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“From the Miners to Major: A League of Change in Recent British Politics.”. Jeremy Lewis PhD, Huntingdon College, For presentations at Buena Vista University, Iowa, 11-12 Sep. 2005 See www.Political-Science.org. John Major stereotyped as the grey man of the Tory party.

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from the miners to major a league of change in recent british politics

“From the Miners to Major:A League of Change in Recent British Politics.”

Jeremy Lewis PhD, Huntingdon College, For presentations at Buena Vista University, Iowa, 11-12 Sep. 2005See www.Political-Science.org

john major stereotyped as the grey man of the tory party
John Major stereotyped as the grey man of the Tory party
  • The whiz kid whose fast rise up the greasy pole
  • culminated in a slippery slide downwards
  • economic stagflation and low approval ratings
  • unable to prevent bickering, scandal and policy drift
  • echoes of Churchill’s “modest” depiction of Atlee
  • [cartoon] Major as Mr. Underpants, the spindly superhero.
now sir john major seen as
Now Sir John Major seen as
  • the creator of Northern Ireland peace agreement
  • the warrior of the 1991 Gulf War
  • the international statesman and peace negotiator
  • the last successful Conservative party leader
  • returned a party to the moderate “inside right” electorate
major in the context of british politics
Major in the context of British Politics
  • PMQT shows integration of legislature and executive
    • Commons culture of Oxford Union debating
    • PM confronted by MPs
    • articulate ministers, well informed & gladiatorial
    • patronage power of the prime minister
    • cabinet and shadow cabinet: loyal Opposition
    • front bench (ministers) versus backbench (MPs)
    • Multi-party system with cross-benchers:
  • First Past the Post system favors Con & Lab, disfavors Lib Dems
uncodified constitution
Uncodified Constitution
  • doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty
    • no supreme court, no constitutional review
  • flexible terms of office and votes of no confidence
  • cabinet’s collective responsibility: “government are”
  • ministerial responsibility & resignation
  • rise of PM and staff, public relations
  • embourgeoisement: decline of class-based politics
postwar welfare state consensus
postwar welfare state consensus:
  • equality over individualism
  • full employment over productivity
  • “fair shares for all”
  • “no jumping the queue”
  • “homes fit for heroes”
  • “Butskellism” (Butler & Gaitskell)
  • “corporatism” (tripartite economic discussions)
1960s and 1970s consensus declined
1960s and 1970s, consensus declined
  • Labour & Conservative governments
  • economic deterioration
  • winters of discontent 1974 and 1979
  • “bloody-minded” unions & “out of touch” management
  • Miners brought down Heath Tory government, 1974
thatcherism revolution
Thatcherism revolution:
  • tax cuts: larger shares for some
  • property holding democracy: shares for all
  • market forces in all institutions: scramble to head the queue
  • Privatization of 11% of economy
  • Broke miner’s union 1984
  • Over 20% shareholders
  • Council house sales
  • Self-budgeting universities and hospitals
public opinion
Public Opinion:
  • now more polarized
  • mostly favors postwar consensus (I. Crewe)
  • by 1990, only 17% of Tory MPs actually Thatcherite (P. Norton)
understated leader sandwiched between two prima donnas
Understated leader sandwiched between two prima donnas
  • not an Oxford Union debater
  • Citizen’s Charter a minor reform
  • Thatcher’s budget cuts, privatization, supply side revolution
  • Blair’s Third Way reforms
john roy major s early life 1943
John Roy Major’s early life, 1943-
  • untypical British leader
  • name “Roy”not even on birth certificate
  • son of traveling circus performer, Tom Major-Ball
    • Late discovery of half-siblings
  • impoverished by unemployment
  • rejected as bus conductor
  • made garden gnomes with brother Terry
  • not upper middle class -- free school uniform
  • not Eton – just grammar school
  • not Oxford – not even university (J. Callaghan)
early career
Early Career:
  • Banker 1965-1979: very successful
  • Married Norma 1970, two children
major s climb up the greasy pole disraeli
Major’s climb up the greasy pole(Disraeli)
  • Spring 1991, most popular PM in 30 years
  • Prime Minister 1990-97
  • Leader of the Conservative Party 1990-97
    • Over Michael (“Tarzan”) Heseltine and Douglas Hurd (diplomatic)
