Corbyn: Threat or Irrelevance?
The campaign for the Labour Party leadership has thrown up what many regard as a surprise front-runner in Jeremy Corbyn MP, whose hard-left views are hardly helpful on matters relating to the Falklands Islands.
At the time of the 1982 conflict, when he was a North London Councillor, Corbyn condemned the despatch of the Task Force and called for its immediate withdrawal. He saw it more as an attempt by Mrs Thatcher to divert attention from her economic policies and to bolster support from her business community ‘cronies’ than as a necessary and justifiable reaction to the illegal and unprovoked invasion of the Falkland Islands by an Argentine junta with an appalling record of human rights abuse. Even now, when asked whether he might see the need to commit British troops abroad, he said that he could not think of any circumstance that would warrant it at the moment. He may not have had the Falklands in mind when he said that but it is hardly a ringing endorsement of the need for a British military presence in the Falkland Islands to deter any future Argentine threat to their security.
He is just as wobbly on the issue of self-determination for the Islanders. Before the Falkland Islands referendum in March 2013, he appeared on a BBC ‘Daily Politics’ programme to argue in favour of dialogue with Argentina – "without changing the question of nationality, there is room for discussion” – and he drew attention to the settlement of the dispute between Sweden and Finland over the Aland Islands as a possible way forward. This had been referred to the League of Nations in 1917, resulting in the Aland Islands becoming an autonomous territory under Finnish sovereignty with the right to maintain the Swedish language and culture. The de-militarisation of the islands, originally set in the Treaty of Paris in 1856, was further confirmed by international treaty preventing the placement of military installations or forces in the islands. This, of course, would play right into Argentine hands if it ever gained traction.
Corbyn is also thought to be amenable to the idea of discussing some form of joint sovereignty. This equally ignores the Islanders’ right to self-determination and the results of the 2013 referendum which showed an overwhelming majority in favour of the Falkland Islands remaining a UK Overseas Territory. He has also attended various Argentine Government-organised conferences in the UK in favour of ‘dialogue’. Whenever the Argentine Government speak of dialogue, they mean transfer of sovereignty to them.
The issue is whether Jeremy Corbyn will be elected Leader of the Labour Party in opposition; whether he will be successful in shifting the party more towards the left and in preventing schism; and crucially whether the Labour Party under his leadership will be sufficiently popular to become a serious contender to form a Government after a national election. There are far more competent political commentators to look into this crystal ball but it is important for all who support the rights of the Falkland Islanders to determine their own political future to help the elected representatives in the Falkland Islands Government to ‘educate’ Mr Corbyn and his supporters on the realities of the Falkland Islands’ situation.
Since the 1982 conflict, there has been strong cross-party support in parliament in support of the Falkland Islanders and the defence of their home. It would be a shame to see this decline. We need to continue to nurture that support.