Robert Hughes, Baron Hughes of Woodside

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Official portrait of Lord Hughes of Woodside crop 2.jpg

Robert Hughes, Baron Hughes of Woodside (born 3 January 1932)[1] is a British Labour politician, who was also Chair of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) from 1976 until it was dissolved in 1995 after the ending of apartheid in South Africa.

Early life[edit]

Educated at Robert Gordon's College, Aberdeen and in South Africa where he lived 1947–1954, he worked as a draughtsman.

Political career[edit]

Hughes first stood for Parliament in 1959 at North Angus and Mearns, where he came second to the Conservative incumbent Colin Thornton-Kemsley.

He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Aberdeen North from 1970 to 1997.[2] James Callaghan, on the subject of the infamous 1979 vote of no confidence that resulted from his government overturning the YES result of the Scottish devolution referendum, blamed the rebels on his own benches, rather than the SNP, for ultimately bringing about the collapse of his government and opening the door to the victory of the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher. Robert Hughes was one of those "rebels". Tam Dalyell, Peter Doig, and Adam Hunter were the other Scottish Labour MPs who helped overturn the YES vote.

On 27 September 1997 he was created a Life peer as Baron Hughes of Woodside, of Woodside in the City of Aberdeen.[3][4]

He was Under-Secretary of State for Scotland from March 1974 – July 1975, but resigned in disagreement with the government's Incomes Policy.

Lord Hughes is a Patron of Humanists UK.[5]

Anti-Apartheid Movement[edit]

Under his chairmanship the Anti-Apartheid Movement campaigned against the Thatcher government’s refusal to impose sanctions against South Africa in the 1980s and organised the 1988 ‘Free Mandela’ concert at Wembley Stadium which was televised by the BBC and broadcast around the world. Hughes attended the independence celebrations in Namibia in 1990 and acted as an observer at South Africa’s first democratic elections in April 1994. After the dissolution of the AAM he became the first Chairperson of its successor organisation, Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA).

As well as his positive contributions, Hughes's tactics were sometimes critiqued as opportunist by radical political trends in the movement, like the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group . For example, his attitude towards the Common Wealth games and censorship of material within the AAM that related to the Non-Stop Picket. In July 1986, the Commonwealth Games was held in Edinburgh.  In protest at the Thatcher government’s support for apartheid and refusal to implement the sports boycott of South Africa, 32 of the 59 Commonwealth nations boycotted the Games.  This could have been a great opportunity for the Anti-Apartheid Movement to raise the profile of its boycott campaign.  Instead, Robert Hughes and Brian Filling, the Scottish Secretary of the AAM, signed a letter organised by the Scottish Trade Union Congress and published in The Scotsman newspaper calling on those Commonwealth nations to call off their boycott. And at the AAM's annual general meeting in 1986, Hughes and Roberts refused to hear 'motion 16' which resulted in the continued censorship of material relating to an ongoing picket of the South African Embassy in London that would last nearly 4 years.[6]


  1. ^ The Rt Hon Lord Hughes of Woodside, Debrett's
  2. ^ Julian Desborough et al. (compilers) (1992). The Times Guide to the House of Commons, April 1992. Times Books Ltd. ISBN 0-7230-0497-8.
  3. ^ "No. 54907". The London Gazette. 1 October 1997. p. 11063.
  4. ^ House of Lords biography
  5. ^ Distinguished Supporters of BHA
  6. ^ Brown, Gavin (5 January 2012). ""Stand down Bob!": or, the struggle for effective anti-apartheid solidarity". Non-Stop Against Apartheid. Retrieved 29 May 2019.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Hector Hughes
Member of Parliament for Aberdeen North
Succeeded by
Malcolm Savidge