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UK Confidential Monday, 1 January, 2001, 00:45 GMT
Transcripts: The protester
Peter Hain
In 1970, a young South African named Peter Hain was at the centre of a highly public campaign to stop the country's cricket tour to England. Now a foreign office minister, he told UK Confidential what it had been like to be the government's bete noir of the day.

Harold Wilson was very worried about your protests. You had asked for assurances that police tactics at demonstrations would be "not discriminatory". What did you mean?

We wanted the policing to be fully impartial.

Nelson Mandela said the campaign inflicted a hell-of-a-blow against apartheid. That's something to be proud of.

Peter Hain
We'd had some very ugly incidents during the rugby tour campaign by the Springboks.

The police had colluded with rugby stewards and handed out some pretty violent punishment to peaceful protesters.

I imagine that the Home Secretary took the view that there was some challenge to the police's impartiality. Which of course there was, from the point of view of protest organisers like myself.

And then the government decided that it wanted to try and prosecute you for conspiracy.

I wasn't aware that that was even under consideration.

I don't think it would have been politically possible frankly given that our campaign had such mass support.

I was subsequently prosecuted under a private prosecution which the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney-General refused to sanction for conspiracy.

It's interesting that it was alive as a discussion around the Cabinet table. But I wouldn't have thought that it would have been a serious possibility frankly.

The documents indicate that when (home secretary) Jim Callaghan met you that he phrased his words carefully.

I remember a meeting at the Home Office where we did meet one of his junior ministers to discuss the violent clashes that followed the Swansea demonstration.

I still have a lot of sympathy with the people on the picket line outside the Foreign Office because I've been there

Peter Hain
We were using every opportunity to promote amongst African, West Indian and Asian nations a boycott of the Commonwealth Games.

We saw that as a lever to stop the tour. We were talking to black activist groups here in Britain who were concerned about the effect on race relations.

With the pressure on the Cabinet and on the British government of Harold Wilson, the threat of the Commonwealth Games, the law and order situation, the way we could actually physically stop this tour, (the feeling was that it) might result in general damage to Britain's international standing.

What started off as a very small protest campaign ended up being a campaign that went right to the top of the British domestic political stage.

In what way did you see your protests developing?

During the 25-match Springbok tour the previous winter that we used as a dummy run, we ran on to the pitches.

There were all sorts of plans for model aeroplanes coming down onto the pitch at Lords and so on.

We even had explored an underground tunnel from a disused branch of the Bakerloo line which gave direct access into Lords.

That would have meant thousands of demonstrators could have come in without tickets so there were all sorts of plans going on.

We were being monitored by the authorities, the security authorities and, no doubt, Special Branch. They knew roughly what we were planning.

There were quite a few documents that have been withdrawn from the files which aren't being released - but there is a strong suggestion that you were under surveillance.

We knew we were under surveillance. This wasn't some secret.

Peter Hain
1950: Born Nairobi
Educated Pretoria and London
1970: Stop the Tour campaign
1991: Elected MP
1997: Welsh Office minister
1999: Foreign Office minister
Our phone was tapped and I think we had people actually on our committee and in our meetings who were probably agents of one sort or another.

But actually that didn't matter because this was not some secret conspiracy.

This was an open conspiracy, this was a massive campaign with fifty thousand active supporters right across the country and yes, we did have discussions with and open links with leaders in the black community.

These were not extremists at all. These were people really, really worried about the damage to race relations.

There were supporters of apartheid and supporters of racism in Britain allied against against us in defending the tour - so there was a very serious threat to British race relations posed by this tour.

You know you now understand what it's like to face protests from people who are convinced that your policies in government are completely wrong. How do you think about it now that you are in government?

I still have a lot of sympathy with the people on the picket line outside the Foreign Office because I've been there.

It doesn't mean to say I agree with them, but I understand where they're coming from and the right to protest is an important one. I'm proud of what we achieved.

We achieved what very few protest campaigns do, a complete success in stopping that tour.

Nelson Mandela told me that the campaign did more at that particular time to inflict a hell-of-a-blow against apartheid.

And I think that's something to be proud of.

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