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'A great light has gone out in the world,' says David Cameron

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 06, 2013

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David Cameron led tributes to South Africa's first black president Nelson Mandela last night, saying "a great light has gone out in the world".

The flag at No 10 will be flown at half-mast in honour of the former leader, who was a "hero of our time", the Prime Minister said.

Taking to Twitter, he wrote: "A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time. I've asked for the flag at No10 to be flown at half mast."

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls wrote: "Seeing Nelson Mandela walking free is one of the great moments of my life – proving leadership and hope can triumph. Thank-you. RIP"

Baroness (Betty) Boothroyd, the former Commons speaker, fondly recalled the memories about a visit President Mandela made in 1996.

She said: "I welcomed many leaders to Westminster when I was Speaker but he was by far the most remarkable.

"His speech to the joint Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall in 1996 was a masterpiece of reconciliation after the bitter years of apartheid. He represented 'an outstanding victory of the human spirit over evil', I told him.

"He wrote to me afterwards of his delight at the pomp and ceremony of the occasion and its 'majesty and dignity'.

"He was especially touched by the Queen's graciousness towards him and the warmth of the British people.

"He was kind enough to add 'It is friends like yourself who have contributed to making our country the democratic rainbow nation we are today'.

"His modesty during that visit was extraordinary and people loved him all the more because of it. One anecdote illustrates his foresight. On his arrival at the entrance to the Commons, I cautioned him about the treacherous steps in Westminster Hall and said we would take them at his pace.

"'Don't worry', he replied. 'I came to look at them at six o'clock this morning'. With that, the trumpets sounded, he took my hand and we entered together without mishap. He had foreseen the difficulty and worked out the solution hours before.

"He was still looking forward when we last met in South Africa when I went there as Chancellor of the Open University. he said that when he finally entered the pearly gates he would join the local branch of the African National Congress."

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