The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1992Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Speech on Conservative Values – 30 March 1992

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech on Conservative values, held in Birmingham on Monday 30th March 1992.


Ladies and Gentlemen, let me come straight to the point. What is this Election about? It is about the future of our country. It is about the prospects we build for the next generation. Our security. Our place in the world. About the sort of society and the sort of values we want. About the unity of our United Kingdom. It is not about distorting the problems of one sick child for party political propaganda. It is about building the future of one healthy country – and who builds that future.

Thirteen years ago, under Margaret Thatcher’s leadership, the British people dragged this country up from the floor. Why was it on the floor? Because that’s where the Labour Party and their trade union friends had left it. We don’t want to see that again. So we’re not going to let socialism slither in through the back door, when it’s being thrown out the front door all over the world. When they’re kicking out big brother everywhere else, we’re not going to let little brother come creeping back here.

I know Socialism. Britain does not want it. Does not need it. Cannot afford it. It spreads envy; it creates division; it nourishes spite. It makes people feel uneasy about the things they’ve achieved for themselves. Are you successful? Then feel guilty. But you shouldn’t be guilty about being successful. You should be proud.

Don’t fall for the Socialist con-trick. Don’t be bullied. Don’t be brainwashed. Socialism’s strictly for the dustbin. So go out and put it there.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud of what our country has achieved under a Conservative Government. And you, the British people, can be proud of it, too. You have every right to be. It’s your achievement. You did it. You put pride back into our country – created more wealth, higher living standards and better public services than we’ve ever known in our long history. And under the next Conservative government I say to everyone – you will keep and increase the wealth your hard work has earned. Choice for the people. Ownership by the people. Power to the people – that’s our aim. Opening the doors that socialism holds shut. I want every man and woman in Britain to enjoy the Right to Own and the Power to Choose.

The Conservative Future

Why does this Election matter so much? Let me paint the sort of life I want for every family.

Inflation heading towards zero; and prices steady. Taxes coming down again. More money in the pockets of the people. People with spare cash so they can sign with confidence the purchase of a new car. Growth well under way, so overtime and extra earnings are back in business. A strong pound that holds its value. The right to a postal ballot whenever and wherever union bosses try to call a strike. And never, ever, any threat from flying pickets at the factory gate.

There will be good State schools, that get the basics right, testing and reporting on progress, bringing the best out of each and every child. Schools no longer controlled by the council, but run by the headteacher, governors and parents. For some it could be a place on the assisted places scheme. For others a place at the local grammar school. Either way, it will be up to parents to choose.

Whenever illness strikes, there will be a modern expanding Health Service there behind you, with free care for all. More say for the GP in how the best care should be given. And more successful Trust Hospitals that are cutting waiting times and performing more operations than ever before.

Many a family will have bought the house they live in from the council. If it’s a Labour Council, it will probably have tried to hinder them – but thanks to the Conservatives all who want it have the Right to Buy. Though there are difficulties and sacrifices, it will in the end be worth it. And we have new policies to make it easier still. If it is prudent to do so interest rates will be cut, and the monthly mortgage brought down. Strong recovery will mean a pick-up in the housing market. And there will once again be a strong demand for property on sale.

Privatisation shares should grow in value once the threat of a Labour government is gone – and we will give more opportunities to invest in shares. More people will have cash in hand to spend on the house. And once the world recession is over, and business is prosperous again, companies large and small should be working flat out.

We will help millions more people to personal pensions, so they know they will have that extra security when they retire. And what’s more, I want every family to be able to pass on what they have built up in a lifetime of work. Pass it onto their children without the taxman taking another swipe.

Ladies and gentlemen, these policies touch the lives of everyone. They are what Conservative policies began to open up for millions in the 80s. They are our ambitions for every family in the 1990s.

The Labour Alternative

Now look at the alternative. What would the country be like under Labour? I’ll tell you.

No control of inflation. No stable prices – indeed a target to raise inflation to the European average. For the first time ever a political party goes into an Election promising to put inflation up. But not only inflation would go up.

There would be big tax increases instead of tax cuts. A Labour government would mean £38 billion of extra spending. That’s the equivalent of £1250 a year on average for everyone who pays income tax, on top of Mr Smith’s mock budget tax attack. What price then the new car, the holiday, the mortgage?

