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John Major succeeded Mrs. Thatcher as prime minister in 1990 and served until 1997. Major progressed with unprecedented speed through the high offices of state during the late 1980s, becoming prime minister in 1990 only three years after entering the cabinet. He enjoyed great popularity in his early months as prime minister, as he seemed more caring than his iron predecessor, and won the general election of 1992 against all predictions. But by the end of that same year nothing seemed to go right: his determination to stay in the ERM had been thwarted and the sterling was effectively devalued; his achievement at Maastricht had led to profound divisions within his own party; attempts to force immediate closure on a number of mines were followed by a hasty climb-down; there were rumblings over arms sold to Iraq; and the longest recession since the war showed little sign of ending.