Sir John Major, KG, CH, ACIB (born 29 March 1943) is a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1990 to 1997, during which time he was also Leader of the Conservative Party. He held the posts of Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Cabinet of Margaret Thatcher, and was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Huntingdon from the 1979 general election to the 2001 general election. Although Major proved "a great disappointment to Thatcher", he was her preferred choice as successor as she expected to "continue in control of the country as a backseat driver".
Early in his term, Major presided over British participation in the Gulf War in March 1991 and claimed to have negotiated "Game, Set and Match for Britain" at the Maastricht Treaty in December 1991. Despite the British economy then being in recession, he led the Conservatives to a fourth consecutive election victory, winning the most votes in British electoral history (14 million) in the 1992 general election, albeit with a much reduced majority in the House of Commons. He is the most recent Conservative leader to win an outright majority of constituencies in a general election.
Major's premiership saw the world go through a period of political and military transition after the end of the Cold War. This included the rise of the European Union, an issue which was already a source of friction within the Conservative Party owing to its importance in the decline and fall of Margaret Thatcher. Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) after Black Wednesday on 16 September 1992, after which his government never gained a lead in the opinion polls.
Major and his government were responsible for the United Kingdom's exit from the
Despite successes such as the revival of economic growth and the beginnings of the Northern Ireland Peace Process, by the mid-1990s, the Conservatives were embroiled in ongoing "sleaze" scandals involving various MPs and even cabinet ministers. Criticism of Major's leadership reached such a pitch that he chose to resign, and be re-elected, as party leader in June 1995. By this time, the "New" Labour Party was seen as a reformed and fresh alternative under the leadership of Tony Blair; and, after eighteen years in office, the Conservatives lost the 1997 general election in one of the largest electoral defeats since the Great Reform Act of 1832.
After the defeat, Major resigned as the leader of the party, and was succeeded by William Hague. He has since retired from active politics, leaving the House of Commons at the 2001 general election. He is now the oldest living former British Prime Minister.
June 4, 2010