John Major rarely enjoyed a good press when he was prime minister. He was ridiculed as a ‘grey’ man who spoke in a slightly geeky way. Steve Bell the cartoonist always portrayed him in Y fronts, because he was unwise enough once to comment that he wore his shirt tucked into them. Major famously complained about the ‘bastards’ in his government continually undermining his position on Europe and also suffered some back seat driving, no doubt from the previous incumbent of No 10, the ‘Leaderene’, aka Attila the Hen or Vladette the Impaler...
But I always liked Major. There was something honest and disarmingly modest about him when he was prime minister. I recall his very measured and non-triumphalist speech when the first Gulf War was won with the Iraqis expelled from Kuwait.
He was interviewed on the Today programme this week about the upcoming referendum on Europe, and gave what I thought was the most carefully thought out and comprehensive set of reasons why we should stay in. He recognised that Cameron had had little choice but to agree to call the referendum, given the Eurosceptics in his party and the danger from Ukip. Nevertheless, the prime minister could do far worse than use Major’s arguments, if not the man himself, in the campaign to come. We need thoughtful intelligent analysis of the question and considered debate if the little Englanders are to be defeated.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs