Callaghan – ‘I won’t be pushed’ into sanctions on Apartheid South Africa

James Callaghan (Jimmy Carter Library) and
Dennis Healey (Dutch National Archives).

[ 17 February 1978 ]

On 17 February 1978, Prime Minister James Callaghan made it clear that he would not sacrifice British business interests to help end apartheid through the imposition of sanctions. ‘Why do it for political reasons ?’ he asked at a Cabinet Committee meeting on South Africa, adding ‘I won’t be pushed. The Danes can do what they like, they’ve got nothing to lose, but jobs are at stake in this country.’ Denis Healey, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was even more zealous in his defence of doing nothing. ‘We must be ready,’ he warned, ‘to veto any UN move to push us towards mandatory sanctions. The question is how far we can drag our feet. I want to be carried kicking and screaming each millimetre of the way towards any interruption of our trade with South Africa. We might try and reduce our dependence on South Africa but we can’t afford any overt actions.’1


  1. James Callaghan and Denis Healey cited in Ruth Winstone (Editor), Tony Benn: Conflicts of Interest: Diaries 1977-80, Arrow Books, London, 1991, p. 281.

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