Back to basics

Filling the pail

In 1993, John Major, the British Prime Minister, stood up at the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool and announced his ‘back to basics’ campaign. It was meant to be a call for a return to ‘neighbourliness, decency and courtesy’ and a focus on education and the economy, but it became conflated in the media and popular imagination with social conservatism and family values.

Inevitably, there followed a string of tawdry sex scandals involving senior figures in the Conservative government before finally, long after Major’s political demise, we all unwillingly learnt about his own affair with Edwina Currie – an affair that had fizzled out long before he ever stepped onto that Blackpool stage.

Rank hypocrisy? I’m not sure. I’m of the old-fashioned opinion that what politicians do to improve public services is far more important than whether they have consensual affairs and I’m not certain Major ever launched the kind…

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