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Was John Major a good Prime Minister?

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    After Thatcher resigned, John Major seemed a bit tame and docile in comparison. Almost less extreme. But compared to the clowns Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, he doesn't seem that bad. How do people view him when they look back?
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    (Original post by Beadle's About)
    After Thatcher resigned, John Major seemed a bit tame and docile in comparison. Almost less extreme. But compared to the clowns Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, he doesn't seem that bad. How to people him when they look back?
    I'd say because he was unable to be dominant in his cabinet, people would judge it as a no.
    The position has become far more presidential, he lacked certain characteristics which mean he is often portrayed as a failure.
    Although, i'd argue that he was not.
    Often a Prime Minister is judged by his or her conduct rather than actions, this does not mean that it is not a good judgement, but the way in which one handles one self on the public stage in such a high profile job is important. Major, like Brown, didn't have many of the presidential qualities which are expected,- whilst Blair and Cameron arguably do.

    You'll have to judge:
    1) Cabinet style,
    2) How well did he command cabinet
    3) Party leadership and cohesion during leadership
    4) International standing,- how were his relationships internationally
    5) Actions / decisive moments
    6) Election results
    7) Media reporting

    Also, watch some PMQ's videos on Youtube, although more about style rather than substance, view the Commons' reaction and the way he handles questions,- it's a good insight too.

    Thatcher,- "is he one of us", "with us or against us",- shows her leadership style to a T.
    Blair,- look at his reshuffles, and who he kept close to him.
    Cameron,- Rise to power, leadership and PM,- changes to the party and policy,- return of liberal conservatism rather than The New Right?

    What could we say about Major, though?
    Perhaps he was set up to fail because of Thatcher?
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    (Original post by super.teve)
    I'd say because he was unable to be dominant in his cabinet, people would judge it as a no.
    The position has become far more presidential, he lacked certain characteristics which mean he is often portrayed as a failure.
    Although, i'd argue that he was not.
    Often a Prime Minister is judged by his or her conduct rather than actions, this does not mean that it is not a good judgement, but the way in which one handles one self on the public stage in such a high profile job is important. Major, like Brown, didn't have many of the presidential qualities which are expected,- whilst Blair and Cameron arguably do.

    You'll have to judge:
    1) Cabinet style,
    2) How well did he command cabinet
    3) Party leadership and cohesion during leadership
    4) International standing,- how were his relationships internationally
    5) Actions / decisive moments
    6) Election results
    7) Media reporting

    Also, watch some PMQ's videos on Youtube, although more about style rather than substance, view the Commons' reaction and the way he handles questions,- it's a good insight too.

    Thatcher,- "is he one of us", "with us or against us",- shows her leadership style to a T.
    Blair,- look at his reshuffles, and who he kept close to him.
    Cameron,- Rise to power, leadership and PM,- changes to the party and policy,- return of liberal conservatism rather than The New Right?

    What could we say about Major, though?
    Perhaps he was set up to fail because of Thatcher?
    Major had the Citizen's Charter, though. I don't know much else about his policies etc, but he got in in the 1992 election so people must've still been pro Tories at that time. By 1997, though, I think people had had enough of Conservative and wanted change.

    Blair was good for a few years after he got in (for example, there was no minimum wage in this country until he got in)....but his downfall was getting too involved with George Bush. He lost the public's confidence and trust after that, I think.
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    (Original post by Beadle's About)
    Major had the Citizen's Charter, though. I don't know much else about his policies etc, but he got in in the 1992 election so people must've still been pro Tories at that time. By 1997, though, I think people had had enough of Conservative and wanted change.

    Blair was good for a few years after he got in (for example, there was no minimum wage in this country until he got in)....but his downfall was getting too involved with George Bush. He lost the public's confidence and trust after that, I think.
    Don't forget he refused to adopt a key area of EU social policy,- the social chapter.
    *Is this bad,- you judge*

    The above is just criteria etc, it's the best way to judge a Prime Minister.
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    He was mixed, IMO.

    He was seen as weak, since he (as Blair said) let his party lead him. But I think he had to take a middle path, since his Commons majority was small.

    The good points IMO were:

    - The creation of a strong economy (which New Labour inherited and did not create)
    - The beginnings of peace in Ulster
    - Continuation of Thatcher's reforms. He even extended it by privatising the railways, and Thatcher herself thought it was too difficult to privatise
    - Securing of an opt out in the Maastricht Treaty
    - Winning the 92 election against the odds, when most people thought the Tories would lose

    The bad points were:

    - Hypocrisy and sleaze
    - Losing his majority and having to rely on the Ulster Unionists for support
    -
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    I think for this we have to define the terms 'a good Prime Minister'. What does that phrase mean? I choose to interpret 'a good Prime Minister' as 'utterly crap, perhaps evil', and in that instance yes, John Major was a very good Prime Minister.
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    Maastricht.

