John Major

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John Major (2014)

Sir John Major , KG , CH (born March 29, 1943 in London ) is a British politician and member of the Conservative Party . From November 28, 1990 to May 2, 1997 he was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, succeeding Margaret Thatcher .


Origin, education and political advancement

In terms of background and education, John Major differed significantly from other Conservative Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom in the 20th century, who mostly came from well-off, upper-class or aristocratic families, attended private schools or boarding schools, and often attended Oxford or Cambridge or other prestigious universities had studied. John Major, on the other hand, came from "small backgrounds". Much later, as Prime Minister, it was evident in interviews how deeply he felt struck by some ironic and sometimes condescending remarks from his party colleagues or the press that targeted his origins.

John Major first grew up in the well-off London suburb of Sutton . His father Tom Pascal Hubert Major-Ball had his mother Gwen, nee. Coates married two years earlier and was 62 years old when he was born. The father had a colorful biography. Among other things, he had worked as a trapeze artist in the circus, as a garden gnome manufacturer, entertainment musician, professional baseball player and temporarily an officer in the Uruguayan army. John Major later learned that he had a half-brother more than 30 years his senior and a half-sister 20 years his senior, who came from his father's numerous affairs. After their father went bankrupt, the family had to move to the much poorer area of Brixton , Lambeth . At the age of 16, John Major left school with miserable final grades and the assessment “too cheeky, not much enthusiasm” (“ too cheeky, not much enthusiasm ”). Major later regretted that he had so disappointed the high hopes and expectations of his parents "due to sheer laziness and disinterest". He had an aversion to school that led to his determination to fail there. Regardless of the poor school performance, Major was described in retrospect by his childhood friends as very bright and intelligent and politically interested from an early age. After leaving school, he initially unsuccessfully applied as a bus driver. After his first career steps as an insurance salesman and manufacturer of garden decorations (together with his brother Terry Major-Ball) he was hired by the Standard Chartered Bank . There he worked his way up and served u. a. as assistant to the chairman of the board.

John Major's political career began at the age of 21. He was run in Brixton in 1964 as a Conservative Party candidate for local government. In 1968 he was finally elected. This was considered very surprising in that Brixton was traditionally a stronghold of the Labor Party . However, he lost his seat again in 1971. In 1974 he ran as a member of the House of Commons for the London constituency of St. Pancras , but was defeated by the Labor candidate. In the 1979 elections he was elected to the House of Commons as a member of the Huntingdon constituency. In 1985 he was appointed Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Social Insurance, and a year later he was appointed Minister. In 1986 he was appointed Vice Chancellor ( Chief Secretary to the Treasury ) and in 1989 Foreign Minister. three months later he became Chancellor of the Exchequer. He owed his extraordinarily fast career and his rise in the cabinet above all to the support of Margaret Thatcher, whose protégé he was considered.

In 1970 he married Norma Johnson, a teacher. The marriage had two children.

Prime Minister 1990 to 1997

John Major as Prime Minister (1996)

After Margaret Thatcher resigned after an internal power struggle, John Major was elected as the new chairman of the Conservative Party. He prevailed against his internal party opponents Michael Heseltine , who had led the party rebellion against Thatcher, and Douglas Hurd with 184: 131: 56 votes at the party congress of the Conservatives. At the same time he became Prime Minister; he took up his new office on November 28, 1990. His first important task was to take part in the Second Gulf War to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi troops (January to February 1991). The UK dispatched 53,462 soldiers. During this time, the IRA launched a grenade attack on the British government .

In March 1991, Major announced a "new chapter" in British European policy. He wished to see the archipelago there “where we belong”, namely “to the heart of Europe”. This was an open break with his foster mother Margaret Thatcher's anti-EC policy. The Prime Minister had "drawn a line under the whole Thatcher generation, which was marked by the Second World War," said the London Evening Standard . Margaret Thatcher, who had initially hoped to steer the country from the background "from the back seat" ( "I am a very good back-seat driver" ) under the government of her supposed pupil Major , later developed into one by major's most outspoken critics. She had to recognize that her political pupil had different views than herself and pursued different policies on many points, in particular European and social policy. Major was actually not a representative of the Thatcherist ideology , but saw himself as a social, relatively Europe-friendly conservative. Thatcher's verdict on her successor was circulated in the press: “He is gray. He has no ideas. I have been totally deceived. " ("He's gray. He has no ideas. I feel totally betrayed.").

Britain experienced an economic recession during his first term in office . Most political observers expected him to lose to the Labor Party under Neil Kinnock in the April 1992 general election. Not least thanks to a popular and committed election campaign, he was able to secure a wafer-thin majority for the conservatives.

After the narrowly won election, the government became less and less able to act because of open conflicts over direction in the Conservative Party. The Eurosceptics in particular caused the pro-European major more and more problems. After the first vote on the Maastricht Treaty had failed on June 22, 1993 because of some conservative deviants, Major ordered a second vote for the following day and linked this with the vote of confidence . Major won by a very narrow majority of 319-316, but his authority was further damaged.

