Gibraltar row: Spain mocks 'four old men in their 70s' for threatening war with Madrid

Former Tory leader Michael Howard has been among the most belligerent voices on Gibraltar

A war of words has erupted over Gibraltar, although the chances an actual war still seem mercifully slim

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The bellicose rhetoric adopted by a number of influential British ublic figures over Gibraltar has drawn ridicule in Spain, with one news outlet describing the leading protagonists as "four old men in their seventies."

While Michael Howard made international headlines claiming Britain would go to war over Gibraltar if necessary, former naval commander Chris Parry suggested the UK's military forces could "cripple" Spain.

Parry, who has previously given several interviews to talkRADIO, told the Daily Telegraph that he feels the current tension is unlikely to lead to war and the Government has "to invest appropriately in the military" if it wishes to take a hawkish attitude to potential international flashpoints such as Gibraltar. However he stressed that Britain's military capacity is three times more powerful than its Spanish counterpart and even suggested Britain could "singe the beard of the Spanish King" if it so wished.

Former tabloid editor Kelvin MacKenzie has also suggested Spain is being unreasonable over Gibraltar, while Norman Tebbit, a minister under Margaret Thatcher, has written an article for The Telegraph saying Spain's politicians are "playing with fire."

The comments have provoked fevered reaction in the Spanish press, with journalist unleashing scorn and reprobation in equal measure.

Matthew Bennett, a British journalist who now runs a popular news site in Spain, singled out Parry for particular criticism, saying his comments are "absolutely irresponsible."  Meanwhile Spain's most respected daily, El Pais, has condemned Howard for his "bellicose diatribe".

Nationwide radio station Onda Cero has published an online article mocking Parry, Howard, Tebbit and MacKenzie as "four old men in their seventies" while news site El Confidencial, citing senior figures, suggested the threats of military action are "nonsense" and "senseless."

Several news outlets have devoted opinion pieces to the subject. One of the most eloquent has been published by the reginal Valencia newspaper Levante, which refers back to the Second World War and says "Britain was once defined by the force of its national feeling, which didn't have to be expressed in a loud or extravagant way. This has changed in the wake of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson."

The piece goes on to claim that a band of tabloid rabble-rousers "have transformed that steely, eloquent rhetoric into threatening rhetoric, that even sounds loutish from the lips of a lord. 

"Meanwhile, Germany seems to have learned the lessons of its history and its diplomacy is now exemplary - discreet and professional." The inferred contrast with Britain - and the author's allusion to the Nazis - needs little explanation.

It seems unlikely that actual war will ever erupt between Britain and Spain. But a war of words, spoken and written, is already raging.