  • Chancellor of the Exchequer 1989-90
    • first TV budget speech, TESSAs
    • UK joined ERM, 1990
  • Foreign Secretary 1989
    • Chief Secretary to the Treasury 1987-89
  • Minister of State for Social Security 1986
  • Under-Sec for Social Security (welfare & OAPs) 1985
  • Treasury Whip 1984
  • Assistant Whip 1983
  • Parliamentary Private Sec. 1981
  • MP for Huntingdon (1976) 1979, 1983, 1992, 1997.
  • Lambeth borough council 1968-71, created housing
  • Soap box speeches in Lambeth, 1964-68.
conservative party factions
Conservative party factions
  • Leadership elections post 1965 among MPs
  • 1922 Committee (revolts in private)
  • Thatcherite free-market insurgents (“dries”) 17% only
  • aristocratic High Tories declining (trad cons)
  • “Hang ‘em and flog ‘em” brigade in shires
  • One-Nation moderates larger group (“wets”)
  • dropping leaders after lost elections
  • all included in cabinets except 1984-87
major as conservative prime minister 1990 97
Major as Conservative Prime Minister, 1990-97
  • More inclusive, genteel style
  • Moderates back to cabinet
  • Only 47 on accession
  • Early success with Gulf war, 1991
    • Record popularity
  • Abolished poll tax which had brought down Thatcher
unpromising re election prospects
Unpromising re-election prospects
  • longest recession since 1930s
  • consumer unconfidence 1990, Tories drooped
  • Tories 30% 1990, Lab 53%
  • voters polarized by Mrs. Thatcher
  • Short bounces from Major’s accession and Gulf War
economic policy u turn
Economic policy U-turn
  • Major eased interest rates Oct 1990
  • Lamont increased PSBR (unThatcherite)
won 1992 election by upset
Won 1992 election by upset
  • Polls predicted hung Parliament
  • Neil Kinnock’s welsh oratory
  • Labour’s slick American-style campaigning
  • Major’s Lambeth soap-box speechifying
  • Major’s man in the street style.
won 1992 election by upset28
Won 1992 election by upset
  • voters lied – or opinion polls skewed?
  • Late deciders Tory
  • “best to control economy” swing to Tory
  • Tories returned with small majority
  • Lost only 41 seats, retained 43% of vote
economic difficulties
Economic difficulties
  • Stagflation 1992-93
  • Black Wednesday, 16 Sep. 1992, ERM withdrawal
statesmanship
Statesmanship
  • European engagement:
    • EU’s Maastricht Treaty 1992, despite
    • Tory “bastard” eurosceptic rebels (Lilley, Portillo & Howard)
    • Labour tactical forced vote defeat on EU Social Chapter
    • Major forced vote of no confidence, won by 40
    • Opted out of Euro currency, protected British economy
northern ireland
Northern Ireland
  • Irish peace talks earned Companion of Honour
    • IRA ceasefire 1994
    • despite mortar bombing of No.10
    • denied negotiating secretly with IRA 1993
    • “it would turn my stomach”
    • till exposed
    • Angered by Clinton’s reception of Gerry Adams
domestic policy issues
Domestic policy issues
  • “Back to Basics” campaign, 1993
    • intended: economy, education, policing
    • inferred by media: trad values
    • scandals, sleaze and backbiting
    • (mistresses, Corp. directorships, cash for questions)
  • Economic recession and stagflation 1992
    • Changed policy
    • 5 successive years of recovery:
      • growth, reducing inflation and unemployment
  • Economic recovery by 1997
leadership of party
Leadership of party
  • constant backbiting from Thatcherites & eurosceptics
  • 1995 Major resigned (but not PM position) (a first)
  • won leadership (218 MPs) over eurosceptic Redwood (89)
  • Dec. 1996 Cons lost majority in Commons
  • economy improving, but 5 year limit on term
may day 1997 election lost
May day 1997 election lost
  • New Labour landslide.
  • Lab 418 seats, Con 165, Lib Dem 46
  • Lab majority 179
  • 179 Con MPs lost seats – worst in century
  • “curtain falls, time to get off the stage” & cricket
retirement life
Retirement life:
  • Backbenches, few political interventions
    • Chancellor Lamont: Major slow Black Wed. ‘92
    • criticized Hague’s move to right
    • criticized Thatcher for “warrior characteristics”, unconservative
    • 2005 criticized decline of civility
  • cricket at MCC
  • declined life peerage but Knighthood of garter
  • 2002 Edwina Currie’s autobiography
  • Discovered half brother and half sister
  • Feb. 2005 Major & Lamont held up release of papers
    • on Black Wednesday under FOIA
  • Carlyle group chair
  • Successor, William Hague, more unpopular
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