History - John Major in Power

John Major in power: Key events and policies.

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The Economy - Black Wednesday

  • Britain entered the Exchange Rate Mechanism. 
  • 2.95 marks to the £ (the German Mark was viewed as the strongest currency in Europe).
  • Narrow fluctuations were allowed; it was banded. The currency could fluctuate within that band. 
  • Pound traded very low. Speculation occurred. Raising interest rates failed. 
  • Britain left the ERM - Economic competency of the Gov't within the electorate was destroyed.
  • Eurosceptics viewed it as White Wednesday. 
  • However, the British Economy recovered almost immediately after leaving the ERM. 
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The Economy - Privatisation

  • Coal industry was privatised in 1994. 
  • Stock market was buoyed up - trading value of the LSE increased.
  • Railways were privatised in 1996 - Complicated and controversial; private companies could now run their own trains. Service became complicated.
  • The attempt to privatise the Post Office was abandoned due to public opposition and backbench rebellion fearful of an electoral wipe out.
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The Economy - Negative Equity

  • Many home-owners, as a result of the "Lawson Boom" entered negative equity. 
  • This economic woe affected Tory grassroots predominantly in the south instead of the Industrial North.
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The Party - Sleaze!

  • Sleaze dogged Major's final years in office - David Mellor & Tim Yeo.
  • Many of the scandals were about sex, but others were about corruption. 
  • Jeffrey Archer was found guilty of perjury. 
  • Most governments are affected by sleaze towards the end but Major's gov't was affected seriously by the wave of sensationalist press directed at his gov't.
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The Party - Eurosceptics/Thatcher

  • Divisions in the party allowed eager politicians to advance their claims.
  • Eurosceptics saw an opportunity to push the gov't to the fringes of Europe or out altogether.
  • Thatcher encouraged Eurosceptic rebels by demanding a referendum to pass the Maastrict Treaty.
  • Thatcher can be viewed as a backseat Prime Minister - shaping policy outside of office.
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The Party - Leadership election gamble of 1995

  • "Back me or sack me" - Major was so concerned and insecure over the state of party affairs in the eyes of the press, he called a leadership contest to reaffirm his mandate. 
  • This was unheard of for a PM to do.
  • John Redwood challenged Major.
    • Major won 218 votes, Redwood won 89. 
  • Major had succeeded and quelled the viciousness of the press.
  • However, Redwood had won 89 votes in a party with a small majority in the House of Commons - shows considerable lack of support for Major.
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Foreign Policy - Northern Ireland, The Downing Str

  • Conservative PM instinctively sided with the Unionists in Northern Ireland.
  • John Major had a good relationship with Taoiseach Albert Reynolds.
  • Diplomacy: Started the peace process with the Downing Street Declaration.
    • Sparked a cease fire between IRA and Loyalist Paramilitaries.
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Foreign Policy - Europe, The Maastrict Treaty

  • Major won opt-outs:
    • Keeping the £ and not taking up the Social Charter.
  • Determined to prevent the Maastrict Treaty from becoming too federalist. 
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Foreign Policy - End of the Cold War

  • Increased optimism in a multi-polarised world > EU becoming more influential.
  • Major sought to intervene in Bosnia.
    • Hosted a joint EU-UN conference in London.
    • A UN peacekeeping force was put in place.
      • Yet this mediation was seen as ineffectual, especially after the Srebrenica massacre. 
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