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 at Conservative Party Rally – 5 April 1992

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech made at a Conservative Party Rally held at Wembley, in London, on Sunday 5th April 1992. The speech was titled “The Threat to the Integrity of Britain”.


I want to turn first to a key issue at the very heart of this Election. It is the sleeping issue – but it matters more than anything. It hasn’t been much talked about, but it’s always been there. It is something that grips our very being as the British people. I speak of the unity of the United Kingdom – the rock of our constitution. We take it for granted – but at this Election it is at risk.

Let me therefore speak to you simply, directly and, through you, to every part of the country. As your Prime Minister, yes, but as a Briton, too. Let me speak in plain, unvarnished terms.

At this Election there are three great constitutional battles that we are fighting. These matters go way beyond Party allegiance. They affect the birthright of us all. There is no division in the British flag between red and blue. In it, and under it, we are one people. But if we take the wrong decision next Thursday, all that could change.

The first issue arises in Scotland. At this Election, there is a Nationalist party which proposes to tear Scotland away from our union. It is a negative case, a socialist case, a separatist case. It is the fast route to divorce between two great nations. The exchange of Great Britain for a little Scotland and a lesser union. Our admirers and our rivals across the world would think we were mad.

The Labour and Liberal parties see short-term advantage in seeking to appease, not to wrestle with, this demon. They propose a new tax-raising parliament in Scotland. Such a plan would shake the balance of our constitution. Set us on the road to bitterness, conflict and separation.

There will be no further debate, no referendum. Just a headlong plunge into something of disastrous consequence to Britain. Scarcely a soul in England or Wales is aware of it. But, in the consequences of these changes, our whole nation would be caught. We could be no longer a United, but a Disunited, Kingdom – an outcome which would diminish us all.

To imperil the tried and successful Union of our four nations for Party benefit, as our opponents do, is unforgiveable. To toss aside the Union through which, over three hundred years, this country has moulded the history of the world. That is unbelievable.

Can you, dare you, conceive of it? Consider the outcome. The walls of this island fortress that appear so strong, undermined from within, the United Kingdom untied, the bonds that generations of our enemies have fought and failed to break, loosened by us ourselves. But that is what is at risk on 9 April. Labour and Liberal policy could break up Britain.

This Party, and this Party alone, will defend our union. I ask you – go out and tell the people of the danger we face. If I could summon up all the authority of this office I would put it into this single warning – the United Kingdom is in danger. Wake up, my fellow countrymen. Wake up now, before it is too late.


That is the first threat to our constitution. But there are two more, hardly less grave than the first.

The next relates to that independence as a nation for which our ancestors toiled and fell. It relates to the nature of the European community that we want to build.

I have never been in any doubt that our political and economic interests require us to be at the heart of Europe. We must be at the heart of Europe in order to play our full part in the debates that will shape its future.

For there is a choice about that future. We can – as we wish to do – build a Europe of nation states, based on the free market principles that have served us well. That is the right Europe for which we will continue to work.

But there is an alternative – to move towards a federal Europe, towards a United States of Europe, in which power is centralised and influence is focused in Brussels and the institutions of the Community, not in the Parliaments of the nations. That would be the wrong Europe.

The people of Britain do not look for such a Europe. So they must awake again – and realise that at this Election Labour implicitly and Liberals explicitly intend to move towards a federal Europe.

I profoundly believe that is not in the interests of this country and should never be accepted by the people of this country. Let them think then for whom they cast their vote.

I do not believe that the people of Britain realise the scale of this danger – the Lib-Lab left would not speak for Britain in Brussels; they would act for Brussels in Britain. They are prepared to weaken Westminster, sign up to a single currency now, right or wrong, irrespective of the conditions in which it might be introduced at a later date. They would bring in the social chapter – that would strengthen trade union power, it would impose new costs on industry and, as a result, cost Britain jobs up and down the country.

None of those policies is in the interests of the British people. None is in Britain’s interests. All of those polices are damaging. That is why we have rejected them.

