PM Major ‘now seen in true light’ after 20 years
SENIOR Huntingdonshire Conservatives are this week celebrating 20 years since Huntingdon’s only post Restoration Prime Minister won a General Election.
Although Sir John Major succeeded Margaret (now Baroness) Thatcher as PM in November 1990, he had been elected only by fellow Tories.
In April 1992, he faced the British electorate for the first time – and was widely predicted to lose. But voters decided Labour’s then leader, Neil Kinnock, was too cocky and triumphalist to be given the job, and handed it to Mr Major almost 13 years after he succeeded Sir David (later Lord) Renton as Huntingdon’s MP on My 3, 1979.
His political agent for most of that time – from 1985 until he stood down as an MP in 2001 – was Sir Peter Brown, who is now a county councillor and is currently campaigning in the Huntingdonshire District Council polls on May 3 this year.
Only now, Sir Peter told The Hunts Post yesterday (Tuesday) is history beginning to look as favourably on John Major’s premiership as his agent believes it should.
“I remember those turbulent years well,” Sir Peter said. “As Sir John’s constituency agent, I took a more than passing interest in the progress of his Government, the nation and the Conservative Party.
“As I listen to the pundits now discussing those turbulent years, it is with interest and some comfort that my view of the political proceedings in the 1990s is beginning to prevail.
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“Most certainly, if judged by economic success, then Sir John deserves huge credit. He is the only Prime Minister who, in recent years, has left the country’s economy in a far better shape than was the case than when his party took office.
“He was the Prime Minister who started the peace process in Northern Ireland. Without detracting from his successors, I wonder whether this would have happened without his input,” Sir Peter added.
“All this happened while at the same time he never forgot his roots as an assiduous Constituency Member of Parliament.
“It is coincidental that the 20th anniversary of Sir John’s winning of the 1992 General election also coincides with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
“Although I was close to Sir John, the relationship between the Sovereign and Prime Minister was never discussed.
“It is interesting to see that 15 years after leaving office Sir John is a hugely respected figure in both national and international affairs and is listened to far and wide.
“I take great pleasure from this since I have always maintained history would judge Sir John in a far better light.”
Sir Peter said he had always maintained that the former PM, though not faultless, had been a thoroughly decent man without a trace of malice, but that he had been perceived as a weak leader.
“I don’t think being nice is at all the same as being weak. His relationships with his peers at the time – people such as George W Bush – worked well and, though he never spoke about it, I think he had a very good working relationship with The Queen. She was probably closer to him than to most PMs, and he took the boys under his wing when Diana died,” Sir Peter added.
“But when you look back at the 1997 election [which Sir John lost to Tony Blair’s New Labour] we had had a rough time. After four consecutive terms we had genuinely come to the end. That happens in politics.”
nSir John has written the foreword to Debrett’s new book about The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which is due to be published shortly