When a quiet cricket-loving former Prime Minister like John Major resigns his place on an important committee at Lord's, over plans costing millions of pounds, something serious has to be wrong.
Mr. Major was known as ‘The Grey Man' when he ruled over the nation from 10 Downing Street for seven years from 1990 after the resignation of Mrs. Thatcher but — and I know him since he is a neighbour and we have met at cricketing events — he is really a strong and decisive politician, makes decisions quickly and is nobody's fool. He is known to be far-sighted and his idea of what MCC called a ‘Vision for Lord's' reflected his progressive ideas.
He said he planned his departure from the overseeing committee reluctantly when he decided the ‘Vision' did not reflect the way he saw the future of the game and of the powerful club MCC whose headquarters is at the ground.
Besides he loves his cricket, played in high standard club matches as an opening batsman and enjoyed being part of the scene and the companionship of great players old and new.
“My decision has been reached with very great sadness,” he said. “Cricket has been a lifetime passion and will remain so and I wish other members of the committee well in their future deliberations.”
The MCC said they accepted with reluctance the resignation “because of fundamental disagreements over the policy, the manner of the decision and its wider implications for the club.”
This statement was all that Lord's was willing to say but there are rumours of internal dispute. So what made Major quit? It is a complicated story but worth a little time to understand.
Lord's is, of course, renowned as the leading cricket ground in the world and in recent years it has been recast so that it now has a fine mix of ancient and modern. The listed pavilion has been remoulded, painted, smartened up and gleams in the summer sun. Its bright new look cost more than £1m.
The press box is a prize-winning thing of wonder, while the new stands named after Edrich and Compton on either side are money-makers when they are full of lunch eating and champagne guzzling patrons.
At Lord's, still one of London's major tourist attractions, I have always felt I was at the centre of the cricket world as I watched celebrities, cabinet ministers and Lords and their Ladies walk through the imposing Grace Gates. That is just what MCC intended and the architects achieved in the last 20 years in which the ground has been transformed.
Although these modernisations and the traditions bring tears to the eyes of all visitors and make it the place the great cricketers want to play their finest strokes, the planners wanted more.
Still there was a difference between the progressives and the traditionalists and Major may have thought that — oddly for a man of his background in the Conservative party — the fight over the details had become too political.
Now it has been decided to cut back the plans and not to start work — on the flats at the Nursery End and the tunnels under the ground which may be used for parking, a great difficulty at Lord's — until after the 2013 Ashes tour.
Whatever happens to this lovely old ground, founded by Thomas Lord as the third of his London cricket headquarters in 1814, it will continue to lord over cricket.