The Prime Minister has spoken with feeling about the prospect of quitting politics, telling today's Mail on Sunday: 'When I leave politics, which no doubt will be a long time ahead, I would like to be able to look back and say 'I did the best I could, in the period I was in politics. I have done nothing that I need look back on with regret and when I made mistakes - no doubt I have and no doubt I will - I did so because I was honestly trying to do what I thought was the right thing'.
'If I can leave politics being able to say that, I will be quite satisfied.'
But, on the second anniversary of his general election victory, he declared: 'Like it or not, I am what I am. I am not going to change and I don't think I should. I am not going to change policy to appease my critics. I am not going to change style and I am not going to change objectives to appease my critics.'
In a thinly-veiled attack on his backbench critics and pretenders to his throne, Mr Major said: 'The British public would spot a fraud a mile off. People need not expect me to change. They certainly need not expect me to flatter the self-important or appease the hostile.'
But his interview sounds an uncertain trumpet: 'I will try to carry the argument to as many people as possible, but it is very difficult these days for a sophisticated argument to carry. Public and political moods change. All across Europe there is a sour mood with politics and politicians.
'In the 1980s there was talk of a new world order. We had persistent growth right the way across Europe and suddenly the painful realities of recession, war in Yugoslavia, have come back and hit people and had a very malign effect.'
Mr Major raised the stakes in the battle to reimpose his leadership on the Conservative Party, amid signs that his decision to lead from the front in next month's council elections could backfire disastrously. He has written to 12,000 key Tory activists around the country, begging them to 'redouble your efforts to hammer home the Conservative message in the weeks ahead'.
A study by Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher at the Local Government Chronicle elections centre at Plymouth University - published in today's Sunday Times - suggests that the Tories could lose more than 300 seats in next month's municipal elections.
Their anaylsis points to big gains by Labour, modest gains by the Liberal Democrats and a Tory debacle, making a mockery of the prediction of Conservative chairman, Sir Norman Fowler, that his party would finish up with more seats.