John Major 1990-1997

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John Major 1990-1997

Advantages

  • Statesman-like conduct in the 1991 Gulf War.
  • Bolstered Anglo-American relations.
  • Impressive debut as PM.
  • Maastricht Treaty 1992
  • -Improved Anglo-European relations.
  • -Employed a number of opt-outs which allowed Britain the benfits of the EU and ERM but with fewer commitments (like a single currency).
  • Less aggressive and hostile than Thatcher.
  • More open to European relations
  • withdrew the Poll Tax in 1991.
  • 1992 election
  • -Saw Conservatives gain largest amount of popular votes in history, with an outright electoral win.
  • Effective political style
  • -Soapbox politics.
  • Engaged with IRA, resulting in Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
  • Majors support for NATO in the 1995 Bosnian War proved popular, as well as him being a dignitary of the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995

Disadvantages

  • Likeable but generally uninspiring person.
  • Attacked by media and press for his focus on small details (spitting image "the grey man").
  • Did not have Thatcher's appeal.
  • Crisis in Europe.
  • -After Thatcher had entered the ERM, Major saw the pound become worryingly overvalued.
  • -After a short while, the value of the pound rapidly fell, so the Chancellor, Norman Lamont, raised the interest rate from 10% to 12%, and later to 15%.
  • -Eventually, Britain was forced to leave the ERM after trying in vain to keep up with the value of the Deutschmark, with the interest rate returning to 12%.
  • -This seriously damaged Britain's international economy, as well as providing a stronger argument for Conservative Eurosceptics and giving Labour a lead in the polls.
  • The Conservative party was neck-deep in "sleaze" scandals.
  • -Heritage Minister David Mellor had been caught in an affair with a Spanish actress.
  • -Environment Minister Tim Yeo had a "love-child" with a Conservative councillor.
  • -Private secretary Stephen Milligan was found dead from autoerotic asphyxiation, bringing embarrassment to the party and causing a by-election, which the Conservatives lost.
  • Hamilton, the Minister for Corporate Affairs, had been receiving bribes from Al Fayed to ask biased questions in Parliament.
  • Major lost some support when he did little more for Bosnia than a weapons embargo, not actually attempting to help either side.

Evaluation

Overall, it could be said that Major had a relatively balanced premiership. While he was not Thatcher, lacking her aggression and ideals, he was an ambitious and intelligent politician, with a skill for international affairs and social politics. He went in reverse of many of Thatcher's unpopular policies, such as the poll tax and anti-Europe relations. However, he was a victim of circumstance in the case of sleaze, as many memebers of the Conservative party had been ousted as scandalous and deceitful, in an echo of the Profumo affair. Furthermore, Major and his economic ministers fumbled with the ERM crisis and managed to damage the international economy and value of the pound, resulting in a recession.

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