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Friday, 10 March, 2000, 18:41 GMT
Major to stand down
John Major
Mr Major resigned as Tory leader in 1997
Former Prime Minister John Major has announced that he is to stand down as an MP at the next general election.

My family has sacrificed much for politics and it is now time for politics to make way

John Major
In a letter to his Huntingdon Conservative Association, Mr Major said he had reached his decision "after a great deal of soul searching and sadness".

But he said: "I would rather go while I am being urged to stay rather than stay beyond the time when I should go."

The 56-year-old MP was elected to Parliament in 1979 and subsequently had a startling rise through the ministerial ranks of Margaret Thatcher's government, becoming foreign secretary and chancellor in her cabinet.

And when Mrs (now Lady) Thatcher resigned in the wake of Michael Heseltine's challenge to her leadership in 1990, Mr Major was selected by Tory MPs to succeed her.

He then led the Conservatives to an unexpected general election victory in 1992.

But his years in power were marked by vicious in-fighting within his party, particularly over the UK's links with Europe.

Family sacrifices

Mr Major, whose Huntingdon constituency is one of the safest Tory seats, resigned as Conservative leader in 1997 after Labour's landslide general election victory.

John Major and Lady Thatcher
Mr Major could now join Lady Thatcher in the Lords
In his letter, Mr Major said: "I have served in Parliament for over 20 years and politics has been an important part of my life for far longer; but it is not all my life and it is time to enjoy the many other aspects that have been subordinated over so many years.

"My family has sacrificed much for politics and it is now time for politics to make way."

As an ex-prime minister, Mr Major is likely to go to the House of Lords.

Tory leader William Hague said Mr Major's colleagues would be "saddened" by his decision.

Peace efforts praised

He said Mr Major would be remembered for "the golden economic legacy from which we are still benefiting".

John has given great service to the Conservative Party and to our country

William Hague
He also praised Mr Major's work in negotiating the UK's opt-out of the European Single Currency and the Social Chapter and for his efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland.

Mr Hague added: "For these things and many others, the country owes him a considerable debt."

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said: "John Major has made an immense contribution to British political life over the last 20 years.

"In his time as prime minister and in the three years since, he has battled valiantly against the tide of extremism that now epitomises William Hague's Conservative Party.

"I wish him well in his future and with whatever he chooses to do."

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