Was it John Major’s fury that turned the tide?

Was it John Major’s fury that turned the tide?


    Did his intervention change the mood in Gord’s election U-turn week?

On the final day of Gordon Brown’s first year as PM the media look-back continues with an excellent breakdown by Patrick Wintour and Nicholas Watt in the Guardian of the events that led to that fateful decision to abandon a November 1st 2007 general election.

Step-by-step each move during September and early October is examined and the authors come to a view that I have not seen before – that “the key moment came when John Major appeared on television”. This happened, it will be recalled, on the day the day that Brown had made his visit to Iraq during the Tory party conference.

In an interview the former PM launched a furious attack concluding “What is pretty unattractive is the nods, the winks, the hints, the cynicism, the belief that every decision is being taken because it is marching to the drumbeat of an election rather than to the drumbeat of solid, proper government. He has been letting the speculation run riot. It is clearly an attempt at destabilisation of the opposition parties.”

These look-backs are always fascinating because with the benefit of hindsight you can see more clearly how the sequence of developments evolved and how the public mood and, the media narrative changed.

I don’t remember feeling that the Major comments were a decisive development at the time through looking through my Spreadfair account and I note that it was in the evening of that day that I stepped up my position that there would not be an early election.

But I do think there is something in what Wintour and Watt suggest. The power and authority of Major’s comments seemed to crystallise what people were thinking and resonated with the public mood.

If, and most likely when, David Cameron reaches Number 10 will he acknowledge the decisive role of the last Tory general election victor? Somehow I doubt it.

Mike Smithson

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