John Major

John Major
photograph of a 52-year-old Major
Major in 1995
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
28 November 1990 – 2 May 1997
MonarchElizabeth II
DeputyMichael Heseltine (1995–1997)
Preceded byMargaret Thatcher
Succeeded byTony Blair
Leader of the Opposition
In office
2 May 1997 – 19 June 1997
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterTony Blair
DeputyMichael Heseltine
Preceded byTony Blair
Succeeded byWilliam Hague
Leader of the Conservative Party
In office
28 November 1990 – 19 June 1997
DeputyViscount Whitelaw (1990–1991)
Preceded byMargaret Thatcher
Succeeded byWilliam Hague
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
26 October 1989 – 28 November 1990
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byNigel Lawson
Succeeded byNorman Lamont
Foreign Secretary
In office
24 July 1989 – 26 October 1989
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byGeoffrey Howe
Succeeded byDouglas Hurd
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
In office
13 June 1987 – 24 July 1989
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byJohn MacGregor
Succeeded byNorman Lamont
Minister of State for Social Security
In office
10 September 1986 – 13 June 1987
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byTony Newton
Succeeded byNicholas Scott
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security
In office
2 September 1985 – 10 September 1986
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byJohn Patten
Succeeded byNicholas Lyell
Lord Commissioner of the Treasury
In office
3 October 1984 – 1 November 1985
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byAlastair Goodlad
Succeeded byTim Sainsbury
Member of Parliament
for Huntingdon
Huntingdonshire (1979–1983)
In office
3 May 1979 – 14 May 2001
Preceded byDavid Renton
Succeeded byJonathan Djanogly
Personal details
Born (1943-03-29) 29 March 1943 (age 78)
St Helier, Surrey, England
Political partyConservative
(m. 1970)
Parent(s)Tom Major-Ball (father)
RelativesTerry Major-Ball (brother)
EducationRutlish School
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata

Sir John Major KG CH (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. He served in the Thatcher government from 1987 to 1990 as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer, and was Member of Parliament (MP) for Huntingdon, formerly Huntingdonshire, from 1979 to 2001.

Major was born in St Helier, London. Leaving school in 1959 with three O-levels, after working a variety of jobs and enduring a period of unemployment, Major established a career at Standard Bank. He was elected as a councillor in Lambeth, and was later an MP at the 1979 general election. He initially served as a Parliamentary Private Secretary and an assistant whip before joining the government as a minister. Following the 1987 election, he was promoted to the Cabinet by Margaret Thatcher as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. He was later moved to become foreign secretary in July 1989, before becoming chancellor of the Exchequer just three months later following Nigel Lawson's abrupt resignation. As chancellor, he presented the 1990 Budget, the first to be aired on television.

In November 1990, after Thatcher resigned following a challenge to her leadership by Michael Heseltine, Major entered the second stage of the contest and emerged victorious; he was appointed prime minister on 28 November. In his first months in office, he launched the Citizen's Charter, replaced the unpopular Community Charge (known as the "poll tax") with Council Tax, committed British troops to the Gulf War, and negotiated the European Union's Maastricht Treaty.[1] Despite a severe recession, Major went on to lead the Conservative Party to a fourth consecutive electoral victory at the 1992 election, winning over 14 million votes, which remains to this day a record for a British political party, although with a reduced majority in the House of Commons. Just months later, Major was forced to withdraw the pound sterling from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) on 16 September 1992, a day which came to be known as Black Wednesday. This led to a loss of confidence in Major's economic credibility, and he was never again able to achieve a lead in opinion polls. Despite a dwindling majority, Major passed further reforms to education and criminal justice, privatised British Rail and the coal industry, and signed the Downing Street Declaration, reinvigorating the Northern Ireland peace process, which would eventually help lead to the Good Friday Agreement.

By 1995, splits over EU policy and the loss of numerous MPs to a series of sexual and financial scandals (widely known as "sleaze") led Major to resign as party leader in June, challenging his critics to either back him or challenge him; he was duly challenged by John Redwood but was easily re-elected. This did not lead to an improvement in his political standing, and by December 1996, the Government had lost its majority in the House of Commons.[2] At the 1997 election, after the Conservatives had been in power for 18 years, Major lost to Tony Blair's Labour Party in one of the largest electoral defeats since the 1832 Great Reform Act. Major resigned as Leader of the Conservative Party following the defeat and was succeeded by William Hague.

Major retired from the House of Commons at the 2001 election, and has since pursued his interests in business and charity. While early assessments of his time in office saw him characterised as being a weak and unassertive leader, a reappraisal in following years saw many note his successes in the Northern Irish peace process, restoring economic growth, reforming the public sector, boosting the profile of arts and sports, and preserving British influence on the international stage.[nb 1] Since Thatcher's death in 2013, he has been both the oldest and earliest-serving of all the UK's living former prime ministers.

  1. ^ "European Council (Maastricht)". Hansard. 11 December 1991. Retrieved 17 May 2011.
  2. ^ "The Major minority". The Independent. 13 December 1996. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  3. ^ "Churchill 'greatest PM of 20th Century'". BBC. 26 December 1999. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  4. ^ "Britain's post-war prime ministers ranked by politics experts". University of Leeds. 13 October 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2019.

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