Talk:John Major

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Former featured article John Major is a former featured article. Please see the links under Article milestones below for its original nomination page (for older articles, check the nomination archive) and why it was removed.
Main Page trophy This article appeared on Wikipedia's Main Page as Today's featured article on June 30, 2004.
Article milestones
Date Process Result
September 18, 2003 Featured article candidate Promoted
April 13, 2007 Featured article review Demoted
October 16, 2012 Good article nominee Not listed
Current status: Former featured article

Major & Thatcher[edit]

Apologies to Jaguar, my attempt to draw attention to the fact Thatcher regarded Major as a disappointment made it look like I was shouting and was not my intention. ..The full stop looked just too inconspicuous! The previous text was better English but was inaccurate.
JRPG (talk) 08:35, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

Hi Hedgefall. I appreciate you are a fairly new user but note you have made a series of edits, without either citing the reason or discussing it on the talk page. My real concern is that one of the reasons for Major's rise to power -Thatcher's well documented stated preference for a back seat driver -has been removed. It does deserve a brief mention in the lead and has been discussed. I'll reinstate the sentence in due course -and put a fuller explanation on the talk page. Please do ensure reasons for changes are shown.
Regards JRPG (talk) 17:11, 18 November 2013 (UTC)

It seems inappropriate to include the "back seat driver" comment in the lead of this article - which is, after all, a biography of Mr. Major. The opinion of someone else, coming from yet another person (Malcolm Rifkind) should not be so prominent. The disappointment comment comes before any biographical information, as if someone is trying to skew the reader's opinion against Major before knowing anything about him. It is good to remember that many people are too young to remember Major's years in office and they come to Wikipedia to learn about someone they don't know; thus, the article should be straightforward information first, with opinions of others later in the piece.Purplethree (talk) 14:37, 1 November 2014 (UTC)

Greetings PT. Firstly I welcome any effort to improve the article. My purpose was to show the only recorded reason (several sources) for his otherwise very surprising selection ..and this normally would go in the lead. The fact that he disappointed Thatcher is not a criticism, Thatcher was extremely unpopular at the time and for many ordinary voters, Major's personality was a breath of fresh air. Thatcher would not have won the 1992 election. However I'm sure many would agree he did disappoint Thatcherites. I'm quite happy to add another cited sentence saying that he "was his own man" JRPG (talk) 16:40, 1 November 2014 (UTC)

I have to agree with Purplethree on this. Thatcher's opinion itself (if it is true) is fine for the article, but is it so important it belongs ahead of all the other information on Major? Furthermore, did Thatcher herself ever say this independently of Mr. Rifkind, in another source like the BBC, or is this claim, possibly, Rifkind's impression of what Thatcher might have thought? Here's another way of thinking: If so and so hates Barack Obama, does their opinion belong in the second sentence of Obama's article? If not, then Thatcher's alleged disappointment doesn't belong there, either.Closedthursday (talk) 15:31, 8 November 2014 (UTC)

Hi CT & thanks for your response. We really do need to say why Major was selected -he was a far from obvious choice. Rifkind wasn't the only source ..Thatcher's back seat driver statement was made as soon as he was appointed, I remember it very well -& notorious it certainly was. From the source
Hence, her notorious remark that she expected to continue in control as a backseat driver. That was not only an ominous statement for the new Prime Minister to hear. It also made inevitable from the very beginning his need to demonstrate his independence and be his own man.
And again She made him Foreign Secretary and then Chancellor of the Exchequer on the flimsiest evidence that he was a natural Thatcherite. ..His ability and political skill were never in doubt but he never seemed to me to be a right-wing Conservative in the mould of Norman Tebbit, Nicholas Ridley or John Redwood.
Major disappointed Thatcher because he wasn't a right wing Thatcherite. She chose him for the very well known reason -at least to my generation -that she thought she could control him. FWIW he significantly improved his party ratings so he didn't initially disappoint the public. If I add a few words to make the reason for her disappointment absolutely clear will that suffice? Regards JRPG (talk) 19:23, 9 November 2014 (UTC)
This April 8 2013 Times Peter Riddell article Margaret Thatcher: ‘She believed in confrontation. She didn’t believe in consensus’ also references the well known back seat driver story. Throughout the 1990s she was an active back-seat driver, to the fury of Major, and an increasingly vocal Eurosceptic. and also describes her as one of the most divisive politicians of her age — loved and loathed in equal measure. In short many people welcomed the change. JRPG (talk) 21:07, 9 November 2014 (UTC)
Sure, but she didn't "choose" him as party leader - he attained that job by getting the votes of 185 Tory MPs. He was relatively popular with the public, was seen as relatively young and dynamic, had held two great offices of state, and was state-school educated (that was used against Hurd). It would be more useful to dig out some of the studies of the 1990 leadership election and find out just how active she was in swinging support Major's way. Her support certainly didn't hurt, and I do recall reading that there was some effort by her supporters to prevent Hezza getting the leadership by swinging support behind Major, but we'd need a good source for just how active Thatcher was in it, not least as she was still licking her wounds after being ousted so unexpectedly. She was certainly active in drumming up support for Hague and Duncan Smith when they ran for party leader.
Major's promotion to Foreign Secretary was certainly a massive and even bizarre promotion (I remember literally thinking I was dreaming, hearing it on the radio as I woke up, that hot July morning), leading to all kinds of talk that she was grooming a potential successor. His move to Chancellor was more or less inevitable when Lawson quit, as he was a former Chief Secretary, her political position was already weakening and her preferred candidates (Tebbit was out of the Cabinet, Ridley was widely seen as a liability, even before the Spectator interview the following summer) were not available.
After he became PM, of course, she soon became frustrated - like many ex leaders, in all walks of life, before her - at how quickly she was sidelined, hence her ever more vocal interventions in politics. She was certainly active in encouraging the Maastricht rebels, of whom IDS was of course one.MissingMia (talk) 00:39, 10

