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Samizdata quote of the day

The thing I learned from the Beaconsfield by-election was that wars make Prime Ministers popular.

- Tony Blair, quoted by Max Hastings in a BBC television programme this evening about the Falklands War and its impact upon subsequent British military policy. The by-election in question happened during that war, and was a landslide victory for Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives, and Tony Blair’s only electoral reverse.

10 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Why is this news? The War on Poverty, and The War on Drugs, were not started because they would lose votes, after all. Calling them Wars makes the Leader seem masterful.
    In Thatcher’s case, the war came to her, but it had the same ‘rally-round-the-flag’ effect. And her decisiveness also added to her popularity.

  • It’s something that should be emphasised, not glossed over- Thatcher wasn’t a warmonger, but when confronted with a challenge for which she did not ask, she did the correct, and risky thing, not the easy and weak thing.

    Unasked for aggression answered boldly is something that political correctness and the rest of the modern cognitive dissonance plagues are doing their best to rob anglo-saxon culture of.

  • What should be remembered about Thatcher and the Falklands conflict is that as soon as the invasion happened, she realized that she was left with no choice.

    If she had done nothing other than go through Alexander Haighs mealy mouthed diplomacy (which clearly meant the removal of Argentine troops, but the transfer of the Falkland Islands to Argentina), then this would have been the most cowardly imaginable – even worse than to attempt to retake the islands and fail.

    The point about Mrs. Thatcher not asking for the Falklands conflict is quite true, it was the idiotic and treasonable nature of the Foreign Office that let the side down without providing any realistic guidance on the likelihood of conflict in the area.

    However, Mrs. Thatchers reduction in the UK’s naval presence was also a strong signal to the Argentines that they either no longer cared about the islands (especially given the benign neglect since World War II) and that they were no longer in a position to provide military support to the islands.

    All in all, the Argentines were to blame for misreading the situatiion and using the invasion to distract from economic problems at home (much as today), however the UK government and especially the Foreign Office and Intelligence services were not without blame either.

    The Falklands remains today what it was prior to the conflict, a poisoned chalice in the South Atlantic that causes continual difficulties with South American countries much more difficult than it should be.

    The Falklands are a relic of empire, but because of the loss of life in the conflict and subsequent PM’s commitment to the islands, it is difficult to see how this can be resolved unless there is a substantial change of approach from the Argentines or the Falkland Islanders, both of which appears unlikely.

    Certainly the discovery of oil in the region might provide a sustainable lifeline to the Falkland Islands economy, but it is also pouring fuel on the flames of the argument over sovereignty.

  • On this topic, I must declare a personal interest. This is because I am an elector for Beaconsfield, and have been for the last 16+ years (though not as long ago as the time we are writing about here).

    Tony Blair (assuming the report is correct) has clearly always had problems with numbers.

    Votes in the preceding general election of 1979 were: RM Bell (Con) 31,938 (61.68%); EL Glasson (Lab) 10,443 (20.17%); P Meyer (Lib) 8,853 (17.10%); others 548 (1.06%). Electorate 67,961; turnout: 76.19%;
    majority: 21,495 (41.51%).

    Votes in the 1982 by-election (staring Tony Blair): T Smith (Con) 23,049 (61.8%, +0.1); P Tyler (Alliance(Lib)) 9,996 (26.8%, +8.7%); A Blair (Lab) 3,886 (10.4%, −9.8%); others 375 (1.0%). Electorate N/R; turnout 37,306; majority 13,053 (35.0%, −8.2%).

    Votes in the 1983 general election: TJ Smith (Con) 30,552 (63.77%); D Ive (Alliance (Lib)) 12,252 (25.57%); JS Smith (Lab) 5,107 (10.66%). Electorate: 66,186; turnout: 72.39%; majority: 18,300 (38.20%).

    Thus, in the 1982 by-election, the Conservative Party held pretty much the percentage vote they had in 1979 (actually +0.1%). The Labour candidate lost out (down 9.8%) to the Alliance (Liberal) candidate (up 8.7%). The Conservative majority actually decreased by 6.5% (though this vas over the Alliance and not the Labour Party).

    Though the Falklands War was in full swing, this was not the cause of the dismal Blair performance. That was the existence of the SDP and the SDP/Liberal Alliance. As a Blairish excuse for Blair’s poor personal performance, this strikes me as about average.

    The relatively poor performance of the Labour Party continued in the 1983 general election, which was after the Falklands War victory. The conservative vote went up 2.1% and the Alliance (Liberal) vote went down 1.2%. After the Falkland victory, the Labour share of the vote actually went up 0.8%.

    However, the man was (later) true to his belief, however falsely formed. He joined in several wars on behalf of the UN and/or NATO (Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan) – if not really on behalf of the UK. He can also claim that he lost no general election because of a war he had decided to join. However, both decisive victory and independent action seem to have eluded him [that is unless, on the former, you count winning the Sierra Leone civil war ;)) - the only one where the peace might also be viewed as won].

