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1997 - Mr Major’s Comments on the General Election

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on the General Election, made during an interview in Lahore on 14th January 1997.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked why he didn’t just call a General Election now].

PRIME MINISTER:

People won’t have to wait too long, will they? There is an election coming soon and I will have the election when I think it is appropriate to have it.

As far as being run ragged is concerned, if the Opposition are so energetic they might actually sort out their policies, that would be rather agreeable and then we could have an election about policy which would be a very good idea.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he was at a disadvantage because he didn’t have a Parliamentary majority going into a General Election].

PRIME MINISTER:

It is a great advantage to go into an election with the best economy in western Europe and we took the measures in the early part of this parliament to try and produce the best economy in western Europe and that is precisely what we have produced. We have now got very low inflation, we have got unemployment falling very dramatically over the last three years, we have got interest rates at a relatively low level, we have got very high growth and you seen the reputation that Britain has abroad and the strength of its commerce and industry.

We have achieved that because of many things that made us unpopular, things that were bitterly opposed by the Labour Party and the Liberal Party, but you can now see that they are working and I think it is right to let people see that they are working in the last few months of this parliament so they can make a mature judgement. They may say, “We didn’t like what the Tories did, it was very uncomfortable!” - and some if it was, I concede that - but people can now increasingly see why we did it and as the economy gets better, they can see the fruits of having done it and I think it is right to wait for those and I’ll call the election when I’m ready.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if people would really change their minds that swiftly].

PRIME MINISTER:

They changed their minds pretty swiftly in the last General Election campaign and I suspect that they will on this particular occasion. People are going to focus on this when they actually have to ask themselves the fundamental question, “Things are now going well, are they not?” to which the answer is “Yes, do we wish to risk that and perhaps throw it away with a leap into the dark?”. I think they will answer to that question “No!” and that question becomes sharper as we get nearer to the election and it becomes very sharp indeed once the election campaign proper really begins.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he was ready to go to the country if a Parliamentary occurrence demanded it].

PRIME MINISTER:

The Conservative Party is ready for the election whenever it comes. We would prefer to have the election a little later, I suspect that we will have it a little later because we wish to see the effect of our policies flow through, but if you mean are we organisationally ready for whenever I wish to call the election, the answer is yes.