Stanley, Falkland Islands
From Peru we head almost three thousand miles away, across Chile, the Andes and Patagonia, to an isolated archipelago in the southern Atlantic Ocean.
The Falkland Islands lie around three hundred miles off the South American mainland, and their two main islands – East and West Falkland – plus their seven hundred smaller islands and islets are home to around three thousand people. Believed to have been uninhabited until as relatively recently as 1764, without human interference the islands’ flora and fauna thrived, giving unique creatures such as the Falkland Islands wolf, the Falkland steamer-duck, and the herring-like Falkland sprat their own places in the dictionary.
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And then, listed among all of those, there’s the Falklands effect.
The bitter and long-standing dispute between the UK and Argentina over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands came to a head in 1982 when, early on the morning of 2 April, Argentine forces invaded and occupied the islands, swiftly taking control of the official residence of the Falklands’ British-appointed governor, Government House. The resulting Falklands War rumbled on for the next seventy-four days, eventually concluding with the surrender of the Argentine forces, and Britain reasserting its control of the territory.
The aftermath of the conflict was significant. In all, some nine hundred lives had been lost (including those of three Falkland Islanders). In Argentina, the ruling military government lost the confidence of the people, and as protestors took to the streets the regime collapsed, paving the way for the first democratic election in Argentina in a decade.
In the UK, meanwhile, support for Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government swelled. In the general election of June 1983 – held almost a year to the day after the conflict had ended – the Conservatives were re-elected in a landslide that saw them achieve their best election night result for forty-eight years.
The first four years of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership had not been considered successful. Unemployment had increased, her party had fragmented, and the economy had struggled through a deep recession. For the Conservatives to achieve such a staggering electoral result in that context was highly surprising. But before long, it became clear what had reinvigorated the Tory vote.
Success in the Falklands War had led to a wave of patriotism sweeping across Great Britain, boosting confidence in the existing government. It was this that had secured Margaret Thatcher’s victory and it was this that has become immortalised in the dictionary as the so-called Falklands effect, a term defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘the favourable effect on the popularity of a ruling party of conducting a foreign war’.