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The Right Honourable
 Sir John Major 
Head and shoulders of man in suit with grey hair in side parting, wearing large glasses with brown frame.

In office
28 November 1990 – 2 May 1997
Monarch Elizabeth II
Deputy Michael Heseltine
Preceded by Margaret Thatcher
Succeeded by Tony Blair

In office
26 October 1989 – 28 November 1990
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Nigel Lawson
Succeeded by Norman Lamont

In office
24 July 1989 – 26 October 1989
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Geoffrey Howe
Succeeded by Douglas Hurd

In office
13 June 1987 – 24 July 1989
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by John MacGregor
Succeeded by Norman Lamont

In office
2 May 1997 – 19 June 1997
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Tony Blair
Succeeded by William Hague

In office
7 May 1997 – 11 June 1997
Leader Himself
Preceded by Robin Cook
Succeeded by Michael Howard

Member of Parliament
for Huntingdon
Huntingdonshire (1979-1983)
In office
3 May 1979 – 7 June 2001
Preceded by David Renton
Succeeded by Jonathan Djanogly

Born 29 March 1943 (1943-03-29) (age 66)
Carshalton, Surrey, England, UK
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Norma Major
Profession Banker
Religion Anglican

Sir John Major, KG, CH, ACIB (born 29 March 1943) is a British politician, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990 to 1997.

During his term as Prime Minister, the world went through a period of political and military transition after the end of the Cold War. This included the growing importance of the European Union and the debate surrounding Britain's ratification of the Maastricht Treaty. Major and his government were also responsible for the United Kingdom's exit from the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) after Black Wednesday on 16 September 1992. Despite claiming the most votes in British electoral history in the 1992 General Election, the Conservatives lost the 1997 General Election in one of the worst electoral defeats since the Great Reform Act of 1832. After the defeat, Major resigned as the leader of the party, and was succeeded by William Hague.

Before becoming the Prime Minister, Major was a Cabinet Minister under Margaret Thatcher. He served for brief periods as the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, making him one of the few people to have served in three of the four Great Offices of State of the UK. He has since retired from politics, leaving the House of Commons just before the 2001 General Election, and continues to be a sought-after speaker.


Early life

Major was born at the St. Helier Hospital in Carshalton, the son of former Music Hall performer Tom Major-Ball (né Abraham Thomas Ball), who was 64 years old when John was born. He was christened as John Roy Major, but only "John" is shown on his birth certificate. He used his middle name Roy until the early 1980s.[1] He attended primary school at Cheam Common. From 1954, he attended Rutlish Grammar School in Merton. In 1955, with his father's garden ornaments business in decline, the family moved to Brixton. The following year, Major watched his first debate in the House of Commons, and has attributed his political ambitions to that event, and to a chance meeting with former Prime Minister Clement Attlee on the King's Road.

Major left school at age 16 in 1959, with three O-levels: History, English Language, and English Literature. He later gained three more O-levels by correspondence course, in the British Constitution, mathematics and economics. When pressed about his precise qualifications shortly after becoming Prime Minister, he answered that he couldn't remember what he had attained[citation needed]. His first job was as a clerk in the insurance brokerage firm Pratt & Sons in 1959. Disliking this job, he quit, and for a time he helped with his father's garden ornaments business along with his brother, Terry Major-Ball. Major joined the Young Conservatives in Brixton at this time.

Major was 19 years old when in 1962 his father died at the age of 83.

After a period of unemployment, Major started working at the London Electricity Board (where his successor as the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, also worked when he was young) in 1963, and he decided to undertake a correspondence course in banking. Major took up a post as an executive at the Standard Chartered Bank in May 1965, and he rose quickly through the ranks. He was sent to work in Nigeria by the bank in 1967, and he nearly died in a car accident there.

Early political career

Major was interested in politics from an early age. Encouraged by fellow conservative Derek Stone, he started giving speeches on a soap-box in Brixton market. He stood as a candidate for Lambeth Borough Council at the age of 21 in 1964, and was unexpectedly elected in the Conservative landslide in 1968. While on the council he was Chairman of the Housing Committee, being responsible for the building of several council housing estates. Despite moving to a ward which was easier for the Conservatives to win, he lost his seat in May 1971.

Major was an active Young Conservative and according to his biographer Anthony Seldon brought "youthful exuberance" to the Tories in Brixton, but was often in trouble with the professional agent Marion Standing. Also according to Seldon, the formative political influence on Major was Jean Kierans, a divorcée 13 years his elder, who became his political mentor and his lover, too. Seldon writes "She... made Major smarten his appearance, groomed him politically, and made him more ambitious and worldly." Their relationship lasted from 1963 to sometime after 1968.

Major stood for election to Parliament in St Pancras North in both general elections in 1974, but did not win this traditionally Labour seat. In November 1976, Major was selected by the Huntingdonshire Conservatives as its candidate, winning the safe seat in the 1979 general election. Following boundary changes, Major became Member of Parliament (MP) for Huntingdon in 1983 and retained the seat in the General Elections in 1987, 1992 and 1997. His political agent in all three elections was Peter Brown. His majority in 1992 was 36,230 votes, the largest in British electoral history. He stood down at the 2001 general election.

In the cabinet

He was a Parliamentary Private Secretary from 1981 and an assistant whip from 1983. He was made Under-Secretary of State for Social Security in 1985 and became Minister of State in the same department in 1986. He entered the Cabinet as Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 1987, and in a surprise re-shuffle on 24 July 1989 a relatively inexperienced Major was appointed Foreign Secretary, succeeding Geoffrey Howe. He spent only three months in that post before becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer after Nigel Lawson's resignation in October 1989. Major presented only one budget (the first one to be televised), in spring 1990. He publicised it as a budget for savings and announced the Tax-Exempt Special Savings Account (TESSA), arguing that measures were required to address the marked fall in the household savings ratio that had been apparent during the previous financial year.

