Both David Cameron and George Osborne had ringside seats as advisers in the Major government. They will remember how grim it can get. Major’s problems started even before his poll victory, with the decision – which seemed principled at the time – not to rush his (as it seemed at the time) EU negotiating triumph at Maastricht through the Commons before the election. The decision to postpone legislation until the other side of the 1992 election stored up years of trouble for the Major government, compounded by the trauma of the UK’s dramatic exit from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (which the UK had joined under Major’s chancellorship) in September of that year. But the trigger for Major’s loss of support within his own party was another external event: the decision by the Danes in June 1992 to vote ‘No’ to Maastricht. That opened up the previously-settled issue. Shortly thereafter a bunch of Conservative backbenchers – many of them new to Parliament and fundamentally loyal – signed a letter to Major demanding a “Fresh Start” on Europe. But a fresh start was not on offer. The rest of the Major premiership was dominated by the need to get Maastricht through, […]

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