The sheer brass neck of Tory defence minister Michael Fallon who, when visiting the Falkland Islands, asserts that Jeremy Corbyn is a bigger risk to the islands than Argentina. What Corbyn actually said was this: “It seems to me ridiculous that in the 21st century we’d be getting into some enormous conflict with Argentina about the islands just off it. Yes, of course the islanders have an enormous say in this, let’s bring about some sensible dialogue. It happened before, I’m sure it can happen again.”
Before the Falkland Islands were invaded in 1982, Britain was indeed talking with Argentina, working out some way of keeping both sides happy. Sovereignty was on the agenda. Margaret Thatcher’s government was in the process of making enormous cuts to the military, not least to the navy, and by coming to a settlement over the Falklands it was clear significant sums could be saved. In fact, as part of the Defence white paper of 1981, it was agreed to withdraw Britain’s presence in the area, HMS Endurance altogether. All sides subsequently agreed that this sent an unequivocal signal to the Argentinian military dictatorship that Britain was no longer interested in the place, so they invaded.
I am not sure what Corbyn was getting at in his comments about the Falklands in the 21st century because no one is seriously suggesting engaging in an “enormous conflict with Argentina” because we have learned the lessons of 1982 and the islands are now properly protected. I am all for dialogue with Argentina as long as it begins with the words “We are not going to discuss any aspects of sovereignty. How else can we help you?”
It seems to me that in an historical perspective Margaret Thatcher was far more a risk to the Falklands than Jeremy Corbyn ever will be. Set aside the unlikelihood that Corbyn will ever be prime minister it was on Thatcher’s watch, not Corbyn’s, that the islands were taken from Britain and a thousand British soldiers were killed or injured (not to mention over 2000 Argentinians) in part at least to her inaction and incompetence.
I have little time for Corbyn but I have none at all for Thatcher and her death has changed nothing. When Mr Fallon is tossing round insults about Corbyn, remind yourself which political party messed up in 1982, enabling the invasion of the Falklands Islands. It was a terrible series of blunders, after which Thatcher herself reached unlikely new heights of undeserved popularity. Can you imagine how the Labour Party would have been treated by the press if they had presided over such a catastrophe? They would not have been feted as heroes.
“The biggest threat at the moment isn’t Argentina actually, it is Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party,” Mr Fallon told the BBC. Given that Corbyn and Labour are confined to opposition until at least 2020, I don’t know how he works that one out but the biggest threat to the Falklands in 1982 Leopoldo Galitieri, Argentina’s military dictator, closely followed by our own dictator, one Margaret Hilda Thatcher.