November 2014 (UTC)

We're missing the point of this discussion. It is not whether Thatcher's opinion is relevant; it is whether it belongs in the opening paragraph. CT makes the obvious argument: would this be acceptable on any other article about a living person? Is there another article on Wikipedia in which the second sentence is a disparaging opinion? If so, it becomes open season on anyone who is subject to an article. We can all add whatever bad opinion we want to any article, using the premise that the opinion is more important than the biography itself.Chagallophile (talk) 23:50, 13 November 2014 (UTC)

Greetings Chagallophile, thanks for your comments & I’m keen to get a consensus. Unfortunately responses seem to be appearing in random positions. The choice of Major was a real surprise & not just to me, the lede MUST explain this & I think must therefore reference Thatcher.
From memory John Cole interviewed her in a car & she made her notorious remark. Whilst we know the ballot results we don’t know what persuasion methods were used but the outgoing prime minister always has a major influence & her views are known. Your description of “the second sentence a disparaging opinion” is based on a false premise. Whatever Torys think about her now, at the time Thatcher was extremely unpopular. A number of recently elected Tory MPs -the 301 club – who want to be re-elected do NOT wish to be called Thatcherite –see this though there are plenty of other references. Do you really think a wp:npov group of people –which is what editors here should be ..would regard disappointing Thatcher by not being a Thatcherite as disparaging? See also my comments in Talk:John_Major#If_somebody_has_the_sources_to_hand & the Times article.
JRPG (talk) 16:46, 14 November 2014 (UTC)

I am concerned about this idea that "the lead MUST explain this." The people commenting above seem to all be above the age of thirty five,and thus have some memory of Thatcher and Major as PM. However, a great many people (college students, for example) will not know who Major is at all. They come to Wikipedia to find out. If this were a blog about British politics, in which the readers all knew the basic story, then the Thatcher bit might be appropriate. But since many people are coming here simply to learn the biography of someone who has been out of office 17 years, then throwing in the disappointment claim at the beginning makes no sense. It is still, in the end, an opinion based on someone else's recollection of a private conversation that might have happened. Hardly worth such a prominent place in the article.Chagallophile (talk) 14:22, 15 November 2014 (UTC)

