131 Facts About John Major


Sir John Major was born on 29 March 1943 and is a British former politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990 to 1997.


John Major previously held Cabinet positions under prime minister Margaret Thatcher, lastly as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1989 to 1990.


Since stepping down as an MP in 2001, John Major has focused on writing and his business, sporting and charity work, and has occasionally commented on political developments in the role of an elder statesman.


John Major was elected to Lambeth London Borough Council in 1968, and a decade later to parliament, being elected as the Conservative MP for Huntingdonshire in the 1979 general election.


John Major held several junior government positions under Thatcher from 1984 to 1987, including Parliamentary Private Secretary and assistant whip.


John Major served in Thatcher's third ministry as Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 1987 to 1989, Foreign Secretary in 1989, and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1989 to 1990.


John Major's mild-mannered style and moderate political stance contrasted with that of Thatcher.


Two years into his premiership, John Major went on to lead the Conservative Party to a fourth consecutive electoral victory, winning more than 14 million votes, which remains the highest number ever won by a political party in Britain.


In 1995, John Major resigned as party leader, amid internal divisions over UK membership of the European Union, parliamentary scandals and questions over his economic credibility.


John Major formed a temporary Shadow Cabinet, and Major himself served as shadow foreign secretary and Shadow Secretary of State for Defence.


John Major remained active in Parliament, regularly attending and contributing in debates, until he stood down at the 2001 election to focus on writing and his business, sporting and charity work.


Since leaving office, John Major has tended to maintain a low profile in the media, occasionally making political interventions.


John Major supported the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign for the UK to remain in the European Union, and has often criticised Brexit since the outcome of the 2016 referendum.


John Major was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2005 for services to politics and charity, and was made a Companion of Honour in 1999 for his work on the Northern Ireland peace process.


John Major was born on 29 March 1943 at St Helier Hospital and Queen Mary's Hospital for Children in St Helier, Surrey, the son of Gwen Major and former music hall performer Tom Major-Ball, who was 63 years old when Major was born.


John Major was christened "John Roy Major" but only "John Major" was recorded on his birth certificate; he used his middle name until the early 1980s.


John Major's birth had been a difficult one, with his mother suffering from pleurisy and pneumonia and John Major requiring several blood transfusions due to an infection, causing permanent scarring to his ankles.


John Major later described the family's circumstances at this time as being "comfortable but not well off".


John Major began attending primary school at Cheam Common School from 1948.


John Major's childhood was generally happy, and he enjoyed reading, sports and keeping pets, such as his rabbits.


Acutely conscious of his straitened circumstances in relation to the other pupils, John Major was something of a loner and consistently under-performed except in sports, coming to see the school as "a penance to be endured".


John Major left school just before his 16th birthday in 1959 with just three O-level passes in History, English Language and English Literature, to his parents' disappointment.


In 1956 John Major met local MP Marcus Lipton at a local church fair and was invited to watch his first debate in the House of Commons, where Harold Macmillan presented his only Budget as Chancellor of the Exchequer.


John Major began working with his brother Terry at the garden ornaments business; this had been sold in 1959, enabling the family to move to a larger residence at 80 Burton Road, Brixton.


John Major left the ornaments business the following year to care for his ill mother, though when she got better he was unable to find a new job and was unemployed for much of the latter half of 1962, a situation he says was "degrading".


In 1959 John Major had joined the Young Conservatives in Brixton and soon became a highly active member, which helped increase his confidence following the failure of his school days.


John Major stood as a Councillor in the 1964 Lambeth London Borough Council election for Larkhall ward at the age of 21 in 1964, losing to Labour.


John Major assisted local Conservative candidates Kenneth Payne in the 1964 general election and Piers Dixon in the 1966 general election.


John Major left the LEB and took up a post at District Bank in May 1965, though he soon left this to join Standard Bank the following year, largely because the latter offered the chance to work abroad.


John Major stood again as Councillor in the 1968 Lambeth London Borough Council election, this time for Ferndale ward.


John Major took a major interest in housing matters, with Lambeth notorious for overcrowding and poor-quality rented accommodation.


In February 1970 John Major became Chairman of the Housing Committee, being responsible for overseeing the building of several large council estates.


John Major promoted more openness at the council, initiating a series of public meetings with local residents.


John Major undertook fact-finding trips to the Netherlands, Finland and the Soviet Union.


Meanwhile, John Major continued to work at Standard Bank, having completed his banking diploma in 1972.


John Major was promoted to head of the PR department in August 1976, and his duties necessitated the occasional foreign trip to East Asia.


