David Cameron has discovered his inner statesman.
"I think the most important thing about this result is that we believe in self-determination," he has said. "The people of Whatsitcalled have spoken so clearly about their future, and now other countries right across the world, I hope, will respect and revere this very, very clear result."
William Hague, Foreign Secretary, was quick to support his leader. "All countries should accept the results of this referendum," he said yesterday, "and support the inhabitants of Whereveritis as they continue to develop their home and their economy. I wish them every success in doing so."
Sheer reverence, then, for the democratic process, and lots of luck for a future free from foreign interference? A shining belief, too, in the inalienable right to self- determination? It makes a change from hearing some tedious reactionary denouncing a "publicity stunt (that) has no validity for international law".
But I forget: the Government of Argentina has no interest in anything that might happen in Scotland in 2014. Mr Cameron meanwhile resembles politicians the world over: he loves a referendum that delivers the result he wants. That's proper self-determination.
The good folk of the Falkland Islands cannot be said to have let the Prime Minister down. With 99.8% of 1517 inhabitants voting for Britain on a 90.7% turn-out, their plebiscite was hardly a cliff-hanger. Three voted against – there's always some – but that might have been for form's sake. Otherwise the spectacle of British people voting to be British might have seemed just a bit pointless.
In contrast to certain places we could mention, the islanders did not have to endure inane and obstructive quibbling over the question before them. In the end it read: "Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom? YES or NO".
"Do you wish" is so much more polite than one of those leading questions beginning with "Do you agree".
It hardly matters now. Even from a very long way away, one senses that the question: "Do you wish to burn the Argentine flag now or later?" would have attracted 99.8% of the Falklands vote. Where self-determination is concerned, the islanders take a serious view. A more serious view, perhaps, than most British prime ministers. The 1513 who voted Yes – one paper was spoiled, perhaps through over-enthusiasm – might even revere their right.
They have a point, of course. It is a point lost, it seems, on the troubled Government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Or rather, it is a detail the Argentine administration elects steadfastly to ignore as it denounces "trickery" and discards the idea that an "implanted population" could have a democratic right of any description.
Those count as interesting propositions from a country with Argentina's colourful political history. Even those in Britain liable to identify the Falklands as a colonial relic should remember the nature of the regime that attempted to reclaim Las Malvinas by armed force in 1982. Margaret Thatcher exhibited a disgraceful taste for war when there was peace to be had, but a brief encounter with the Argentine military junta settled the argument for islanders.
"Trickery" is meanwhile tricky to prove. The Falklands vote was overseen by the usual representatives of the Referendum International Observation Mission, with individuals from America, Mexico, Canada, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and New Zealand fielded for the vast task of supervising 1517 souls. If the claim is that the referendum was somehow rigged because the result was a foregone conclusion, the word returns: interesting.
As for the idea that the islanders were "implanted", most historians of Latin America could point you to the origins of the ancestors of most modern Argentineans. They didn't spring from the pampas. A mischievous historian could then add that the present Republic of Argentina only acquired its constitution in 1853, some time after the implanting was going on. What does any of this have to do, in any case, with self-determination?
Buenos Aires has made heavy use of anti-colonialist rhetoric during the present row. For a host of reasons, that's perfectly understandable. It tends, however, to overlook a contradiction. For the Falkland islanders, whose economy is growing nicely, Argentina looks very like the prospective colonial power.
In terms of territorial claims, meanwhile, it is probably fair to call the islands Las Malvinas. Buenos Aires is hardly just up the road from Port Stanley, but it is half a world closer than London. If this was simply an argument over geography and lines on maps, Britain's case would collapse. France could take the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man would be Irish (or Scottish) once more.
Are we therefore to dispose of the lives of small groups of people simply because they live in someone's vast backyard? That might be why Amerindians now account for only 1.6% of the population of Argentina. And where would we stand, in terms of international law and simple justice, if the Falkland islanders accepted Argentina's historic claim and then demanded their independence? Ms Kirchner's Government does not delve into these matters.
Gibraltar, to take another hotly contested example, is "British" still for reasons that are either daft or ignoble. Cartography says the rocky point of any peninsula is part of the peninsula. Are its inhabitants to be deprived of choice, then, because some politician declares they are in the wrong place and on the wrong side of history? That, surely, is colonialism by another name.
The Falkland islanders form a cohesive community, by all accounts, and have insisted on the right to make a choice. Mr Cameron and his allies have been less than keen, let's say, on certain rights and choices closer to home, but now we can be reassured. Whatever Scotland decides in the autumn of next year, the Prime Minister will revere the outcome.
As with the Falklands, ownership of oil rights and such will have nothing whatever to do with it. And Mr Cameron will do nothing at all to impede the choice, obviously.
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