The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

Chief Secretary (1987-1989)

Mr Major’s Speech on the Economic Recovery – 25 May 1988

Below are extracts from Mr Major’s speech made to a meeting of the Bolton West Patrons’ Club on Wednesday 25 May 1988. The extracts were published by Conservative Central Office as document 231/88 and the press release was entitled “The engine of economic recovery is gathering speed in all regions of the UK”.


For many years the Labour Party have sought to reinforce their traditional strength in the North by promoting class conscious envy for party political reasons. The belittling of the achievements of the regions and opportunities facing them serves the divisive interests of the Labour Party. And it has damaged the North, delayed and diverted investment elsewhere, and made a parody of the attraction of the regions. But it can no longer hold back the economic recovery which is now sweeping through the regions. Conservative policies have made home owners of tenants and shareholders of workers.

The social and political climate has changed and will continue changing. The enterprise spirit is as strong in the North as elsewhere – where, after all, was the great industrial revolution in the first place – here in the North! And so it will be again. The fact is that the popular conception of the North South divide was always simplistic and is now becoming obsolete. The Budget has given regional prosperity a further boost. The regions are reviving and growing and the class conscious envy of the Labour Party cannot stop them.

The economy is doing well in all regions and the evidence is now too compelling to ignore.

Unemployment is coming down in all regions. It is coming down fastest in the West Midlands, the North West, and the North, followed closely by Yorkshire and Humberside and Scotland.

The number of new businesses has increased in all regions. And so have the number of job vacancies.

A recent survey by the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors shows that in the North West, North Wales, Yorkshire, and the North East more than two-thirds of engineering firms report an increase in orders.

All that adds up to an excellent picture nationally. Unemployment has fallen every month for the past 21 months. And it is continuing to fall as the economy grows. Among the seven major industrialised countries of the world, unemployment is now falling most rapidly and consistently in the UK.

Moreover, in many ways the quality of life is higher outside the South East than in it.

Typical first-time buyers in the South East now devote 35% of their disposable income to mortgage payments. Their equivalents in the North West need pay only 17%, leaving a much greater proportion of gross income for non-housing expenditure.

The Regional Rewards survey indicated that the average family in the North needs only 54% of the income of a family in Greater London in order to maintain the same standard of living.

In a quality of life survey conducted by Glasgow University, towns outside the South East predominate. London comes 34th, largely because of its high cost of living.

The over-simplification of the North-South argument has done a great disservice to the North. It has encouraged the notion that economic good news is confined to the South East. It has led many to believe the North is missing out on the economic recovery. Frankly, that is nonsense and those who pursue such out-dated notions should come to the North and see the enterprise and revival that is taking place.