What would Clement do?

A Labour blog that witters on about Clement Attlee. Hurrah for The Major!

Buenos Aires and Whitehall…

After Margaret Thatchers memorable turn as Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady”, there was a predictable flurry of Falklands-related guff, from both Buenos Aires and Whitehall. Events today, with the riot outside the British Embassy show that the war fought thirty years ago is still alive for many, even those not born at the time.

  Now I believe that it is vital that those of us who consider ourselves to be part of the sane British Left to address this issue, and to reiterate the point made by the late Michael Foot in 1982, namely that the right of the Falkland Islanders to national  self-determination is paramount. They have an unquestionable right to be British, and to the protection of the British Crown. The Islanders have no wish to be part of mainland Argentina, which for all practical purposes is as distant as Southampton to them.

Lets look at the underlying forces at play here. A Peronist Government, forced by the economic crisis to make vastly unpopular cuts in Argentina has played the only card it has left – the Malvinas. In Whitehall, the ministers of an unpopular Coalition, also embarking on a harsh and unwarranted cutback/privatisation programme cannot be indifferent to the possible patriotic side effects of “standing firm on the Falklands”. After all, last week they tried petrol panic and pasty eating as diversions. In the real world, neither government has the forces to hand to either invade or re-take the islands.

However, once the diplomatic sphere is included, things look grimmer for Britain than in 1982. Virtually the whole of South America agrees with Argentina that these rocks, first settled centuries ago by the British, are really part of Tierra del Fuego. The U.S. State Department, true to form, has no fixed view, but would like to see negotiations, no doubt with a resolution that would favour her South American ally. US foreign policy has long regarded the break up of the UKs remaining dependencies as a good thing.

Spain will predictably side with its ex-colony. France? Well lets just hope that whoever wins the election there can be as steadfast as Mitterand was in 1982. China and Russia are always ready to humiliate Britain, and India could go either way. I should think that most Arab states would back Argentina post Iraq.

Altogether not a happy picture for the Islanders, and one that would take both careful Diplomacy and decent Defence spending to reverse. Unfortunately neither looks likely until we kick this Coalition out. Camerons Defence Review is sending William Hague naked into the conference chamber – never an appealing thought.

As we remember those who fought and  gave their lives fighting against a Fascist Junta thirty years ago, let us remember that their sons and daughters may well have to do the same.


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2 thoughts on “Buenos Aires and Whitehall…

  1. Britain would have no need to invade or re-take the islands, as it already has a very substantial military base on the Falklands, which was put there specifically to prevent another invasion.

    Argentina is not undergoing an economic crisis at the moment. In actual fact, despite weaker economic growth in 2011, Argentina still grew at more than 4%. There are serious questions about Cristina Férnandez de Kirchner’s handling of the economy, but despite that Argentina is still performing relatively well. Her stance on the Falklands reflects her neo-populist style rather than a last ditch attempt to retain popularity. The Falkands is only one example of a trend of economic nationalism under the Kirchners, the strongest example being the international default of 2002.

    I think that it is unlikely that Britain would not receive at least tacit support from France and Spain since they have similar overseas territories, for example French Guyana for the French and Ceuta for the Spanish.

    • Robin, apologies for any economic blunders, I am under the impression that Kirchners administration has overseen some of the harshest public spending cuts of any nation in South America, which has placed her in a unique position for a Peronist, harming her core support. Neo-populism is not just a style, it is a characteristic of Peronism ever since Peron. I would hope that France would give at least tacit support, but I doubt that Spain would do so against a Spanish speaking nation – it could be electoral suicide during the economic crisis that Spain is experiencing.

      The future of our base in the Falklands is under doubt, and rests upon a flight of (admittedly expensive) RAF Eurofighter Typhoons, and the Royal Navys’ ability to patrol the South Atlantic. The Strategic Defence Review has once again threatened the existence of such forces being available at need. Ground forces on the islands amount to some Royal Engineers, a regular infantry company,the RAF Regiment squadron and the Falklands Islands Defence Force – something approaching a Battalion in all. Whether this is going to provide much of a deterrent if relief forces cannot be deployed is a moot point. After all, without a credible relief force, how long could this defence hold out?

      Of late, the Argentine Navy has been seeking to re-establish its amphibious capability, notably by buying retired Assault Ships from France. This sale has fallen through, although they are now seeking to build their own, possibly in conjunction with Brasil. Diplomatically, the UK finds itself increasingly isolated, and, whilst the democratically elected Kirchner government is infinitely preferable to the barbarous Military Junta of 1982, the islanders still prefer to be British.

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