John Major — ‘Thatcherism with a Human Face’
It has become customary to think of the premiership of John Major as a mere transitional interlude between the dominant figures of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. In fact, Major was one of the longer-serving Prime Ministers of the twentieth century. He spent seven and a half years in 10 Downing Street — longer than Attlee, Macmillan, Lloyd George or Stanley Baldwin. Often described, rather unfairly, as a ‘grey man’, he came from a more exotic background than any of his fellow Prime Ministers of the century. Born on 29 March 1943, his father, Tom, was already almost 64, and his mother, Gwen, 38. Tom had had a varied and adventurous life. Brought up in the United States, where he won but did not take up a scholarship to the West Point Military Academy, and played junior league baseball, he returned to Britain with his family in his late teens and worked on a London building site before embarking on a long theatrical career, including a spell as a circus trapeze artist, before opening a business as a manufacturer of garden gnomes. His original name was Abraham Thomas Ball, and he had adopted Major as a stage name, eventually hyphenating himself to Major-Ball. Twice married, each time to partners in his theatrical acts, he also had many affairs, which meant that the future Prime Minister had at least two half-siblings, one of whom, a sister, he only became aware of after he became Prime Minister.
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