Resembling a London bus on a cold winter’s night (there’s never one there when you need one, then six come along at once) former Prime Minister John Major has popped up like the pub bore we had tried to ignore and has shot his mouth off… again.
There was a blessed and quite lengthy period following 1997 after he had led the Tory party to the most disastrous defeat for a ruling party in British political history when, escaping the ignominy of his hopeless Premiership, Major crept away and (apart from the unexpected revelations of the grey man’s colourful love life with Edwina Currie) we thankfully hardly heard a peep from or about him.
That was certainly the correct and most dignified course of action for such an utterly failed and discredited politician. If only he had stuck to his Trappist vow of silence, and faded into obscurity we might have forgotten his time in office entirely.
But no: Major, an essentially vain, spiteful, and shallow man behind his Pooterish, Spitting Image exterior, has lately sought to give us the dubious benefit of his thoughts on a range of topics, as though he is a wise elder statesman instead of a mediocrity with tragi-comic undertones who rose to high office by accident, and contributed more than his fair share towards the undermining of his country’s independence, and the destruction of his party.
Now that he has decided to publicly share his musings on such matters as the continued dominance of a Public School elite in British life (chippy Major himself attended a grammar school), the intellectual inadequacy of his old enemy Ian Duncan Smith (a case of the pot calling the kettle black if ever there was one) and the alleged catastrophic consequences should Britain dare to leave the European Union, he invites a re-examination of his own record, since if we are to take his advice on any of these matters we should at least know where he is coming from, and how right or wrong he has been in the past.
John Major’s political and economic record in office in fact presents a catalogue of unrelieved failure. Every major (sorry) decision he took was wrong, his alleged achievements non-existent or attributable to someone else, his political legacy the woefully shambolic state of today’s Tory party which has been unable to win a General Election since.
Major first came to political prominence in 1989 when, after an undistinguished stint as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Mrs Thatcher surprised everyone by appointing this nobody as Foreign Secretary, and then, after just three months, made him Chancellor of the Exchequer after the sudden resignation of Nigel Lawson.
The old girl must have been losing her amazing marbles at this point for, having resisted the attempts by Lawson and Geoffrey Howe to bully her into allowing Britain to join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) she folded before the blandishments of the far less formidable Major and Douglas Hurd, who had become Foreign Secretary, and, against her own better judgement, tied the ERM millstone around Britain’s neck.
When, soon afterwards, Howe and Heseltine launched their coup against Thatcher, Major took the typically cowardly and duplicitous course of using a wisdom tooth operation to avoid speaking up forcefully for the woman to whom he owed his political career. He did sign her nomination papers when they were brought to his door. At the same time he secretly signed his own papers in case she withdrew from the leadership contest and when she duly did so, forced out by her own Cabinet, the man who had risen without trace succeeded her.
Major’s inglorious stint as Prime Minister was defined by three disasters with a capital D, all of them reflections of his own epic political incompetence.
- Black Wednesday – Britain’s departure – at the cost of billions – from the ERM which he had moved heaven and earth to get us to join.
- The Treaty of Maastricht – A giant leap towards the loss of Britain’s national sovereignty to the unelected and undemocratic European Union.
- Major’s Back to Basics – a hypocritical and ridiculous re-assertion of morality, which was instantly undermined by a series of sex scandals involving Tory MPs , and which reduced his shambolic Government to a national joke.
And yet this is the man who, with jumbo-sized chutzpah, mounts the bully pulpit to lecture us on why we should not dare to re-claim the free and prosperous country he played such a big part in throwing away. Now that even Nigel Lawson has come round to advocating a Brexit, John Major still thinks that Brussels rule is the bees’ knees. Irony clearly does not come easily to him.
Frankly, if I found myself standing in a queue with Major I’d be reluctant to ask whether the big red vehicle approaching was indeed a bus. With John Major’s myopic record for getting things wrong the Mr Magoo of British politics would be sure to tell me that it was a Hansom cab.