When Michael Heseltine's challenge to Margaret Thatcher's leadership of the Conservative Party in 1990 forced the contest to a second round, Major entered the contest alongside Douglas Hurd after Thatcher withdrew. Though he fell two votes short of the required winning margin of 187 in the second ballot, the result was sufficient to secure immediate concessions from his rivals. He was named Leader of the Conservative Party on 27 November 1990, and was summoned to Buckingham Palace and appointed Prime Minister the following day.

Prime minister

The Gulf War

Major was Prime Minister during the first Gulf War of 1991, and played a key role in persuading American president George H. W. Bush to support no-fly zones.

Soap Box election

The economy had been sliding into recession during the final months of Thatcher's spell in power, and the recession deepened during 1991 and continued until the end of 1992. The Tories had slipped behind Labour in the opinion polls during 1989 and the gap widened during 1990, but within two months of Major taking over as prime minister the Tories had returned to the top of the opinion polls. Labour Party and opposition leader Neil Kinnock made endless calls for a general election throughout 1991, but Major held out and decided not to call the election until 9 April 1992. During this time, the Tories and Labour had exchanged places at the top of the opinion polls on numerous occasions,[2] and by the time of the election most opinion polls were showing a slim Labour lead, which most observers predicted would translate into a hung parliament or a slim Labour victory at the election.

Major took his campaign onto the streets, delivering many addresses from an upturned soapbox as in his Lambeth days. This approach stood in contrast to the Labour Party's seemingly slicker campaign and it chimed with the electorate, along with hard-hitting negative campaign advertising focusing on the issue of Labour's approach to taxation. Major won in excess of 14 million votes, the highest popular vote recorded by a British political party in a general election. However, this translated into a reduced majority of 21 seats enough to form a practicable but weak majority. The Tory election win led to the resignation of Neil Kinnock as Labour leader and the appointment of John Smith as his successor.

John Major with then-US President George H. W. Bush at Camp David in 1992

Black Wednesday

The Conservative majority proved too small for effective control over his backbenchers, particularly after the United Kingdom's forced exit from the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) on "Black Wednesday", 16 September 1992, just five months into the new parliament, when billions of pounds were spent in a futile attempt to defend the currency's value. After the release of Black Wednesday government documents,[3] it became apparent that Major came very close to stepping down from office at this point, having even prepared an unsent letter of resignation addressed to the Queen.[4]

Major kept his economic team unchanged for seven months after Black Wednesday before he replaced Norman Lamont with Kenneth Clarke as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Such a delay, on top of the crisis, was exploited by Major's critics as proof of the indecisiveness that was to undermine his authority through the rest of his premiership.

The UK's forced withdrawal from the ERM was succeeded by a partial economic recovery with a new policy of flexible exchange rates, allowing lower interest rates and devaluation - increased demand for UK goods in export markets.[5] The recession that had started just before Major came to office was declared over in April 1993, when the first quarter of that year had seen economic growth return for the first time since the second quarter of 1990. Unemployment started to fall; by early 1993 it had reached almost 3,000,000, but by the end of 1996 it had fallen below the 2,000,000 mark for the first time since early 1991.[6][7]

Political infighting over Europe

Rather than capitalise on the economic 'good news', the Conservative Party soon fell into political infighting over the subject of Europe: Major took a moderate approach but he found himself undermined by the Eurosceptic wing of the party and the Cabinet. In particular, his policy towards the European Union aroused opposition as the Government attempted to ratify the Maastricht Treaty. Although the Labour opposition supported the treaty, they were prepared to tactically oppose certain provisions in order to weaken the government. This opposition included passing an amendment that required a vote on the social chapter aspects of the treaty before it could be ratified. Several Conservative MPs, known as the Maastricht Rebels, voted against the treaty, and the Government was defeated. Major called another vote on the following day, 23 July 1993, which he declared a vote of confidence. He won by 40 votes, but the damage had been done to his authority in parliament.

Later that day, Major gave an interview to ITN's Michael Brunson. During an unguarded moment when Major thought that the microphones had been switched off, Brunson asked why he did not sack the ministers who were conspiring against him. He replied: "Just think it through from my perspective. You are the prime minister, with a majority of 18... where do you think most of the poison is coming from? From the dispossessed and the never-possessed. Do we want three more of the bastards out there? What's Lyndon B. Johnson's maxim?"[8] Major later said that he had picked the number three from the air and that he was referring to "former ministers who had left the government and begun to create havoc with their anti-European activities",[9] but many journalists suggested that the three were Peter Lilley, Michael Portillo and Michael Howard, three of the more prominent "Eurosceptics" within his Cabinet. Throughout the rest of Major's premiership the exact identity of the three was blurred, with John Redwood's name frequently appearing in a list along with two of the others. The tape of this conversation was leaked to the Daily Mirror and widely reported, embarrassing Major.


At the 1993 Conservative Party Conference, Major began the "Back to Basics" campaign, which he intended to be about the economy, education, policing, and other such issues, but it was interpreted by many (including Conservative cabinet ministers) as an attempt to revert to the moral and family values that the Conservative Party were often associated with. "Back to Basics", however, became synonymous with scandal, often exposed by tabloid newspapers such as The Sun. David Mellor, a cabinet minister, was exposed as having an extramarital affair, and for accepting hospitality from the daughter of a leading member of the PLO. The wife of the Earl of Caithness committed suicide amongst rumours of the Earl committing adultery. David Ashby was 'outed' by his wife after sleeping with men. A string of other Conservative MPs, including Alan Amos, Tim Yeo and Michael Brown, were involved in sexual scandals.