When Douglas Hurd and I, at Maastricht, refused to accept these ideas, Labour’s Mr Kaufman called it a ‘betrayal’. He is precisely wrong. It was not a betrayal to say ‘No’. It would have been a betrayal to say ‘Yes’. But this misguided Mr Kaufman is the Shadow Foreign Secretary – not that we’ve seen so much as his shadow at this election. The Labour Party will not let him speak at home for all of them – but they propose to send him abroad to speak for all of us.

There are great issues at stake at this Election. They require a maturer judgment, fuller debate. I want partnership in Europe between nation states. But I do not want to see a United States of Europe. And the British do not want it either. But that’s what they will get if they are not careful next Thursday – a United States of Europe, Lib hook, Lab line, and socialist sinker.

Proportional Representation

But, ladies and gentlemen, the Lib-Lab threat does not only relate to our position in Europe. Here at home our opponents are dancing a minuet over the spoils of office that they have not won – and, for Britain’s sake, must not win. Almost casually, they are toying and trifling with a new voting system. One that would ensure permanent representation in power for the Left. Disproportionate representation for the smallest and most unpopular party that presented itself at the polls.

They want us to have that system they use in Italy, Ireland, Belgium and Israel. Would that be in our interests? No. Would we have better government? No. We would have weaker Government. And we would have thrown away that link between the MP and the constituency that is such a precious feature of our Parliamentary system.

But more than that. What would have happened if we had had PR in the 1980s? There would have been no reform of the trade unions, no privatisation, no sale of council houses, no income tax cuts, no nuclear shield against communism, no revival of Britain. There would have been no authority to take immediate action to regain the Falklands. No active support for the United Nations in military action against Saddam Hussein.

Minority governments in a PR system could have been frustrated in all these things. And the Lib-Lab Left would have prevented them all.

Let me make one thing clear. The other Parties may fiddle and flirt with constitutional change for party political gain. This Party will not. Let them put their Parties first and their country second. We will put the country first. First, last, and always. I will entertain no constitutional changes that will weaken the United Kingdom.

The Success of Britain

I tell you one thing that has really irritated me about this Election. It is the insatiable appetite of our opponents for running Britain down. Day after day, on subject after subject, in their view it’s Britain that’s always wrong – criticising manufacturing industry that is beating export records; rubbishing a Health Service that is treating more patients better than ever before.

I happen to believe – and I suspect most people in this country do too – that this is a great country. I happen to believe the British people should be proud of what they’ve achieved: we the country, and we the Conservative Party. In 1979 we picked the country up off the floor where the Labour Party and their trade union friends had left it. We are not about to listen to lectures from them about all that has been done since then.

We have the greatest literature, the proudest history, the finest countryside, the best sporting tradition, the most brilliant scientists and inventors of any country in the world. What is our job? Our job is to keep it that way. Keep Britain the best. That’s what Conservatism stands for. And that’s what we are going to do.

We have a golden tapestry of talents in this country. We always have had. And we want them all to stay here. They will – so long as we give people the room for ambition and the incentive to succeed.

And we have a truly open society. Don’t believe for one moment the propaganda of our opponents. We have made this a country in which people from all backgrounds can rise to the top in their chosen professions. And you only have to look round this room to see how many have done just that.

The biggest disaster for this country would be if we brought back an old- fashioned Socialism still speaking the language of class envy and division. We are on the road to the classless society that I want to see. For heaven’s sake, don’t turn back: let’s fight on to build it.

No Return to Socialism

Ladies and gentlemen, the choice at this Election could not be clearer. It is whether we continue with the work of the 1980s in changing Britain. Or whether we – and we alone in the world – turn back the clock.

I know that over the years we in Britain have sometimes been the odd man out. But it would be more than odd, it would be stark staring mad for Britain – and Britain alone – to go back to Socialism, when it’s being kicked from doorstep to dustbin in almost every country of the world.

