Born: Carshalton, Surrey, England, UK
Sir John Major, (born 29 March 1943) is a British politician who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990 to 1997. He served as Foreign Secretary and then Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Thatcher Government from 1989 to 1990, and was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Huntingdon from 1979 until his retirement in 2001. Since the death of Margaret Thatcher in 2013, he has been the oldest living former Prime Minister. Born in Sutton, Surrey, Major grew up in Brixton. He initially worked as an insurance clerk, and then at the London Electricity Board, before becoming an executive at Standard Chartered. He was first elected to the House of Commons at the 1979 general election as the Member of Parliament for Huntingdon. He served as a Parliamentary Private Secretary, Assistant Whip and as a Minister for Social Security. In 1987, he was appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and then as Foreign Secretary two years later. Just three months later in October 1989, he was promoted to Chancellor of the Exchequer, where he presented the 1990 budget. Major became Prime Minister after Thatcher's reluctant resignation in November 1990. He presided over British participation in the Gulf War in March 1991, and negotiated the Maastricht Treaty in December 1991. He went on to lead the Conservatives to a record fourth consecutive electoral victory, winning the most votes in British electoral history with over 14,000,000 votes at the 1992 general election, albeit with a reduced majority in the House of Commons. Shortly after this, even though a staunch supporter of the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), his government became responsible for British exit from the ERM after Black Wednesday on 16 September 1992. This event led to a loss of confidence in Conservative economic policies and Major was never able to achieve a lead in opinion polls again. Despite the eventual revival of economic growth amongst other successes such as the beginnings of the Northern Ireland peace process, by the mid-1990s, the Conservative Party was embroiled in scandals involving various MPs (including cabinet ministers). Criticism of Major's leadership reached such a pitch that he chose to resign as party leader in June 1995, challenging his critics to either back him or challenge him; he was duly challenged by John Redwood but was easily re-elected. By this time, the Labour Party had abandoned its socialist ideology and moved to the centre under the leadership of Tony Blair and won a large number of by-elections, eventually depriving Major's government of a parliamentary majority in December 1996. Major went on to lose the 1997 general election five months later, in one of the largest electoral defeats since the Great Reform Act of 1832. Major was succeeded by William Hague as Leader of the Conservative Party in June 1997. He went on to retire from active politics, leaving the House of Commons at the 2001 general election. In 1999, a BBC poll of 20th-century UK Prime Ministers ranked him 17th.
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