Overtime no longer worth it because of Labour’s National Insurance increases. The economic recovery clobbered by huge tax hikes. Inward investment chased away and jobs destroyed. More strikes and flying pickets back on our streets. Mr Kinnock’s credit controls making it harder to buy a new car and harder to buy a new home. The pound right down and devaluation back on the agenda.

No self-managed schools. They’re gone. Fewer rights for parents. They’re not on offer. No assisted places scheme. That’s scrapped. Grammar schools closed. They give what too many parents want. Trust hospitals gone, along with all the reforms that had cut waiting lists and boosted operations.

No cut in mortgage rates. Up they would go. And, far from house prices picking up, down they would plunge. No work for small trades – and with their policies few small traders at all, because the families that employ them would be paying their savings in tax.

Personal pensions deliberately wrecked. Shares in privatised companies renationalised or their value driven down. And, at the end of their lives, inheritance tax waiting to grab the fruits of a lifetime’s work. No big legacy for the children. Just one last cheque for the State.

In other words – a Nightmare on Kinnock Street. Every detail of everyone’s lives and everyone’s future will be affected by the decision you take on April 9th 1992. Don’t believe for a second that it doesn’t matter who wins. It matters desperately. It matters to Britain. And it matters to you.

Don’t be fooled

So don’t be fooled. Here’s the Labour Leader, nodding and winking and grinning, a foot-in-the-door salesman, trying to sell you a gentle, harmless semi-demi-socialism. Don’t buy that line. There’s no such thing. As a Polish politician who came to see us once said – and heaven knows the Poles should know from bitter experience – “socialism can’t be improved. It has to removed.” So remember: everything seemingly safe and secure can be reversed almost overnight. And with Labour in power it would be back to yesterday with a vengeance.

Right Voice in the World

Ladies and gentlemen, the world is moving fast. Shifting under our feet. We have won the Cold War. Just think about that. The Cold War has been won – by the West.

Socialism in its most extreme form has been defeated. There are opportunities for freedom to grow, for partnership between nations, for the rebirth of a new Europe, for a new generation.

But we have to take the right decisions, give the right leadership. So – under whose leadership do we go from here? Let us remind people:

– Who won back for Britain the respect in which we are now held abroad? We did.

– Who came to the defence of freedom in the Falklands and again in Kuwait? We did.

– Who stood firm beside the United States in leading the NATO alliance? We did.

– Who safeguards Britain’s security by keeping our nuclear deterrent up to date? We do.

– Who first held out a hand to the new Russia and to Eastern Europe’s new democracies? We did.

– Who reached an agreement at Maastricht which pointed the way to a wider, stronger Europe, whilst protecting Britain’s basic national interests? Yes. You’re right. We did.

In short, whom can you trust to defend Britain and keep her safe? Whom can you trust to speak for Britain in Europe, the Commonwealth, and the United Nations as we build a new world? You can trust a Conservative Government – this one, the next one, and every one.

But what of Mr Kinnock, with Mr Kaufman walking half a step behind? What of him?

– Who campaigned for CND when the Cold War was at its height, and then let his membership ‘lapse’ when others had won it? He did.

– Who fought NATO’s policy of standing up to the Soviet Union and opposed putting in Cruise Missiles when they had nuclear weapons targeted on us? He did. Yet it was because we stationed cruise missiles pointing to the East that today we have far fewer missiles pointing at us.

– Who called our closest ally – the United States, the bastion of the free world – a threat equal to the Soviet Union? He did.

– Who stood for office on a policy of giving away our nuclear deterrent and taking to the hills? He did.

– Who refuses to give a commitment to build the fourth Trident that our armed forces say is essential for Britain? He does.

– Who would have kept our troops sitting in the desert waiting for sanctions to dislodge Saddam Hussein? He would.

– Who has changed policy on Europe six times – so far – ‘wanted out’ at one Election and wants surrender to Brussels at another? He has.

– Who at Maastricht would have signed up to anything, any deal – at any price? He would.

That’s the Kinnock and Kaufman line. Of course it may change. If we can’t make out what the two Ks believe in – and we speak English – what on earth would the rest of the world make of it all?

