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Dale’s Diary: Sir John Major rolls back the years, but leaves his soapbox at home

Dale’s Diary: Sir John Major rolls back the years, but leaves his soapbox at home

🕔21.Apr 2015

John Major got back on his soapbox today, although he didn’t actually bring the prop with him when he delivered a doom-laden election speech condemning Labour as ‘wreckers of the economy’ and laying into the SNP for threatening the future of the UK.

Sir John was the last Tory to win power outright when he surprisingly triumphed at the 1992 General Election, beating Labour’s Neil Kinnock against all the odds.

He reckoned his success then was due in a large measure to the use of a soapbox and megaphone for prime ministerial street-corner speeches delivered to astonished passers-by.

A quarter of a century later, the party’s elder statesman was on hand to rescue David Cameron’s stuttering campaign, rolling back the years with a veteran performance in the highly marginal Liberal Democrat-held seat of Solihull.

Sir John, 72, portrayed Labour as a high tax and high spending party that would “spook the business community” and put economic recovery at risk.

And he warned allowing the SNP to prop up a Labour government poses a “real and present danger” to the nation which will hasten the break-up of the United Kingdom.

He accused SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon of attempting to break up the UK “without even standing for election at Westminster” and cast doubt on the legitimacy of a party which only stands in one part of the country setting the direction of the national government. Sir John said:

What I’m saying is I don’t think the SNP party, whose leader is not even bothering to run for the Westminster election, are behaving in a way that is in the interest of the United Kingdom, by seeking policies that will break Scotland away from the United Kingdom.

And they emphatically will not deny that separatism is their aim.”

He also laid into Liam Byrne, the Labour MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill and former Chief Secretary to the Treasury who famously left a flippant note after the 2010 General Election advising his successor that “there is no money left”. Sir John said:

Well, I credit him with his honesty but I don’t share his humour. Nor, do I imagine, will the millions of men and women in every part of our country whose lives would have been so much less painful if Labour hadn’t squandered the legacy we left them.

One passage of his speech was, however, upbeat as he sought to praise the Government’s economic record. Sir John said:

Much remains to be done. But growth is healthy: easily the best of any large economy in Europe. Inflation is non-existent.

Job creation has been outstanding, and unemployment is falling more rapidly than anyone dared to hope. The future is most definitely brighter.

He said that everywhere he went in the world, Britain is still seen as ‘a great and tolerant country, as free and honest in its dealings as any nation in the world’. “We just need to have confidence in ourselves and who we are. We can lift ourselves up to a better quality of life,” he added.

And in a deeply personal message, Sir John spoke about his own upbringing as a working class son of a music hall performer in Brixton to warn against the Labour party. He said:

I know Labour. I grew up with them. I admire their virtues.

But Labour is a class-based party. It was born so and remains so. It’s in its DNA. Labour divides to rule.

To win votes, they will turn rich against poor. North against south. Worker against boss. They have done this before. And they are doing it now.

But it is emphatically not what this country needs. We need to bring people together, not create chasms to prise us apart.’

We will never all be born equal. Life isn’t like that. But it is the Conservative mission to make opportunities in life equal.

That is what first drew me to the party nearly six decades ago. While Labour was offering me a hand ‘out’, the Conservatives offered me a hand-up.

My family had nothing. Ask yourself this question: why would I give my lifetime’s work to a party that didn’t care and didn’t help people in need.

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