Mandela believed in justice for all

This week the world lost two very great men, one who made a difference to the lives of millions of people across the world and, one who made a difference in the lives of thousands of people living in Batley.

Both in their own way were people who cared for others, believed in justice for all, and were dedicated to the service of their community.

Nelson Mandela, who I had the honour of meeting three times, was in my view the greatest of human beings of our time.

He showed that if humans beings can overcome the pain and suffering inflicted on them by their enemies, they can become a source of strength for humanity.

Much has been said about the great man and deservedly so. I remember the day I first met him, he told me he was seeking to meet our then Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher, who responded by saying that she was would not meet with a terrorist. I remember his disappointment at the rebuttal.

Regardless of this insult, he never held it against her, and this quality of his made him the giant he was.

I will forever cherish my memories of having a shared a brief moment with this great human being.

Former Batley councillor George Speight was our local hero. He was not known widely across the world and fortunately he did not have to go to prison for 27 years for his beliefs in equality and social justice.

He was nevertheless equally committed and dedicated to serving the people of Batley, a man of simplicity and down to earth values. He served without any expectation of any returns or favours, he dedicated his life to and for the people of Batley.

I got to know him in the mid 1970s and he became a good friend and a mentor to me. Like Nelson Mandela, he helped me to understand the importance of what it is to work for and give to others.

May they both rest in peace.


Deputy Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire