Major Major Major Major

Posted by Ian

Remember this man?

Well he’s back. Back in print, that is. And, for the first time in almost 20 years, he’s appearing in sentences full of positive words.

Dip into any newspaper from the last couple of months and it won’t be long before you find this kind of thing: "…Brown could follow the example of John Major, who defied opinion polls to win the 1992 general election…" "…he might hope to emulate the success of John Major…" "Major’s triumph is Brown’s sole hope…" and so on.

As the world turns, so the fortunes of its leading players rise and fall. I never believed the day would come when I’d see John Major’s premiership being cited as a thing towards which somebody, anybody, let alone a Labour politician, should aspire. But then memories of the Major years are, for me, still potent enough to inspire decidedly mixed feelings about the forthcoming return of a Conservative government.

Those reminiscences cast Labour’s recent run of spectacular by-election defeats in another light. They remind me of historic headlines and reports on the TV and endless articles breathless at the size of the swings against the sitting party…only now with the respective colours of the winners and losers reversed.

John Major should feel flattered by the way he is being referenced in paragraphs that aren’t, as they were for so long, peppered with terms like ‘meltdown’ ‘collapse’ ‘decline’ and ‘defeat’.

Yet I also remember when I first read Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, and being highly amused by the bumbling hopeless character of Major Major Major Major. Here, I reckoned, was an unintentional foreshadow of my prime minister multiplied fourfold. And it’s a comparison that still resonates today. Sure, John Major pulled off one of the most unexpected general election wins since the war. But the next time he went to the polls he led his party to their worst general election defeat since 1832.

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