Wise words from honest John Major

IN office, Sir John Major was little short of a walking disaster. But now that he has assumed the elder statesman role, willing to appear on television to give frank opinions, his stature has increased considerably.

Graham Dines

IN office, Sir John Major was little short of a walking disaster. But now that he has assumed the elder statesman role, willing to appear on television to give frank opinions, his stature has increased considerably.

It was his intervention in Gordon Brown's contemptible journey to Iraq to meet the troops in an attempt to upstage the Tory Party conference two years' ago that managed to torpedo Brown's cut-and-run General Election. Brown was using the troops he had sent to the Middle East, on a mission in which their lives were at stake, for party political purposes.

Now Sir John wants an end to the tiresome “silly exchanges”' between Labour and the Conservatives over public spending. The weekly clashes between the Prime Minister and David Cameron in the Commons on Wednesday afternoons are repetitive - Cameron will not get Brown to admit that if Labour wins the election, it will have to slash public spending, and Brown is stuck in a groove that the Tories are the party of 10% cuts.


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On the BBC's Andrew Marr programme on Sunday, Sir John hit out: “These silly exchanges about Mr 10% and things of that sort totally underrate the difficulties that we are now facing. People had better understand this is an unprecedented situation. We have never seen anything like this in your lifetime or mine.”

The former Prime Minister forecast that whichever party wins the next election will have to put an extra 5p on the standard rate of income tax and VAT will rise to at least 20%, but these measures would not begin to bridge the gap that needs to be bridged.

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“The debate needs now to concentrate on the reality of where we are, and it doesn't matter who's in government. This mess isn't going to change with a change of government. Someone is going to have to correct the public finances.

“And if they don't, if they just continue with the finances at this huge deficit, at some stage our national credit rating will collapse. If that happened, sterling would be in difficulty. If that happened, you'd get soaring interest rates.

“You've got a deficit of �180billion. Can you continue with that? No. Have you got to narrow it? Yes. Can that be done solely by growth? No.

“So how do you bridge the gap and what are the implications of that? And there are some opportunities here. When people think of cuts, I would argue that we are a heavily over-governed nation. When you have subsidy to some parts of the country greater than that that's provided in Cuba, you realise you are getting to be a bit of a nanny state.”

I'm not being party political when I wholeheartedly endorse Sir John's call for a reduction in the size of both the executive and the legislative. “We have no need for 120 ministers. You could reduce that by a third quite comfortably and then when you've done that, downsize parliament in that respect.

“You can't forever have the government increasing its role at the expense of private endeavour and the private sector. It is a route that ends eventually in national bankruptcy, which is where the government are heading us.”

It's just a pity that Sir John didn't do this when he had the keys to 10 Downing Street.

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