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John Naughton: On the Future of the BBC, 17 December 1992

... had been unhorsed, however, the steam seemed to go out of the relationship. Early in the Gulf War, John Major was invited by one of his more neanderthal backbenchers to indulge in a routine spot of BBC-bashing during Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons. Major pointedly declined the opportunity and went out of ...


Paul Addison, 11 May 1995

True Blues: The Politics of Conservative Party Membership 
by Paul Whiteley, Patrick Seyd and Jeremy Richardson.
Oxford, 303 pp., £35, October 1994, 0 19 827786 5
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Frustrate Their Knavish Tricks: Writings on Biography, History and Politics 
by Ben Pimlott.
HarperCollins, 417 pp., £20, August 1994, 9780002554954
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... now, when they are so far behind in the opinion polls, they propose to recover by transforming John Major into a Europhobic John Bull. The other key to Conservative success was organisation. As Parliamentary reform acts expanded the electorate, the Conservatives recruited a mass membership in the ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: War Talk, 6 February 2003

... to consolidate his place in the history books as Britain’s greatest wartime Prime Minister since John Major, shipping our boys out to the Gulf, boots or no boots, his rhetoric at least is wearing steel toe caps. ‘We are going to be in the front line of this whatever happens,’ he told the Commons Liaison Committee, meaning not, as you might ...

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 ...


Simon Hoggart, 24 April 1997

Michael Heseltine: A Biography 
by Michael Crick.
Hamish Hamilton, 496 pp., £20, February 1997, 0 241 13691 1
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... as Heseltine’s eyes and ears. Nor were they rewarded for their work. When he was invited into John Major’s government, after gracefully conceding defeat in the second leadership ballot, Heseltine should have made ministerial jobs for Mates and Hampson absolute conditions of his return. He should have done the same even if privately he thought them ...

Up the avenue

Peter Clarke, 11 June 1992

Election Rides 
by Edward Pearce.
Faber, 198 pp., £5.99, April 1992, 0 571 16657 1
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... which evinces the comment that ‘a journey across west central and east central England by major road is best occupied reading proofs.’ So that’s how the book came into my hands within a week of polling day! If it’s more of a diary than a work of retrospective lucubration, it’s none the worse for that. This wasn’t the election for pundits to ...


Wynne Godley, 19 August 1993

... have voted against ratification if there had been a referendum. Platitudes are not good enough. John Major thinks it means something to say that he wants us to be ‘at the heart of Europe’ but he must do far better than that to convince me. I suspect that his purpose is destructive, that all he really wants is to be inside the tent, pissing all over ...

Going Flat Out, National Front and All

Ian Hamilton: Watch your mouth!, 14 December 2000

Diaries: Into Politics 
by Alan Clark.
Weidenfeld, 389 pp., £20, October 2000, 0 297 64402 5
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The Assassin’s Cloak: An Anthology of the World’s Greatest Diarists 
edited by Irene Taylor and Alan Taylor.
Canongate, 684 pp., £25, November 2000, 0 86241 920 4
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The Journals of Woodrow Wyatt. Vol. III: From Major to Blair 
edited by Sarah Curtis.
Macmillan, 823 pp., £25, November 2000, 9780333774069
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... them written off: ‘Loathsome, oily Leon Brittan’, ‘the odious Heseltine’, ‘that prick John Patten . . . so ambitious that he squeaks when he walks’, ‘that lazy, greasy slob John Hunt’, ‘that toad John Major . . . who has always loathed me’ and so on. Only ...

Leave it to the teachers

Conrad Russell, 20 March 1997

... This is not how things were done when we were at the schools.’ This is not John Major yearning to get back to basics: it is Pope Innocent IV writing to the schools of Paris in the middle of the 13th century. There is nothing new about politicians aching to stick their noses into the management of education, nor about their belief that because they have received education, they know all about it ...

Skimming along

Ross McKibbin, 20 October 1994

The Major Effect 
edited by Anthony Seldon and Dennis Kavanagh.
Macmillan, 500 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 333 62273 1
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... John Major has now been prime minister for four years. For us, as presumably for him, it often seems a lifetime, so crowded has his premiership been with crises of one sort or another. Dennis Kavanagh and Anthony Seldon not unreasonably, therefore, think this the moment to assess his prime ministerial career; the result is The Major Effect, a collection of 26 essays by a distinguished group of commentators – including the editors ...

Why the Tories Lost

Ross McKibbin, 3 July 1997

... with more than 50 per cent of the votes cast in their constituencies, 44 (including Tony Blair and John Prescott) were elected with over 70 per cent, and two with over 80 per cent. By contrast, only 14 Conservatives won more than 50 per cent of the votes cast. The most successful Conservative, John Major in ...

Longing for Mao

Hugo Young: Edward Heath, 26 November 1998

The Curse of My Life: My Autobiography 
by Edward Heath.
Hodder, 767 pp., £25, October 1998, 0 340 70852 2
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... of the old, generous, socially concerned Conservatism that Margaret Thatcher destroyed and neither John Major nor William Hague has done anything to re-create. While most other believers in this brand of Toryism, not only from Heath’s generation but the next two, have slipped away, to the House of Lords and points east, this old, old man, 83 next ...

‘The Sun Says’

Paul Laity, 20 June 1996

... some success. The populist Eurosceptic wing of the party uses the language of the Sun to challenge Major and seems to have the younger generation of Conservatives on its side; Major, in response, has himself resorted to populism; New Labour seems paralysed by the belief that the Right’s position on crime, tax and Europe is ...

The Reshuffle and After

Ross McKibbin: Why Brown should Resign, 25 May 2006

... however, it isn’t clear how much we can read into them. Local elections in the last days of John Major’s government did, it’s true, accurately predict the outcome of the 1997 general election, but that is very unusual. In any case, comparisons between Major’s last days and the position of the present ...

The Irresistible Itch

Colin Kidd: Vandals in Bow Ties, 3 December 2009

Personal Responsibility: Why It Matters 
by Alexander Brown.
Continuum, 214 pp., £12.99, September 2009, 978 1 84706 399 1
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... instincts and her reputation (not entirely deserved) for outspokenness. However, her successor, John Major, succumbed to the temptations of saloon-bar moralism when he launched his Back to Basics campaign at the 1993 Tory Party Conference. Major remains insistent that Back to Basics did not amount to a moral ...

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