John Major was selected as the Conservative candidate for the Labour-dominated St Pancras North constituency, fighting both the February and October 1974 general elections, losing heavily both times to Labour's Albert Stallard.


John Major then attempted to get selected as a candidate for a more promising seat, and despite numerous attempts was unsuccessful until December 1976.


John Major was in some ways an odd choice, being a born-and-bred Londoner in a largely rural constituency still home to many landed families; however, he was seen as being the most likely to win-over the increasingly large numbers of upwardly mobile London over-spill families living in the area, and he was helped to familiarise himself with the area by local MP David Renton.


In 1977 the John Major family purchased a house at De Vere Close in the village of Hemingford Grey.


John Major took on a less demanding job at Standard Chartered, and started working part-time in 1978 so that he could devote more time to his constituency duties.


John Major won the Huntingdon seat by a large margin in the 1979 general election, which brought Margaret Thatcher to power.


John Major made his maiden speech in the House of Commons on 13 June 1979, voicing his support for the government's budget.


John Major assiduously courted contacts at all levels of the party in this period, joining the informal 'Guy Fawkes club' of Conservative MPs and attending various Committees.


John Major became Secretary of the Environment Committee and assisted with work on the Housing Act 1980, which allowed council house tenants the Right to Buy their homes.


John Major later became an assistant whip in January 1983, responsible for East Anglian MPs.


John Major addressed public meetings opposed to the protesters, organised by parish councillors, and met Bill Westwood and separately Michael Heseltine to discuss the issue.


John Major comfortably won re-election to the now slightly enlarged seat of Huntingdon at the 1983 general election.


Shortly thereafter he and Norma moved to a larger house in Great Stukeley; John Major generally spent his weekends there, and weekdays at a rented flat in Durand Gardens, Stockwell.


John Major was invited to join the prestigious 'Blue Chip' group of rising stars in the Conservative Party, and he was promoted to Treasury Whip in October 1984.


John Major narrowly avoided the IRA's Brighton hotel bombing in October 1984, having left the hotel only a few hours before the bomb went off.


Also in this period, John Major stood in for a Foreign Office minister on a trip to South America, visiting Colombia, Peru and Venezuela.


In September 1985, John Major was made Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Health and Social Security, before being promoted to become Minister of State in the same department in September 1986.


The large size of the DHSS granted Ministers a greater degree of responsibility than in other departments, with John Major assisting with work on the Social Security Act 1986 and improving provision for disabled people.


John Major began to gain a bigger profile, giving his first speech at the Conservative Party Conference in October 1986.


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


Amidst intense media criticism, John Major discussed the issue with Margaret Thatcher and an increase in the payments was approved.


The then-Chancellor Nigel Lawson generally made significant decisions with little input from others, and John Major was put in charge of agreeing departmental budgets with the Secretaries of State.


John Major successfully concluded a second round of such spending reviews in July 1988.


Whilst Chief Secretary John Major took part in discussions over the future funding of the NHS, against the background of an NHS strike in February 1988 over pay, resulting in the 'Working for Patients' white paper and subsequent National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990.


John Major insisted in discussions with Thatcher that government assistance should be provided to support the sale of Short Brothers to Bombardier, an aerospace company and major employer in Northern Ireland which might otherwise have collapsed.


John Major found the prospect daunting, and unsuccessfully attempted to convince Thatcher to allow him to stay on at the Treasury.


John Major accepted the job and began to settle into the department, living in an upstairs room at the FCO and devolving decision making where necessary, though he found the increased security burdensome and disliked the extensive ceremonial aspects of the role.


John Major represented Britain at the Paris Peace Conference to determine the future of Cambodia.


John Major met with US secretary of state James Baker, with whom he primarily discussed the issue of Vietnamese boat people, and with Qian Qichen, Foreign Minister of China, becoming the first senior Western politician to meet with a Chinese official since the violent crackdown of pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square the previous month.


John Major spent most of a summer holiday that year in Spain conducting extensive background reading on foreign affairs and British foreign policy.


In September 1989 John Major delivered a speech at the United Nations General Assembly, in which he pledged to support Colombia's effort to tackle the drugs trade and reiterated Britain's opposition to the apartheid regime in South Africa.


The appointment meant that, despite only being in the Cabinet for a little over two years, John Major had gone from the most junior position in the Cabinet to holding two of the Great Offices of State.


John Major abolished the composite rate tax and stamp duty on share trades, whilst increasing taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and petrol.