Other debilitating scandals included "Cash for Questions", in which first Graham Riddick, and David Tredinnick accepted money to ask questions in the House of Commons in a newspaper "sting", and later Tim Smith and Neil Hamilton were found to have received money from Mohamed Al Fayed, also to ask questions in the House. Later, David Willetts resigned as Paymaster General after he was accused of rigging evidence to do with Cash for Questions.

Defence Minister Jonathan Aitken was accused by the ITV investigative journalism series World In Action and The Guardian newspaper of secretly doing deals with leading Saudi princes. He denied all accusations and promised to wield the "sword of truth" in libel proceedings which he brought against The Guardian and the producers of World In Action Granada Television. At an early stage in the trial however, it became apparent that he had lied under oath, and he was subsequently convicted of perjury and sentenced to a term of imprisonment.

Northern Ireland

Major opened talks with the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) upon taking office. When he declared to the House of Commons in November 1993 that "to sit down and talk with Mr. Adams and the Provisional IRA... would turn my stomach",[10] Sinn Féin gave the media an outline of the secret talks indeed held regularly since that February. The Downing Street Declaration was issued on 15 December 1993 by Major and Albert Reynolds, the Irish Taoiseach, with whom he had a friendly relationship: an IRA ceasefire followed in 1994. In the House of Commons Major refused to sign-up to the first draft of the "Mitchell Principles", which resulted in the ending of the ceasefire. Major paved the way for the Belfast Agreement, also known as the 'Good Friday Agreement', which was signed after he left office.

In March 1995, Major refused to answer the phone calls of United States President Bill Clinton for several days because of his anger at Clinton's decision to invite Gerry Adams to the White House for St Patrick's Day.[11]

1995 Leadership Election

On 22 June 1995, tired of continual threats of leadership challenges that never arose, Major resigned as Leader of the Conservative Party and announced he would contest the resulting leadership election. John Redwood resigned as Secretary of State for Wales to stand against him. Major won by 218 votes to Redwood's 89 (with 12 spoiled ballots, eight 'active' abstentions and two MPs abstaining), enough to win in the first round, but only three more than the target he had privately set himself.[12]

1997 general election defeat

Major's re-election as leader of the party failed to restore his authority. Despite efforts to restore (or at least improve) the popularity of the Conservative party, Labour remained far ahead in the opinion polls as the 1997 election loomed, despite the economic boom that had followed the exit from recession four years earlier, and the swift fall in unemployment. By December 1996 the Conservatives had lost their majority in the House of Commons. Major managed to survive to the end of the Parliament, but called an election on 17 March 1997 as the five-year limit for its timing approached. Major delayed the election in the hope that a still improving economy would help the Conservatives win a greater number of seats, but it did not.

Few then were surprised when Major's Conservatives lost the May 1, 1997 general election to Tony Blair's "New Labour", however the immense scale of the defeat was not as widely predicted: the Conservative party suffered the worst electoral defeat by a ruling party since the Great Reform Act of 1832. In the new parliament, Labour held 418 seats, the Conservatives 165, and the Liberal Democrats 46, giving Labour a majority of 179. Major himself was re-elected in his own constituency of Huntingdon with a majority of 18,140. However, 179 other Conservative MPs were defeated, including present and former Cabinet ministers such as Norman Lamont, Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Michael Portillo. To add insult to injury, the Tories were left without any MPs in Scotland or Wales, and failed to gain a single seat anywhere.

At about noon on 2 May 1997, Major officially returned his seals of office as Prime Minister to Queen Elizabeth II. Shortly before his resignation, he gave his final statement from 10 Downing Street, in which he said; "When the curtain falls, it is time to get off the stage". Major then famously announced to the press that he intended to go with his family to The Oval to watch cricket. Following his resignation as Prime Minister, Major briefly became Leader of the Opposition and remained in this post until the election of William Hague as leader of the Conservative Party in June 1997. His Resignation Honours were announced in August 1997.

Major retired from the House of Commons at the 2001 general election, made public on the Breakfast show with David Frost.[13]


Major's mild-mannered style and moderate political stance made him theoretically well-placed to act as a conciliatory leader of his party. However, conflict raged within the Conservative Party, particularly over the extent of Britain's integration with the European Union. Major never succeeded in reconciling the relatively small group of "Euro-rebels" among his MPs to his European policy, and episodes such as the Maastricht Rebellion inflicted serious political damage on him and his government. During the 1990s, the bitterness on the right wing of the Conservative Party at the manner in which Margaret Thatcher had been removed from office did not make Major's task any easier.

On the other hand, it was during Major's premiership that the British economy recovered from the recession of 1990-1992.

The former Labour MP Tony Banks said of Major in 1994 that "He was a fairly competent chairman of Housing on Lambeth Council. Every time he gets up now I keep thinking, 'What on earth is Councillor Major doing?' I can't believe he's here and sometimes I think he can't either."[14] Paddy Ashdown, the leader of the Liberal Democrats during Major's term of office, once described him in the House of Commons as a "decent and honourable man". Few observers doubted that he was an honest man, or that he made sincere and sometimes successful attempts to improve life in Britain and to unite his deeply divided party. He was also, however, perceived as a weak and ineffectual figure[citation needed], and his approval ratings for most of his time in office were low, particularly after "Black Wednesday" in September 1992. Conversely on occasions he attracted criticism[citation needed] for dogmatically pursuing complex and unworkable schemes favoured by the right of his party, notably the privatisation of British Rail, and for closing down most of the coal industry.


