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I met John Major first when he was a rising parliamentary star recruited to come to the constituency of the backbencher for whom I worked. He came to give a pep talk to the local Conservatives on a local radio programme; this constituency (Basildon) was considered a dead loss, so much so that the PM and various other Cabinet names wouldn't waste their time making a stop--but John Major came, and, we won.
Major has put together an interesting account of his time in office. Thankfully he concentrates on his political career (not spending hundreds of pages giving us the sort of childhood information that rarely adds value to a political autobiography), starting with his first victory coming to the House of Commons in 1979 (Margaret Thatcher's first victory as leader) and culminating with the 1997 electoral defeat, which he took with relatively good grace and rather few recriminations. And, whereas many political figures spend a large part of their memoirs in a 'If I were still there' mode, Major only devotes a few pages to the follow-up and future (in a five-page chapter entitled Aftermath) preferring not to speculate on irrelevant imponderables, and avoiding the problem of which he was most critical in his predecessor--that being of not wanting to let go.
It was no secret that one of the things the press and public eagerly sought in this book was Major's opinions on the continued attempts by Thatcher to exert an influence in leadership. His rocky relationship with the former prime minister has many examples through the text, some explicit and some subtle (such as the caption from a photo taken at the 1990 Conservative Party Conference, which reads 'Still on good terms with Margaret following the announcement of our entry into the ERM.').
In general, this is a well-written book, and John Major's tenure of office is rather more interesting than popular memory or the press would have one believe, perhaps understandable due to following a person of such flash and sparkle as Thatcher--who could compete with that? Major did in many ways, and, as his autobiography shows, he won in many ways, and when he lost, he was a gentleman.
When you read this autobiography, this honesty shines through. He openly recognizes his faults and his mistakes. He continues to stand by political friends and allies who let him down during his years in office. One has the distinct impression that he tells it like it really was.
During his years as Prime Minister, Major had to deal with his predecessor (Maggie) who simply wouldn't let go of the reins of power. He had to deal with rebels in his own party, who were so anti-European that they voted against anything and everything that came from their own government. He had to deal with colleagues who were shown to be less than honest in their dealings. If John Major had one weakness, it was that he didn't get rid of those of his ministers who were stabbing him in the back. He knew who they were, yet he allowed them to continue, hoping that right would prevail in the end.
This book is an excellent read for anyone interested in politics from the inside. Why four stars? Because I think Major spent too long dealing with his early years instead of concentrating on his years in power. Nonetheless, a powerful insight into the Major years in Britain.