UK Politics

Nelson Mandela death: David Cameron leads political tributes

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Media captionDavid Cameron: "One of the brightest lights of our world has gone out"

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has paid tribute to former South African President Nelson Mandela, who has died aged 95.

He said: "A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time."

The flag above Downing Street is flying at half-mast as a mark of respect.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said the world had "lost the global hero of our age" while Deputy PM Nick Clegg said he would be mourned on every continent.

MPs will be given the opportunity to pay tributes to Mr Mandela in the House of Commons on Monday.

He had been receiving intense home-based medical care for a lung infection after three months in hospital.

'Remarkable'

The prime minister said: "Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death - a true global hero.

"Across the country he loved they will be mourning a man who was the embodiment of grace.

"Meeting him was one of the great honours of my life.

"My heart goes out to his family - and to all in South Africa and around the world whose lives were changed through his courage."

Image caption Tributes have been left outside the South African High Commission in London
Image caption Mr Mandela made a state visit to the UK in 1996
Image caption A statue was unveiled in Parliament Square in 2007
Image caption David Cameron met Nelson Mandela in 2006
Image caption Mr Mandela addressed the Labour Party Conference in 2000

Foreign Secretary William Hague said Mr Mandela was one of the "greatest moral and political leaders of our time".

"His name will echo down the ages for his immense contribution to his country, to Africa, and to the world, and his tireless work for peace and reconciliation."

Britain's first black cabinet minister, Lord Boateng, who served as high commissioner in South Africa, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "There was a focus and a discipline to his activism, always. But imbuing it all was this overpowering sense, one had when one met him and worked with him, of the power of love. That's no a word that politicians use much but he was a consummate politician."

Mr Mandela made several visits to the UK after his release from prison - the first in April 1990 when he met politicians in the capital as deputy president of the African National Congress and attended a concert in his honour.

In 1996, thousands of people turned out to see him in Trafalgar Square during his State Visit, two years after he became president. And nine years later he launched the Make Poverty History campaign in London.

In 2007, Mr Mandela was back in the UK when a statue of him was unveiled in Parliament Square.

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Media captionLabour leader Ed Miliband: "The world owes Nelson Mandela an extraordinary debt"

He made a historic visit to Britain in 1962, visiting anti-apartheid campaigners.

In a statement, Mr Miliband said: "The world has lost the inspirational figure of our age. Nelson Mandela taught people across the globe the true meaning of courage, strength, hope and reconciliation.

"From campaigner to prisoner to president to global hero, Nelson Mandela will always be remembered for his dignity, integrity and his values of equality and justice.

In his tribute, the deputy prime minister said: "Every so often history produces an individual whose message is universal...

"The hope he offered was enough to unite races; it bridged cultures and transcended generations; and it could heal the deepest divides. That hope must now live on."

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said the world has lost a "towering statesman and the outstanding political leader of his generation".

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Media captionRoss Hawkins reports on changing political attitudes to Nelson Mandela

"Mr Mandela's integrity, humanity and compassion were an inspiration to countless millions around the globe, and his influence transcended ideology, race and creed," he said.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said Mr Mandela was a "great man.... a unique political figure at a unique moment in history".

"Through his leadership, he guided the world into a new era of politics...

"I worked with him closely, and remember well his visits to Downing Street. He was a wonderful man to be around, with a sharp wit, extraordinary political savvy and a lovely way of charming everyone in a building."

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "Nelson Mandela was the greatest leader of our generation. A leader of magnanimity, fortitude, unshakeable optimism and most of all, the most courageous man I ever met.

"What motivated Nelson Mandela and drove him to risk his life for freedom was a burning passion that irrespective of colour, race and background, all people are created equal - and his list of historic achievements starts with a multiracial South Africa."

Former Prime Minister Sir John Major said: "Nelson Mandela left an indelible mark on his time that few have ever equalled.

"He showed the world that reconciliation is better than retaliation."

Former Welsh Secretary Peter Hain, whose family fled South Africa because of their support for the anti-apartheid movement, said Mr Mandela was the "icon of all icons".

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Media captionFormer British Prime Minister Tony Blair pays tribute

"He remained above all a people's person which is highly unusual amongst global leaders or celebrities of his stature."

Former Labour Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott wrote on Twitter: "Nelson Mandela was the greatest man I ever met. The world is a poorer place without him. Sleep well Madiba."

Labour's shadow chancellor Ed Balls tweeted: "Seeing Nelson Mandela walking free is one of the great moments of my life - proving leadership and hope can triumph. Thank-you. RIP"

His party colleague, shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan, tweeted: "Devastated we've lost Nelson Mandela - towering figure and my hero. Rest in peace Madiba."

Former House of Commons Speaker Baroness Boothroyd recalled a visit President Mandela made in 1996, saying: "I welcomed many leaders to Westminster when I was Speaker but he was by far the most remarkable."

Liberal Democrat pensions minister Steve Webb tweeted: "Greatly saddened to hear of the death of Nelson Mandela - an amazing man who brought a deeply divided nation together."

Former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said: "The world has few real global heroes and Nelson Mandela was one of them and now he's no more. So like millions, tens of millions of people around the world I'm very sad.

"I had the privilege of meeting him on two occasions - once at 10 Downing Street when I was foreign secretary - and he was a man who had extraordinary personal charisma. I mean, for someone who had been in prison for so many years, there wasn't an an ounce of resentment that one could see."