Jan 2012

Pots, kettles and colonialism

Two cheeks of the same arseDear God, but David Cameron is an idiot. Seriously… he’s a proper full-blown clown of a man. Even on the rare occasion that he’s actually right about something – and it really is very rare indeed – he seems determined to express his position in the worst possible terms so that I desperately want to disagree with him even if I don’t. He feels for all the more like a fake Tony Blair. As if someone had flown to Hong Kong and paid one of those back-street tailors to take a break from making knock-off Giorgio Armani suits and rustle up a Tony Blair instead. Truly they are two cheeks of the same arse.

Cameron’s most recent utterance of blithering idiocy is to describe Argentina’s designs on the Falklands as “like colonialism”. The rest of his statement, where he points out that “these people want to remain British and the Argentinians want them to do something else”, is absolutely correct. I’m not suggesting that sovereignty of the Falkland Islands should be handed over to Buenos Aires. What I am saying is that for a British Prime Minister – particularly an aristotory – to accuse another nation of colonialism is just shoddy public relations. He may be right, technically speaking, but he also looks profoundly ridiculous in that rightness.

His choice of words draws attention away from the perfectly sensible point that the people of the islands have, for generations, asserted their Britishness. And away from the fact that they didn’t supplant an existing population of Argentinian citizens, but were in fact the first people to settle the islands. Instead he uses a word which reminds us all just how Britain got there in the first place… as part of a centuries-long policy of sailing around the world and stealing other people’s property at gunpoint. It was only through British colonialism that the Falklands are British today, and accusing the Argentinians of colonialism is akin to defending his position by wailing “yeah? but we did it first!”

Let me reiterate, I don’t believe the Argentinians have a valid claim to the Falkland Islands. I do think that this whole mess could be resolved though if Britain were to say… “Yes, the only reason we are there is because of a morally abhorrent policy that we engaged in for many years, and even though the Falklands is at the benign end of that policy we can see how it still looks bad in the eyes of others – particularly ex-colonies. Therefore as a gesture of goodwill, we will ring-fence any tax revenue raised from the Falklands – very small now, but who knows in the future – and place it into an unambiguously ethical overseas development programme (earthquake relief or something). The people there are British. And they want to remain British. But we will not reap any financial benefit from our possession of the islands – especially while we’re still spending a bunch of money helping the Americans invade places in what looks suspiciously like a continuation of that abhorrent policy that we’re accusing the Argentinians of adopting.”

I think that would be a perfect British response to Argentinian demands and may even – over time – slowly defuse the tension. But I doubt we’ll ever see such a response. Instead Cameron and his successors will continue to antagonise the government in Buenos Aires with accusations of colonialism and whatever other incendiary twaddle can be blurted out, until the day the British navy is so depleted as to make a defence of the islands untenable. At which point, a thoroughly pissed off Argentina will invade again.

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