Her son Peter may be vying to be our deputy Prime Minister, but today all eyes are on Adelaine Hain, celebrating her 80th birthday with a reception at South Africa House. Political Editor Tomos Livingstone talks to a heroine of the anti-apartheid movement
ADELAINE HAIN used to stand outside the South African embassy in London in the 1970s and lead the protests against the apartheid regime in her beloved homeland.
Tonight she will be on the inside, rather than out in the cold, guest of honour rather than enemy of the state.
Before they were driven from South Africa in 1966, Adelaine (known to all as Ad), her husband Walter and the teenage Peter were on the front line of the resistance to minority white rule.
Ad was often the only white supporter in the public gallery at Nelson Mandela's trial in 1963-64, exchanging clenched-fist salutes with the man who, 30 years later, would be President of South Africa.
Ad and Walter were the first husband-and-wife to be "banned" by the apartheid regime, prevented from political activity and even from moving from place to place.
They were also banned from communicating with each other, until two secret service agents turned up at the family home with an extension to the banning order that allowed the couple to hold conversations.
She is modest about tonight's reception, although she admits she sometimes has to "pinch myself" about a party in a building she used to be barred from entering.
"It's Peter and the high commissioner that have concocted it," she says. "All I know is a lot of our family and lots of old friends are going to be there, which is quite terrific. It's quite moving really, I feel a little bit humble about it all.
"Whatever we've done, we're family people".
The Hains joined the Liberal Party of South Africa, then the only party open to all races, in 1953, arranging legal representation for black people who had been arrested, taking food parcels to the families of ANC members around Pretoria and become a sort of unofficial switchboard for the resistance movement.
"I was a housewife and had become known for people to contact me if anything went wrong or they were arrested. I was quite proud of that, there was a sort of bush telegraph for people to get in touch.
"When things got worse and worse we used to be involved in taking food to prisoners, friends of ours who had been arrested.
"One of the exciting things that happened at that time was that we couldn't speak to people, so we found ways of getting messages to people in their laundry, in their clothing. We would get messages to people in a cooked onion. If you just boil an onion and peel it open it's got layers, and we used to put notes in. We did it once and we spoke to the person later, and he said, 'oh, I ate it!'"
Both were arrested and imprisoned for two weeks without trial in 1961, and Ad was served with a banning order in 1963. Walter's followed a year later, making his work as an architect near-impossible. The family moved to Britain in 1966.
It was the teenage Peter who acted as a go-between in that time, taking messages back and forth and dealing with the media during a period when the secret police were following the family, including the four children.
"We used to try and make life fun for them, and that's what stands out in my memory," says Ad. Fun meant trying to make a game out of what must have been terrifying, trying to lose the police on the tail of the family car.
"Certain things we had to do we almost didn't tell each other. We did all we could to keep danger at bay."
Recalling Mandela's trial, she said, "I used to go as often as I could. There were two galleries in the court, one for blacks and one for whites.... I would always go so there was someone in the white gallery.
"I never thought I would see him again, and when I met him at the House of Commons after Peter became an MP I said, 'I don't suppose you remember me'. But he said 'how could I forget?'"
For a family so committed to justice and fairness, the politics were never going to stop when the move came to Putney, south-west London. Peter and his parents immediately joined the anti- apartheid movement in the UK, and the future Neath MP went on to lead a successful campaign to stop the 1970 South African cricket side from coming to Britain.
And yet there was little sense that the regime would one day crumble and majority rule would take hold in their homeland.
"I never really thought it," she said. "The fact is we didn't really think the change would happen in our time. It came suddenly, as often these things do." The couple have been back three times since 1994, and still miss the country.
Ad still works part-time for her son, who also celebrates a birthday today - he's 57 - and says she is happy to help out.
"It's wonderful to be able to give something back to him after all he did for us," she says. Tonight, however, it's all about giving something back to her.