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1992 - Mr Major’s Comments on the General Election

Below is the text of Mr Major's comments on the General Election, made in an interview held on Wednesday 11th March 1992.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if the country would vote for a change].

PRIME MINISTER:

There have been the most enormous changes throughout the last thirteen years and changes for the better in the quality of life of an overwhelming number of people in this country. The changes and improvements in the Health Service are self-evident for everyone who wishes to look at them; the change in the net disposable income - the amount of money people have to spend on their own interests and on their own families - greatly improved. In almost every aspect of life there has been improvement in the quality of life over these last thirteen years. We will campaign on that and on what we propose to do and set before people in the years ahead.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if there had been an economic miracle given the current recession].

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t believe it is untrue to say that we are in a wholly different position from that which applied in the period before 1979. Most of the structural problems that exist in our economy have now been dealt with and what has happened over recent years is that steadily we have improved our performance relative to other countries; our productivity record has been better than other countries through the 1980s; our growth record has been better than other countries through the 1980s. We have had a difficult recession; we are about to come out of that recession and as we come out of it we have the prospect of a continuing level of inflation at a low level we have not previously seen.

We are now in pursuit of stable prices - that priceless gift for the economy and for individuals that has always eluded us in the past - so a great deal is happening upon which we can build in the 1990s to build on the increasing prosperity of the 1980s.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked about the timing of the General Election].

PRIME MINISTER:

I made it clear last year that there were things I believed it was necessary to do before we could have the General Election. One of those was to get inflation down to a much lower rate; one of them was to deal with the negotiations at Maastricht, which we did very successfully I think in December of last year; we clearly needed to put on the Statute Book the replacement for the community charge - that is now law; and we needed a Budget to set the economic and taxation framework for the future. Now that has been done, I believe it is the right time to invite people to choose the next Government. A large number of businesses are waiting to invest. What is now holding them back is that they want to see the Conservative Government safely reinstalled in power. That means it is the right time to have a General Election and I have no doubt about this being the right time.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if there was a hung Parliament, would he consider PR].

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t agree with those series of premises. I believe we will win the General Election, that we will win it with a very clear majority and I have made it clear that I do not think proportional representation is in the interests of this country. A number of countries that have it have produced very weak government over many years; a number of European countries that have proportional representation would like to get rid of it for precisely that reason. The Australians believe it is the worst decision they ever took to move to a form of proportional representation and what you actually get with proportional representation is two things: firstly, a third party - by definition the smallest of three parties - that may determine who is in government and what the policies are; there is nothing particularly democratic about that and under many forms of PR you also let many very tiny minority groups - perhaps the Communist Party, perhaps the National Front - into the House of Commons and into a national legislature. I do not believe that is in the interests of good government in this country and I am not in favour of that form of proportional representation, so there is no point in my keeping the door open. I don’t agree with it and I won’t offer it.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he would work with the Ulster Unionists to secure a majority].

PRIME MINISTER:

That is a purely hypothetical question. I don’t believe that we will need the extra seats. I believe we will win the election with a clear majority. That is our intention, that is what we are setting out our programme to achieve, that is what I believe we will achieve and I am not going to entertain any other hypothesis.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he would resign the office of Prime Minister if he failed to secure a majority].

PRIME MINISTER:

You may deduce what you wish, John. I am not going to enter into a hypothesis I don’t believe will be correct. I believe we will win the election with a clear majority and a sufficient majority to see us through a full term of Parliament.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked about his opponents saying that nothing had changed in the Conservative Party since he had become its leader].

PRIME MINISTER:

I am not going to concern myself with what my opponents are saying. I am going to set out the programme that I think is right for this country, a programme of low taxation not high taxation, of more choice not less choice, of proper defence not weak defence, a proper position in Europe not a weak position in Europe, a proper position in the world not a position that seems indefinite. That is the distinction between the Conservative Party and our principal political opponents. That is the issue at the General Election and that is what we will place before every elector between now and April 8th.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked about Margaret Thatcher].

PRIME MINISTER:

Mrs Thatcher was a very great leader of the Conservative Party; she will have a very warm and honoured place in history and she was also a very fine Prime Minister of this country who will have a very great and honoured place in history. I admire her very much and she will be fighting very hard to make sure that her ideas - the Conservative Party’s ideas - are carried forward in the next Parliament as the Government.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked what changes he wanted to make].

PRIME MINISTER:

We are going to build on the changes that we began in the 1980s. In health, there will be more choice for people; in education, there will be more choice for people; in taxation, we shall continue to move taxation down when it is prudent to do so, so that more choice is put in the pockets of the people.

There are changes I wish to make in this country. I think we can make it a country that everybody in it will be very proud of. We have made some other changes, some of them you may consider peripheral but they are very important. The introduction of a lottery for example will mean more help for the arts, more help for sport, more help for heritage and more help for charities then ever we have seen before - up to £1 billion a year available with all that will mean for young sportsmen and young artists and charities. These are tremendous changes and there will be many of them.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked that since the parties were moving nearer to each other whether the General Election would be more personalised].

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t believe the parties are moving nearer to one another. The Labour Party have often presented themselves in an attempt to seem responsible as a pale pink version of the Conservative Party but the differences between us on taxation, on defence, on social policy, on European policy and on world policy generally are very wide. There is a great gulf between us and a very clear choice for people to make.

As to the style of the campaign, I want to campaign on policies, on policies for the future of this country and the sort of society we wish to see. That I can tell you is the campaign that the Conservative Party will run.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked about personalities].

PRIME MINISTER:

I am not in the business of dealing with personalities. I haven’t been in the past, I am not now, I won’t be in the future.