobs and fair work cabinet secretary Dean Lockhart, shadow environment secretary Maurice Golden, tourism and small businesses spokeswoman Rachel Hamilton, community safety spokesman Oliver Mundell, digital economy spokesman Jamie Greene, further education, higher education and science spokesman Ross Thompson and welfare, reform and equalities spokeswoman Annie Wells.’

    Shame on all of them.

  • reel guid

    MSPs voted for the OBFA Repeal Bill by 65 to 61. So weel done James Kelly and Labour. Scotland just went back to the 20th century. Which we can enjoy for a while before the Tories take us back to Tudor England.

    • Republicofscotland

      Well the dolt who droned on about the OBFA has finally had it repealed as you say.

      Even though just about every poll suggested that the Scottish public backed the OFBA. The unionist naesayers at Holyrood, who serve their Westminster masters, voted down the act.

      It’s as if those unionist MSP’s know that to help keep division rife and ergo independence at bay, that the OBFA had to be removed. Also that sectarianism has to be maintained in Scotland keeping factions fighting takes minds off what really matters.

      Now the neanderthals who spout sectarian bile will now see this as a green light to step up their abusive behaviour. Serious consequences of the repeal should be laid squarely at the feet of those who voted to repeal it.

  • Cairobilly

    [Mod: Very entertaining reminiscences. Thank you. And we would not want you to be discouraged from posting further: you’ll be welcome. But it’s far too long.]

