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John Major Biography (29/03/43-)

Major was the son of a traveling showman born in Sutton but brought up in Brixton and left school at 16. 'Ranking John Major' represents much that is good about Britain, tolerance, good manners, a love of cricket and inspirational rise from Coldharbour Lane to Downing Street. He was rejected as a bus conductor because his maths was so poor yet went on to become Chancellor of the Exchequer though his other jobs include insurance clerk and manufacturing gnomes. He eventually went to work as an executive at Standard Chartered Bank in May 1965 where he rose quickly through the ranks, before leaving on his election to Parliament in 1979. In 1970 he married Norma Johnson with whom he has two children.

Major was interested in politics from an early age giving speeches on a soap-box in Brixton market and was unexpectedly elected to Lambeth Council at 25 serving on the housing committee. In May 1976 he was selected by Huntingdonshire Conservatives as their candidate and held this seat until he retired in 2001. He was Parliamentary Private Secretary in 1981 and assistant whip from 1983 before becoming Under-secretary of State for social security in 1985 and minister in the same department in 1986. In 1987 he was Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer after Nigel Lawson's resignation in October 1989. When Michael Heseltine challenged Margaret's leadership of the Conservative Party he entered in the second round after she withdrew alongside Douglas Hurd. Though he fell two votes short of the required winning margin of 187 votes in the second ballot, Major's result was sufficient to secure immediate concessions from his rivals and he became Prime Minister on November 27, 1990. In the 1992 election Major took his campaign onto the streets returning to his roots by delivering many addresses from an upturned soapbox. Major won an unexpected second period in office, albeit with a small parliamentary majority.

John Major Biography

 ‘When eating chips it is really important to put the vinegar on first as it gives the salt something to adhere to'

The Conservative Party soon collapsed into political infighting with Major undermined by the right-wing within the party and the Cabinet. His policy towards the European Union aroused opposition as the Government attempted to ratify the Maastricht Treaty. Several Conservative MPs voted against the Government and the vote was lost. Major hit back by calling another vote on the following day which he declared a vote of confidence that he won by 40 but had damaged his authority. During an unguarded moment in an interview when he thought that the microphones had been switched off, he dismissed the possibility of sacking three of his cabinet critics and them going to the back benches by saying 'we don't want another three more of the bastards out there'. His 1993 'Back to Basics' campaign, which he intended to be about the economy, education, policing, and other such issues backfired as many thought that he was referring to personal morality. The subsequent discovery of David (toe job to no job) Mellor affair with a jobbing actress and Stephen affair with auto-eroticism involving oranges did him no favours though his own liaisons with cabinet member Edwina Currie were missed at the time.

In 1995 he resigned as leader of the Conservative Party, and announced he would be contesting the resulting leadership election which he overwhelmingly won 218 votes to John Redwood's 89 and 22 MPs remaining non committal. By December 1996, the Conservatives had lost their majority in the House of Commons and Labour was swept to power in a landslide in 1997. The Tory era started by Margaret  was over. Since leaving the commons (and even during the 1997-2002 Parliament) Major kept out of front-line politics and refused the life peerage traditionally offered retired PMs, instead indulging his love of cricket as president of Surrey County Cricket Club. Major's relationship with Margaret never really recovered from some her references to being a good backseat driver and that he was the best of a bad bunch however in the late 1980s he was undoubtedly more with her than some of her longer serving cabinet colleagues.

Pictures by Daniel Morgernstern