Born 29 March 1943, younger son of Thomas Major and Gwendolyn Minny Coates. Educated at Rutlish Grammar School. Married 1970 Norma Johnson. MP for Huntingdonshire 1979-83, Huntingdon 1983-. Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Ministers of State, Home Office, 1981-3; Government Whip 1983-5; Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security 1985-6; Minister of State for Social Security and the Disabled 1986-7; Chief Secretary to the Treasury 1987-9; Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 1989; Chancellor of the Exchequer 1989-90; Prime Minister 1990-7. Major emerged as a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative party in 1990, largely unknown in terms of his political philosophy and his capacity for leadership. Seven years later, after a prime ministerial career longer than that of many of his predecessors, commentators still had difficulty in knowing what to make of him. Young in both age and cabinet experience when he succeeded to the premiership, he proved to be a political enigma. Not overtly ambitious, he reached the top of the ‘greasy pole’ at the age of 47. As a candidate for the Conservative leadership, he was claimed as ‘one of us’ by both wings of the parliamentary party. Assailed by the press and many of his own party from 1992 onwards for poor leadership, and leading a party which in 1995 trailed in the opinion polls by unprecedented margins, he forced and won re-election as party leader and remained more firmly ensconced in Downing Street than his predecessor when she was faced with electoral unpopularity and doubts about her leadership. By the summer of 1995 he had been in office longer than six of his ten twentieth-century Conservative predecessors, and was emerging as the great survivor of British politics. Two years later he led his party to its worst defeat since 1906 and promptly resigned the leadership.