Rishi Sunak’s government is sometimes compared to that of John Major, the man who succeeded Margaret Thatcher in 1990, went on to win an unexpected election in 1992 – and then went down after a landslide defeat at the hands of Tony Blair’s New Labour in 1997.
On an episode of The Rest Is Politics, a podcast hosted by former Tory MP Rory Stewart and Alastair Campbell, Blair’s media chief and an architect of New Labour, Sir John, now 80, looked back at his seven years in power. Major reflected on the lessons that time may hold for Sunak’s similarly embattled administration.
Major refused to be drawn on whether today’s Tories are as doomed as his government was after the debacle of Black Wednesday – 16th September 1992 – when Britain was forced to withdraw from the European Monetary System (the EMS), leaving millions in mortgage misery similar to today’s homeowners, who face soaring interest rates.
The former PM hinted that Keir Starmer’s Labour party is making mistakes that may yet deny them power – though he declined to disclose what those errors are, as he ‘did not want to help Labour win’. For all his recent criticism of his party, Major said he was still a Conservative and that he voted for his local Tory MP at the last election.
Nor did Major rise to his interlocutors’ invitation to take a pop at one of his favourite targets, Boris Johnson, on the grounds that now he has been ousted, Johnson is ‘down, if not out’ and it is mean to kick a man when he’s down.
In fact, the whole tone of the interview was geared to bolster Major’s self-created image of a decent man doing his best to deal with the difficult circumstances that confronted him.