Sir John Major, KG, CH (born 29 March 1943) is a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990 to 1997. He previously held the posts of Chancellor of the Exchequer and Foreign Secretary in the Thatcher Government and was the Member of Parliament for Huntingdon from 1979 to 2001. Major was Margaret Thatcher's preferred choice as her successor. Within weeks of becoming Prime Minister, Major presided over British participation in the Gulf War in March 1991 and negotiated the Maastricht Treaty in December 1991. Despite the British economy being in recession, he went on to lead the Conservatives to a fourth consecutive election victory, winning the most votes in British electoral history with over 14 million in the 1992 general election albeit with a much reduced majority in the House of Commons. He remains to date the last Conservative Leader to win an outright majority at a general election.
Major's Premiership saw the world go through a period of political and military transition after the end of the Cold War. This included the rise of the European Union, an issue which was already a source of friction within the Conservative Party owing to its importance in the decline and fall of Margaret Thatcher. Shortly after re-election, the Major Government became responsible for the United Kingdom's exit from the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) after Black Wednesday on 16 September 1992. This event led to a loss of confidence in his government's economic policies and from thereon in he was never quite able to achieve a lead in the opinion polls again.
Despite the eventual revival of economic growth amongst other successes such as the beginnings of the Northern Ireland peace process, by the mid-1990s the Conservatives were embroiled in ongoing "sleaze" scandals involving various MPs including Cabinet Ministers. Criticism of Major's leadership reached such a pitch that he chose to resign as Conservative Leader in June 1995 challenging his critics to either back him or challenge him; he was duly challenged by John Redwood but was easily re-elected. By this time, the Labour Party was seen as a reformed and credible alternative under the leadership of Tony Blair and a large number of by-election defeats had severely hampered the Government. Major went on to lose the 1997 general election in one of the largest electoral defeats since the Great Reform Act of 1832...
Quotes by John Major
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