John Major agreed a restructuring and write-off of some Third World debt at a Commonwealth Finance Ministers meeting in Trinidad and Tobago in September 1990.


John Major was at home in Huntingdon recovering from a pre-arranged wisdom tooth operation during the first leadership ballot, which Thatcher won but not by the required threshold, necessitating a second round.


John Major's platform was one of moderation on Europe, a review of the poll tax, and the desire to build a "classless society".


John Major became prime minister on 28 November 1990 when he accepted the Queen's invitation to form a government, succeeding Margaret Thatcher.


John Major inherited a majority government from Margaret Thatcher who had been the prime minister for the previous eleven years.


However, opinion polling for John Major's government remained stable during this period.


On 12 May 1994, John Major Smith died from a heart attack and was replaced by Tony Blair who continued Labour's modernisation under the slogan of "New Labour".


The Tories remained divided over this era and in an attempt to silence his critics, John Major resigned as Party leader.


John Major's term ended with his resignation on 2 May 1997.


Speculation over John Major's leadership had continued since his re-election in 1995, and intensified as it became increasingly likely that the Conservatives would suffer a landslide defeat in the upcoming general election.


John Major served as Leader of the Opposition for seven weeks while the leadership election to replace him was underway.


John Major formed a temporary Shadow Cabinet, but with seven of his Cabinet ministers having lost their seats at the election, and with few senior MPs left to replace them, several MPs had to hold multiple briefs.


John Major himself served as shadow foreign secretary and Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, and the office of Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland was left vacant until after the 2001 general election as the party no longer had any Scottish MPs.


John Major remained active in Parliament, regularly attending and contributing in debates.


John Major stood down from the House of Commons at the 2001 general election, having announced his retirement from Parliament on 10 March 2000.


John Major said that he wanted a "firebreak from politics" and to focus on writing and his business, sporting and charity work.


Since leaving office, John Major has tended to maintain a low profile in the media, occasionally commentating on political developments in the role of an elder statesman.


John Major has further indulged his love of cricket as President of Surrey County Cricket Club from 2000 to 2001.


John Major left the committee in 2011, citing concerns with the planned redevelopment of Lord's Cricket Ground.


John Major has been actively engaged in charity work, being President of Asthma UK, and a Patron of the Prostate Cancer Charity, Sightsavers UK, Mercy Ships, Support for Africa 2000, Afghan Heroes, and Consortium for Street Children.


In February 2012, John Major became chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, which was formed as part of the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II and is intended to support charitable organisations and projects across the Commonwealth, focusing on areas such as cures for diseases and the promotion of culture and education.


John Major was a Patron of the sight loss and learning disability charity SeeAbility from 2006 to 2012 and has been a vice-president since 2013.


John Major has pursued a variety of business interests, taking up appointments as Senior Adviser to Credit Suisse, chairman of the board of Senior Advisers at Global Infrastructure Partners, Global Adviser to AECOM, Chairman of the International Advisory Board of the National Bank of Kuwait, and Chairman of the European Advisory Council of the Emerson Electric Company.


John Major was a member of the Carlyle Group's European Advisory Board from 1998 and was appointed Chairman of Carlyle Europe in May 2001.


John Major was a director at the bus manufacturers the Mayflower Corporation from 2000 to 2003, which was liquidated in 2004 due to funding issues.


In 1993, John Major sued two magazines, New Statesman and Society and Scallywag, as well as their distributors, for reporting rumours of an affair with Clare Latimer, a Downing Street caterer, even though at least one of the magazines had said that the rumours were false.


In September 2002, it was revealed that, prior to his elevation to the Cabinet, John Major had had a four-year-long extramarital affair with Edwina Currie, from 1984 to 1988.


An obituary of Tony Newton in The Daily Telegraph claimed that if Newton had not kept the affair a closely guarded secret, "it is highly unlikely that John Major would have become prime minister".


John Major is actively involved in various think tanks: he is the Chair of the Panel of Senior Advisers at Chatham House, a member of the International Advisory Boards of the Peres Center for Peace in Israel, the InterAction Council, the Baker Institute in Houston, and a Patron of the Atlantic Partnership.


John Major was a Director with the Ditchley Foundation from 2000 to 2009, and a President of the influential centre-right think tank the Bow Group from 2012 to 2014.


John Major denied doing so, saying that he had not heard of the request until the scheduled release date and had merely asked to look at the papers himself.


John Major told BBC News that he and Lamont had been the victims of "whispering voices" to the press.


