A ‘versus’ from the Mrs Thatcher songbook

Are we really going to let the Tories use the Falkland Islands to make fools of us again?

I was around when the first conflict with Argentina took place in 1982 (though fortunately too young to have taken part). Then-Defence Secretary John Nott had withdrawn the Royal Navy ship HMS Endurance – Britain’s only naval presence – from the South Atlantic in a cost-cutting 1981 review.

Many people, including Royal Navy Captain Nicholas Barker, believed that this sent a signal to the Argentinian military junta that the UK was unwilling – and would soon be unable – to defend the Falklands, and sure enough, an invasion took place.

Some commentators have voiced a belief that the Prime Minister at the time, Margaret Thatcher, lied to the House of Commons because she had known the Argentinians would invade and could have prevented it – that she effectively engineered a war in order to boost her party’s popularity. It is certainly true that her government was boosted by the victory, and this helped carry it back into power in the 1983 general election.

Look at the situation now. Dr Liam Fox, prior to his ignominious resignation, launched a defence review in which he reduced the British Navy to insignificance. Am I right in suggesting we have no aircraft carriers now, so our ability to fight sea-based wars is seriously compromised?

It is in this atmosphere that Argentina has begun agitating about the Falklands again. Is anybody surprised? As before, they think they’re onto a winner.

And so does David Cameron, I reckon. Let’s not forget, he is only Prime Minister because the Liberal Democrat Party threw in its lot with his Tories after he failed to win a majority in the 2010 general election. He may think a victory on the battlefield could spur his party to victory in the next election, just as it did for Mrs (now Baroness) Thatcher.

I have a few problems with that. Also, the 1982 conflict killed 255 British military personnel and three Falkland Islanders (along with 649 Argentinians). Others were seriously injured, most notably including Simon Weston, who has been on TV news programmes recently, discussing the current situation. It would be grossly irresponsible to cynically engineer a war that would cause the deaths of British servicemen and women, in order to gain electoral popularity.

Let’s not forget what all the posturing is really about, either: Oil. The waters around the Falklands are rich oilfields but the UK cannot exploit the resource because it is too far away from us. Argentina wants sovereignty over the Falklands so that it can profit from the oil. Many believe that a deal should have been struck for mutual benefit. This is a matter of greed.

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  1. Jim Campbell January 19, 2012 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    Senior military figures have been warning since the shape of the defence review first became apparent that we would be militarily unable to re-take the Falklands in the event of another invasion, whilst diplomats have been sounding alarms about increased sabre rattling from Buenos Aires for a couple of years now. I don’t find these dots difficult to join, TBH.

  2. Mark Cooling February 2, 2013 at 3:47 am - Reply

    In 1977 James Callaghan instigated operation ‘Journeyman’ after 5o Argentine ‘Scientists’ had been landed on an Island in the area. Journeyman involved a British Nuclear submarine and support vessels being sent to the South Atlantic. It resulted in the prevention of any further developments in the area at the time and sent a clear and unmistakable message to the Argentinian Government. Thatcher knew what she was doing and will soon go to her grave with blood on her hands. What is perhaps currently more worrying is that we now have another highly unpopular (and unelected) Tory led Government in power surely ‘searching’ for ways to improve it’s popularity and avoid a massive future election defeat. Is this just a coincidence or are the horror and echoes of the past about to revisit us

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