All the world is turning to the free enterprise policies in which we Conservatives believe. The ‘British disease’ of trade union militancy, constant strikes, headlong decline; it’s a thing of the past now. This Conservative Government curbed it, then cured it. Now people in every continent are queuing up for a dose of the British cure – low tax, deregulation, private ownership, trade union controlling policies – that’s another export from Britain that the whole world is buying.

Are we alone about to reject it? Will this be one more great British invention which all the world copies, while we throw away the patent? Is that what you want for your children, ladies and gentlemen? For other countries to race ahead of us, using our ideas? What folly that would be. We must never let it happen. NEVER. We must fight with every fibre of our being to prevent it. And we will.

But it could happen. No other country could do it to us. But we, the British people, could inflict this damage on ourselves. We could take that sword of Socialism and fall on it. And if we did our country would fall with it. The choice will be yours on Thursday.

On that crucial day we could decide that Britain will be the last refuge of a dying and discredited Socialist creed. We could lurch blindly down a cul-de-sac that by the middle of the ’90s would make Britain the last left-wing country left.

And we would be left. Left out, left behind, left impoverished in the most competitive decade the world has ever known.

In our country, we are one of the cradles of competition and enterprise, and, were we to abandon them, we would be a laughing stock in a world now singing the anthems of ownership and freedom. But here at home it would be no laughing matter. We would be left adrift.

Ladies and gentlemen, can you believe that the people of Britain will make such a colossal mistake? I know them better.

These are the people who in the ’80s won the Cold War, saw off the trade union barons, achieved the biggest rise in living standards this country has ever known.

Can you believe they won’t see what the people of America, Germany and Japan have always seen, what the people of Sweden, Denmark and France now see, what the people of Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia don’t need to see? That Socialism cannot be trusted, and ought not to be voted for.

Of course, they can see. I know the mood of the people. Unlike some of my opponents, I’ve been out there amongst them, day after day after day from the beginning of this campaign.

They can see why Socialism ought not to be voted for. Because one of the duties of Government is to take – and to hold to – the decisions that are right in the long-term. And this the modern Labour Party has never been able to do.

They have changed their minds – or claim to have changed their minds – on all the crucial issues of our time – the market economy, nationalisation, devolution, Europe, and the necessary reforms to our great social institutions. It would be a nice change to find a subject on which they hadn’t changed, for a change.

But above all they have wavered on defence. In the Cold War they campaigned to disarm in the face of the Soviet nuclear threat. It was Margaret Thatcher who insisted we install Cruise missiles here, while Soviet missiles were targeted on us. She was bitterly opposed by Labour, with their present Leader in the van. But she persevered. And because she did, fewer missiles are now pointing at us. Who was right? We were. Who was wrong? They were. And because of what we did we won the Cold War in Europe.

But do the Labour Party acknowledge our success? Do they admit for a moment that their tactics would have lost the Cold War, not won it. No. Now the heat is off, now that others have won it, Mr Kinnock comes out boldly and claims he would stand firm. Welcome, but a bit late. That shows two things: that he was wrong before. And that he hasn’t even the courage of his own past lack of convictions. And who knows even now where he stands on the crucial question of the full Trident deterrent that Britain needs? His defence policy is a case of now you CND, now you don’t. And if you can’t trust his judgement on the defence of the realm, who knows what judgement we should trust? Ladies and gentlemen, because he has such a past, he doesn’t deserve to decide your future.

The Road to Recovery

I understand why some, who scorn the Labour Party, have been hesitating about joining our cause. I know what is in their minds. The difficulties caused for us – and for all the great economies of the world by the world recession. We have become used to record growth. It comes as a shock when we have to mark time. But you cannot wish away the business cycle. You cannot legislate against world conditions. What you have to do is to hang in there, get the basics right, and be ready to be first off the blocks when the world economy begins to move once more.

That’s what we have done. I’ll tell you what you need for a strong recovery. You need low inflation. You need falling interest rates. You need low taxation. You need stable exchange rates. You need falling levels of debt. You need freedom for managers to manage, and incentives for workers to succeed. That’s what you need. And to get that you need a Tory Government in a Tory Britain.