Ladies and gentlemen, to safeguard the interests of Britain you need a clear head and a cool hand. Consistency. Coherence. Conviction.

These serious issues need experience, judgement, a firm line, and a sure stand. The stakes are too high in this dangerous world for Britain to put its trust in Labour at home or overseas. They don’t know what they are doing on foreign policy or defence. They don’t know. We don’t know. Nobody knows.

The challenge and the opportunities in Europe

Ladies and gentlemen, what kind of world are we to build for our children?

When you come to cast your vote, that is in every sense the heart of the matter.

Before everything Britain must be secure. We must take no risks with defence. And no Conservative Government ever will. But we don’t want a negative Britain, a tentative Britain. We want a country with the courage to stand up for what it believes.

That ‘s what we did at Maastricht. We are right to be at the heart of Europe, but let’s not be starry-eyed about it. Of course, we believe in it. We are part of Europe. It’s our community, our continent, too.

But we must ask ourselves what kind of Europe we want.

I want to complete that single market in Europe on which this Party has taken the lead. We need those open spaces for free enterprise to breathe and grow.

But the greatest virtue of the European Community is not economic. Twice in this century a European war has brought the whole world to the brink of ruin. The bonds we have formed in Western Europe make it inconceivable that such a disaster could ever again begin here. That’s why I want to extend the Community wider until it reaches the far borders of Russia itself. Then we can bring to the countries of the East that gift of peace that we in the West enjoy. It may not happen in our political lifetime – but it will happen. And a secure life for our children will be the certain result.

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s the positive side of Europe. That’s what we aim to develop. But there’s another side, too. And we’re not planning to jump in blindly as Labour would. There’s the scandal of countries that sign up for European directives and then do nothing about them. There is unnecessary interference by bureaucracy and red tape. And there’s the fatuous pursuit of conformity for the sake of conformity. Seeking to scrap the rules on quarantine that defend us against rabies. Pushing us to make illegal use of pounds and ounces. We’ve made it clear that we will have nothing to do with nonsense like that.

And we’re not going to change our stand either on the Social Chapter we rejected at Maastricht. It would increase trade union power, push up industrial costs, destroy jobs and deter foreign investment. Hand over to Brussels decisions that are best made in Britain. All things bad for Britain – no wonder our opponents just can’t wait to sign up.

Most important of all, if anyone but us had been there at Maastricht, Britain would now be signed up to full European Monetary Union; irrespective of whether it was right.

That was the demand that was put to me at Maastricht. It was a demand that I wasn’t prepared to accept. We worked to negotiate a better deal for Britain. Labour called it a betrayal. But I believe you can be a good European and still say ‘No’. Indeed, to be a good European, you sometimes have to say ‘no’.

Ladies and gentlemen, when it comes to a crunch at a summit, you’re alone in there. Alone with other countries’ leaders arguing the case for Britain. There’s nobody else to help you. Nobody to protect you. No minders. You’re on your own. That’s when experience counts. You’ve got to know your case. Got to master the details. One slip – one careless word – one stroke of temper – one gaffe – and you’ve sold Britain short. You can’t go back into the conference chamber and say: “Sorry, boyo, I got it wrong.”

Safeguarding the Union

But there is another crucial constitutional issue at the very heart of this Election. The unity of the United Kingdom. It is, quite literally, the national issue. I do not believe that many people understand what is at stake in this Election. Our political opponents now advocate a course which could lead to the break-up of Britain itself.

The Labour and Liberal parties are proposing a separate tax-raising parliament for Scotland. It is a policy that would cause the very bedrock of our constitution to quake. It would have profound consequences for Parliament at Westminster. You cannot deny English, Welsh, and Northern Irish MPs the right to vote on health or education or industry in Scotland and then keep full rights for Scottish Members at Westminster to vote on these matters for the West Midlands.

It simply cannot be done. It wouldn’t wash with the people of the other parts of Britain. They wouldn’t see it as reasonable or fair. And it wouldn’t be reasonable or fair. But once diminish the voting rights of Scotland’s MPs at Westminster, and you would cause new bitterness. Once create a new Parliament in Scotland, and you would create a focus for every grievance – imagined or real – that one part of this Kingdom had against another.

