Mon, 27 May 2024

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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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John Major Says He Agreed With Prince Philip That There Are “Too Many” MPs

Sir John Major was Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997 (Alamy)

3 min read

Former Prime Minister Sir John Major has said that he agreed with the late Duke of Edinburgh — who died on Friday aged 99 — that there are “too many” MPs and peers in the Houses of Parliament.

During a visit to Ghana in 1999, Prince Philip was told that the country’s parliament only had 200 MPs, to which he famously responded: “That’s about the right number. We have 650 and most of them are a complete bloody waste of time.”

Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show whether that was an accurate representation of the Duke’s political views, Sir John said: “You'd have to ask someone who knows him better than I do.”

But he also said he found himself aligned with the Duke's apparent view on the matter.  “I rather agree with him about the number of MPs," Major added. "I think there are too many, and there's certainly far too many in the Lord's. I think that is self-evident.”

Sir John insisted, however, that while the Duke's comments were “regarded as gruff and sometimes caused offence”, the intention behind them was to “put people at ease”.

“If you're meeting the Queen or Prince Philip for the first time and you're a normal person, you're nervous," Major continued. 

“His determination was to put people at ease and by saying something from left field, something that's a bit anti-establishment — because parliament is the establishment, of course — that does create a different perception in the mind's eye with people who meet him. It relaxes them.”

The  former PM also commended the late royal for his “compassion” that was the “driving force” for the Duke of Edinburgh award, adding that his care for the scheme was “indicative of what lay underneath the occasional gruff manner”. 

Sir John Major was Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997, and was appointed as a special guardian for Prince William and Prince Harry following the death of their mother, Princess Diana, in 1997 — a role which saw him responsible for legal and administrative matters.

He said he had “absolutely no idea” if he was to be invited to the funeral for Prince Philip, which is due to be held with just 30 guests, in line with Covid-19 restrictions, on 17 April at Windsor Castle.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed he would not be attending the event next weekend to free up more space for close friends and family, despite it being customary for the head of government to be invited.

A Downing Street spokesperson said the decision had been taken because of the strict limit of 30 on attendance at the ceremony due to current coronavirus restrictions. 

“The Prime Minister has throughout wanted to act in accordance with what is best for the Royal household, and so to allow for as many family members as possible will not be attending the funeral on Saturday,” they said.

Prince Harry, who currently lives in California with his wife Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, has confirmed he will travel back to the UK for the funeral, and will be sticking to current quarantine rules upon his arrival.

Markle will not be attending the event, after doctors advised against it due to her pregnancy.

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