Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands War
Did The Falklands War save Margaret Thatcher’s Premiership?
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.