The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1992Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Press Release – Prime Minister’s Comments on the Conservative Vision – 23 March 1992

Below is the text of the Conservative Party Press Release on Mr Major’s comments on the Conservative Party’s vision for the future. It was issued on Monday 23rd March 1992, reference 567/92.

Speech by the Rt Hon John Major, Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party, speaking at Sheffield, today.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, here in this great city of Sheffield, let me begin by saying – the knives are out for Labour. And where better to sharpen them?

In recent days I’m told that Labour have been calling our campaign negative. Good. That means our attacks are getting home. That means they don’t like it. The only negative thing in this campaign are their policies for Britain. We Tories will continue to ring the warning bell about the effect Labour’s policies will have on the living standards of everyone in Britain. The people have a right to know. And we will tell them.

Labour’s facade is starting to crack under pressure:

– John Smith sets Labour’s official target for inflation – to take it upwards.

– John Prescott admits that Labour’s minimum wage would destroy jobs.

– Roy Hattersley implies that John Smith’s higher tax rates could go even higher.

– And Neil Kinnock? Well Mr Kinnock says he still believes in Clause IV – the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.

And just this morning Mr Kinnock committed the Labour Party to re-introduce credit controls. A typical Socialist answer. Form a queue. Wait for the state to tell you when you can buy a home. Wait for the state to tell you when you can sell your house to someone who wants to buy it. That’s no way to get the housing market going. That’s no way to help young people onto the housing ladder. It’s a way to dish people’s prospects and dash their hopes. It’s a policy to destroy the housing market – a policy to destroy the recovery.

Once again Labour have provided the wrong answer at the wrong time.

Last week he said that Britain would have been a better place if Labour had won on their programme in 1983. A better place? With unilateral disarmament? Withdrawal from Europe? And the biggest nationalisation programme ever known?

Ladies and Gentlemen, by their gaffes ye shall know them. Labour’s policies are falling apart. We are going to see to it that their vast experience of Opposition will continue indefinitely.

The Conservative Vision

Ladies and Gentlemen, what’s at stake in this Election is the future of Britain. The decision we take on 9 April will be critical for the prospects of everyone who lives in our country – wherever they come from.

Let me tell you why I came into politics. First and foremost, because there were things I wanted to change. Where I grew up, in Lambeth, we were told that decisions were best left to the State or the council – never to the family, never to the individual. That’s not my kind of society. I want a country in which everyone is able to develop their talents to the full. Where they are free to choose. And where effort and hard-work is rewarded.

Never forget the people who live on the wrong side of the tracks. They want to live on the right side. I want the sort of country that will let them do so. Ladies and Gentlemen, no Government that I lead – certainly not the Conservative Government that I will form after 9 April – will forget them. In the 1990s I want to take the Conservative Party into those places in Britain where its message has not yet been heard.

Some people, I know, hang back from our Party for reasons of ancient loyalties. Let me say this to them. Our modern Tory Party is for each and every person in Britain. We want to banish for ever the artificial divisions in our society. And it is Conservatism – not Socialism – that will break those barriers down. Let us carry a message to everyone in the country. Join us. Help us to continue our campaign to change the face of Britain.

I say to those who want a better Health Service, join us. Join the Party that has committed more resources than every before to the Health Service; that’s giving local doctors and hospitals control over the decisions that are best for local patients; and which has seen the biggest explosion in modern high quality patient care this country has every known.

I say to those who want a better deal for tenants in housing. Join us. You won’t get that better deal from the Labour Party with its mangy municipal socialism. It was our Party that gave you the Right to Buy. Our Party that has a Charter to guarantee new rights to tenants. Our Party that offers new ways into ownership. And our Party, and our Party alone that will crack down on arrogant Labour Housing Departments that neglect their tenants. Ladies and Gentlemen, I’ve seen too much of that sort of attitude from Labour local authorities. They’re a disgrace to local government.

I say to those who want a better future, join us. Our vision is that every family should have the personal prosperity that comes from low taxes, from their own savings, their own pensions, their own home, their own endeavour. That every family should have their own piece of Britain – and in due time should be able to pass it on to their children.