    Returning to the only election he ever lost, Beaconsfield is just about the safest Conservative seat in the country. Candidates from other parties are sent there to show their steadfastness under fire, prior to being selected for an at least potentially winnable constituency. IMHO, Blair managed to make the most of this opportunity. This was by persuading his party and the nation (and not least, I suspect, himself) that he did badly for a forgiveable reason (battling the great war leader). In fact the battle he actually lost, under less fire than others previously, was that of holding the line against the SDP/Liberal Alliance, after Croydon North West, Crosby and Glasgow Hillhead.

    Best regards

  • Andrew Duffin

    Blair was wrong to generalise from the Falklands war to all wars.

    A just war vigorously undertaken in defence of actual British people against a real threat, will make a Prime Minister popular – unless it turns into a disastrous defeat.

    A pointless war, undertaken with inadequate resources, for no discernible or credible reason, against a ruthless foe who have beaten us before and give no heed to casualties, will certainly not gain anyone popularity.

  • Sam Duncan

    Reading through the comments, they’re all edging towards what I was thinking, until Andrew Duffin said it: if that’s the case, he learned the wrong lesson.

    To analyse a bit further, I think it’s another example of the Left failing (or refusing) to understand its opponents’ motives, and therefore ending up believing its own hype. Even now, after ample evidence of war bringing about the downfall of a previously popular Prime Minister, they still assume it was war, per se, that won the 1983 election, not the circumstances surrounding it (let alone their own party’s barking mad hard-Left manifesto).

  • RRS

    Even if the quote is 100% accurate, politicians say things either for a purpose or by mistake. Assuming no mistake here, there was a purpose in that statement by A Blair.

    Is the purpose hard to guess at this late juncture?

  • Paul Marks

    I watched this show – how it smeared Ronald Reagan was vile (utterly vile).

    However, only to be expected from Max Hastings.

    In reality it was President Reagan (not the Defence Sec – although he argued for this choice) who made the policy choice to give Britain vital support during the Falklands War – it would have been impossible to win the Falklands War without Ronald Reagan.

    Lesson (as with so many other things) never trust what Max Hastings says.

    Now to turn to the politics……

    The opinion polls were changing before the war (thanks to the terrible mistake the Labour party made in choosing Mr Foot as its leader – and endorsing hard core Red policies).

    Thankfully the Labour party seems to have actually believed the “it is the war” bullshit that Mr Hastings pushed in his show – and they did not change their new leader or their new policies (assuming that as the “war factor” went away they would recover).

    The Labour party had plenty of chances to change cause – but (perhaps because it blamed its problems on “the war”) it failed to do so.

    So it was a matter of getting the insane policies of the Labour party to the public.

    A long and difficult process (I was an active member of the Conservative Party at the time) – as people were very ill informed about politics (and often had trouble believing what we were saying).

    It was actually LABOUR PARTY LEAFLETS (and so on) that helped in the process of public education.

    The Labour activists actually seemed to believe their Red policies would be popular (as if most people wanted to turn Britain into a version of the Soviet Union).

    Moderate voices in the Labour Party were crushed – and they went “full steam ahead” (right over a cliff).

    Of course it also helped that Mr Foot appeared to have mental problems (“mad Hampstead intellectual” was something I remember hearing on the doorsteps). It was not really that he looked like a scarecrow (althouth that helped) it was more that the voters thought he was the sort of person who might pass a law demanding they wear their underpants on their heads, and hop about on one leg.

    They did not come to this conclusion at once (not when Mr Foot was first elected) – but only gradually as they watched the man more and more. Actually the BBC (of all people) helped – because they kept having him on the television and radio. And the more people watched and heard Mr Foot the more insane they thought he was.

    In the general election of 1983 the Labour party had its worst result since 1931 – and for the same reason (endorsement of socialism – i.e. taking Clause Four of the Labour Party Consitution seriously and advocating policies that would make total state control a reality). The Labour Party manifesto has been rightly described as the “longest suicide note in history”.

    It was the only election in my life time when the manifesto has been a major issue.

    And the only election where Conservative party members (such as me) wanted the voters to read the manifesto of the opposing party.

    In reality Mr Blair understood all this (not the “war factor”) was the cause of Labour’s defeat – so he not only moved the Labour party away from these policies, he formally got rid of Clause Four (replacing it with a meaningless form of words) so that it could not be appealed to in future debates.

    What is happening?

    Why is the collapse of the Labour Party in the early1980s being blamed (falsely) on the Falklands War?

    And why the smearing of Ronald Reagan?

    What agenda is at work?

    Oh by the way…….

    The little bit about the “Fascist Junta” in Argentina.

