The latest exhibition of how foreign policy has been replaced by breast-beating and hot air came yesterday morning as the Daily Mail thundered “Dramatic escalation in stand-off with French fishermen … BORIS SENDS GUNBOATS INTO JERSEY”, with the Daily Brexit, still called the Express, following suit with “Tensions rise after French fishermen threaten blockade today … BORIS SENDS GUNBOATS TO DEFEND JERSEY”.
Given that none of the French boats carried any weapons, the idea that the island of Jersey needed to be defended from them is an interesting one. But, as the Guardian pointed out, this was an easily resolvable matter concerning licences for those French boats to fish in waters off the Channel Islands - some of which hadn’t been issued. Yet.
Moreover, as former Commons Speaker John Bercow pointed out on BBC Question Time yesterday evening, summoning up the ghost of Lord Palmerston by alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson on the day many in the UK went to the polls - including a Parliamentary by-election which Labour lost - was not a coincidence.
On top of that, there was no intent to blockade, but merely protest: this was a story, such as it was, confected entirely by the Tories and their press pals, the latter operating increasingly as a propaganda arm of CCHQ. So, as there was nothing more than a protest, there had to be a declaration of victory after the blockade failed to materialise.
And so it came to pass that the Mail followed up its bellicose display yesterday with more of the same, jeering “After our gunboats go in to Jersey, French fishermen execute a familiar manoeuvre … LE GRAND SURRENDER … (BUT WILL THEY NOW BLOCKADE CALAIS?” Dacre has been kicked upstairs, but they still know how to go full Dacre.
Joining in the oh-what-a-giveaway dictation-taking on behalf of Tory high command was the Murdoch Sun, in full Chicken Paté News style: “Jersey Standoff Is Gaul Over … TAKE SPRAT! … Navy sees off French fishermen … PM’s gunships scupper blockade”. There was no blockade, but, so what? The Royal Navy is now Bozo’s personal property!
The reality, for those mocking the French, is that France has a larger and better-equipped navy than the UK, and indeed a larger military overall. And the last time French military technology and its British counterpart met in combat, it was the Brits who came off second best. Or does no-one remember the Falklands campaign and those Exocet missiles?
That time, our Government was able to persuade its French counterpart, as a fellow EU member state (I’ll just say that again, nice and slowly, AS A FELLOW EU MEMBER STATE) to ensure the Argentine military did not get any more air launch Exocets. Also, as the Guardian has concluded, “the dispute seems eminently fixable. The Jersey authorities are looking for a compromise”. Which will mean ending the puerile name-calling.
But good of the Tories and the press to confirm that they are marching in lockstep.
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