Major calls in advisers over 'the vision thing'

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE PRIME MINISTER has summoned key advisers to a summit at Chequers next weekend to discuss criticism that he lacks 'vision' for the future direction of the Government.

John Major yesterday conceded in a BBC Television interview with Sir David Frost that he had made mistakes over the failure to address what President George Bush described as 'the vision thing'.

'I think probably I have taken for granted too much that people knew what we were there for, what we were doing and what we cared about. It seemed to me so self-evident that perhaps I didn't spell it out as bluntly as I should.'

Mr Major is holding the meeting with his Downing Street policy unit at Chequers in an attempt to mount a spring offensive on domestic issues, after suffering sustained attacks over the economy, unemployment and the threatened pit closures.

No other ministers have been invited to the meeting next Saturday - the Chancellor will be holding his pre-Budget summit at Chevening - but Sir Norman Fowler, the chairman of the Conservative Party, will attend. Ministerial colleagues believe the Cabinet was forced into errors of judgement - particularly over the pits - by devoting too much time to the six-month EC presidency.

Sarah Hogg, the head of the policy unit, and her team will present Mr Major with a range of policy options to seize back the initiative. However, the meeting will also be seen as a belated attempt by Mr Major to fill the vacuum caused by the eclipse of Thatcherism, which he failed to do during the general election. Mr Major has told officials not to describe his policies as 'Majorism', but Baroness Thatcher is not alone in privately questioning what he stands for.

Mr Major indicated he would be going on to the offensive over the Government's injection of competition in schools, NHS hospital and family doctor services, and the franchising of passenger rail services - all domestic policy areas where the Government has been under attack.

He said he stood for a free-enterprise society. 'There is no other choice - socialism around the world has collapsed. There is now only free enterprise. It has to be made efficient and accountable. It has to give opportunities and choices for people.'

In spite of the scepticism bordering on contempt among some colleagues, he made it clear the Citizen's Charter was at the centre of his vision for the party.

'I know it's very fashionable for some people to sit back and disparage these and say they deal with little things, but they are huge frustrations to millions of individuals . . .The Citizen's Charter may not be for the man in the Rolls Royce. He knows how the system works. It is for the man in the battered, beaten up car stuck in the lane behind the Rolls Royce.'

Asked about the validity of a report in the Daily Express that he was ready to ask Parliament to change the law enabling the Prince of Wales to remarry in the Church of England if he and the Princess divorced, Mr Major said: 'It's a very speculative story. It's news to me.'

He added: 'Although there are occasionally bumpy times, when there's bad publicity and difficulties, I have absolutely not a shred of doubt about the future position of the monarchy as an institution within the UK. I believe it is absolutely secure.'

Comments