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1995 - Mr Major’s Comments on the Leadership Election

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on the Conservative leadership election, made on 30th June 1995.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked how many votes would be needed to end sniping from the sidelines].

PRIME MINISTER:

I am not going to speculate on that. I will tell you quite clearly why I called the election. Over the past few months, all the things we are trying to do, all the things that matter, all the things that are going to restore confidence to this country, all the things that are going to enable policy to move ahead, all the things that will expose the deficiency in our opponents' policies, were absolutely drowned out by this cacophony. Day, after day, after day, whatever happened, drowned out, nothing getting through, no real debate on policy for the 14 million people who elected me to Downing Street, no real debate for all the people who took part in the last election.

That is no way to discuss a democracy. Democracy ought to be about policy, it ought to be about ideas, and I just wasn't prepared to let that go on month, after month, after month, after month, with a relatively small number of people muttering behind their hands, causing a great deal of difficulty, exciting Fleet Street no end and squeezing out all the real news that mattered domestically and internationally, I just wasn't prepared to let that go on. It is not remotely in the interests of the country,

it is not remotely in the interests of the Conservative Party and I had had it up to the ears and beyond, so I think it was time to sort it out. And the only way to sort it out was to do precisely what I had done, to take the issue head on, to say to people here is a choice, you had better make it, and once you make it you had better make it clear cut, and when you have made it clear cut we will get on with the things that really matter and stop this nonsense, and that is exactly what I propose to do when this election is over.

So there should be no doubt about why I did it, I did it with the perfectly clear expectation that there might be a challenge and in the certain knowledge that we would have a few days in which this matter would no doubt grip everybody's interests in the way it has, but that once it is over, in early July, we have the matter behind us and we can get back to real politics, and that is what I wanted to do and I think it was in the national interest to do it.