Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Research Student: Tom McMeeking

A reassessment of the leadership of John Major using the Greenstein model

Photo of Tom McMeeking

My study seeks to reassess the leadership of Conservative Prime Minister John Major (1990-1997) using a political leadership model to assess Presidents of the United States: the Greenstein model.

It is important that this study is carried out because the period of John Major’s premiership has been widely overlooked by academic studies up to now, social scientists usually, when looking at this period of British political history, focused upon the transforming premierships of Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990) and Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair (1997-2007).

Caught between Thatcherite hegemony and New Labour dominance, John Major has, quite literally, been airbrushed out of history. By examining John Major’s leadership using the Greenstein model this gap in the academic literature can be remedied, the last single volume academic study of Major’s government having been published over ten years ago: The Major Premiership (1999), by Peter Dorey.

The Greenstein model is based upon Fred Greenstein’s seminal The Presidential Difference (2000), which seeks to assess presidential leadership using six criteria: first, skills as a public communicator; second, organisational capacity; third, political skill; fourth, public policy vision; fifth, cognitive style and, finally, emotional intelligence. The last two criteria, cognitive style and emotional intelligence, are based upon Greenstein’s work in another sub-field of social science research: political psychology studies, for which he was an early pioneer, writing his famous first edition of Personality and Politics in 1969.

Though all six criteria look at different leadership skills, it is the final two - the psychology-based factors - that provide more added value than other leadership models and therefore give a deper insight into a Prime Minister's time in office.

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