The last Conservative leader to take the party to a parliamentary majority today intervened in the election campaign with a high profile speech in the West Midlands. Sir John Major presented voters with a stark choice between the party that “presided over economic chaos” and the party that “has led us out of it.”
The former prime minister said that Plaid Cymru, the Greens and the SNP would all support a minority Labour government but that that support would come at the price of: “more borrowing, more spending, an end to welfare reform and far more people dragged into higher tax brackets.” Pointing out that Plaid Cymru would demand more money to rescue their health service, and branding Green economic policy a recipe for “economic self harm” the main focus of his speech was on what he called the prospect of a Labour government “held to ransom” by the SNP. That would slowly but surely push Labour ever further to the Left.
Describing the SNP as deeply socialist party whose sole aim is an independent Scotland, Major claimed the party would demand policies that favour Scotland “literally” at the expense of the rest of the UK. He also pointed out that Scottish Labour’s leader, Jim Murphy, had already suggested a similar ploy by proposing that Labour’s mansion tax in England could be used to fund Scotland. Major claimed this was “no way to run a country” and a “recipe for mayhem.”
He went on to claim that the SNP’s main focus were the Scottish Parliament elections next year and for this they would squeeze every bribe they could out of a minority Labour government with the aim of putting a second referendum on independence on the agenda. The Nationalists would also seek to drive a wedge between Scotland and England, saying they would, “ask for the impossible and create merry hell if denied.”
Poking holes in many of the claims the SNP had made during the independence referendum, Major pointed out that oil prices are now half what the SNP had “boasted” and that a Scotland with full fiscal autonomy would have a fiscal deficit of £7.6 billion. He went on to say that the SNP’s wish to join the EU – should Scotland become independent – was far less likely than the Nationalists had suggested, saying that not only was there a queue which they would join the back of but also Spain and Belgium were unlikely to welcome a separatist Scotland. He said that the SNP could be “disastrous for the people of Scotland and fatal to the UK as a whole.”
Turning his sights on Labour, the former prime minister said “every Labour Government from Ramsay Macdonald to Gordon Brown has ruined the economy.” He said there was a pattern the country must break of the Tories becoming unpopular for fixing Labour’s mistakes only for Labour to be re-elected and wreck the economy again.
Major claimed the Conservatives would turn away from the politics of division and that it was the Conservative mission to make opportunities in life equal, saying that was what had drawn him to the party 60 years ago. He closed his speech by asking voters whether they wanted to “vote for the party that presided over economic chaos; or the party that has now led us out of it?”