Nelson Mandela: David Cameron leads tribute to 'towering' figure

Mr Mandela was "pivotal figure in the history of South Africa and the world", David Cameron said

David Cameron has described Nelson Mandela as a "towering figure" as he led MPs in tributes to the late South African president,

The UK prime minister said Mr Mandela did not see himself as a victim of history: "he wrote it".

MPs spent the entire parliamentary day on Monday paying their respects, with other Commons business delayed.

Labour leader Ed Miliband called Mr Mandela an "enduring symbol of hope and the fight against injustice".

Ed Miliband Ed Miliband praised Nelson Mandela's work and his symbolic importance

And Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said people felt "they had lost a hero and a friend" and remembered a "politician who appeared to be free of all the pettiness of politics".

Commons Speaker John Bercow said: "This is a special day for special tributes to a special statesman, Nelson Mandela."

Nick Clegg Nick Clegg told MPs that Nelson Mandela had transcended normal politics

Mr Mandela died at home at the age of 95, after several months of ill health.

In the Commons, Mr Cameron said: "Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our lifetime - a pivotal figure in the history of South Africa and the world - and it is right that we meet in this Parliament to pay tribute to his character, his achievements and his legacy."

He added: "When looking back over history it can be easy to see victories over prejudice and hatred as somehow inevitable.

"As the years lengthen and events recede, it can seem as though the natural tide of progress continually bears humanity ever upwards, away from brutality and darkness and towards something better. But it is not so.

"Progress is not just handed down as a gift; it is won through struggle - the struggle of men and women who believe things can be better, who refuse to accept the world as it is but dream of what it can be. Nelson Mandela was the embodiment of that struggle.

"He did not see himself as the helpless victim of history; he wrote it."

Gordon Brown Gordon Brown paid tribute to Nelson Mandela's courage

Mr Miliband said MPs were celebrating "the spirit of what Nelson Mandela taught us to acknowledge", to accept "the truth about the past, and without rancour to welcome the change that has come to pass".

He added: "He is an enduring and unique symbol of courage, hope and the fight against injustice.

"He teaches us the power of forgiveness, showing no bitterness towards his captors, just the love of a country that could be so much better if all of its people could be free."

Mr Clegg said: "Given the enormity of his achievements, we're all struggling to work out the best way to honour his legacy. I like to think that one of the things he would like us to do in this House today is to pay tribute to and support the individuals and the organisations around the world that fight for human rights and do not have a global name."

As tributes continued, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Mr Mandela had been "the greatest man of his generation" and "across the generations, one of the most courageous people you could ever hope to meet".

Sir Malcolm Rifkind Sir Malcolm Rifkind praised Nelson Mandela and predecessor FW de Klerk

Former Conservative Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said Mr Mandela had not been a "saint" but a "politician to his fingertips" who had moved on from believing in "armed struggle".

There were cries from the Labour benches when Sir Malcolm suggested it had possibly been "more difficult" for Mr Mandela's predecessor as president, the white National Party leader FW de Klerk, to move away from apartheid to democracy. He said South Africa had "two heroes" in these politicians.

Former Labour cabinet minister Peter Hain accused some political figures, including former Conservative Party chairman Lord Tebbit, of "complicity" with the apartheid system.

He added that Mr Mandela retained an "extraordinary humanity".

A book of condolence has been set up in the Commons library for MPs, peers and staff to sign.

In an hour of tributes in the House of Lords, Labour's Lord Joffe, who was born in South Africa and acted as Mr Mandela's lawyer at his trial, praised his "indomitable courage".

"He always valued the support of the British people in the fight against apartheid," the peer added.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that former Prime Ministers Sir John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown will join Mr Cameron at Tuesday's memorial service for Mr Mandela in Johannesburg.

John Bercow Speaker John Bercow said it was a "day for special tributes to a special statesman"

Some 60 heads of state and government have said they will attend the event or Sunday's state funeral.

Mr Cameron, Mr Miliband and Mr Clegg will represent the UK and join other world leaders at the service on Tuesday at the Soweto stadium in Johannesburg.

This was the venue for the closing ceremony of the World Cup in 2010 - Mr Mandela's last public appearance.

The Prince of Wales is to represent the Queen at Mr Mandela's funeral on 15 December in the rural location of Qunu - the ex-president's childhood village.

The monarch is, however, expected to attend a national service of thanksgiving for the life of Mr Mandela at Westminster Abbey, which will take place in the new year.

Tributes and flowers have continued to be laid at Mr Mandela's statue in Parliament Square. He visited the UK for its unveiling in 2007 by the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

A civic event will take place later in the week at Westminster Hall, where Mr Mandela addressed both houses in 1996.

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    nigel farage

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    In the voting papers obtained by the BBC he was described as "back-stabbing" and using "unethical manoeuvres".

    He is yet to comment but the body in charge of selecting the candidate says it has "every confidence in him".