    I have been browsing this website for a few months now and find the most of the comments to be very intuitive and the debates actually very informative and respectful. i have never previously posted any comment because I did not posses the in depth knowledge of the subject matter.
    However now that the Mrs Thatcher has been mentioned I have to reply.
    I was an apprentice with the NCB at Sutton Manor Colliery in 1979 and came out of my time in 1983, at that time the writing was on the wall with regards to mine closures. Thatcher hated the fact that tradesmen or labourers could actually earn a decent wage and had decided that the UK should concentrate on provision of financial services for the EU and that the UK would forgo its industrial and manufacturing base and just become a service provider for other european manufacturers. In order to do this she had to break the back of the unions and then systematically move forward with the closure of mines and power stations and then the privatization of both the NCB and the CEGB.
    I must admit I was not a big union man at the time due to the fact I could stand my own corner and our shop steward and area stewards were both numb as piss stones. However I did appreciate that the union previously had fought hard for our working conditions and also that other work colleagues did require their support and assistance and the union was very supportive of these guys.
    I was informed in 1986 that my services would no longer be required and my employment was terminated. Fortunately I had already accepted a new position with the Gencor Mining Corporation in South Africa (Wildebeest North Mine) Rustenburg.
    On arrival at the mine I was introduced to the “white wokforce”:
    2 x Mechanics from Ayr
    1 x Electrician from Port Glasgow
    2 x Electrician from Rhonda Valley
    1 x Mechanic from Wigan
    1 x Pit deputy from Wakefield
    All the rest were Afrikaans who were classed as first country nationals and fellas from the UK second country nationals. The next day to my astonishment I had walk past a line up of Zulu’s, Swanna’s and Xhosa’s and select four of the guy’s to work with me as technical aide’s, basically as Electrician’s mates. After talking to these fella’s you actually find out that they were more qualified than all the Afrikaner’s and most of us Brits. I was absolutely astounded that all of the guy’s had their Matriculation 12 Certificates.
    That is how Thatcher wanted the tradesmen in the UK, well educated with indentures and City & Guilds but cheap labour. Anyway I digress, I showed all my guy’s how to fix and solve electrical issues and allowed them to do it. Unfortunately I fell foul to one of the Afrikaner’s who i am sure was Electrical on his mothers side as one of my Zulu aide’s had rectified a fault he couldn’t fix.I had to sit in front of a group of Afrikaner Supervisors and Engineers to explain why I had allowed a “Kaffir” to undermine the authority of an Afrikaner. My response was that if Afrikaners set low standards and fail to achieve them somebody has to resolve the issue. I was duly issued my first written warning. Fortunately for me one of my colleagues from Port Glasgow had a similar incident that week, apparently he had the audacity to give on of his Xhosa work mates a lift into work to save him walking 5 Kliks to the mine, he also got a written warning.
    Me and my Scottish mate were both single and realised we were being gunned for, we made a phone call the next day to Consolidated Diamond Mines in (South West Africa) now Namibia. We both got offers of employment with the requirement of immediate start, as we were both still single we had no issue accepting the positions on offer.
    A couple of days later we arrived in Oranjemund and a week later seconded to a place called Bogenfels, We were informed that Bogenfels used to be an old German working but as plans were in place for Namibia too gain independence they wanted to go over these workings again to ensure there would be nothing left worth taking before Namibian Independence. Most of the lad’s we worked with were classed as “Cape Colourds”, by eck they could work but smart with it, superb fellas and funny. They had some yarns to tell, me and McCann hadn’t laughed so much since me grandmother got her tit caught in a mangle. One thing that must be remembered at this time is that most of the mining companies were and are still partially owned by international conglomerates (De-Beers, Anglo American, Rio-Tinto, Gencor, Sasol and Iscor).
    It wasn’t just Thatcher that wanted to maintain the status quo it was also the rest of the western countries, keep the money flowing and just change the names of the companies, the shareholders still get the returns just in offshore accounts instead of european or US accounts, therefore no signs of supporting apartheid.
    Any road in Jan 1988 me and a few of the lads came back to the UK. We had a few weeks off on the turps and started looking for work. Every job was either through an agency or just temporary contract and not only that they had gone away from City & Guilds to NVQ, they now had started dumbing down apprenticeships. No disrespect buy Joey Deacon could have ticked a few boxes on the multiple choice and become a fully fledged tradesman.
    There was absolutely no point working in the UK as the wages were low and all the prospects of a job for life had disappeared, Thatchers dream had come true. It was amazing to find however that i f you had City & Guilds plus indentures and overseas experience there were plenty of job’s overseas.
    I actually got offered a job in Iraq with the premise that we completed a contract for Fina in Antwerp, on a Naptha cracker installation as the exact same job required carrying out in Saddam Oilfield Kirkuk.. I contacted a few of the guys I had worked with from Scotland, Wales, Yorkshire and Lancashire and seven of us took up positions with the company. How the company managed it I don’t know but we all ended up with bank accounts in the Isle of Man. As of day one in Antwerp we were on the Iraq payroll, all our accommodation was paid for in Antwerp plus we were given a per-diem of 200 Belgium Francs exclusive of wages that were paid direct into our IOM bank accounts. The lads and girls who weren’t on the Iraq contract (1,400) all Irish, Scottish, Geordies, Scouse, Welsh and Yorkshire were being paid less money than the local Belgium workers. Thatchers dream had come to fruition.
