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Coffee House

The politics hovering over the Falklands

1 February 2012

6:33 PM

1 February 2012

6:33 PM

With HMS Dauntless and now Prince William gliding across the Atlantic to reinforce Britain’s claim on the Falklands, there’s no denying that tensions with Argentina have been raised. But let’s not get carried away. As Admiral Sir John Woodward reminded us last week, the latest round of defence cuts rules out, or at least undermines, a British counter-invasion. The deployment of our shiniest boat is, in reality, the sum total of what Britain can do to scare off any invasion.

And there could be another barrier to the government’s hawks, other than resources: namely, the Lib Dems. Nick Clegg did try to rally support for our cause on a trade mission to Brazil eight months ago, but it’s unlikely Cameron’s partners are enthusiastic for this sabre-rattling over the Islands.

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After all, their supporters certainly aren’t. The most recent polling suggests that 53 per cent of those questioned believe Britain still has the most legitimate claim to the Falklands. But, breaking that down, less than half of the Lib Dem agreed with the statement, compared to 75 per cent of Conservatives. There is also a clear split on who should control the Islands: 78 per cent of Tories agree the British Government should retain control, compared to, again, under half of Lib Dem voters.

For now, despite the escalations of the past few days, the idea of all-out conflict between Argentina and Britain seems unlikely. But if military action looms closer, then there could well be a political conflict somewhat closer to home.

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