Major at Newlands Cricket Ground, January 2000.

Since leaving office Major has maintained a low profile, indulging his love of cricket as president of Surrey County Cricket Club until 2002. He has been a member of Carlyle Group's European Advisory Board since 1998 and was appointed Chairman of Carlyle Europe in May 2001.[15] He stood down in August 2004.

Unlike most former prime ministers up until that time, Major turned down a peerage  when he retired from the House of Commons in 2001. In recent history, only Sir Winston Churchill and Sir Edward Heath have not been elevated to the House of Lords, although as of 2010, Major's successor Tony Blair remains without a peerage or knighthood.

In March 2001, he gave the tribute to Colin Cowdrey (Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge) at his memorial service in Westminster Abbey.[16] In 2005 he was elected to the Committee of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), historically the governing body of the sport, and still guardian of the laws of the game.[17] Following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997, Major was appointed a special guardian to Princes William and Harry, with responsibility for legal and administrative matters.

Major/Currie affair

Major's low-profile in retirement was disrupted by Edwina Currie's revelation in September 2002 that, prior to his promotion to the Cabinet, Major had had a four-year extramarital affair with her.[18][19] Commentators were quick to refer to Major's previous "Back to Basics" platform to throw charges of hypocrisy. He had also sued two magazines, New Statesman and Society and Scallywag plus their distributors, in 1993 for reporting rumours of an affair with a caterer, even though at least one of the magazines had said that the rumours were false. Both considered legal action to recover their costs when the affair with Currie was revealed.[20]

In a press statement, Major said that he was "ashamed" by the affair and that his wife had forgiven him. In response, Currie said "he wasn't ashamed of it at the time and he wanted it to continue."[21]

Since 2005

Major in 2007 at the memorial service for Lord Weatherill, former speaker of the House of Commons.

In February 2005, it was reported that Major and Norman Lamont delayed the release of papers on Black Wednesday under the Freedom of Information Act.[22] Major denied doing so, saying that he had not heard of the request until the scheduled release date and had merely asked to look at the papers himself. He told BBC News that he and Lamont had been the victims of "whispering" to the press.[23] He later publicly approved the release of the papers.[24]

According to the Evening Standard, Major has become a prolific after-dinner speaker. He earns over £25,000 per engagement for his "insights and his own opinions on the expanding European Union, the future of the world in the 21st century, and also about Britain", according to his agency.[25]

In December 2006, Major led calls for an independent inquiry into Tony Blair's decision to invade Iraq, following revelations made by Carne Ross, a former British senior diplomat, that contradict Blair's case for the invasion.[26] He was touted as a possible Conservative candidate for the Mayor of London elections in 2008, but turned down an offer from Conservative leader David Cameron. A spokesperson for Major said "his political future is behind him".[27]

Representation in the media

During his leadership of the Conservative Party, Major was portrayed as honest ("Honest John") but unable to rein in the philandering and bickering within his party. Major's appearance was noted in its greyness, his prodigious philtrum, and large glasses, all of which were exaggerated in caricatures. For example, in Spitting Image, Major's puppet was changed from a circus performer to that of a grey man who ate dinner with his wife in silence, occasionally saying "nice peas, dear". The media (particularly The Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell) used the allegation by Alastair Campbell that he had observed Major tucking his shirt into his underpants to caricature him wearing his pants outside his trousers,[28] as a pale grey echo of both Superman and Supermac, a parody of Harold Macmillan. Bell also used the humorous possibilities of the National Cones Hotline, a means for the public to inform the authorities of uncollected Traffic cones, which was a pet project of Major himself.

Private Eye parodied Sue Townsend's The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, age 13¾ to write The Secret Diary of John Major, age 47¾, in which Major was portrayed as a naive nincompoop (eg. keeping lists of his enemies in a Rymans Notebook called his "Bastards Book") and featuring "my wife Norman" and "Mr Dr Mawhinney" as recurring characters. The magazine still runs one-off specials of this diary (with the age updated) on occasions when Major is in the news, such as on the breaking of the Edwina Currie story or the publication of his autobiography. The magazine also ran a series of cartoons called 101 Uses for a John Major, in which Major was illustrated serving a number of bizarre purposes, such as a train-spotter's anorak.

Major's Brixton roots were used in a campaign poster during the Conservative Party's 1992 election campaign: "What does the Conservative Party offer a working class kid from Brixton? They made him Prime Minister."[29]

Major was often mocked for his nostalgic evocation of what sounded like the lost England of the 1950s.[30] For example: "Fifty years on from now, Britain will still be the country of long shadows on cricket grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and pools fillers"[31]

Major complained in his memoirs that these words (which drew upon a passage in the socialist writer George Orwell's "The Lion and the Unicorn"[32]) had been misrepresented as being more naive and romantic than he had intended.[citation needed], and indeed his memoirs were dismissive of the common conservative viewpoint that there was once a time of moral rectitude; Major wrote that "life has never been as simple as that".

Titles and honours

Styles from birth

John Major in the robes of a Knight Companion of the Order of the Garter
  • John Major, Esq. (1943–1979)
  • John Major, Esq. MP (1979–1987)
  • The Rt Hon John Major, MP (1987–1999)
  • The Rt Hon John Major, CH, MP (1999–2001)
  • The Rt Hon John Major, CH (2001–2005)
  • The Rt Hon Sir John Major, KG, CH (2005 – present)


In the New Year's Honours List of 1999 Major was made a Companion of Honour for his work on the Northern Ireland peace process.[33] In a 2003 interview he spoke about his hopes for peace in the region.[34]

On 23 April 2005 Major was made a Knight Companion of the Order of the Garter by Queen Elizabeth II. He was installed at St. George's Chapel, Windsor on 13 June. Membership of the Order of the Garter is limited in number to 24, and is an honour traditionally bestowed on former British Prime Ministers and is a personal gift of the Queen.[35]

Major has so far declined a life peerage on standing down from Parliament.[36]

On 20 June 2008 Major was granted the Freedom of the City of Cork[37].