    I realised then that we had actually become technical and engineering mercenaries, basically just following the cash from job to job and contract to contract. I still didn’t worry about it because I and most of the guy’s were still single. I actually found out the contract in Iraq was funded by the UK,. Belgium and Germany. No problem for us we needed the cash and we were all good mates who had worked together before. We finished up at Finanestte Antwerpen on 2nd of August 1990 and were due to catch the Air France Flight from Orly airport to Baghdad some guys who were married had left the week before. We checked the overhead console in the airport and found that the flights had been cancelled. We asked the Dorris behind the desk for the reason of the cancellation and were dully instructed that if further information was required to contact Saddam Hussein as he had just invaded Kuwait.
    Two weeks prior to our departure 6 guys and their families had been flown too Baghdad and were being used as human shields we counted our selves very lucky. Some of those fellas came back home and years later topped themselves. Although whilst we were stuck in a hotel in Orly airport we received a phone call from one of the bosses saying that we had UK government approval to fly into Tel Aviv then take a taxi to Baghdad and onward to Saddam oilfield Kirkuk, all fully paid for.
    Do these retards actually think we were born yesterday, there is no way as long as I have an arse and its pointing downwards that I can enter an Arab country with an Israeli visa in my passport. Who the fuck does the Government employ as advisors.
    We gave that a miss and all ended up working on a new installation at Shell Chemie Cologne we spent about 8 months there and most of us got offered jobs in Saudi Arabia as a lot of people were leaving due to the threat of war.
    I ended up with Saudi Aramco in Udhailiyah about a four hour drive from Dhahran, there wasn’t much chance of anything hitting us in the desert but they gladly gave us war bonus and a gas mask. Never used the gas mask but I put the war bonus to good use and started making my own hooch. Actually thought I had become one of Thatchers entrepeneurs and then I met a bunch of fellas that had been there for a good few years. I will never forget the big fella from Manchester “Timber”, his first words to me were now then youth I have probably married more than you have fucked. Timber was a high voltage merchant and his side kick was a Glaswegian fella that we nicknamed Rolling Roy, he was absolute class, big Dan from Neath gave everybody a “Lovely boy”, which was a punch to the head when he reckoned you were talking instead of listening. Then we had Johnny Mac from Nottingham, Gordon Rougvie from the Kingdom of Fife, Dangerous Dave from Cumbria, Draper from Classy Cas äka: Belsen” because he was built like the gable end of a crisp bag and could slide under your door even if there was a draft excluder fitted, big Ron snotty because he carried the contents of his head around in a handkerchief, then we had Semtex from Derry, the Marsupial from Sydney, Knock Knock from Leigh “no point knocking when there is nobody in”, the Gargoyle from Dumfries, also known as Brad Pitt and myself “Cairobilly”, after getting stuck in a room full of Egyptian doctors and nurses for two days.
    This is where all the Ex mining community ended up at the time, if you were married the rotation was 4 months on and 3 weeks off, if you were single like me and Knock Knock it was 11 months on and 4 weeks off. However at the end of the day I just looked at the monetary apology every month. Just one word of advice though do not go to Al Hasa on a Friday as there is a possibility that the local police force will push you to the front of the queue to watch the beheadings before going to Toys R US.
    Anyway me and the rest of Thatchers mercenaries stayed in KSA until 1997 and returned home hoping things had changed under the New Labour Government. Well tickle my arse with a feather, Blair turned out to be exactly like Thatcher, you couldn’t trust him to sit the right way on a toilet seat. I have listened to some arseholes in my time but that bloke definitely had more mouth than a cows got c*nt.
    I ended up spending 8 years offshore in the North Sea on an FPSO working 3 on 3 off, there was no working direct for the client as it was all done through third party contractors so that there was no requirement to pay redundancy if you got laid off and basically you were as good as your last bad job and your contract could be changed the next day for less pay depending on the clients requirements. I could live with that as I was used to voting with my feet at the time a lot of us were members of the (OILC) Offshore Industrial Liaison Committee headed by a wonderful bloke called Jake Molloy, these fellas tried the hardest to fight for the guys working offshore. I will never forget that I had been provided the opportunity in 1979 to be an apprentice in the NCB, which included block release designated training centres and on the job training. We know had three apprentices offshore working towards an NVQ, these fellas were not employed by the company and had no guarantees of work on completion of training and the wages were not even paid by our company they were Government subsidised. We were then informed that the FPSO was to be bought out by another company and that the apprentices were going to be let go in 3 months time unless positions became available.Nobody in the company gave a shit for these kids they were happy to leave them to rot.
    I was still working with Semtex and Belsen at the time and we managed to pick up a contract for a new build in Korea with final destination Australia in 2005. Apparently it worked out well for the apprentices and they slotted into our positions, I still keep in touch with one of them today and by all accounts he is doing great.
    I have been in Australia since 2005 and my views on all the political parties in both the UK and Australia are the same a bunch of absolute tossers, you have a minister for Energy & Industry who has never worked in either, you have a minister for education that was by all accounts never even educated, if the best the western world can provide is Trump, May, Turnbull, Marcon, Merkel and Corbyn there must still be a chance for me, Semtex, Belsen and the Gargoyle.
    Everyone of the bastards since 1979 has sold us down the river and filled the pockets at the same time with not a thought for the next generation or the older generation. I probably haven’t got much longer before I croak but at least I had the opportunity to work all over the world not just with my mates but also with a multitude of diverse and different cultures and what an absolute pleasure it was. Tell your kids to go and see the world. The people of the world make the world not governments I count my blessings that I have worked with the best of the best, we have lost a few fellas along the way but they will never be forgotten.
    Don’t forget every day is an adventure, I’m starting to ramble now better pop the top of a stubby and spark up a Capstan full strength.

