Nicholas Ridley

Nicholas Ridley was the Conservative Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with special responsibility for the Falkland Islands between 1979 until 1981 when he was replaced by Richard Luce. During his tenure he pushed aggressively for a leaseback scheme for the islands with Argentina. He did not believe that the concept of a 'Fortress Falklands' was viable in an economic climate of cuts and recession. He even met with his Argentine counterpart in a secret meeting in Geneva in 1980 to discuss a deal. He struggled to get support from the islanders for his proposals who were deeply hostile to being forced to cede any sovereignty to Argentina particularly an Argentina governed by a military government with a harsh human rights record.

Ridley persevered with his policy despite an obvious lack of progress. A change in the personnel of his Argentine opposites' led to a hardening of their attitude and they rejected a British request for a sovereignty freeze in discussion in New York in 1981. Ridley continued to advise that leaseback remained the only feasible solution and recommended that Britain initiate an education campaign to persuade Islanders of the benefits of closer relations with India. However, he was over-ruled by his boss, Lord Carrington, who felt that any attempt to put pressure on Islanders would be counter-productive. He was promoted out of his position before the war took place but was felt by many islanders and diplomats to have given too much encouragement to the Argentine Junta with his signals of an increasing official frustration with the Falkland Islander position over sovereignty of the islands. Many believed that these signals convinced the Argentine Junta that Britain was not 'that interested' in defending the islands and would make only paper protests at any invasion.

He wrote about his time in government in: My style of government

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by Stephen Luscombe