John Major The Autobiography

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9780002570046: John Major The Autobiography

The most personal and revealing autobiography to date of any British Prime Minister.

•The memoirs of the Right Honourable John Major, M. P., will be the most eagerly awaited biography of the year. His intention in writing the book is to give as open and accurate an account of his time in office as possible; and he will not be pulling any punches.
•Major’s early life is itself extraordinary, and the opening chapters make for compelling reading in themselves. Thereafter he cut his political teeth in the hurly-burly of metropolitan local council politics in Lambeth, and after entering Parliament he became a Whip. His rise was meteoric; a favourite of Margaret Thatcher, he was soon to become Foreign Secretary and then rapidly Chancellor. When Thatcher fell he fought a brilliant campaign to become her successor, and won. Soon after came the Gulf War, then Maastricht; then he won the General Election of 1992, itself a considerable achievement.
•It was, of course, the events of Black Wednesday and the ensuing battles over British engagement, or otherwise, with Europe that were to prove the Major government’s most taxing challenges, and John Major will be frank about what he tried to do and about those who opposed him. But not all was darkness; the first steps on the long road to the Good Friday Agreement were taken by him, and many initiatives in foreign affairs, in the US and over Bosnia, were to prove sound. Under him, too, the economy began to recover; yet the media would have none of it, concentrating instead on the mounting tide of ‘sleaze’ stories, and confusing the central message of the ‘Back to Basics’ campaign.
•Faced with growing internal opposition Major routed his opponents with the 1995 leadership election and the challenge to ‘put up or shut up’; yet, as in so many things over that period, almost everything that could go wrong did so, and soon the Mad Cow beef war was upon us. In 1997 a new order was brought to power, and Major acted with a dignity seldom seen in politics; after his demise, the Conservative party collapsed into a furore of infighting, and his incumbency may be remembered as the last time for many years when the party was to look like a real power in the land.
•Major oversaw the ending of an era, and this book will be full of personal stories and reflections about those trying times, which were also sometimes good times and entertaining times, and which, written with a certain terse verve, make for very enjoyable, and certainly highly illuminating, reading. This will be a ground-breaking book of its kind.

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Review:

John Major's rise to the post of British prime minister is a puzzle of modern politics that his lengthy autobiography fails to resolve. It is clear, as we follow him from his modest origins in south London to his work as a local councillor and his remarkable ascent at Westminster under the eye of Margaret Thatcher, that he was driven by a determination to prove himself. But now that we are growing used to the messianic zeal that Tony Blair brings to the role of prime minister, it seems extraordinary that John Major should have achieved the position with such little evident vision or relish. Here is the man we thought we knew, decent, hard-working; at the mercy of events rather than their master.

So we find him bowed down by the misfortunes of an ungrateful world, rendered defensive by problems with the economy, by arguments over Europe, by the intractability of politicians in Northern Ireland, by attacks from within his own party.

With that same party busy airbrushing him from its history--despite his unlikely victory over Neil Kinnock in 1992--it's as well he has got his account into print, an unstuffy telling of a fascinating story that is free of the pomposity that affects so many of his political peers and which reveals a deep-seated belief in the value of basic decency. "I will not concede possession of the recent past to the mythographers of left or right who have every self-interest in retouching the history we made," he says.

But how sad to find him still so defensive and so bitter about the slights of others, still anxious to explain why speeches or gestures were misconstrued. "I was too conservative, too conventional. Too safe, too often. Too defensive. Too reactive," he says. But could he have been anything else? --Kim Fletcher

Review:

‘Compelling…a classic of holding the reader’s attention which many fiction writers might envy.’ Roy Jenkins, Evening Standard

‘Unsparing…vivid…witty as well as wise.’ Geoffrey Howe, Independent

‘One of the few post-war political autobiographies that will endure…compulsively readable and remarkably objective…deeply moving.’ Bruce Anderson, Daily Telegraph

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