Personal life

Major married Norma Johnson (now Dame Norma Major, DBE) on 3 October 1970. She was a teacher and a member of the Young Conservatives. They met on polling day for the Greater London Council elections in London. He and his wife are one of the few couples to both hold titles in their own right. They became engaged after only ten days.[38] They had two children; a son, James, and a daughter, Elizabeth. They have a holiday home on the coast of north Norfolk, near Weybourne, that has round-the-clock police surveillance.[39]

Major's elder brother, Terry, who died in 2007, became a minor media personality during Major's period in Downing Street, writing an autobiography and newspaper columns, and appearing on TV shows such as Have I Got News For You. He faced criticism about his brother but always remained loyal.

His son James married and divorced model Emma Noble.

He is a Chelsea F.C supporter[40],[41].


  1. ^ "John Major". History and Tour. 10 Downing Street. Retrieved 2008-10-31. 
  2. ^ "Poll tracker: Interactive guide to the opinion polls". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  3. ^ "Treasury papers reveal cost of Black Wednesday". The Guardian. 9 February 2005.,,1409254,00.html. Retrieved 2006-10-02. 
  4. ^ "Major was ready to quit over Black Wednesday". Daily Telegraph. 10 February 2005. Retrieved 2009-09-30. 
  5. ^ "Hoorah for Black Wednesday! It kept Britain out of the euro". Daily Telegraph. 13 September 2002. Retrieved 2006-09-17. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ The maxim referred to is Johnson's famous comment about J. Edgar Hoover: Johnson had once sought a way to remove Hoover from his post as head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), but upon realising that the problems involved in such a plan were insurmountable, he accepted Hoover's presence philosophically, reasoning that it would be "better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside pissing in".
  9. ^ Major, John (1999). Autobiography, pp343-4.
  10. ^ Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, 1 November 1993, column 34
  11. ^ "'Mandela helped me survive Monicagate, Arafat could not make the leap to peace - and for days John Major wouldn't take my calls'". The Guardian. 21 June 2004.,12271,1243638,00.html. Retrieved 2006-09-17. 
  12. ^ Major, John (1999). Autobiography
  13. ^ BBC news - Interview on Breakfast With Frost
  14. ^ "The Right Hon wag". The Guardian. 10 January 2006.,,1682818,00.html. Retrieved 2006-09-17. 
  15. ^ John Major appointed European Chairman of the Carlyle Group
  16. ^ Cowdrey remembered
  17. ^ MCC Committee 2006-07
  18. ^ Major and Currie had four-year affair
  19. ^ The Major-Currie affair - what the papers say
  20. ^ BBC News "Major faces legal action over affair"
  21. ^ BBC News "Currie interview in full"
  22. ^ Treasury releases 1992 ERM papers
  23. ^ Major denies blocking ERM papers
  24. ^ Major permits release of Black Wednesday papers
  25. ^ "Forty million dollar Bill: Earning power of an ex-leader". The Independent. 24 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-28. 
  26. ^ "John Major leads calls for inquiry into conflict". The Independent. 16 December 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-17. 
  27. ^ "Cameron snubbed again as Major rules out mayor race". The Times. London. 28 April 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-03. 
  28. ^ Steve Bell (1 October 2002). "'If only we had known back then'". The Guardian.,MFEM,802577,00.html. Retrieved 2006-09-17. 
  29. ^ Bennett, Gillian (1996). ""Camera, Lights Action!": The British General Election 1992 as Narrative Event". Folklore 107: 94 – 97. Retrieved 2007-06-28. 
  30. ^ Page 29, John Major by Robert Taylor, Haus 2006
  31. ^ Page 370, Major: A political life by Anthony Seldon, Weidenfield 1997
  32. ^ : The Lion and the Unicorn // George Orwell //
  33. ^ Major leads honours list for peace
  34. ^ John Major speaks out for NI peace
  35. ^ Former PM Major becomes Sir John
  36. ^ Major to turn down peerage - accessed 15 August 2006
  37. ^ Freedom of the City 2008
  38. ^ Profile at
  39. ^ Brogan, Benedict (21 March 2002). "Protection bill for John Major rises to £1.5m". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-07-03. 
  40. ^ Insert
  41. ^

Further reading

  • Major, John (1999) – Autobiography (London: Harper Collins, ISBN 0-00-257004-1)
  • Major, John (2007) – More Than A Game: The Story of Cricket's Early Years (London: Harper Collins, ISBN 978-0-00-718364-7)

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
John MacGregor
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Norman Lamont
Preceded by
Sir Geoffrey Howe
Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by
Douglas Hurd
Preceded by
Nigel Lawson
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Norman Lamont
Preceded by
Margaret Thatcher
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
28 November 1990 – 2 May 1997
Succeeded by
Tony Blair
Preceded by
Tony Blair
Leader of the Opposition
Succeeded by
William Hague
Preceded by
Robin Cook
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by
Michael Howard
Preceded by
George H. W. Bush
United States
Chair of the G8
Succeeded by
Helmut Kohl
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
David Renton
Member of Parliament for Huntingdonshire
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Huntingdon
Succeeded by
Jonathan Djanogly
Party political offices
Preceded by
Margaret Thatcher
Leader of the Conservative Party
Succeeded by
William Hague


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Sir John Major (born 29 March 1943) is a British politician who served as Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997. His childhood was spent in Brixton after his father's business failed, and he left school at 16. He worked for Standard Chartered Bank and became a councillor in Lambeth in 1968. He was elected to Parliament in 1979 and was a Cabinet Minister under Margaret Thatcher before being elected as her successor. After his defeat in 1997, he retired from the House of Commons at the 2001 general election.



