Sketch: Grey man shows his true colours at last
“Major wouldn’t do badly leading the Tories again in 2015 – if the party would ever have him”
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt. As Political Editor and then Chief Political Commentator, he previously covered the John Major and early Tony Blair era. He has written for the Daily Express, Sunday Times, Times and Sunday Telegraph, and Sunday Correspondent. He is the author of Mandelson and the Making of New Labour (2000).
Wednesday 23 October 2013
Did we really once call him the “grey man?” Yesterday, by contrast, he was not inconsiderably kaleidoscopic. He said that, liberated by the burdens of office, “I can say what I think now”.
And he did. Press gallery lunches can be platitude central. Yesterday Sir John Major made the most effective speech most could remember at one of them and let’s face it, possibly of his own career. Oh yes!
And it wasn’t just the lethally gentle score-settling that kept us on the edge of our chairs. As on the “bastards”, as he once called three of his Eurosceptic rebels off air. “It was unforgiveable... but my only excuse was that it was true.”
Or to lunch guest Labour’s Nick Brown: “It’s very good to see you here, Nick. I thought you were dead.” Or the sideswipe at the party’s present day Europhobes, that the idea of a federal Europe was “as dead as Jacob Marley”.
It was the – dare one say it – “one nation” politics that made the difference. Not a single cliché about “skivers and strivers”. Instead an appeal to his party not to forsake the “silent have-nots”, many in “lace-curtain poverty”.
“How do I know about these people,” asked the Brixton boy. “Because I grew up with them.” Maybe this wasn’t a barb at the posh boys from Eton and St Pauls. But for all his professions of loyalty, it sounded rather like one.
This was the context in which he said that while wishing Iain Duncan Smith, another of his old tormentors, well in reforming social security, “unless he’s very lucky, which he may not be, or a genius, which last time I looked was unproven, he may get some of it wrong”.
He said later he had intended to give IDS “a ringing endorsement”. If that’s what it was you hated to think what a criticism would have been.
It was, of course, his plan for a levy on the “unacceptably” high-charging energy utilities which will go down worst at No 10. OK, he did initially refer to the Labour leader as “David Miliband”. And he was careful to say on the price freeze plan that while the Miliband heart had been “in the right place, his head had gone walkabout”. But it won’t be Miliband who will be worrying about Sir John’s declaration that he had focused “on the right issue”.
Major would be campaigning with business and – he mentioned them twice – “the trade unions” for a Yes vote in the Europe referendum, which he predicted would end the whole “dreary” debate.
He will be pretty formidable when the time comes. Come to think of it, he wouldn’t do badly leading the Tories again in 2015 – if the party would ever have him. He was, after all, the last Conservative leader actually to win an election outright. Oh yes!
- 1 I was a Woman Against Feminism too
- 2 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 3 The Tory donor whose firm is one of Britain’s biggest tax avoiders - with HMRC's blessing
- 4 John Barrowman praised for Commonwealth Games opening ceremony gay kiss
Peaches Geldof cause of death: Socialite had taken fatal dose of heroin after years of addiction, inquest concludes
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned
Peaches Geldof: Her final day – and her fatal decision
Israel-Gaza conflict: Israel may have committed war crimes, says UN human rights chief
John Barrowman praised for Commonwealth Games opening ceremony gay kiss
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...
£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...
£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...