1. I really don't see how it belongs in the introduction.
2. The section on Major's rapid promotion in 1987-90 could do with some properly-sourced comment as to why Thatcher promoted him to Foreign Secretary (I don't mean why she demoted Howe, but why she picked Major). He was tipped for promotion, just not so far and so fast (I remember a Sunday newspaper running a feature early in 1989 of "the Cabinet in 1999" - it tipped Major as PM and Leon Brittan as Lord Chancellor!). Major's move to Chancellor, as discussed below, was pretty much inevitable and from then on economic policy was largely out of Thatcher's hands for her final year in office - Major and Hurd were dealing bilaterally with one another over breakfast meetings.
3. Plenty of research was done at the time on the 1990 leadership election, as you would expect of a major political upheaval in which less than 400 people had any say. It shouldn't be too difficult to consult the books and find out how active MT (or her cronies) was in ringing round to drum up support for Major on the second ballot. I also seem to recall her saying that he was "solid gold" at the time, although she was also disappointed by his obvious reluctance to sign her nomination papers in her initial abortive attempt to stand for the second ballot (he was allegedly recovering from his wisdom tooth operation). Major's victory on the second ballot was most certainly not a surprise to anyone who followed politics closely at the time, once it was clear that backbenchers were swinging behind him rather than Hurd.
4. There could also be some sourced comment about Thatcher's antics in offering encouragement to the Maastricht rebels in the first half of 1993- in the relevant section.
5. What Tory MPs (and Matthew Paris) think of Thatcher and Major in 2014 belongs late in the article, under analysis or whatever it's called. Politicians say all sorts of things about the "lessons" which can supposedly be derived from events, but even if uttered in good faith, their opinions should not be treated as objective historical analysis. History and economics do not lend themselves to double blind experiments under laboratory conditions, whose results can be subjected to rigorous statistical analysis. Thatcher was, for what it's worth, a far more pragmatic politician before 1987 than afterwards (before Whitelaw retired and hubris set in), and far more so than she and her supporters cared to remember in the 1990s - but that didn't stop her supporters claiming that her huge majorities in 1983 and 1987 "proved" that "Thatcherite" policies were more successful than Major's (whereas in fact they were won against a split opposition and an "extreme" Labour Party). There is seldom any right or wrong answer to what policies are going to be "successful", as people (all of whom, like most members of the human race, regard their own political views as self-evident common sense!) vote for all kinds of different reasons, many of which don't seem so important years later (by way of illustration: when I was younger, I and my friends had a good laugh at Willie Whitelaw's "Do You Remember the Winter of Discontent?" Party Political Broadcast in 1987 - we thought he was a silly old buffer, talking about irrelevant events from a decade earlier ... yet lots of people commented, quite rightly, at the time of Thatcher's death that it is hard now to remember just how much many middle-aged and older people in the 1980s supported Thatcher as somebody who would keep the unions in check). Nor does the electoral success of policies always have much to do with "popularity" - some policies may appear popular but are shown by more detailed polling to be net vote losers (nuclear disarmament for Labour in the 1980s, euroscepticism for the Tories in the 1990s - the latter less so nowadays as opinion seems to be shifting over Europe) as they appeal only to people who were going to vote for you anyway or make you look "extreme" - that is why politicians spend a lot of time strategizing and tweaking their stances on various issues. Anyway, I've probably ranted enough, but my point is that historical analysis needs to concentrate on providing as full a picture as possible of what people at the time thought, not the simplistic "lessons" which politicians seek to draw twenty years later.MissingMia (talk) 16:05, 15 November 2014 (UTC)

Removal of unsourced section[edit]

Under WP:BOLD I have removed a section which has no sources at all. Before reverting kindly come up with a citation from a reliable sourceClosedthursday (talk) 16:03, 9 April 2013 (UTC)

Wikipedia "policies" should not be used as an excuse to simply delete chunks of correct information, and if you don't know whether it's correct or not, then you shouldn't be deleting stuff. Almost all the material in that section, apart from being well-known to those of us who can remember the period, is well-covered in the linked articles about the individuals in question and their specific scandals.MissingMia (talk) 00:30, 10 April 2013 (UTC)

Actually, WP:BLP at the top of the talk page clearly states that unsourced material on living persons must be be removed immediately - notice the words "must" and "immediately" - and as soon as it was removed you came up with a source, which is the whole point. The issue is not whether information is correct, it is whether a claim has a citation. Now let's talk about the section itself: "Sleaze" is a pejorative title which should be changed, and reading the section I fail to see how any of this belongs in an article about John Major. It lists isolated events for which Major cannot be blamed, and only mentions him when he took action to investigate. So it hardly represents "sleaze" on his part. Why does the section exist on John Major's article and not Queen Elizabeth's article? Doesn't she need to be blamed as well, since it happened during her reign? If not, then I would suggest that the whole "sleaze" section is meaningless to an article on John Major himself.Closedthursday (talk) 18:00, 16 April 2013 (UTC)

Actually, the policy refers to “contentious” and “potentially libellous” information (e.g. if somebody were to allege that Major had an affair with a rent boy and lied about it, or took bribes, that would justify immediate removal unless a source is provided), whereas this stuff is, as I pointed out above, historical fact from nearly twenty years ago (by definition, not libellous) and was already sourced, albeit indirectly – in the linked articles about the individuals in question.
The reason it belongs in a biography of Major is because the endless drip of “sleaze” scandals dominated the headlines for several years, which is why it is discussed in published biographies of the man. It is part of the story of his premiership, and of how the Conservative Party decayed in those years, not unlike the scandals of the early 1960s (Vassall, Profumo etc). The word “sleaze” was very widely used at the time, and was a centrepiece of Labour's election campaign in 1997 (see pp550 et ff of JM's memoirs). Major made a rod for his own back with the ill-judged "Back to Basics" campaign, launched at the October 1993 Party Conference, and supposed to be the start of the great relaunch after the humiliations of Black Wednesday (autumn 1992) and the passage of the Maastricht Bill (first half of 1993). The Conference in question went quite well but it soon went horribly wrong, and the way the whole thing got out of hand and turned into a media feeding frenzy was seen, rightly or wrongly, as a testament to his weak leadership – it’s easier to keep your balance on a bike if you stop worrying about balancing and pedal the ruddy thing forwards, as it were – whereas the scandals of the Blair era, of which there were plenty, never really dented Labour’s popularity for a long time.
Your point about the Queen is, as far as it goes, silly – nowadays the Monarch does not got involved in politics – but, by analogy, the scandals of the Royal Family in the 1990s (Fergie being photographed topless getting her toes sucked by her “financial advisor”, her childrens’ divorces, the unpopularity at the time of Diana’s death, etc etc) were part of the story of her reign, and were seen (fairly or unfairly) as casting aspersion on her leadership of the “Family Firm” and as such are discussed in published biographies of Her Majesty.MissingMia (talk) 10:06, 17 April 2013 (UTC)


