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1995 - Mr Major’s Doorstep Following Local Elections

Below is the transcript of Mr Major’s doorstep interview given on Friday 5th May 1995, following the previous night’s local election results.


PRIME MINISTER:

Good Morning. I thought it might be helpful if I were to say a word or two about last night's election results.

I have no excuses to make to you about last night's election results. We have done what we believe is right for the country and clearly last night's results show that thus far we have failed to persuade the country of that. We shall continue to seek to do so. So last night was a very good night for the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats and a bad night for the Conservative Party.

I have come from local government and I appreciate its importance. I would like firstly to offer my congratulations to those Conservative Councillors who were elected and those Councillors who were elected for all other parties. They have an important role to play and the government will look forward to working with them to improve the livelihoods of everyone in the areas they represent.

Can I say a word about those Conservative Councillors have failed to win last night? Many of them have served in local government, with great distinction, for many years. I know and appreciate the value of the work that they have done. I believe that they can take a sabbatical from local government with pride. The defeat they had last night was not their defeat. They were the victims of a national sentiment, not of the very proud record that they have in local government. I look forward to seeing them return local government in ever greater numbers in the elections that still lie ahead.

I daresay after last evening that I will get a certain amount of conflicting advice from various quarters. I shall listen very carefully to all of that advice. But I have to say to you straight away that I have no intention of throwing away the long-term prosperity that we are seeking to build in this country. The price of that policy may well have been last night's election results, but I believe the prize of the policy that we are following is long-term prosperity for this country. That is not just a slogan, it means more jobs, higher living standards, lower taxes, much more opportunities and far greater choice.

And it also means low inflation, which again is not just for me a slogan, it means preserving the value of people's money and increasing the security of their lives. That combination of circumstances, improving living standards and a stable currency, is a prize that we have sought in this country for very many years. I believe it is a prize that we shall have to continue to seek and our policies will continue to do that. There will be no change away from the policy to build long-term growth and stability for this country.

I believe we are well on the way to achieving that. I have sought to do so from the moment I crossed the threshold of Number 10 Downing Street, and I shall continue to seek that outcome for so long as I am there. We have a five year Parliament. Throughout this Parliament we have put into place policies that have a long-term effect. All the long-term beneficial effects of those are not yet clear. I believe they will become clear. We have pursued them for three years, I intend to pursue them right through to the end of this Parliament and then defend them at the next general election.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

QUESTION (John Sergeant, BBC TV):

Prime Minister, what do you say to those Tories who that they cannot win the next election under your leadership?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't believe that is remotely right and I think events will prove that is right. I heard criticism of course before the last general election. I think the reality is that we have had to take some very difficult decisions. I know those decisions hurt, but I have to say to you I believe it was in our long term interests to take those decisions. If they have concerned people, we have paid an electoral price for them in the short term. But I believe in the long term they will prove to be right and I am prepared to defend the policies that I have adopted for precisely that reason and I will continue to do so up to and through the election that I believe we shall win.

QUESTION (Michael Brunson, ITN):

Can I just follow that through. You are saying that it is simply not in your mind, and will not be until the next election, that you would think that you ought to step aside and someone else should have a chance to see if they can do better?

PRIME MINISTER:

Michael, it is not in my mind. I have never run away from difficulty in my life and I don't intend to do so now. And for those people who may suggest, as some have, that at the moment the Conservative Party have their backs to the wall, I would simply say we will do precisely what the British nation has done all through its history when it had its back to the wall, that was turn round and fight for the things that it believed in, and that is what I shall do.

QUESTION (Adam Boulton, Sky):

If you are not going on sabbatical is the rest of the Cabinet safe, is there going to be a reshuffle and particularly are the Chancellor and the Party Chairman safe?

PRIME MINISTER:

No doubt at some stage between now and the next general election, which I suspect is around 2 years away, I will consider whether there is a necessity for government changes. But I certainly have nothing to say to you about that at the moment.

QUESTION (Elinor Goodman):

You say there are no excuses. Do you personally accept any culpability for what has happened and what would you say to any Tories who did come to you next week and say we think there should be a challenge now?

PRIME MINISTER:

If anyone thinks there should be a challenge, the Conservative Party have a procedure, a democratic procedure, for them to mount it. That is a matter for them, they will have to make that decision. I said I don't make excuses. We have thus far - thus far - failed to persuade people that the long term policies I am following are right for the country. I believe that we will be able to persuade them that they are right and I shall continue to seek to do so.

QUESTION (Robin Oakley):

Four-fifths of the country had the chance of voting in these local elections, only one-quarter of them have voted for the Conservative Party, and yet you are saying that nothing changes. Surely your policies have been rejected, isn't there something you have to change?

