Margaret Thatcher papers reveal Tory split over Falkland Islands
The Tory party was deeply divided about going to war over the Falkland Islands and many senior MPs warned it would be a mistake, new papers released today show.
While the Conservatives presented a united front in 1982, a raft of documents released for the first time show they were split over the issue, and Margaret Thatcher faced opposition from within.
Some MPs insisted their “constituents want blood”, while others warned “we're making a big mistake, it'll make Suez look like common sense”.
Ken Clarke, then a junior minister, suggested “we should blow up a few ships but nothing more", while others proposed letting Argentina have the Falklands with as little fuss as possible.
Five unnamed MPs called on Thatcher to “keep calm”, adding: “We can get away without a fight.”
Some of Thatcher’s most senior MPs voiced serious concerns about going to war, the papers show – her senior economic adviser Sir Alan Walters and her chief of staff David Wolfson proposed schemes offering to buy-out the 1,800 islanders rather than send a taskforce to the South Atlantic.
And a note a few days after Argentina took the Falklands on April 2 described Stephen Dorrell, later Health Secretary, as “wobbly”.
It added: “Will only support fleet as negotiating ploy. If they will not negotiate we should withdraw.”
The papers, released by Churchill College, Cambridge, show the level of turmoil within the party after the 1982 invasion.
The documents are from the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust, the former Prime Minister’s personal collection of what she thought worth keeping. It includes artefacts as well as documents and papers.
Lady Thatcher is the first British Prime Minister whose private and official papers have been released in this way.
Earlier this month the Falkland islanders voted by 1,513 to three to retain their status as an overseas territory of the UK.
The Argentine president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, this week urged Pope Francis to intervene against the “militarisation of Great Britain in the South Atlantic”.