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1993 - Mr Major’s Memoirs on Norman Lamont

Below is the text from John Major’s memoirs, John Major - The Autobiography, relating to the departure of Norman Lamont.


PRIME MINISTER:

Norman's [Lamont] credibility plummeted. The satirists piled in, and the speculation about he could survive was constant. Central Office and constituency MPs reported that party opinion wished to see a change. This all had an effect: in interviews ministers were questioned about Norman, while Norman himself was asked about trivia, and no one wanted to know about economic policy. In cabinet committees he began to need the reassurance of getting his own way, and proper debate was constrained. He had become a bird with a wing down. Ministerial colleagues, by raised eyebrow, rolling eyes and dismissive gestures, let it be known that his position was becoming untenable. Gradually he lost the confidence of industry, the City, the media and a large part, though not all, of the Cabinet and the parliamentary party. My sympathies were with him as a more sinned against than sinning, but I had no choice but to make a change. As the reshuffle approached I consulted senior colleagues; they all believed Norman had to go.

I saw Norman at Number 10 early on the morning of 27th May [1993], and told him I intended to make a change of chancellor. I had thought long and hard about what other jobs he might like, and concluded it had to be a major department; a non-departmental job would not be enough. I therefore urged him to stay in the Cabinet, offering him the post of Secretary of State for the Environment, with the sweetener that he could keep the chancellor's official country residence of Dorneywood. Pale-faced and tense, he refused. I pressed him. He refused again. I expressed my regrets. Still he refused. My offer was genuine. I wished him to stay in the Cabinet, but it seemed he could not bear to do so if he left the Treasury. It was a stilted series of exchanges that illustrated the chill that had descended upon our relationship and the depths of Norman's hurt. "Yes, Prime Minister,", "No thank you, Prime Minister", "I wish to leave the Cabinet" were the only words he spoke. He turned and left. We have never spoken since.