    I think this video sums up his style compared to Thatcher:

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    Yes I think in the longer term, history will improve its view on Major. He was a decent PM in difficult circumstances. First look at the circumstances he took over in 1990 - major social unrest about the Poll Tax and the country on the brink of war in Iraq, with basically 18 months to turn it round before he had to call an election. They were much tougher circumstances than those which Brown took over from Blair, and you saw how hard he had it to win a fourth consecutive election, because however the government is doing, after over a decade in power the argument of "time for change" is worth a lot of votes for the opposition. Major admitted that until he had won an election he felt like he didn't have a proper mandate, he described it as "living in sin with the electorate" so he just did the job of a caretaker PM till he went to the polls. In that short time (Nov 1990 - Apr 1992) he did a good job.

    First the business in Iraq - he didn't sign us up for an open ended commitment like Blair did, it was a case of this is the military contribution we will provide, these are the limits to our objectives. People often satirised Major for being boring and unambitious but he was good at things like this. It was the same with the Maastricht Treaty. Unlike some of his colleagues, Major was quite positive to the idea of Europe, but he wasn't convinced on the single currency and he was concerned that the gravy train was being set in motion for a project which hadn't been thought through (2010 showed he was right about that one). So he went in to Maastricht in 1991 saying this is my position, this is what I'm happy to discuss, this is what I don't agree with. Again people said boring, I bet if it had been Blair, he would have dominated the speeches by talking about the hand of history being on the European project and so on, but Blair would have signed us up for things that we would have regretted in the long run. Thatcher would have gone in there telling them the single currency was a load of crap and they should stick their ideas of taking away sovereignty which is fair enough but she just alienated European leaders against us, Major wasn't confrontational and probably secured us a good deal at Maastricht by being reasonable and just clearly defining boundaries. And then he dealt with the Poll Tax quickly to tone down the civil unrest. So Election 1992 comes, everybody expects it to be either a Labour majority or a Labour-Lib coalition in a hung parliament, but Major wins for the Tories.

    Now the low point for Major and the biggest negative to his time. Major had been a big fan of the ERM and he had talked Thatcher into signing up for it, when he was Chancellor. So he fought 1992 election with his economic policy being based on ERM membership (as did Neil Kinnock so Labour had no real grounds for complaining afterwards). Then in late 1992 the pound got speculated out of the ERM which was just a humiliation for Major, he had to be talked out of not resigning. From that point on the Tories basically were discredited and they never recovered their popularity with the electorate but Major did later admit in his book that he felt even from the start that the best they could realistically achieve was a win in 1992, and that five straight election wins would be stretching the elastic of democracy a bit far.

    When you look at the years 1993 - 1997 there's a bizarre contradiction between achievement and popularity. Out of all the years of that Tory administration 1979-97, the last four were the best by far for the economy, that was the time we got on top of inflation and had unemployment falling, and this is an irony that Major has pointed out a couple of times when he's been interviewed recently about the latest recession - usually governments get voted in when the economy is in a mess, then improve things, then it gets in a mess again and they get voted out and the next lot inherits a mess...the exception to the rule was Blair in 1997 who inherited the best economic conditions an incoming government has had since the war, and the decade of prosperity which followed, started off from the era of Major in no.10 and Ken Clarke (a very able Chancellor) in no.11. Through the 1970s and early 1980s we'd had terrible inflation, through the 1980s we'd had terrible unemployment, Major managed to get on top of both. While he was doing this he also started the movements for peace in Northern Ireland which got completed a year after he left office, again this had been a serious problem which had been around for years, and Major with his non confrontational reasonable style had started building bridges.

    But during these years of comparative achievement, the Tory party was massively unpopular mainly because of the behaviour of idiot backbenchers, the right wing eccentric toffs in the Tory shires who had no hope of getting near Cabinet, but all clubbed together to harass Major over Europe, making the party look divided (they didn't care that this was handing Blair victory on a plate) and then individually they were being caught with their pants down and taking backhand payments, it all just made Major look like he led a party of crooks and fools. The idea of 'weak leadership' comes from this, Major didn't go at them with all guns blazing and purge the party of these idiots, maybe he should have but he wasn't that sort of bloke.

    Overall though I have to say having seen Blair, Brown and Cameron I preferred Major to any of them. He is more what I want from a Prime Minister, low key personality yes maybe a bit boring, didn't surround himself with spin doctors or media managers, didn't make grand speeches talking about crappy abstract ideas like the Hand Of History, or his Moral Compass, or the Big Society, like the other three did, but on issues like the war in Iraq, Maastricht and Northern Ireland he was clear about what his aims were and he got things done. Another thing which was good about Major was he was in touch with people, he'd grown up in child poverty and hadn't been to university and he'd done very well to climb himself to the top, but he'd got there without the help of social networking and mates from Eton or Oxbridge, so he wasn't beholden to vested interests when he was in power.

    Sadly I think the door is now shut for people like Major, I don't see how he could get into Parliament now as you can't come in through a track record of business success and local politics like he did, you need to have been a speechwriter or policy adviser in Conservative Central Office or Labour HQ, and Major wouldn't have had the connections to get in. So he might be the last of 'that kind' of politician but its a shame, I remember Major used to get all sorts of criticism but one thing that was never said about him was that he was full of bull or out for his own interests.

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