In December 2006, John Major led calls for an independent inquiry into Blair's decision to invade Iraq, following revelations made by Carne Ross, a former British senior diplomat, that contradicted Blair's case for the invasion.


John Major was touted as a possible Conservative candidate for the Mayor of London elections in 2008, but turned down an offer from the Leader of the Conservatives at the time, David Cameron.


John Major was a vocal supporter for the Remain campaign in the 2016 referendum on British membership of the European Union.


John Major feared Brexit would make the UK poorer and could endanger the peace settlement in Northern Ireland.


On 30 August 2019, it was announced that Major intended to join a court case by Gina Miller against the proroguing of Parliament by the prime minister at the time, Boris Johnson.


In February 2022, Major made a speech at the Institute for Government think-tank in London, in which he criticised Johnson over the Partygate scandal, suggesting that he ought to resign, and the proposed policy for those seeking asylum which he called "un-British".


In February 2023, Major made a speech at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee Britain, where he said that Brexit was "a colossal mistake" and that Johnson agreed the Brexit protocol knowing it was "a mess".


John Major's mild-mannered style and moderate political stance contrasted with that of Thatcher, and made him theoretically well-placed to act as a conciliatory and relatively uncontroversial leader of his party.


John Major never succeeded in reconciling the "Euro-rebels" among his MPs to his European policy, who although relatively few in number, wielded great influence because of his small majority and their wider following among Conservative activists and voters.


John Major's task became even more difficult after the election of the modernist and highly media-savvy Tony Blair as Labour leader in July 1994, who mercilessly exploited Conservative divisions whilst shifting Labour to the centre, thus making it much more electable.


Whilst few observers doubted that John Major was an honest and decent man, or that he made sincere and sometimes successful attempts to improve life in Britain and to unite his deeply divided party, he was perceived as a weak and ineffectual figure, and his approval ratings for most of his time in office were low, particularly after "Black Wednesday" in September 1992 which destroyed the Conservative's reputation for effective economic management.


In 2012 Oborne had written that John Major's government looks ever more successful as time goes by.


Mark Stuart, writing in 2017, stated that John Major is "the best ex-Prime Minister we have ever had", praising him for initiating the Northern Ireland peace process, peacefully handing Hong Kong back to China, creating the National Lottery and leaving a sound economy to Labour in 1997.


Dennis Kavanagh likewise states that John Major did relatively well considering the unbridgeable divides that existed in the Conservative Party in the 1990s, chiefly over Europe, whilst delivering economic growth, a more user-focused public sector and the basis of peace settlement in Northern Ireland.


John Major's will be judged an important if unruly premiership at the end of the Conservative century, completing some parts of an earlier agenda while in some key respects helping to define a Conservatism for the 21st century.


John Major's appearance was noted for its greyness, his prodigious philtrum, and large glasses, all of which were exaggerated in caricatures.


The magazine still runs one-off specials of this diary on occasions when John Major is in the news, such as on the breaking of the Edwina Currie story or the publication of his autobiography.


John Major was often mocked for his nostalgic evocation of what sounded like the lost Britain of the 1950s.


John Major has been depicted on screen by Keith Drinkel in Thatcher: The Final Days, Michael Maloney in Margaret, Robin Kermode in The Iron Lady, Marc Ozall in the TV series The Crown, Gordon Griffin in Westminster on Trial and Roger Sansom in On the Record.


John Major was one of the prime ministers portrayed in the 2013 stage play The Audience.


John Major was portrayed by Jonny Lee Miller in the fifth season of The Crown in 2022.


John Major called the series a "barrel-load of nonsense" for a fictitious storyline in which the then Prince Charles lobbies John Major in 1991, attempting to oust Queen Elizabeth II from power.


John Major was a teacher and a member of the Young Conservatives.


John Major has been keen on sports since his youth, most notably cricket; he is a supporter of Chelsea FC and a Patron of British Gymnastics.


John Major enjoys gardening, listening to music and reading; Anthony Trollope being among his favourite authors.


John Major is a Christian, though his upbringing was never especially religious and he states that he is "a believer at a distance".


On 20 June 2008, John Major was granted the Freedom of the City of Cork.


John Major was granted the Outstanding Contribution to Ireland award in Dublin on 4 December 2014.


In 2008, John Major won the British Sports Book Awards for More Than a Game.


An oil painting of John Major, painted in 1996 by June Mendoza, is part of the Parliamentary collection, as is a bronze bust by Anne Curry, unveiled in the Members' Lobby on 16 October 2017.