The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997


Sir John Major’s Letter to the Spectator – 21 March 2015

The text of Sir John Major’s letter to the Spectator published on 21 March 2015.


Sir: Much as I admire filial loyalty, I cannot allow Zac Goldsmith’s article about his father to go uncorrected (‘My dad saved the pound’, 28 February). Sir James Goldsmith was a formidable campaigner against the European Union and the euro currency, but at no point did he alter government policy. Zac Goldsmith suggests that I did not offer a referendum on membership of the euro currency out of conviction. This is wrong. I believed that any decision to abandon sterling — which I myself did not favour — was so fundamental that it would need national endorsement. On constitutional grounds some Cabinet members dissented, but many will confirm that I was seeking agreement for such a policy long before the Referendum party was founded. If anything, Sir James made the decision process more difficult, since no one in Cabinet wished to appear to be influenced.

It has been claimed that I was willing to offer a referendum on membership of the EU. This is untrue, although Sir James often cited it as a reason for establishing the Referendum party. Zac Goldsmith suggests that I offered Sir James a peerage, presumably in order to secure his support. At no time did I make such an offer; nor did I authorise anyone else to make such an offer on my behalf. Quite apart from any other consideration, it would have been wholly improper.

Sir James was not, however, without influence. The Referendum party did serious damage to the electoral prospects of the Conservative party, and helped usher in 13 years of Labour government. Sir James is entitled to take his share of credit for what followed as a result of his actions: the European treaties of Nice and Lisbon; the advent of spin on an industrial scale; financial collapse; rising unemployment and soaring national debt. What he cannot take credit for is keeping us out of the euro. The Conservative government I led obtained the opt-out at Maastricht, and ensured a referendum would be required for any currency change, thus spiking Mr Blair’s ambitions to join the euro.

I do not wish to reopen old sores, nor do I wish to cause any offence to the Goldsmith family. But, for the sake of historical record, I cannot allow such myths to take root.

Sir John Major
London SW1