The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1996Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Comments on the Local Election Results (I) – 3 May 1996

Below are Mr Major’s comments on the local election results, made in 10 Downing Street on 3rd May 1996.


[Mr Major was asked his view on the local election results and whether he viewed them as very poor results].


There was a very low turnout, and there were a very large number of seats we won in an extraordinarily good year that we wouldn’t normally have ever expected to win.

But I don’t deny that it was a disappointing result, I’ve never denied that. The fact is that 28% of the vote is not where the Conservative Party ought to be, nor is it remotely where we will be at the General Election. It was as you and I both know that will be quite a different matter.


[Mr Major was asked if he shouldn’t have done better?]


Well, I rather wonder why you say that. In 1986, one year before we won a General Election with a majority of 100, we got less than 30% in local elections right across the country, and we over lost 700 seats. One year later we won the General Election by 100 seats, a very comparable circumstance.

I think there is something else worth bearing in mind, at the height of what is said to be their popularity and the depths of what is said to be the Conservative Government’s unpopularity, the Labour Party only polled 43% of the vote of those people who came to vote, which is what the Conservative Government got in the depths of the recession at the last General Election. They should have been doing much better than that.

This General Election is there to be won, and I think we are going to win that General Election. When we get there, there will be choices that will have to be made that aren’t made at local elections, they are very sharp choices indeed.

The changes that have made us so unpopular were painful for the public as a whole, I think they were necessary for our future prosperity. But not only were they painful for the public, of course they were painful for us politically, and we paid the price in by-election defeats and in local government defeats.

And the question is this, is what we have done working? Is the country becoming stronger, economically, more effective and more efficient?

Are we creating more jobs? The answer to that question is right, the dispassionate view is that the difficult things we had to do were very unpopular and hurt people are working. But it is my job to do things that are good for the country.