‘Honoured that you are writing my father’s biography’ the late Tony Benn, ‘...wonderfully written’ Hilary Benn

‘Sparkles with fascinating detail…a remarkable story of Liberal and Labour politics in the first half of the twentieth century.’ Michael Crick, Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News

‘Casts much light both on the evolution of British radicalism, and on the legacy which he bequeathed to his son, Tony. Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King's College, London

‘Brilliant biography…wonderful reading about the father and...discovering more about the son.’ Steve Richards of The Independent

‘Well-written and carefully researched, this fascinating biography brings to life a major figure in British political history…an excellent job of weaving together the strands of a complex life…as well as filling in the background of the Benn family’ Richard Doherty, military historian

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

How John Major lost his Majority

Against expectations and opinion poll predictions, John Major managed to win a 21 seat majority for the Conservative Party in the 1992 election, gained the most votes any leader has for any party before or since and won a personal majority of over 36,000 votes in his Huntingdon constituency. 

While serving briefly as Chancellor of the Exchequer before becoming premier, Major had persuaded Margaret Thatcher to allow the Pound to join the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) – the forerunner of the euro. In September 1992, just five months after the election victory, the Pound was forced out of the ERM. In reaction, the Conservative Party became more euro-sceptic and less-disciplined, its economic policy had to be re-written and Major's reputation sank.

Despite vigorous and visible attempts to control his party (including Major’s resorting to resigning and re-contesting the leadership) the Conservative majority in Parliament leaked away, leaving Major running a minority government as he limped towards defeat in 1997.

Four Conservative MPs died and their seats were won by Liberal Democrats in by-elections (Newbury, Christchurch, Eastleigh and Littleborough & Saddleworth). Four others died and their seats were won by other parties (Dudley West, Staffordshire South East and Wirral South by Labour, Perth & Kinross by the SNP). 

Two Conservative MPs defected to the Liberal Democrats (Emma Nicholson and Peter Thurnham). Alan Howarth defected from the Conservatives to Labour and George Gardiner defected to the Referendum Party. If the four defectors had remained in the party, the Conservatives would still have held a fragile majority in parliament.

After his election victory, David Cameron must be wondering what could possibly go wrong?

1 comment:

  1. Major should have taken my advice and called his first election for November 7th 1991. But he wanted to negotiate opt outs of Britain in Maastricht in December 1991 and thereafter conflicts over his EU policies and diminishing majority were his Albatross. Europe is the nemesis of British Prime Ministers. Now Cameron must prove is is not David Conman who will oppose popular will in his campaign keep Britain within the EU. His plan B of renegotiating terms of membership is clearly defunct from the starting point.