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John Major

John Major (born March 29, 1943) is a British politician and was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1990 to 1997, attaining that office when he succeeded Margaret Thatcher as Conservative party leader.

Major grew up in Brixton and started a banking career as a young man, but grew increasing interested in politics. He was alocal councillor for Lambeth from 1968 to 1971. In 1979 he was elected to Parliament as representative for Huntingdon, having failed to win the same seat on his first attempt in 1976.

He was a parliamentary private secretary from 1981 and assistant whip from 1983. He was made under-secretary of state for social security in 1985 and became minister in the same department in 1986. He was chosen as Foreign Secretary in 1989. He spent only three months in that post before becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer after Nigel Lawson resigned. Major presented a single budget, then became Prime Minister after Thatcher's resignation.

Major was prime minister during the Gulf War. During the first years in office, the world economy slid into recession after the long boom during the 1980s. Expected to lose the 1992 election to Neil Kinnock, Major took his campaign onto the streets, famously delivering many addresses from an upturned soapbox. This populist "common touch", in contrast to the Labour Party's more slick campaign, chimed with the electorate and Major won an unexpected second term in office, albeit with a very small parliamentary majority. This proved to be unmanageable, particularly after Britain's forced exit from the ERM[?] on Black Wednesday (September 16, 1992) just five months into his new term.

Despite Major's best efforts the Conservative party collapsed into political in-fighting. The moderate Major was undermined by his right-wing enemies within the party and the Cabinet (whom he referred to as "bastards" in a candid and uncharacteristic moment). One of the key issues was, and remained, Britain's membership of and policy towards the European Union.

At this stage Major began the "Back to Basics[?]" campaign that disastrously back-fired on him by providing an excuse for the British media to expose "sleaze" within the Conservative Party and, most damagingly, within the Cabinet itself. By December 1996 the Conservatives had lost their majority in the House of Commons and Major was reliant on the votes of rebel "Eurosceptics" and Ulster Unionists to save him from a humiliating vote of no confidence. Major survived, but was forced to call an election by the impending end of Parliament's five-year term.

Few were surprised when Major lost the 1997 general election to Tony Blair, though the immense scale of the defeat was not widely predicted. This loss led to his resignation as leader of the Conservative Party. Since then Major has, in marked contrast to his predecessor, tended to take a low profile and to stay out of front-line politics, contributing only occasionally from the back benches and indulging his love of cricket as president of Surrey County Cricket Club[?]. This quiet retirement was only disrupted by the revelation in September 2002 that prior to his promotion to the cabinet, Major had had a longstanding extramarital affair with a fellow MP, Edwina Currie[?].



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