By Alex Pnevmatikos, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy.
The well-known ‘Iron Lady’ of Britain passed away last Monday and the sad news travelled all around the world, demonstrating Margaret Thatcher’s massive reputation. The national grief offered the UK (and worldwide) media the chance to review Thatcher’s political achievements and to reengage in a series of critiques regarding her crucial political decisions during her days as a prime minister. According to MPs of Thatcher’s Conservative party, the Falklands victory was one of her most remarkable political moves, as it boosted UK’s patriotic spirit, revived the British Empire’s glorious past abroad, and allowed the Conservatives to win the following general elections in 1983. Even though Britain has s entered since more than three years the economic crisis with numerous budget cuts being already implemented, Margaret Thatcher’s funeral will take place at St. Paul’s cathedral, in central London, with more than 2,000 guests invited and more than £8 million pounds to be spent by the government of her Majesty the Queen (1).
Opinions may vary regarding Thatcher’s political career and decision-making, but there was an incident that attracted the attention of both supporters and haters. Almost thirty years after the Falklands conflict between Argentina and Britain, Thatcher’s funeral restores the antipathy between the two nations. As the British newspaper ‘Daily Telegraph’ wrote, “Thatcher’s children Mark and Carol said they felt it would be “inappropriate” for anyone from Argentina to be there, after government officials floated the idea”. Although the newspaper’s statement was not cited, the official British government announced that invitations for the funeral were sent to all countries that maintain ‘normal’ diplomatic relations with Britain, excluding the president of Argentina, Christina Fernández. The official Argentinian answer to the incident came from the Foreign Minister, Hector Timerman who stated his indifference to the neglect invitation as he had no intention in participating.
The ‘Reuters’ characterised the incident as an ‘apparent snub’, but what implications can be shown if we relate it to Cultural Diplomacy and the modern diplomatic relations in general? If Cultural Diplomacy is interconnected to Public diplomacy and Public diplomacy is the practice of “winning hearts and minds” (J. Nye’s definition of Soft Power politics), Britain seems very indifferent in bridging its “tortured” relations with the Latin America country. Cultural Diplomacy could be also described by the demonstration of a country’s cultural and political values. If Britain is supposed to be a country with long-lived and undoubtedly successful diplomatic history, is this the appropriate way to express its political intentions regarding the UK-Argentinean relations?
A counter-argument to this critique could definitely be based on the fact that Thatcher’s funeral, as well as who would be invited to it, is an issue that regards solely the Thatcher family. However, who is supposed to take the blame, if the funeral is considered as a national grief and the government funds it?
1- Source here