PRIME MINISTER:

I acknowledge the concern that people feel at the moment. I don't lightly brush that aside, I am not complacent about it. I am not saying to people we are going to take no notice of the concern that you feel. But I don't believe that people would have any respect for someone who believed certain long term policies are right, and then shifts away from seeking those long term policies and carrying them through to their conclusion. I am not here in Downing Street just because I am a professional politician who wants this job. I am here because there are things I believe in, I have always believed in and wish to try and carry through because I believe they are right for this country. Now it may be, even on the reduced turnout we had yesterday, that we have failed to persuade people of that, certainly all the evidence is that lots of Conservative voters chose not to come out and vote at this election because of their present concerns. We will have to persuade them that the policies are right, and I will endeavour to do so.

QUESTION:

Don't you think an element of humility might go down with the electorate rather better than this sort of rather arrogant response which is telling the electorate that you have never had it so good?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't think anyone who has heard what I have been saying has heard me say anything like you have never had it so good. What I actually said - perhaps you would care to play the tape back - was that I understand the way people feel, I make no excuses for the fact that we had a bad result last night, I acknowledge that people are concerned. But I also said that I am here, I was elected to do what I believed would be right in the long term interests of this country and I believe that is what people have a right to expect of their Prime Minister and of their government. And if we we're not doing that then we shouldn't be here. But since we are doing that I think we should continue to seek to carry it through successfully.

QUESTION (European Business News):

Would you put at least part of the blame down to the threat of Europe and closer ties to Europe?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am not in the business of apportioning blame to different elements of policy, I don't think that is productive and I don't think anyone truly can be absolutely certain. I think the bruises of the recession are clearly still there, I think there is no doubt about that. It has been a very deep recession, not just in this country of course but right across Western Europe, and people have not yet fully recovered from the effects of that recession so I think they feel very bruised. It will take a time to recover but recover I am sure they will.

QUESTION:

Are you aware that there are worries amongst the electorate over your policies on Europe?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think I am very well aware of the European debate. I think if I may say so that I am probably more aware of the European debate than almost anyone else in this country. Of course I understand those worries. I have indicated time and time again those areas where I share those worries.

QUESTION:

We see what looks like the Chancellor's Rover held up at the gates of Downing Street, are interest rates going to have to go up?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think you will have to wait for the outcome of the meeting between the Chancellor and the Governor this morning. I don't yet know what the outcome of that is.

QUESTION:

You say that people are still bruised by the recession, do you think that to enable people to feel that things are going right for them that there will have to be tax cuts this autumn?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have said all along that the fact that we had to raise taxes was something I very much regretted. we did it because if we had not closed the gap between what we were spending as a result of the recession and what our income was then there was a likelihood that interest rates would have had to have gone up and mortgage rates would have had to go up. So it was a devil's choice. And we decided that we had to take the decision on taxes in order to lay a long term position for sustainable growth, and that is what we have done. But I don't like having higher taxes.

When it is prudent to reduce taxes I will wish to reduce taxes and so will the Chancellor. We are not in the business of making short-term tax cuts that are not economically justifiable, that has not been our position. But when it is prudent to do so, and when we think it is economically justifiable, I would rather make tax cuts and leave people free to make their own choices with their own money than leave the money with government to make choices on their behalf. So when we can make them we will.

QUESTION:

I wonder if you could offer any reassurance to those many thousands of defeated Conservative candidates, some of whom were last night and this morning blaming government policy, that some elements of government policy will now be re-assessed?

PRIME MINISTER:

I indicated some time ago that I think many of the Councillors were defeated last night, not as a result of their record locally which I think is excellent, but because of peoples' concern and national sentiment at the moment. Of course we will listen to what people are saying, but I repeat the point I made a moment ago. We are I think in a transitional phase. If you look at many of the things that are happening, people in this country are pleased that prices are not rising as once they did, they are pleased that the country is beginning to get back to more growth than they have had for a very long time, they are pleased that unemployment is falling faster here than in any other country, they are pleased that public services are getting better. I am not going to change the policies of making those improvements. If I think we can improve policy to increase the improvements and remove the concerns then of course we will do so, that is an everyday concern for us.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I look forward to the day when they are and I hope they will be.

QUESTION (Elinor Goodman):

Going back to education and policies, that seems to have been one policy where people feel very strongly that you are letting the electorate down, you are letting the nation's children down, are you going to take that on board and increase spending?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have done a great deal to improve education policy over the last few years. It is not just a question of spending, education policy, of course that is an element of it and despite all that has been said and written about education the amount of money available for education this year is larger than the amount of money available for education last year. We are seeking to improve education. I shall have some more statements to make, particularly on nursery education, before too long. I think many people will welcome what we have in mind there.