chapter
17 Pages

TO SERVE AND PROTECT: TEXTUALIZING THE FALKLANDS CONFLICT

The Conservative government had come to power in 1979 dedicated to halting Britain’s decline, rekindling the nation’s pride and restoring it to its rightful (ruling) destiny. According to Seabrook and Blackwell, Margaret Thatcher’s electoral success stemmed from her ability to inscribe this policy agenda within an ennobling narrative framework, ‘to offer an epic account of where we are now and an heroic vision of how our

situation may be transformed’ (1982:7). The basis of this heroic transformation lay in a return to Victorian values which, it was claimed, had been the cause of and not merely the context for Britain’s nineteenth-century pre-eminence. The reinstitution of self-help, selfimprovement, thrift and rigid hierarchies of race, class and gender as the basis of both public policy and private conduct would, it was asserted, engender political, economic and moral renewal, thereby stimulating national regeneration. The Prime Minister held up the task force and its defeat of Argentina as clear evidence of a direct, causative relationship between Victorian values and national greatness. At a Conservative Party rally only days after the Argentine surrender, she identified the primary cause of Britain’s victory in the South Atlantic with the same rigid hierarchies of rank, class, race and gender that had provided the functional and ideological focus for empire. The same virtues of leadership, duty and sacrifice that had served the nation so well in subduing large tracts of Africa, India and the Caribbean had ensured victory over Argentina, and could now be turned to the reconquest of Britain itself. The task force, she claimed, provided a model of the organization and conduct required for moral and political renewal at home, where those who were unwilling to conform with its example, to follow orders, obey their superiors and subordinate their own needs to the good of the country, the enemies within, were obstructing Britain’s return to the Promised Land of recovery and renewed greatness. The task force had shown the way ahead-they had confirmed that the nation’s future lay in a return to the past.