Monday, April 09, 2012

Flashback: The 1992 election

Twenty years ago today it was the 1992 general election. A record breaking election that saw the Conservatives win a fourth term, with the most votes for any party in British electoral history. And they did it without spin - compare Neil Kinnock's grandiose Sheffield rally with John Major going out on the streets and speaking common sense on a good old fashioned soapbox.

Yet for many Conservatives 1992 has become a forgotten election. For some the victory is an uncomfortable truth, that the party could win elections without Margaret Thatcher and thus justified deposing her. For others the memory of the next five years is dominated by so many problems that they'd really rather not remember them and secretly wish the election had been lost.

However there are signs of a slow change in John Major's reputation with even some of his old critics starting to reappraise his record - see for example It's time to give John Major the credit we so cruelly denied him by Peter Oborne in the Daily Telegraph. And the various historical rankings of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom have seen Major slowly rise up the charts judged by academics, in recent years overtaking Edward Heath (University of Leeds: Academics rate Brown one of the worst post 1945 PMs). Maybe he will rise further in years to come.

Would it have been better to lose the 1992 election? It's hard to say, though if the party hadn't deposed Margaret Thatcher it's likely we would have lost. Indeed if the landslide had come five years soon, Thatcher might even have had the humiliation of losing her own seat. Such a result could have been the necessary blow to the neo-Thatcherite wing of the party and silenced the sirens who spent much of the last twenty years claiming that going more Thatcherite than even Thatcher did was the solution for the country. And some of the more Machiavellian might point out that a loss would have given the chaos of Black Wednesday to Neil Kinnock and John Smith. Perhaps the Conservatives would have taken rather less than thirteen years to return to government.

But losing would have meant the country being run by Neil Kinnock. And that's truly a horrific thought. Whether losing might have been better for the party, it would have been far worse for the country.

So as the BBC Parliament channel reruns the 1992 election coverage, a big cheer to John Major for achieving such a victory and saving us from that nightmare.

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