Below is Mr Major’s speech at Conservative Central Office on the morning of 2nd May 1997.
Thank you very much for being here.
Thank you above all for all you’ve done in the last few weeks and the last few months. I know how hard so many of you have worked, I know how much you have sacrificed, given up, hoped, dreamed for a different result and a different outcome tonight.
It hasn’t proved that way, I don’t think there was much that we left undone that we could have done, there are some times in politics when the ball just rolls in the opposite direction, and there isn’t a great deal that you can do about it. I don’t think it is in our best interests to spend our time in the immediate future doing anything other than preparing for what lies ahead, not just in the short term but in the medium term.
Politics is a rough old trade. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. But when you don’t, you just speak back, ask yourself why you didn’t, and put yourself in a position to make sure that next time...
[phone rings in background]
...That next time you get it right, and you do win. I’ve been in the Conservative Party for as long as I can remember. I guess many of the people in this room joined the Conservative Party as soon as they could as well. And we joined it for the same reasons, we didn’t join it just for the nights when you win, just for the easy victories from time to time. We didn’t join it for the office, we didn’t join it for the spoils.
We joined it because we care about what it stands for and we care about what it can do for this country. Now we have been in being as a party for longer than any other democratic party in Western Europe, we’ve won more elections, and lost a few on the route. But we’ve won more elections, perhaps served in government longer, more often, and better in the interests of our country than in the interests of any other democratic party.
And we will do so again.
Tonight we have suffered a very bad defeat, let us not pretend to ourselves that it was anything other than what it was. Unless we accept it for what it was, and look at it, we will be less able to put it right.
We’ve lost some very good servants of the party, people who have devoted a huge amount of their life to the service of this country and to the service of this party.
We have lost, temporarily I hope, some colleagues, both senior and not so senior, who still have a lot of service to give this country and this party, and will I hope be back where they should be in the House of Commons, serving us all.
And they lost, from what I saw of it, with a dignity which made me proud of this party.
We now have a job to do, all of us.
[phone rings in background]
They told me the technological age was a good thing
Forgive me, if from time to time, I have a small leave to doubt whether that’s absolutely entirely true.
We’ll have to regroup, we’ll have to sit back, I hope that everyone will go away and have a rest, you’ve earned it. Not for too long! And then we’ll begin to work again.
There’s a job to do in opposition, to be in opposition in Parliament is a pretty honourable way of life. To make sure that the government of the day is kept under close scrutiny. We’ll deal fairly if they do what we think is right for our country, we’ll support them, if they do what we think is wrong for our country, we’ll oppose them as vigorously as we can, with every member we have and every party worker we have up and down the country.
I know tonight is not a night for cheers and champagne for us. It’s a night to look back, I hope with some pride, at the changes we have made to our country in the last eighteen years.
I first entered Parliament 18 years ago tomorrow, I think, and the difference in our country is a difference you could not express unless you remembered what it was like in May 1979 when the Conservatives first came to government.
Many people who voted in this General Election perhaps never knew that, for they had never known anything in their adult lives but Conservative Government. And others, perhaps, had not remembered precisely what it was like.
Well, I said a moment ago that this party had served longer in government than any other. We’ve suffered great defeats before.
We have always come back.
And we have always come back because there is something in the Conservative philosophy and the Conservative instinct that runs absolutely with the grain of the British instinct. We must make sure that we re-
I would just say two final things, three final things.
Firstly, perhaps, I can re-
If you may forgive me repeating something I said a little earlier, and you may possibly have seen.
I think here of all places is place to pay tribute to some of the people who have done so much to help over recent years. The party chairman, not here now, but on his way here and I hope shortly here. And to those colleagues who we have lost.
And on a more personal basis, although I have temporarily mislaid her, Norma.
So right OK, we lost. So go away for the weekend, relax, fire yourself up again, and then come back. For when you come back at the beginning of next week we have a job to do and we’ll start doing it.