    • Stu

      Cheers. That was a good read.

      You have touched on a few truths there. The aim of the modern economy is to turn us all into individual mobile labour with no power in the workplace or society.

      • Sharp Ears

        Mod. Could you not convert it to a PDF as it is a very interesting post from Cairobilly. I need time later to absorb it fully.


    • JOML

      Good read, Cairobilly. I’ve friends with similar stories from the oil industry but it would take several of them to add up to yours!

    • John Goss

      We only have one life Cairobilly and you seem to have lived it, and still are living it, to the full. I agree with the philosophy of getting people (not just kids) to see the world. Travel is an eye-opener. Those of us with trades know that we are the backbone of all the economies in the world. My experience has been similar to yours to some extent (though I am considerably older). I played a golf-course in Adelaide when I was there in the early nineties and one of the guys I played with (an Englishman who had been there decades) called the semi-rough “Kikuyu grass” which made me smile for its geographical incongruity. The grass appeared much thicker though than here. 😀

    • BrianFujisan.


      Yes it’s A wee bit long, but to me it’s well written..I shall read it again as I kinda Skimmed through it Quickly.

      A good Bonus for myself in there is Your Port Glasgow Mate, as that is my Home town.
      Well done you two with the Written Warnings.. For Efficiency, and Empathy…Maybe wee shall hear from you Again.

      Thatcher is Quite rightly Blamed with Destroying the shipbuilding in Port Glasgow / Greenock… Although An Independence Supporter has Revived the last Shipyard on the Lower Clyde – Fergusons..Cheers Jim McColl.

    • J

      Cheers Cairobilly, please consider expanding your reminiscences as far as you can and seeking a publisher. I’d read it.

    • Node

      A good read, thanks cairobilly.

      Your list of workmates’ nicknames reminded me of a bloke I knew in Aberdeen who was called “Heid First” because his actual name was “R. Slater.”

  • Johnstone

    Well Mister Cairobilly thats the best post I’ve read in a very long time.. since Bevin was chucked out. Thanks

  • Alasdair Macdonald

    This attitude was very strong amongst Tories in the 1970s/80s and was not hidden. Indeed, many were very outspoken in favour of it. I had a colleague who was also a city councillor at the time and around that time, while Mandela was in prison he was awarded Freedom of Glasgow. She and her group were immediately out in George Square with placards demanding ‘HANG MANDELA’. When interviewed by the media – and she was given plenty of air time – her line was unequivocally that ‘he is a terrorist’ and that she would have no regrets if he was found dead in prison. She repeatedly stated that it was a fact that various black prisoners had fallen to their deaths from high security prisons, ‘while trying to escape’.

    • Ba'al Zevul

      Absolutely true. Thatcher was a product of her time. Her preconceptions were not ‘our’ preconceptions, and it might be added, at least apartheid SA was stable. Also, it had been extremely helpful during WW2.

      Happily, we now have far superior attitudes, and instead of the servitude of one group imposed by a colonial power, we have the servitude of all without respect to colour or preferred gender imposed by financiers on a global basis. Hoo fu**ing ray.

  • shugsrug

    [Mod: Agreed. It has also generated considerable interest. On second thoughts, we’ll make an exception and leave it up, unless Craig removes it. Cairobilly, thanks again, but please make your posts considerably shorter from now on.]

    Mod,I am not a regular poster, but the thought that someone like ‘Cairo’ should have his post reduced or restricted seems absurd. He has told a story, informed and enlightened, and I think he adds to this site.

    • nevermind

      I have to agree with Shugsrug, a very entertaining life story should not be banned for length, but the contributor should be encouraged to break it up into paragraphs.
      Thanks to Cairobilly for sharing this with us.

  • Sharp Ears

    Do you remember her quoting St Francis on the steps of Downing Street? All pre-arranged by one Ronnie Millar.
    Well, it’s been a wonderful campaign. Congratulations!

    Mrs. Thatcher
    Thank you very much.

    How do you feel at this moment?

    Mrs. Thatcher
    Very excited, very aware of the responsibilities. Her Majesty The Queen has asked me to form a new administration and I have accepted. It is, of course, the greatest honour that can come to any citizen in a democracy. (Cheering) I know full well the responsibilities that await me as I enter the door of No. 10 and I’ll strive unceasingly to try to fulfil the trust and confidence that the British people have placed in me and the things in which I believe. And I would just like to remember some words of St. Francis of Assisi which I think are really just particularly apt at the moment. ‘Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope’ … . [end p26] … . and to all the British people—howsoever they voted—may I say this. Now that the Election is over, may we get together and strive to serve and strengthen the country of which we’re so proud to be a part. [Interruption “Prime Minister … .” ] And finally, one last thing: in the words of Airey Neave whom we had hoped to bring here with us, ‘There is now work to be done’.

