John Major gets on his Soapbox


John Major gets on his Soapbox

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire The 30th of March 1992 AD

The general election campaign of 1992 was too close to call at the end of March, with just over a week to go before the big day itself on April 9. The Conservatives had been in power since 1979 , and inevitably for any party in government so long had become arrogant and tainted by sleaze. The Labour Party under Neil Kinnock had gradually rebuilt to the point where it was again credible. Both the main protagonists sought a way to edge it.
For the Conservatives John Major hit upon his secret weapon seemingly by chance, forced to use a ‘soapbox’ to give him an improvised platform during a messy walkabout in Luton on March 28 when confronted by left-wing hecklers. Above the head of a Tory strategist a light-bulb clicked on: thus on March 30 John Major in Cheltenham again used the tactic. It harked back to more personal campaigns and simpler times; and it garnered a lot of press coverage, suiting the diffident Major – who suspected then that he’d had an affair with Edwina Currie?
On April 1 the Labour Party held a huge rally in Sheffield : Kinnock was flown to the city by helicopter; the cringe-inducing stage-management of the expensive event contrasted with the simplicity of the soap-box. On April 9 the Tories won the election, a surprising 8 per cent ahead of Labour.

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