It is with these dangers that our opponents are now playing. Devolution is at the top of a slope that leads down into the disaster of separation. Once start on that slide – and it would be perilously difficult to stop. The demon of division would be abroad in the land.

Ladies and gentlemen, the future of the United Kingdom is not something to be toyed and trifled with for short-term Party advantage. But that is what our opponents are doing.

Labour and Liberal policy would weaken us all. It could lead to a Disunited Kingdom in a United States of Europe. No issue at this election is more far-reaching, more fundamental. A little Scotland and a lesser Union. It would be an unimaginable disaster. Are we, in our generation, perhaps without even realising, to toss away the Union, the rock on which Britain’s greatness rests?

Ladies and gentlemen, I say ‘No’. The Conservative Party says ‘No’. We must rouse the people to this danger. Warn them. So that they rise and reject with scorn the policies of those foolish men who would have our country surrender in Europe and separate at home. Never, never, never, must the people of Britain go down that road.

Changing Britain: the reforms of the 1980s

Ladies and gentlemen, I want a country for our children that is proud and confident, dynamic and prosperous.

During the 1980s we Conservatives introduced the fundamental reforms needed to create a successful and thriving economy.

We reduced tax and restored incentives.

We reformed trade union law and changed industrial attitudes.

We returned to the people two thirds of the companies owned by the State.

And we created a culture in which risk-taking and enterprise became attractive again.

As a result we transformed the British economy. Strikes fell to the lowest levels ever recorded. Investment and productivity soared. And living standards were raised to record levels. And for the first time in a generation our share in world trade began to grow.

Over the 1980s manufacturing output and manufacturing productivity grew by leaps and bounds. I am sick and tired of hearing British manufacturing industry run down by our Labour opponents. In the West Midlands you know – as I do – how crucial manufacturing is for our children’s future. Manufacturing success is vital for Britain. I will do all in my power to make it secure. But I will tell you what would wreck it. Higher taxes would wreck it. Higher inflation would wreck it. Higher costs would wreck it. Bad industrial relations would wreck it. A Labour government would wreck it.

Only Labour can stop recovery

Our economic reforms of the 1980s are still in place. We’ve got the fundamentals right. Inflation is falling. Interest rates have come down. And the exchange rate is stable. It all means Britain is poised for a strong recovery. All it needs is the confidence a Conservative victory will bring. Then we’ll see the Midlands hum again.

Success for our opponents would stop that recovery dead in its tracks. That’s not just our view; it’s the view of business. One quarter of all businessmen say they would cut investment if Labour won. And why? Because Labour would reverse every one of the Conservative measures on which recovery depends.

Where we have lowered income tax, Labour would raise it.

Where we have privatised, Labour would nationalise.

Where we have taken Government off industry’s back, Labour would put industry on its back.

And where we have curbed the power of the militants, Labour would unleash them again. It’s one thing seeing them at Bolton and Luton. But I am not going to let them back in Downing Street again.

Ladies and gentlemen, under Labour, the recovery that lies ahead would be turned into slump.

When will they ever learn? You can’t tax people into a national recovery. You can’t build national recovery on a philosophy that has emptied the shelves in every supermarket of the Eastern block. The selfsame socialism that, last time they were in office, reduced Britain to the indignity of Mr Roy Hattersley – he of the ‘dream ticket’, remember, administering a third-world subsidy on the price of bread? Not, I imagine, that Mr Hattersley dines principally on bread.

Homeowners under Labour

Ladies and gentlemen, there’s one thing about Britain in the 1980s that you won’t hear about from Labour. It is what Conservative policies of the Right to Buy and the Right to Own have given to families who never dreamed they would have anything to leave to their children. 6 million households have bought their homes since 1979. Four and a half million people have personal pensions. 10 million people now own shares – 6 million in the State companies we sold to the people.

On all these issues Labour fought us all the way. They wanted to stop the British people becoming owners. No-one out there who gained in the 1980s should ever forget it. Dare you trust your home, your shares, your pension to the very people who battled to stop you having them? Who in this hall would ever do that?

