Tuesday, February 06, 2007

In Defence of John Major

It is nice to see a defence of John Major by Edward Pearce at Comment is Free. John Major led the country in a dignified and effective manner. We were the most economically competitive nation, the rewards have been spent and largely wasted by Gordon Brown. A War with Iraq was conducted with a precise mission and was quickly won despite, or perhaps because of, our expecting the worst. Britain's recovery from the long period of relative economic decline which characterised the first three quarters of the twentieth century stopped being the battle it had been under Thatcher and became a more gentle progress.

I don't buy his line on the ERM as I do not think we had the freedom to devalue which Pearce believes we did or that fixed exchange rates were a good idea anyway. Given that the Euro is causing just as much economic difficulty as the ERM did I don't think our particular circumstances were the problem. The Euro is certainly not prospering. However, he is right to note that it cannot be entirely laid at Major's door. Virtually ever pre-Major government pursued some form of strong pound policy, it was always taken as an indicator of national success, and the major long term effect of the ERM debacle was inuring us to this obsession.

Also, the denationalisation of British railways was certainly not a mistake. The denationalisation was carried out poorly but even then it managed to result in more trains on the tracks and fewer accidents. I think that were it possible to have another go at privatising the railways it might be preferable to leave the tracks and trains under common ownership; there are other sources of competition such as cars, coaches and planes so monopoly fears are overrated. However, this does not make reprivatisation of a network which the private sector built, the public sector wrecked during the war and then nationalised and never ran well a bad idea.

Finally, not implementing tuition fees or other measures like school or health service choice is not something to credit Major with. Expanding choice in schools or hospitals would have been a fine achievement for the Major years which would have made him a truly great Prime Minister.

Still, it is a welcome defence of Major. He was treated poorly by the media and electorate for much the same reason George H. W. Bush was in the United States in foreign policy terms, he was quietly effective. People hate that, they prefer the noisily, messianicaly useless like Blair. Of course, they eventually wise up but by then they've had years of incompetence and screwed up their country. Major's sensible, moderate government was replaced with Blairite policy by fad.


Gracchi said...

Very underrated PM- personally I think his acheivements in Northern Ireland will go down as some of the greatest- particularly given the fact he ahd to rely on unionist votes-

By the way still working on the history response I'm almost done but been a bit tired for proper intellecutal stuff recently.

Major-hater said...

Major was absolutely bloody useless. Knowing everything we know today, I'd still have voted Bliar in 1997, as the only way to get rid of the stupidest, most incompetent leader of the Conservative Party since it's foundation. (Other leaders have been worse for the country as a whole.)

I can't be bothered to fisk either the article or your post, but do you really think it was a concidence that the article appeared in the Guardian.