John O'Farrell - the candidate who backed Argentine fascists
Why did Ed Miliband allow Labour, which is backed by many patriots, to pick O'Farrell for Eastleigh?
JOHN O'FARRELL, the Labour party candidate in tomorrow's Eastleigh by-election, and the man who insisted John Major's Spitting Image puppet should be entirely grey (he wrote for the show in the late 1980s), backed the Argentines in the Falklands War. It is something he freely admitted in a best-selling book published in 1998.
This should have been a seriously damaging confession, even for a comedian and even if accompanied by an apology – not that there was one at the time or since. As far as I know, he is the first public figure to "come out" over the Falklands and seems to be proud of it.
It is an astonishing thing for any British subject to have felt.
It is not like wanting Real Madrid to win against Manchester United next month because you are a City or Liverpool supporter, or just don't like United much. Football is football.
This was a war fought by O'Farrell's own countrymen against the armed forces of a fascist junta that had invaded British territory – and he backed the fascists.
Defeat in the South Atlantic would not have been pretty. When the Argentines surrendered on 14 June 1982 the Task Force was running out of just about everything, including medical supplies and food. Even in victory we were stretched. Imagine how rough it would have been if we had lost.
A necessary precondition to O'Farrell's Argentine victory, as he must have understood at the time, was the destruction of one or both of our aircraft carriers, which they nearly managed, thus allowing the Argentine air force air superiority over the islands.
They could have bombed ships at will – a Bluff Cove everyday. No doubt as a student at Exeter University O'Farrell had his fingers crossed during every BBC bulletin, hoping that another Royal Navy ship had been sunk.
O'Farrell has admitted sympathy for the IRA – he was disappointed that the Brighton bombers failed to kill Mrs Thatcher - so it's hardly surprising that he doesn't care about British servicemen. But a British defeat would have cost a lot of Argentine lives and misery as well.
Argentina's military junta would have earned itself a new, possibly semi-permanent, lease of life. The victors of the Malvinas would have been difficult to dislodge. Their 'dirty war' – killing and imprisoning trade unionists and young student activists with socialist views similar to O'Farrell's - would have continued and intensified.
The cruelty of some of the Argentine security forces, including military personnel, beggars belief.
To take just one example: young socialist expectant mothers were allowed to survive in captivity and were then despatched immediately after giving birth. Imagine the anguish – giving birth to a child knowing that it will be adopted by the very people who are about to murder you and that the child would never know of its real mother.
The generally accepted figure for the dead and disappeared is 30,000. O'Farrell wanted these people to win.
Labour leader Ed Milliband has made much of his own background as a son of refugees from Nazi persecution. At his last conference speech he made an emotional tribute to Ruth First, the brave South African anti-apartheid campaigner murdered by a letter bomb sent by BOSS, the apartheid regime's brutal secret police.
And yet Miliband has endorsed as a candidate a man who wishes Lady Thatcher had been murdered by the IRA and who backed General Galtieri's repellent, homicidal junta in the Falklands war.
The history of the Falklands War is not fully written yet. My feeling is that over the years Mrs Thatcher will come out of it less well than she has so far.
She interfered directly in the conduct of operations to the detriment of military efficiency. The war would not have happened if her government had not signalled indifference about the fate of the Falklands and embarked on a disastrous programme of naval cuts. The Franks Report, which exonerated her government from any blame, would have made Lord Hutton blush.
Worst of all, Thatcher seemed to have been exhilarated by the whole thing.
Not everyone admired her. I served in a regiment whose soldiers were entirely Welsh, many of mining stock, who had little time for the then prime minister. It is fair to say that in a roundabout way she was a kind of war profiteer - benefiting greatly from a war that was partly her own fault. But to want her assassinated and General Galtieri to win was an unforgiveable reaction.
I just cannot in this case understand Ed Miliband's moral sensibility. How can he allow himself or his party, which gets the vote of many patriotic Britons, to be associated with O'Farrell? Is Miliband a 'dirty war' denier - someone who doubts the statistics of the 1973-83 Argentine repression? Or does he too wish the British had lost?