- Former PM urges voters not to put the recovery in hands of Labour
- Draws on working class upbringing to warn of populist appeal of class war
- Millions hit by recession will not see funny side of 'no money' note
- Claims the SNP pose a 'real and present danger' to the United Kingdom
- Labour relying on Scottish nationalists will lead to daily 'political blackmail'
Britain's bright future will be put in peril if Ed Miliband wins because 'every Labour government wrecks the economy', Sir John Major warned today as he acknowledged the election will go down to the wire.
The former Tory Prime Minister used a major speech in the Midlands to vow that the 'future is definitely brighter' and insist Labour's history of divide and rule, pitting rich against poor and North against South, threatened the recovery.
He expressed horror at the note left by a Labour Treasury minister joking that there is no money left, claiming millions who suffered as a result of the crash will have failed to see the funny side.
And he warned allowing the SNP to prop up a Labour government poses a 'real and present danger' to the nation with will hasten the break-up of the United Kingdom.
At an election speech today, former Prime Minister John Major said the 'future is brighter' under the Tories
Sir John remains the last Conservative leader to win an outright majority, after defying the odds - and the polls - to defeat Neil Kinnock's Labour party in 1992.
In what is expected to be his only major intervention in the election campaign, he used a speech in Solihull to:
:: Attack Labour's plans to threaten growth by 'raising taxes and spooking the business community'
:: Admitted the many voters will only decide who to back when they 'pick up that stubby little pencil' in the polling booth on May 7
:: Hail rising employment and economic growth as proof 'the future is most definitely brighter'
:: Warn of the 'fatal' threat posed to the UK of the SNP calling the shots
:: Claim the SNP will demand the impossible and 'create merry hell' to further their dream of independence
After criticism about the negativity of the Tory campaign, Sir John sought to strike an upbeat tone about Britain's booming economy.
'Much remains to be done. But growth is healthy: easily the best of any large economy in Europe. Inflation is non-existent.
'Job creation has been outstanding, and unemployment is falling more rapidly than anyone dared to hope.
'The future is most definitely brighter,' he said.
He spoke about his own career and said while Labour offered working-class people like himself 'a hand out', the Conservatives had offered him a 'hand up'
Sir John Major, arriving for his only intervention in the 2105 election today, attacked Labour's divisiveness
He said that everywhere he went in the world, Britain is still seen as 'a great and tolerant country, as free and honest in its dealings as any nation in the world'.
'We just need to have confidence in ourselves and who we are. We can lift ourselves up to a better quality of life,' he added.
Sir John boasted that when he was ousted from office in 1997, Tony Blair's New Labour government 'inherited a healthy, growing economy'.
But when Gordon Brown - with Ed Miliband and Ed Balls working as his advisers - abandoned Tory spending plans 'they left behind a recession, rising unemployment and debt'.
He warned that every Labour government from Ramsay MacDonald to Gordon Brown 'has ruined the economy'.
'There's a pattern. Labour wrecks the economy. The Tories repair it but become unpopular in doing so. Labour are reelected and wreck it again. It's time to break that pattern.'
Sir John became famous for his soapbox speeches around the country during his own campaign for office in 1992
Sir John condemned Labour's attitude to the nation's finances, typified by the infamous note left by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne in 2010.
'Do you remember the note left by the last Labour Cabinet Minister responsible for spending? 'Dear Chief Secretary', he wrote, 'I'm afraid there is no money left. Kind regards and good luck!'. With an exclamation mark. An exclamation mark.
’Well, I credit him with his honesty but I don’t share his humour. Nor, do I imagine, will the millions of men and women in every part of our country whose lives would have been so much less painful if Labour hadn’t squandered the legacy we left them.’
The working class son of a music hall performer, Sir John drew on his upbringing in Brixton to warn against the appeal of the Labour party.
'I know Labour. I grew up with them. I admire their virtues,' the 72-year-old said.
'But Labour is a class-based party. It was born so and remains so. It's in its DNA. Labour divides to rule.
'To win votes, they will turn rich against poor. North against South. Worker against boss. They have done this before. And they are doing it now.
'But it is emphatically not what this country needs. We need to bring people together, not create chasms to prise us apart.'
He went on: 'We will never all be born equal. Life isn't like that. But it is the Conservative mission to make opportunities in life equal.
'That is what first drew me to the party nearly six decades ago. While Labour was offering me a hand 'out', the Conservatives offered me a hand 'up'.'
In a deeply personal defence of the Tory record, Sir John told an audience of activists: 'My family had nothing. Ask yourself this question: why would I give my lifetime's work to a party that didn't care and didn't help people in need.'
He said Tories 'may not wear their heart on their sleeve but it beats just as strongly to help people as the heart in any political party in the world.'
