Back to Basics (campaign)

Back to Basics (campaign)

Back to Basics was an ill-fated attempt to relaunch the government of British Prime Minister John Major in 1993. Announced at the Party Conference of that year, the initiative was intended to focus on issues of law and order, education and public probity (especially single mothers) after the debacle of Black Wednesday had damaged the UK Conservative Party perceived ability to safeguard public finance. Back to Basics was widely interpreted as a moral campaign, and hence was vigorously attacked by political opponents using the revelation of several instances of "Tory sleaze," including:
*David Mellor's extra-marital affair with bit-part actress Antonia de Sancha (ca. 1992)
*Tim Yeo's extramarital affair resulting in him fathering a "love-child" in 1993
*Michael Mates's resignation as a Minister of State following allegations he had accepted cash and gifts from the fugitive businessman Asil Nadir (1993)
*Stephen Milligan's accidental death by auto-erotic asphyxiation on February 7, 1994
*Michael Brown's involvement with a then-underage man in 1994, and his subsequent implication in the 'cash for questions' affair.
*Neil Hamilton's alleged acceptance of 'cash for questions' from Mohammed Al-Fayed in 1994
*David Ashby discovered to have shared a bed with a man on a trip paid by expenses. Ashby was married at the time.
*Jonathan Aitken's alleged procurement of prostitutes for Arab businessmen, their payment of his Ritz hotel bill, and his subsequent conviction and prison sentence for perjury after the resulting libel trial in which he unsuccessfully attempted to sue "The Guardian" over the story.
*Graham Riddick's entrapment for, and acceptance of, 'cash for questions' in 1994.
*Hartley Booth's amorous, unreciprocated pursuit of his secretary in 1995
*David Willetts's disciplining by the parliamentary ombudsman over his intervention in a parliamentary enquiry in 1996
*Piers Merchant's affairs with a night club hostess, and his researcher in 1997

Ironically, several years after his term of office ended, it emerged that John Major himself had engaged in an extramarital affair with fellow Conservative Party MP Edwina Currie. By this time, however, the "Back to Basics" campaign was all but forgotten.

The phrase has since become used by UK political commentators to describe any failed attempt by a political party leader to relaunch themselves following a scandal or controversy.

The phrase was satirized in the "Viz" strip Baxter Basics.


*cite news|url=,,801924,00.html|title=Major goes back to the old values|accessdate=2007-09-26
*cite news
title=British Scandals Jeopardizing Party's 'Back to Basics' Effort
author=Richard W. Stevenson
publisher=New York Times

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