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John Major

John Major was born in March 1943, the son of Tom and Gwen Major. After leaving school Major started on a banking career. Whilst working for the bank, Major’s interest in politics continued to grow, and in 1979 he was elected as the Conservative MP for Huntingdonshire.

In 1987 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher appointed Major to the Cabinet as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Just two years after his appointment as Chief Secretary he became the Foreign Secretary, a promotion from the most junior members of the Cabinet to one of the most senior.

The appointment was seen as a surprise. Major argued with Thatcher that maybe he wasn’t the best person to take on this job, as he feared that he would just be “Thatcher’s man in the Foreign Office”.

Just three months after his appointment to Foreign Secretary he became the Chancellor of the Exchequer after the resignation of Nigel Lawson. By this time Thatcher’s popularity in the parliamentary party was in freefall after problems with damaging statements by former cabinet Ministers, the poll tax debacle and the European splits. After presenting just one budget, Major became Prime Minister as Thatcher resigned due to lack of support amongst her own party.

Major won the 1992 General Election for the Conservatives to the surprise of many. In June 1995, to counter damaging party splits, John Major resigned as Conservative Party Leader to fight a leadership contest.

Beating John Redwood comprehensively in the first round there was no need for a second round that had been expected. Major stayed as Party leader and Prime Minister, with the acceptance that there would be no further leadership contests until the General Election.

Hampered by party splits and a small majority which later became a minority, Major was unable to win the 1997 General Election, and Tony Blair‘s Labour Party won a landslide on the 1 May General Election.