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20 October 1994
Major MajorMemories of an Older Brother 
by Terry Major-Ball.
Duckworth, 167 pp., £12.95, August 1994, 0 7156 2631 0
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... When John Major ascended to 10 Downing Street, the wits were at first unsure quite how to set about him. There was the obvious, the elementary ‘grey’ approach: the Burton suits, the haircut, the delicious fry-ups and so on. On this reading, Major could be presented as a drearier-than-either cross between James Stewart and J ...
15 August 1991
John MajorThe Making of the Prime Minister 
by Bruce Anderson.
Fourth Estate, 324 pp., £16.99, June 1991, 9781872180540
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‘My Style of Government’: The Thatcher Years 
by Nicholas Ridley.
Hutchinson, 275 pp., £16.99, July 1991, 0 09 175051 2
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... moment of his election to Parliament to the eventual achievement of his goal. One wonders whether John Major ever heard a similar message click-clacking from railway carriage wheels in the course of his extraordinary non-stop journey up the same greasy pole. There was scarcely time for him to form expectations during the interval that ran from his ...

Diary

Tim Gardam: New Conservatism

13 June 1991
... long is a more difficult question. In the speech he made to the Scottish Conservatives in Perth, John Major remembered to mention her only once, in an ad lib from his text. The Conservatives are trying to do in government what, historically, political parties do in opposition: to secure the future by re-inventing the past. The re-inventing of ...

Fatalism, Extenuation and Despair

Peter Clarke: John Major

5 March 1998
MajorA Political Life 
by Anthony Seldon.
Weidenfeld, 856 pp., £25, October 1997, 0 297 81607 1
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... his own party – not least from MPs owing their Westminster seats to his popular appeal. Or so John Major came to feel by the end of 1992. Tony Blair must be thankful that things are now working out so differently for his government, and that, having been elected as New Labour, it is finding it so easy to govern as New Labour, free of the ideological ...
19 November 1992
... between a chronic malady and a terminal collapse. The Maastricht vote was not the first crisis the Major Government has faced since its unnervingly recent electoral victory. Nor is it likely to be the last. But though these are disturbing symptoms, there are good reasons why they should be seen as debilitating rather than fatal, presaging ...

Tyrannicide

James McConica

21 January 1982
Buchanan 
by I.D. McFarlane.
Duckworth, 575 pp., £45, June 1981, 0 7156 0971 8
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... The three universities of medieval foundation were essentially undergraduate colleges, but, as John Durkan has shown, Scots as students and teachers had roamed abroad since the 15th century to the higher faculties of the Northern universities – some to England, but far more to the Continent. While they were to be found in significant numbers from Louvain ...
5 June 1997
The Political World of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, 1621-41 
edited by J.F. Merritt.
Cambridge, 293 pp., £35, March 1996, 0 521 56041 1
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The British Problem, c. 1534-1707: State Formation in the Atlantic Archipelago 
edited by Brendan Bradshaw and John Morrill.
Macmillan, 334 pp., £13.50, June 1996, 0 333 59246 8
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The Stuart Court and Europe: Essays in Politics and Political Culture 
edited by Malcolm Smuts.
Cambridge, 289 pp., £35, September 1996, 9780521554398
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Mere Irish and Fíor-Ghael: Studies in the Idea of Irish Nationality, its Development and Literary Expression Prior to the 19th Century 
by Joep Leerssen.
Cork, 454 pp., £17.95, November 1996, 1 85918 112 0
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... John Major’s vision of Britain is history by now: a unitary state north and south of the Tweed, secured by consent, subject to one monarch and funded by a non-tartan tax system. When Major first published his views, however, in the punningly titled Historia Maioris Britanniae (1521), his innovativeness upset fellow Scots ...
9 December 1999
The Autobiography 
by John Major.
HarperCollins, 774 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 00 257004 1
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In Office 
by Norman Lamont.
Little, Brown, 567 pp., £20, October 1999, 0 316 64707 1
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... was a fine thing (our entry was acclaimed by the whole of the press as well as by Neil Kinnock and John Smith): a view which held until, roughly, September 1992, when the conviction grew on all sides that it had been a colossal mistake. Few will argue with John Major’s asssumption that the 1997 election was lost on ...

Here we go

Peter Clarke

21 October 1993
... So far the Nineties have given us the politics of bewilderment. It all began with John Major becoming Prime Minister, to his own apparent bewilderment, in November 1990; since when his performance has, by general consent, become increasingly bewildering. The Labour Party was bewildered to lose the General Election of 1992, which it had counted on winning ...
21 March 1996
... Shortly after the Canary Wharf bomb, John Major, speaking in the House of Commons, said: ‘As for the relationship between Sinn Fein and the IRA, I think that they are both members one of another.’ Sinn Fein, he continued, would now have to decide whether it wanted to be a constitutional party or continue as a front for the IRA ...
3 April 1997
Once a Jolly Bagman: Memoirs 
by Alistair McAlpine.
Weidenfeld, 269 pp., £20, March 1997, 9780297817376
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... workers in previously safe occupational schemes? Or was it the bizarre spectacle of nice Mr Major mounting his soapbox to speak up, as he put it, for the ‘have-nots’ – meaning, presumably, the income-supported poor, struggling to survive on slashed benefits or without trade unions in insecure jobs, whom ...

After Smith

Ross McKibbin

9 June 1994
... Like many others I have been puzzled by the reaction to John Smith’s death. It was reported as though it were at least that of a prime minister, and his funeral was, as the BBC noted, in effect a state funeral. The decision of both the BBC and ITV to double the ordinary length of their evening news broadcasts on the day of his death could be put down to the social democratish inclinations of the programmers, but the speed with which the coverage had to be assembled suggests that it was more instinctive ...
5 December 1991
Thatcher’s People 
by John Ranelagh.
HarperCollins, 324 pp., £15.99, September 1991, 0 00 215410 2
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Staying Power 
by Peter Walker.
Bloomsbury, 248 pp., £16.99, October 1991, 0 7475 1034 2
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... falling away. The Sunday Telegraph has ceased its passionate flirtations with nostalgia. Besides, John Major is either dismantling some of what she did or failing to conceal his embarrassment at the consequences of what he cannot undo. In the balance between exalting the Thatcher years and distancing itself from them, the ...

What Fred Did

Owen Bennett-Jones: Go-Betweens in Northern Ireland

22 January 2015
... sending the message stating that “our war is over” which started the correspondence with John Major, and it is pretty clear in retrospect that one of the intermediaries in the chain between the government and the IRA did in fact embellish the message.’ The peace process, Tony Blair’s former chief of staff is suggesting, began with an ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Football and Currie

17 October 2002
... Currie’s spectacular act of vengeance and indiscretion in regard to her four-year affair with John Major. A lot of coverage has been devoted to the question ‘what if we had known?’ But the main thing that would have been different is that people would have been denied the pleasure they feel at finding out about it now. The recent appearance of ...

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