Sir John said it was the 'Conservative mission' was to help people achieve their potential. The enduring characteristic of the British is fairness and generosity of spirit.
'I believe people will turn away from Labour’s politics of social division. It has no place in a mature State. Our future must be built on social cohesion and economic success.
'And we need to help people – all people – to meet their ambitions that – more often than not – relate to long-term security for themselves and their families.'
He said he 'profoundly believes' it is possible for the Conservatives to win the election, to stop Labour in its tracks.
The former Prime Minister sought to contrast the 'social division' he said was sown up Labour's politics with the economic competence and 'strongly beating heart' he said typifies the Tories
Sir John said former Labour minister Liam Byrne's famous joke that 'there is no money' showed his party could not be trusted with the economy
With the polls still showing the Tories and Labour neck-and-neck, he acknowledged that many voters will not make their final decision until they reach the polling station on May 7.
He said: 'However disaffected, disengaged – downright fed up – many may be with politics and politicians – let me repeat the very simple choice in front of you all on polling day: do you vote for the party that presided over economic chaos or the party that has now led us out of it?
'When you enter that private booth and pick up that stubby little pencil on 7 May – when all the noise and hubbub of this election campaign is over – that choice will, quite literally, be in your own hands.'
The Tories hope to capitalise on a damning poll which shows more than half of British voters want Ms Sturgeon and her party to play no part in the next government.
In a dire warning, Sir John claimed the SNP would use any power they wield in Westminster to foster division and further their dream of the break up of the 300-year-old Union.
Sir John said of Mr Byrne (pictured); 'I don't share his humour. Nor, do I imagine, will the millions of men and women in every part of our country whose lives would have been so much less painful if Labour hadn't squandered the legacy we left them'
'The SNP is a real and present danger to our future,' he said.
'They will pit Scotland against England. That could be disastrous to the people of Scotland – and fatal to the UK as a whole.'
Sir John said that he had repeatedly warned in the 1990s that devolution to Scotland would make independence more, not less, likely.
Labour had argued it would 'kill independence stone dead' but instead it 'fanned the flame' which lead to the referendum which left the Union 'battered' but intact. 'Now, it is at risk again,' he said.
Labour's only route back to power is in hock to smaller, left wing parties, he said, leading to 'more borrowing, more spending, an end to welfare reform, and far more people dragged into higher tax brackets'.
Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru would demand more money for Wales while the 'worthy' Green party's economic plan is 'a recipe for economic self-harm'.
He warned of 'mayhem' if the SNP holds the balance of power, with a weak Labour government open to a 'daily dose of blackmail' to secure the support of the nationalists in Commons votes.
The SNP would use its role in Westminster to bolster support ahead of next year's Scottish Parliament elections, when it will put independence back on the agenda, Sir John said.
After last year's vote saw 55 per cent of Scots reject the idea of separation, nationalists insisted the issue was settled for a generation.
But Ms Sturgeon has since left the door open to a second referendum before 2020.
Sir John said the SNP would 'manufacture grievance' to make a Yes vote more likely any future referendum.
'They will ask for the impossible and create merry hell if it is denied. The nightmare of a broken United Kingdom has not gone away.
'The separation debate is not over. The SNP is determined to prise apart the United Kingdom.'
Ms Sturgeon yesterday unveiled an anti-austerity manifesto setting out her price for propping up a weak Labour government, including higher spending fuelled by more borrowing.
Polls continue to show up to half of Scots are planning to back the SNP, robbing Labour of dozens of seats and depriving Mr Miliband of hopes of a majority.
Sir John warned that any post-election deal between Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon would leave the country open to a 'daily dose of blackmail' from the SNP
Mr Miliband and Ms Sturgeon have ruled out a formal coalition with SNP MPs sitting in Cabinet.
But they have left open the possibility of the SNP supporting a Labour government on a vote-by-vote basis, raising the prospect of Mr Miliband being forced to bow to their demands to get any legislation through.
Sir John warned that this will leave the country open to a 'daily dose of blackmail' as the SNP makes fresh demands in return for supporting Labour in Commons votes.
There's a pattern. Labour wrecks the economy. The Tories repair it but become unpopular in doing so. Labour are reelected and wreck it again. It's time to break that pattern
Former-PM Sir John Major today
'If Labour were to accept an offer of support from the SNP, it could put the country on course to a government held to ransom on a vote-by-vote basis,' Sir John said.
'Labour would be in hock to a party that - slowly but surely - will push them ever further to the left. And who would pay the price for this? We all would. We would all pay for the SNP's ransom in our daily lives - through higher taxes, fewer jobs, and more and more debt.
'This is a recipe for mayhem. At the very moment our country needs a strong and stable government, we risk a weak and unstable one - pushed to the left by its allies, and open to a daily dose of political blackmail.'
