Issued: Wed, 20 Feb 2019 00:00:00 GMT

The Rt Hon Sir John Major KG CH closed the John Smith Centre’s Public Service Conference with the inaugural John Smith Public Service Lecture on 19 February 2019 at the University of Glasgow.

Introduced by University of Glasgow Principal, Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, the former Prime Minister delivered a rousing speech to 400 guests in the University’s Bute Hall on the current state of politics in the UK.

Download the full text of Sir John’s speech here.


Sir John said, “John Smith was a rare talent: the sort of tenacious politician that our country could ill afford to lose. If the fates had allowed, he would have been a Prime Minister of distinction.Some might think it odd that I’m speaking at an event that implicitly honours the legacy of a political opponent. But I am proud to be doing so. Democracy – and concern for our national wellbeing – is not the preserve of any one Party or philosophy. It is our common heritage, fought for by our predecessors. Today, it is the safety valve through which we debate differing views: but debate doesn’t mean we must disagree on everything. Because we don’t – and we shouldn’t. Politics isn’t warfare: it’s about deciding what is in the best interests of the four nations of our United Kingdom. And the idea that politicians should talk only to their own tribe, speaking only for – or to – those who agree with them, explains much that is wrong about modern politics. It’s a bunker attitude that has to change. The public don’t like it – and the public are right.”

The John Smith Centre is enormously grateful to Sir John for delivering the first John Smith Public Service Lecture.

The lecture formed part of the John Smith Centre Public Service Conference, which was generously co-funded by the Political Studies Association’s Elections, Public Opinion and Parties specialist group.