And to be strictly fair. Let me tell you what you need to stay in recession. You need higher taxes. You need higher inflation. You need higher interest rates. You need a weaker pound. You need policies that restore power to trade union bosses. You need a vendetta against the successful and the skilled. In other words, you need Labour.

The message is simple. If you want to start recovery, stop Labour. If you want to stop recovery, start Labour.

Ladies and gentlemen, all around us the signs of imminent recovery are there. There in the house-building industry. There in the growth of manufacturing exports – in February the highest in history. There in the growth of retail sales. There in the surveys of business opinion by the CBI. There in the fact that 93% of businessmen say Conservative policies are right for recovery. Just one in a hundred looks to Labour for a miracle cure. One in a hundred? We’re still looking for him, and we can’t find him. Perhaps he’s the result of the statisticians rounding up.

I’ll tell you one thing about Britain today. We can expect a strong recovery. It may already have started. All the country is waiting for now is the confidence that would follow a Conservative victory. And on April 10th the whole world of industry and commerce will do two things. Breathe a sigh of relief that the threat of Socialism is gone – and then begin to invest.

Don’t Throw It Away

I warn the people. Don’t fall into Labour’s trap. Don’t sleep walk into Thursday. This is not a by-election. It will determine who forms a government on Friday and who governs our country for five years. Don’t let the short-term problems of recession, which so many other countries are feeling, blind you to the long-term truth. Don’t throw away the policies – the astoundingly successful policies – of the last 13 years in an idle moment. Because once you have let them go, you can’t begin to get them back for another five years.

Just remember. You don’t cut down a mighty oak at the start of spring because its leaves are yet to show. And you don’t turn from free enterprise to Socialism because the world economy has caught a cold.

The Achievements of Conservative Britain

In 13 years of Conservative Britain, free enterprise Britain, proud Britain, we have cut tax by eight pence in the pound; we have controlled inflation, and made the economy grow. As a result, the spending power of the same average family man has risen, even after allowing for inflation, by £68 a week – £3500 a year more for the family budget than under Labour.

So let’s hear it for the new wealth of Britain and what this Government has created:

* 1000 more miles of trunk roads and motorways; 750 miles of railway electrified; more than 100 communities transformed by new bypasses;

* record resources for the Health Service and for pupils in our schools;

* four million new homeowners;

* four-and-a-half million young people with personal pensions;

* six million shareholders in privatised companies;

* social security and support for pensioners and disabled people is better than at any time in our history.

We have finer public services than we have ever had – and through the Citizen’s Charter we are going to improve them still further.

And we also have a sea change in the living standards of the average family. So let’s hear it for a successful, low tax economy.

Let’s hear it for the fact that the number of homes without central heating has been halved. Six homes in seven now have washing machines. Seven in eight a telephone. Four out five a freezer. Huge new industries in home computers, videos, and compact discs have grown up. The number of cars per head of the population is up by a quarter. The number of holidays taken by British people almost doubled.

These things didn’t rain down from heaven. They had to be worked for. And they were made possible by that growth in the wealth of the average man which our policies allow. We are creating in this country a new commonwealth – in which wealth and ownership are for all, not for the few. In our time Britons have earned more, owned more, achieved more than at any time in history. So let’s hear it for our wealth creators that make welfare possible.

Thirteen wasted years? There have never been 13 more productive years in modern British history.

So Labour call this failure. Failure? It’s a miraculous, historic success. It’s the rebirth of ‘Made in Britain’ as a label of pride. It’s what the people of Britain have worked for. It’s what the people of Britain can expect more of when recovery comes. It’s what a Conservative government will let you keep. It’s what a Labour Government would tax away.

Ladies and gentlemen, Labour are the masters of blame and shame, doom and gloom. They want us to forget the successes of the Tory years. They want us to close off the prospect of a golden future for us all.

So just let me remind you of this. In five years of struggle and strife, in five years of cuts in the health service, strikes in the graveyards, scorn in the international arena, Labour managed to raise the living standards of the average family man by just £2 a week. Just £2 a week in five years. And they actually cut the living standards of single people and married women across every level of earnings. Socialism equals conflict equals poverty equals the past. Remember those things on Thursday. Say to yourselves: “Never again”.

