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John Major, a loser in the lottery of life


NEWLY declassified documents from 25 years ago have revealed that when John Major bought a ticket to promote the first National Lottery draw, civil servants took seriously the possibility of the then prime minister scooping top prize. In 1994, officials gave the solemn reassurance that ‘if he were to win, the proceeds would go to charity’.

His former paramour Edwina Currie would have us believe that John Major had already hit the jackpot a decade earlier. Then a government whip operating at his rightful level, by the time the National Lottery began this deceitful and dismal man, described even by the neutral Encyclopaedia Britannica as a ‘colourless and indecisive leader’, had used up more than his share of good fortune: first by being in the right place at the right time to become prime minister, and then by having as his challenger in 1992 the unelectable Neil Kinnock. 

By the time he filled in that ticket to publicise the lottery, Major’s luck had long since run out, therefore Whitehall was worrying unnecessarily. Nonetheless, there might have been some nerves amongst his aides, who wondered which numbers Major had chosen when the first ball dropped: ‘Hmm, number 30 . . . isn’t that the final two digits of the PM’s beloved Cones Hotline?’

The unease would have increased when that was followed by ball number 3. ‘Er, what was that reason the PM gave last year for keeping his Eurosceptic critics in the Cabinet? “We don’t want another three of the bastards out there.” You don’t think . . ?’

Unfortunately, the government papers from 1994 do not record John Major’s lottery selections. Had he chosen numbers relevant to his premiership, Major might have followed 30 and 3 with 21, his overall majority at the 1992 election, but which by 1994 already was fast disappearing with each by-election in which the Conservatives were annihilated. 

Those by-election beatings were the fallout from Black Wednesday, the insane attempt in 1992 to keep the pound artificially high within the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. With those events seared into his memory, perhaps Major instinctively selected number 15, being the height to which the percentage interest rate was briefly raised during that fateful day.

As an unimaginative fellow, Major would almost certainly have included Number 10 on his lottery ticket. But suppose he was left scratching his head to think of his sixth selection. Which number might have occurred to this rabid Remainer, who now threatens court action to block Brexit and supports the so-called People’s Vote?

‘I know! I’ll use the number of times I gave the British public a say on whether to ratify the Maastricht Treaty and become members of the newly created European Union.’

But unlike his denying of democracy over Maastricht, when playing the National Lottery John Major discovered that zero was not an option.

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Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver is an accountant who lives in East Lothian.

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