Ninety per cent of Falkland Islanders voted on their future and of those, 99.8 per cent voted for the islands to remain a British overseas territory. We must stand by the Falklands. They have spoken loud and clear, now the world, and the left, must listen
Ninety per cent of Falkland Islanders voted on their future and of those, 99.8 per cent voted for the islands to remain a British overseas territory.
Yet Seamus Milne’s grossly misinformed article in yesterday’s Guardian actually suggested the turnout and support for the islands’ current status was ‘dodgy’ rather than democratic.
Milne is not alone in rolling out straw men and weak arguments to defend the indefensible and to deny the freedom of the Falkland Islanders. Below are some of the stock arguments regularly used to make a point similar to Milne’s:
Geography: How many times is it rolled out that the Falklands are 300 miles from Argentina and thousands from the UK? Is that really the level we debate sovereignty on? Proximity and distance? It might blow the heads of some people but I don’t get less British the further I travel from home. Islands across the globe can share a culture and ties with Britain that are not diminished simply by distance. To suggest we settle sovereignty on proximity is not only infantile but would redraw the world map.
History: Argentina’s historical claim to the islands are poor at best. Some Islanders have had family there since 1848 – decades before Argentina’s brutal conquest of Patagonia that exterminated the native population and secured Argentina’s proximity to the Falklands. Argentina relies on its links to the Spanish Empire to have any sort of real claim. Ironic really.
Imperialism: Remnants of empire might be embarrassing but that’s no reason to negate the will of a free people. The islands were originally uninhabited so the current Islanders are the closest thing to a native population the Falklands could have. To roll out claims of British imperialism is pretty laughable given Argentina’s own bloody history of conquest and colonisation.
Thatcher: Believe me, I’m no fan. Did she milk the conflict for political purposes? Certainly. But like it or not the right thing to do when faced with foreign invasion was to defend the islands. Over 900 people died in that conflict – is anyone shocked that the Islanders don’t want to negotiate their independence with a former aggressor? Michael Foot welcomed their liberation and Ed Miliband continues to affirm their freedom. It’s an insult to the left to assume that only a Tory could support the freedom of the Falklands.
Cost: Some fellow socialists suddenly get very small state conservative when it comes to the Falklands. It costs us too much, they claim. Being from the South East, I could take that line to its logical conclusion and jetison the majority of Great Britain. The Scouse half of my family would be aghast if I told them Liverpool cost too much so had to go, so too should the idiocy of this point be seen in the same light.
Oil: If the line isn’t that the islands cost us too much then often it’s said that we’re only there for the oil. Britain has a strategic interest in the islands – stop press – Britain has a strategic interest in Kent, it doesn’t mean the primary reason we’re there is for gain alone. I understand the link – Iraq > Oil > Imperialism – it’s lazy thinking and a weak argument versus a people’s freedom.
Let’s Negotiate: England’s claim over Calais is firmer than Argentina’s over the Falklands, but I doubt the inhabitants there would be keen for London and Paris to go over their heads. The simple fact is the Islanders do not want to negotiate; and who can blame them after facing invasion? This is not like China and Japan’s dispute over Senkaku/Diaoyu. Britain cannot settle this issue by ignoring the rights of the Falkland Islanders. Imagine being informed your part of the country faced annexation from abroad as a price for better international relations?
It’s time for those opposed to the freedom of the Falklands to grow up. Would anyone question the Islanders’ right to independence if Argentina were trying to invade a non-British neighbour? Do they think forced repatriation is progressive or invasion excusable?
America has proven herself a faithless ally so Britain needs the EU and the Commonwealth more than ever. We must stand by the Falklands. They have spoken loud and clear, now the world, and the left, must listen.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.