    Ian Liddell-Grainger MP
     
  86.  
    08:35: Call for stronger parliaments

    More should be done to strengthen parliaments in developing countries. The International Development Committee says a strong parliament "will inevitably ensure greater transparency and better use of state revenues including official development assistance".

    The committee's new report on parliamentary strengthening recommends the Department for International Development puts parliaments at the heart of its governance work.

     
  87.  
    08:30: 'Ethnic kinship' vote fraud warning
    polling station

    The elections watchdog is warning that a lack of campaigning by mainstream political parties in British Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities makes those areas vulnerable to electoral fraud. The Electoral Commission says there is a political "void" in some communities.

    It suggests this void is being filled with "ethnic kinship networks" which could undermine the principle of free choice for voters.

     
  88.  
    @chhcalling 08:25: Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris

    tweets: Went to a restaurant and had some Greek yogurt for breakfast. Alas I couldn't find a German to pay for it.

     
  89.  
    08:20: Ministry of Defence savings
    Ministry of Defence property

    The Ministry of Defence will have to sell off more military land and assets to make savings in the coming years, the defence secretary is indicating. Michael Fallon is expected to say in a speech this morning that his department's finances are in better shape than they once were but savings still need to be made.

    He will say the emphasis should be on supporting frontline troops by selling off more of the MoD's large estate.

     
  90.  
    @benatipsosmori 08:11: Ben Page, Ipsos MORI chief executive

    tweets: 100 days before 2015 election vs 2010 GE15 #politics pic.twitter.com/r8eH9eCIUa> some big differences for opposition party now!

    Vote share chart
     
  91.  
    08:05: Westminster today
    Palace of Westminster

    What will Ed Miliband choose to go on at Westminster's big event, Prime Minister's Questions, and what will David Cameron have lined to up to respond?

    PMQs is at noon, right after Northern Ireland Questions in the Commons. The House of Lords will continue to consider the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill.

     
  92.  
    07:58: What next for Boris Johnson? Tim Donovan Political Editor, BBC London
    David Cameron and Boris Johnson

    London Mayor Boris Johnson (pictured on the right) has been touring northern towns, posing with a Kalashnikov in Kurdistan, and is to travel to Washington soon.

    People cannot help but notice that he is busy and the activity is hardly confined to life behind a desk at City Hall where his writ has a full 17 months to run. So what lies in store for London Mayor Boris Johnson?

     
  93.  
    @ChrisMasonBBC Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: BBC Westminster Election Countdown Clock (err...whiteboard) crisis: someone's used a permanent marker again:

    bbc board
     
  94.  
    07:42: Carole Walker Political correspondent, BBC News
    Department of Health images of how standardised packaging may look

    The government is facing growing opposition from Conservative MPs over its plans to introduce standardised packaging on packets of cigarettes.

    Opponents believe as many as 100 Tories could vote against the plans which could become law before the general election.

    Ministers say MPs will have a free vote on the issue.

     
  95.  
    07:38: Taiwan watch gaffe
    susan kramer

    A UK government minister has had to apologise for giving a watch to the mayor of Taiwan's capital city, Taipei, without realising such gifts are taboo. Susan Kramer said she did not know giving clocks suggests time is running out for the person who receives it in Chinese culture, and said sorry.

     
  96.  
    07:31: Terror bill BBC Radio 4
    Graduates

    One of the vice chancellors who has written to the Times has been on the Today programme discussing universities' role in tackling extremism.

    On the government's plans to force them to report extremist activity, Professor Anthony Forster, of Essex University, said universities were at their most effective when they were "ensuring academics and students are free to question perceived wisdom within the law".

    He says the bill as it stands is not the best way to maximise universities' contribution.

     
  97.  
    07:28: Terror bill

    Should universities be obliged by law to prevent people being drawn into terrorism - for example by reporting extremist activity?

    That is part of the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill which is continuing to be debated during its committee stage in the House of Lords today. But a group of vice chancellors has written to the Times arguing that universities should be exempt.

     
  98.  
    07:21: Pensioner payments BBC Radio 4
    david cameron

    David Cameron's hint yesterday that pensioner benefits may continue to be protected despite the welfare cuts mooted for after the election also features in the newspapers. The prime minister told the BBC there were no "huge savings" to be made from restricting access to payments like the winter fuel allowance.

     
  99.  
    07:11: Councils hit by cuts
    council bin collection

    Elsewhere today, MPs on the Public Accounts Committee are warning that councils in the most deprived areas of England are being hit the hardest by funding cuts. They say in a report that government cuts have not been applied equally since 2010 - with local authorities in the poorest areas seeing the biggest reductions.

     
  100.  
    07:09: Burnham interview BBC Newsnight BBC Two, 22:30
    Andy Burnham

    As we've seen, Labour and the NHS are making some of this morning's headlines. The party's health spokesman Andy Burnham was on the BBC's Newsnight last night, setting out his plans for the service.

     

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