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1997 Onwards - Sir John Major’s Interview following the death of Baroness Thatcher

Below is the text of Sir John Major’s interview with Jon Snow, for Channel 4, on 8th April 2013 following the death of Baroness Thatcher.


JON SNOW:


[Sir John was asked about the relationship between Baroness Thatcher and him]


SIR JOHN MAJOR:


I served in her Government and we had a very good and friendly relationship. We did row, we had quite a lot of rows on policy, never on personal matters, but on policy.


Personally we seemed to get on extremely well, there was never any difficulty about that, but we did disagree on policy, and she knew that I didn’t agree with some of her policies. The thing to understand about Margaret is that she liked people who would stand up to her and argue with her.


JON SNOW:


[Sir John was asked if it was hard for some people to argue with a female Prime Minister]


SIR JOHN MAJOR:


Some may have done, they must answer for themselves. I can only say, as Prime Minister, I don’t ever recall her saying to me ‘I’m Prime Minister, therefore I’m right’, that wasn’t the way she operated. She wanted to win the argument, not have the person arguing with her back-off because of her position. She was combative and that was an intrinsic part of her nature. It was partly how she teased out policy.


JON SNOW:


[Sir John was asked about the suggestion that the two defining events of her Premiership were the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the Single European Act]


SIR JOHN MAJOR:


You picked exactly the right words a moment ago. There are many Margaret Thatchers. These days there is a Margaret Thatcher of legend, and for those that worked with her, there is the Margaret Thatcher that really existed. The Margaret Thatcher that really existed was much more pragmatic about politics than the legend would have you believe.


JON SNOW:


[The interviewer mentioned that she was so strident in public]


SIR JOHN MAJOR:


Yes, but in private she was much more pragmatic. Before she took on the miners she very pragmatically built up the coal stocks. She signed the Single European Act and she campaigned earlier for us to remain members of the European Community as it was then called. She was a good deal more pragmatic when she was considering policy than she appeared to be when she was talking about policy.


JON SNOW:


[Sir John was asked about Baroness Thatcher’s place in history]


SIR JOHN MAJOR:


I think as a peace-time Prime Minister, very high. In the twentieth century, I can’t see a peace-time Prime Minister who will have a higher reputation than she will. It depends which aspects of policy you look at, but if you’re looking at someone who made the political weather rather than followed the political weather, I can’t think of one who made it to the same extent that she did on so many issues at any time in the twentieth century.


So I think among Prime Ministers in the last hundred years she’ll be one of the tallest trees.


JON SNOW:


[Thank you for talking to us]


SIR JOHN MAJOR:


Thank you.