Jeremy Corbyn and the Falklands

This article was also published in Rob Francis's blog

In the 1960s and 1970s, the British government forcibly expelled around 2,000 residents of Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean, in order to hand the territory over to the United States to use as an air and naval base. To hurry the process, pets were killed in front of their owners, food supplies were made scarce, and a number of Chagossians reported that they were threatened with being shot if they did not leave. The residents were reportedly left in Mauritius with no reparations.


Court cases continued for many years afterwards, with the House of Lords ruling in 2008 that the islanders had no right to return, and the European Court of Human Rights rejecting a trial in 2012.


Jeremy Corbyn has been a supporter of the Chagossians’ plight for a long time, and on this I agree with him. On his website, an article is published, which discusses the depopulation of Diego Garcia and notes that

“This was done in secret and with no consultation with the people who matter most, namely those people who lived there”

Hard to argue with, really. I’m with him so far. But it becomes difficult to square all of this with his attitude to the Falkland Islands.


Goose Green


Goose Green


In April 1982, Leopoldo Galtieri had been the head of Argentina’s ruling military dictatorship for four months, but already his public support was low. To try and boost his popularity, and address a long-standing territorial claim, he ordered forces to invade and seize the Falklands, banking that the UK would not respond. But, respond Thatcher did, and Argentina surrendered after two months.


The Falklands conflict is still an open sore for hard-leftists. There is a firm belief that, without that war, Margaret Thatcher would never have won the 1983 general election; they point to polling showing that she was doing disastrously prior to the invasion, and significantly better afterwards. Hence the Falklands War is a kind of cause célèbre on the left, a way of explaining how the public unexpectedly didn’t rally round and support the far left in 1983.


Perhaps the conflict did benefit Thatcher. Although it feels a rather simplistic analysis that ignores things like the longest suicide note in history, an economic recovery towards the end of 1982, Michael Foot’s support for the war, and the fact that poor mid-term polls are not uncommon for governments.


But regardless, it is certainly a leap to get to:

“ the whole thing [Falklands War] is a Tory Plot to keep their money-making friends in business”

Yep, that was Jeremy, talking during the conflict, back in May 1982. Given that Margaret Thatcher didn’t start the Falklands War, this is a difficult claim to sustain.


Did Corbyn think that we should just roll over and hand the Falkland Islands to Argentina? What about the Falkland Islanders, don’t they matter? They considered themselves British; would Jeremy Corbyn be happy to sit back and let British territory be captured by a military dictatorship?


Fast forward to this weekend, and he was at it again on the Andrew Marr show, calling for Britain to negotiate, and reach “an accommodation” with Argentina over the status of the Falkland Islands, saying

“Yes, of course the islanders have an enormous say in it but let’s bring about some sensible dialogue”

An “enormous say”? Here’s some sensible dialogue. The residents of the Falkland Islands want to stay British; a 2013 referendum showed that 99.8% supported remaining a British territory.


The right of self-determination is recognised by the United Nations; the Falklanders have the right to choose their sovereignty. And if they wish to be British citizens, we shouldn’t question that, or have “sensible dialogue”, but support them and defend them, as we would with any other British citizens. What else is there to say? Falklanders are naturally furious, pointing out quite rightly that there is nothing to negotiate.


If it was “the people who lived there” who mattered most on Diego Garcia, as Corbyn wrote, why is the same not true in the Falkland Islands? Why will Jeremy Corbyn spend years fighting the corner of the Chagossians, but just shrug when the subject of the Falklands comes up? Does he support democracy and self-determination as core principles, or just when they suit his purposes?


Here is Corbyn’s hypocrisy. Because, it’s not really about democracy, or human rights, or any of that blather that he comes out with. It’s about anti-imperialism.


He supports the Chagossians because, in that instance, Britain and America were clearly in the wrong. Conversely, with the Falklands, he doesn’t want to hear the residents there, because somewhat inconveniently they insist on supporting Britain. They wish to be part of our nation, and this does not fit with Corbyn’s mindset; to him, Britain and America are the source of all the problems in the world. The Falklanders don’t fit this template, and so Corbyn turns his face away. There is no opportunity to rail against western injustice to be found here.


And how awful for those on the Falkland Islands, to know that the current leader of the official opposition would negotiate to give their land away to a country they don’t wish to be a part of, and would also have done so in 1982 when that would have meant extending the rule of a ghastly junta. How is that principled?


Let me finish with a quote from Jeremy Corbyn himself, talking about the 2013 Queen’s Speech.

“The speech then concluded with a very odd assertion that the Falkland Islanders and Gibraltarians will have the right to determine their futures. This is strange because at the same time [the government] has been fighting through every quarter in Britain and Europe to prevent Chagos Islanders having their right of return to their homelands, from which they were brutally removed in the 1980s to make way for a US base.

Another […] laugh at their double standards.”

What Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters don’t understand is that his double standards are just as bad; he is merely a mirror of everything he opposes, as inconsistent and capricious as those he sets himself against. So much for his overplayed “principles”.


When Jeremy Corbyn laughs at the government’s double standards, he doesn’t realise that he is laughing at his own reflection.


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