John Major

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Sir John Major, KG, CH, ACIB (born 29 March 1943) is a British Conservative politician, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990–1997. He held the posts of Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer in the cabinet of Margaret Thatcher and was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Huntingdon 1979–2001.

Major's mild and consensual style was seen as complete contrast to Thatcher's forceful and confrontational manner. Early in his term, he presided over British participation in the First Gulf War (March 1991) and negotiated "Game, Set and Match for Britain" at the Maastricht Treaty (December 1991). Despite the British economy then being in recession he led the Conservatives to a fourth consecutive election victory, winning the most votes in British electoral history in the 1992 general election, albeit with a much-reduced majority in the House of Commons.

Major's premiership saw the world go through a period of political and military transition after the end of the Cold War. This included the growing importance of the European Union, an issue which was already a source of friction within the Conservative Party owing to its importance in the decline and fall of Margaret Thatcher. Major and his government were responsible for the United Kingdom's exit from the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) after Black Wednesday on 16 September 1992, after which the Conservatives never gained a lead in the opinion polls.

Despite successes such as the revival of economic growth and the beginnings of the Northern Ireland Peace Process, by the mid-1990s the Conservatives were embroiled in ongoing "sleaze" scandals involving various MPs and even Cabinet Ministers. Criticism of Major's leadership reached such a pitch that he chose to resign, and be re-elected, as party leader in June 1995. By this time the "New" Labour Party was seen as a reformed and fresh alternative under the leadership of Tony Blair, and after eighteen years in office the Conservatives lost the 1997 general election in one of the worst electoral defeats since the Great Reform Act of 1832.

After the defeat, Major resigned as the leader of the party, and was succeeded by William Hague. He has since retired from active politics, leaving the House of Commons at the 2001 general election, but continues to be a sought-after speaker.

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