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1997 - Mr Major’s Doorstep Interview in Godmanchester

Below is the text of Mr Major’s doorstep interview in Godmanchester, held on Friday 7th February 1997.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked about David Blunkett’s statement].

PRIME MINISTER:

It was a strange statement to make. A few weeks ago Mr Blunkett was saying “watch my lips - no selection”, now he’s trying to persuade other people that grammar schools are safe in their hands. The reality is that they aren’t. They would gently squeeze them out of existence if they had the opportunity - but the acid test is would they, as we have done, permit the establishment of new grammar schools: and the answer to that is they certainly would not. We are concerned about standards, if they were genuinely concerned about standards, what they would do now is clean up their act in Labour education authorities up and down the country - many of which are, frankly, a disgrace. This posturing will impress very few people. They have the power in local authorities; they have the control of the education authorities; they could have been taking action for the last couple of years to deal with this problem in their authorities, and they haven’t.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked about education hit squads].

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, of course, they are in our Bill. Now if I thought Mr Blunkett’s u-turn almost z-turn, the speed of which would have made [indistinct] envious. If I thought it was genuine then I would welcome it. But the reality is that it isn’t genuine. If it were, they would have taken action over the last couple of years. They could have taken action in their own authorities: they control the education authorities. We saw just a few weeks ago, in Islington, that 43% of parents are moving out of the education authority in Islington because they cannot stomach the quality of education there now. Posturing from the Labour Party - they created the problem, and its very empty posturing indeed.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked about difficulties the Labour Party faced over the Wirral grammar schools].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it probably has a great deal to do with the fact there are good grammar schools in the Wirral, that they have every reason, on Labour’s record, to be frightened about what Labour would do. I think it is unsurprising that they have decided on a short-term gesture. The acid test is quite clear, would they permit fresh grammar schools to be formed? If the answer to that is “Yes” they would then, I suppose it is possible they are now beginning to re-think their misbegotten policy of recent years. But I don’t believe the answer to that is “Yes”. They would not allow fresh grammar schools. They would say, or seem to be saying, they won’t close those that exist but in practice what they would do, if they get the chance, would be to squeeze them out of existence.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked about German unemployment].

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t think anybody can be happy about an increase in unemployment of that size. It’s very distressing for Germany. We had a period when we saw unemployment soaring, and I recall how miserable that was for the individuals and for everybody else. But it’s very bad news across Europe when unemployment is soaring at that scale. This is very bad news, self-evidently, for Germany and the people who are unemployed. It’s very bad news for the UK as well. Germany is one of our important markets - we don’t want to see Germany running into difficulties, but across Europe if people continue to add to the costs of employment as has happened right across Europe, other than in the United Kingdom, then jobs will be lost. And that is why, in the United Kingdom, unemployment is falling, and has fallen quite rapidly, down 6.7%. And in Germany it’s now 4.5 million; in France it’s around 3 million; in Italy it’s about 3 million - the answer lies in the hands of the European politicians. If they will stop adding to the cost of employment, then people may get back to work.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked about the proposals to hold the World Cup jointly with Germany].

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I haven’t heard of these proposals and it isn’t a decision for me, but I would like the World Cup to come here in the UK. I think we are eminently qualified to stage it. The European tournament in the Summer was a huge success - not just a huge success in terms of football - but a huge success in terms of the organisation. This country is the home of football. It is 30 years since we staged the World Cup in 1966. I think it’s time for Britain to do it again, and the football authorities have the Government’s full support for that.