    The military dictatorship in Argentina was terrible.

    Using torture and murder – not just against political opponents, but also (in many cases) for criminal financial reasons (the practice of extorting money out of rich people by kidnap and torture is common in Argentinia – to this day).

    However, it was not “Fascist” – it had no clear ideology. Indeed the military had actually overthrown a Fascist (Peronist – the Argentinian version of Fascism) government in order to come to power.

    It is actually the government of Argentinia NOW that is Fascist (it has this ideology – unlike the bloodsoaked, but no clear ideology, military government of 1982).

    On J. Kirkpatrick (the U.N. rep of the United States). This lady was a life long DEMOCRAT who accepted there was a military threat from the Soviet Union (which is why she supported Reagan over Carter), but was certainly not a conservative in any other way. Oddly the truth about Kirkpatrick seems to have slipped Mr Hastings’ mind.

    Why the formal claim that Argentinia had a Fascist government in 1982? Of course British politicians said that in political speeches (it was useful throw-a-way line), but this was a claim in a television show 20 years after the events. Why was the word “Fascist” used?

    And why the failure to mention that Argentina has a government with a Fascist ideology now?

    And also note the line about the Americans “Crusade against the left in Latin America”.

    This is a blatent lie – the American government was the ally of many left wing governments in Latin America (for example in El Salvador – where President Duarte was nationalizing everything in sight and breaking up estates).

    Does the hunting-fishing-and-shooting Max Hastings not think that Duarte in El Salvador was left wing?

    If Duarte (and so many other American allies in 1982) are not leftist to Max Hastings……

    There was no “crusade against the left” in Latin America in 1982.

    There was a struggle against Soviet backed MARXISM.

    Oddly enough the words “Marxism” or “Communism” did not pass the lips of Mr Hastings (or Sir Max – or whatever name this shit goes by now) in relation to Argentina or eleswhere in Latin America.

    In spite of there being a massive Marxist terrorist campaign going on in most countries in Latin America (including Argentina) at the time.

    I am certainly not saying that Max Hastings is a Marxist – I doubt he has any clear set of political ideas (rather like his friend Mr Blair – who, of course, he later supported politically).

    He is just a shit – someone who says things (smears the memory of Ronald Reagan, pretends there was a “crusade against the left” and other lies) in order to fit in with the people who have the real power in this country.

    And in so much of the dying West.

  • Paul Marks

    Just had look at the “I” newspaper – owned by an “ex” KGB man of course.

    The General B. was sunk to “destroy hopes of a peace deal”.

    And because of intelligence information from the “Fascist” dictator Pinochet.

    Well which was it?

    The two claims are not compatible – either the Belgrano was sunk because the evil Mrs Thatcher wanted to destroy peace, or because Pinochet sent vital intelligence about Argentinian naval plans.

    BOTH claims can not be true.

    Still keeping their claims stragiht has never bothered the Reds.

    And please note the use of the word “Fascist”.

    What evidence is there that Augusto Pinochet believed in Fascism?

    None – because he did not. One might as well as call the Roman dictator Sulla a “Fascist”.

    The Marxists are using their traditional definition of the word “Fascist” – i.e. “anyone who opposes us”.

    Especially someone who kills lots of them of course.

  • Paul Marks

    I also have a question about A.L. Blair.

    It is a genuine question – because I do not know the answer.

    Mr Blair was not defending a seat in 1982 – he was not an established Labour M.P. nodding along with the insanity that had taken over the Labour Party, just trying to keep his job till the madness passed.

    Mr Blair was a young man with a good job (the law) – just getting into politics.

    He made a CHOICE to join Labour – in all its Red “glory” of the time.

    My question is as follows…..

    When did Mr Blair change his political opinions?

    He was clearly a Red in 1982 – so when did he stop being a Red?

    “But Paul – you said yourself that Mr Blair got rid of this line of policy, and he even got rid of Clause Four”.

    Yes indeed.

    But did he get rid of open socialism because he no longer believed in it? If so WHEN did he change his political philosophy?

    Or because he thought that open socialism COST VOTES (not really believing in the “Labour lost because of the war” bullshit of Major Dolby – sorry Max Hastings).

    As I say this is a genuine question – I do not know the answer.

    I would not even ask it had it not been for something that Glenn Beck showed me (and millions of other people).

    Mr Blair (as Prime Minister – not as some young lunatic) standing proudly underneath the “Fabian Window” to celebrate the Fabian Society.

    Have a good look at that stained glass “Fabian Window” – it is utterly evil, real gut twisting from-Hell evil.

    So did Mr Blair just not see the window?

    Is he unaware of the history and principles of the Fabian Society?

    Or was he engaged in a deception – a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing exercise?

    I repeat, for the third time, that I do not know the answer.

    Do you Brian?