  • In the next ten years we will have to continue to make changes which will make the whole of this country a genuinely classless society.
    • Today newspaper, 24 November 1990.
  • I want to see us build a country that is at ease with itself, a country that is confident and a country that is able and willing to build a better quality of life for all its citizens.
    • David Butler and Gareth Butler, "Twentieth Century British Political Facts", p. 296
    • Statement in Downing Street on being invited to form a new government, 28 November 1990.
  • Robert Hughes (Labour MP for Aberdeen North): With regard to the Prime Minister's desire for a classless society and social mobility, will he explain why there are no women in his Cabinet, or is the only woman in his Cabinet the back-seat driver?
    John Major: In recent years, in all aspects of life in this country, women have been taking a higher profile: in the law, in commerce, in the civil service, in industry and in politics - and that will continue. As those women would wish it to be, they will reach the top on merit - oh yes, and if the hon. Gentleman is patient, he will find women aplenty in top positions in my Government. Indeed, if he had waited awhile, perhaps even to the end of today, he would not have asked that question.
    • Hansard, 6ser, vol 181 col 1015 (29 November 1990) [1]
    • The phrase 'Oh yes' was a remark said several times at the first Prime Minister's Question Time in which Major answered questions.
  • 'Being Prime Minister, I had to bite my tongue over a great many things. My hatred of Rangers Football club was one. My love of the little man on the front of Monopoly-boxes another.'
    • An interview with fellow Celtic fan, Cilla Black
  • Everyone who has seen the recent news reports has been shocked and moved by the suffering children in Sarajevo. At the end of last week, we told the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that we stood ready to evacuate children from Sarajevo to the United Kingdom for medical treatment, or to send medical teams to Yugoslavia to provide treatment on the spot.

    If it is possible to treat the children on the spot, near to their families, with people around them who speak their language and in relatively familiar surroundings, that is obviously the best way. We have told the International Red Cross that we are willing to fly out medical personnel at very short notice if needed. I hope to meet the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in London later this week to see what further action is needed.

