Coffee House

Cameron’s fight over the Falklands

18 January 2012

6:24 PM

18 January 2012

6:24 PM

Thirty years on from the Falklands War, and the hostility between Britain and Argentina persists. And it was that hostility that delivered the most striking moment of PMQs earlier. Not only did
David Cameron, at the insistence of Andrew Rosindell, describe the Argentinian attitude towards the Islands as ‘far more like colonialism’ than that of the British, but he also
confirmed that the National Security Council yesterday discussed the simmering situation in the south Atlantic. As he put it himself, he wants to send out a ‘strong message’ to
Argentina, after the recent sabre-rattling actions of their President, Cristina Kirchner — which Daniel has blogged about here.


The question that’s buzzing around now is how far that ‘strong message’ will extend. So it’s worth noting that, post-PMQs, Cameron is emphasising that other matters were discussed at
that National Security Council meeting, beyond the Falkland islanders’ ‘right of self-determination’. It’s likely that the PM is wary of upping his rhetoric too far, too quickly. After
all, with the defence cuts trimming our forces day by
, it’s not entirely certain whether, if push came to shove, Britain could defend the sovereignty of the islands.
What’s worth keeping an eye on is whether this war of words makes a difference to the race for oil going on in the background. The current row over the Falklands was ignited in January last year,
when the British energy company Rockhopper Exploration began testing for oil, and then announced its discovery, in the North Falklands Basin area, in May. Now Rockhopper needs investment from other
companies to secure that oil — but as the Sunday Times observed, ‘The list of bidders [has been]
limited by the potential political fallout.’

It sounds as though Rockhopper and their potential suitors have made progress in recent days. But will those
suitors be reassured by Cameron’s defence of British interests in the region today? Or will they worry that it only aggravates the situation? After today, the fog around the Falklands has thickened

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • Duncan

    It won’t be long before we are giving our armed forced a microphone for them to say ‘Bang Bang!’
    Whichever idiot decided to scrap the Aircraft Carriers should be put against the wall and shot.
    If this country loses the Falklands it will be a national disgrace and the government will fall – without a doubt!
    The world will put Weaklings after the word Great.
    What a bunch of lilly livered spineless pussy cats we have as politicians these days. They have no balls!

  • Robert Taggart

    Blighty should divest itself of all the remaining ‘dependencies’ – they be but relics of empire. Blighty has more than enough problems at home – all the time – so should not be ‘diverted’ by some far-flung sentimental colonials.
    The solution be simple…
    The South Atlantic archipelago – to Chile.
    Tristan Da Cuna – to South Africa.
    Saint Helena – to South Africa or Namibia.
    Ascension – to Brazil.
    All the others – Bermuda, Gibraltar, Man… – independence.
    A weight of our shoulders and our mind !

  • Charlieray15

    David Parker

    John Nott stated that no country helped the UK more during the Falklands conflict than France. So I think that answers your question.

  • Dimoto

    If Cameron/Osborne had given a moments thought to the real national interest, before rushing to endorse Lagarde, and instead supported the Brazilian candidate, we would have a much better relationship with the rising power of the continent (the only BRIC NOT to have been visited by Cameron/Osborne), and would also have a better IMF, not open to systematic manipulation by the French.


    If I were an islander and given the choice between Cameron and Kirchner I would have trouble making my mind up. The only thing that would comfort me is that Cameron is heir(2B) today, gone tomorrow. But not until he’s given the Armed Forces a damn good mauling (and not the Argentinean ones)- I do wonder what the CCF contingent commander did to him at Eton; make him stand in the rain or just humiliate him for being a podgy soft lad?

    WHATTG – Where Have The Tories Gone

  • Cynic

    Why, Robert Taggart, should we “divest ourselves” of islanders who wish to remain British? That smacks of abandonment to the wolves and would be a shameful act. The Falklanders have a right of self-determination (they aren’t colonists, after all, since when the original people settled there, there were no indigenous inhabitants) and should be able to choose who governs them.

  • Cynic

    As [Cameron] put it himself, he wants to send out a ‘strong message’ to Argentina …” If that were true (rather than a mere soundbite, as I suspect), the last thing Dave would be doing was scrapping our carriers/aircraft and downsizing our armed forces. Talk softly, but carry a big stick is good advice. Dave is talking loudly and has thrown his stick away. Defence of the realm (and its far-flung outposts) is the first priority of government.

