Talk about mixed messages.
Last week it was the Foreign Office showing a lack of fibre over the deployment of Prince William to the Falklands in the face of protests from Argentina. This week they are reassuring the money men in the City of London about the committment to defend the Islands.
Has something changed? Probably not. As one of the great Offices of State the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has long been recognised as the sort of ivory tower that carries on pretty much regardless of the realities that surround it.
It was, after all the Foreign Office that were so keen to enter negotiations with Argentina in the 1960’s, with the aim of disposing of an obstruction to their greater ambitions both at the United Nations and in the south cone. That over 2,000 Britain lived on that obstruction did not enter into their isolated minds. That those people had lives and rights did not either. It was only when the Islanders’ open letter hit Parliament in the February of 1968 did the Foreign Office wake up to the fact that the Islanders’ plight resonated with the British people. Their paymasters.
But they don’t learn. As a result the Labour Government ploughed on with negotiations with Spain over Gibraltar, advised by the Foreign Office, and completely oblivious to the will of the electorate. And then, when realisation dawns, there’s a massive U-turn and the Government is embarrassed.
That’s what happened in 1968, and that’s what happened to Mr. Blair.
And still they don’t learn. Prince William’s deployment to the Search and Rescue team on the Falkland Islands is not just a matter of military expediency. It’s a matter of British pride. That he should be there on an anniversary of a war that we pursued with honour is a matter for even greater pride.
But the image from this week’s news is that, as so many times in the past, the Foreign Office only responds to the money. The big investors in the City scream for assurances and the Foreign Office suddenly support a strong response to Argentina’s continued belligerence.
It really is about time these civil servants learnt the meaning of the word, ‘servant’.