    Prime Minister, could I ask you if you would tell us what sort of administration you would like to have over the next five years?

    and how it was arranged. Millar, a playwright, was her speechwriter. He came up with ‘The lady’s not for turning’. That’s how it works. Spin.

    • reel guid

      The Scottish Greens’ Maggie Chapman got booed by audience members right from the start. So there must have been Tory vegetables in attendance as well as Tory plants.

  • reel guid

    Tory Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss has refused to appear before the Scottish Parliament’s Finance and Constitution Committee.

    Just another sign that the Tories plan the closing down of Holyrood.

    • Republicofscotland

      They very seldom show up reel guid, quite simply because they know fine well that they’ll be found out, with regards to their often horrendous policies.

      Of course it’s disrespectful as well, a snub, to Holyrood, we don’t need to answer to you. Now independence would negate this altogether.

  • reel guid

    Labour ermine wearer George Foulkes has tweeted that the reason the story about Sturgeon banning the union jack was believed was because it was so believable “just as was the French ambassador story”.

    So with the media backtracking and offering apologies to the FM, Foulkes is saying that it’s not journalists who are at fault for either not checking stories or for printing stories they know aren’t the truth, it’s still really the SNP’s fault for making false stories about themselves believable.

    And this twit gets £300 quid a day from taxpayers and can’t be voted out.

    It wasn’t the fault of Carmichael and the BBC regarding the false French ambassador story according to George. It was Sturgeon’s fault for being so unbelievably believable. Or something like that.

    • Republicofscotland

      You can’t undermine Scotland without ermine, and George Foulkes, constantly und-ermines Scotland, along with Robertson, Reid and McConnell – that’s why they’ve been rewarded.

      • reel guid

        LOL. Good one Ros.

        McConnell was talking pure rubbish the other day too. Something about there wouldn’t be any brexit impasse between Westminster and Holyrood if he was still FM. As someone said in reply, that’s because he would have given in by now.

          • JOML

            RoS, you mean like spending it on a bridge, perhaps? Aberdeen bypass? A9 and all the other roads around the country? A National football stadium? Schools? Hospitals? Bugger me, how unimaginative and incompetent were they! It could be that they were just following orders from HQ and not making a real go of devolution, although Lab-Lib Dems did introduce Gaelic Medium Education, so they weren’t all bad.

    • JOML

      George Foulkes – the last remaining puppet from Spitting Image! I’m surprised George can take himself seriously.

      • Republicofscotland


        Here’s a clip of Baron George Foulkes of Cumnock, its seems appropriate as in the clip a SNP MP complains that three lords are appointed to a committee along with the SNP MP, she being the only elected person out of the four of them.

        Now it appears the undemocratic, unelected lords will decide, where the 111 powers will reside.

  • Tony_0pmoc

    Is Julian Assange out yet? or Not had time to get back to the Ecuadorian Embassy on his motorbike? – or did The Independent make it up? I can’t imagine any court in London working after 16:30 on a Friday afternoon.

    Meanwhile – I find both of these headlines highly amusing, but Putin gets Number 1.

    “Davos 2018 – live updates: Donald Trump booed over ‘fake news’ comments ”

    “Russia says Britain’s Defence Secretary’s claim of attack threat ‘like something from Monty Python'”


    • Tony_0pmoc

      The BBC says..

      “Julian Assange asks UK court to drop his arrest warrant”

      “A decision on the appeal is expected on 6 February.”

      ..but I don’t believe The BBC either. I know they make stuff up. Whilst this maybe true…

      which court was it? who were the judges? what time was the hearing today? why is there almost no publicity about it?

      This should be headline news with a media frenzy – or maybe an Intern at the Independent made the whole thing up?

      Does his Dad work for The BBC?


        • Stu

          Wikileaks say there are cameras outside the embassy monitoring everyone who goes in or out.

          The Guardian have a decent story on the court case.

          • Tony_0pmoc

            Stu, The Guardian is now worse than The Daily Mash – at least the Mash is occasionally funny. Instead try


            They have real journalists investigating, and writing there.