  • David Parker

    If the aircraft carriers which we are proposing to share with France are actually built by the time a war with Argentina ever develops, on which side will they be deployed?

  • James Clarke

    Although the ability of the UK to send a task force as per 1982 has been eroded to the point by which it could not practically now do so, the Islands are now much better defended and much more easily reinforced. Aregentinas amed forces are also weaker now that they are back under civilian control. Politically, we need to get the FO moving on this to stop the Argentinians forming a South American union against ‘european colonialism’ – If that happens it could sour our relations with the whole continent.

  • Peter From Maidstone

    Why should we ‘divest’ ourselves of the Falkland Islands? Whatever for?

  • Robert Taggart

    Blighty should divest itself of the Falkland Islands not to mention South Georgia, South Orkney, South Shetland…
    How ? On the pretext of austerity (of continuing defence cuts et al), we should invite Chile to help us out. Our relations with Chile (what little they are) are much better than with Argentina. Plus, one look at the geography at the southern tip of South America will show how Chile curves ’round and under’ Argentina to claim a large share of the archipeligo there. So, to ‘go with the flow’ – a case could be made for eventually handing the Islands over to Chile.
    Sorted, Simples !

  • michael

    To Fish wives, Cristina, Nicolas, and Alex.

    Hands up, we surrender, take the bleedin’ lot
    -anything for a quiet life.

  • Pot Head

    It would be funny if the Falkland Islanders want to remain Scottish.

  • Ian Walker

    Does anyone really think we couldn’t defend the Falklands?

    This isn’t 1982. The ‘invasion’ would last exactly as long as it took for whatever sub is undoubtedly in the area to target some suitable military target (Campo de Mayo?) in Buenos Aires with a Tomahawk and press ‘fire.’

  • Colin Cumner

    Strapworld makes a very important observation in that Britain no longer has the hardware to embark on yet another military ‘adventure’. Neither does the public as a whole have the enthusiasm for such a course of action give the high human and economic cost involved.

  • Sunset Clause

    The Falklands could well yet be Cameron’s Waterloo. In any event you don’t do what he is doing to the armed forces without paying the piper at some point in the future. Even if it is just his reputation being pilloried in some enquiry into a future national embarassment. Not that he gives a toss.

  • Archie

    I’m with Mr. Bubbles with regard to this one. If Cameron loses the Falklands I predict that his political life will be worth less than nothing!

  • ButcombeMan

    Is there THAT much hostility, by the British to the Argentinians?

    In my experience there is not much the other way round either, in the educated Argentinians I have met anyway.

    The Argentinians get manipulated by silly politicians from time to time. It suits the politicians.

    If the Argentinians really wanted the Falklands they are there for the taking.

    By opening up to the Falkland Islanders and having a mutual benficial trading relationship.

    This would lead to inter marrying and the development of family ties.

  • Gabriel

    Well stop making such a fuss about war and military defenses already, I’m from Argentina, we do care about the islands allright (I can only speek for myself when I say it’s more of a strange feeling than a concern about oil or fish) but I’ve only seen talk and paranoia about war going on in english forums and sites while in the media here or even talking with aqcuaintances well, its just not a word we care to even mention, ok?

  • Mr. Bubbles

    ‘it’s not entirely certain whether, if push came to shove, Britain could defend the sovereignty of the islands.’

    Of course it’s certain. Cuts or no cuts, no Prime Minister would ever win a subsequent election if he or she failed to defend the Falkland Islands, and they’d damn well know it.

  • Jeremy


    I thought that yours was an intelligent and well-balanced post.

    In answer to your final question, I think that Dave’s steadiness on the matter will have a reassuring effect. It also provides a welcome contrast to the abusive hysteria emanating from the president of Argentina.

  • strapworld

    I thought it was a weak response from Cameron. “As long as the Falklanders want to remain British” etc etc etc. Nothing about the action Argentina, Brazil and others have taken in effect banning ships flying the Falklands (and British) flags from using their ports. In olden days that would be classed as an act of war!

    Cameron could just say that whilst we will not ban South American countries from attending the Olympics the VIP’s will not be afforded any facilities whatsoever. It will be the tube or bus for that lot!

    Weak Cameron would rather sell off the Falklands and lets face it. We aint got the military hardware to do anything these days.