When Thatcher and Major went to war over poll tax

John Major and Margaret ThatcherJohn Major and Margaret Thatcher
John Major and Margaret Thatcher
THE extent to which the poll tax drove a wedge between Margaret Thatcher and her successor, John Major, is revealed in a previously unseen note he sent her after entering Downing Street.

The unpopular mechanism for funding local government had been blamed for the Tory rebellion which drove Mrs Thatcher from office - but she remained convinced that Mr Major would continue to drive through her “legacy” policy.

However, she disapproved of his “inclusive” style, and went on US television to complain: “I see a tendency to try to undermine what I achieved.”

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Today’s newly-released files show Mr Major defending, in a handwritten postscript, his decision to replace her “com­mu­nity charge” with the present-day system of council tax,

“I am as fed up as you must be with the way the press seize on any issue to try and point up similarities/dis-similarities between us,” he wrote. “I find it embarrassing and, more important, you must find it hurtful.”

His letter, beginning “Dear Margaret” and ending “Yours ever, John”, had warned that “responsible citizens, overwhelmingly our supporters” were being hit with rising bills as councils set the poll tax at levels far higher than anyone in government had expected.

“I do not think we could long defend a situation in which some people were paying more in community charge than in income tax,” he wrote.

He then sought to sweeten the pill by passing on an invitation from the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to attend a lunch or dinner in her Moscow, in her honour.