The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1991Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Comments on the End of the Gulf War – 1 March 1991

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments made on Friday 1st March 1991.


[Mr Major was asked about how he had coped during the Gulf War and what pressures he had been under now that there was peace]

It is almost impossible to answer questions like that without seeming either pretentious or evading them, if I could perhaps make that point at the outset of seeking to reply. I think I have learned several things, I do not know that necessarily they are all about myself. I have learned a great deal I think about the British instinct. I am filled with admiration for the way in which the troops I met out there felt about what they had been asked to do. It cannot be easy for young men to be asked to go out there and fight for principles that their government think are important.

They are professional soldiers, they were asked to go out there and do the job, and I learned a great deal about the British when I went out there and talked to them, I do not just mean the officers, I mean the men who were out there as well. I spent a good part of the day talking to them and the way in which they responded and what they felt about it was quite remarkable, I think I learned a great deal about them when I was there and I think it gave me a great deal more confidence that what we were doing was right. So I think the first thing I learned was about the British generally, that they were amazingly resolute with this sort of problem.

The thing I learned about myself I do not think was new and that was that when you have something that is difficult and pressured you need to assemble the facts, think about the facts, consider the alternatives, weigh the pros and cons of any particular approach, and then reach a conclusion as to how you should proceed. I have always believed that is the right way to make decisions, it is sometimes more boring assembling all the facts and making a snap instinctive decision, but it seems to me that it is a rational way to proceed and I found that reinforced during the last few weeks.

[Mr Major was asked if he had got much sleep]

It was mixed, there were occasions when I did not get a lot of sleep, that is true, there were other occasions where I would have got five and a half or six hours a night.