Mr Miliband last night sought to play down the prospect of being over-ruled by Ms Sturgeon, insisting: 'That ain't gonna happen.'
But a number of senior Labour figures have admitted there is common ground between the two parties, and suggested that talks will begin quickly if Mr Miliband falls short of a majority.
The SNP has already suggested that it will be 'entitled to vote against any bit of legislation' and 'any bit of spending' it does not agree with.
Sir John (pictured in 1992), the son of a music hall performer, said Labour is still a 'class-based party'
It means that for Labour to pass new laws or agree to spending in England, Wales or Northern Ireland they would have to strike a deal with the SNP.
Much of the SNP manifesto appeared designed to demonstrate common ground with Labour, promising to scrap the bedroom tax, reverse NHS reforms, increase the minimum wage and tackle energy bills.
But in key areas it went much further, threatening to drag Labour further to the left to make the party 'bolder and better'.
It included scrapping the Trident nuclear deterrent, ending austerity and embarking on a £140billion spending spree.
In a series of co-ordinated Conservative attacks, David Cameron warned a Labour-SNP deal would be a 'match made in hell' for the British economy.
The former Prime Minister (pictured in 1993) said that though he has travelled the world, there is 'nowhere else he would rather be' than Britain
London Mayor Boris Johnson said allowing Scottish nationalists to preside of the UK government would be like getting 'Herod to run a baby farm'.
But some Tories fear the attacks could backfire. Lord Forsyth - who served as Scottish secretary in Sir John's government - warned that building up the SNP to undermine support for Labour in England could ultimately damage the Union.
'We've had the dilemma for Conservatives, which is they want to be the largest party at Westminster and therefore some see the fact that the nationalists are going to take seats in Scotland will be helpful,' he told the Guardian.
'But that is a short-term and dangerous view which threatens the integrity of our country.'
Ms Sturgeon has made clear that in the event of a hung parliament she will be in London on May 8 to take charge of talks with Labour.
'I am the leader of the party, I would lead those discussions if we're in that scenario.' she said yesterday.
However, just 22 per cent of voters across the UK back the idea of Ms Sturgeon playing a role in the UK government, with 54 per cent opposed. It makes the SNP by far the least popular potential coalition partner.
Pollsters ComRes said older British adults were the most likely to be opposed to SNP influence.
A survey for ITV News found an astonishing 71 per cent of those aged 65 and over want to lock Ms Sturgeon out of power, compared to 44 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds.
Amid fears of a backlash south of the border, Ms Sturgeon claimed she was offering the 'genuine hand of friendship' to the rest of the UK.
She said: 'The SNP isn't going to Westminster to seek to bring down governments or block budgets. We're going to Westminster to build an alliance for good, positive, progressive, sensible change.'
ANALYSIS: THE LAST TORY ELECTION WINNER IS STILL WORTH LISTENING TO
John Major is the anti-Blair.
While the once-loved Mr Tony has become a national hate figure since leaving office for his habit of making money and getting tanned in multiple timezones, Sir John's popularity has taken the opposite trajectory.
Derided in office as the grey man who tucked his shirt into his underpants and led the Tories to their crushing 1997 defeat, his years of retirement have been kinder.
Sir John Major has become the opposite of the toxic Tony Blair since he left office
After quitting Downing Street he went straight to the Oval to watch the cricket. His political interventions since then have been rare, and more powerful for it.
In 2007 he led criticism of Gordon Brown's crass visit to Iraq during the Conservative party conference, which looked like Labour playing politics with the armed forces.
And 18 months ago Sir John gave an extraordinary speech in which he spoke up for the 'silent have-nots', many of whom are living in 'lace curtain poverty'.
These people, he said, were his neighbours, he grew up with them.
The ex-PM is now regularly seen watching cricket
The Brixton schoolboy who never went to university but rose to succeed to Margaret Thatcher did not need to add that his upbringing was in stark contrast to David Cameron's Old Etonian past.
He returned to his theme today, talking about helping those 'left behind' by globalisation and reflecting on how he 'grew up' with Labour in working class South London, but wanted a 'hand up' not a 'hand out'.
But he also acknowledged his own failings. He recalled how he once spoke of seeking to secure a 'nation at ease with itself'.
'Events, and no doubt my own failings, meant I was unable to achieve this,' he said mournfully.
Never the greatest orator - he made 'gobbledegook' sound like six words.
Dire warnings about the SNP fuelling 'grievance on an industrial scale' or posing a 'real and present danger' were delivered with the drama of a cricket fan remarking: 'Looks like rain again.'
But he does have a quiet passion and an authenticity which many in the Tory party lack.
And as the only Prime Minister to ever win more than 14million votes, he is still a - slightly dull - voice that many will listen to.