I have been busy telling my Spanish friends and colleagues that Lord Michael Howard was joking when he said that Britain could send a task force if Spain threatened Gibraltar. Of course he was joking because a person in his position, a former cabinet minister, leader of the Conservative Party and now in the Lords, would be able to tell you that the earliest Britain could send a Royal Navy "Falklands war" type task force would be er ... 2022.
The sad truth is that the Royal Navy has been cut back to the bone. At the moment there are no active aircraft carriers in the Royal Navy fleet and no aircraft to operate from them even if Britain did have an aircraft carrier. But on the other hand Spain does have an aircraft carrier and also has Harrier jump jets. Yes, those aircraft which proved to be so effective during the, erm, Falklands War.
So just for the benefit of Spanish admirals who might be slightly concerned: the new Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier is still being built and will not have a full compliment of F35 aircraft until about 2022. And that is if all goes to plan. Michael Howard's Conservative Party scrapped Britain fleet of Harrier jets when they were in coalition with the Liberal Democrats along with Britain's last two light aircraft carriers, sister ships to HMS Invincible, which was the flagship of the ... Falklands task force.
So, it was a very good joke Michael, but I bet the Royal Navy is not laughing. Spain wasn't too impressed either. Perhaps he meant a task force made up of boats from Howards Way, the 1980s TV series.