A particularly special moment in NGO campaigns strategy yesterday, for connoisseurs of the genre: Jubilee Debt Campaign arguing that Britain should forgive £45 million in loans to Argentina’s former military junta, despite the fact that the loans were used to buy weapons (including two type 42 destroyers and two Lynx helicopters) that were subsequently used to, er, invade the Falklands.
Yes, yes, Jubilee is attempting to make a serious point here (i.e. that debt lent to dictators should be regarded as illegitimate and odious, especially when tied to British arms sales), the point is not limited to Argentina (e.g. they mount a similar argument about loans to Hosni Mubarak’s fallen regime in Egypt), and Britain emerges looking pretty stupid on the question of whom to sell arms to (so what else is new).
But even so: to be out there arguing for debt forgiveness for Argentina, for weapons used to invade the Falklands, on the 30th anniversary of said invasion, when Argentina’s current government is rattling sabres about the Falklands all over again – that, my friends, is what is called “brave” in episodes of Yes, Minister.
The results of this courageous stand:
– Business Secretary Vince Cable, realising that Christmas has come early, has enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to say that no, he will not be forgiving Argentina’s debt;
– The story has gone massively viral (it’s currently 3rd most read on the Telegraph website) as the nation digests how satisfying it is to be able to jerk Argentina’s chain back for a change, after months of trouble-stirring by Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner;
– And Jubilee, meanwhile, have ended up looking like utterly bonkers lefties, with debt relief (and, by extension, aid and 0.7) now associated in the public mind not with Africa, but with Argentina – not merely a middle rather than low income country, but the one middle income country actually to have invaded us within living memory.
It’s not immediately clear how Jubilee could possibly top a public relations coup of this magnitude, short of arguing for debt forgiveness for, like, Greece or something. Oh, wait…