Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands War
Last week saw the 38th anniversary of the beginning of the Falklands War. Although it lasted just 74 days, the success of the war for the UK would give Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher the boost she desperately needed after a faltering start for her government.
When Argentina invaded the Falklands, a British colony, Thatcher was under enormous pressure. A rise in unemployment, a decline in manufacturing and brutal spending cuts from her government had many suggesting her tenure would be a short lived one.
Thatcher swiftly sent a naval task force of over 100 ships and 11,000 personnel when Argentinian forces landed on the islands.
By the time Argentina surrendered on June 14, 1982, her popularity was on the rise again. Thatcher’s quick response to the Falklands incident saw her in a strong position heading into the 1983 election, which led to a comfortable victory.
It has been said since that the victory in the Falklands was a patriotic war, a conflict to put the ‘Great’ back into ‘Great Britain’. Thatcher was determined to reclaim the islands for the people living there and the British people. Most of the UK public were said to have gotten a thrill out of seeing their armed forces claim a military victory far from home, it’s something which wasn’t old in 1982.
The war was one of the shorter conflicts in recent history. The task force sent to South America quickly set about pushing Argentina forces off the island. The decision from Thatcher to issue the order for the Royal Navy to attack and sink the Argentinian cruiser the General Belgrano was arguably the beginning of the end of the war.
It was also the most controversial moment of the conflict, with many on the islands and further afield arguing that the attack was unjustified.
The impact of victory in the Falklands was to be felt thousands of miles away in the UK for the rest of the decade. The 1980s saw Britain go through significant changes, many of which were made possible through having Thatcher in charge; which may not have been the case if the gamble to reclaim the Falklands had failed.
In many parts of the country, Thatcher will be forever remembered for what happened to heavy industry and trade unions during her government. She is looked upon as one of the greatest leaders in the UK’s history by many others. To call her a divisive leader would be an understatement.
Famously, Carol Thatcher, Margaret Thatcher’s daughter, travelled to the Falklands and Argentina to make a TV programme for the anniversary. A mother of one of the Argentinian sailors who died when the Belgrano said to her: “I never saw him again because your mother killed him.”
Whatever your opinion of her, it has long been recognised that the success of the Falklands War made Margret Thatcher’s 11-year rule as Prime Minister possible. By the time Thatcher departed from number 10 in 1990, the landscape of the UK would be changed forever.