Growing up as an Arsenal fan in Tottenham was interesting. I arrived at the peak of arguably one of Tottenham’s greatest ever sides, but by the time I left 14 years later we were well and truly the top dogs not just in London but in England as well. I witnessed the tide turning as the area of Tottenham effectively became the Haringey branch of the Arsenal supporters club and the Spurs fans were driven out to Chingford, Edmonton and Enfield.
I wouldn’t say I was a devils advocate for the sake of it, but I have led a life defending minority interests. From my almost lifelong mistrust of the Metropolitan Police, to condemning the influence of News International long before it was fashionable to do so. If I believe in something I will dig my heels in, I think it’s the stubborn Taurean streak in me.
Take the Falkland Islands for example. I struggle to find many in Britain who want to see our government relinquish control of the islands to Argentina. But I struggle to see the merit to their arguments. The overriding argument is that the islands have always been British, which is accurate but then huge swathes of the world were also once British at one time or another. Most of which has been handed over, but the islands were retained, at huge cost both financially and in human life during the war 30 years ago.
Oil has been located off the islands, which I suspect would have been known even before the first ships left the British harbours in 1982.
Mauritius is involved in a similar dispute with Britain over another set of islands, this time in the Indian Ocean. I suspect that one day oil may be discovered beneath these islands as well, but as yet there is no evidence to support this theory. I refer of course to the Chagos Islands.
There are a lot of contrasts between the Chagos Islands and the Falkland Islands. Britain expelled the Chagossian community but sent a taskforce to protect the Falklands community. The war of 1982 occurred in the same year as the shameful settlement which Britain offered to the exiled (and illiterate!) Chagossians who were tricked into signing away claims to their homeland. Britain continues to protest that the Falklanders deserve self determination, but when it comes to the Chagossians 10 of the 30 articles of the UN charter of human rights are breached day by day, who enjoy no self determination whatsoever. The Falklanders are being invited to participate in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations later this year, yet as of last week the UK Chagos Support Association AGM which I attended confirmed that no such invitation had been extended to the Chagossians.
But for me there is something very special that connects the Chagos and Falkland islands together. They are both islands which are administered by Britain despite being thousands of miles away from the UK. The British may well have enjoyed control of both of these territories for many years, but this ignores the fact that the era of colonialism and claims to lands thousands of miles away from Lands End largely ended in the period immediately following World War Two. Its outdated, unfair and morally indefensible.
The Falkland Islands are geographically next to Argentina and control should be ceded immediately. If the Falklanders, as I understand, are unhappy with this arrangement then they should pack up their red telephone boxes and head back to Britain. Similarly the Chagos Islands are geographically closest to Mauritius, and should be handed back to them. If the present occupants are unhappy with that arrangement, then likewise they should pack up their bombs and bullets and return to the States.