BRIGHTON, United Kingdom – Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn made waves in the South Atlantic this month because of his view that the Falkland Islands are ‘negotiable’ – yet senior figures close to him are openly expressing dissent.
Buenos Aires was not shy in expressing delight over the victory of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership election – the veteran MP had opposed the Falklands war, and believes in power sharing between Britain and Argentina. His comments over the Islands, which were invaded by Argentina in 1982 but recaptured by a British expeditionary force have caused outrage with veterans and natives to the archipelago who recently voted overwhelmingly to remain British.
Yet senior members of his own party, even those within his shadow cabinet openly express their disapproval of his views. Speaking at a Labour conference fringe event yesterday, dynastic member of parliament Hilary Benn asserted his senior position within the party to override Corbyn’s position.
Answering questions at a reception held by the government of Gibraltar, Benn said of the Falkland question: “I am the shadow foreign secretary… as far as I’m concerned, we believe in self determination for the Falkland Islands”.
In a further embarrassment for Corbyn, veteran MP and former home secretary Alan Johnson also cast doubts on his leader’s views on the Falklands. Speaking at a launch event for the party Yes to EU campaign last night influential MP Johnson repeated Benn’s take when asked about Corbyn’s remarks over the Falklands. Talking over a glass of wine following his speech at the event praising the EU and confirming leftist union USDAW would be part funding the campaign, he said:
“I am fully supportive of self determination… is it their decision to make”.
While Corbyn advocates a ‘new politics’ where dissent is the norm, the status of the Falkland Islands is all but a settled issue in British politics, and can be extremely emotive. Hours after his victory was announced, Falkland Islanders took to Twitter to post Corbyn a “quick reminder: We’re a British Overseas Territory. Don’t even think about it. Cheers.” The message has been retweeted thousands of times.