Ambition comes in all shapes and sizes – it matters as much on the shopfloor as well as in the boardroom. Let’s show people that we understand these things and are with them. People want to get on. To do well for their families. To give their children a good start in life. That’s right. It’s natural. These are the deepest instincts of a free people.

A free and responsible people must have – deserve to have – choice and opportunity. Grand words, maybe, but they go to the heart of everyday life. Choice over how to spend the money you earn. Choice in education and schools. Choice in housing. Choice over the future shape of local government. And the new citizen’s rights enshrined in our Citizen’s Charter. Those are the choices we offer – and no-one else will give them.

Privatisation of choice

Ladies and Gentlemen, our Party is in the business of the privatisation of choice – giving choice back to the individual, the family. Choice is the quiet privatisation. It has changed lives by the millions. In the last 10 years it has improved the life of every family in Britain. In the whole proud catalogue of privatisation it’s the most successful of all.

But Labour – wouldn’t you know it – want to renationalise choice. They want to lead a march of the big battalions back into the private lives of every citizen. The scales that we’ve worked so hard to tip against the power of the state, Labour would load down with red tape, regulation, and tax and tip them yet again back against the individual. We must never give them the chance to do that – and we won’t.


Ladies and Gentlemen, during this Election we’re going to say a great deal about Labour’s proposals on spending and tax. I know they won’t like it. But we’re still going to do it. We have costed their makeshift manifesto. Thirty-one billion pounds on top of John Smith’s earlier promises. To pay for that, on average, every person would have to fork out an extra £1,250 every year. That’s the price of Labour – and it’s not just for people on middle incomes. It’s for everyone.

Yesterday I challenged Labour to tell the people the truth. Take all their pledges, one by one. Accept our costing – or refute it. Stand by their promises – or withdraw them. And what answer has so far come from Mr Kinnock – a silence as profound as it is unusual. So tonight I repeat the challenge.

The issue of tax is fundamental to the Election. Because Labour’s tax and spending plans would change the lives of millions upon millions of families for the worse.

Whatever the Socialists say, one thing we know. On their own admission, Labour will impose the biggest increase in tax since the War. It would be a disaster for Britain – and it wouldn’t just be middle income families crashing in ruin. Millions of others would be caught up in their fall.

It would mean holidays deferred; cars sold; homes in jeopardy. The housing market would go through the floor.

Labour invoke the great names of fairness and justice, while denying their substance at every important point. What is fair about a society that denies those with ability the means to advance? What is just about a society that confiscates from the hard-working the fruits of their labours? Where is the fairness in undermining the value of the shares, the pensions or the houses which people bought to give their children a better start than they had themselves? Where is the justice in hitting those who do extra work or who earn promotion with penal tax?

To meet John Smith’s tax bills, banks and building society accounts would be plundered. And a whole new generation of shareholders would see their shares go down, and stay down. So much for Labour’s claim of an investment-led recovery. It would be an investment-lost disaster.

Economic Recovery

Ladies and Gentlemen, I know that people are looking ahead to economic recovery. I know also that many businesses and families have been feeling the pressures. Those concerns will never be brushed aside by us, they will always be heard.

But they should not blind us to the underlying changes which have taken place in the British economy over the last decade – changes which are fundamental, changes which have transformed our long term economic prospects.

There’s a new spirit of enterprise – with management and workforce working as one to take on the competition and win. Quality, design, service are once more at the forefront. British companies are pushing forward the boundaries of innovation – in pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, electronics and right across manufacturing industry. Productivity has risen by leaps and bounds.

We’ve been keeping strike records for 100 years. Last year, the number of days lost was the lowest ever. Why? Because we’ve changed industrial relations law and changed industrial relation attitudes. Don’t let Labour change them back.

It’s hardly surprising that Britain has become a magnet for overseas investment. We have as much investment from Japan as the rest of the Community put together. We are now a net exporter of television sets and video recorders. And the British motor industry is now known for exports and not for strikes. Do you think all this would have happened under a Labour government? Do you think the confidence the Conservative Government has built up would continue under Labour? You know it wouldn’t.

