Saturday, April 21, 2012

Should John Major be praised?

In a letter to the press Sir Peter Brown praises John Major and feels the passing of time will look kindly on the former Prime Minister. Indeed the economy did bounce back after the UK left the ERM in 1992 after John Major, as Chancellor, took us into the ERM in 1990.

The problem with praising John Major for his "achievements", is the everything else is dusted under the carpet. For me John Major was the worst Conservative Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party ever.

John Major's 1992 election win should be seen as a pyrrhic victory. In 1992 the Conservative Government was coming to the end. Having ousted Thatcher, the Conservatives looked for a new leader. John Major was 2 votes short of an outright victory. Heseltine and Hurd withdrew from the contest and John Major was announced as the new leader and therefore Prime Minister. In that internal election the seeds to Major's problems were sown. This was because any loss of MP's at the next election would be those supporting John major rather than those who opposed him.

When the 1992 General Election was announced, the Conservatives had a formidable election machine to get there message out and did so getting 14.1 million votes. Even though John major scored more votes than any other leader before or after this didn't translate into seats. John Major lost 40 seats and had 336 seats. This was 10 more seats than the 326 seats needed for a majority. This gave John Major little room for manoeuvre when it came to votes and appointments.

The first order of business for the reassembled Parliament was the election of Speaker. Major wanted Peter Brooke and the House of Commons wanted Betty Boothroyd. The House of Commons won out and Major was defeated. Yet this was a silly mistake and showed the ineffective nature of John Major.

The premiership of John Major has been very well documented. Whilst the political machinations surrounded John Major, the party machine was dying. Loss of Councillors, Councils and volunteers made the party machine not work. John Major could pull the levers but the machine just didn't work. The finances held up through large donations. The 1997 election showed no matter how much money is thrown at an election unless you have boots on the ground the money is wasted. During this time Labour went after seats during the Boundary Commission review. And Labour got the review in their favour.

At the 1997 John Major got 9.6 million votes. That is a loss of 4.5 million votes since 1992. That was a loss of 32% in the Conservative vote.

If John Major had lost in 1992, the Labour Government would have had a rough time. The Conservative Party election machine would have been intact. By John Major winning he effectively destroyed the machine that got him elected.

The same has gone on in the Labour Party under Blair and Brown. They have lost 5 million votes from the 13.5 million in 1997 to the loss in 2010 of 8.5 million.

John Major did in 5 short years what it took Labour 13 years to achieve. The Liberal Democrats are seeing the same now they are in a coalition.

In the end I still don't respect John Major and still think his premiership was a shoddy affair. The Conservatives should have lost the 1992 general election. In winning John Major wasted 5 years for the Conservatives and set about laying the foundations for New Labour.

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