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1997 Onwards - Sir John Major’s Interview on BBC’s One Show - 09/07/2014

Below is the transcript of the interview with The Rt Hon Sir John Major KG CH on BBC 1’s “One Show” on Wednesday, 9 July, 2014.


[Link from a previous piece about Paul Eddington, who starred in Yes, Prime Minister and shots of Number 10]

MATT BAKER

Sir John, what do you feel like when you see the famous door, shots like that of the Number 10 door?

SIR JOHN MAJOR

It obviously brings back a lot of memories. In many ways it seems rather like a different life. I'm not completely cut off from politics, but I'm out of politics, I'm not involved in the day to day ebb and flow of it. But one remembers and one looks back. You can't see that door without a degree of familiarity, you remember walking through it and you remember the good times, and the bad times, of what you found when you got through it.

ALEX JONES

From 10 Downing Street to Buckingham Palace, we mentioned you were there earlier today, launching this brand new initiative with Prince William and Prince Harry. What can you tell us about it?

SIR JOHN MAJOR

We had a wonderful day. The background is that we've set up the charity the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust to celebrate the Queen's 60 years as Head of the Commonwealth.

We've raised a certain amount of money and we propose to spend that on two schemes. Firstly, ending avoidable blindness across the Commonwealth, and secondly, the scheme we were launching this afternoon, which was to find, reward and honour inspirational young people from every one of the 54 countries of the Commonwealth over the next few years. Prince William and Prince Harry launched that today and it was an astonishing afternoon.

I come from the quill pen age, they are very familiar to me. This afternoon I visited Google hangouts, Google booths and Twitter mirrors. So did the Princes and it was astonishing seeing them and they sat there talking live to young people in Australia, in South Africa, in India and in Jamaica. It was an astonishing fact that huge numbers of people were being reached absolutely immediately and then a multiple of that with people tweeting and commenting afterwards.

ALEX JONES

You're looking for 240 of these leaders from every country in the Commonwealth, so you've got to get the message out there. Will you be joining in with Twitter?

SIR JOHN MAJOR

I had every opportunity to express my views years ago and I have no wish to force them down people's throats now. So the answer is no, I probably won't, I'll leave that to other people. We do want to find these inspirational young people and for lots of reasons. It's very fashionable these days, you can't pick up a newspaper or watch television without finding some damning story about young people. I think they ought to meet some of the young people I've met, some of the inspirational young men and women who were there today.

DAVINA MCCALL

Tell me about them.

SIR JOHN MAJOR

I'll give you several examples. There were two boys who lost both their parents in the tsunami in Sri Lanka a few years ago. They've now set up a business to help orphans all around the world. There's a young lady who has set up a charity to help people who have suffered from human trafficking. These are the sort of things they're doing.

There's another young man who has taken ground coffee that has been thrown away and used and is turning it into biomass. Extraordinary things that young people are doing and that's just three examples of fifty amongst young people who were there today, and that's just the UK, and there will be innumerable people like that right across the Commonwealth and we want to identify them and honour them.

MATT BAKER

Recently you said that "in every single sphere of British influence the upper echelons of power in 2013 are held over-whelming by the privately educated or the affluent middle-class, to me and from my background, I find that truly shocking."

SIR JOHN MAJOR

I did and I do. And that applies not just to this country but right across the Commonwealth. When you think how relatively rich some of the Commonwealth countries are, including us, and then you see some of the Commonwealth countries that are very poor indeed. The scraps from our table are the largesse on their table and you begin to realise how much we can help.

MATT BAKER

Is that putting people off from becoming leaders, if you're not from a privileged background?

SIR JOHN MAJOR

Most of these young people we talked to today didn't come from a privileged background, I can't think of one that did. They came from perfectly normal straight-forward backgrounds and their ambition and their drive had led them to do something extraordinary. We need to open up the avenues so that people can do that.

ALEX JONES

Like yourself Sir John.

DAVINA MCCALL

Sometimes those who have been helped want to help others, through Comic Relief and Sport Relief.

SIR JOHN MAJOR

We're so lucky in this country, we have so many real icons. I'm not talking about politics, I'm talking about icons in business who came from nowhere, icons in show business, icons in sport who set a very good example. So often it is the counter-point to that which gets publicity and I think it'd be a great help to everybody if we began to focus on the other side of life.

ALEX JONES

Thank you Sir John.