On top of all this, interest rates have come down, inflation has come down and Britain’s rate of inflation is below Germany’s – the first time this has happened for nearly quarter of a century.

Now, after a generation of striving to achieve that very goal, within two days of its being achieved, Labour’s John Smith says he’d be happy to see inflation rise again. He dismisses stable prices as an ‘unnecessary virtue’. Those are the words of a shallow ‘chancellor’ – shallow and blind to what matters to every housewife and pensioner in the country.

Labour talk of recovery. But inflation is the enemy of recovery. It destroys profits. It destroys companies. So how is higher inflation going to help investment? How is it going to help jobs?

The foundations for recovery are in place. Let business speak for itself. Fifteen times more businessmen would increase investment under the Conservatives than they would under Labour. In fact, under Labour one in four businessmen have said they would cut investment.

I believe the 1990s will usher in a new era for prosperity and for jobs. The once impossible are within reach:

– stable prices

– sustained industrial peace

– free enterprise given free rein.

Only one thing could stop it.

The Labour Party – pledged to tax; pledged to nationalise; pledged to give power back to the unions. That would knock recovery on the head – for this year, next year, every year.

Labour would turn recovery into slump.

I am not prepared to see that happen – it’s not going to happen. Britain is on the brink of a breakthrough to a great future. Is the dull, dead hand of Socialism to be allowed to strangle that future? Not if I can help it. And I can. And with your help, I will.

Back to Union Power

Ladies and Gentlemen, one of the Conservatives’ most popular achievements has been the reform of trade union legislation. The benefits have been enormous.

We want more of those successful policies. So after the Election we have more changes to make. We will give individuals greater freedom in choosing a union. We will require all pre-strike ballots to be postal. And we will see that unions give at least seven days notice of a strike. We will give every member of the public the right to take legal action to stop the disruption of public services by illegal wild cat strikes.

Labour would reverse all that. Give power back to the unions. Allow secondary strikes. Prevent employers from obtaining an immediate court order to stop an unlawful strike. Take away from individual union members the right not to take part in industrial action. Severely restrict the right of the courts to take away a union’s assets when it breaks the law.

It would be back to wild cat strikes. Back to the flying pickets. Sheer madness. Can you imagine anything more calamitous for our country? That wouldn’t bring recovery. That would bring industrial euthanasia to our country.

Law and Order

Ladies and Gentlemen, when I think of the rights of individuals I place at the top of my list the freedom to walk the streets and to open the front door without fear. Crime is a corrupting evil. There are those, like Mr Hattersley, who blame greed and affluence one year and poverty and unemployment the next. He rings the changes and contradicts himself – when he’s not contradicting his colleagues – to suit the mood of the hour. He and his Socialist friends always blame crime on the Government – never the criminal.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I understand about hard times. I understand about unemployment. But I also understand about personal responsibility, about the decency that is the very bedrock of British character. In whatever place, in whatever station of life, the vast majority of British people detest crime. They want an end to it. And they know it’s the criminal, no-one else, who is to blame.

So let’s have no more of Labour’s posturings. No more excuses about society being always to blame. I accept no excuses for the criminal conduct. And nor should anyone who seeks high office in Britain.

Since 1979 we have put 16,000 more police into the fight against crime. The next Conservative Government will keep up the battle. Back our police. And bring in new methods of policing to keep more of them out on the beat among people they know. That is what the public want. And it’s the best way to stop crime and catch the criminal.

In the growth of crime, there is one statistic that should make us all stop and think. It is the growth of crime against property by juveniles. I think sometime we have been so tolerant in understand crime at an early age that we seem to have accepted it. I believe we should be more severe in our condemnation of crime at an early stage so that the young criminal knows we won’t accept it. That is a job for the Government. That is a job for schools. That is a job for families. It is a job for each and everyone of us if we are to nip crime at the roots and prevent it from growing. But not only that. We also owe it to our young people to let them know what is acceptable and what is not. And it we don’t do it we let them down.

A word about Labour’s attitude to terrorism. Year after year, for 10 years in succession, they have voted against the Prevention of Terrorism Act – and they are pledged to repeal it. Don’t tell me this is a brand new Labour Party.