The return of a Labour government would undermine all that you have worked to build. Not by accident. Not by oversight. But by policy, deliberately. For socialism is the doctrine of common ownership, State ownership, not personal ownership. When it comes to ownership they don’t begin to understand – and they don’t begin to care.


Ladies and gentlemen, a word about our National Health Service. It is our National Health Service. It doesn’t belong to the Labour Party. We have cherished it, built it, modernised it. And now we’re reforming it to make it even more successful, treating even more patients than ever before.

They’re working, those reforms, really working. Strengthening the Health Service. Extending wider, ever wider, the frontiers of free, modern patient care. It’s time somebody took the gloves off about the Health Service. Well, mine are coming off now – and staying off. I want you all to shout from the rooftops the miracles that our doctors, nurses, and hospitals have achieved.

We have given the Health Service the strongest support it has ever had from any Government. Over 13 years, year after year after year, we’ve put more money into the Health Service than even the rashest Labour opposition ever dared promise. And why? Because we know how to run a free market economy, how to create the resources that, through thick and thin, help our Health Service grow.

Labour couldn’t do that with their now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t promises. The last Labour government really did cut the Health Service. Really did cut hospital building. Really did cut nurses’ pay. And pushed the waiting lists up to an all-time high – the most shameful record even in their barren history. And these are the people who dare to lecture us.

I tell you, ladies and gentlemen, their exploitation of the Health Service shows up the real face of Labour. Shallow. Cynical. Negative. Desperate for power. These are people ready to fabricate every imaginable fiction about our great national institution if it ‘serves their purpose’.

I give the people of Britain this promise. Any government I lead will make the National Health Service, ever better, ever stronger, ever more able to tackle the huge challenges of modern health care. It’s not our Health Service. It’s your Health Service, yours – the people’s. And we will protect it – and we will build it up.


Ladies and gentlemen, there’s another great service about which I feel passionately – the education service. So here’s another pair of gloves coming off. I will fight for a good start in life for every child. I will fight for the rights of parents, for variety in education, and for a return to basics in the classroom. Our children have only one chance for a proper grounding in life. And I am simply not prepared to see their future blighted by destructive theories. I want them to concentrate on the basics in education. To read. To write. To add up. That’s where they must start. And it’s on that we must build.

Too many of our children have been victims of Labour’s fetish for levelling-down. Vital props for life, like spelling, tables and dates banished from the classroom. Children of different abilities made to learn at the same speed. Tests resisted – in case they showed how little had been learned. Parents denied information, results, reports – in case awkward questions were asked.

Where’s the logic in setting out deliberately to close down good schools and undermine quality in those that remain? But that’s what the Left did, right here in Britain. And that’s what Labour still plan, right here in the West Midlands. Nine people out of ten in Birmingham support its grammar schools. But Labour would shut them – and every other grammar school in Britain. What a pointless, negative policy it is. And what a degrading spectacle. Grammar school men and women picking on grammar school girls and boys.

I make no distinction between any school, any parent, any child. In our Manifesto we have set out 39 steps to a better education for all. So be in no doubt. After April 9 we will press on with our reforms in education, extend parents’ rights, and let more schools go free of council control, wherever the parents so wish. My belief is easily expressed. The best for every child – the best from every child. That’s what I will fight for in this Election and after it. That’s what our children deserve. Nothing but the best. And they shall have it. For they are our tomorrow.


Ladies and gentlemen, the day of decision is coming nearer. It’s the day when Britain will decide whether to go on leading the world towards a future based on choice, personal ownership and private enterprise. Or to slide back almost alone into the mire of socialism.

Go out and tell the people what’s at stake. Go out and open their eyes to the threat that Labour and Liberals present to their lives. Go out and tell them what the Nightmare on Kinnock Street would mean for us all.

And go out and tell them of the new wealth, the new opportunities a Conservative Government will bring. For our pledge to Britain is a better future for all. A future where every individual counts. Power to the people. And pride in the world. That’s our battlecry.

What I want is a country of real opportunity, where everyone of our people is free to choose. A country with a head. And a country with a heart. Wealth and welfare hand in hand.

If that’s what you care for, if that’s what you fight for. Then go out with me on April 9 – and win for Britain, win for our children, win for freedom, and win for all our futures.