Azara Blog: Blair regrets the slave trade

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Date published: 2006/11/26

The BBC says:

Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he feels "deep sorrow" for Britain's role in the slave trade.

In an article for the New Nation newspaper, the prime minister said it had been "profoundly shameful".

But Mr Blair stopped short of issuing a full apology, which some commentators have demanded.

The government is reportedly setting out its plans for next year's bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has been drawing up ideas for the 25 March anniversary, including the possibility of a "statement of regret" for Britain's involvement.

He has already ruled out a formal apology.

In comments reported by The Observer, Mr Blair said: "It is hard to believe what would now be a crime against humanity was legal at the time.

"I believe the bicentenary offers us a chance not just to say how profoundly shameful the slave trade was - how we condemn its existence utterly and praise those who fought for its abolition - but also to express our deep sorrow that it could ever have happened and rejoice at the better times we live in today."

The statement is due to appear in New Nation, a newspaper aimed at the black community, on Monday.

Activist Paul Stephenson told the BBC: "The prime minister could have gone further, but nevertheless it is a step in the right direction."

A written ministerial statement to Parliament is expected this week, setting out the government's commemoration plans.

In February, the Church of England General Synod voted to apologise to the descendants of victims of the slave trade.

You would think there were more serious, modern, issues to worry about, rather than apologise, or not, for things that happened over 200 years ago. Of course if this were America any sort of half-apology would immediately bring billion dollar lawsuits. Perhaps Blair is worried that Americans (who seem to think they rule the world) might decide to sue the British government in American courts.

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