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John Major

Major, John, 1943–, British statesman, b. John Major Ball. Raised in a working-class area of London, he was elected to Lambeth borough council (1968–71) and entered Parliament as a Conservative in 1979. He became Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's chief secretary to the Treasury in 1987, foreign secretary in 1989, and, later that year, chancellor of the exchequer. A Thatcher loyalist, he became her successor after she withdrew from the 1990 party elections. Diplomatic and respected, even by the opposition, he moderated the Thatcher government's controversial poll tax and its opposition to greater integration into the European Community (now the European Union). He provided military support to the United States in the Persian Gulf War (1991). In 1992, Major and the Conservatives again defeated Labour in a national election. Despite a political setback in 1992 when his government could no longer support the minimum exchange level of the pound within the exchange-rate mechanism of the European Monetary System, Major was able to win ratification of the Treaty of European Union (Maastricht Treaty) in 1993. In 1994 his government's representatives participated in the negotiation of a cease-fire in Northern Ireland. Although party infighting, policy changes, and scandals eroded his parliamentary and public support, Major was reaffirmed as Conservative party leader in 1995. After the Conservatives were defeated by Tony Blair and Labour in a landslide in 1997, Major resigned as party leader; he retired from Parliament in 2001

See E. Pearce, The Quiet Rise of John Major (1991).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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