    • Hansard, 6ser, vol 211 col 812 (13 July 1992) [2]
    • Regarding the children injured during the Bosnian War.
  • All my adult life I have seen British governments driven off their virtuous pursuit of low inflation by market problems or political pressures. I was under no illusions when I took Britain into the ERM. I said at the time that membership was no soft option. The soft option, the devaluer's option, the inflationary option, that would in my opinion be a betrayal of Britain's future.
    • Robin Oakley, "Major rejects devaluation as betrayal of the future", The Times, 11 September 1992.
    • Speech to the Scottish CBI, 10 September 1992, six days before Black Wednesday when the Pound was forced out of the ERM.
  • I am walking over hot coals suspended over a deep pit at the bottom of which are a large number of vipers baring their fangs.
    • Nicholas Wood and Michael Prescott, "Major threatens general election if he fails to win Maastricht vote", Sunday Times, 25 October 1992.
  • Fifty years on from now, Britain will still be the country of long shadows on cricket grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and pools fillers and, as George Orwell said, 'Old maids bicycling to holy communion through the morning mist' and, if we get our way, Shakespeare will still be read even in school.
    • David Butler and Gareth Butler, "Twentieth Century British Political Facts", p. 296
    • Speech to the Conservative Group for Europe, 22 April 1993. The reference to George Orwell is to his 1941 essay "The Lion and the Unicorn".
  • John Major: What I don't understand, Michael, is why such a complete wimp like me keeps winning everything.
    Michael Brunson: You've said it, you said precisely that.
    Major: I suppose Gus will tell me off for saying that, won't you Gus?
    Brunson: No, no, no ... it's a fair point. The trouble is that people are not perceiving you as winning.
    Major: Oh, I know ... why not? Because ...
    Brunson: Because rotten sods like me, I suppose, don't get the message clear [laughs].
    Major: No, no, no. I wasn't going to say that - well partly that, yes, partly because of S-H-one-Ts like you, yes, that's perfectly right. But also because those people who are opposing our European policy have said the way to oppose the Government on the European policy is to attack me personally. The Labour Party started before the last election. It has been picked up and it is just one of these fashionable things that slips into the Parliamentary system and it is an easy way to proceed.
    Brunson: But I mean you ... has been overshadowed ... my point is there, not just the fact that you have been overshadowed by Maastricht and people don't ...
    Major: The real problem is this ...
    Brunson: But you've also had all the other problems on top - the Mellors, the Mates ... and it's like a blanket - you use the phrase 'masking tape' but I mean that's it, isn't it?
    Major: Even, even, even, as an ex-whip I can't stop people sleeping with other people if they ought not, and various things like that. But the real problem is ...
    Brunson: I've heard other people in the Cabinet say 'Why the hell didn't he get rid of Mates on Day One?' Mates was a fly, you could have swatted him away.
    Major: Yeah, well, they did not say that at the time, I have to tell you. And I can tell you what they would have said if I had. They'd have said 'This man was being set up. He was trying to do his job for his constituent. He had done nothing improper, as the Cabinet Secretary told me. It was an act of gross injustice to have got rid of him'. Nobody knew what I knew at the time. But the real problem is that one has a tiny majority. Don't overlook that. I could have all these clever and decisive things that people wanted me to do and I would have split the Conservative Party into smithereens. And you would have said, Aren't you a ham-fisted leader? You've broken up the Conservative Party.
    Brunson: No, well would you? If people come along and ...
    Major: Most people in the Cabinet, if you ask them sensibly, would tell you that, yes. Don't underestimate the bitterness of European policy until it is settled - It is settled now.
    Brunson: Three of them - perhaps we had better not mention open names in this room - perhaps the three of them would have - if you'd done certain things, they would have come along and said, 'Prime Minister, we resign'. So you say 'Fine, you resign'.
    Major: We all know which three that is. Now think that through. Think it through from my perspective. You are Prime Minister. You have got a majority of 18. You have got a party still harking back to a golden age that never was but is now invented. And you have three rightwing members of the Cabinet actually resigned. What happens in the parliamentary party?
    Brunson: They create a lot of fuss but you have probably got three damn good ministers in the Cabinet to replace them.
    Major: Oh, I can bring in other people into the Cabinet, that is right, but where do you think most of this poison has come from? It is coming from the dispossessed and the never-possessed. You and I can both think of ex-ministers who are going around causing all sorts of trouble. Would you like three more of the bastards out there? What's the Lyndon Johnson, er, maxim?
    Brunson: If you've got them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow.
    Major: No, that's not what I had in mind, though it's pretty good.
    • Andrew Culf, "What the `wimp' really said to the S-H-one-T", The Guardian, 26 July 1993.
    • 'Off-the-record' exchange with ITN reporter Michael Brunson following videotaped interview, 23 July 1993. Neither Major nor Brunson realised their microphones were still live and being recorded by BBC staff preparing for a subsequent interview; the tape was swiftly leaked to the Daily Mirror.
  • It is time to return to those core values, time to get back to basics: to self-discipline and respect for the law, to consideration for others, to accepting responsibility for yourself and your family, and not shuffling it off on other people and the state.
    • Nicholas Wood, Jill Sherman, Sheila Gunn, "Major gives seal of approval to Tories' right-wing agenda", The Times, 9 October 1993
    • Conservative Party conference speech, 8 October 1993. The phrase was associated with personal morality and backfired when a succession of senior Conservatives fell to scandals that winter.
  • If the implication of his remarks is that we should sit down and talk with Mr. Adams and the Provisional IRA, I can say only that that would turn my stomach and those of most hon. Members; we will not do it. If and when there is a total ending of violence, and if and when that ending of violence is established for a significant time, we shall talk to all the constitutional parties that have people elected in their names. I will not talk to people who murder indiscriminately.
    • Hansard, HC 6 ser, vol 231 col 35 (1 November 1993).
    • In reply to a question from Dennis Skinner concerning peace talks in Ireland. This reply caused Major some embarrassment when it was revealed on 29 November 1993 that at the time government officials (although not Ministers) were in negotiations with Sinn Féin and the IRA.
  • Summers simply won't be the same without him.
    • Frank Keating, "Tributes flow as Johnners, voice of English cricket, dies at 81", The Guardian, 6 January 1994.
    • Tribute on the death of cricket commentator Brian Johnston.
  • Something I was not aware had happened suddenly turned out not to have happened.
    • Joe Joseph, "Elementary lessons in logic for enquiry's bemused counsel", The Times, 18 January 1994.
    • Evidence to the Scott Inquiry, 17 January 1994. Major was speaking of his time as Foreign Secretary in 1989 when the guidelines for arms exports to Iraq had been relaxed, although he had not been told. At one point, when the decision to relax the guidelines was criticised, it was decided to defend the Government by claiming that the guidelines were changed only in wording and unchanged in effect.
  • The right hon. and learned Member is the man who likes to say yes in Europe — Monsieur Oui, the poodle of Brussels.
    • Hansard, HC 6 ser, vol 240 col 134 (22 March 1994).
    • A jibe against the Leader of the Labour Party.
  • We will do precisely what the British nation has done all through its history when it had its back to the wall — turn round and fight for the things it believes in, and that is what I shall do.
    • Michael White, Patrick Wintour, "Hanley set to carry the can as defiant Major vows to fight on", The Guardian, 6 May 1995.
    • Public statement following poor showing in local elections, 5 May 1995. Major's mixed metaphor (if your back is to the wall and you turn round, you are then facing the wall) was remarked upon.
  • The Conservative Party must make its choice. Every leader is leader only with the support of his party. That is true of me too. That is why I am no longer prepared to tolerate the present situation. In short, it is time to put up or shut up.
    • Michael White, "Major's ultimate gamble", Guardian, 23 June 1995.
    • Statement in the garden of 10 Downing Street announcing his resignation as Conservative Party leader in order to seek re-election, 22 June 1995.
  • George Foulkes: Will the Prime Minister tell us what word he would legitimately use to describe those Cabinet Ministers who, while professing loyalty to him, are setting up telephone lines in campaign offices for the second round of the election?
    John Major: I have no knowledge of that. I can say that the speed at which these matters can be done is a tribute to privatisation.
    • Prime Minister's Questions, 29 June, 1995.
    • It was rumoured that Cabinet member Michael Portillo had installed telephone lines in the event of his standing in the Conservative leadership election.
  • Whether you agree with me, disagree with me, like me or loathe me, don't bind my hands when I am negotiating on behalf of the British people.
    • Michael White, "At war with his party", The Guardian, 17 April 1997, p. 1
    • Election press conference, 16 April 1997, referring to Conservative MPs who had issued manifestos rejecting British membership of the European single currency.
  • I have been a Member of Parliament for 18 years. I have been a member of the Government for 14 years, of the Cabinet for ten years and Prime Minister since 1990. When the curtain falls it is time to get off the stage and that is what I propose to do. I shall, therefore, advise my parliamentary colleagues that it would be appropriate for them to consider the selection of a new leader of the Conservative Party to lead the party through Opposition through the years that lie immediately ahead.
    • "Major's Speech", The Times, 3 May 1997, p. 2.
    • Statement in Downing Street on 2 May 1997 following the general election in which the Conservative Party was heavily defeated. Major was just about to resign as Prime Minister and announced his decision to stand down as party leader simultaneously.
  • It is the one event in my life of which I am most ashamed and I have long feared would be made public.
  • Oh, Lord, if I must die today,
    Please make it after Close of Play.
    For this, I know, if nothing more,
    I will not go, without the score . . .
    • Excerpt of poem variously titled "Cricket Match" or "A Cricket Prayer"[4][5]


