This is not what they’re saying now of course, but 20 years ago. Today, Major is a towering statesman offering leadership and a long-term global perspective on Brexit. Even Alastair Campbell, the man who started the ‘shirt in pants’ rumour, described Major as “superb” as he delivered an excoriating attack on Brexit and proved once and for all that your enemy’s enemy is your friend.
The extent to which Major’s intervention will change the direction of Government policy is doubtful. The Brexit hardliners remember him as the man who forced through the Maastricht Treaty and accelerated the Tory divisions over Europe. And he made clear in the referendum that he strongly supported Remain.
But where Major will get cut-through is with the general public. The truth is that very few politicians are well-known amongst ordinary voters and Major is in the top half-dozen over the last 25 years. Will he make the rank and file small c conservatives of little England reconsider on their backing for Brexit? It’s hard to know, but one speech from John Major is worth a dozen from most of the Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet. If people like him, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are going to fight this in a focussed and consistent way, this battle could still have a long way to go.