John Major had no title until 1979. He was therefore technically "John Major Esq." as noted. However after 1979 he still had not title, and was still "John Major Esq.". The MP is not a title as such.Royalcourtier (talk) 00:54, 29 March 2014 (UTC)

Esq. is never used with other postnominal letters. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 01:45, 29 March 2014 (UTC)
How was Major an "Esq." from birth? His parents were not members of the landed gentry, as that courtesy title would suggest. Unless every male human born in Britain is somehow accorded that title at birth -- which would make its inclusion here irrelevant -- it should either be removed or added to every WP biographical article on male Britons. Bricology (talk) 16:08, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
Every man is nowadays an "Esq.", as we no longer have slavery or serfdom. So, really, it is pedantic and meaningless.MissingMia (talk) 17:58, 8 November 2014 (UTC)

Clarify, please[edit]

'...first attracting national media attention over cold weather payments to the elderly in January 1987, when Britain was in the depths of a severe winter.'

Doesn't make clear whether he was advocating or opposing these payments. Valetude (talk) 17:25, 25 April 2014 (UTC)

If somebody has the sources to hand[edit]

A lot of my books are boxed up at the moment, but if somebody has access to books they might want to add back in:

A reference to how the opinion polls actually "came true" in 1997 and indeed in 2001. Any idiot could see that the polls were predicting a large Labour majority - opinion polls are a matter of public record. That didn't stop people suspecting that the Tories would do much better than the polls suggested, as they had done in 1987 (polls predicted slim Tory majority or even a hung Parliament: Thatcher landslide) or 1992 (polls predicted modest Labour majority or even a hung Parliament: comfortable Tory majority).
A reference to how Major's mild and consensual style was initially seen as a welcome relief after Thatcher's last few febrile years in office. "It's as though the poison has been let out of the system" as a member of the Cabinet famously said at the time. It soon wore off as people decided that he was weak and ineffectual. This was deleted two years ago as being "POV" by somebody whose username manages to broadcast to the world that he is probably not old enough to remember the early 1990s - but it isn't, it's a factual reporting of how Major's premiership was seen at the time, completely different from somebody writing "Major was ineffectual" as if it were fact.MissingMia (talk) 18:02, 8 November 2014 (UTC)
I certainly regarded Major's style as a vast improvement on Thatcher and regard her disappointment in him as a very positive statement. This view would I think be shared by the "301 club" of recently elected Tory MPs -mostly in marginal who seriously want to be re-elected, e.g. Anna Soubry, Charlie Elphicke.
Have a look at
Major, not Thatcher, should guide Tories Matthew Parris October 26 2013
John Major is the father of the “caring, compassionate, modern” Conservatism that is still struggling to be born, and which David Cameron has fitfully articulated. Unless and until this infant idea takes firmer shape, and grows, the party has no long-term future.

Best to stick to what commentators and politicians thought at the time. Major certainly had an upsurge of personal popularity when he first came in, which lasted for about a year, with a massive upspike in March 1991 after the Gulf War. From memory Labour and the Tories were level-pegging again in the polls by autumn 1991, and from then on most commentators were predicting a modest Labour victory. I was venting a bit in my comments above, as there are few things more irritating than revisiting an article and seeing that correct material has been erroneously deleted, especially by somebody who can't distinguish between "POV" and reporting the opinions of others.MissingMia (talk) 13:29, 10 November 2014 (UTC)

I found it difficult to assign particular statements in earlier versions of the article to specific sources. I also admit a preference for on line articles when available. Later articles have the massive benefit that one knows how policies work out. For example, Lawson has said the 2008 crash was an unintended consequence of the Big Bang (financial markets). I think we can & should use later documents. JRPG (talk) 19:38, 10 November 2014 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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