Peter Oborne: It’s Time to Give John Major the Credit We So Cruelly Denied Him
Peter Oborne is the Daily Telegraph's chief political commentator.
Monday marks a notable date in political history – the anniversary of April 9 1992, the last time that the Conservative Party managed to achieve victory at a general election. Right up to the BBC exit polls, it was assumed that Neil Kinnock’s Labour would win. But John Major, always underestimated by a sneering metropolitan media class, triumphed against the odds.
He won more votes – 14 million – than any other British prime minister has ever done. In popular terms, the margin of victory was immense. No less than 42 per cent of the voters came out for Major, 34 per cent for Kinnock. But the bias of the British electoral system hit the Conservatives hard.
Had Labour enjoyed that 8 per cent lead in the popular vote, it would have secured a parliamentary majority of more than 100. Unlucky Major ended up with a majority of just 21, which was whittled away over the coming years until his government ended in ignominy and defeat.
His administration has enjoyed a terrible reputation and remains associated with sleaze, incompetence, drift and weakness. But as time has passed this verdict has started to look unfair. History may yet be much kinder to John Major than many would have thought...
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