Socialism represents the past

The decade gone by, the 1980s, was one of the most historic decades of the century. It saw a battle raging between socialism and the people – nowhere more clearly than in Eastern Europe. Socialism lost, the people won.

That battle took place in Britain, too. And in the 1980s, here, Socialism lost, the people won.

How could it be otherwise? Socialism is over. It belongs to the past. It failed – totally. And it deserved to. In Eastern Europe, in its most brutal form, it suppressed human rights and dignity. In Britain, whenever Labour formed a government, it ended in incompetence, frustration and chaos.

Now Labour would have us believe that their latest brand of socialism is a much watered down variety, that their views have changed. Don’t you believe it. What has changed is the coloured wrapping, the decoration. Mr Kinnock has tinkered with Labour policy not because he wanted to, not because his views had changed, but because his pollsters told him Labour’s face wouldn’t do, they needed a new one if the Party was ever to win again. That is the litmus test of Labour’s convictions. Anything to win.

Let me remind you what Mr Tony Benn said – only last autumn – about Labour policy. I quote: “We’ve changed our mind to win, we could change our mind when we’ve won … there’s nothing pre-set about the policies of the present Labour Party”.

Roll that around in your mind: “we’ve changed our mind to win, we could change our mind when we’ve won”. No-one can say they haven’t been warned.

Do you know what I think of Labour? Labour are like Sunday converts. They come to church on the Sabbath – but boil the missionaries the rest of the week.


The Labour Party have been wrong on all the great issues in recent years. When we stationed cruise missiles in Europe, where were the Labour Party? Opposing us. Yet by stationing those missiles we made the world a much safer place. They wouldn’t station missiles facing the old Soviet Union. But because we did, today there are far fewer missiles facing us.

Let me give you another example and take you back a few years. To the days of Soviet dictatorship and tyranny, when military might controlled the nations of Eastern Europe.

Every voice in the West speaking up for freedom was heard by those brave men and women struggling for freedom. It gave them hope. It strengthened their resolve.

And when all this was going on, where were Labour? Were they alongside the Conservative Party in speaking up for human rights in the Soviet Union? They were not. They saved their breath for attacking the values of the Western democracies, rather than the evils of the Soviet dictators.

Nothing was more repellent than to see those Left-wingers in the Labour Party parade their conscience and bleat about human rights – not in the Soviet Union, but in their own country. How loath to criticise the Soviet Union. But how ready they were to attack the United States.

I am not talking about obscure Left-wingers. I’m talking about the people who now lead the Labour Party. It was their leader himself who said that there was an equality of threat between the United States and the Soviet Union – one of the most gloriously naive statements ever made by the leader of any national party – except perhaps the Monster Raving Loonies.

On every important issue, the Labour Party has been swerving all over the place – up and down, backwards and forwards, from side to side. On Europe. On defence. On one-sided disarmament. How can anyone trust such a Party?

They always have a policy for the day. But that’s the trouble – it’s just for the day.

Overseas governments don’t know where they stand. We don’t know where they stand. Even they don’t know where they stand. And they say they want to form the next government. That is not going to happen. One Party – and one Party only – stands foursquare in their way, stands for tomorrow’s world instead of back to yesterday. That is our Party – the Conservative and Unionist Party. The present and future Government of this country.


What is it that we offer? A strong Britain, confident of its position; secure in its defence; firm in its respect for the law. A strong economy, set on the road to stable prices – in which taxes can fall, savings can grow, and independence is assured.

For every family, the right to have and to hold their own private corner of life; their own home, their own savings, their own growing piece of Britain for the future – and for their children’s future.

We Conservatives are building a country in which every family has the power to choose and the right to own, in which everyone has a fair share in Britain.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in this Election there is a clear and straightforward choice to be make. Is enterprise to be crushed or encouraged? Is choice to be reduced or widened? Is income tax to go up or come down? Is our defence to be weak or strong? Is the United Kingdom to be broken up or is it to be upheld?

This Election is about the kind of country we want to live in. I know the answer. You know the answer. And I believe the British people know the answer. That is why on 9 April they will give us a resounding victory.”