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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 London on Tuesday 4th March 1997.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked why the Conservatives were so far behind in the opinion polls].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think 18 years is the principal problem. The greatest difficulty we have at the moment is not with the state of the country, it is patently growing, you can see that with the growth figures in the economy, you can see it with the dramatic fall in unemployment. All of that is very welcome, but when you have been in government for 18 years, you are fighting in a sense a phantom enemy and I think that is a bigger problem for us than any other.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked whether Ministers speaking out of turn made things harder].

PRIME MINISTER:

But politicians are human. I don’t accept your description of what is happening. Let me say that, but politicians are human, they make slips. If they happen to be in government, those slips get very high publicity, if they happen to be in opposition, they get much lower publicity, so it is a good deal easier to be in opposition but since the area where the greatest difficulties have occurred generally have been on European policy, the Labour Party has as many difficulties as have the Conservative Party, but it is less evident because they are the Opposition and we are the Government. That is just one of the facts of political life.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he thought the public expected politicians not to make such mistakes].

PRIME MINISTER:

What really matters to the public? I think what matters to the public is the well-begin of the country and if you look at what is actually happening economically, if you look for example not economically but elsewhere, if you look at the increasing number of our young people getting into university or the increasing number of them passing A-Levels or GCSEs things are clearly getting better, that is welcome. If you look at the increasing number of people actually being treated in the health service that is also welcome; if you look at the extra range of services offered by the health service that is welcome but we expect these to improve and so concentration often comes upon things that go wrong.

I saw this morning a very good article by Melvyn Bragg and he was pointing out how successful - he was particularly talking about the arts but it is applicable more generally - how successful the country is.

What I think is the most frustrating thing of all from my point of view is when I travel abroad and I see abroad the perception of a very successful country here at home, I do find it quite difficult to comprehend why that isn’t more apparent in the public opinion domestically in the United Kingdom.