John Major in the robe of a Knight of the Order of the Garter

The criticism of his administration increased more and more. In 1995, Major feared he might be dismissed as party leader. He resigned from this post and was then re-elected. But although he received a clear majority, he could not restore his authority. After several unsuccessful by-elections , the Conservatives lost an absolute majority in December 1996. For the remainder of the legislature, Major's government relied on the votes of the Northern Irish Unionists .

Time after 1997

In the 1997 elections , the Conservatives suffered a devastating defeat against the Labor Party and John Major was forced to hand over the office of Prime Minister to Tony Blair on May 2, 1997 . Major kept his parliamentary seat, but was rarely present in parliament and mostly stayed in the lower tiers. Between May 1997 and June 1997, Major served as interim opposition leader against Blair until the Conservative Party elected William Hague as his successor. Before the 2001 general election , John Major resigned as MP. He has been a member of the European Board of Directors of the Carlyle Group since 1998 and was appointed Chairman of Carlyle Europe in May 2001. He resigned in August 2004.

2005 John Major, like most former prime minister, as a Knight Companion of the Order of the Garter to beat Knight and thus received the suffix "Sir". In contrast to his predecessor Margaret Thatcher, Sir John Major has so far waived the peership traditionally offered to former prime ministers; thus he also renounced a seat in the upper house .

In the election campaign leading up to the general election in 2015 , he spoke up and warned urgently of the possibility of a Labor minority government that would rely on the support of the Scottish National Party (SNP). In such a situation, Labor is subjected to daily blackmail and is forced to move further and further politically to the left. Such a situation means “the chaos” ( mayhem ).

In an interview with the BBC on November 16, 2014 Major spoke out in favor of the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union. He warned of the political and economic loss of importance for Great Britain if it left. Instead, British politicians must seek allies in Europe to turn their ideas into reality. In Europe, the principle of subsidiarity , which was enshrined in the Maastricht Treaty, must apply again . The UK Independence Party (UKIP) only stands for negativity and not for positive values. A few weeks before the vote on the United Kingdom's possible withdrawal from the EU, in a speech to the Oxford Union Debate Club on May 13, 2016, he was committed to promoting Great Britain's continued EU membership. On June 5, 2016, he spoke again in a publicly effective manner and accused the supporters of a “ Brexit ” of arguing with wrong numbers. UK payments to the EU are nowhere near as high as they claim. The campaign was therefore "fraudulent" ( deceitful ). He was particularly angry about the ideas of Brexit supporters regarding the containment of immigration, which he described as " nonsense on stilts ". After the referendum, in which a narrow majority voted in favor of leaving the EU, voices were raised calling for a new referendum. In a speech on November 24, 2016, he demanded that the 48% who had spoken out against leaving in the referendum should also be heard. A second referendum is conceivable if the majority of the population clearly changes their mind. In 2019, he clearly distanced himself from Prime Minister Boris Johnson's policies and called on Parliament to return to a moderate and conciliatory stance against his radical rhetoric and to achieve a negotiated solution with the EU for Brexit.

Web links

Commons : John Major  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. The Miraculous Major Balls. BBC News, June 21, 1999, accessed June 5, 2016 .
  2. ^ The Major Years - Pt 1 - Oct 1999. In: YouTube. Retrieved June 5, 2016 (English, with numerous personal interviews).
  3. ^ The Major Years - Pt 1 - Oct 1999. In: YouTube. Retrieved June 5, 2016 (English, with numerous personal interviews).
  4. Silent Alliance. - Prime Minister John Major tries to shake off the Thatcher legacy. But his political foster mother is still on his neck.
  5. ^ The Major Years - Pt 1 - Oct 1999. In: YouTube. Retrieved June 5, 2016 (English, with numerous personal interviews).
  6. Maureen Johnson: Back-seat driving Thatcher heightens new British prime minister's woes. The Times-News / Associated Press, June 10, 1991, accessed June 5, 2016 (in English, digitized from Google).
  7. Richard O'Mara: Major quells rebellion in his party Vote lifts chances of treaty approval. November 5, 1992, accessed June 5, 2016 .
  8. ^ John Major Appointed European Chairman of The Carlyle Group . TC Group, LLC. May 13, 2001. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  9. Election 2015: Labor v Tories row over SNP intensifies. BBC News, April 21, 2015, accessed April 21, 2015 .
  10. MarrShow: Ex PM John Major on Europe, UKIP (16Nov14). In: YouTube. November 16, 2014, accessed December 12, 2014 .
  11. ^ Sir John Major - Why Britain Should Remain in the EU - Oxford Union. In: YouTube. May 16, 2016, accessed June 12, 2016 .
  12. ^ John Major: Leave campaign being 'deceitful and dishonest' - BBC News. BBC News, June 5, 2016, accessed June 5, 2016 (the full interview with Andrew Marr (YouTube video)).
  13. Major attacks Vote Leave 'deceit' as Johnson defends campaign. BBC News, June 5, 2016, accessed June 5, 2016 .
  14. Peter Walker: John Major: case for second Brexit referendum is credible. The Guardian, November 25, 2016, accessed November 25, 2016 .
  15. John Major: MPs of all parties must unite to rein in this reckless, divisive government , in: The Guardian, Sept. 27, 2019. (Online)