  • Only in Britain could it be thought a defect to be "too clever by half". The probability is that too many people are too stupid by three-quarters.
  • A consensus politician is someone who does something that he doesn't believe is right because it keeps people quiet when he does it.
  • The politician who never made a mistake never made a decision.
  • The first requirement of politics is not intellect or stamina but patience. Politics is a very long run game and the tortoise will usually beat the hare.
  • A soundbite never buttered any parsnips.
    • Contemporary version of English proverb "fine words butter no parsnips". Attributed to Major in The Guardian, 31 January 1998, p. 13.

Quotes on Jonn Major

  • He was a fairly competent chairman of Housing [on Lambeth Council]. Every time he gets up now I keep thinking, "What on earth is Councillor Major doing?" I can't believe he's here and sometimes I think he can't either.

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

JOHN MAJOR (or MAIR) (1470-1550), Scottish theological and historical writer, was born at the village of Gleghornie, near North Berwick, Scotland, in the year 1470. He was educated at the school of Haddington, where John Knox was later a pupil. After a short period spent at Cambridge (at God's House, afterwards Christ's College) he entered the university of Paris in 1493, studying successively at the colleges of St Barbe, Montaigu and Navarre, and graduating as master of arts in 1496. Promoted to the doctorate in 1505, he lectured on philosophy at Montaigu College and on theology at Navarre. He visited Scotland in 1515 and returned in 1518, when he was appointed principal regent in the university of Glasgow, John Knox being among the number of those who attended his lectures there. In 1522 he removed to St Andrew's University, where in 1525 George Buchanan was one of his pupils. He returned to the college of Montaigu in 1525, but was once more at St Andrew's in 1531, where he was head of St Salvator's College from 1534 until his death.

Major's voluminous writings may be grouped under (a) logic and philosophy, (b) Scripture commentary, and (c) history. All are in Latin, all appeared between 1503 and 1530, and all were printed at Paris. The first group includes his Exponabilia (1503), his commentary on Petrus Hispanus (1505-1506), his Inclitarum artium libri (1506, &c.), his commentary on Joannes Dorp (1504, &c.), his Insolubilia (1516, &c.), his introduction to Aristotle's logic (1521, &c.), his commentary on the ethics (1530), and, chief of all, his commentary on Peter Lombard's Sentences (1509, &c.); the second consists of a commentary on Matthew (1518) and another on the Four Gospels (1529); the last is represented by his famous Historia Majoris Britanniae tam Angliae quam Scotiae J. M. (1521). In political philosophy he maintained the Scotist position, that civil authority was derived from the popular will, but in theology he was a scholastic conservative, though he never failed to show his approbation of Gallicanism and its plea for the reform of ecclesiastical abuses. He has left on record that it was his aim and hope to reconcile realism and nominalism in the interests of theological peace. He had a world-wide reputation as a teacher and writer. Buchanan's severe epigram, perhaps the only unfriendly words in the flood of contemporary praise, may be explained as a protest against the compromise which Major appeared to offer rather than as a personal attack on his teacher. Major takes a more independent attitude in his History, which is a remarkable example of historical accuracy and insight. He claims that the historian's chief duty is to write truthfully, and he is careful to show that a theologian may fulfil this condition.

The History, on which his fame now rests, was reprinted by Freebairn (Edinburgh, 1740), and was translated in 1892 by Archibald Constable for the Scottish History Society. The latter volume contains a full account of the author by Aeneas J. G. Mackay and a bibliography by Thomas Graves Law.

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The Rt Hon Sir John Major, KG, CH
File:John Major, October

In office
28 November 1990 – 2 May 1997
Deputy Michael Heseltine
Preceded by Margaret Thatcher
Succeeded by Tony Blair

Born 29 March 1943
Carshalton, Surrey, England
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse Norma Major
(m. 1970-present)
Children Son and daughter

Sir John Major (born 29 March 1943) KG, CH is a British politician who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and leader of the Conservative Party from November 1990 to May 1997. He was also a member of the Cabinet of Margaret Thatcher as Chief Secretary to the Treasury (1987-1989), Foreign Secretary (1989) and Chancellor of the Exchequer (1989-1990).

Major was born in Carshalton, England and left school at the age of 16. He became a Conservative Party councillor in 1968. At the 1979 General Election, Major became a Member of Parliament for Huntingdonshire (Huntingdon from 1983 onwards). After holding several cabinet posts, Major was elected to succeed Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister and Conservative leader. As Prime Minister, John Major oversaw British involvement in the Gulf War (1991-92) and his party's narrow re-election in the 1992 General Election. After this, the Conservative Party became less popular because of the Black Wednesday fiasco in November 1992 and because the Conservative Party became divided over the issue of the European Union. The Conservative Party was defeated at the 1997 General Election and Major was succeeded by the Labour Party's Tony Blair. Major was succeeded as Conservative leader by William Hague and he stood down as an MP at the 2001 General Election.

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