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John Major was a member of the British Parliament's Conservative Party and England's prime minister from 1990 to 1997.
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Born on March 29, 1943, in London, England, John Major worked in banking before being elected to Parliament as part of the Conservative Party in 1979. He rose through the ranks and was elected party leader after Margaret Thatcher’s resignation in 1990, thus becoming prime minister. Though facing criticism over economic policies, he remained in the position until 1997, succeeded by Tony Blair.
"I thought I could do something different from any Conservative prime minister before me. But I couldn't. I was trapped with a socking great recession. Shops were closing, people were losing their homes—all the things I went into politics to avoid—and I was almost powerless to do anything about it."
"Who would have thought, those people who deal solely in image, that I was so interested in theatre and ballet and opera?"
Born on March 29, 1943, in London, England, John Major was born to Gwen Coates and Tom Major-Ball, a dancer and circus/vaudeville performer, respectively. The youngest of three, Major moved with his family from a home in Worcester Park to two rooms in Brixton after his father lost his savings due to business dealings.
Major left school at 16 to pursue work and alternated between clerk and construction jobs and unemployment. By his late teens, Major found a position with Standard Chartered Bank and worked his way up.
Major lived in Nigeria for a stint in the 1960's and, back in England, would eventually become chairman of the Lambeth Housing Committee. He married teacher Norma Johnson in 1970 and made a committed foray into politics by twice running for a parliamentary seat in 1974, though losing. In 1979, however, he was elected to the House of Commons as part of the Conservative Party. He rose through the ranks quickly and became a favored member, catching the attention of party leader and British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
In the mid-'80s, Major was made social security treasury, followed by a position as chief secretary to the treasury. Then in the summer of 1989, Thatcher appointed Major to be foreign secretary, though only a few months later appointing him chancellor of the exchequer, whereby he became the country's chief financial minister.
Upon Thatcher's resignation in 1990, Major was elected on November 28 to lead his party and thus became England's prime minister. Known for his calm, affable manner and often labelled the "grey man" of British politics, Major nonetheless had to contend with the nation being in the throes of an economic recession, with the populace not taking to subsequent tax increases. Major also worked with the issue of preparing British entry into the European Union with there being internal party opposition, including that of Thatcher.
Major resigned as Conservative Party leader in 1995 and called for parliament to hold a special vote for leadership, yet was able to win reelection in July. By May 1997, however, the Conservative Party lost to the next prime minister Tony Blair and his Labour Party.
Major continued to serve in in Parliament, retiring in 2001 and becoming knighted a few years later. He has published 1999's John Major: The Autobiography and the 2012 memoir My Old Man: A Personal History of Music Hall, which looks at his family background and its connection to entertainment culture.
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