Margaret Thatcher Day
January 10th is celebrated every year in the Falklands as Margaret Thatcher Day. We should all raise a glass here too
It is fitting that just a week after the President of Argentina's latest Falklands publicity stunt – her open letter published as an advert in the Guardian and elsewhere – comes Margaret Thatcher Day, which is celebrated on the Falkland Islands every January 10th.
It marks the anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's visit to the islands thirty years ago today, when she was awarded "the Honorary Freedom of Stanley and all Townships and Settlements throughout the Falkland Islands" in gratitude for her leadership in the liberation of the islands from Argentinean forces.
Funnily enough, while she found time to discuss ‘anti-colonialism’ UN resolutions from the 1960s in her letter, Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner forgot to mention the Falklands War of 1982.
At the time, strange as it may seem now looking back on such a clear-cut case of blatant aggression, Margaret Thatcher was under huge and constant pressure, both within the British political establishment and from other countries, to negotiate with Argentina in order to reach a UN-mediated ‘peaceful solution’. Given that Argentine forces had taken the islands by force, it is difficult to see what such a solution would entail. But many believed that was Britain’s best hope, and that the United Kingdom simply would not be able to take the islands back militarily.
As everyone knows, Margaret Thatcher stood firm, and British forces proved the doubters wrong.
But, just as one might have thought Margaret Thatcher's record during the Falklands War couldn't be much better, files released under the 30-year rule show that she rejected a request from the US to call a ceasefire, so as to avoid 'humiliating' Argentina, just before British troops won their final victory in the battle for Port Stanley. Margaret Thatcher replied that she had not despatched a military British task force just "to hand over the Queen's islands to a contact group".
The files also show that she beefed up security in Gibraltar in case anyone in the Spanish military got any wild ideas, and that she wrote to the French president to ensure that France did not deliver Exocet missiles to Peru, an ally of Argentina. Margaret Thatcher had to be firm not just in the face of our military enemies, but in the face of diplomatic pressure from our allies.
So, this January 10th, let’s raise a glass to the Iron Lady on Margaret Thatcher Day, in recognition of her success in keeping the Falklands free and British.
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