            It’s far better than the Guardian, since the Guardian moved from Manchester to London. In Manchester we investigate, find out the truth as close as you can, and most of the time, ask the editor – can we publish this now?…or sometimes just do it..Front Page News slipped in at 2:00am???.

            The “journalists?” left at the Guardian don’t do that now. They make it up or just copy and paste direct from the CIA central press release, and take their video feeds and photos…Most of them are doing it for free as interns, with the hope that someone in the future is going pay for their University Degree in media studies..

            Good luck kids,


          • Tony_0pmoc

            The Daily Mail is even more ridiculous..does anyone believe that Hammersmith is 4 feet deep in water, purely as a result of a broken pipe. Maybe in a very severe Thunderstorm for a few seconds, but North Thames can’t pump sufficient water and sh1t that quick., and if it was a thunderstorm – The Daily Mail journalists and photographers wouldn’t be there. Hammersmith is on quite a big River – called The Thames…Has anyone reading this tripe been there? Its a load of sh1ite


            “Dozens of motorists are trapped in their cars in 4ft deluge after a water pipe bursts in London street – as police stop residents returning home over fears they may be ELECTROCUTED if they step in the water

            Dozens of people were trapped in cars after a water pipe burst in Hammersmith
            Police stopped residents on street entering homes because of electrocution risk
            London Fire Brigade had 35 firefighters attending and evacuated seven people
            Several postcodes have been left without water due to the major flooding

            By Dianne Apen-sadler and Alastair Tancred For Mailonline

            Published: 22:30, 26 January 2018 | Updated: 01:57, 27 January 2018”

            Aren’t you guys embarrassed writing this nonsense?


  • mike

    Gavin Williamson has been skipping his meds again.

    At least the BBC are leading with the Russian reaction to his swivel-eyed outburst. It’ll be Hate Week next. These feral Atlanticists might the undoing of us all.

    • JOML

      The sooner Gavin renews Trident the better… that will stop them! Now, where’s my meds… ? Now for something completely different!
      Yes, Mike, our defence secretary is not the full shilling (one for the Brexiteers!).

      • Republicofscotland

        Bear in mind JOML, that Scotland is allowing a foreign government to house nuclear weapons thirty miles from its largest city.

        So if the Doomsday Clock (which is at two minutes to midnight) strikes twelve, the west coast of Scotland will be obliterated.

        What kind of people are the Scots to allow these weapons to remain in their country, knowing full well, half the population is walking about with a bullseye on their backs, if it all kicks off.

  • Republicofscotland

    George Galloway on his three hour long TalkRadio show, which is about Julian Assange, said the British government will neither confirm or deny that they have in their possession a extradition order from the USA for Mr Assange, when he steps outside the Ecuadorian embassy.

    This could be the reason that the police are unwillinging to drop the arrest warrant. It could even be possible that when Mr Assange leaves the Ecuadorian embassy and heads for Heathrow airport as a Ecuadorian diplomat, that he will be arrested by the London police. I’m under the impression that if they did they’d be breaking laws of the Geneva Convention.

    Bear in mind the Swedish charges have been dropped, and the UN said Mr Assange is under arbitrary detention. Throw the millions of pounds that it has cost the British taxpayer to keep an eye on the Ecuadorian embassy, and you can see just how badly the US wants Mr Assange.

    • giyane

      Trump sitting with May in Davos both with kinda pained expressions on their faces.
      Trump thought bubble says” Why can’t you just go in with the marines? ” .
      May thought bubble ” I thought he helped you get elected . ”
      Trump bubble ” Yeah, Bin Laden helped Obama get elected, but Obama ran out of time. Shall we schedule something for Assange around 2026, when I’m in the same situation? “

  • JOML

    Pol Pot “From 1979 to 1997, he and a remnant of the old Khmer Rouge operated near the border of Cambodia and Thailand. Until 1993, they clung to power as part of a coalition government that was internationally recognized as the rightful government of Cambodia.”
    Where is the international support for democratically elected Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont?

    • Paul Barbara

      @ JOML January 26, 2018 at 21:08
      And Thatcher’s SAS trained them, as has been exposed by SAS whistleblowers.
      Such a thing! (Or ‘par for the course’?)

    • Paul Barbara

      @ John Spencer-Davis January 27, 2018 at 07:25
      Excellent article. UN Rapporteur tells it like it is in Venezuela, unlike our MSM and it’s presstitutes.

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