Wealth For All the People

Ladies and gentlemen, many people come up the hard way – they know what it is to scrimp and to save, they know what it means when you can do more for your family and children. And let me tell you what it does mean – personal pride, personal dignity, personal satisfaction, personal choice – for the person’s own family.

We’re not divisive and dismissive like Labour. To be a modern Conservative is not to be against some of the people; it is to be for all of the people. If there is one thing that Conservative Government will do, it is to allow more people more money to buy, to own, to save and to leave more for their children and grandchildren. It is right that families want to create a better home and a better life. These are proper instincts, natural instincts, not selfish ones. And we will defend them to the last. For it is from the ambitions and efforts of millions that the wealth of the nation and the resources of our great public services grow.

What we have shown in the ’80s is that you can have lower tax and more investment. The modern Britain is not an uncaring Britain – and the Labour politicians who make that charge have no understanding of the fellow countrymen they want to control. Uncaring Britain? Where its citizens respond more generously than any other country to international appeals. Uncaring Britain? Who has the finest, best funded charities in the world. Uncaring Britain? Where the Health Service has more doctors and nurses today than ever before, more patients treated, more money spent, shorter waiting lists. That’s not an uncaring Britain. It’s a Britain that cares. And it will see off a Party that scares.

That is the biggest divide between the Parties in Britain today. Labour fought against wider, family ownership – and they’re against it still. They can take the Socialism out of their manifesto, but they can’t take it out of their souls.

They have policies that – as we saw last Wednesday – would force down the values of the privatised shares people own. They have tax policies that would force down the value of the homes people own. They have policies that would destroy the value of the pensions people own.

I have warned the people – and I warn them again. In a Labour Britain I warn you not to be successful. I warn you not to be ambitious. I warn you not to have a second pension. I warn you not to own shares. I warn you not to own a home.

The Labour Leader has a word for those who want to do something extra for their families – to provide personal care. He calls it a sin. ‘A sin, a sin, a sin’. Was ever casual word more revealing? A sin, he calls it. Ladies and gentlemen, it is not a sin, not a sin for parents to do more for their children, children more for their parents. It is right for people to do more for those they love. It is the natural instinct of the family. It’s our natural instinct, too.

A Greater, Better Britain

There is a choice before you about Britain’s future. Let me tell you about the sort of life I want for every family.

Inflation heading towards zero; prices steady; taxes coming down again; more money in the pockets of the people; growth well under way, so overtime and extra earnings are back in business; a strong pound which holds its value; the right to a postal ballot whenever union bosses try to call a strike; and never, ever any threat from flying pickets at the factory gate; good state schools, that get the basics right, bringing the best out of each and every child, not controlled by the council, but run by the Head teacher, governors and parents; a modern, expanding health service there behind you, more say for your GP in how the best care should be given, and more successful trust hospitals cutting waiting times and performing more operations than ever before; the chance for everyone to buy their home, falling mortgage rates whenever we can bring them down, strong recovery, meaning a pick-up in house prices, and growth in the value of your privatisation shares; millions more people with second pensions of their own and the chance for every family to pass on to their children the fruits of a lifetime’s work.

That’s what I want for Britain in the 1990s. That is the choice you should make.

Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot express to you what I owe to this country and what it has done for me. In the next five years, if you continue to give me your trust as your Prime Minister, I will do all I can to repay that debt. I want to make Britain a greater, better place.

But if we succeed in that, as I know we will, it is not the government, not the council, not the trade union who will do it. It is you. And you. And you. It is the people of this country, given their chance, given their choice, given their head, who will find the space to grow and the sky to aim for.

That is the country I want. That is what is at stake on Thursday.

A country which will lead the world in the respect it carries and the values it spreads. We are that country. Let us stay that country.

What I want is a country of real opportunity, where every one 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 9 April – and win for Britain, win for our children, win for freedom, and win for all our futures.