British Conservative politician, prime minister 1990–97. He was foreign secretary in 1989 and chancellor of the Exchequer 1989–90. His low-key, consensus style of leadership contrasted sharply with his predecessor Margaret Thatcher. He launched a joint UK–Irish peace initiative on Northern Ireland in 1993, which led to a general ceasefire in 1994. His Back to Basics campaign to restore traditional values was undermined by a series of scandals involving Conservative ministers, and continuing party divisions led to his resigning as party leader in June 1995 to force a leadership vote, which he won narrowly. The Conservatives were heavily defeated in the 1997 general election, after which Major stepped down as party leader. In 2001 he retired from the House of Commons to pursue a career in business.
Major's personal popularity and success in the 1991 US-led war against Iraq helped win the Conservatives another term in 1992. However in his second term Major faced mounting internal divisions within his party, particularly over the issue of closer integration within the European Union, and the UK's forced withdrawal from the Exchange Range Mechanism (ERM) in September 1992 was a major blow.
Born in Merton, southwest London, Major left school at 16. He trained and worked as a banker and became active in local politics Formerly a banker, he became MP for Huntingdonshire in 1979 and become deputy to chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson in 1987. Within the space of six months in 1989, he was appointed foreign secretary and, after Lawson's resignation, chancellor. As chancellor he led the UK into the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) in October 1990. The following month he became prime minister on winning the Conservative Party leadership election in a contest with Michael Heseltine and Douglas Hurd, after the resignation of Margaret Thatcher. Although victorious in the 1992 general election, he subsequently faced mounting public dissatisfaction over a range of issues, including the sudden withdrawal of the pound from the ERM, a drastic pit-closure programme, and past sales of arms to Iraq. In addition, Major had to deal with ‘Euro-sceptics’ within his party who critized any moves that they saw as ceding national sovereignty to Brussels. His success in negotiating a Northern Ireland ceasefire in 1994 did much to improve his standing, but delays in the progress of peace talks resulted in criticism of his cautious approach.
Related Credo Articles
1943- British statesman, prime minister (1990-97). Major entered Parliament in 1979. In 1989, Margaret Thatcher made him foreign secretary,...
1926- ♦ British Conservative politician Born in Port Talbot, Glamorgan, he was educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He was called to the Bar in 1952
British Conservative politician, prime minister 1979–90. She was education minister 1970–74, Conservative Party leader 1975–90, and Britain's longes