British lawmaker sorry for 'kill Thatcher' joke
A British lawmaker bidding to become leader of the newly-opposition Labour Party apologised Tuesday for having joked that he wished he had assassinated Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.
John McDonnell, vying to succeed Gordon Brown after Labour's election defeat last month, made the comments on Monday when asked what would have made the world better when prime minister Thatcher was in office.
The left-winger recalled how he was a member of the Greater London Council -- dismantled by Thatcher -- and the National Union of Mineworkers, defeated by the firebrand Conservative premier in an era-defining strike stand-off.
"I was on the GLC that Mrs. Thatcher abolished, I worked for the NUM and we had the NUM strike, I think I would assassinate Thatcher," he said Monday.
But speaking on the BBC on Tuesday, he insisted it had been a joke.
"I'm sorry if I have caused offence to anyone. It was a joke and in that audience it was taken as a joke.
"It was taken out of context, I can see if people are upset about that and if I have caused offence to anyone of course I apologise... I'm not the sort of person that would want to upset people."
McDonnell is among six candidates running for the Labour leadership.
Three more mainstream candidates -- former foreign secretary David Miliband, his ex-energy secretary brother Ed and former schools minister Ed Balls -- have secured enough nominations to contest the leadership.
Nominations close Wednesday.
Labour were defeated by Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party in May 6 polls, although the Tories failed to win an absolute majority and have formed a coalition government with the centrist Liberal Democrats.
© 2010 AFP